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ECE Graduate Student Wins Best Oral Presentation at American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting

Sheila Werth

Sheila Werth

Graduate student Sheila Werth of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department won Best Oral Presentation at the 7th Conference on Weather, Climate, Water, and the New Energy Economy, which was part of the American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting, held on January 10-14, in New Orleans. Her talk was entitled "Evaluating Parameters for Species-Based Classification of Bird Radar Echoes for Wind Energy Site Assessment." Her ECE faculty advisor is Stephen Frasier. See the abstract »

As Werth said during her presentation, wind energy is one of the fastest-growing segments of the world energy market, offering a clean and abundant source of electricity.

“However, wind energy facilities can have detrimental effects on wildlife, especially birds and bats,” Werth said. “Monitoring systems based on marine navigation radar are often used to quantify bird and bat migration near potential wind sites, but the ability to reliably distinguish between bats and different varieties of birds has not been practically achieved. This classification capability would enable wind-site selection that protects more vulnerable species, such as bats and raptors. In this work, we analyze radar parameters for their species-based classification potential in echoes from avifauna.”

Werth said that during the 2014 fall migration season, the UMass X-Pol weather radar was used to collect low elevation observations of migrating birds as they traversed through a fixed antenna beam. The radar was run during the night time in clear-air conditions. Data were coherently integrated, and detections of biological targets exceeding an SNR threshold were extracted.

Werth’s abstract explained that detections without some dominant frequency content (i.e. clear periodicity, potentially the wing beat frequency) were removed from the sample in order to isolate observations suspected to contain a single species or bird. For the remaining detections, parameters, including the polarimetric products and the Doppler spectrum, were extracted at each time step over the duration of the observation. Clustering techniques were used to determine the extent to which observations fell within distinct groups, based upon the extracted parameters.

Werth concluded that “The presence of strong clusters of avian radar echoes, based upon selected parameters, would suggest the potential for a broad, species-based avian classification algorithm. Such a classification scheme could ultimately help select and monitor wind sites in order to minimize harm to at-risk bird and bat species.”

According to the AMS, its Annual Meeting “is the world’s largest yearly gathering for the weather, water, and climate community. It brings together great minds from a diverse set of scientific disciplines – helping attendees make career-long professional contact and life-long friends while learning from the very top people in the atmospheric sciences. The Seventh Conference on Weather, Climate, and the New Energy Economy values student participation.”

The AMS website said that “As we have done in the past, we will have awards for best student oral presentations and best student posters to encourage student participation. Presentations will be judged based on scientific content and effectiveness of communication.” (February 2016