June 11, 2019
Alaska is home to more caribou than it is to humans. It stands to reason, then, that these large mammals will have a significant impact on their Arctic homeland.
That impact has yet to be fully quantified, in large part because the environments where caribou live are hard to access and plan around. Northern Arizona University doctoral student Katie Orndahl faced these challenges often during her three years doing research in Fairbanks, Alaska, frequently taking bush planes into the wilderness to get a few pieces of on-the-ground data. Wondering if there was a better way to collect data, she looked for ways to be in the field without actually being in the field.
That question led her to NAU’s School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems in 2017, and her work in the last two years using remote sensing to gather data led her to admittance into the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program—one of the most prestigious recognitions for STEM graduate students. The fellowship also comes with a financial benefit; Orndahl will receive an annual stipend along with funding to conduct original research.