Friday, May 5, 2023

Satellite images illustrate human influence on the environment – Story of Shrinking Aral Sea

Satellite images showed fifth graders at Spring Creek Elementary School how human actions have converted one of the largest lakes in Asia to the newest desert. Diverting waters from two rivers for agriculture reduced the inflows, increased the salinity of remaining water, caused wildlife to disappear, and created the newest desert in Central Asia.

A pair of satellite images from 1964 (Corona) and 2018 (Terra) show the effect of diverting water from the two rivers flowing into Aral Sea. Satellite images courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory

A 1964 photo from the Corona satellite, several Landsat images from 1970s to 2000s, and annual MODIS images from 2000 showed how the Aral Sea, once the 4th largest inland water body, gradually shrunk exposing most of the sand. Some of these images also showed how dust storms transported large amounts of this sand to various regions across Asia and beyond.

Students were able to see how human actions can make a large lake disappear. Commenting on the value of these images for illustrating human influence on our environment, Mrs. Hayden, their teacher said, “when we discussed what the students learned/remembered from [the] presentation this week, they had lots of takeaways about how the 4 different Earth systems interact and how humans have influenced the environment.” The content included as part of this activity was “closely aligned with the standard we have been focused on”, said Hayden.

This event was conducted on April 28 at Spring Creek Elementary School, Laramie, WY.

Landsat images can be obtained for no-cost from US Geological Survey. More details about Landsat can be obtained from:

Monday, April 24, 2023

Earth Observation Day Event Shows Monitoring Natural Disasters with Satellite Images

Seventh graders in Laramie Middle School (LMS) learned the value of satellite images for monitoring natural disasters. 

Students are learning about natural disasters and how they are impacting humans and their environment. Images acquired before- and after- the floods, wildfires, landslides, earthquakes, etc. from Landsat and other Earth observation satellites showed the extent of damages caused by disasters.

One of the teachers commented "students were able to really take in what damage can be done from the several disasters you shared with them and how, depending on the event, the satellite imaging can provide different forms of information needed."

One hundred and fifty eight students and 2 teachers participated in 6 sessions of this Earth Observation Day activity conducted on April 24, 2023.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Introducing Wyoming Geography with Landsat Image Mosaic

WyomingView showcased large Landsat floor puzzle in Wyoming State Museum's monthly outreach activity in Cheyenne, Wyo. 

Assembling the puzzle, elementary school aged kids and their parents saw the diverse landscapes of the state. Further details in UW press release: 

Monday, September 28, 2020

WyomingView's First Virtual Earth Observation Day Outreach @ Spring Creek Elem. School

Landsat images acquired in2019 show
algal blooms in Keyhole Res. Wyo. These
blooms form under abundant sunlight,
temperature and nutrients. Landsat images
are available from US Geological Survey.

Third graders in the Spring Creek Elementary School (Laramie, WY) learned how satellite images are used for tracking algal blooms in waterbodies throughout the US.

Students in 3rd grade GATE science class are learning about water and sources of water pollution. Currently they are finding solutions to address environmental issues such as oil spills, acidic conditions, and harmful algal blooms. 

First, students learned the sources of chemicals that would eventually become the nutrients for the algae once they enter waterbodies. Algal blooms appear when there is an abundance of sunlight and higher temperatures. 

Next, they saw how algal blooms appear in images captured by Landsat and other satellites. Aerial and satellite images provided by USGS, NASA, and several state environmental agencies were used for this outreach event. These satellite images showed algal blooms in small and large waterbodies throughout the US. 

Describing the value of this outreach activity, Ms. Natalie Davis, their teacher commented “provided students with real life data and imaging that brought all the work we did in class.  Students were able to see real examples of the impact water pollution has, and tie that back to what they had been testing/studying in class the weeks prior”. 

This outreach event was conducted virtually on Sept 23, 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Landsat 7 captures active fires in SE Wyoming (Sep 19, 2020)

Last Saturday (Sep 19), Landsat 7 satellite passed over the Mullen Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest (Wyo.) and captured the active fires. Images captured in spectral regions that are invisible to humans shows active fires.

The stripes in the Landsat 7 image correspond to missing data due to scan line corrector malfunction developed in 2003. Despite this limitation, images continued to provide valuable information about forests, croplands, water bodies and many more.  Landsat 9, the next satellite in the series, is scheduled to launch in 2021. For more information about Landsat, please visit

Mullen Fire started on Sep 17, and as of Monday (Sep 21) has burned more than 13,835 acres.  Please visit the InciWeb site for more information about this fire.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

AmericaView highlights WyomingView's Women in STEM workshops

WyomingView held, not one, but THREE workshops in Laramie, Wyoming as part of the #Women in STEM conference! Among other activities, participants had the opportunity to assess how green and blue paper absorbed and reflected electromagnetic energy - and how that energy was associated with human vision.

These workshops were funded by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Land Imaging competitive grant to AmericaView #WomenInSTEM #RemoteSensing

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Associating the color of an object with its light reflection (Science Kitchen - Jan 2019)

Twenty five middle school (6th-8th grade) students from Wyoming learned how the color of an object can be associated with the amount of light reflected by it in the different regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.  As part of the hands-on activity organized by Science Kitchen, they measured the amount of light reflected by blue and green color materials using an ALTA II Spectrometer (below).

Higher reflection for each object recorded in the wavelength that corresponded to their color, i.e., blue material reflected most in the blue region (470 nm) of the spectrum.  Following the hands-on activity, WyomingView PI demonstrated how the same principle of light reflection can be applied to satellite and aerial images for monitoring water clarity of lakes.

Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper image acquired in 2011 (above) shows the spread of algal bloom in Lake Erie.  Light reflection in the lake covered by floating algae (shades of green) varies from the rest (dark blue), which can be used for monitoring water quality.

Additional details about this image and the algal bloom problem captured in it can be found at NASA's Earth Observatory website (

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Integrating Landsat images in sixth grade curricula – WyomingView article published in PE&RS

WyomingView has been working with sixth grade teachers in Laramie area schools to incorporate Landsat images for illustrating natural (flooding, wildfires) and human influences (deforestation, urbanization) on the environment and the resultant changes in the landscape. Utility of Landsat image-pairs generated by the USGS, NASA and WyomingView along with lessons learned from these activities are described in a highlight article published in the Photogrammetric Engineering & Remote Sensing [81(6):425-431 – DOI: 10.14358/PERS.81.6.425].

Link to the article [subscription to PE&RS is not required]:

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Satellite images of lakes and reservoirs help second graders understand the value of water

Second graders in the Indian Paintbrush Elementary School (IPES) saw how satellites collect data about Earth from space and how those data are used for monitoring water bodies such as lakes and reservoirs around the world.

Students are learning about water (part of the second grade core curriculum standard) and its importance to humans, other living beings, and environment. With the help of historical and present satellite images, students were able to visualize the impact of a) diverting water from rivers made a sea disappear (Aral Sea), b) precipitation and drought on reservoirs in Wyoming, and c) runoff from crop fields and other effluents in Lake Erie and Gulf of Mexico. Students were able to see how human actions, small and big, influences water quantity and quality.

Describing the value of these images, Genee Witte, one of the second grade teachers in IPES, said, “It was very exciting and extremely helpful for the second graders to see the images ...  It helped build their background knowledge of the changes the lakes, etc. undergo. … The images of the disappearing sea and the images of the effect that pollution has on the water and us made us all take a moment to think about how we can make a difference.  … Having the images shown to the students helps them to retain the information!  They are able to keep that image in their mind and add to their background knowledge.

Julie Howard, another second grade teacher, was able to talk “about the map of the Great Lakes.  Some of them had just read a story about Paul Bunyan and how he formed these lakes. This then lead to a discussion of where water came from to fill these lakes and then looking at a map to follow the Mississippi River. We discussed how and where water flows by referring to maps.” Stacy Hoffer, who teaches the third section of second graders, commented the images were “very informative and my students enjoyed it. The presentation on water created more discussion in my classroom.

Changes occurring in the Aral Sea captivated the minds of most students. Student teacher Shawna Black commented “ [T]he students have continued to talk about the magically disappearing act of the Aral Sea, and have asked if we can look at more pictures of bodies of water to see if it affects other places since you showed us the amazing satellite images.”

Students wrote about what they learned from these talks and their responses are summarized in the following word cloud:

Sivanpillai visited these classrooms on April 1, 2 and 15, 2015, as part of the WyomingView’s Earth Observation Day (EOD) and Wyoming Center for Environmental Hydrology & Geology (WyCEHG)’s K-12 outreach activities.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Monitoring our changing environment using satellite images: Earth Observation Day activities in UW Lab School

Sixth grade students at UW Lab School saw how nature and man-made changes have altered Earth’s surface. As part of the WyomingView Earth Observation Day activity (Dec 5 and 12, 2014), sixteen students were introduced to data collection in the visible and invisible portions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Measuring spectral reflectance of color papers using ALTA II Spectrometer

After introducing electromagnetic spectrum in his sixth grade class, Andy Pannell, invited WyomingView PI to his class for describing how scientists collect and analyze spectral data. First, students collected spectral reflectance of colored papers and compared their reflectance patterns. Students then learned that satellites collect similar data using very sophisticated and expensive sensors, and the data collected over the past several decades can be used for mapping changes in the landscape. Pannell commented that the “incredible satellite images that helped our students see the usefulness of these understandings, as well as wavelengths outside the visible spectrum, in a real-world context.”

Student feedback about remote sensing and its benefits to society are listed below (students are identified by initials for privacy purposes):

It helped me with understanding radiation because I couldn’t see what was happening but something was [happening] and it was AMAZING

Showed us how people use thermal scans to find wildfires” G

Helped me understand how using IR and UR might be helpful to find different info.” HB

Showed me that different colors reflect different amount of light” Z

Makes things look so different” SH

Those images were surprising and they helped [me] to understand electromagnetic radiation

I know that the [satellites] are really important to see our earth” SS

Showed me reflecting lights of the trees, and it also showed the bad and good ones” CD

Showed us how people use different ways to show wildfire, water shortages, bad soil etc.”

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

WyomingView interns describe how satellite data can be used for monitoring past environmental changes

Emily Richardson (BS Botany) monitored aspen tree growth in normal, wet, and dry years along an elevation gradient in the Sierra Madre Mountains. She computed a vegetation index from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS) data acquired in 3 years and analyzed tree growth based on their phenology curves. Aspen stands growing at lower elevations exhibited major changes during these three years, whereas their growth patterns at higher elevations did not show such variations.

Ryan Lermon (BS Rangeland Ecology & Watershed Management) mapped the burn severity at a prescribed fire site north of Rawlins, WY. Prescribed fires are part of forest management methods aimed at reducing fuel load, and improving overall habitat quality. Following a prescribed fire event, land management agencies are required to map how fire moved through the landscape but lack the necessary resources to generate it. Using a Landsat 8 image acquired after the fire, Ryan mapped the impact of this prescribed fire as high, medium, low and no-burn classes. This map will be used by agencies to establish field sampling plots for monitor vegetation regrowth.

Emily and Ryan presented their work in the Wyoming Undergraduate Research Day on 26 April 2014.

Following newspapers published a short description of Emily's work:

Laramie Boomerang - May 10, 2014 - Link to article

Casper Star Tribune - May 12, 2014 - Link to article

Washington Times - May 10, 2014 - Link to article