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Student’s NASA experience a boon for tiny monkey

By Patrick Nelson

Colombia’s endangered Cotton-Top Tamarin Colombia’s endangered Cotton-Top Tamarin

A Charles Darwin University academic’s links with US space agency NASA have paved the way for an environmental science student to undertake an internship in the United States.

The School of Environment’s Remote Sensing and Spatial Sciences senior lecturer Dr Karen Joyce said one of her undergraduate students had recently completed a week’s work with DEVELOP, a training and research program sponsored by NASA Earth Science.

Dr Joyce said Bachelor of Environmental Science undergraduate Valentina Coccetti was the first CDU student to participate in the program.

“Valentina observed work to help save the Cotton-Top Tamarin, a Colombian primate in danger of extinction,” Dr Joyce said.

“By using remote sensing and data analysis of NASA earth observations, they looked for areas suitable for reforestation as a strategy to increase the tamarin’s habitat.

“Valentina described as ‘awe-inspiring’ the experience of being part of conservation efforts to improve the survival chances of an animal species.

“She said the experience had reinforced her reasons for studying Environmental Science and given her something to aspire to upon completion of her degree.”

Dr Joyce said Valentina, who completed a unit in remote sensing at CDU in Semester 1, would benefit in multiple ways from having worked with students from different backgrounds.

“Apart from establishing a broad network of contacts, she will strengthen her problem-solving skills and because she is with people from different backgrounds, they will just naturally be innovative.”

Dr Joyce said she had collaborated with NASA for the past seven years.

“I saw the potential of the DEVELOP program when I visited NASA last year, and this prompted me to explore ways of involving students from CDU.

“We’ll look at whether other students may be able to participate in this or a similar program next year,” she said.