Excerpted from Diane Noserale, USGS Press Release, “Pecora Award Honors Excellence in Earth Observation”

Barbara J. Ryan

Barbara J. Ryan received the 2018 Pecora Award for advancing the global use and application of satellite data. Photo credit: USGS

Apr 29, 2019 • Barbara J. Ryan has been honored for her many contributions, including promoting public access to Earth observation data. 

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.

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.

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.

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. [For details, see the full USGS Press Release.]

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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+ Ozone Instrument Team, Data Champion Receive Earth Observation Award