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UW Faculty Member Receives Pecora Project Manager Group Award

February 5, 2018
head portrait of a man
Ramesh Sivanpillai

A University of Wyoming faculty member recently received a 2017 William Thomas Pecora Project Manager Group Award from the International Charter Space and Major Disasters Team.

Ramesh Sivanpillai, a remote sensing scientist with UW’s Wyoming Geographic Information Science Center (WYGISC) and an associate research scientist in the Department of Botany, also was part of that Charter team that received the Pecora Group Award. The team was recognized for providing free satellite imagery, data and information to the global community during times of crises.

Satellite imagery enables decisionmakers, rescue teams and responders to reach victims quickly, move them to safety and select the best locations for rescue efforts.

“Every year, two Pecora awards are given, to an individual and to a group,” says Sivanpillai, who was trained to be a project manager in 2009. “In the remote sensing community, this is a prestigious award. The International Charter Space and Major Disasters Team was awarded the group award. It was great to receive the recognition, for putting time into this effort.”

For his Pecora Project Manager Group Award, Sivanpillai was recognized by the Charter team for his volunteering to serve as a project manager for the 2011 floods in the Midwest, which impacted several states -- including Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and Kentucky -- along the Mississippi River. 

“Working with the space agencies of the U.S., Canada, the European Union, France and Germany, and Disaster Monitoring Constellation, I obtained several pre- and postdisaster images for Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky and Arkansas,” Sivanpillai says. “With additional help from volunteers in Wisconsin, Kentucky and Texas, these images were processed and delivered to emergency management agencies in these states.” 

Each disaster response is coordinated by a project manager who works with the space agencies for data acquisition, and processing and distributing the data to emergency management agencies. For large disaster events, the space agencies often solicit assistance from other experts for processing these images. Everyone associated with the Charter team activities volunteers his or her time and is not compensated for contributions. 

“It was great to see our contributions were recognized at this level,” says Sivanpillai, who recently received his certificate award in the mail. “Personally, I’m happy that I can put my skills and experience to assist disaster response activities in the U.S. and elsewhere.” 

Since founded in 2000, the International Charter Space and Major Disasters Team counts 16 member agencies that contribute satellite, data processing and data distribution assets. The team’s goal is to provide a unified system of space data acquisition and delivery to those affected by natural or man-made disasters through authorized users.

The William Thomas Pecora Award is presented annually to recognize outstanding contributions by individuals or teams using remote sensing to understand Earth; educate the next generation of scientists; inform decisionmakers; or support natural or human-induced disaster response. The awards were announced at the Pecora 20 Conference, which took place in Sioux Falls, S.D., last November.

The award has been presented annually since 1974, in honor of Pecora, former director of the U.S. Geological Survey and undersecretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). Pecora was a motivating force behind the establishment of civil remote sensing of Earth from space. The DOI and NASA jointly sponsor the award.    

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