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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 Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.

Click here to download every episode.

Eyes on Earth Episode 85 – Landsat 7 Extended Science Mission 

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Chris Crawford.

Summary: Landsat 7’s nominal science mission ended in April 2022 after nearly 23 years of acquiring Earth imagery from 705 kilometers above the Earth. Landsat 7 is now in an extended science mission after having its orbit lowered by about 8 kilometers to make way for Landsat 9. In this episode, we discuss why Landsat 7 continues to collect imagery, the quality of the extended science mission imagery, and the advantages of having three Landsats operating at the same time.

Guest: Chris Crawford, USGS Research Physical Scientist, Landsat Project Scientist, Co-chair of the Landsat Science Team, Landsat Science Data Acquisition Manager

Host: Tom Adamson (contractor for USGS EROS)

Producer: Tom Adamson (contractor for USGS EROS)

Release date: Monday, December 5, 2022

More about Landsat 7:

Eyes on Earth Episode 84 – Hurricane Disturbance Mapping

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Logo and man's mugshot on a hurricane satellite image
Zhe Zhu.

Summary: When disaster strikes, near-real-time images of its effects can be invaluable. In this episode, we learn about how a newly developed system using the Harmonized Landsat Sentinel-2 dataset and artificial intelligence was put to the test when Hurricane Ian tore through Florida in late September 2022. By comparing pre-storm and post-storm imagery, the system quickly flagged anomalies statewide such as brightness, which could indicate exposed sand or bare land after a hurricane. Harmonized Landsat Sentinel-2 data is available through the Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center, or LP DAAC for short, located at EROS, which is also home to the entire Landsat archive.

Guest: Zhe Zhu, University of Connecticut’s Global Environmental Remote Sensing Laboratory and Landsat Science Team

Host: Jane Lawson (contractor for USGS EROS)

Producer: Tom Adamson (contractor for USGS EROS)

Release date: Monday, November 21, 2022

More about disaster response satellite imagery:

Eyes on Earth Episode 83 - ECOSTRESS and Burn Severity

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Logo on fire background with two mugshots on left
Madeleine Pascolini-Campbell (top) and Natasha Stavros.

Summary: ECOSTRESS, or ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station, data provides variables related to plant water stress, including evapotranspiration, evaporative stress index and water use efficiency. The NASA Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC) at EROS provides storage and distribution of ECOSTRESS data. In this episode, we take a look at how these variables were useful for research that looked at predictors for spatial patterns of burn severity in recent California wildfires in the Sierra Nevada and the Southern California Mountains.

Guests: Madeleine Pascolini-Campbell, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Natasha Stavros, Earth Lab Analytics Hub, University of Colorado Boulder

Host: Jane Lawson

Producer: Tom Adamson

Release date: Monday, November 7, 2022

More about ECOSTRESS and burn severity:

Eyes on Earth Episode 82 - Introduction to GEDI

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Laura Duncanson (top) and Ralph Dubayah.

Summary: The Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation, or GEDI, instrument on the International Space Station acquires lidar waveforms to observe the Earth’s surface in 3D. The GEDI lidar measures the height and density of objects, so it provides information such as surface elevation and tree canopy height and cover. The NASA Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC) at EROS provides storage and distribution of GEDI data.  In this episode, we’ll take a look at the purpose of the GEDI mission, how the instrument works, and how GEDI data are being used to understand things like carbon dynamics in forests.

Guests: Ralph Dubayah and Laura Duncanson, University of Maryland and the GEDI mission

Host: Jane Lawson

Producer: Tom Adamson

Release date: Monday, October 24, 2022

More about GEDI:

Eyes on Earth Episode 81 - Tour of the EROS Radome

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Mike O'Brien in front of the EROS radome.

Summary: 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

Producers: Brian Hauge and Tom Adamson

Release date: Wednesday, October 12, 2022

More on Landsat acquisitions:

Eyes on Earth Episode 80 - ECOSTRESS and Carbon

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Satellite thermal image background overlaid with a logo and two mugshots
Upper right: Willow Coleman. Lower right: Nick Parazoo.

Summary: ECOSTRESS, which stands for the ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station, collects land surface temperatures in an effort to answer questions about plants’ use of water. The NASA Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC) at EROS has provided storage and distribution of ECOSTRESS data for four years now and counting.  In this episode, we’ll take a look at how the ECOSTRESS temperature measurements can be useful in characterizing biological influences on the carbon dioxide exchange, specifically in the urban environment of Los Angeles and the non-urban environment surrounding the city.

Guests: Nick Parazoo, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Willow Coleman, former NASA JPL intern

Host: Jane Lawson

Producer: Brian Hauge

Release date: September 28, 2022

More on ECOSTRESS:

Eyes on Earth Episode 79 - Landsat Global Archive Consolidation

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Logo with mugshots and background image of reels and a tape
Upper left: Jayson Holter. Lower right: Todd Taylor.

Summary: 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, 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

More on the Landsat archive:

Eyes on Earth Episode 78 - Landsat 50 Lookback

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Satellite image with Eyes on Earth podcast logo on top
Eyes on Earth Episode 78 - Landsat 50 Lookback thumbnail image.

Summary: Government officials and scientists had high hopes for Landsat when the first experimental satellite launched July 23, 1972. Those hopes were soon realized when imagery came back depicting features never before seen. Since then, an archive of imagery surpassing 10 million scenes has amassed at EROS, collected from eight different Landsat satellites. Agencies, scientists, researchers, and data analysts use Landsat in a variety of ways to learn more about our planet, preserve its resources, and benefit its people. On this episode, we spotlight how several guests from past Eyes on Earth episodes value the Landsat imagery and archive, from forests and fires to lakes and cities.

Guests: Bob Schuchman of the Michigan Tech Research Institute, Sara Hart of Colorado State University, Rob Skakun of Natural Resources Canada, Andres Espejo of the World Bank, James Cottone on the New York City Council staff, Christian Braneon of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Frank Fay of the USDA Forest Service, former EROS Science Branch Chief John Dwyer

Host: John Hult

Producer: John Hult

Release date: July 25, 2022

More on Landsat’s historic anniversary and the full podcasts mentioned:

Eyes on Earth Episode 77 - ECOSTRESS and Urban Heat

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color image of Greg Spotts and Glynn Hulley with the graphic for the USGS EROS podcast "Eyes on Earth"
Greg Spotts (lower left) and Glynn Hulley with the graphic for the USGS EROS podcast "Eyes on Earth."

Summary: We don't need a scientist to tell us that city streets catch and hold heat. Anyone who's walked barefoot from a parking lot to a beach can tell you that. What scientists can help us understand, particularly scientists who work with spaceborne, remotely sensed data, is just how big a difference there is between cities and the countryside. That gap is sometimes referred to as the urban heat island effect. At the height of summer, heat disparities can have a large impact on at risk human populations. On this episode, we hear from a remote sensing scientist and a sustainability coordinator for the city of Los Angeles who teamed up to study the impact of cool pavement coating as an urban heat mitigation strategy.

Guests: Glynn Hulley, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Greg Spotts, City of Los Angeles

Host: John Hult

Producer: John Hult

Release date: July 11, 2022

More on ECOSTRESS and urban heat:

 

Eyes on Earth Episode 76 - ECOSTRESS and Disease Risk

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Color image of Anna Boser and Andy MacDonald with the graphic for the USGS podcast Eyes on Earth
Upper left: Anna Boser, lower left: Andy MacDonald

Summary: Spaceborne sensors orbit hundreds of miles over our heads. Even the most advanced among them struggle to capture high-resolution imagery of individual human beings. Mosquitos, of course, are far smaller than we are. Clearly, sensors on a satellite or space station can’t see them. Even so, these sensors can gather a host of information that helps to understand the movements and behaviors of these pesky little disease vectors, which are responsible for at least a million deaths a year. Mosquitos are more active under certain environmental conditions, for example, and those conditions can be tracked at wide scales from above. Changes to the land’s surface can also make it easier for mosquitos to proliferate.  On this episode, we learn how a sensor onboard the International Space Station was used to calculate West Nile virus risk in California’s San Joaquin River Valley.

Guests: Anna Boser, PhD student, University of California-Santa Barbara; Andy MacDonald, UC-Santa Barbara Earth Research Institute

Host: John Hult

Producer: John Hult

Release date: June 27, 2022

More on remote sensing and disease risk:

 

Eyes on Earth Episode 75 – Mapping Dust Sources Worldwide

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Phil Brodrick, Raymond Kokaly, David Thompson with the logo for the USGS podcast Eyes on Earth
Clockwise from lower left: Phil Brodrick, Raymond Kokaly, David Thompson

Summary: Clouds of dust kicked up in places like the Sahara can travel thousands of miles across the planet. We can see those clouds in satellite imagery, but we don’t typically know much about the composition of that dust. That’s a huge blind spot, because those unknown characteristics—such as the particles’ lightness or darkness—have an impact on what they do. The warming and cooling of the atmosphere, snow melt, ocean or rain forest fertilization, and even cloud formation can all be affected by dust cloud composition. Mapping those dust sources is the focus of the Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation, or EMIT, which will be supported by NASA’s Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC), which is located at the USGS EROS Center. On this episode, we hear about the importance of the mission from three members of the EMIT Science Team.

Guests: Raymond Kokaly, USGS; David Thompson, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL); Philip Brodrick, NASA JPL

Host: John Hult

Producer: John Hult

Release date: June 15, 2022

More on EMIT:

 

Eyes on Earth Episode 74 - A Satellite Cross-Calibration Mission

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Color photo of, from top, Greg Stensaas, Jon Christopherson and Grant Mah with the logo for the USGS podcast "Eyes on Earth"
From top, Greg Stensaas, Jon Christopherson, and Grant Mah

Summary: When the first Landsat satellite launched 50 years ago, it was the only game in town in terms of civilian land remote sensing. In the years that followed, a host of satellites have launched to serve similar purposes. But that data doesn't always play well together. Subtle differences between the measurements taken by satellites make it difficult to do apples to apples comparisons of land change. On this episode, we hear from the USGS partners working with partners in Australia to launch a satellite cross calibration mission that will offer a common reference post and serve as a sort of “translation tool” to help remote sensing scientists to use datasets together to study changes to the Earth’s surface.

Guests: Greg Stensaas, USGS EROS, Grant Mah, USGS EROS, Jon Christopherson, USGS EROS contractor

Host: John Hult

Producer: John Hult

Release date: May 31, 2022

More on satellite cross-calibration and land remote sensing:

 

Eyes on Earth Episode 73 – Global Water Use

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Color photos of Savanah Cooley with the logo for the USGS EROS podcast "Eyes on Earth"
Savanah Cooley

Summary: Some plants are simply better at making use of their water supply than others. More efficient plants can capture more carbon with less water, which has implications for carbon sequestration and ultimately for climate change modeling. In other words, the more we understand about water use efficiency, the more reliable our climate change models can be. And the only way to measure efficiency at the global scale is from space. On this episode, we hear from a scientist who studied global water use using a sensor called ECOSTRESS, whose data are housed at the USGS EROS Center, in NASA’s Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC).

Guests: Savannah Cooley, Applied Science Systems Engineer, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Host: John Hult

Producer: John Hult

Release date: May 2, 2022

More on ECOSTRESS and Global Water Use:

 

Eyes on Earth Episode 72 – Northward Shift of the Boreal Forest

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Color photo of Logan Berner with the logo for the USGS EROS podcast "Eyes On Earth"
Logan Berner

Summary: The boreal forest, or taiga, stretches across nearly 5.7 million square miles in the northern latitudes. That’s nearly a quarter of all forested lands in the world. This sprawling biome also happens to be one of the most rapidly shifting in the face of climate change. Many studies have suggested that the taiga tree line is moving northward as temperatures warm worldwide, edging itself into the colder tundra. On this episode, we hear from Professor Logan Berner, part of team at Northern Arizona University’s Global Earth Observation and Dynamics of Ecosystems (GEODE) Lab that used USGS Landsat satellite data to track and quantify the northward shift of the boreal tree line.

Guests: Logan Berner, assistant research professor in the School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems (SICCS), Northern Arizona University

Host: John Hult

Producer: John Hult

Release date: April 18, 2022

More on Landsat and the Boreal Forest

 

Eyes on Earth Episode 71 – Blue Oak Forests of California

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Color image of Francis Dwomoh with the graphic for the USGS EROS podcast "Eyes on Earth"
Francis Dwomoh

Summary: In this episode, we zero in on the use of USGS Land Change Monitoring, Assessment, and Projection (LCMAP) products to examine the effects of drought on California’s Blue Oaks. LCMAP datasets are built from Landsat data and reveal the land cover and change of every pixel in the conterminous United States, dating back to 1985. In this case, LCMAP helped identify areas of declines and losses of the Blue Oak trees that are native to California and found in the foothills surrounding the central valley and along the coast.

Guests: Francis Dwomoh, contractor and landscape ecologist, USGS EROS Center

Host: Jane Lawson

Producer: John Hult

Release date: April 4, 2022

More on LCMAP and Blue Oak Forests:

 

Eyes on Earth Episode 70 – Aquatic Ecosystems and ECOSTRESS

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Color image of Cassie Nickles, Shruti Khanna and Becca Gustine with the graphic for the USGS EROS podcast "Eyes on Earth"
From top, Cassie Nickles, Shruti Khanna and Becca Gustine

Summary: The Earth observation data archived here have plenty of value to the study of aquatic ecosystems. Landsat satellites can capture harmful algal blooms, for example. Spaceborne sensors can also record land surface temperatures, and that includes water surfaces. On this episode, we hear about how a sensor called ECOSTRESS can be used to measure water temperatures at different times of day, and how those measurements could be useful in the monitoring and management of the endangered Delta smelt. ECOSTRESS data are available through the NASA Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC), located in the USGS EROS Center.

Guests: Rebecca Gustine, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Cassandra Nickles, NASA JPL, Shruti Khanna, California Department of Water Resources

Host: John Hult

Producer: John Hult

Release date: March 21, 2022

More on aquatic ecosystems and ECOSTRESS :

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

 

Eyes on Earth Episode 69 – Thirty Years of Land Change in the U.S.

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color photo of Roger Auch with the graphic for the USGS EROS podcast Eyes on Earth
Roger Auch

Summary: Land change is a constant. Even land areas that see little major change can see disruptions from storms, heat waves, wildfires, or invasive species. But major changes aren't uncommon, either. Each year in the U.S., farm fields become tracts of suburban homes, wetlands become more permanent bodies of water, and shrublands burn to be replaced with grasslands. A team of researchers with the USGS Land Change Monitoring, Assessment, and Projection initiative (LCMAP) recently released a study documenting land cover class change from 1985-2016. On this episode, we talk to the study’s lead author about what they learned about land change, and about how land change ties in to policy, economic trends, weather patterns and more.

Guest: Roger Auch, Research Physical Geographer, USGS EROS Center

Host: John Hult

Producer: John Hult

Release date: March 7, 2022

More on LCMAP and land change:

 

Eyes on Earth Episode 68 – Tracking Mangroves by Satellite

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color photo of Lola Fatoyinbo with the graphic for the USGS EROS podcast "Eyes on Earth"
Dr. Lola Fatoyinbo

Summary: The sturdy root systems of mangrove forests act as buffer zones along the coastlines of some of the planet’s most vulnerable communities, protecting lives, ecosystems and property from the rigors of hurricanes and tsunamis. The dual stressors of climate change and man-made changes to the environment such as offshore aquaculture have damaged these critical buffer zones in recent years. Remote sensing scientists are using satellite data to understand the impact those changes will have on the communities they protect as temperatures continue to warm worldwide and extreme weather events become more frequent. On this episode, we talk to one of those scientists.

Guest: Dr. Lola Fatoyinbo Agueh, Research Physical Scientist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Host: John Hult

Producer: John Hult

Release date: February 21, 2022

More on remote sensing, mangroves and gold mining:

 

Eyes on Earth Episode 67 – ECOSTRESS and Water Use

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color photo of Kerry Cawse-Nicholson with the logo for the USGS EROS podcast Eyes on Earth
Dr. Kerry Cawse-Nicholson

Summary: If you want to know how much rain fell yesterday, you can catch it and measure it. Water vapor? That's not so easy. Which is a problem if you want to know how quickly that rate is returning to the atmosphere. Water vapor is the single largest part of the water budget, but without space-based observations, it would be all but impossible to measure at wide scale. On this episode, we learn how a sensor called ECOSTRESS helps improve the space-based measurement of evapotranspiration, or ET, which is the combined rate of evaporation from the Earth's surface and transpiration from plants.

Guest: Dr. Kerry Cawse-Nicholson, deputy science lead for ECOSTRESS at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Host: John Hult

Producer: John Hult

Release date: February 7, 2022

More on ECOSTRESS and ET:

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

 

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, 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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color thumbnail for Eyes on Earth Episode 65 - Rapid Fire Mapping with Remote Sensing
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, 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:

 

   

 

 

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