Dr. Kirschbaum discusses her role with GPM, how she became a scientist, and how remotely sensed satellite data can be used to study and evaluate natural hazards such as landslides.
My name is Dalia Kirschbaum. I'm a researcher in the hydrology lab, here at Goddard Space Flight Center, and my focus is landslide modeling. I'm also the GPM Applications Scientist, meaning that I help to communicate the science and the data that we get from the GPM mission to the public and end users.
I grew up in Minnesota, we have flooding, we have drought. There are no landslides, except in the northern areas of Minnesota, very small ones at that. So looking at earthquakes or hurricanes was such a crazy phenomenon, and I loved the idea that nature was just so powerful, and that we could actually use data from above the Earth to figure out what's happening on the surface and in the atmosphere.
So I was always very interested in math, and so all through school I kind of thought that I was going to be either a math major or do something with math. And then freshman year of college actually I took a very interesting class on different environmental issues, and I found that I was really fascinated with natural disasters, but what I realized is that you can actually apply math and you can apply science to real-world topics. And you can use the information that you get or the results from your models to really help people and try to mitigate against these hazards.
So I decided to go to graduate school with a focus in applying remotely-sensed or satellite data to evaluate hazards, all different types of disasters. And in my dissertation I focused on landslides because I felt that it was a very underrepresented hazard in the grand scheme of natural disaster research. I really am looking at global scales, and I'm trying to figure out how landslides are occurring and modeling the activity, from everything from the local, you know, one hillslope scale, to the regional level, like Central America, to the global scale.
Most of my studies were done in the computer lab or looking at different models, but I did take some very interesting field trips during graduate school and even during undergrad to look at different rock formations, to look at landslide scars. And what you realize is that how important it is to really understand the total environment in order to really get a sense of what is causing these hazards.
I think the most important thing is to continue learning and to continue pushing what you think is interesting and to find a way to get yourself there.