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Belizean scientist, Emil Cherrington and research project featured by NASA


Posted: Thursday, August 27, 2020. 10:43 am CST.

Pictures courtesy: NASA

By BBN Staff: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently featured Belizean scientist Emil Cherrington and his NASA-supported “Climate-influenced Nutrient Flows and Threats to the Biodiversity of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System” research project.

The article published on August 26, 2020, begins by sharing more about Emil’s childhood access to a computer given to him by his aunt, Carolyn Leacock Mahung, a science teacher in Virginia which eventually lead to his career path.

Cherrington said that his aunt saw that he had a similar curiosity as her.

“When I look back, if [I had not gotten that computer], I’m 100% certain I wouldn’t have ended up working in geographic information systems (GIS), doing remote sensing or even meeting my wife. All of these fortunate things happened because I had somebody who believed in me and encouraged me,” he stated.

It all began with that one computer.

In 2005, Emil began working with SERVIR after receiving a call from Dan Irwin, a research scientist at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Irwin is also the global program manager for SERVIR.

At the time, Emil was employed at the Coastal Zone Management Authority & Institute in Belize.

“If you’re working in the average government agency in Belize, people from NASA don’t pick up the phone and ring you very often,” said Cherrington.

Throughout the years, Cherrington has and continues to lead trainings that put Earth observations and lessons learned from NASA into the hands of local decision-makers in Central America to help them address local challenges and try to make life better for their communities.

Emil is now the West Africa Regional Science Coordination Lead with the NASA Earth Applied Sciences Capacity Building Program area’s SERVIR Science Coordination Office.

SERVIR is a joint development initiative between NASA and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Since he joined the program, he has had the opportunity to share presentations on promoting science communication at Google’s Geo For Good 2019 conference in Sunnyvale, California among many others.

Emil holds a double doctorate in forest ecology from AgroParisTech in Paris, France and Technische Universität Dresden in Dresden, Germany.

His present project includes land cover mapping for an ongoing NASA-funded project called “Climate-influenced Nutrient Flows and Threats to the Biodiversity of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System.”

 The team’s recently published study on the project noted the decision by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to remove the Belize Barrier Reef World Heritage Site from their List of World Heritage Sites in Danger.

“I didn’t see a whole lot of scientific role models growing up and my aunt was definitely one of those few people who was. Belize, like many other places, is a patriarchal society, and in my own life I’ve generally found that I’ve had a great deal of women role models,” Emil added.

Now, Emil says that he wants to be able to create opportunities for others.

“I think when scientists communicate using social media or other means, they also help inspire or encourage younger folks who are also interested in science. Young people see it and realize there’s so much that scientists can do,” he expressed.


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