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Elise Turrietta

When Elise Turrietta ’16 was an Upper School student, she was a Chesapeake Bay Fellow in the Batten Leadership Program. Research projects and expeditions in the Bay helped her develop a love for using science to help others.

Now a senior at William and Mary, she spent this summer on a project for NASA that did just that.

She was part of a small team that explored ways to measure light pollution, which is caused primarily by outdoor lights that emit up or sideways, according to the National Park Service. Minimizing light pollution can lead to energy savings. It can also help nocturnal animals, migrating birds, and insects, who can become confused by light.

Light pollution can be measured by equipment on the ground. Turrietta’s team, which included aspiring young scientists from around the country, worked with the park service to study whether using satellite data would be another option.

Their finding? It is. The scientists’ data was highly accurate, Turrietta said, so much so that they helped with a training session for other NASA workers and a webinar for the park service.

“I’m really lucky that I was a part of it,” said Turrietta, who was chosen for the 10-week program after a thorough application process.

There is still work to do before the researchers’ findings can become a useful tool - for instance, they hope they can be published in a national journal. But they’ve taken valuable steps.

Turrietta is looking at pursuing a master’s degree after graduating college. She’s excited about finding more projects that will help the environment.

“It’s science with a purpose,” she said.

To learn more about the project, watch this video Turrietta put together!

Elise Turrietta
Elise Turrietta

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