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Michigan Tech’s Colleen Mouw wins presidential award for her NASA research

Allison Mills/MTU News – Colleen Mouw double-checked to make sure the email wasn’t spam. Who gets a personalized message from the White House anyway? The correspondence was indeed real—and an early step to Mouw winning one of the prestigious Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) this spring.

Colleen Mouw has helped bring oceanography to the Great Lakes, for which the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) nominated her for the PECASE Award. She will be in Washington, D.C. this week for the reception.

Specializing in remote sensing, Mouw is an assistant professor of oceanography in the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Technological University and a scientist in the Great Lakes Research Center. Mouw’s work focuses on the big picture of some of the world’s smallest life forms.

“I’ve done quite a bit of work determining phytoplankton functional types from space,” she says, explaining different photosynthesizing free-floating plants that make up the bottom of the food chain produce nearly half of the world’s oxygen and affect global carbon and nutrient cycles.

Paula Bontempi is the NASA program manager who nominated Mouw for PECASE. She says that Mouw’s contributions to oceanography—from research on ocean plants in the Bering Sea to public health issues in Wisconsin lakes—reflect her ability to link water, land and atmosphere in a complex, changing climate.

By connecting the world’s smallest and largest scales, Mouw hopes to help grow understanding of how aquatic ecosystems are responding to environmental change and what this means for water resources that people rely on in the Great Lakes and around the globe.

For more information on Colleen’s research, visit MTU News.

Photo credit: Michigan Technological University

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