Suwannee Democrat

December 6, 2012

HamCo AVID students learn from master geologist

Joyce Marie Taylor
Suwannee Democrat

Jasper — Hamilton County High School 7th, 8th and 9th grade AVID students, in their royal blue T-shirts displaying the AVID logo, were treated to an exciting and educational presentation during third period recently by Michael S. Ramsey, Associate Professor of Geology and Planetary Science at the the University of Pittsburgh.

Planned guest speakers like Ramsey are just one component of the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program at HCHS, according to Guidance Chair Paula Williams. Ramsey has an extensive educational background with a Ph.D. in Geosciences from Arizona State University and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Drexel University.

He is currently at the University of Pittsburgh where he formed the Image Visualization and Infrared Spectroscopy (IVIS) Laboratory, which is a state-of-the-art image analysis, infrared spectroscopy, and GPS facility supported over the past decade by more than $3 million dollars in grants from National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). His research interests are varied, but focus mainly on physical volcanology, eolian dynamics, hazard mitigation, and planetary processes using thermal infrared imaging analysis, spectroscopy, and remote sensing.

His research group consists of two post-doctoral researchers, six graduate and several undergraduate students. He teaches six courses for the Department, including lower-level classes in Natural Disasters and Remote Sensing and graduate-level classes in Remote Exploration of Mars and Advanced GeoHazards & Risk Management.

As he spoke to the AVID students about his volcanic research in other countries, he demonstrated how his high-powered $50,000 camera helps him with his work. 

Williams said the students were fascinated and asked him tons of questions such as:

“How did you react to lava in Hawaii?” 

“Have you been on a crew when someone was hurt around the volcano?”

“Are you happy with your career?”

“Tell us about the countries you have been to and why is it other countries have major storms that kill thousands at a time and we have not?”

“Why do storms cost more in the United States?

Ramsey’s work has been featured in local and national newspapers, television and radio, as well as NPR, CNN, and the Discovery Channel. He has 35 peer-reviewed papers and over 160 conference abstract publications.

From 2006-2009 Ramsey was appointed by the NASA Administrator as a member of the Earth Science Subcommittee. He also serves as science team member on three thermal infrared NASA instruments: the Earth-orbiting Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflectance Radiometer (ASTER), the Mars- orbiting Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), and the airborne Mineral and Gas Identified (MAGI).

Using ASTER data, he is researching explosive volcanic hazards and integrative monitoring in the north around the world. That research also involves NSF funded laboratory studies of the thermal emission of molten materials.

His Mars-based research is focused on crater, eolian, and volcanic processes using new image processing techniques for enhancing the spatial and thermal resolution of THEMIS data, which allows better mapping of the compositional and thermal variations on the surface.

After Ramsey’s presentation and after answering all the kids’ questions, he had to rush off to Jacksonville to catch a flight to his next speaking engagement.

“We were fortunate to have him visit our school at no cost to us,” said Williams. “This was a wonderful exposure for the students we serve.”