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February 9, 2024

Two awardees recognized with the 2023 William T. Pecora Award for achievements in Earth remote sensing.

Each year the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recognize the contributions of satellite or aerial remote sensing innovators with the presentation of 50th annual William T. Pecora Award.

This year’s awardees include Dr. Russell Congalton and Dr. Matthew Hansen, who are being honored for their foundational work toward standardizing accuracy assessment of products derived through remote sensing and significant advancement of Earth observation applications for land use change.


Image of Dr. Russell G. Congalton.
Dr. Russell G. Congalton

Dr. Russell G. Congalton

As a true founder and innovator in applying remote sensing techniques for natural resource applications, Dr. Russell Congalton has been a leader in the field as an educator, a researcher, and a journal editor. Throughout his career, he has been a major contributor to the remote sensing community, from the earliest days of Landsat through the beginning of commercial Earth observation ventures, to the latest research in Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) sensor use via Uncrewed Aerial Systems (UAS). 

Dr. Congalton’s sustained research has helped ensure that standardized and accepted procedures for quantifying accuracy keep pace with rapidly advancing remote sensing technologies. Through exceptional dedication and generous leadership, he has also enabled future generations to pursue innovative remote sensing research and applications. 

In addition to teaching thousands of university students and leading academic research on natural resource management, Dr. Congalton has tirelessly contributed his expertise elsewhere in the remote sensing community. His long tenure of active leadership in the GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) program, the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS), and the AmericaView consortium is a legacy that will continue to have positive impact far into the future. 



Dr. Matthew C. Hansen 

Image of Dr. Matthew C. Hansen.
Dr. Matthew C. Hansen

Dr. Matthew C. Hansen has long been an outstanding global leader in the scientific, technical, and policy applications of satellite remote sensing. He is an internationally recognized leader for his application of remote sensing to evaluate regional-to-global-scale patterns of land cover and land-use change. Throughout his career, Dr. Hansen has advanced the use of satellite data for time-series and land cover analyses, developing a highly impactful fusion of Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Landsat data, which has rapidly accelerated effective regional change satellite mapping, analysis, and validation.

Dr. Hansen’s efforts to develop capacity in emerging countries and communities are a testament to his passion to foster partnerships and empower nations across the world to develop operational Landsat-based forest monitoring capabilities. 

His global forest cover change product was the first global Landsat thematic product – a milestone in the Landsat program – and a timely achievement, given global concerns about deforestation and the need for consistent estimates of forest baselines and trends.

Dr. Hansen has also proven to be a gifted mentor and teacher both in the classroom and in the field, inspiring and educating the next generation of remote sensing Earth scientists, who continue to expand the utility of Landsat data for novel research and applications.

You may find additional information about the honorees, including their citations, and the Pecora Awards nomination process at   


About the Pecora Awards

Presented annually since 1974 the award was established to recognize outstanding individuals or teams working toward understanding the Earth (land, oceans and air), educating the next generation of scientists, informing decision makers or supporting natural or human-induced disaster response. 

The award honors the memory of Dr. William T. Pecora, former Director of USGS and Under Secretary of the Interior. His early vision and support helped establish what we know today as the Landsat satellite program.

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