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A glimpse of the future from the past

Thursday, January 29, 2009

It is incorrect to think that something is not possible when considering how remote sensing tools and technology can be used to improve our understanding of local, regional and global landscapes.  Publications and texts from just 15 years ago assert that remote sensing technology was not being used to its full potential and that improvements must be made in order for progress to occur.  I found a great example of this from 1994 in the article Grasslands by Dean Graetz - in Changes in Land Use and Land Cover (eds. William B. Meyer and B.L. Turner II).

"The present lack of objective and systematically acquired data about global land cover is an appalling state of affairs.  Yet, it does not need to be so.  The data do exist, although they have not yet been used on global scales.  The surface of the earth has been observed by satellites on a systematic basis since 1972.  Today there are several operational satellites continuously observing the earth with sensors that provide data that are more than adequate to measure the extent, severity, and dynamics of landscape degradation in the grasslands and savannas.  The absurdity of this situation is best emphasized by noting that, as the result of our past priorities for scientific research, there are far more detailed and accurate maps of the surface of the moon than there are of the earth." (pp. 142-143)

The research of our lab is an excellent example of how Graetz's demands are currently being worked on and achieved.  It is equally inspiring to consider that the entire history and tremendous progress of remote sensing and geo-spatial analysis in general have occured in a single human lifetime - much of which has occured since I was born!  I look forward to being a part of even more progress in my own lifetime.

Graetz, D. Grasslands in Changes in Land Use and Land Cover: A Global Perspective. Eds. Wiliam B. Meyer and B.L. Turner II. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 1994.

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