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Unconventional Means of Funding for Undergraduate Severe Storms Field Research

Shane Martrich, Ryan Argenti, Sam Leppo, Kyle Elliott (M.S.), and William G. Blumberg (PhD)

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Shane Martrich is currently a Senior at Millersville University majoring in Meteorology. This was a summer semester research project that investigated the Lifting Condensation Level and its relation to tornadogenesis in the Northeast and Great Plains. Project TILTTING, Thermodynamic Investigation into LCL Thresholds during Tornadogenesis and its influence in the Northeast and Great-Plains, is an undergraduate led research project that needed to fundraise over $30,000 through student grants, crowdfunding donations, and sponsorships to operate. To investigate all of the parameters associated with tornadoes and their corresponding LCL heights, a Legrangian Drift Sensor was designed and built to be carried into a tornado by drone. This data would be paired with in-situ balloon borne radiosonde data to measure the far, near, and “close” field observations. Shane plans to continue this project this upcoming summer with the rest of the TILTTING crew, to see a full comparison between the Northeast and Great Plains investigating an eastward shift of tornadoes. He plans on continuing this project through a collaborative effort while getting his Master’s and PhD in the Atmospheric Science field. 

Rhiannon is a senior at Millersville University who majors in Meteorology and has minors in Mathematics and Photography. Over the summer, she took part in an Intensive Observing Period (IOP) through the student-led Thermodynamic Investigation into LCL Thresholds during Tornado-genesis and its Influence in the Northeast and Great Plains (TILTTING) project. She has always had a passion for severe weather and hopes to pursue a career in research, as well as creating her own photography business. This research project has allowed her the opportunity to gain research experience in the field of severe weather as well as photographing storms. Ultimately, she would like to combine both of her passions for photography and storm chasing together to capture the raw beauty of violent storms. Rhiannon’s plans after graduating Millersville is to attend Millersville’s Master of Science and Integrated Scientific Applications (MSISA) Graduate Program and specialize in Weather Intelligence and Risk Management.


Ryan Argenti is a junior Meteorology major, while pursuing minors in Data Science and Media Arts Production. Since he was young, Ryan has always had a passion for severe weather and tornadoes and has always wanted to see these forces of nature up close. With the development and creation of a severe weather project, known as TILTTING, it has given him the opportunity to do just that: Getting up close and personal with Mother Nature! Since September 2021, with the help of other students and faculty, he has helped to develop and manage a tornado research project called TILTTING, which investigates the cloud base heights of tornado-producing thunderstorms. Part of the project entails deploying meteorological instruments/sensors, called tornado probes, which will be deployed into the hearts of tornadoes to gather invaluable vortex data. The idea of getting his first prototyped probe into one of Earth’s most powerful forces is an idea that he is passionate about, as well as a goal of his to achieve while leading and partaking in TILTTING. Ryan’s plans after graduating Millersville are to attend graduate school to expand upon the project, as well as his prototyped probes, so that hopefully TILTTING can become a wider scaled, multi-university collaboration.


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