WHRC’s Scott Goetz and colleagues win NASA grant to monitor global forests from the International Space Station

Falmouth, Mass. – Woods Hole Research Center’s Deputy Director, Scott Goetz and colleagues with the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) team have, after many years of effort, succeeded in acquiring NASA support to fly a Light Detection and Ranging System (LiDAR) sensor in space.  The laser instrument will be placed on the International Space Station (ISS) to monitor global forests, including tree height, biomass, canopy architecture and cover.  The GEDI team will also assess the implications of climate change on forests and the feedbacks of forest change resulting from both natural causes, such as hurricanes, and human induced causes like deforestation.


International Space Station. The sun is just past the sliver of Earth’s horizon illuminating the newly installed solar arrays. Photo courtesy NASA.


According to Dr. Goetz, “GEDI will be a major advance in mapping and monitoring forest dynamics. The data sets produced will have tremendous value for society as well as international policies on climate change and biodiversity. Soon we’ll have reference baselines against which we can compare change over the next decade or more. This is long overdue!”

The GEDI team, lead by Ralph Dubayah of the University of Maryland, was awarded $94 million from NASA over a 5 year period to develop, operate and produce global data sets from the LiDAR system.  The team expects the Lidar to be installed on the Space Station by 2019.

This award represents a deepening commitment by the United States to understand the role of terrestrial carbon dynamics on climate, and the investment will lead to new science and understanding through additional research opportunities.

Link to NASA’s press release »

WHRC is an independent research institute where scientists investigate the causes and effects of climate change to identify and implement opportunities for conservation, restoration and economic development around the globe.