PhD student focusing on how submesoscale ocean dynamics affect phytoplankton communities and plankton distribution.
Sara Lang holds a BS from the University of Virginia and she’s currently pursuing a PhD at University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography.
SWOT-AdAC: What is your field of research and how did you choose it?
My research lies at the intersection of physical and bio-optical oceanography. I am interested in how submesoscale ocean dynamics affect phytoplankton communities and carbon distributions. My work involves the coupling of fine-scale airborne remote sensing estimates of advection and vertical velocities at the surface, hyperspectral ocean color, and corresponding in situ datasets. My goal is to characterize the influences of vertical velocities, lateral stirring, and mixing underpinning phytoplankton community distributions across submesoscale fronts.
How is your field of research related to SWOT?
By coupling NASA DopplerScatt (fine-scale Scatterometer) and NASA PRISM (fine-scale hyperspectral ocean color), I hope my work can inform the ways we can couple physical and biological remote sensing data. Particularly, I am interested in my work informing the coupling of NASA SWOT and NASA PACE (first hyperspectral ocean color satellite, launch Jan. 2024).
What do you find exciting about SWOT and the SWOT-AdAC campaign you will be participating? How will you contribute to the campaign?
Recent studies suggest that submesoscale biological and physical processes in the ocean play an important role in the climate system, yet these processes are not well-understood. By providing global altimetry data at an unprecedented spatial resolution (ca. 10 km), SWOT will be able to partially resolve submesoscale processes. This will further our understanding of the importance of submesoscale processes to global circulation, the ocean’s role in climate, and biogeochemical cycling. I am contributing to the campaign through my involvement in S-MODE. During this upcoming cruise (Spring 2023), which I will be a part, we will take a wide range of high-resolution physical and biological measurements from aircrafts, unmanned platforms, and ships with corresponding SWOT overpasses (1-day repeat crossover offshore of CA). In situ measurements are crucial for validating and evaluating satellite data, and I am excited to be able to contribute to this process for SWOT!
SWOT-AdAC: What are your plans after the SWOT-AdAC campaign?
I will continue to study the ways that submesoscale dynamics structure phytoplankton ecosystems and evaluate the ways that remote sensing can help illuminate these processes. In my current work, the coupling of DopplerScatt and PRISM could illuminate new remote sensing techniques. My goal is to further assess the feasibility of these techniques directly applied to SWOT and PACE.