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Prasad Thenkabail, PhD

Dr. Prasad S. Thenkabail, Senior Scientist (ST), United States Geological Survey (USGS), is a world-recognized expert in remote sensing science with major contributions in the field sustained for nearly 40 years. Dr. Thenkabail’s career scientific achievements can be gauged by successfully making the list of world’s top 1% of scientists across fields (22 scientific fields and 176 sub-fields).

Dr. Thenkabail has conducted pioneering research in 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 1371 citations as at the time of writing (December 14, 2021). 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 567 and 458 citations each (December 14, 2021). 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.

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. He has recently completed editing Hyperspectral Remote Sensing of Vegetation published books by Taylor and Francis in four volumes with 50 chaptersThis is the second edition that is currently in press and is a follow-up on the earlier single-volume Hyperspectral Remote Sensing of Vegetation. He has also edited a book on Remote Sensing of Global Croplands for Food Security.

He obtained his PhD from the Ohio State University in 1992 and has 168 publications including 9 books, 146 peer-reviewed journal articles, and 13 major data releases. Dr. Thenkabail is at the center of rendering scientific service to the world’s remote sensing community in roles that include Editor-in-Chief (2011-present) of Remote Sensing Open Access Journal and Associate Editor (2017-present) of American Society’s Journal Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing (PE&RS).

Dr. Thenkabail was a Landsat Science Team Member (2007-2011). 

Professional Experience

  • Oct. 2008-present - USGS: Supervisory Research Geographer-15 (2017-present), Research Geographer-15 (2011-2017), Research Geographer-14 (2008-2011), United States Geological Survey (USGS), Flagstaff, AZ.USA.

  • March 2003-Sept. 2008 - IWMI: Principal Researcher, Global Research Division group and Head of Remote Sensing and GIS Unit, International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Colombo, Sri Lanka.

  • April 1997-March 2003 - Yale University: Associate Research Scientist, Center for Earth Observation, Yale University, New Haven, CT,USA.

  • Nov. 1995-March 1997 - ICIMOD: Remote Sensing Specialist, International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu, Nepal.

  • July 1992-Nov. 1995 - IITA: Remote Sensing Specialist, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan, Nigeria. 

  • Sept. 1998-June 1992 - OSU: Graduate Research Assistant, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.  

  • Dec. 1984-Nov. 1986 - Mysore and Bangalore University: Teaching hydraulics and water resources, India.

  • The countries he has worked in include China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Israel, Syria, United States, Canada, Brazil, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Republic of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Mozambique, and South Africa.

Education and Certifications

  • 1992 - Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Agricultural Engineering, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA.

  • 1983 - Master of Engineering (M.E.) in Hydraulics and Water Resources Engineering, Mysore University (India).

  • 1981 - Bachelor of Civil Engineering (B.E.), Mysore University (India).

Affiliations and Memberships*

  • Editor-in-Chief, Remote Sensing Open Access Journal; 2011-present.

  • Associate Editor, American Society of Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing (PE&RS), a Journal of the Imaging and Geospatial Information Society (ASPRS).

  • Editorial Advisory Board, International Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS) Journal of Photo. & Remote Sensing, 2014-present.

  • Editorial Board Member, Remote Sensing of Environment (2007-2016)

  • Core member,  NASA South/Southeast Asia Research Initiative (SARI):  2014-present

  • Member, American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (1988-present)

  • Chair: International Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS) Working Group WG VIII/7: Land cover and its dynamics, including Agricultural & Urban Land Use (2013-2016)

  • Global Coordinator, Committee for Earth Observing Systems Agriculture Societal Beneficial Areas (CEOA SBA) (2010-2013)

  • Co-lead, IEEE “Water for the World” (2007-2011)

  • Member, Landsat Science Team (2007-2011)

Honors and Awards

  • 2023  Fellow, American Society of Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing (ASPRS)

  • 2022 - PESEP Scholar. The NASA-ISRO Professional Engineer and Scientist Exchange Program (PESEP). USA (NASA) and India (ISRO) scientific exchange scientist for 2022-2023. 

  • 2020 - Proposal evaluation panel for Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology, to their bi-national Italy-Israel joint laboratory in Precision Agriculture. 

  • 2019 - Advisory Board member, Taylor and Francis Inc., online library collection to support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).

  • 2019 - USGS STAR award for supervision

  • 2019 - Member, NASA Surface Biology Geology (SBG)-Applications. For the SBG hyperspectral remote sensing mission (replacing former HyspIRI program).

  • 2019 - Member, NASA Calibration and Validation Working Group. For the SBG hyperspectral remote sensing mission (replacing former HyspIRI program).

  • 2019 - USGS 10-year service recognition

  • 2018 - The Excellent Reviewer of Remote Sensing of Environment

  • 2018 - Honored by the Arabian Gulf University, Bahrain and the Dubai-based International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) for giving the keynote lecture. 

  • 2016 - NASA Group Achievement Award, 2016. (Member of Team) Fallowed Area Map

  • 2015 - ASPRS Best Scientific Paper Award, 2015: ASPRS ERDAS award for best scientific paper in remote sensing (given annually for the papers published in American Society of Photogrammetry

  • 2015 - Task Force Member NASA, SARI, 2015-present. South Asia Regional Initiative (SARI), A response to regional needs in Land Cover/Land Use Change (LCLUC) Science and Education (NASA)

  • 2015 - Innovations Inventory, PARIS21, 2015: 'Remote Sensing Data for Drought Assessment and Monitoring' monograph authors (as first author) is in the PARIS21.

  • 2013 - Panel chair, 2013, USGS RGE. For the Spring 2013 GIS and Remote Sensing USGS Research Grade Evaluation (RGE) panel.

  • 2008 - ASPRS President’s award for practical papers: American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) John I. Davidson President’s Award for practical papers, 2008.

  • 2007 - Special achievement in GIS award from ESRI, awarded by ESRI President Mr. Jack Dangermond during the 2007 annual ESRI conference in San Diego.

  • 2006 - Best team award for my remote sensing and GIS team @ the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) during Institute’s Annual Research Meeting 2006.

  • 2005 - Best paper award (5 best paper awards given) by International Water Management Institute (IWMI) during Institute’s Annual Research Meeting 2005.

  • 2004 - Best paper award (5 best paper awards given) by International Water Management Institute (IWMI) during Institute’s Annual Research Meeting 2004.

  • 2001 - Member, Scientific Advisory Board, Rapideye, a Private German Satellite Company.

  • 1994 - Autometric award for outstanding paper by American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS).

Abstracts and Presentations

  • As a result of Dr. Thenkabail’s scientific accomplishments, standing, and stature, he is a highly sought-after speaker. Since 2011, he has given 117 talks (averaging ~12 per year) of which 40% (47/117) were invited. He has been invited as a speaker in Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and various places in USA (e.g., Purdue, OSU).

Science and Products

*Disclaimer: Listing outside positions with professional scientific organizations on this Staff Profile are for informational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement of those professional scientific organizations or their activities by the USGS, Department of the Interior, or U.S. Government