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Joe Shaw in his lab at Montana State University in Bozeman, USA (MSU/Kelly Gorham photo).
Joe Shaw in his lab at Montana State University in Bozeman, USA (MSU/Kelly Gorham photo).
Joe Shaw combined passions for music and photography into a scientific pursuit of natural atmospheric optical phenomenon.  His father being an atmospheric physicist certainly helped in his genesis as a scientist, “He dragged me out of bed in the middle of the night to show me stuff.”

Joe completed his undergraduate work in electrical engineering at the University of Alaska, after starting as a music major.  Since he didn’t want to “sit in a cubicle designing circuits,” Joe went to work in Boulder CO at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

On return to NOAA he became involved in laser remote sensing and LIDAR studies with Dr. Jim Churnside.  His projects included measuring sea surface roughness with  laser glitter patterns on the water surface, refining the Cox-Munk models.
After twelve years at NOAA, Joe left for his ancestral home in Montana and joined the faculty of Montana State University  - Bozeman to pursue optics education and to continue his atmospheric optics research.

The CLOUD LIDAR system uses a CFR 200 laser.
Dr. Shaw studies a variety of natural optical phenomenon “outside of the cubicle.”   His armamentarium includes:
  • BEE LIDAR:  Bees are conditioned to detect explosive land mines.  The BEE LIDAR is used to find the bees who have found the mine.
  • TROUT LIDAR:  Where are invasive lake trout hiding in Yellow-stone Lake?  Joe uses the TROUT LIDAR system mounted in a light aircraft to do his fishing.  This LIDAR uses a CFR 200 green laser (model C0532E13)R20HN).
  • CLOUD LIDAR:  How is sky polarization affected by clouds and aerosols?  Joe uses a whole sky polarization imager to characterize polarization as a four element vector calculated for each pixel of the image.  The cloud and aerosol part of the puzzle is measured by LIDAR. 

Joe uses a CFR 200 green laser in this LIDAR system.

Do water droplets or ice crystals cause the coronas surrounding the moon?  While driving home one winter evening with his wife, Joe noted a full moon high in the sky with a corona.  The size of the diffractive corona rings indicated the cloud particle size to be 6-20 microns, but the dual-polarization CLOUD LIDAR and a radiosonde temperature profile showed that the cloud particles were ice.
Typical ice crystals are much too large to create a corona with such large rings, so this measurement provided important evidence of less common, tiny ice particles that explain this kind of wave cloud corona.

Selected publications of Dr. Joe Shaw
  • DS Hoffman et al. (2007) Range-resolved optical detection of honeybees by use of wing-beat modulation of scattered light for locating land mines.  Applied Optics 46: 3007-3012.
  • JA Shaw et al. (2008) Airborne LIDAR mapping of invasive lake trout in Yellowstone Lake.  International Laser Radar Conference, June 2008.
  • NJ Pust and JA Shaw (2008) Digital all-sky polarization imaging of partly cloudy skies.  Applied Optics 47: H190-H198.
  • NL Seldomridge, JA Shaw, KS Repasky (2006) Dual-polarization lidar using a liquid crystal variable retarder.  Optical Engineering 45.