Archive for the ‘European Space Agency’ Tag

Bridging outer space and soil, an ISU professor finds his calling

Brian Hornbuckle holds a scale model of SMOS, the satellite launched by the European Space Agency. He's leading a team in Ames that is checking the satellite's work from the ground. - photo by Jim Malewitz

Brian Hornbuckle is trying to improve crop yields and predict flooding by measuring soil moisture – from space.

By JIM MALEWITZ

When Brian Hornbuckle cranes his neck to the nighttime sky, he’s probably not pondering the beauty of the constellations, but thinking about what’s in the Iowa soil right under his feet.  Yet he’s neither absent-minded, nor a contradiction. He’s just a man who has found his niche – where astronomy, physics and environmental science collide.

Hornbuckle, an associate professor at Iowa State University, has a unique way of understanding how the world works and how we might keep it working.

He is a physical agronomist– a term he coined. It means that he uses physics to study how plants and soil interact with climate. But throw in his expertise in satellite design and data collection, and the work gets even more interesting – interesting enough to land a role in a European Space Agency project he calls “groundbreaking” and “a perfect fit” for his hodge-podge of interests.

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