By Robert A. Vella

Regarding Tiffany A. Moisan:

From The Island PacketPolice: Missing NASA scientist found dead:

PRINCESS ANNE, Md. Authorities say a NASA research scientist who worked at the Wallops Flight Facility has been found dead a day after her family reported her missing.


Police say there were no apparent signs of foul play, but the investigation will stay open until autopsy results are in.

Keith Koehler, a spokesman for the NASA facility in Wallops Island, Virginia, says Moisan was a scientist studying oceans and phytoplankton.

From her NASA bio:

1/2000 – Present

NASA Research Scientist
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center , Wallops Flight Facility Wallops Island, Va 23337 My research interests are in phytoplankton physiology and optics with relationships to taxonomic composition of the phytoplankton community. My interests are in the Ocean Color Mission and Global Climate Change. I also have interests in NASA Education and Public Outreach.

Research Interests
Understanding Phytoplankton Optics and Physiology as it Relates to the Carbon Cycle and Biodiversity
My overall research interests are in understanding the distribution, ecology, and physiology of marine phytoplankton and their role in the carbon cycle. Specifically, I have focused on characterizing the relationship between photosynthesis and the optics, ecology, lifecycles, pigmentation, and taxonomic composition of the polar, and temperate phytoplankton community. I have approached this goal by conducting laboratory-, field- or remote sensing-based programs. Specifically, I have sought to understand the relationship between the inherent and apparent optical properties to phytoplankton standing stocks and productivity. Using the previous approaches, I have sought to understand the underlying physiological mechanisms and taxonomic composition (biodiversity) of phytoplankton.

My interests also extendt to the sustainability and climate change adaptation with specific interests in coastal areas such NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Wallops Island. My work is focused with Climate Adaptation Science Initiative (CASI) Team which seeks to understand the climate in specific regions located near NASA Centers. Our project seeks to understand sea level rise, precipitation, and biodiversity in coastal regions. We will utilize several approaches to understanding the fundamental climate system in the Delmarva Peninsula including IPCC model estimates, satellite remote sensing, and historical variables.

I am also a member of the International Coastal Working group for the Hyspiri Mission. The Hyspiri Mission is a hyper-spectral satellite sensor designed to measure ocean color and sea surface temperature along coastal regions of the US. The Hyperspectral Infrared Imager or HyspIRI mission will study the world’s ecosystems and provide critical information on natural disasters such as volcanoes, wildfires and drought.

Here’s a news report on a project she was working on two years ago:

SALISBURY, Md. – NASA is seeking residents of Maryland’s lower shore to help scientists by monitoring precipitation in the area.

“Citizen scientists” from Salisbury and Pocomoke will track rain, snow and hail in order to provide assistance in understanding precipitation on a global scale. After all, official weather stations that report the rain may miss the storm that parked itself over your house, the agency says.


Lastly, participants will have the opportunity to work with scientists from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility. Led by Dr. Walt Petersen, participants will learn how satellites measure rainfall and the importance of ground measurements from different types of rain gauges.

Interested participants may contact Dr. Tiffany Moisan at tiffany.a.moisan@nasa.gov for more information.

Here’s a promo for her Ocean Color Mission presentation at Millersville University in 2009:

NASA has the capabilities of observing the ocean on a global basis utilizing a handful of satellites. Dr. Moisan will be talking about the history of Ocean Color satellites and the strides that have been made over the last 4 decades. Many improvements have been made since the inception of the Coastal Zone Color Scanner. Now with new ocean color satellites, the oceanographic MODIS can observe the ocean at unprecedented scales of 250m. Now, many new NASA products can be produced that focus on colored dissolved organic matter, carbon, and physiology. A relatively new goal and thrust of NASA is to develop decision making products that help us counteract such threatening events such as harmful blooms, coliform bacteria, and possible nutrient reduction loads.

Here’s a research study she co-wrote in 2001 titled Modelling the effect of temperature on the maximum growth rates of phytoplankton populations:

Functional relationships which parameterize growth based on the Eppley temperature relationship for phytoplankton maximal growth rates are increasingly being used in marine and freshwater ecosystem models. In this paper, we demonstrate the effect of using such generalized relationships in modelling studies. Two suites of numerical experiments are carried out to investigate the sensitivity of models to generalized growth relationships. In each experiment, 100 individual species or groups of phytoplankton are allowed to compete under a variety of growth versus temperature relationships. One suite of experiments is carried out within a simple ‘chemostat’ type model that is forced with seasonally varying temperature and photosynthetically available radiation (PAR) fields. A second suite of experiments is carried out using a biogeochemical mixed-layer model to demonstrate the sensitivity of these models to various temperature versus growth relationships. The key difference in the biogeochemical mixed-layer simulations is in the timing of the ecosystem response to seasonal variability of the mixed-layer depth and temperature. The Eppley growth versus temperature relationship overestimates phytoplankton growth by as much as 80% during the spring when growth rates are crucial to the timing of the spring blooms. This decrease in growth rates causes a delay in the spring phytoplankton bloom which in turn results in significant changes in all other model constituents. The results from both suites of experiments show that it is important to resolve the intrinsic growth dynamics of a population in order to properly resolve the maximum growth rates of phytoplankton populations. The results also present a possible explanation for why phytoplankton are commonly found growing within water colder than their optimal temperature for growth. A dynamic growth versus temperature model is introduced that is capable of resolving the growth dynamics of a population of phytoplankton under a variety of temperature forcing scenarios.This new growth versus temperature model/relationship will be useful in global biogeochemical models and demonstrates the importance of underlying population dynamics in controlling bulk community growth estimates.


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