Prasad Thenkabail


Dr. Prasad S. Thenkabail, Research Geographer-15, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), is a world-recognized expert in remote sensing science with multiple major contributions in the field sustained over more than 30 years. He obtained his PhD from the Ohio State University in 1992 and has over 140 peer-reviewed scientific publications, mostly in major international journals. Dr. Thenkabail has conducted pioneering research in the area of hyperspectral remote sensing of vegetation and in that of global croplands and their water use for food security.

In hyperspectral remote sensing he has done cutting-edge research with wide implications in advancing remote sensing science in application to agriculture and vegetation. This body of work led to more than ten peer-reviewed research publications with high impact. For example, a single paper entitled “Hyperspectral vegetation indices and their relationships with agricultural crop characteristics” has received 1250+ citations as at the time of writing (November 19, 2020). Two other papers entitled “Accuracy assessments of hyperspectral waveband performance for vegetation analysis applications” and “Hyperion, IKONOS, ALI, and ETM+ sensors in the study of African rainforests” have 515+ and 420+ citations each ((November 19, 2020). Numerous other papers, book chapters, and books (some related to this work, as we will learn below) have made highly significant contributions to field of hyperspectral remote sensing of agriculture, vegetation, water, food security as well as in global croplands for food and water security. In addition, new pathfinding work on global hyperspectral imaging spectral libraries on agricultural crops (GHISA) has been initiated:


In studies of global croplands for food and water security, he has led the release of the world’s first Landsat 30-m derived global cropland extent product. This work demonstrates a “paradigm shift” in how remote sensing science is conducted. The data is already widely used worldwide and is downloadable from the NASA\USGS LP DAAC site:

In addition to 30m global croplands work available from the LP DAAC site, global irrigation and rainfed cropland products led by Dr. Thenkabail are also available from LP DAAC:

There are numerous major publications in this area that you can find in the publications link of global food security-support analysis data website:


Dr. Thenkabail’s contributions to series of leading edited books on remote sensing science places him as a world leader in remote sensing science advances. He edited three-volume book entitled Remote Sensing Handbook published by Taylor and Francis, with 82 chapters and more than 2000 pages, widely considered a “magnus opus” encyclopedic standard reference for students, scholars, practitioners, and major experts in remote sensing science. Links to these volumes along with endorsements from leading global remote sensing scientists can be found Here:

He has recently completed editing Hyperspectral Remote Sensing of Vegetation published books by Taylor and Francis in four volumes with 50 chapters:

This is the second edition that is currently in press and is a follow-up on the earlier single-volume Hyperspectral Remote Sensing of Vegetation (also published by Taylor and Francis Inc.). He has also edited  a book on Remote Sensing of Global Croplands for Food Security (Taylor and Francis). These books are widely used and widely referenced in institutions worldwide.


Dr. Thenkabail’s service to remote sensing community is second to none. He is currently an editor-in-chief of the Remote Sensing open access journal published by MDPI; an associate editor of the journal Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing (PERS) of the American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS); and an editorial advisory board member of the International Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS) Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. Earlier, he served on the editorial board of Remote Sensing of Environment for many years (2007–2017). As an editor-in-chief of the open access Remote Sensing MDPI journal from 2013 to date he has been instrumental in providing leadership for an online publication that did not even have an impact factor when he took over but is now one of the five leading remote sensing international journals, with an impact factor of 3.244.

Dr. Thenkabail has led remote sensing programs in three international organizations: International Water Management Institute (IWMI), 2003–2008; International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), 1995–1997;  and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture    (IITA),1992–1995. He has worked in more than 25 countries on several continents, including East Asia (China), S-E Asia (Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam), Middle East (Israel, Syria), North America (United States, Canada), South America (Brazil), Central Asia (Uzbekistan), South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka), West Africa (Republic of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, and Togo), and Southern Africa (Mozambique, South Africa). During this period, he has made major contributions and written seminal papers on remote sensing of agriculture, water resources, inland valley wetlands, global irrigated and rain-fed croplands, characterization of African rainforests and savannas, and drought monitoring systems.

The quality of Dr. Thenkabail’s research is evidenced in the many awards, which include, in 2015, the American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) ERDAS award for best scientific paper in remote sensing (Marshall and Thenkabail); in 2008, the ASPRS President’s Award for practical papers, second place (Thenkabail and coauthors); and in 1994, the ASPRS Autometric Award for outstanding paper (Thenkabail and coauthors). His team was recognized by the Environmental System Research Institute (ESRI) for “special achievement in GIS” (SAG award) for their Indian Ocean tsunami work. The USGS and NASA selected him to be on the Landsat Science Team for a period of five years (2007–2011).

Dr. Thenkabail is currently serving as an Advisory Board member of the online library collection to support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs; He is specifically making significant contributions to SDG Goal #2: “End Hunger, achieve food security, and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture (Zero Hunger)”.  Dr Prasad Thenkabail is the NASA and ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) Professional Engineer and Scientist Exchange Program (PESEP) scholar for 2020-2021. He will encourage civil space activity collaboration between the two Nations (USA and India) that advances scientific knowledge for human welfare

Dr. Thenkabail is regularly invited as keynote speaker or invited speaker at major international conferences and at other important national and international forums every year. He has been principal investigator and/or has had lead roles of many pathfinding projects, including the ~5 million over five years for the global food security support analysis data in the 30-m (GFSAD) project:

( funded by NASA MEaSUREs and another NASA funded project on characterization of Eco-Regions in Africa (CERA) when he worked at the Yale University. The other key projects he currently leads, in addition to continued work on GFSAD project, are global hyperspectral imaging spectral library of crops (GHISA;, and  projects such as Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow (waterSMART;