Earth System Science Projects 2011
Satellite image tracking of environmental changes and incidence of valley fever in Kern County.
Faculty Mentor - Dr. Jorge Talamantes
Coccidioidomycosis (valley fever) is a fungal infection found in the southwestern US, northern Mexico, and some
parts of Central and South America. The fungi which cause it (Coccidioides immitis and Coccidioides posadasii) are
normally soil-dwelling but, if disturbed, become air-borne and infect the host when their spores are inhaled. We
will investigate whether it is possible to predict valley fever outbreaks in Fall and Winter by analyzing the environment
around Kern County in the previous Spring. Our hope is to be able to detect unusually strong fungal blooming seasons,
and thus provide a valuable public health tool. That is, if we find that the fungus is having a particularly strong growing
season (in the Spring), then public health agencies can try to minimize the effects (in Fall and Winter) by taking
appropriate measures. We will examine satellite images of Kern County taken by NASA since 1982, and archived by the
US Geological Survey. We will then connect those data with valley fever incidence records.
We will use state-of-the-art image processing software. Project participants will learn skills used in a wide range of
disciplines such as medical imaging, astronomy, ecology, environmental resource management, and epidemiology. Furthermore,
participants will learn techniques in computational and statistical analysis.
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