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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.
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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:
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 Jocemich, Head of Washington, D.C. office, German Aerospace Center
Host: John Hult
Release date: November 15, 2021
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
Summary: The launch of Landsat 9 in September of 2021 represents a milestone for a joint USGS/NASA program that stretches back nearly 50 years. Landsat 9 will continue the legacy of unbroken, repeat Earth observations and contribute to our understanding of a changing planet. The primary USGS roles for Landsat satellites, which are built and launched by NASA, are to operate the ground system, process and archive the data, and distribute it to users around the world. On this episode of Eyes on Earth, we hear from two people who’ve been involved in the development of the Landsat 9 ground system to learn what it takes to bring Landsat data to the Earth and transform it into the data products and imagery we all recognize.
Guests: Kari Wulf, Aerospace Corp, Landsat 9 mission integration lead and ground system manager, Mike O’Brien, contractor and ground system engineer
Release date: Sept. 20, 2021
Summary: Satellite imagery is everywhere. We see it on TV news and weather coverage, in our Twitter and Facebook feeds, and on our phones’ mapping apps. The data behind that imagery is nothing like a screenshot, though. It’s comprised of tiny packets of data, broken down from huge files and digitally manipulated to resemble the surface of the Earth, a swirling storm system or a map of urban growth. Cloud computing resources can make it easier to work with huge datasets that cover long periods of time, which is why many remote sensing scientists are using it for their analyses. On this episode of Eyes on Earth, we hear from a scientist who used the cloud for a 150-year water use modeling project, and from a data scientist working to help train others to use cloud resources.
Guests: Stefanie Kagone, contract remote sensing scientist, USGS EROS Center; Aaron Friesz, contract science coordination lead for NASA Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC).
Release date: Sept. 7, 2021
More on satellites and cloud computing:
Summary: The Great Lakes represent roughly 20% of the surface freshwater in the world and 90% in the United States. The Great Lakes Basin supports more than 30 million people in the U.S. and Canada and 3,500 plant and animal species. The region faces threats that range from climate change and invasive species to pollution and development. Identifying and addressing those threats can be a daunting task, but for this episode of Eyes on Earth, we hear an example of how Landsat is helping address some of the restoration challenges.
Guests: Dr. Bob Shuchman, co-director and research professor at Michigan Tech Research Institute, and Dr. Mike Sayers, a research scientist at MTRI
Host: Jane Lawson
Release date: August 23, 2021
More on how Landsat helps address lake issues:
Summary: Mapping land cover in the United States in the present isn’t a simple job, but satellites like Landsat make it possible. Mapping conditions in the pre-satellite era, which the LANDFIRE program does through its Biophysical Settings (BpS) GIS data products, is a far trickier proposition. BpS essentially offer a spatially-explicit map of pre-Colonial land cover in the U.S., alongside models that help scientists understand how landscapes re-grow and recover after disturbances. On this episode of Eyes on Earth, we learn how LANDFIRE went about creating its BpS datasets and the value they hold for land managers and fire scientists.
Guests: Kori Blankenship, Fire Ecologist and Spatial Analyst, The Nature Conservancy
Release date: August 9, 2021
More on Biophysical Settings
Summary: Urban heat islands occur in areas containing more impervious surfaces and fewer natural environments. The day and night surface temperature is higher in urban heat islands than in surrounding areas. During heat waves, this can lead to greater numbers of heat-related illnesses and deaths. Landsat satellites collect data on surface temperature and vegetative change that can help cities mitigate the heat stresses for residents, especially in a warming climate. For this episode of Eyes on Earth, we hear about how a mapping project involving Landsat data helped the New York City Council identify urban heat islands.
Guests: Dr. Christian Braneon, a remote sensing specialist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and James Cottone, a New York City Council resiliency planner
Release date: July 26, 2021
More on Landsat and urban heat islands:
Summary: The National Land Cover Database, or NLCD, was the first and remains the most well-known set of satellite-based land cover mapping products released by EROS. It sorts the each 30-by-30-meter plot of land in the United States into a land cover class, such as cropland, pasture, high-intensity developed, deciduous forest, and the like. It also includes information on impervious urban surfaces, forest canopy cover and more. For this episode of Eyes on Earth, we hear about the latest release, NLCD 2019, the importance of land cover, and how mapping teams at EROS work together to produce accurate, reliable information.
Guest: Jon Dewitz, USGS National Land Cover Database manager
Release date: July 12, 2021
More on NLCD:
Summary: Mapping fire perimeters is important work. It guides post-fire restoration efforts, fire mitigation strategies, and helps track of trends in burn severity over time. In the past, many of Canada’s fire agencies relied heavily on techniques like sketch mapping, which estimate burned area without exact measurements. In the pre-satellite era, pilots would sometimes fly over the edge of a fire while a passenger recorded its extent. On this episode of Eyes on Earth, we hear about what two researchers from Natural Resources Canada learned when they used Landsat satellite data to rebuild historical fire perimeters.
Guest: Ellen Whitman and Rob Skakun, Natural Resources Canada
Release date: June 28, 2021
More on Canadian fire mapping:
Summary: The invasive species hemlock woolly adelgid is a threat to eastern hemlocks, filling some southeastern U.S. forests with what are called “gray ghosts” of the trees. Until recently, the insect had stayed in the southern part New York, but late last summer, an infestation was discovered in the Adirondacks. On this episode of Eyes on Earth, a New York university researcher talks about his effort to help detect the insect, which is the size of a poppy seed, by using remote sensing such as Landsat.
Guest: Andrew Reinmann, assistant professor of ecology and environmental science at The City University of New York Advanced Science Research Center and Hunter College
Host: Jane Lawson
Release date: June 14, 2021
More on fighting invasive species:
Summary: The fire science community is always on the lookout for the freshest satellite-derived fire disturbance maps. Aiming to meet those needs, the multi-agency partnership known as LANDFIRE has just released an update that adds three new years of disturbances across the U.S. to its 20-plus layers of GIS data. LANDFIRE 2019 Limited is a step toward annual updates for the program, which is relied upon nationwide to guide land management and fire planning. On this episode, two LANDFIRE leaders talk about why they’re working to speed up new releases.
Guests: Henry Bastian, LANDFIRE Business Lead, Department of Interior, Frank Fay, LANDFIRE Business Lead, USDA Forest Service
Release date: June 1, 2021
More on LANDFIRE 2019 Limited:
Summary: About 15 million people rely on the Delaware River Basin for drinking water, including residents of Philadelphia, PA, Camden, NJ, and Wilmington, DE. What might happen to the water supply if climate change and population growth continue unabated? How might that impact land cover and land use patterns? Those are the kinds of questions scientists at EROS looked to answer in a dataset built from Landsat satellite imagery, historical records, and scenario-based modeling across the basin. On this episode of Eyes on Earth, two of those scientists talk about how they looked back to 1680 and forward to 2100 and what sorts of questions the work may help answer.
Guest: Terry Sohl, Integrated Science and Applications Branch Chief, USGS EROS; Jordan Dornbierer, Scientist, USGS EROS Center contractor
Release date: May 17, 2021
More on the Delaware River Basin and land cover projections:
Summary: Teams at the USGS EROS Center have completed fire atlases for nine National Parks across the U.S. Each atlas defines the size and severity of each fire in each park since 1984, including fires too small to be mapped by other programs. Yellowstone National Park has had nearly 100 fires, for example, ranging from a few acres to thousands of acres. The project used data from Landsat for earlier years, and both Landsat and Copernicus Sentinel-2 data for more recent fires. On this episode of Eyes on Earth, we hear from a project leader at EROS about the fire atlas effort.
Guest: Krishna Bhattarai, USGS EROS contractor, technical lead for Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity (MTBS)
Release date: May 3, 2021
More on NPS Fire Atlas:
Summary: It’s possible to map vegetation type with Landsat, but getting the maps right requires more than satellites alone. The teams behind LANDFIRE use an extensive network of ground control points to check their work, thereby bolstering the reliability and utility of their multi-layer GIS product suite. On this episode of Eyes on Earth, we meet scientist Karen Schleeweis, who tells us about LANDFIRE’s largest single source of ground truth data, a U.S. Forest Service program called Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA).
Guest: Karen Schleeweis, FIA Techniques Research Band Lead/LANDFIRE Liaison, U.S. Forest Service
Release date: April 19, 2021
More on Forest Inventory and Analysis:
Summary: Ladies of Landsat aims to help women and other underrepresented groups feel welcomed and supported in the field of remote sensing. The Twitter group has grown to 5,700 members and counting since Dr. Kate Fickas started it in 2018 during a Landsat Science Team meeting at EROS. In this episode of Eyes on Earth, we learn about the ambitions and actions of the group, why a sense of community is so important, and how Landsat is meaningful in this.
Guest: Dr. Kate Fickas, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Utah State University
Release date: April 5, 2021
More on Ladies of Landsat:
Summary: Deforestation is a significant concern for many parts of the globe, particularly in places like the rainforests of the Amazon or the Congo. Scientists, governments, and non-governmental organizations turn to satellite data to track deforestation, as well as to set targets for improvement. On this episode of Eyes on Earth, we hear from a remote sensing specialist with the U.S. Forest Service who develops algorithms that sift through satellite data to capture not only deforestation events, but the more subtle degradation events that have an impact on forest health.
Guest: Dr. Eric Bullock, U.S. Forest Service
Release date: March 22, 2021
More on Deforestation and Forest Degradation:
Summary: Landsat satellites have monitored the Earth’s surface for nearly 50 years, providing critical information for countless areas of study and real world applications. But with observations only collected every 8-16 days, there are limits to what can be tracked. On today’s episode of Eyes on Earth, we hear about a soon-to-be-released data product that merges Landsat with data from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 satellites, which will offer more opportunities to monitor rapid change. The harmonized Landsat-Sentinel data will be available through the Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC), located at the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center.
Guest: Dr. Jeffrey Masek, NASA Landsat Project Scientist, Brian Freitag, NASA Research Physical Scientist
Release date: March 8, 2021
More on the Harmonized Landsat Sentinel Data:
Summary: Dr. Alan Belward has spent a lot of time thinking about the planet’s surface water. The former Landsat Science Team member uses satellite data to track changes to lakes, rivers, and streams, and recently published a book that uses Landsat data to tell some of those stories. In this episode of Eyes on Earth, we hear about some of the surprising things Belward and his team learned about how surface water has changed since the early 1980s and about the value and importance of remote sensing to the study of this critical resource.
Guest: Dr. Alan Belward, European Commission Joint Research Centre
Release date: February 22, 2021
More on the Landsat Water Atlas:
Summary: The St. Mary and Milk Rivers cross the U.S. and Canadian border and supply water to both countries. Managing that resource in the interest of both nations is a matter of international collaboration and cooperation, and Landsat data is helping offer objective information on water use. On today’s episode of Eyes on Earth, we hear from Roy Sando of the USGS, who’s working with EROS experts and the International Joint Commission to turn Landsat-based evapotranspiration (ET) estimates into a tool for farmers and land managers on both sides of the border.
Guest: Roy Sando, USGS Montana Water Science Center
Release date: February 8, 2021
More on U.S.-Canada Water Use:
Summary: The extensive rangelands across the Western United States are threatened by invasive grasses, climate change, and altered fire regimes that can disturb the landscape. The largely semi-arid lands are also important for the survival of species that need undisturbed sagebrush ecosystems to thrive. But most satellite-based land cover datasets don’t offer the kind of detail needed to track small but ecologically meaningful shifts in vegetation that can alter fire regimes and improve habitats. In this episode of Eyes on Earth, we hear about how new EROS data products help fill in that gap.
Guest: Matt Rigge, Research Physical Scientist, USGS EROS Center
Release date: January 25, 2021
More on Rangelands:
Summary: Albedo—the amount of incoming solar radiation reflected into space from the Earth’s surface—is a key measurement for surface temperatures and plant productivity. It also factors into weather forecasting and climate modeling. Landsat Science Team member Dr. Crystal Schaaf works with graduate and postdoctoral students to measure albedo using satellite data from the University of Massachusetts-Boston. On this episode of Eyes on Earth, Dr. Schaaf talks about albedo’s importance and how satellites can be used to track changes to it over time.
Guest: Dr. Crystal Schaaf, University of Massachusetts-Boston
Host: Steve Young
Release date: January 11, 2021
More on Albedo:
Summary: Landsat data is more useful today than at any other point in its nearly 50-year history. The USGS Collections strategy is a major reason why. Landsat Collections align and correct satellite acquisitions from 1972 through the present to make the data easier to work with through time. The USGS has now released Collection 2, an upgrade that improves geometric accuracy, improves interoperability with other satellite data sources, eases access to Landsat Level-2 science products, and makes Landsat data available in a cloud-friendly format for the first time. On this episode, we hear about what life was like for Landsat users before Collections, what it’s like now, and how Collection 2 will open doors for more innovative, expansive research.
Guest: Dr. Chris Barnes, USGS contractor for the Landsat International Cooperator Network; Dr. Chris Barber, USGS research physical scientist with Land Change Monitoring, Assessment, and Projection (LCMAP)
Release date: December 14, 2020
More on Landsat Collection 2:
Summary: Brazil is a fascinating study in water use. Brazil uses roughly 70 percent of the water consumed in the world today, and its herds of cattle, pigs and poultry are among the largest in the world. Water management teams from that country’s National Water Agency have worked in recent years with researchers from the USGS EROS Center to learn how to map, and therefore more effectively manage, the South American country’s water resources. On this episode of Eyes on Earth, we hear from the Brazilian water experts and one of their collaborators at EROS.
Guest: Sérgio Ayrimoraes and Thiago Fontenelle, Brazilian National Water Agency; Mac Friedrichs, Contractor, USGS EROS
Release date: November 30, 2020
More on Brazilian Water Use:
Summary: In the past, remote sensing scientists looked for change on the Earth’s surface primarily by comparing one Landsat image to another. Today, open access to Landsat data, high-performance and cloud computing capabilities and sophisticated algorithms can be used to scan the entirety of the archive for change, enabling researchers to learn more about how the landscape shifts over time. On this episode of Eyes on Earth, Landsat Science Team member Dr. Curtis Woodcock shares his thoughts on time series analysis, the future of remote sensing and his hopes for the Landsat program.
Guest: Dr. Curtis Woodcock, Boston University
Release date: November 16, 2020
More on the Curtis Woodcock and Time Series Analysis:
Summary: The Green Revolution leaned on fertilizers, drought-resistant seeds and other modern innovations to boost agricultural production across much of the planet in the second half of the 20th Century. But many of those innovations never reached West Africa, partially because the lack of social safety nets and crop insurance made such investments too risky. On this episode of Eyes on Earth, we hear about a new product called index insurance that could help encourage yield-boosting investments by small holder farmers in West Africa, and how EROS data might be used to refine and improve the product.
Guest: Chris Funk, USGS EROS, Sari Lucille Blakeley and Greg Husak, University of California-Santa Barbara
Release date: November 2, 2020
More on the FEWS NET/Index Insurance:
EROS in Action – Landsat Data Offers Relief to West African Farmers
Summary: When a disaster like a hurricane, flood or major wildfire hits a remote part of the world, the International Charter Space and Natural Disasters springs into action. The Charter’s members collect and distribute satellite-derived data that documents the damage, as well as derived products like as fire perimeter or structural damage maps – all at no cost to national emergency management agencies. In this episode of Eyes on Earth, we learn about the Charter and EROS’ involvement on the occasion of the collaborative organization’s 20th Anniversary.
Guest: Mike Budde, USGS
Host: Tom Adamson
Release date: October 19, 2020
More on the International Charter:
Summary: Evapotranspiration is the process by which water transpires from the leaves and stems of plants and evaporates from the Earth’s surface. ET is an important metric for managing water use, but data availability has long been an issue. On this episode of Eyes on Earth, we talk about OpenET, a bold initiative whose goal is to improve water management by making that water consumption data more easily accessible to 17 western states. A consortium of agencies and organizations is working together to create a “one-stop shop” where users can access remotely sensed water consumption models on a single web-based platform.
Guests: Robyn Grimm, Environmental Defense Fund, Forrest Melton, NASA/Cal State University-Monterey Bay, Justin Huntington, Desert Research Institute, Gabriel Senay, USGS EROS
Release date: October 5, 2020
More on OpenET:
Summary: Today, the world is awash in remotely sensed data. Satellites launched by countries and commercial companies circle the planet collecting data every day. Accessing data from multiple agencies and platforms and turning it into useful analysis can be a daunting and complex endeavor, however. On today’s episode of Eyes on Earth, we hear from the founder of the non-profit Radiant Earth Foundation, which works to connect the global development community with the remote sensing data and machine learning tools it needs to tackle social, economic and environmental issues. One major initiative involves opening access to satellite-based training data, such as crop classifications, land cover and the like, and connecting users to cloud computing resources that help users search for trends and changes across space and time.
Guest: Anne Hale Miglarese, Founding CEO of Radiant Earth Foundation
Release date: September 21, 2020
More on Radiant Earth:
Summary: Mapping land cover across the United States using Landsat satellite data is a difficult, time-intensive job, but there are jobs far larger. Matt Hansen, a Maryland-based professor and member of the Landsat Science Team focuses his efforts on mapping land cover and change on a global scale. In this episode of Eyes on Earth, we hear from Matt on how he and his team use the Landsat archive to map change at such a wide scale.
Guest: Matt Hansen, Department of Geographical Sciences at the University of Maryland, College Park
Release date: September 8, 2020
More on Global Land Change:
Summary: Calibration teams at the USGS EROS Center use a variety of methods to make sure the data collected by Landsat satellites are an accurate representation of the Earth’s surface. They’re constantly comparing new imagery to old, tweaking algorithms to correct issues that might emerge, and using unchanging Earth surface sites and on-the-ground readings to check for consistency. Since the launch of Landsat 8, they’ve come to rely on another unchanging landscape to check for quality: the lunar surface. In this episode of Eyes on Earth, we hear how it’s done.
Guest: Cody Anderson, USGS EROS Cal-Val Center of Excellence Project Manager
Release date: August 24, 2020
More on Calibration:
Summary: Just recently, in mid-July, the flight operations team charged with keeping the Landsat 7 satellite running smoothly achieved a major milestone. They have gone 8 straight years now without an operator error. Considering that the team is operating a machine that costs hundreds of millions of dollars and flies at more than 17,000 miles per hour, avoiding any kind or operator error for 8 years is a reason to celebrate. In this episode of Eyes on Earth, we hear from the supervisor of the team behind the incredible flight operations run.
Guests: Guy Thayer, Aerospace Corporation
Release date: August 10, 2020
More on Landsat 7 Flight Operations:
Summary: In the days before LANDFIRE, fire scientists often struggled to find the vegetation and fuels data they needed to map the path of fires, keep firefighters safe, and to model fire recovery. The dizzying array of data points found in the map layers of the LANDFIRE product suite—from hundreds of vegetation classes to tree canopy height and bulk to fuel potential and beyond—became indispensable upon its release in 2005. Since then, it’s also proven its worth to land managers, ecologists, biologists, carbon modelers and others, and has been cited in over 1,000 papers. On this episode of Eyes on Earth, we hear from a non-profit LANDFIRE partner about the multi-agency federal program’s value, and about recent efforts to remap the United States to improve the product.
Guests: Randy Swaty, The Nature Conservancy
Release date: July 27, 2020
More on LANDFIRE:
Summary: The U.S. Geological Survey took a bold step toward documenting change across the landscape with the launch of the first Landsat satellite in 1972. Since then, it’s collected nearly five decades of imagery. But it takes more than just imagery to understand change. It takes time, effort—and serious computing horsepower. The USGS Land Change Monitoring, Assessment, and Projection (LCMAP) initiative aims to use the full Landsat record to track change in long-term landscape conditions. In this episode, we hear about LCMAP and what its 33-year product suite can tell us about change in the U.S.
Guests: Jesslyn Brown and Jennifer Rover, Research Geographers, USGS EROS
Release date: July 13, 2020
More on LCMAP:
Summary: Remote sensing is not an especially venerable scientific discipline, at least in comparison to fields like biology, chemistry or medicine. From its beginnings with aerial photography in the 1920s through the initial stages of satellite-based land imaging in the early 1970s, few peer-reviewed publications were available for scientists to share their ideas and improve their methods. The rise of rigorous peer review in the 1970s through publications like Remote Sensing of Environment (RSE) helped advance the discipline, with leaders such as RSE’s longtime editor Marvin Bauer serving as guides and gatekeepers as space-based remote sensing moved from emergent technology to a critical component of our understanding of Earth.
Guests: Marv Bauer, Editor Emeritus, Remote Sensing of Environment
Release date: June 29, 2020
More on Marvin Bauer, peer reviews and remote sensing:
Summary: The continent of Australia experienced some of the most devastating wildfires in its history in late 2019 and early 2020. Remote sensing scientists in Australia, who collaborate closely with EROS, relied on satellites like Landsat to help assess and monitor the damage. In this episode, we hear from one of our Australian partners on the value of satellite imagery before, during, and after a wildfire, and we explore how cross-hemisphere partnerships improve our understanding of disasters around the globe.
Guests: Simon Oliver, Geoscience Australia, Steve Labahn, USGS
Producer: Brian Hauge
Release date: June 15, 2020
More on Australia, wildfires, and international partnerships:
Summary: Between them, Landsats 7 and 8 image the entire land surface of Earth every eight days. The USGS orbiters are just two of many Earth observing satellites flying at the same altitude and collecting data at the same time of day. Other “constellations” of satellites gather other kinds of data, traveling one after the other like cars on a train to collect information that can be used independently or combined to produce models that help us understand the health and well-being of the planet. In this episode of Eyes on Earth, we learn about those satellites, the value they provide, and how their operators work together to insure the smooth and safe collection of scientific information.
Guests: Jim Lacasse, USGS
Release date: June 1, 2020
More on Landsat and satellite constellations:
Summary: Sea levels are rising globally. In some places, it is rising more than others, threatening communities and people as storm surges reach further inland and inundate more land. Landsat satellites used with other Earth-observing platforms enable EROS scientists to model the elevation of coastal shores, giving decision makers valuable information to use in preparing for the rising seas. In this episode of Eyes on Earth, we talk to one of the scientists about the utility of EROS’ elevation models.
Guests: Dean Gesch, USGS
Release date: May 18, 2020
More on coastal elevation and remote sensing:
Summary: The U.S. has plenty of data on wildfire risk. There are local and regional risk assessments, complex datasets like LANDFIRE and tracking tools like the EROS Fire Danger Monitor, as well as a host of resources and research projects devoted to the subject. But much of that information is steeped in the language of fire science and difficult to comprehend for those outside it. In this episode, we hear from Frank Fay of the USDA Forest Service, who describes a new website that represents the first national tool on wildfire risk designed with communities and the general public in mind. The tool was built with data from the LANDFIRE program and numerous other sources, and offers a window into fire risk for every community in the U.S.
Guests: Frank Fay, USDA Forest Service
Release date: May 4, 2020
More on wildfire risk:
Landsat satellites offer a wealth of information to scientists studying ecosystem health and recovery. Data products derived from Landsat open even more areas of inquiry. Landsat Burned Area products, for example, can help researchers identify previously unknown fires that took place from 1984 through the present. In this episode of Eyes on Earth, we talk to one of the scientists behind that product about Landsat’s role in monitoring ecosystem health and recovery.
Guests: Dr. Melanie Vanderhoof, USGS
Release date: April 20, 2020
More on Landsat Level-3 products and ecosystem monitoring:
Summary: The Mendenhall Program offers a range of two-year post-doctoral research fellowships within the U.S. Geological Survey. Heather Tollerud took advantage of the program in 2015 to study drought and land cover at the USGS EROS Center, and has since become a key player in the Center’s innovative Land Change Monitoring, Assessment and Projection (LCMAP) initiative. In this episode, we hear how Dr. Tollerud went from studying the harsh playas of northwestern Nevada to leading research and development for a national-scale project at the USGS. We also hear about a current Mendenhall fellowship opportunity that’s seeking a postdoctoral researcher to join the LCMAP team.
Guests: Heather Tollerud, Research Physical Scientist, USGS EROS
Release date: April 14, 2020
More on LCMAP and the Mendenhall Research Fellowship Program:
Summary: In the West African nation of Ghana, tropical forests are more than landscape. They are woven into language, custom, and culture. They are also the source of timber for home heating and industry, as well as barriers to agricultural production. Those are just a few of the reasons why deforestation has come alongside the nation’s rapid population growth. In this episode, an EROS scientist and Ghana native talks about how Landsat satellites help track deforestation and offer guidance on forest regrowth.
Guests: Francis Dwomoh, EROS contractor and remote sensing scientist
Release date: April 6, 2020
More on Remote Sensing and Deforestation:
Summary: The Arctic is changing at a more rapid rate than the rest of the planet. Some of the most significant changes are tied to the thawing of near-surface permafrost, the layers of frozen soil containing vast stocks of stored carbon. Scientists at EROS have used remote sensing tools to map the extent of near-surface permafrost in Alaska, offering a baseline for further research as change continues to ripple through the state.
Guests: Bruce Wylie, Research Physical Scientist at the USGS EROS Center; Neal Pastick, scientist and contractor to the USGS EROS Center
Release date: March 23, 2020
More on Remote Sensing and Permafrost:
Summary: For decades, each Landsat image had a price tag – a hefty one at times, ranging from $400 to as much as $4,000. That all changed in 2008 with the enactment of an open data policy that made the entire Landsat archive available for download at no cost to the user. In this episode of Eyes on Earth, we talk with one of the architects of that policy, as well as an EROS data manager who saw the post-2008 spike in Landsat data use in real time. The 100 millionth Landsat scene was recently downloaded from the EROS archive, marking a major milestone for a policy shift that opened the door to previously impossible wide-scale research projects and generated billions of dollars in returns worldwide.
Guests: Barb Ryan, former Secretariat-Director for the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and former Associate Director of Geography for USGS; Kristi Kline, Project Manager for the Landsat Archive.
Release date: March 13, 2020
More on 100 Million Downloads:
Summary: Across the planet, in rural settings on uncluttered landscapes, there are satellite antennas receiving data directly from Landsat satellites as they pass 438 miles overhead at more than 17,000 miles per hour. It happens multiple times a day, in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, South Korea, and elsewhere. The International Cooperators network has 20 ground stations in 14 countries. In this episode, we hear from three of our international partners on the value satellite data brings to their countries.
Guests: Vincent Rooke, Geosciences Australia; Chung Hum Yu, National Disaster Management Research Institute of South Korea; Dr. Paida Mangara, School for Geography, Archeology and Environmental Studies, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Release date: March 9, 2020
More on International Cooperators:
Summary: It’s easy enough to measure rainfall, and nearly as easy to measure streamflow. Calculating the efficiency of water use through the metric of evapotranspiration (ET) – evaporation off the Earth’s surface and transpiration from the leaves of plants – is a far trickier proposal. In this episode, we hear how scientists use satellites like Landsat to measure ET, and how those measurements help guide water management decisions in the U.S. and around the world.
Guests: Gabriel Senay, Research Physical Scientist, EROS
Release date: Feb. 24, 2020
More on Evapotranspiration:
Summary: Land cover and land use across the United States are the culmination of a complex web of interwoven factors: Climate, landscape types, and economic factors among them. Remotely-sensed data from satellites like Landsat and a variety of other sources are useful for documenting and monitoring land cover and land use. When used alongside other data sources, however, remote sensing data can offer a glimpse at future land use under a range of scenarios.
Guests: Terry Sohl, Research Physical Scientist, EROS
Release date: Feb. 10, 2020
More on Land Cover Projections:
Looking into the Future: The Art and Science of Land Use Projections
Land Use and Land Cover Modeling
LCMAP Projects Possibilities for Future Land Cover Change
Land Cover Modeling Methodology - The FORE-SCE Model
Summary: Scientists at EROS have spent years refining their approach to mapping burn severity using remotely-sensed data from satellites like Landsat, but Landsat comes with limitations. Landsat data cannot see the vegetation below a thick tree canopy, for example. In this episode, we learn about a project in South Dakota’s Black Hills that seeks to leverage 3D data gathered using Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to improve burn mapping and help land managers.
Guests: Birgit Peterson, Geographer and Senior Scientist, EROS; Gail Schmidt, Software Engineer, EROS contractor
Release date: Jan. 27, 2020
More on Burn Severity:
Summary: Sixty years of manned and unmanned space flight have left a cosmic junkyard circling the planet. In 2017, the U.S. government reported that it logged 308,984 close calls with space junk and issued 655 emergency-reportable alerts to satellite operators. In this episode, we learn about that debris, its potential dangers, and how Landsat flight operators keep their satellites out of harm’s way.
Guest: Doug Daniels, Principal Systems Engineer with the Aerospace Corporation
Release date: Jan. 13, 2020
More on Space Junk:
Summary: Scientists at EROS use tools like Landsat to produce land cover maps, which tell us if landscapes are rural or urban, cropped or forested, wetland or shrubland. Those maps help scientists at EROS and around the U.S. study the impact of changes in land use on not just landscapes, but on ecosystems, patterns of resource use, wildlife habitat, and much more. In this episode, we learn about the basics of land use and land cover study research from Geographer Roger Auch.
Guest: Roger Auch, Research Geographer
Release date: Dec. 30, 2019
More on Poster Session topics:
Summary: A farmer at the foot of a corn stalk can tell how well the plant is faring. That same farmer might survey his entire field for crop health. But assessing the health of crops or forests at regional, national, and international scales requires remote sensing, most often via satellite. In this episode of Eyes on Earth, we talk to Jesslyn Brown about the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), a tool that uses the broader electromagnetic spectrum to estimate plant health.
Guests: Jesslyn Brown, Research Physical Scientist
Producers: John Hult
Release date: Dec. 16, 2019
Summary: 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
Producers: Brian Hauge, John Hult
Release date: Dec. 5, 2019
Summary: We tend to associate Landsat satellites with what we see on solid Earth, but they can also tell us much about the health of our inland and coastal ecosystems. Landsat can be used to monitor harmful algal blooms, for example. Eyes on Earth guest Dr. Nima Pahlevan, a Landsat Science Team member, is part of a research team that tracks algal blooms worldwide using Landsat data.
Guest: Dr. Nima Pahlevan, Landsat Science Team
Release date: Dec. 2, 2019
More on Landsat and Aquatic Health:
Summary: Nearly 85 million people around the world are currently considered “food insecure,” and that figure continues to grow. Remote sensing technology enables scientists to feed data into the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), which in turn can issue alerts that guide the distribution of humanitarian aid. In this episode of Eyes on Earth, we hear from an EROS climate scientist who works with the Network to predict drought and famine.
Guest: Chris Funk, USGS EROS Research Geographer
Release date: Nov. 18, 2019
More on FEWS NET:
Summary: Every year, the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) uses data from satellites like Landsat to estimate crop types and crop yields in the United States. The result is the Cropland Data Layer (CDL), which offers an annual look at more than 100 crop categories across the country. In this episode, Dave Johnson with NASS discusses how Landsat can identify different crops, providing a valuable economic tool for agriculture.
Guest: Dave Johnson, USDA Senior Geographer with NASS
Release date: Nov. 6, 2019
More on satellite-based cropland data:
Summary: EROS scientists track water availability and crop health around the world to help governments and non-profits manage resources and stave off food shortages. But EROS also teaches international scientists to track those resources themselves. In this episode, we hear about a recent training session at EROS for Iraq’s Ministry of Water Resources.
Guest: Saud Amer, USGS Water Resources Specialist
Release date: Nov. 4, 2019
More on International Training:
Summary: How much does an Earth observation satellite weigh? How are they launched? How fast does it travel? Does Landsat have a gas tank? In this episode of Eyes on Earth, we answer some of the basic questions surrounding the satellites that define the EROS mission.
Release date: Oct. 21, 2019
More on Satellites:
Summary: There’s a lot more than Landsat in the EROS Archive. In this episode of Eyes on Earth, we hear from a professor who’s mined satellite data collected during once-classified military missions to peer into the history of land use in Eastern Europe during the height of the Cold War.
Guest: Volker Radeloff, professor in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin in Madison
Release date: Oct. 7, 2019
More on EROS Declassified Data:
Summary: 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
Release date: Sept. 23, 2019
More on the history of EROS:
Summary: Sorting Landsat data into an accurate and reliable record of land cover in the United States is one of the most important jobs at EROS. This episode explores the what, how, and why of the National Land Cover Database (NLCD).
Guest: Collin Homer, NLCD Program Director
Release date: Sept. 9, 2019
Summary: When an accident occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant's No. 4 reactor in Ukraine on April 26, 1986, Landsat satellites were among the first to capture visual evidence of its widespread impact. The disaster focused the world's attention on the value of remote sensing.
Guest: John Dwyer, EROS Science Branch Chief
More on Chernobyl and remote sensing:
Summary: 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
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Eyes on Earth audio archive