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April 9, 2021

USGS social scientists use qualitative research methods to better understand Landsat imagery use and the benefits and challenges perceived by Landsat users. These Landsat user case studies provide in-depth information about users, uses, user value, and societal benefits.  

There are different ways to for estimate the value of Landsat imagery, including quantitative economic models and qualitative social science methods.  Quantitative surveys of Landsat users were administered by USGS in 2009, 2012, 2014, and 2018. You can learn more about our quantitative methods by reading Landsat’s Economic Value to the Nation Continues to Increase.    

As a complementary effort to USGS’s quantitative surveys, the National Land Imaging (NLI) Program and the Fort Collins Science Center (FORT) are conducting a series of Landsat user case studies. These case studies use qualitative social science methods, exploring each particular use of the imagery and user assessments of the data’s benefits and challenges. These case studies provide in-depth information on users, uses, user value, and societal benefits. The case studies enrich understanding by providing context for USGS’s related quantitative economic-benefit modeling and valuation of Landsat data. 

Landsat’s imagery provides a landscape-level view of Earth that enables us to better understand the scope, nature, and speed of change to the natural and built environment. Landsat data contribute to decisions about land, water, and resources use that protect life, property, and the environment; support climate change resiliency; advance science, technology and education; and grow the U.S. economy. Landsat has wide-ranging uses: Business, government, nonprofit, and academic users place a high value on Landsat data for various applications.   

NLI and FORT scientists use qualitative methods to better understand Landsat imagery users and applications. You can view graphic illustrations below that guide you through examples of Earth observation user case studies and provides in-depth user experiences.  There are more case study reports to view at Human Dimensions of Earth Observations website. 

Ladies of Landsat (Some content used with permission.)

Earth Observation User Case Study: Ladies of Landsat

Ladies of Landsat is a Twitter-based organization that provides an inclusive, supportive network for women in remote sensing both virtually and in person. They share their platform by highlighting their members’ research, celebrating accomplishments, and connecting at professional meetings. Ladies of Landsat aims to continue to honor the Landsat program legacy by recognizing all who came before them and all those who will come next. 





Nikki Tulley (Music is used with permission.)

Earth Observation User Case Study: Speaking a New Language of Landsat

Nikki Tulley is from the community of Blue Gap, Arizona within the Navajo Nation and grew up speaking Navajo, Spanish, and English. The Navajo Nation is located on 27,000 square miles within the Four Sacred Mountains. Nikki first learned about Landsat in her remote sensing classes and learned to speak another language, the Language of Landsat. For her Ph.D., Nikki began work with NASA’s Western Water Applications Office drought severity evaluation tool. In this project, she uses Landsat and other remote sensing technology to help the Navajo Nation in capacity development, training, and building trust of remote sensing data. This supports their drought water resources management decision making process.





Africa Ixmucane Flores Anderson (Some content used with permission.)

Earth Observation User Case Study: Africa Ixmucane Flores Anderson

Africa Ixmucane Flores Anderson is a remote sensing scientist at the University of Alabama Huntsville and a Research Scientist and the Amazonia lead at SERVIR, a joint venture between NASA and the U.S. Agency for International Development providing satellite-based Earth monitoring, imaging and mapping data, geospatial information, predictive models and science applications to help improve environmental decision-making among developing nations. Africa was born in Guatemala and while growing up, witnessed the environmental degradation of the natural landscape in her hometown and country. Africa now uses Landsat to monitor harmful algal blooms and advocate for environmental conservation around the world. 





Dr. Jill Deines (Music used with permission.)

Earth Observation User Case Study: Jill Deines

Dr. Jill Deines is a postdoctoral scholar at the Center for Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University working jointly with the NASA Harvest Consortium, a multidisciplinary effort that works to use satellite Earth observations to support food security, agriculture, and human and environmental resiliency in the United States and worldwide. Jill pivoted during her Ph.D. from being only a user of satellite-generated landscape products to producing them using cloud-based remote sensing tools to better answer her research questions about effectively managing agricultural resources. Today, Jill uses Landsat satellite imagery to reconstruct crop yield over the past 20 years to understand ongoing trends in agricultural production and examine alternative management approaches.  





Descartes Labs (Public domain.)

Earth Observation User Case Study: Descartes Labs

Descartes Labs is a New Mexico-based company that developed a geospatial data refinery for building and running machine learning models on Earth observation data. This case study shows how it used Landsat imagery to map urban growth and heating. In the context of rapid urbanization, the Landsat program is well-suited to monitor urban growth and its impacts to social and ecological systems. 







Future case studies will profile the vast range of Landsat users and applications.  These case study reports are part of a longer-term project to document the benefits of Landsat through socioeconomic research and related case studies of applications and users. 

Landsat 8 images of the Camp Fire in California – a 2018 wildfire. Before image was taken on October 7, 2018 and after image was taken on November 8, 2018. 

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