By
Allyson Fits

I entered college as an undeclared major in hopes a general elective would spark interest for my future studies. I was quick to find inspiration within an introductory geography course where the professor presented his research pertaining to his work in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. As a snow hydrologist, his fieldwork included backcountry skiing, and I was instantly intrigued. Driven by the desire to get involved, I reached out to the professor and his graduate students to learn more about their discipline and ways to get involved as an undergraduate student. Over the past three years since meeting with this professor, I have been fortunate enough to deepen my understanding of mountain hydrology and remote sensing through various courses and experiences. I am a senior in the Geography and Environmental Studies departments pursuing a concentration in Geographic Information Sciences, as well as a certificate in hydrology.

During my sophomore year at CU, I participated in the undergraduate snow internship program at the CU Mountain Research Station on Niwot Ridge. I engaged in weekly snow pit profiles and collected data for the NASA SnowEx campaign and Long-Term Ecological Research(LTER) Program. Through this position, I developed an attentiveness for both fieldwork and snow hydrology. After expressing curiosity, I was invited to attend weekly meetings with the CU Mountain Hydrology Group. In addition to advancing my knowledge pertaining to hydrology and research techniques, joining this group exposed me to the collaborative workspace that lies within the research process. Interested in merging my skills with community-based research, I sought out guidance from Dr. Keith Musselman, a member of the group and INSTAAR Research Associate. Our discussion led me to hold an outreach internship position with Arctic Rivers Project during the summer of 2021.

The Arctic Rivers Project is a five-year project funded by the NSF, with the objective of converging western science and Indigenous knowledge to improve understanding of the changing Arctic. My participation in the project involved working collaboratively with other undergraduate students to develop a multimedia presentation in ESRI’s StoryMap as a way to outline the project’s goals and objectives. Furthermore, I look forward to attending the project’s conference, the Arctic Rivers Summit, which will take place in Anchorage, Alaska in March of 2022. My participation in the conference will be supported by funding I received through the Undergraduate Community-Engaged Scholar Grant, awarded by the CU Office for Outreach and Engagement. This opportunity will allow me to communicate and connect with Indigenous and First National leaders. Learning through new perspectives, I look forward to further broadening my scope of challenges that communities are facing due to climate change.

In addition to fieldwork and community outreach, I harbor an interest in data science. Through multiple statistics and GIS courses, I developed statistical and spatial analysis skills in R Studio, ENVI, ArcMap, and Google Earth Engine. Led by my desire to broaden my programming skill set, I held a remote sensing and data science internship position in collaboration with Earth Lab at CU and the U.S. Geological Survey from March through August of 2021. Over the course of this position, I participated in multiple workshops to mature my programming skills in Python. Additionally, I assisted faculty at Earth Lab to improve documentation of open source packages used to retrieve USGS hydrological data.

My coursework and experiences at CU have cultivated my passion for both science and community. After graduation, I look forward to continuing my education through a graduate degree program in the Fall of 2022.

Relevant Links:

Arctic Rivers Project
Niwot Ridge LTER-University of Colorado Boulder
Earth Lab-University of Colorado Boulder
Undergraduate Internship Opportunities
Office for Outreach and Engagement
Mountain Hydrology Group at CU