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Science

Fact: NASA takes the best before-and-after photos. Here are 10 of them.

Our world is changing every day.

nasa oimages, louisiana, before and after
via NASA

Setiment in Louisiana


NASA satellites continually monitor the Earth, snapping photos and sending information to researchers on the ground.

Most of the time, things seem to be more or less the same as they were the day before, but the Earth is actually constantly changing. Sometimes it changes through discrete events, like landslides and floods. Other times, long-term trends, such as climate change, slowly reshape the land in ways that are difficult to see.


By zooming way out, we can get a new perspective of the events that have changed the Earth. These 10 before-and-after photos show the disasters, trends, and changes that have affected our planet, as seen from space.

1. In May 2016, NASA's satellites picked up the devastating 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire.

Before:

2016, forest, satellite images

Satellite image from before the wildfire.

All images from NASA.

After:

wildfire, nature, global warming

Satellite image after the devastating fire.

All images from NASA.

In May 2016, a wildfire broke out near Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada. It destroyed more than 2,400 homes and businesses and burned through roughly 1,500,000 acres of land before it was under control. (Some of the pictures use false-color imaging to distinguish between land types, by the way).

2. The satellites also captured how landscapes eventually recover from fires, like in Yellowstone.

Before:

Yellowstone, camping, national parks

Satellite image after fire in Yellowstone.

All images from NASA.

After:

plains, recovery, satellite images, California, state parks

Nature returns to normal with time.

All images from NASA.

In 1988, wildfires burned through over a third of Yellowstone National Park. 28 years later, images show that much of the forest and plains have returned.

3. They saw drought shrink Utah's Great Salt Lake over the last 30 years ...

Before:

Utah, salt lake, drought,

Image of the Utah’s Great Salt Lake before the drought.

All images from NASA.

After:

climate change, water supplies, Great Salt Lake

Water supplies have shrunk with a possible link to climate change.

All images from NASA.

Persistent drought has shrunk water supplies throughout much of the West. Scientists now think this may be linked to climate change.

4. And they showed the Mississippi pouring over its banks in March 2016.

Before:

Mississippi Delta, floods, displacement,

Satellite image of the Mississippi Delta and river.

All images from NASA.

After:

record-breaking rain, precipitation, river banks

Rivers overflow their banks with spring run offs.

All images from NASA.

Record-breaking rain inundated much of the Mississippi Delta in the spring of 2016, causing the mighty river to spill over its banks.

5. In West Virginia, surface mining reshaped mountaintops.

Before:

mountains, surface mining, land damage, capitalism

West Virginia before surface mining.

All images from NASA.

After:

resources, coal, West Virginia, ecology

West Virginia after surfacing mining for coal.

All images from NASA.

Mountaintop mining is often used to search for coal and can have lasting effects on the land.

6. In Washington state, the Oso mudslide changed the Earth back in 2014.

Before:

Washington state, mudslides, earth

Mudslides can create significant change to an environment.

All images from NASA.

After:

landslide, environmental catastrophe, deaths, NASA

A landslide reshapes a community and kills 43 people in Washington state.

All images from NASA.

43 people were killed in the March 2014 landslide in western Washington.

7. In Louisiana, sediment carried by water created new land.

Before:

topography, geology, geography

Water carries sediment which changes the topography.

All images from NASA.

After:

sediment, coastline, rive

Sediment can create new land.

All images from NASA.

Rivers and streams often carry sediment with them. As they slow down and reach the coast, that sediment falls out of the water. Over time, this can create new land, as you can see above.

8. The images show Hurricane Isaac touching down in Louisiana.

Before:

hurricanes, state of emergency, Hurricane Isaac

Satellite image before the hurricane.

All images from NASA.

After:

Louisiana, devastation, gulf coast, flooding

Image of the flooding of Louisiana after the hurricane.

All images from NASA.

Hurricane Isaac hit the gulf coast in August 2012. 41 people lost their lives and more than $2 billion worth of damage occurred. Above you can see the flooding that still lingered afterward.

9. And warming temperatures shrink Alaska's Columbia Glacier.

Before:

Alaska, glaciers, global warming

Alaska’s Columbia Glacier as seen from satellite.

All images from NASA.

After:

Columbia Glacier, climate crisis, climate change

Warmer global temperatures have shrunk many glaciers.

All images from NASA.

Over the last 28 years, warmer global temperatures have shrunk many glaciers, including Alaska's Columbia Glacier. From above, the shrinkage is crystal clear.

10. Meanwhile, our cities grew and expanded, like this image of San Antonio, Texas, shows.

Before:

Texas, expansion, San Antonio, population

The growing community of San Antonio, Texas.

All images from NASA.

After:

Alamo, Spurs basketball, environmental impact

The city has started to take up more space than the natural environment.

All images from NASA.

San Antonio — home of the Alamo and the Spurs basketball team — had a population of just over 1 million people in 1991. Today, it's added another 400,000 people.

The above images are only a small set of the many pictures NASA released. Globally, there were a ton of other interesting sites, like entire lakes turning red in Iran, new islands being formed by ocean volcanoes, and dams flooding rainforests in Brazil.

The world — and our country — is constantly changing, and we play a part in that.

Sometimes nature changes us, such as people having to respond to floodwaters, but we also know humans affect the Earth as well. And while it's true that the Earth has gone through natural cycles, we know it's now happening faster than ever before.

As the Earth will continue to change, it's important to remain aware of how we affect the Earth — and how the Earth affects us.


This article originally appeared on 01.23.17

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From political science to joining the fight against cancer: How one woman found her passion

An unexpected pivot to project management expanded Krystal Brady's idea of what it means to make a positive impact.

Krystal Brady/PMI

Krystal Brady utilizes her project management skills to help advance cancer research and advocacy.

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Cancer impacts nearly everyone’s life in one way or another, and thankfully, we’re learning more about treatment and prevention every day. Individuals and organizations dedicated to fighting cancer and promising research from scientists are often front and center, but we don’t always see the people working behind the scenes to make the fight possible.

People like Krystal Brady.

While studying political science in college, Brady envisioned her future self in public office. She never dreamed she’d build a successful career in the world of oncology, helping cancer researchers, doctors and advocates continue battling cancer, but more efficiently.

Brady’s journey to oncology began with a seasonal job at a small publishing company, which helped pay for college and awakened her love for managing projects. Now, 15 years later, she’s serving as director of digital experience and strategy at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), which she describes as “the perfect place to pair my love of project management and desire to make positive change in the world.”

As a project manager, Brady helps make big ideas for the improvement of diagnosing and treating cancer a reality. She is responsible for driving the critical projects that impact the lives of cancer researchers, doctors, and patients.

“I tell people that my job is part toolbox, part glue,” says Brady. “Being a project manager means being responsible for understanding the details of a project, knowing what tools or resources you need to execute the project, and facilitating the flow of that work to the best outcome possible. That means promoting communication, partnership, and ownership among the team for the project.”

At its heart, Brady’s project management work is about helping people. One of the big projects Brady is currently working on is ASCO’s digital transformation, which includes upgrading systems and applications to help streamline and personalize oncologists’ online experience so they can access the right resources more quickly. Whether you are managing humans or machines, there’s an extraordinary need for workers with the skillset to harness new technology and solve problems.

The digital transformation project also includes preparing for the use of emerging technologies such as generative AI to help them in their research and practices.

“Most importantly, it lays the groundwork for us to make a meaningful impact at the point of care, giving the oncologist and patient the absolute latest recommendations or guidelines for care for that specific patient or case, allowing the doctor to spend more time with their patients and less time on paperwork,” Brady says.

In today’s fast-changing, quickly advancing world, project management is perhaps more valuable than ever. After discovering her love for it, Brady earned her Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification through Project Management Institute (PMI)—the premier professional organization for project managers with chapters all over the world—which she says gave her an edge over other candidates when she applied for her job at ASCO.

“The knowledge I gained in preparing for the PMP exam serves me every day in my role,” Brady says. “What I did not expect and have truly come to value is the PMI network as well – finding like-minded individuals, opportunities for continuous learning, and the ability to volunteer and give back.”

PMI’s growing community – including more than 300 chapters globally – serves as a place for project managers and individuals who use project management skills to learn and grow through events, online resources, and certification programs.

While people often think of project management in the context of corporate careers, all industries and organizations need project managers, making it a great career for those who want to elevate our world through non-profits or other service-oriented fields.

“Project management makes a difference by focusing on efficiency and outcomes, making us all a little better at what we do,” says Brady. “In almost every industry, understanding how to do our work more effectively and efficiently means more value to our customers, and the world at large, at an increased pace.”

Project management is also a stable career path in high demand as shown by PMI research, which found that the global economy will need 25 million more project managers by 2030 and that the median salary for project managers in the US has grown to $120K.

If you’d like to learn more about careers in project management, PMI has resources to help you get started or prove your proficiency, including its entry-level Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification program. For those interested in pursuing a project management career to make a difference, it could be your first step.
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