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Kevin Mueller to Lead New NASA-funded Research Project

Associate Professor of Environmental Science will study the relationship of leaf composition to satellite and airborne imaging methods

Kevin MuellerDr. Kevin Mueller, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological, Geological, and Environmental Sciences (BGES), has been awarded $299,844 by NASA to study the optical properties of leaves utilizing hyperspectral imaging. Plants have unique amounts and types of leaf waxes that perform functions like water uptake and protection from pests, as well as variable leaf internal composition and thickness. These factors affect how the leaves reflect light.

Dr. Mueller and researchers in his lab will use a spectroradiometer and leaf clip to measure leaf reflectance across a range of light wavelengths as well as performing analysis of the composition of the leaf samples. They will then use statistical methods to better understand the relationship between reflectance and leaf traits that are known to affect reflectance. Longer term, his research team will utilize data from systems such as the NASA Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) and satellite images to build well-studied leaf traits that are known to affect reflectance, including leaf mass per area, nitrogen and dry-matter content. Dr. Mueller intends for this NASA-funded research program to focus on engaging undergraduate researchers, including First Generation College and underrepresented students.