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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 experience.

"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 in research