USGS Announces Alan Strahler Winner of 2011 Pecora Award

Pecora Award Recognizes Stellar Achievements in Earth Observation

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Steve Cole
Tina Pruett
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey

The U.S. Department of the Interior and NASA presented the 2011 William T. Pecora awards to Alan H. Strahler, professor of geography and environment at Boston University, and to the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing at a ceremony Tuesday in Herndon, Va.

Strahler was recognized for his contributions to remote-sensing science, leadership, and education, which have improved the fundamental understanding of the remote-sensing process and its applications for observing land surface properties. The Canada Centre for Remote Sensing received the group award for outstanding collaboration across national boundaries.

The awards were presented by Lori Caramanian, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, DOI, and Michael H. Freilich, Director of the Earth Science Division, NASA, at the 18th William T. Pecora Memorial Remote Sensing Symposium.

“Observing our world from space is the most productive way to obtain objective, nearly comprehensive information about changes in Earth’s environment,” said Caramanian. “And with more than 7 billion people in the world, a population that continues to grow, it is more imperative than ever that we know what ecosystems, lands, and resources are changing most. I am honored to recognize these award recipients who follow Dr. Pecora’s legacy of excellence in remote sensing of the Earth.”

“Understanding of our home planet and predicting future global environmental changes require both individual technical efforts and worldwide collaborations,” said Freilich. “This year’s awards acknowledge just how important sustained, decades-long efforts by individuals and nations are to Earth science, and the benefits they can bring to the world.”

The award has been presented annually since 1974 in memory of Dr. William T. Pecora, whose early vision and support helped establish the Landsat satellite program which has created a continuous, nearly 40-year record of Earth’s land areas. Dr. Pecora was director of the U.S. Geological Survey from 1965-71, and later served as DOI undersecretary until his death in 1972.

2011 Recipients

Alan H. Strahler

Dr. Strahler has made significant contributions to the application of spatial statistics in digital image analysis. His innovative methods for incorporating spatial information such as size, shape, and texture in the interpretation of remotely sensed image data were important in the coupling of remote sensing with geographic information systems. His recent work on quantifying vegetation structure with ground-based, upward-looking Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR) is bringing new contributions to radiative transfer modeling and forest biomass quantification.

Dr. Strahler’s most important early contribution originates from his innovative use of a geometricoptical model of radiative transfer to describe the interactions of electromagnetic radiation and plant canopies. This work was influential in guiding research and applications away from relatively simple empirical models and toward quantitative, biophysically-based approaches that underpin the modern field of remote sensing.

Dr. Strahler is a Professor of Geography and Environment at Boston University and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His career as a pioneer in quantitative environmental remote sensing began in 1969 after receiving his Ph. D. in Geography from the Johns Hopkins University.

Canada Centre for Remote Sensing

The Canada Centre for Remote Sensing (CCRS, the Government of Canada’s center of excellence for remote sensing and geodesy) has contributed substantially to the success of global remote sensing technology and its science and application through several domestic and international partnerships.

Working on every continent, CCRS scientists and engineers have promoted the concept of a global system of remote sensing ground stations and the use of cutting-edge, remote sensing technology.  They have successfully transferred this knowledge and understanding to local scientists and industry managers who are now making their own advances toward a better understanding of the Earth and the wise management of its resources.

CCRS has been a pivotal leader among international remote sensing groups.  It was one of the drivers behind the creation of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites in 1984 and has been active in the Committee on Space Research, as well as various United Nations space committees. The productivity and efficiency of CCRS, coupled with its technical, scientific, and policy contributions, have made the organization a model for national remote sensing programs across the world.

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