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Jump to.. [color] [light detection] [color digital images] [plants] [remote sensing] [pulling it all together]

    These investigations will help you develop the concepts and skills to use satellite data to assess environmental health anywhere you are interested.

    Click on a topic for access to hands-on and computer-based activities, or use an interactive concept map that illustrates how the activities fit together.

    Test how well you understand these materials by going to the Challenge section. Challenges are quick investigations involving one or more of the DEW concepts.


Color provides the foundation for much of today’s information technologies. If you know how colors are made by mixing redgreen, and blue light, you may quickly interpret the data being displayed in color images, including satellite images, color-coded graphics and maps, and your own digital photographs.

Light Detection

We use the light reflected from objects as a way to determine material properties. Would you feel safe eating green-speckled bread that has been sitting on the kitchen counter for a few days? Visible colors are a powerful indicator for us, but imagine that you could expand your vision to include reflected light that is normally invisible to us? This is what satellites allow us to do, and there are number of simple, affordable technologies that allow you to measure the intensity of visible and infrared light emitted from, reflected by, transmitted through, and absorbed by objects.

Color Digital Images

Color digital images are visualizations of huge amounts of data. An image is made of three sets of light intensity measurements, each over a two dimensional field. And all of these data are readily available for analysis on your computer.


Often bio-indicators of environmental health. By understanding their growth patterns and how they utilize light, we can use them as “green canaries,” that give us early warning of unhealthy environmental conditions. Monitor plant plant health in the outdoor landscape and by doing controlled experiments inside.

Remote Sensing

Satellite data have been around since 1960. NASA and other organizations are making it easier to get free data, but how can we convert it into useful information? Use the guided activities to build an understanding of the spectral, temporal, and spatial scales of satellite information. Free software analysis and visualization tools are provided along with easily accessible satellite imagery.

Pulling It All Together

The investigations above are designed to help you develop the skills and concepts so you can assess and monitor the environmental health of an area you care about. The project also provides free software tools and has developed a number of low-cost technologies you may build or purchase that will help you gather quality data. See examples of what can be done.