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The past year has been exciting and momentous at the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center for many reasons. Certainly the biggest came as employees past and present celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Center’s opening in a former farm field in South Dakota to serve as the anchor for the Landsat Program’s data management and, eventually, mission operations. 

Read more about the anniversary and other notable events in our EROS Top 10 list for 2023.


1. EROS Turns 50!

Images from events during the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center's 50th anniversary celebration held August 18-19, 2023, at EROS.


Months of planning and anticipation culminated in 50th anniversary festivities in August that welcomed USGS leadership, global and local partners, alumni, and employees’ families and friends. The EROS rededication ceremony took place August 18, 2023, inside the EROS Auditorium, built as part of the 1990s building addition. Following the speeches, a time capsule gained new items, including an EROS 50th anniversary poster and program.

The following day, EROS bustled with employees on their Saturday off, along with their families and friends, as they streamed through the building exploring exhibits, listening to alumni and science talks and taking tours of EROS. They also sat under a tent outside the original 50-year-old building for a ceremony describing the significance of EROS, in the past and in the future. Hear more from alumni and EROS friends who attended in Eyes on Earth podcast episodes 103 and 104.

2. Pete Doucette Named EROS Director

A man stands next to a very large globe
Pete Doucette was named Director of the Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center in March 2023. 

After serving as Acting Center Director for two years, Dr. Pete Doucette was named Director of EROS in March 2023. Doucette arrived at EROS in 2019 to serve as the lead for Integrated Science and Applications after leaving the National Land Imaging Program in Reston, Virginia. Doucette reflected on his move to EROS and the future of the center in Eyes on Earth podcast episode 102.

3. Future of Land Cover Science Announced

An announcement in April 2023 outlined the next generation of land cover science at EROS. Combining the best of two key land cover efforts, National Land Cover Database (NLCD) and Land Change Monitoring, Assessment and Projection (LCMAP), the initial release will debut in 2024 as NLCD 2023 with the advantages of NLCD’s robust class structure and LCMAP’s annual time steps and use of the lengthy Landsat archive. Many people within and outside of EROS are working hard to accomplish NLCD 2023’s ambitious goals. Listen to a discussion about this future step in Eyes on Earth podcast episode 107.

4. Hovenweep Arrives

Hovenweep Supercomputer at EROS Data center. Sign next to 5 computer racks reads "Hovenweep" and negative hand relief
The Hovenweep supercomputer at USGS EROS.

In June 2023, USGS added a new supercomputer to its lineup to help meet computing demand, and like the High-Performance Computing (HPC) systems Tallgrass and Denali before it, Hovenweep also calls EROS home. Hovenweep is the most powerful computer in the Department of the Interior and open to use by employees of the USGS and other federal agencies.

5. Data Releases Stack Up

EROS scientists produced at least 20 new data releases in 2023. One was the LANDFIRE 2022 Update, part of the transition of LANDFIRE to annual updates. LF 2022 was the first update to include disturbances from just a year before, and portions of the United States and its territories were released incrementally from May to December. Another significant achievement came from NLCD 2021, which marked the last installment of the traditional NLCD products. A Surface Urban Heat Island dataset was updated to include extent, intensity and hotspot data of land surface temperatures for 50 cities across the United States. Find other data releases about exotic annual grasses, rangeland tree canopy cover, LCMAP reference and validation, Landsat cloud truth masking and much more here.

6. Support for Fifth National Climate Assessment

When the U.S. Global Change Research Program released the Fifth National Climate Assessment in November 2023, the Congressionally mandated report that assesses current and future national risks from climate change included some key inputs from EROS. EROS Research Physical Scientist George Xian was selected to fill out the term as Federal Coordinating Lead Author for the report’s Chapter 6, Land Cover and Land-Use Change, after the death of Brad Reed, a USGS scientist and former EROS employee. LCMAP data is foundational to that chapter and also is used in Chapter 7, Forests. Elsewhere in the report, urban heat island information based on land surface temperature from EROS appears in graphic form in the report Overview; Chapter 12, Built Environment, Urban Systems, and Cities; and Appendix 4, Indicators, with EROS scientist and contractor Hua Shi listed as a contributor for the latter two sections.

7. Fact Sheets Roll Out

Fact sheets help the public and data users understand the benefits of EROS work and products. In 2023, a variety of topics were covered in newly released fact sheets. LANDFIRE provided an updated look of its purpose, products and uses. The Rangeland Condition Monitoring Assessment and Projection (RCMAP) project offered similar information. Another fact sheet described Landsat Collection 2 U.S. Analysis Ready Data. And just before the end of the year, a fact sheet debuted outlining urban heat island intensity and change for 50 cities across the United States.

Satellite instrument setting among packing materials in a lobby
An engineering model of the Landsat 7 ETM+ sensor gets ready to transport from USGS EROS to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on March 7, 2023.

8. Landsat 7 Sensor Heads to D.C.

EROS’ loss became the Smithsonian’s gain when the Landsat 7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) instrument was carefully crated up in March 2023 from its prominent spot in the atrium and trucked east to its new home in the National Air and Space Museum. The instrument, an engineering model of the version currently in orbit imaging Earth, had been in place at EROS since the early 2000s but now will help educate museum visitors about remote sensing and Earth observation.

9. Daily Walk-in Tours Resume

The Covid-19 pandemic closed the EROS facility for a time, sending most employees to work from home and canceling tour opportunities. When employees came back to the building, staff-guided tours soon returned by appointment only. But in May 2023, EROS once again began offering staff-guided tours at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. weekdays, open to any visitors dropping in, with self-guided tours welcome anytime from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Learn more about visiting EROS here.

10. Third Shoemaker Award in a Row

EROS Communications & Outreach gained a new government lead this year, Michelle Bouchard, and also its third-in-a-row Shoemaker Award for Communications Excellence, this time in the 2022 Small Print Product Category for a selection of fact sheets that relate Landsat Program benefits to different states. This followed the 2020 Audio/Visual Product Award for the Eyes on Earth podcast series and the 2021 Graphic Product Award for a “Denver Urban Wildlife Refuge” display.

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