Human Capital

Recipients of the 2016 Excellence in Leadership Award

Bruce K. Quirk
Denise Akob and Karl Haase

In recognition of their outstanding acts, services, and achievements that exemplify and support the USGS leadership goals throughout the Bureau.

Honor awards will be presented at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Honor Awards Ceremony in Reston.

Excellence in Leadership Award

Citation for 2016 USGS Excellence in Leadership Award

Bruce K. Quirk
Principal Remote Sensing Scientist
Climate and Land Use Change
Reston, Virginia

Dr. Bruce K. Quirk is currently the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Liaison for the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Land Remote Sensing (LRS) Program. The LRS Program provides and encourages the use of historical, current, and future remotely sensed data and derived scientific information to U.S. Government agencies and the public. Dr. Quirk began his USGS career in 1982 with the EROS Data Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He served in a number of science and operational positions at EROS before moving to the USGS Headquarters in 2007 with the LRS Program. Dr. Quirk has over 30 years of experience applying satellite and aerial remote sensing and GIS technology to the monitoring of natural resources in the United States and around the world. He has numerous publications and has received awards from the USGS and the National Aeronautic Space Administration for his contributions in the field of remote sensing.

Over the past 2 years, Dr. Quirk has demonstrated exemplary proactive leadership in establishing and promoting UAS data collection as an efficient, safe, and cost effective remote sensing tool for the Department of the Interior (DOI) and USGS scientists. Working in close partnership with the USGS National UAS Project Office (NUPO) at the Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center in Lakewood, Colorado, Dr. Quirk’s persistence in engaging researchers across the DOI community in various UAS and sensor technology evaluations is proving instrumental to a plethora of Earth science investigations. These include monitoring environmental conditions and landscape change rates, responding to natural hazards, conducting required wildlife inventories, and supporting land and resource management. UAS technology provides scientists a way to look longer, closer and more frequently at some of Earth’s most remote areas—places that were previously too dangerous or expensive to monitor in detail. The flexibility of operations and relative low cost to purchase and operate Small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS) enhances the ability to track long-term landscape and environmental change. Dr. Quirk’s tireless efforts to champion UAS technology will serve to guide DOI culture to do more with less, and in the process enhance the Department’s ability to provide unbiased scientific information to help stakeholders make informed decisions. His vision is that by 2020 UAS will emerge as one of the primary platforms for DOI remote sensing applications.

Dr. Quirk has demonstrated remarkable skill and adeptness at building cross agency coalitions with other DOI bureaus, Federal, State, and local agencies (with coordination and guidance from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the DOI Office of Aviation Services (OAS)). He worked with senior leadership on issues pertaining to the USGS Acquisition Operating Procedures (AOP) for UAS and the National Aviation Management Plan (NAMP), as well as supporting the response to the Presidential Memorandum on Promoting Economic Competitiveness While Safeguarding Privacy, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties in Domestic Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems. Working in collaboration with the USGS Innovations Center (IC) in Menlo Park, California, Dr. Quirk supported the initiation of a USGS-wide call for ideas on how USGS science would benefit from a High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS) providing a persistent monitoring capability. HAPS technology represents a tremendous capability for cost effective persistent monitoring of a variety of Earth phenomena. In May of 2015, Dr. Quirk organized a highly successful UAS workshop at USGS HQ that brought in over 140 scientists, engineers, and managers from across the civil community. The theme that was clearly communicated was the need for assistance with understanding the sensor technology.

To that end, Dr. Quirk has pursued extensive outreach activities in demonstrating UAS technology in support of scientific inquiry. He is currently the lead of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) UAS Division, and was elected chair of the ASPRS Technical Division Directors Council which placed him on the ASPRS Board of Directors. He continues to organize and arrange speakers for DOI UAS User webinars, which are attended by over 200 DOI and external participants. He is regularly invited to present and keynote in a variety of outreach venues that provide the opportunity to describe UAS technology and remote sensing activities to a wide range of external organizations that have included USGS, DOI, USDA/USFS, NASA, NOAA, USACE, EPA, academia, and private industry.

Dr. Bruce Quirk has demonstrated a model for excellence in community leadership through his steadfast dedication, passion, and vision to advancing UAS technology as a standard and effective data collection tool in the Earth Scientist’s repertoire.

For his outstanding contributions and leadership skills, Dr. Bruce Quirk is recommended for the USGS 2016 Excellence in Leadership Award.

Nominated by:
Timothy R. Newman, Program Coordinator, Land Remote Sensing
Peter J. Doucette, Associate Program Coordinator, Land Remote Sensing

Endorsed by:
Virginia Burkett, Associate Director for Climate and Land Use Change




Excellence in Leadership Award

Citation for 2016 USGS Early Career Excellence in Leadership Award

Denise Akob and Karl Haase
National Research Program—Eastern Branch
Reston, Virginia

Drs. Denise Akob and Karl Haase, National Research Program-Eastern Branch (NRP-EB), have demonstrated outstanding leadership through their scientific accomplishments and service to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) over the past three years. They created and ran the NRP-EB Weekly Science Series (WSS), and developed the Reston Intern Program. They also provided program support that helped overcome information technology (IT) and data release hurdles. Through their efforts, Dr. Haase and Dr. Akob have exemplified the seven guiding principles of respect, accountability, communication, valuing differences, encouraging others, focus, and collaboration in both their science and in their service to the Bureau.

Drs. Akob and Haase coordinate the NRP-EB WSS, which they established in 2014. The WSS includes seminars from USGS and external scientists, discussions on key scientific and USGS topics, and journal clubs. Through its activities, the WSS has created a platform for NRP communication and networking with scientists and managers throughout the USGS. Executive Leadership Team members and Science Center Directors have recognized their leadership and the success of the seminar series. The WSS has grown beyond NRP and Reston: events are attended via WebEx by scientists across the agency and are highlighted in USGS Weekly Digests. Drs. Akob and Haase have used the WSS as a catalyst for change within the organization, and as a platform to enhance cultural diversity and knowledge-sharing throughout the USGS.

Drs. Akob and Haase have used their excellent skills to expand communication within NRP-EB and the Reston National Center. Their work on the WSS and the Reston Intern Program has helped the whole USGS. They have advanced cooperative relationships and team building across the Bureau, and have created encouraging dialog among scientific and management staff. Dr. Haase and Dr. Akob are highly adaptive to USGS needs and opportunities. For example, they used end-of-the-year feedback surveys to improve the Reston Intern Program.

In 2015, Dr. Akob and Dr. Haase created the Reston Intern Program, providing a platform to help mentor and educate summer interns within the USGS National Center. Each year, approximately 30 interns participate in the program. This includes career-oriented discussions, communication seminars, research seminars, and networking events. As a result, interns have made valuable early career connections and gone on to graduate programs and/or to positions as working scientists. This program is a substantial contribution to the NRP and USGS educational programs, and has created goals and guidelines for positive intern experiences. The Youth and Education in Science Office recognized the benefit of the program and has promoted it as a model to other centers around the country.

Drs. Haase and Akob also mentor their own USGS interns. Their interns work in the lab and field, and are also actively involved in interpretation and publication. The individual attention and opportunities for involvement in all stages of the science provides valuable experiences to the interns. They both provide a mentorship model that other NRP scientists look to emulate.

Drs. Haase and Akob have worked with NRP scientists and managers, and with the Office of Enterprise Information (OEI) to enhance computing capabilities to meet needs for data storage and access speed, balancing limited funds, and computer security and data integrity needs. Dr. Haase’s technical knowledge of computer systems and networks allowed him to create a bridge between OEI and NRP, communicating needs, resources, and expectations between the two groups. This resulted in increased collaborative storage for NRP data and models, and longer term goals for improvements in data backups and in the development of high throughput bandwidth connections to High-Performance-Computing. Dr. Akob has helped expand the depth of IT support for USGS researchers. In partnership with the USGS Associate Chief Information Officer, she expanded the IT service offering to allow more direct involvement with scientists in the areas of microbiology, bioinformatics, genetics, genomics, and advanced research computing. The result is much better collaboration and direction for very diverse USGS projects and programs by more consistent and efficient use of technologies such as virtualization, cloud collaboration tools, high performance computing, and improved science application support.

For their many outstanding contributions and leadership skills, Dr. Denise Akob and Dr. Karl Haase are recommended for the USGS 2016 Early Career Excellence in Leadership Award.

Nominated by:
Pierre Glynn, Chief, NRP-EB
Isabelle Cozzarelli, Supervisor, NRP-EB

Endorsed by:
Timothy Quinn, Chief, Office of Enterprise Information
Donald Cline, AD for Water

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