Jessica Cherry

Dr. Jessica Cherry is a Research Associate Professor with a joint appointment between the International Arctic Research Center and the Institute of Northern Engineering, at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). She also runs a small business called Northern Science Services, for which she is a commercial, instrument-rated pilot specializing in research and mapping flights. The focus of Cherry’s research program at UAF is cold region hydrology and climate science.

Before moving to Alaska, she received a B.A. in Economics, a M.A. in Physical Oceanography, and a Ph.D. in Climate Physics, all from Columbia University in New York City. During her undergraduate program, Cherry spent a semester at the Biosphere2 facility in Arizona and became fascinated by life support system research. After a stint on Wall Street as a ‘Quant’ on a weather derivatives desk, her Ph.D. was completed under a NASA Earth System Science Fellowship and included four research cruises. She moved to Alaska in 2007 to work as a post-doc at the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center before transitioning to faculty.

Cherry spends about a quarter of her time out in the field, typically installing, or maintaining weather stations or deploying airborne sensor systems. She works throughout the winter in Alaska and the Far North. Her airborne research has included designing, building, and deploying an ‘integrated sensor system’. This system holds optical and infrared cameras, hyperspectral, and multispectral sensors, a synthetic aperture radar, and an inertial navigation system. The research with this system has focused on hydrology and permafrost in cold regions, but has also extended to applications as diverse as search and rescue and wildlife habitat mapping.

Cherry also designed and implemented the first airborne use of a cavity ring-down laser spectrometer for water isotopes. She then coordinated with NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Tropospheric Emissions Spectrometer mission on board the AURA satellite to provide the only high latitude calibration profiles for the satellite sensor. Since starting as a faculty member at UAF, Cherry has secured more than $2.5 million in research grants from NASA, NOAA, NSF, DOE, DOI, Alaska Aerospace, and other state and federal agencies and has supervised seven graduate students.

Cherry lives in a log cabin with her husband and sled dogs and is passionate about exploration, in space and here on Earth.