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UMaine Education Scientist Shares First NASA Images

September 27, 2011


NASA’s new Aquarius instrument has produced its first global map of the salinity of the ocean surface, according to an announcement from NASA last week, and the map has provided an early glimpse of the mission’s anticipated discoveries.

UMaine Senior Marine Education Scientist Annette deCharon was particularly excited to see the first image, which was released Thursday, Sept. 22. In addition to her work with UMaine, deCharon is the education and public outreach manager for NASA on the Aquarius project.

“We are thrilled to see this first image from Aquarius,” said deCharon, whose education and outreach work targets the public, students and science communicators. “Even at this early stage, it is clear that global salinity maps have great potential to help all of us better understand changes in the ocean, water cycle and climate.”

deCharon, who is based at UMaine School of Marine Science’s Darling Marine Center in Walpole, Maine, directs one of the national Centers for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE), known as COSEE-Ocean Systems, which is also based at UMaine.

In order to increase awareness and understanding of salinity, deCharon and her team have developed a website with information, including an interactive quiz, online data tools and suggested activities for students from elementary to high school. The Aquarius project website, including the new map, can be viewed at

Aquarius, which is aboard the SAC-D (Satélite de Aplicaciones Científicas) observatory, is making NASA’s first space observations of ocean surface salinity variations – a key component of Earth’s climate, according to a NASA news release. Salinity changes are linked to the cycling of freshwater around the planet and influence ocean circulation.

“Measurements of the salt content of the upper ocean provide key data for understanding upper ocean circulation,” said Mary Jane Perry, UMaine professor of marine sciences. “We are lucky at UMaine to have a close link to the project through Annette.”

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