Soumya Sudhakar, 2018, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Climate change is already affecting the reliability of crop yields worldwide. For farmers in Zambia, getting better forecasts of maize yields as early as possible is critical to livelihoods. These forecasts, however, currently rely on only a few weather stations for the entire country of Zambia. In an effort to improve upon this, Princeton Ecohydrology Lab is working to deploy many smaller, cheaper, cloud-connected “PulsePods,” which provide data for crop modeling, in the hope that the models will be able to better predict yield of a crop like maize in Zambia and in a changing climate. I aided in data analysis, and wrote programs to pull data from the pods, clean up and evaluate the data, and feed the data into DSSAT, a global crop modeling software. The internship taught me skills such as programming in R and gave me the opportunity to visit Zambia where I was able to work with pods in the field and talk to farmers who are on the front lines of climate change and its ramifications. I look forward to continuing research on ways to adapt in a changing climate and to help find sustainable engineering solutions.