Introduction to Shawn C. Kefauver, PhD

shawn puigpedros

I have always taken the initiative towards accomplishing my own specific life goals and career objectives.  Earlier in my educational career, I eagerly sought out more experience in international and current research and made the extra additional effort to apply for and attend three study abroad programs and completed the necessary requirements to get all of my coursework abroad approved for my university degree so that I could still graduate in a timely manner.  Immediately after my university degree, I took a summer program management position not as a researcher, but rather as the program coordinator based on my experience in event management and group leadership from previous work on campus as an undergraduate.  To move into a scientific career as I desired, I decided to actively pursue a volunteer scientific research internship in Ecuador working as both a field assistant and Spanish language translator, taking advantage my experiences from studying abroad to acquire the competitive internship position.  This work resulted in my first scientific publication and has been cited in numerous conservation and indigenous rights efforts in Ecuador since.

This internship landed me a position as a lab manager at a major research laboratory, the Center for Spatial Technologies and Remote Sensing, and location of one of the top graduate programs in Ecology in the nation, the University of California at Davis.  As a laboratory manager for two years at Dr. Susan Ustin’s Center for Spatial Technologies and Remote Sensing at the University of California, Davis, I benefited from involvement in nearly every project of a major research laboratory and quickly learned the field and remote sensing preprocessing techniques required for the successful calibration and correction of airborne and satellite imagery.  In New Mexico, working with the Los Alamos National Laboratories, I used field spectroscopy to identify the water potential thresholds that lead to drought stress-induced ecotone shifts.  In the California central valley I worked on precision agriculture in cotton fields, looking to improve irrigation and develop techniques for variable rate nitrogen application using aerial photography and thermal remote sensing.  As part of the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) funded by the US Department of Defense, I helped develop hyperspectral remote sensing techniques for mapping invasive weeds species on US Military bases in several different states across the United States.  As part of the same project we held workshops to teach government employees how to apply everything that we had learned in the process. It was awarded best project of the year by the United States Department of Defense.

After two years working at the Center for Spatial Technologies and Remote Sensing at the University of California at Davis, and participating on a wide range of research projects described in more detail previously and noted in my publication and presentation record, I decided to continue my university education with a postgraduate Masters in Ecology.  One project in particular interested me more than the others because of the complexity of the problem and the importance of a detailed understanding of the issue.  The project focused on assessing and predicting damage to forest health in national parks by pollution (primarily high levels of ozone) coming from the developed coastal and central valley regions of California.  In my investigations on the vectors of change, automobile traffic and industrial pollution coming from the coastal developments of California, the issues surrounding transboundary air pollution came to my attention.  The seriousness of the ecological impacts of harmful pollution levels needed be presented such that people understand how it is a combination of complex interactions that make this ecosystem fragile and susceptible to their actions.

Before completing my Masters I was awarded a Fulbright Student Fellowship to Barcelona, Spain to conduct similar research at the CREAF lab with Dr. Josep Peñuelas, whom I had contacted after reading extensively about his research.   There, in collaboration with Dr. Josep Peñuelas of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, I added an additional robust suite of remote sensing, climate and air pollution data to ongoing biomonitoring research efforts.  Through a special international scientific research and development agreement with the Cartographic Institute of Catalonia, CASI data was collected along with needle samples for analyses of foliar water content, photosynthetic pigment concentrations and OII visual assessments of ozone-induced damage.  Classification maps were completed to focus on target bioindicator species and then imaging spectroscopy analyses of their health status were compared with extensive field assessments of air pollution impact.  GIS analyses which approximate watershed-level relative hydrologic status were combined in multivariate analyses to investigate the relationships between natural landscape gradients and the impacts of ambient tropospheric ozone levels.  So, although I started a Masters program in 2004, I took a break for a Student Fulbright to Spain in 2006-7, which eventually led to a long-term collaboration and my PhD dissertation work, officially finishing my Masters in 2008 and my PhD in 2012.

I have always also been interested in teaching and outreach as shown by enrolling in teaching workshops at UC Davis, took Teaching Assistant positions and joined outreach initiatives with UC Davis extension and public environmental management agencies whenever possible throughout my graduate career.  I attended a certificate-bearing teaching philosophy enrichment lunchtime course to improve my capacity to connect with students.  I intentionally doubled the required minimum of Teaching Assistantships which through proactive measures.  At the start of my PhD, I acquired a paid internship was offered working with the Santa Clara Valley Water District (public conservation and management group near Davis, CA) on the development and agency instruction of cost effective techniques for mapping agricultural lands using remote sensing technology.  I coordinated the collection of field training data and arranged for the tasking, download of satellite imagery from my home office through careful instruction.  As a final product, I produced a 100 page manual for remote sensing of agricultural lands using ERDAS software and both freely downloadable and purchasable satellite data and presented my findings in a three hours final seminar.  One year later, when an opportunity arose to work with outreach, video and graphics specialists with the University of California at Davis Extension Office on the development of on online Remote Sensing and GIS course, I immediately seized the opportunity.  For six months I worked three days a week, while still taking graduate courses, on the scientific advising of this multidisciplinary team for the development of the CalView program.

My leadership and teaching skills synergized wonderfully when I was given the opportunity by UC to become a Mentor for the NASA-NSERC Student Airborne Research Program.  Now after three highly successful years (2009-2011) as a Mentor in the program, the SARP program is attracting national news and top officials from NASA Earth Science and Education directorates and has inspired a new generation of young scientists to go in the field of earth systems science research.  For three summers, I have worked as a Mentor for the Student Airborne Research Program (SARP) of the National Suborbital Education and Research Center (NSERC), which is funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) teaching the estimation of evapotranspiration for almond and pistachio orchards in the central valley of California.  The NASA/NSERC SARP program is a unique six week multidisciplinary paid training program which directly integrates students into the forefront of airborne remote sensing science, and benefits from access to the DC-8 airborne platform and the MODIS-ASTER Airborne Simulator (MASTER) sensor.  As Mentor, I have guided students for three summers through every aspect of combining imaging spectroscopy and thermal remote sensing from classroom lectures, software training, field and imagery calibration data collection, imagery calibration and pre-processing, proposal development, analysis, and presentations. Final project results include comparisons of multivariate analyses of plant health and structural measurements, imagery atmospheric and geometric corrections, and estimates of evapotranspiration using various models.




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