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Sat, Jul 19, 2008

Marshall Flight Center Scientist Honored With NASA's Falkenberg Award

Daniel Irwin Pioneered SERVIR Satellite Imaging For Natural Disasters

An award commemorating a remarkable scientist who died in the 9/11 attacks was presented this week to a man deemed a revolutionary at using satellite data for the good of humankind.

This year's Charles S. Falkenberg Award commends Daniel E. Irwin, an Earth scientist from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL, for creating an unprecedented monitoring and visualization system that's shared among scientists, scientific agencies, and governments in Central America and the Dominican Republic and that harnesses Earth imagery from space for the benefit of that part of the developing world.

Since Irwin pioneered the system in 2003 with funding from NASA, this system-known as SERVIR ("to serve," in Spanish) has been used to promote environmental sustainability through innovative application of space imagery and has enabled satellites to support responses to hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, algal blooms and other disasters across Central America.

A Central American environmental leader recalled in a letter supporting Irwin's award nomination the "incredible support" El Salvador received from Irwin and SERVIR in response to an earthquake, the eruption of the Santa Ana (Ilamatepec) volcano, and Hurricane Stan.

Irwin is now working to build similar systems and international collaborations in other developing regions of the world, such as East Africa.

"Daniel Irwin is leading a revolution in the application of Earth science information for sustainable development," said Woody W. Turner, NASA's program manager for ecological forecasting.

Irwin accepted the award at the 2008 Summer Federation of Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) Conference, which took place from July 15-18 in Durham, NH. The Falkenberg Award, given jointly by ESIP and the American Geophysical Union (AGU), honors "a scientist under 45 years of age who has contributed to the quality of life, economic opportunities, and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the public awareness of the importance of understanding our planet."

Charles S. Falkenberg was a computer scientist who advanced techniques for collecting and visualizing earth and environmental science data. He, his wife, and their two young daughters lost their lives when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

Irwin has more than 15 years of experience in using satellite remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in Central America. He is currently the NASA Project Director for SERVIR, which was developed at the NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. A SERVIR operational facility is located in Panama at the Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean (CATHALAC) and is supported by the US Agency for International Development. SERVIR is considered an early achievement of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) -- a 70+ country effort to develop a 21st century network for earth observation systems.

"On behalf of the entire SERVIR team, I'm deeply honored and humbled to receive the 2008 Charles S. Falkenberg Award," said Irwin. "It's a real privilege to be able to transition valuable NASA Earth observation data and models developed by NASA and other partner agencies to improve the quality of life in the developing world."

FMI: www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/home/index.html

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