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U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey
National Wetlands Research Center
700 Cajundome Blvd.
Lafayette, LA 70506

Contact: Gabrielle Boudreaux Bodin
Phone: 337-266-8655
Fax: 337-266-8541
For Release: May 26, 1998

USGS National Wetlands Research Center Links to NASA Program

The nation's latest space technology will soon be addressing down-to-earth problems like wetland loss.

Powerful sensors on new satellites will be linked to earth-bound studies as a result of a new partnership between the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wetlands Research Center in Lafayette, La., and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

"There have been remarkable advances in space technology that allow us to not only view our world from space but also to gather new kinds of data that will help us address natural resource problems down here on Earth," said Robert Stewart, director of the center. "Our earthbound scientists at the wetlands center have been grappling with huge natural resource issues, such as wetland loss in Louisiana or the 'Dead Zone' in the Gulf of Mexico."

Stewart added, "We are very excited about the opportunity for scientists from our wetland center and NASA-Goddard to work together on natural resource issues. This new agreement allows our scientists to join forces to help solve some very important issues, such as wetland restoration or reducing the nutrients that cause the Dead Zone."

The University of Southwestern Louisiana will also benefit from the liaison, Stewart said. Steve Landry, recently appointed USL vice president for research, noted that "the agreement between these two federal age ncies is also important for our research programs and students at USL. It augments our own agreement with NASA for the Regional Applications Center at USL."

Darrel Williams, chief of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Biospheric Science Branch at NASA-Goddard, said, "Most people are not aware of the time, effort and research that NASA applies toward developing methods to monitor our valuable resources. Thus, we look forward to our collaboration with the National Wetlands Research Center. We are sure that both teams will benefit from these joint research activities."

Williams supervises a team of scientists who conduct field campaigns or studies that are designed to help NASA relate data from space and air-borne sensors to surface environmental processes. He is also the Landsat 7 Project Scientist. Landsat 7, to be launched in early 1999, is a land remote sensing satellite that will generate high resolution visible and infrared images of the Earth's surface, and has many environmental applications. One of the scientists from Williams' team, Dr. Piers Sellers, was recently selected for the U.S. astronaut program.

With its Earth Science Enterprise, formerly known as Mission to Planet Earth, and similar programs in recent years, NASA has launched a number of satellites carrying instruments that generate data of interest to land managers and ecological scientists. Much of the new instrumentation has been prompted by an international interest in climate change and the interaction of the Earth's atmosphere, oceans and terrestrial ecosystems.

In the early 1980's NASA began planning its "Earth Observing System," which will carry a new series of scanners and radiometers to monitor Earth from space. The first EOS satellite, expected to be launched later this year, will carry the new MODIS instrument, the latest technology for remotely sensing a wide range of measurements, from a plant's photosynthesis rates to water temperature in coastal estuaries, Stewart said.

Researchers from NASA's Goddard facility were actively involved in designing and developing the MODIS instrument, as well as LANDSAT and other NASA missions.

New instruments such as MODIS, which are capable of remotely sensing vegetation type and condition, chlorophyll concentration, water temperature and plant productivity, are of particular interest to wetland scientists, according to Virginia Burkett, the center's chief of forested wetland ecology.

"This link with NASA provides us with exciting opportunities to improve our ability to learn about wetland ecosystems. We have used remote sensing tools to map wetlands and monitor wetland loss for almost 20 years, but we have not had the opportunity to plan and conduct an integrated research program with NASA ," said Burkett.

With the declassification of a vast array of military satellite imagery, scientists also look forward to further opportunities to access detailed, high resolution data for research purposes, Stewart said. A number of scientists at the wetlands center now have access to formerly prohibited data collected by the Defense Mapping Agency.

As the nation's largest water, earth and biological science and civilian mapping agency, the USGS works in cooperation with more than 2,000 organizations across the country to provide reliable, impartial scientific information to resource managers, planners and other customers. This information is gathered in every state by USGS scientists to minimize the loss of life and property from natural disasters, to contribute to the conservation and the sound economic and physical development of the nation's natural resources and to enhance the quality of life by monitoring water, biological, energy and mineral resources.

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