Tuesday, 17 July 2007

ASPRS Student Profile - Jonathan Thayn

I grew up in a small coal-mining community in southeastern Utah, half way between the San Rafael Desert and the Bookcliff Mountains. We lived outside of town, on my grandpa’s farm, so until I received my driver’s license, our access to movies and malls was limited. My brothers and sisters and I spent a lot of time outside, hiking through the sagebrush and Juniper trees near our home. My dad and my brothers and I were involved in boy scouting so we did a lot of camping together. I really enjoyed being outside, especially in the mountains, where it was oddly calming and exciting at the same time. When I wasn’t outside, I was usually drawing or painting. It was a happy day when I realized I could combine my interests in art and the outdoors by making remotely sensed images to model and map vegetation.

After high school, I attended the College of Eastern Utah in my hometown for four years. For two of those years I lived in western Guatemala as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I received my bachelor degree in GIS from Brigham Young University and my master’s degree in Public Administration from the same university. My wife and I then moved to Lake Forest, a few miles north of Chicago. After working there for two years, we moved to Lawrence, Kansas so I could pursue a doctoral degree in geography and remote sensing. My goal is to work as a professor and scientist at a research university.

I am particularly interested in studying vegetation and ecosystem response to perturbation and possible climate change. My research so far has focused on analyzing time-series of satellite image vegetation indices to extract phenology metrics, or information regarding the seasonal timing of vegetation growth cycles. I have used aspects of this methodology to map red cedar invasion in the Great Plains and to model the effects of rangeland fragmentation on cattle stocking rates in Kansas. My dissertation research looks to map prehistoric anthropogenic soils in the Amazon Basin using vegetation response to drought conditions as a surrogate for soil type. The most exciting aspect of this work is that the result will be a map of pre-Columbian settlement sites that have been abandoned and reabsorbed by the forest.

After work, I go home to my family. My wife, Debbi, is busy taking care of our two daughters and our Beagle puppy. Currently, this involves swimming lessons and coordinating various play-groups. Mary (4-years) likes dancing, chocolate, going on expeditions, and the color pink. Lucy (2-years) likes the Bernstain Bears, juice, reading stories, and doing whatever Mary is doing.

My goals as Communications Councilor for the ASPRS Student Advisory Council (SAC) are to make the communication between members as useful as possible. First off, I would like to give the newsletter, Signatures, a blog-like online format so that we can subscribe to it using RSS. That way each member can find the articles, suggestions, information, etc. in the newsletter without having to wade through the stuff that isn’t as interesting to them. Also, comments, suggestions and questions can be posted to the articles so that readers can communicate with the authors. I think this has a lot of potential for articles that highlight chapter success stories. Leaders from other chapters would be able to easily ask questions and the authors would be able to respond. During the SAC meeting at the ASPRS conference in Tampa, we brainstormed possible features or sections for the newsletter (the minutes from that meeting are on the Yahoo! Users Group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/asprs_students/message/40). I am especially excited about the grant and scholarship notice board and the collaborative research suggestions. I am looking into ways to implement those as soon as possible. If you have any additional suggestions or ideas, please let me know.

Jonathan B. Thayn
Communications Councilor, SAC
Doctoral Candidate

Department of Geography
University of Kansas, Higuchi Hall
2101 West Constant Avenue, Rm 121
Lawrence, KS 66047

(785) 864-1518

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