Anonymous said: Hey, after seeing your last post I was wondering what kind fo job you have? Or like, what industry you work in. I'm just curious bc you seem to have a pretty flexible schedule, good work-life balance and all that, which I although thought was just the kind of stuff HR talks about but never actually happens. (And if this is too personal/comes across as creepy (in which case sorry, I didn't mean for it to), just ignore this!)
I have a fairly normal 9-5(ish) job as a remote sensing analyst. I work for a small (~60 people) company that contracts with a federal agency, but unlike most fed/contractor partnerships, ours is actually pretty darn healthy (contractors usually aren’t as trusted, as their ulterior motive tends to be money… also, think Snowden).
I get a lot of federal perks (fancy pro deals with lots of outdoor outfitters, access to data, national holidays off of work), but I don’t usually have to deal with most of the government tie-ups and bureaucracy, as I officially work for a private company. That said, sometime it blows — like during the government shutdown. While federal employees received backpay for the entire time that we were furloughed, contractors got nothing. There are some contractors in my building that are either self-employed (bid their own contracts) or work for a different company, and they were screwed. Not only did they not receive any pay, but they also lost any benefits that they had. My company paid for a majority of our salaries, and they asked us to use PTO to fill in the gaps. They also made sure that our benefits were not cut off, and they did this all using company profits so that their employees would be okay.
These are high quality humans puppeteering my company. During normal times, they’re very vocal and diligent about keeping us happy and making sure that we are best, whole selves, and I really appreciate this. My input is valued, and I have seen suggestions I’ve made to my supervisor and one of the owners actually put into practice.
My supervisor often tells me not to stay late, to use my vacation time, to leave early, etc. Most of my colleagues are outdoorsy, and it’s not uncommon for someone to take a morning or afternoon off of work to go skiing this time of year. If it’s a powder day and someone has called in sick, chances are that they have the “powder flu,” and no one really cares.
Anyway, I’m not sure if our loose hours are a government or company perk, but either way, I’ll take it. It’s certainly an A+ work environment.
A selection of images of Earth from space, taken by Landsat 5, which is set to be retired after 29 years.
Originally set to orbit Earth for three years, the satellite lived well beyond its intended means. But, a recently broken gyroscope has declared the end of the machine’s time in space.
It orbited Earth more than 150,000 times, capturing more than 2.5 million images of our world’s terrain. In honor of the mission’s end, here are a collection of Landsat 5’s best images of our planet. Landsat 7, which has been orbiting Earth since 1999, will remain overhead and Landsat 8 will be launched into space in February 2013. (x)
Landsat 5 is pretty much my one true love.
Fun fact: Landsat 5 was only designed to last three years, meaning that the two of us were never supposed to coexist. It had already exceeded its lifespan by a year when I was born. As it were, we’ve had a beautiful time together. I used Landsat 5 imagery for 90% of my research.
'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, eh?
Plus, Landsat 8 launches on February 11th. New and shiny! Unless it explodes on launch like Landsat 6 did. Then we’re screwed, because all we would have is Landsat 7, and she’s permanently crippled.
(But seriously: how cool is my job? I get to play with stuff like this all day!)
saltwaterandclay said: Can you tell me about how you got into this field? It's not something I've heard of, and wonder how you came to do this? What did you go to school for? Thank you very much, it's all super interesting!
It’s a strange field. Out of everyone I know that does my sort of work, I know one person that intended for that to become their profession. The rest of us just happened upon it.
I got my undergrad in Geography, which is technically a social science? It’s a very interdisciplinary field, but it’s basically the study of people and place. The breadth of topics under the umbrella of Geography is vast, but I stuck to physical geography/earth sciences and geographic information science (GIS).
I started out as a double major in Spanish and International Development, but because I went to a liberal arts college, I had a bunch of core requirements to fulfil, and one of them happened to be a geography class that I loved. I still kind of ignored that whole department though (Geography isn’t a REAL subject, after all). Or at least I did until one of my professors took an unexpected leave of absence a week before classes started. All of the fun courses I wanted were full and all of the boring-but-necessary classes I needed for various things were full because first-years had already enrolled. Literally the only class that fit into my schedule that I also had the pre-req for was Forest Ecology (pre-req was that Geography course I took). So I took Forest Ecology, eventually dropped my two intended majors, picked up Geography, and my intellectual contentedness increased exponentially.
Turns out, I attended the #1 school in the country for Geography. Fancy that!
SO. My job is in the field of remote sensing, which is a subset of GIS, which is a subset of Geography. Within remote sensing, I specialize in the use of optical multispectral sensors (so not radar or lidar [lasers!]) to map temperate terrestrial (mainly forested) ecosystems. So you can probably surmise that I’m in a fairly specialized niche and there are only a few handfuls of people that do precisely what I do outside of academia.
If you’re the kind of person who played this game as a kid, liked geometric proofs in high school math class, thought differential equations were a fun way to spend your spring break, and believe that brain teasers are a good way to bond with people, then it’s probably right up your alley.
Also, you have to hate sleep, thrive when stressed, and be okay with the fact that you’re always at least two weeks past your deadline. Even if you haven’t started yet.
Kind of random. Definitely fun.
MAR (and Eight!): this is a pretty good example of what a false color image looks like (there are other types of false color, which really just means “not true color,” but this one is the most common).
-The river isn’t quite black (as water should be, like those two oxbow lakes east of the river) because it’s carrying lots of sediment (and probably chemicals, too).
-You can see a small town just west of the center of the image, along the west bank of the river. Super cyan!
-You can tell what crops are flourishing and which have already been fallowed (meaning harvested & now pretty much just dirt) based on the color. Pink = highly irrigated, vegetated plots. Darker blues = wetter soils. The brighter the blue, the drier the object. (Which is one reason urban areas are so bright - high runoff!)
-The cyan lines throughout the image are roads.
-Red along the river is grassland; to the east of the river there’s a crescent-shaped road, and east of that is more red, but THIS red is forest. You can differentiate between these reds/vegetation types based on texture. (Grasslands are smoother and forests are rougher.) There’s a bunch of random stands (groups of trees) throughout the image, too, if you look. They’re easy to pick out from the crops because they’re much redder.
If I had internet at my house, I could show you cooler imagery, but Google serves well enough in a pinch.
ashamedtosay said: Eight wants to know about your new job and if it is in SCIENCE. She would like to take you to all the Museums in Chicago next time you are here, like she takes Claire, who she thinks is really awesome at going to museums after running races.
Thank you for asking about my job! It is in SCIENCE (though some people disagree because it isn’t a “hard science” like biology or chemistry). My science is called remote sensing, which is a wee little branch of geography (which is technically a “social science”).
My job is to make maps of vegetation (like forests, farms, parks, and stuff like that) using photos taken from satellites orbiting the earth. You know how we humans can only see the visible spectrum? All of the colors that we see are made up of combinations of blue, green, and red light. The satellites take photos of each of the colors individually (one photo of blue, one of green, and one of red), and I can combine them if I want to know what a certain landscape would look like to me if I was there to see it in person. It would be like looking out of an airplane window or at places in GoogleEarth.
BUT! The satellites also take photos using other types of light that we can’t normally see. When I look at photos of the earth at work, I don’t see green trees and grass, because I usually don’t look at the earth using the visible spectrum. Usually, I’m looking at infrared light, which is my favorite. Sort of like how the visible spectrum can tell us how green or blue or red an object is, infrared light can tell us how healthy a plant is or how wet something is. I think that’s pretty neat, because those are things that you usually can’t know without touching something, and I can tell you that about landscapes on the other side of the world that I’ve never even been to.
And just like you can combine red, blue, and green light to make a photo that has all of the normal colors that we see (like pictures that normal cameras take - we call these photos “true color”), you can combine all different sorts of light to see different things on the earth. Some combinations can tell you if an area is experiencing a drought, some can tell you how badly a place was burned by a fire, and others can tell you how productive certain crops are.
If you combine green, red, and near infrared light, you get a photo where healthy green vegetation (like forests) are bright red, and things that aren’t alive at all (like roads and houses) look cyan (that super bright blue color). Water looks black. Vegetation that isn’t very healthy, like your dried up back yard in the middle of a drought look yellowish, and really wet vegetation like golf courses (think about all of the sprinklers on a golf course!) look pink. We call this “false color,” and this is how I usually look at the earth, so when I think of forests, I always think red. Strange, right?
Anyway, I do some other stuff (like computer programming and teaching computers how to learn about patterns in these photos and lots of MATH) but mostly I just play with light and figure out how it can help answer environmental problems in places humans have a hard time reaching in real life.
Pretty cool job!
I posted a metric buttload of mail this morning.
Plot twist: the four dozen cookies I made last night are all en route to four of the people who gave me their mailing addresses the other day.
If you told me to georeference the coordinates encoded in a photo I took at your house, you’re SOL because I’m lazy. If you’re Chrysti, I messed up and will snail mail you when I get back to the east coast.
Enjoy, Internet! See you in Chicago.
And you, if you’re also a fan of medium-resolution Earth-observing satellites. (Which you probably are not. So not a sad day for you, in all likelihood.)
Landsat-5 is about to bite the big one. Launched in 1984 and designed to last 3 years, he’s made it 27. We had a nice long run* together, but now with a catastrophic electrical failure, I find my most prized sensor on his proverbial death bed.
I guess there’s still Landsat-7, and though she’s quite a bit younger (she’s 12) than my main squeeze, she’s also permanently disabled. She lost her scanline corrector in 2003, and now she only provides a fraction of the data that Landsat-5 was capable of delivering. I’ve been avoiding her for years, but it looks like I won’t be able to for much longer.
So instead of working with gorgeous images like this:
Now I get crap images like this:
Landsat-8, January 2013 is too far away. Please come sooner. Landsat-7 is clingy, and I need someone more independent than her in my life. Codependency isn’t my thing. I need to spend my time running*, not interpolating 60% of her junk.
*Proves relevance of post, because I alluded to running.