NASA Honors ForWarn Team with Group Achievement Award

NASA Team-Jerry Gasser, Joe Spruce, James Smoot,Phil Kuper, and Bill Graham--accepting the award on behalf of the interagency/university ForWarn development team. Photo by NASA.
Elizabeth Robinson, NASA Chief Financial Officer (far left), and Richard Gilbrech, Director, NASA John C. Stennis Space Center (far right), present award to NASA Team — (left to right, middle) Jerry Gasser, Joe Spruce, James Smoot, Phil Kuper, and Bill Graham — on behalf of the interagency/university ForWarn development team. Photo by NASA.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has honored the development team behind the ForWarn forest monitoring system, including researchers from the U.S. Forest Service Eastern Forest and Western Wildland Environmental Threat Assessment Centers, with a Group Achievement Award. The award recognizes multiple federal and university partners “for creating the first near real-time forest threat early warning system in the continental United States.”

Forest Service researchers and NASA Stennis Space Center scientists began collaborating in 2006 to develop a research-based early warning system in response to the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003. Partners from U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey, and the University of North Carolina Asheville’s National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center later joined the effort, and a ForWarn prototype started operating in 2010. ForWarn was officially launched in 2012 with accompanying training sessions that reached federal, state, and tribal land managers.

ForWarn uses NASA satellite imagery which is processed and delivered to users through the web-based Forest Change Assessment Viewer. The Assessment Viewer provides weekly maps—coast-to-coast snapshots of the U.S. landscape—showing potential forest disturbance of many kinds. Natural resource managers can use the maps to view potential forest disturbances that have occurred within the previous year, the last three years, and the past decade, in order to detect sudden disturbance events as well as more slow-acting disturbances or forest recovery. ForWarn provides a variety of supporting tools and information to help natural resource managers recognize and track patterns of forest distress due to insects, diseases, wildfires, extreme weather, or other natural or human-caused events.  

“It is our privilege to be in a position to bring these advanced remote sensing technologies to bear on the needs of our forest resource managers across the country. Our NASA colleagues are more than just subcontractors; they have as much creative and intellectual ownership in the ForWarn system as we do,” says Bill Hargrove, Eastern Threat Center ecologist and lead ForWarn researcher. “ForWarn links the nation’s investment in Earth science to forest managers and decision makers,” says William Graham, a collaborating scientist at Stennis Space Center’s Applied Science and Technology Project Office.

NASA’s Group Achievement Award is based on several criteria that demonstrate a substantial contribution to NASA’s mission. The award was presented during a ceremony at Stennis Space Center (Mississippi) on July 23rd. Find out more about NASA’s Agency Honor Awards.

 For more information, email Bill Hargrove at whargrove@fs.fed.us.

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