BYU Establishes a new Center for Remote Sensing
27 January 2000
Brigham Young University has announced the creation of a new interdisciplinary
BYU Center for Remote Sensing that
will coordinate and support studies of the earth’s atmosphere, climate
and environment through high-tech mapping and remote sensing research.
The new center, which will bring together more than $3 million
in annual outside research funding, will house four laboratories:
the Archeometery Research Group, the Environmental Modeling Research
Laboratory, the Laboratory for Geographic Information Analysis,
and the Microwave Earth Remote Sensing Laboratory. It will be jointly
sponsored by the College of Engineering, and the College of Family
Home and Social Sciences.
David Long, a professor of electrical and computer engineering,
will direct the center while Perry Hardin, an associate professor
of geography, will serve as its associate director.
The center will bring together a number of fields that use "remote
sensing" data. Remote sensing, the study of distant objects or systems
without physical contact, encompasses data gathered from telescopes,
cameras, radar satellites and other microwave sensors. At BYU, remote
sensing data is used for studies of everything from the melting
of polar ice to rainforest destruction to the mapping of groundwater
and archaeological sites. Long says that the center is based on
the premise that the world’s systems are all interconnected, and
interdisciplinary study improves research and the student educational
"The dawn of the space age has helped mankind to view the world
as a global, connected system. Developments in the technology of
remote sensing have enabled us to better understand the global atmosphere,
ocean and biosphere, and our effects on the climate and the environment,"
says Long, a former Jet Propulsion Lab researcher who is a lead
investigator on several NASA projects.
Hardin, who is using remote sensing data to investigate archaeological
sites, to study ice pack growth in the Bering Sea and to monitor
rainforest destruction, says the center brings together several
complementary groups. "The engineering departments bring experience
in hydrology, satellite sensors and signal processing algorhythms,
whereas the department of geography brings experience in earth science
and the research applications. We find that the strengths of these
groups together provide a wonderful synergism for moving remote
sensing and earth science forward at BYU," says Hardin.
Long says that the use of computerized geographic information systems
has increased dramatically in the last decade, and computer programs
have become much more sophisticated in their use of remotely sensed
data. The new center will give students access to the newest technologies,
and also allow them to participate in high-profile research funded
by and supported by such entities as NASA, the National Science
Foundation, NASDA (the Japanese equivalent of NASA), ERDAS, ER-Mapper,
and other major corporations. The center also plans to offer a certification
program for students in remote sensing suitable for a variety of
disciplines including electrical, civil and environmental engineering,
geography, and other departments on campus.
The creation of the center and the certification program are expected
to bring additional recognition and support to BYU’s remote sensing
program, says Long. While the university is already well-represented
in remote sensing research and publications, he says the center
will help foster research program growth and promote student involvement