Pecora Award Honors Excellence in Earth Observation

by | Apr 30, 2019

Two awardees have been recognized with the 2018 William T. Pecora Award for achievements in Earth remote sensing.

Barbara J. Ryan has been honored for her many contributions, including promoting public access to Earth observation data.  The Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) international team has been recognized for significant contributions to advancing atmospheric monitoring for the human health, air quality, and natural hazards communities. 

Sponsored by the USGS and NASA, the annual award has been presented since 1974 and honors the memory of William T. Pecora, former USGS director and Department of the Interior undersecretary. Formal presentation to both recipients of the 2018 Pecora Award will occur at a future venue. 

Individual Award

Barbara J. Ryan was recognized for her outstanding contributions as a scientist and visionary leader for advancing the global use of remote sensing through championing data democratization. Ryan has contributed to the field as a scientist, associate director of the USGS, and through executive positions with the World Meteorological Organization and the Group on Earth Observations.

Barbara Ryan

Barbara J. Ryan received the 2018 Pecora Award for advancing the global use and application of satellite data. (Public domain.)

Ryan's most enduring legacy is in promoting public access worldwide to remote sensing data. Through her leadership at the USGS, the end-user cost for Landsat imagery was eliminated in 2008. This policy change fundamentally altered Earth science research, expanded and facilitated remote sensing education and application throughout the world, and spurred the development of global commercial remote sensing.

This change also stimulated the adoption of Landsat imagery worldwide by citizens, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations to support decisions. Landsat imagery is used daily to monitor food security, track forest cover change, mitigate fire risk, and assess water availability, among many other applications.

As USGS associate director for Geography, Ryan led the agency's conversion from hardcopy topographic maps to the online digital products of The National Map, creating a flagship program that continues to benefit the nation.

Group Award

The Ozone Monitoring Instrument international team received the group award for its sustained team innovation and international collaboration to produce daily global satellite data that revolutionized air quality, stratospheric chemistry, and climate research. OMI was launched into space in 2004 on NASA's Aura spacecraft.

The OMI team developed ground-breaking uses of satellite data and advanced atmospheric-constituent detection. The OMI team has developed innovative approaches to characterizing the atmosphere using satellite imagery.  The OMI data and products are increasingly recognized as a gold standard resource for use in remote sensing applications.

The team's work on the long-term data record of total ozone column began in 1979 and has been crucial for monitoring the health of Earth's ozone layer, including the depth and size of the Antarctic ozone hole.

Human health and air quality scientists increasingly use OMI data to estimate emissions exposure. During the past decade, OMI data provided evidence of the successful control of emissions in the United States, evidence of changes in emissions in China following measures to tackle extreme air pollution, and the rapid worsening of air pollution in India.

OMI is the first satellite instrument to monitor volcanic emissions daily. This monitoring helps scientists evaluate the impacts of volcanic eruptions on climate and aviation and produces consistent, long-term records of volcanic emissions.

Call for 2019 Nominations Due May 15, 2019

Nominations for the 2019 William T. Pecora Award are now open. Detailed instructions and other information about the award can be found on the Pecora Award website.


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