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Eyes on Earth is a podcast on remote sensing, Earth observation, land change and science, brought to you by the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center. 

Click here to subscribe to Eyes on Earth though our RSS feed. You can also find us on Google Podcasts.

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Eyes on Earth Episode 66 – Exotic Annual Grasses

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Color thumbnail for Eyes on Earth Episode 66 - Mapping Exotic Annual Grasses
From top, USGS EROS scientist Stephen Boyte, USGS EROS contractor Devendra Dahal, USDA Forest Service ecologist Matt Reeves

Summary: The rangelands of the western United States are changing more quickly than many other parts of the lower 48. Miles upon miles of the area or semi-arid landscapes in states like Idaho, Montana and Nevada are now carpeted by fire fueling invasive grasses. Cheatgrass is the most prevalent, which is troublesome for several reasons. First off, it greens up and browns down really quickly, leaving a layer of tinder-like vegetation. In many areas, it fills in the formerly barren spaces between thicker bunchgrasses and sagebrush, which in turn helps fires move rapidly from fuel source to fuel source. On this episode of Eyes on Earth, we hear from the USGS EROS teams who use satellite data to map exotic annual grasses and a researcher who uses those maps to create monthly grass abundance estimates for firefighters and land managers.

Guests: Stephen Boyte, USGS EROS research physical scientist, Devendra Dahal, USGS EROS contractor, Matt Reeves, USDA Forest Service ecologist

Host: John Hult

Producer: John Hult

Release date: January 24, 2022

More on Exotic Annual Grasses:

Eyes on Earth Episode 65 – Rapid Fire Mapping with Remote Sensing

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Pictured, from top: Andre Coleman, Rick Stratton, and Lee Miller.

Summary: Satellites like Landsat are valuable for mapping fire perimeters and for monitoring trends in burn severity or in post-fire recovery. Satellites can cover wide areas with a single pass, whereas helicopter, drone, or airplane fire line mapping can take hours. But civilian satellites with moderate resolution typically don't get imagery for the entire planet every day, and every day counts when large fires rage. On this episode of Eyes on Earth, we talk through a tool called RADR-Fire built to pull data from a wide variety of sources to map disaster impacts on a day-by-day basis. ECOSTRESS, a sensor on the International Space Station whose data are archived at the NASA’s EROS-based Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC), has been an especially useful source of information. 

Guests: Andre Coleman, senior research scientist, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Lee Miller, remote sensing specialist, PNNL, Rick Stratton, USDA Forest Service

Host: John Hult

Producer: John Hult

Release date: January 10, 2022

More on ECOSTRESS and RADR-Fire:

Eyes on Earth Episode 64 - Colorado Bark Beetles

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Color image of Dr. Zhiliang Zhu, Dr. Kyle Rodman, and Dr. Sarah Hart
From top, Dr. Zhiliang Zhu, Dr. Kyle Rodman, and Dr. Sarah Hart

Summary: Outbreaks of native bark beetles can lead to conspicuous changes in a forest landscape. They’ve been present for thousands of years with occasional outbreaks, but there’s a lot we don’t yet understand about them. Exactly when and where have outbreaks occurred? How severe were they? What happened to the forest afterward? How will a warming climate influence outbreaks? On this episode of Eyes on Earth, we hear from researchers Dr. Sarah Hart and Dr. Kyle Rodman, who use Landsat to help find answers to those questions. A recent study led by Dr. Rodman used Landsat to identify the locations and severity of bark beetle outbreaks in the southern Rocky Mountains. The researchers were surprised to find smaller areas of severe mortality than they expected. Landsat can even be used to help predict patterns of future outbreaks. Dr. Zhiliang Zhu, a USGS researcher, adds his perspective of the effects of forest disturbance as well.

Guests: Dr. Sarah Hart, forest ecologist, Colorado State University; Dr. Kyle Rodman, research scientist, Northern Arizona University’s Ecological Restoration Institute; Dr. Zhiliang Zhu, USGS biologic carbon sequestration researcher

Host: Jane Lawson

Producer: John Hult

Release date: December 27, 2021

More on forest disturbances:

Landsat: The Watchman That Never Sleeps

Image of the Week: Beetle Damage in the Black Hills

New York tries creative ways, including satellites, to fight hemlock-killing insect

Eyes on Earth Episode 63 – ECOSTRESS and Post-Fire Recovery

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color image of Dr. Helen Poulos, with the graphic for the USGS EROS podcast Eyes on Earth
Dr. Helen Poulos

Summary: Fires can be destructive or healthy for a landscape—often both. Fires have grown larger and more destructive in recent years, though, thanks to human activity, climate change, and a host of other factors. Satellite data helps us to map and monitor fire activity, but the study of post-fire plant life using remote sensing data goes further than fire mapping. On this episode of Eyes on Earth, we hear from Dr. Helen Poulos, who used data from the ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station, (ECOSTRESS), to study Arizona Pine Oak forest 5-7 years after severe fire. Dr. Poulos and her collaborators at Northern Arizona University and the University of Maine at Farmington learned that post-fire shrublands had surprisingly high rates of water use. ECOSTRESS data are available through NASA’s Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center or LP DAAC, which is located at EROS.

Guest: Dr. Helen Poulos, forest ecologist, Wesleyan University

Host: John Hult

Producer: John Hult

Release date: December 13, 2021


Eyes on Earth Episode 62 – Landsat 9 Launch Part 3

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Color photo of Kate Fickas and Virginia Norwood
Dr. Kate Fickas, USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center, left, with Virginia Norwood, designer of the Multispectral Scanner (MSS) for early Landsat Missions.

Summary: For our third and final episode of Eyes on Earth from the September launch of Landsat 9, we hear from Virginia Norwood. She blazed a trail for women in remote sensing in the 1960s and 70s while working for Hughes Aircraft, a contractor for NASA. Norwood is known as the “Mother of Landsat” for her design of the Multispectral Scanner, or MSS, the sensor used to image the Earth’s surface by early Landsat satellites. Norwood met her fans during a Q&A a few hours after the launch sponsored by the USGS and Ladies of Landsat. The episode also features an appearance from Kass Green, who founded a company in the 1980s that used Landsat data to map landscape change.

Guests: Virginia Norwood, physicist, Kass Green, Kass Green and Associates

Hosts: John Hult, Kate Fickas

Producer: John Hult

Release date: November 30, 2021

More on Landsat 9:


Eyes on Earth Episode 61 - Landsat 9 Launch Part 2

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Pictured, from top left, are Andres Espejo, Naikoa Aguilar-Amuchastegui, Ann Bray, and Marc Jochemich.

Summary: Hundreds of scientists, officials, international representatives, and others witnessed the launch of Landsat 9 on September 27, 2021, from a handful of viewing sites around Santa Barbara County, California. Their interests were as varied as their backgrounds, but the new satellite’s extension of the Landsat program’s invaluable 50-year record of Earth observations was top of mind for the international partners who help the USGS collect Landsat data and the scientists who rely on those data to monitor the health of the planet. In this episode of Eyes on Earth, we talk with guests from around the world about their role in the Landsat program, and the importance of the program to their work.

Guests: Andres Espejo, Senior Forest Carbon Specialist, World Bank; Naikoa Aguilar-Amuchastegui, Senior Director of Forest Carbon Science and MRV Lead, World Wildlife Fund; Ann Bray, Minister-Counsellor for Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, Australian Embassy; Marc Jochemich, Head of Washington, D.C. office, German Aerospace Center

Host: John Hult

Producer: John Hult

Release date: November 15, 2021

More on Landsat 9:


Eyes on Earth Episode 60 – Landsat 9 Launch Part 1

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Landsat 9 in the payload fairing of an Atlas V rocket

Summary: Landsat 9 launched into orbit from Vandenberg Space Force Base on Monday, September 27, 2021, to carry on the legacy of a nearly 50-year record of continuous Earth observation that began in 1972. The days leading up to the event saw guests from around the world descend upon Santa Barbara County in California to watch the historic event take place. Over the next few weeks, we’ll bring you some of the interviews we collected with scientists, government officials and Mission partners. This episode of Eyes on Earth focuses on the day before the launch, when we spoke about the importance of the Landsat program with guests at the launchpad and a Landsat for Climate event.

Guests: Tanya Trujillo, Assistant Secretary of the Department of Interior for Water and Science; Tony Willardson, Director of the Western States Water Council; Joaquin Esquivel, Chair of the California Water Resources Control Board; Kevin Gallagher, Associate Director of USGS Core Science Systems

Host: John Hult

Producer: John Hult

Release date: October 13, 2021

More on Landsat 9:





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