GLOBAL ASSESSMENT AND MONITORING USING REMOTE SENSING

Columbia University and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory are placing increased emphasis on integrated studies of the Earth as a system of complexly interacting components. Global scale studies of necessity require a suite of observations that are truly global in scope. Moreover, global change studies need time sequential "looks" at the Earth. Modern remote sensing technology and datastreams provide the synoptic, time-sequential views of the Earth that these research activities require. Although a number of scientists at Lamont are involved to varying degrees in research programs that utilize some form of remote sensing data, students at Lamont and Columbia have not been able to take full advantage of the potential learning opportunity such research creates. Indeed, at the present time we are aware of no course offering at Columbia University dealing with the principles and application of remote sensing technology. We propose here to offer a comprehensive course of instruction through which both earth science students as well as students in related disciplines in other departments at Columbia may benefit from the intellectual activity and technological resources currently available at Lamont. The basis of this program would be a course in remote sensing theory and application. We envision a highly interactive environment in which students will be taught the physical basis for remote sensing and then be introduced to a wide range of applications employing the data, methodologies and computing resources currently available. Although remote sensing is most closely allied with the earth sciences, it is essential to any discipline that relies on an understanding of natural phenomena on large spatial scales. For this reason, our approach would be to provide a firm background in the scientific principles of remote sensing but also to consider the more far-reaching applications related to social and economic issues which may benefit from a more global perspective. An important aspect of this course would be a strong interconnection among classroom instruction, informal discussion and "hands on" experience with remote sensing data and computing resources. Initially, students will require some formal introduction to the field of remote sensing, both to provide a firm background in the fundamental principles as well as to provide motivation for the applications that are to follow. In parallel with the classroom instruction/discussion the students would acquire direct experience with remote sensing tools and resources in a computer laboratory environment. This will be accomplished from the outset by coupling each student, or perhaps teams of students, with an appropriate, semester long, research project of their own choosing. As the semester progresses, the students will apply the principles learned in the classroom to their own projects in the laboratory. This not only provides direct experience which is crucial to learning but also provides a motivation factor which we feel is equally important. The current availability of a multitude of synoptic and time-sequential remote sensing datasets from sources on the Internet makes this type of learning opportunity a reality that was unthinkable a few years ago. In the computing laboratory the students will use a state-of-the-art remote sensing/GIS software package called ENVI. The software is widely used in industry, is exceptionally powerful while having a gentle learning curve, and comes with all essential image processing capabilities as well as an architecture that incorporates many aspects of currently available Geographic Information Systems (GIS).