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The USGS EROS Center has hosted remote sensing data for 50 years in its location in rural South Dakota. The Center opened in 1973, the year after the launch of Landsat 1, with the intent to archive and distribute Landsat data. It has evolved into much more. Get to know us with these episodes.

Episode 1 - Intro to EROS

Color photo of Tom Loveland with Eyes on Earth podcast logo
Tom Loveland, former Chief Scientist at the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center.

In this first episode, we learn about EROS history and purpose. A rundown of the history of the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center, the Landsat program, and the Center's role in the observation and study of landscape change worldwide.

Guest: Dr. Thomas Loveland, former Chief Scientist

Host: Steve Young

Release date: Sept. 9, 2019

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Episode 115 – EROS Women in Science

Photo of five women outside a building, with four mugshots and a little text laid on top of the photo
Down left side, from the top: Jen Rover, Stefanie Kagone, Jenn Lacey, Birgit Peterson. Main photo, from left: Heather Tollerud, Kristi Sayler, June Thormodsgard, Calli Jenkerson, Jess Brown.

Women have been crucial to the EROS workforce from the very beginning in a variety of areas, from customer service and computers to film processing and administration. In this episode, we’re highlighting the science work that women have been part of, which includes plenty of variety on its own, including the mapping of landscapes and wildfire burn severities and monitoring water. Our guests include June Thormodsgard, who worked at EROS from 1979-2012 and shares about the past while offering advice for women working now at EROS. 

Guests: June Thormodsgard, retired from USGS EROS; current EROS scientists Calli Jenkerson, Kristi Sayler, Jess Brown, Heather Tollerud, Jen Rover, Birgit Peterson and Stefanie Kagone; and USGS’ Jenn Lacey, formerly of EROS.

Hosts: Jane Lawson and Sheri Levisay (contractors for USGS EROS)

Release date: Monday, March 25, 2024

Episode 113 – EROS Science Leader’s Vision

Front entrance of a building with a man's mugshot and title inset on the front lawn
Terry Sohl

Terry Sohl helped develop the National Land Cover Database, NLCD, when he first arrived, and now he’s overseeing significant improvements to the widely used product. But that’s just one part of his new role. In this episode, Sohl provides an overview of the science efforts at EROS and how artificial intelligence and machine learning help scientists focus more on the work that helps society. He also shares his vision for the future. 

Guest: Terry Sohl, Chief of the USGS EROS Integrated Science and Applications Branch

Host: Jane Lawson (contractor for USGS EROS)

Release date: Monday, February 26, 2023

Episode 112 – Landsat in Popular Media

5 men in a thumbnail image
Main photo: Robert Anemone; right, from top: Keith Masback, Ron Risty, George Xian, and Chris Barber

In this episode, we aim to separate science fiction from science fact when it comes to how Landsat satellites and the EROS Center are portrayed in popular media. To do that, we consulted experts on a range of potential uses, including military, heat signatures, paleontology, and forests.

Guests: Keith Masback, Landsat Advisory Group; Ron Risty, EROS alumnus; George Xian, EROS research physical scientist; Robert Anemone, professor at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro; and Chris Barber, EROS research physical scientist 

Hosts: Sheri Levisay and Jane Lawson (contractors for USGS EROS)

Release date: Monday, February 5, 2024

Episode 109 – Fall 2023 EROS Poster Session

A man's profile in front of a science poster with a microphone being held in front of him and a logo placed on top of him
Naeem Malik.

In this episode, we hear from several EROS staff members and university graduate students who took part in our Fall Poster Session. Lively conversations filled the EROS atrium during the hour-long event. Participants got to learn from one another as they shared their work. We talked to a few of them to get quick summaries of their research.

Guests: Belinda Apili (graduate student, South Dakota State University), Khushboo Jain (graduate student, University of South Dakota), Naeem Malik (graduate student, South Dakota State University), Stefanie Kagone (ASRC Federal Data Solutions, contractor to USGS EROS), Abby Miller (C2G, contractor to USGS EROS), Steve Boyte (USGS EROS), Sakshi Saraf (graduate student, University of South Dakota), Zack Schild (graduate student, University of South Dakota), Ubaid Janjua (graduate student, South Dakota State University)

Host: Tom Adamson (contractor for USGS EROS)

Release date: Monday, December 4, 2023

 

Episode 108 – Landsat 8’s 100th Drag Make-Up Maneuver

Portrait of man seated in office smiling with logo superimposed on top
Larry Tornabene.

The Landsat Program is considered the gold standard for satellite Earth-observation imagery. To keep it that way, the USGS EROS Flight Operations Team continually monitors the flight paths of the Landsat satellites to make sure they stay at a consistent 705-kilometer altitude. That means frequently speeding it up to counter the effects of atmospheric drag. But that’s not all. The team accounts for solar activity, space junk, and other factors to keep the satellites safe. Landsat 8’s 100th Drag Make-Up maneuver in October 2023 gives us the opportunity, in this episode, to talk about these and the other maneuvers the flight team executes and how they work.

Guest: Larry Tornabene, Flight Systems Manager for Landsat 8

Host: Tom Adamson (contractor for USGS EROS)

Release date: Monday, November 20, 2023

Episode 107 – EROS 50th: Land Cover, Part 2

Two men stand by a wall display of a map and explanations, with a logo on top
Jon Dewitz (left) and Terry Sohl

The National Land Cover Database (NLCD) has a long history as the definitive U.S. land cover product. But the newer Land Change Monitoring, Assessment and Projection (LCMAP) effort takes a longer look back in time. In this episode, we learn how the two projects at EROS, both based on 30-meter resolution Landsat satellite data, are merging to bring the strengths of each to future data releases under the NLCD name. This is the second of two episodes discussing land cover work at EROS, with the first focused on earlier pioneering efforts.

Guests: Terry Sohl, Research Physical Scientist at USGS EROS, and Jon Dewitz, Physical Scientist at USGS EROS

Host: Jane Lawson (contractor for USGS EROS)

Release date: Monday, November 13, 2023

 

Episode 106 – EROS 50th: Land Cover, Part 1

Black and white photo several decades old of woman sitting at computer and a logo on top
Jesslyn Brown in 1992.

Several decades ago, EROS employees were pioneers in land cover mapping—turning satellite imagery into a record of what covers the land, from farmland to forest to urban areas. National and global datasets with a variety of uses resulted from these efforts. In this episode, we explore some of this history, along with how it benefited people at the time and the mapping efforts that would follow. Our next episode will look at two modern efforts at EROS, NLCD and LCMAP, and how their strengths are merging for the next generation of land cover and change products.

Guest: Jesslyn Brown, longtime research geographer at USGS EROS

Host: Jane Lawson (contractor for USGS EROS)

Release date: Monday, October 30, 2023

Episode 104 – EROS 50th: Alumni and Friends, Part 2

A rocket sits in the foreground of people visiting a data center

At the USGS EROS 50th anniversary events August 17-19, 2023, a special effort was made to include alumni who had worked at the center, especially those from the earliest years of EROS’ existence. This episode highlights their stories, with emphasis on science, technology and EROS’ international outlook.

Guests: Ron Beck, Ron Risty, Jeff Eidenshink, Bruce Millett, Dave Greenlee, Darrell Napton, Curtis Woodcock and Jim Irons

Host: Sheri Levisay (contractor for USGS EROS)

Release date: Monday, September 25, 2023

Episode 103 – EROS 50th: Alumni and Friends, Part 1

A tent in front of a building

At the USGS EROS 50th anniversary events August 17-19, 2023, a special effort was made to include alumni who had worked at the center, especially those from the earliest years of EROS’ existence. This episode highlights their stories, with emphasis on EROS’ history and its dedicated employees.

Guests: Dave Greenlee, Tom Earley, Charles Luden, Ron Beck, Rhonda Watkins, Chris McGinty, Mary O’Neill, John Faundeen and Frank Kelly

Host: Sheri Levisay (contractor for USGS EROS)

Release date: Monday, September 18, 2023

Episode 101 – EROS 50th: Director Pete Doucette Looks Ahead

Man standing next to large globe with logos on top
Pete Doucette 

EROS Center Director Pete Doucette has been at EROS for a fairly short stretch of the center’s 50-year history, but his passion for the mission of EROS and its opportunities in the future are clear in this episode. He shares the historic event he would have enjoyed being part of in the past, and he gives insights about remote sensing work at EROS going forward.

Guest: Pete Doucette, EROS Center Director

Host: Jane Lawson (contractor for USGS EROS)

Release date: Monday, August 14, 2023

Episode 100 – EROS 50th: Our Legacy

The outdoor front entrance of a facility with a couple logos on top and the words "100th Episode"

As USGS EROS turns 50 this month, our podcast also marks a big moment: Episode 100. To celebrate, we bring together some treasured moments from previous episodes in which people inside and outside of EROS share their thoughts on EROS and its role in the world of remote sensing, including as keeper of all Landsat satellite data.

Guests: Tom Loveland, Mike O’Brien, Greg Stensaas, Mike Budde, Chris Funk, Kristi Kline, Barb Ryan, Curtis Woodcock, Chris Barber, Dennis Helder, Francis Dwomoh, Roger Auch, Heather Tollerud, Todd Taylor, Volker Radeloff, Mary O’Neill, Steve Covington, Zhe Zhu, Ann Tripp, Jon Christopherson

Host: Tom Adamson (contractor for USGS EROS)

Release date: Monday, August 7, 2023

Episode 99 – EROS 50th: Interns Who Stayed

A logo and four mugshots on top of an aerial photo
Roger Auch (clockwise from top left), Jesslyn Brown, Kristi Sayler and Susan Embrock.

EROS has a long history of reaching out to universities to welcome interns who can both contribute to the center and gain valuable skills and experience. A good number of them went on to spend their careers at EROS, some for more than three decades. In this episode, these interns who stayed emphasized above all the mission—observing Earth remotely, recording the changes and applying those to science—as their motivation for remaining at EROS. However, all of them also mentioned another key word that inspired them to stay: camaraderie.

Guests: Jesslyn Brown, Susan Embrock, Kristi Sayler, Roger Auch

Host: Sheri Levisay (contractor for USGS EROS)

Release date: Monday, July 31, 2023

Episode 98 – EROS 50th: Conservation

Aerial photo background overlaid with logo and the mugshots of two men and a woman
Tim Smith (from top), Brent Nelson and Tracy Michel.

In this episode, we talk about the 50-year history of EROS efforts to preserve the environment and conserve energy. EROS was born in the ’70s, the same decade as Earth Day, the EPA, and the oil crisis. Environmentally conscious decisions implemented by both the EROS Center and the employee association include reclaiming silver from photo processing, using solar panels to heat the water needed for that process, and starting a vanpool.

Guests: Brent Nelson, Information and Management Services Operations Work Manager and contractor for USGS EROS; Tim Smith Information Management Services Archive Task Lead and contractor for USGS EROS; and Tracy Michel, USGS Safety and Occupational Health Specialist

Host: Sheri Levisay (contractor for USGS EROS)

Release date: Monday, July 17, 2023

Episode 97 – EROS 50th: Earth As Art

Logo with colorful satellite image background and three men's mugshots on top
Jon Christopherson (clockwise from left), Pat Scaramuzza and Ron Hayes

Satellites capture an incredible variety of views of Earth. In this episode, we talk with the three engineers at USGS EROS who started the USGS Earth As Art project. The Earth As Art origin story is an example of the initiative and creativity of EROS staff. This stunningly visual product grabs the public’s attention—and then leads to conversations about the value of remote sensing with satellites.

*Be sure to listen to the bonus material (second audio file below), where the guests talk about their favorite Earth As Art images.

Guests: Jon Christopherson, Principal System Engineer, contractor for USGS EROS; Ron Hayes, Digital Data Technical Lead, contractor for USGS EROS; Pat Scaramuzza, Senior Scientist, contractor for USGS EROS

Host: Tom Adamson (contractor for USGS EROS)

Release date: Monday, July 3, 2023

Episode 97
Episode 97 - bonus

Episode 96 – Generational Science

Logo on a background of a man in a forest turned away from the camera but looking back
Peder Nelson

In this episode, we talk with Peder Nelson about generational science and the responsibility we have to future generations to study our changing planet. It takes more than just data to make sense of land change. And while remote sensing scientists work with the deep archive of Landsat and other land data available from the USGS EROS Center, everyone can put themselves on the timeline of Landsat data. Citizen science projects allow anyone to participate in the observations that help us understand the world around us. 

Guest: Peder Nelson, Oregon State University

Host: Tom Adamson (contractor for USGS EROS)

Release date: Tuesday, June 20, 2023

 

Episode 95 – EROS 50th: Landsat Science Team

Logo with satellite and Earth in background, three male mugshots on the right side
Curtis Woodcock (from top), Mike Wulder and David Roy.

The members of the five-year Landsat Science Teams, led jointly by the USGS and NASA with a strong tie to EROS, have brought a wide breadth of expertise, backgrounds and geographic locations to the table. In this episode, we learn how members have explored strategies for the effective use of archived Landsat data and integration of future data, and how they have helped identify Landsat user needs for upcoming satellite sensors, including those on the future Landsat Next.  

Guests: Curtis Woodcock, Boston University and 4 terms on Landsat Science Team; Mike Wulder, Canadian Forest Service and 3 terms on Landsat Science Team; David Roy, Michigan State University professor and 2 terms on Landsat Science Team

Host: Jane Lawson (contractor for USGS EROS)

Release date: Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Episode 94 – EROS 50th: Collaborations with SDSU

Tall man stands next to woman in the bright EROS atrium
Dennis Helder and Mary O'Neill 

South Dakota State University opened its Remote Sensing Institute even before the launch of Landsat 1 and the selection of South Dakota as the location for EROS. In this episode of Eyes on Earth, we talk about some of the collaborations that SDSU and EROS have both benefited from, including research projects centered on Landsat and other data sources, instrument calibration and validation, and trainings, presentations and workshops. SDSU faculty and EROS staff have ventured back and forth, and SDSU students have worked as interns and found employment at EROS. 

Guests: Mary O’Neill, former program manager of SDSU’s Office of Remote Sensing and outgoing AmericaView board director, and Dennis Helder, founder of SDSU’s Image Processing Lab, former head of the Electrical Engineering Department and current part-time technical adviser and contractor at EROS

Host: Jane Lawson (contractor for USGS EROS)

Producer: Tom Adamson (contractor for USGS EROS)

Release date: Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Episode 93 – EROS 50th: Film Scanning

Two men sitting and posing in an office setting

Working with film has always been part of EROS’ 50-year history. How did EROS end up with an extensive film archive, and how are we making that data available to users? In this episode, we talk about the custom scanners built in-house from discarded parts to digitally capture historical aerial photos and declassified spy satellite images. These Phoenix systems have scanned millions of images and still have a lot of work to do.

Guests: Tim Smith and Mike Austad (contractors for USGS EROS)

Host: Tom Adamson (contractor for USGS EROS)

Release date: Monday, April 3, 2023

Episode 92 – EROS 50th: The Library and Science Support

Logo with background of woman standing in front of large globe taller than her
USGS EROS librarian Carol Deering. 

The Don Lee Kulow Library has been supporting scientific research at EROS since before the facility opened its doors in 1973. In this episode, librarian Carol Deering explains how, rather than becoming obsolete with the advent of instant access to online journals, libraries are even more crucial for the discovery of previous studies and for gauging the reach and real-world effects of research done by EROS scientists. She also talks about the history of EROS and describes a one-time quest for documents that stretched from UC Berkeley to the Library of Congress to Australia and Kenya.

Guest: Carol Deering, Librarian at the Don Lee Kulow Memorial Library at USGS EROS

Host: Sheri Levisay

Release date: Monday, March 20, 2023

Episode 91 – Intro to AmericaView

Logo with four mugshots on colorful satellite image background
Guests are (clockwise from top left) Chris McGinty and Lisa Wirth of AmericaView, J.C. Seong of GeorgiaView, and Sal Cook of the USGS.

AmericaView aims to advance Earth observation education through a network of programs based at universities in more than 40 states. In this episode, we talk about AmericaView’s goals and how AmericaView and its member states explain remote sensing efforts to society in a variety of ways, including outreach to students who range from elementary to graduate school. We also give examples of the organization’s remote sensing research and describe AmericaView’s ties with the USGS and with Landsat.

Guests: Chris McGinty, Executive Director of AmericaView; Lisa Wirth, Program Director of AmericaView; Sal Cook, USGS Program Liaison for the AmericaView Grant; J.C. Seong, Principal Investigator of GeorgiaView

Host: Jane Lawson

Release date: Monday, March 6, 2023

Episode 89 – EROS Workers and Weather

Logo on photo of two guys standing in front of a snow-covered area with a radome in the background

In this episode, we take a look at how essential employees ensure that the ground station keeps receiving satellite imagery during wintry weather. When the snow gets deep and the wind blows, it can be challenging for workers to travel to the USGS EROS Center, located several miles north of Sioux Falls, SD, on what used to be farmland. Most can telecommute these days, but in this episode, we discover how essential employees ensure there is in-person continuous monitoring of Landsat ground station operations during winter weather—sometimes even requiring an overnight stay.

Guests: Joe Blahovec, chief of the Satellite and Ground Systems Operations Branch (SGO), and Aaron Hensley, ground station shiftlead, Critical Mission Support Staff, KBR

Host: Sheri Levisay

Release date: Monday, February 6, 2023

Episode 81 – Tour of the EROS Radome

man standing in front of dome overlaid with logo
Eyes on Earth podcast logo with a photo of Mike O'Brien standing in front of the radome that protects the 10-meter antenna at Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center.

In this episode, we take a tour of a crucial component of the Landsat data acquisition process at EROS: the radome that houses the 10-meter antenna for downlinking data to be placed in the archive. The Landsat satellites have been collecting Earth imagery for more than 50 years. A key piece of equipment that moves the data from the spacecraft to the archive so researchers can use it is the antenna at the EROS Center. The antenna and its radome have a fascinating history of their own that adds to the overall Landsat story. In this episode, we go on location to learn about how the antenna works and how the ground station engineers at EROS make it possible to study land change with Landsat.

Guest: Mike O’Brien, contractor and ground station engineer, USGS EROS Center

Host: Tom Adamson

Release date: Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Episode 79 – Landsat Global Archive Consolidation 

Logo with mugshots and background image of reels and a tape
The Eyes on Earth podcast logo for Episode 79 about the Landsat Global Archive Consolidation.

In this episode, we learn about the process that has gradually added millions of earlier Landsat scenes to the 50-year archive. The Landsat archive at EROS contains an unparalleled 50 years of Earth observation data. But with earlier technologies, some Landsat scenes were collected and stored only by international ground receiving stations rather than in the central archive at EROS. More than 10 years ago, to help make that far-flung data available to scientists interested in land change over time, the Landsat Global Archive Consolidation (LGAC) project began having the reels and tapes sent to EROS to digitize that information. In this episode of Eyes on Earth, we learn how that project has deepened the archive dramatically.

Guests: Todd Taylor, EROS contract task lead for Sustaining Land Imaging partnership support, and contractor Jayson Holter, EROS task manager for the Landsat Missions Operations Project, Ground Operations

Host: Tom Adamson

Producer: Brian Hauge

Release date: August 29, 2022

Episode 11 – EROS Fall Poster Session

Color photo of EROS Fall Poster Session
Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center Fall Poster Session, shown with graphic for USGS EROS Eyes on Earth podcast.

In this episode, we hear from a few of the scientists on hand for the EROS Fall Poster Session. Each fall, EROS invites its staff scientists and area graduate students to visit for a noontime poster session. The poster sessions offer a change for those researchers to present their results to their peers and get feedback from their fellow scientists. For this episode, we’ll hear about research into biofuels, cloud-friendly Landsat data, shrubland mapping and satellite-based fire monitoring.

Guests: Dr. Sanath Kumar Sathyachandran, Matthew Rigge, Renee Pischke, contractors to USGS EROS; Logan Megard, South Dakota State University

Host: John Hult

Release date: Dec. 5, 2019


 

Episode 4 - Cataloging Earth Observation Satellites

Color photo of Jon Christopherson with USGS EROS "Eyes on Earth" graphic
Jon Christopherson, contractor with the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center.

In this episode, we learn about the ever-expanding number of Earth observation satellites. Earth observation used to be the province of a handful of countries with satellite technology. Today, hundreds of satellites are built all over the world and launched every year. This episode of Eyes on Earth talks about the explosive growth in the civilian and commercial remote sensing and EROS’ role in it.

Guest: Jon Christopherson, contractor to the USGS EROS Center

Host: John Hult

Release date: Sept. 23, 2019