The 2021 William T. Pecora Awards Honor Excellence in Earth Observations
Two awardees have been honored with the 2021 William T. Pecora Award for their significant achievements in remote sensing and Earth observations. Dr. Frank Muller-Karger is honored for his extraordinary contributions and leadership in furthering our understanding of the Earth, and in particular the ocean, through the use of remote sensing. The AmericaView consortium is recognized for advancing Earth observation education through remote sensing science, applied research, workforce development, technology transfer, and community outreach.
Sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the annual award has been presented since 1974 and honors the memory of Dr. William T. Pecora, former USGS Director and Department of the Interior Undersecretary. The formal presentation to the 2021 Pecora award recipients is planned during the 22nd William T. Pecora Memorial Remote Sensing Symposium in Denver on October 26, 2022.
Individual Award: Dr. Frank Muller-Karger
Dr. Frank Muller-Karger has made outstanding contributions to the field of Earth science and to the study of the ocean through the use of remote sensing. His significant and sustained achievements have laid the groundwork for the use of multi- and hyperspectral sensors for the observation of ocean biology, biogeochemistry, and biodiversity.
Dr. Muller-Karger has dedicated his professional career to studying how ocean biogeochemistry and marine ecosystems change in time and space using remote sensing. His work has greatly advanced our knowledge of the role of continental margins, including areas of upwelling and river discharge, in the global carbon budget. Some of his most salient contributions include using satellite ocean color to better understand the impact of large rivers on ocean biogeochemistry, and the use of in situ and remote sensing time series data to observe climate-driven shifts of marine ecosystems.
Among other impactful outcomes, his team at USF contributed the first high resolution global map of shallow tropical coral reefs using Landsat data. This work led to a proposal to include a “coastal/aerosol” band in the Landsat sensor. This narrower spectral band designed to better measure changes in the blue hues of the coastal ocean was first included in the Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) and is now part of the basic Landsat series. Dr. Müller-Karger continues to use satellites to assess the importance of continental margins in the global carbon budget, and how the sinking flux of particulate carbon affects marine life, including on mid-ocean ridges. His invaluable contributions have advanced the use of satellite remote sensing to understand and conserve life in the ocean. Dr. Muller-Karger’s leadership has led to breakthroughs and accelerated the adoption of remote sensing for biodiversity applications across marine habitats and trophic levels.
Dr. Muller-Karger has strongly promoted science and technology as an integral element of society through his visionary leadership style, empowering members across the applied and research communities to utilize Earth observing data to create societal benefits and promote environmental conservation across the world, even in areas where remote sensing had not been traditionally used.
Group Award: AmericaView
Since 1996, AmericaView has advanced the use of remotely sensed land data through improved Earth science education for all levels of learners in the classroom and workplace. AmericaView is a nationwide, university-based and State-implemented consortium with 38 members that are dedicated to the timely development of applied research techniques to integrate knowledge about the Earth, expand access to remote sensing data and derived information, and establish strategic partnerships across disciplines, bridging the gap between scientific data and the public.
The many accomplishments and impacts of AmericaView are diverse and multi-scale. The AmericaView principal investigators and co-investigators continue to remove barriers and strengthen the understanding and use of rapidly evolving remote sensing technology and data access. The principal investigators of AmericaView lead quality research and education programs nationally and internationally, and successfully disseminate their research outcomes, curricula, and lesson plans through publications, presentations, videos, social media and the AmericaView website (https://americaview.org).
AmericaView participants responsibly and consistently train the next generation of educators, scientists, and citizen volunteers. AmericaView has championed engagement efforts for science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics from its outset, recognizing that today’s children are tomorrow’s scientists and informed citizenry.
The scope of the AmericaView mission and the consortium’s effectiveness in achieving their goals embody the spirit of William T. Pecora. AmericaView’s most significant strength is its reach—singularly, each member contributes expertise and leadership in Earth science remote sensing, but collectively, the consortium has immense national impact on the future of education, research, and mindful decision-making, informed by carefully observing our Earth with remote sensing.