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Exploration & Discovery Cluster


The Plymouth Snow-Level Radar, a vertically-pointing radar on loan by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is located along High Street just uphill from the PSU Police Department and D&M Hall. Installed in November 2014, the radar is designed to detect the fall speed and intensity of hydrometeors (i.e., rain, snow, sleet, hail), and determine the altitude at which snow is melting to rain during mixed precipitation events. In addition to its intended purpose, the radar unit also senses birds flying over the radar and the last two years of radar data reveal rich details on the timing and patterns of bird migration. Use of radar in learning more about migratory birds is not new, but has not been done with this type of radar. Furthermore, the data on relative abundance and precise timing of migration pulses is tightly coupled with atmospheric patterns that we intend to analyze with the radar bird signals for consistent patterns. Furthermore, the radar unit on PSU’s campus is the only one east of the Mississippi River and thus provides valuable information about the eastern migratory flyway. This project involves a collaboration between Drs. Eric Kelsey and Len Reitsma and a team of three undergraduates and one graduate student from three different programs: Atmospheric Science and Chemistry, ES&P and Biology. The student team met weekly and divided tasks that are critical to thoroughly analyzing the data from 2015 and 2016. The meteorology students are principally responsible for analyzing the climate data and the ES&P/Bio part of the student team are leading in the analysis of the bird data. With the advising of the two faculty, the team will integrate their analyses with a focus on the total duration of the migratory period, the timing of the largest pulses of migration and a close examination of how weather patterns may correlate with these pulses. The meteorology team has already presented at the AMS Annual Meeting in Seattle, WA last month. The project will be presented at the Showcase of Excellence but also at a scientific bird meeting in the Spring of 2017, the reason for this funding request.


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