University of South Florida

USF College of Marine Science


Dr. Frank Muller-Karger Receives 2021 William T. Pecora Award

Dr. Serge Andrefouet was visiting USF when he processed this 2001 Landsat-7 satellite image of sand and seaweed beds in the Bahamas, which won NASA’s Tournament Earth 2020 contest. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory / Serge Andrefouet, USF.

Dr. Serge Andrefouet was visiting USF when he processed this 2001 Landsat-7 satellite image of sand and seaweed beds in the Bahamas, which won NASA’s Tournament Earth 2020 contest. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory / Serge Andrefouet, USF.

Dr. Frank Muller-Karger, biological oceanography professor who leads the Institute for Remote Sensing at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science, has been honored with the prestigious 2021 William T. Pecora Award for his extraordinary contributions and leadership using remote sensing to further our understanding of the ocean. 

“This extraordinary honor is so well-deserved,” said Dr. Tom Frazer, dean of the USF College of Marine Science. “Dr. Muller-Karger’s role in helping to advance space-based remote sensing of the planet to better understand key biological and ecological processes, particularly in the oceans, is widely acknowledged and cannot be understated.”

Dr. Muller-Karger has dedicated his career to using remote sensing to understand how ocean biogeochemistry and marine ecosystems change.  He serves as an expert on panels for NASA, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, and co-leads other professional groups such as the Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON) and the Marine Life 2030 Program that is part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030). His work has led to innovations in satellites, such as a modification in the cameras on the new Landsat satellites to allow novel measurements of coastal areas and aerosols around the world.

“I am truly humbled by this honor,” said Muller-Karger. “Our oceans face extraordinary challenges, and our own lives are completely dependent on a healthy environment, even if we don’t think about it every day. With tools like satellites, we can make measurements of the Earth from space, even of the most remote areas, and use the information to make better decisions for our own health and resiliency.”

The William T. Pecora award is jointly sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). It honors the memory of Dr. William T. Pecora, former USGS Director and Department of the Interior Undersecretary. Established in 1974, the award is presented annually to individuals or teams using satellite or aerial remote sensing that make outstanding contributions toward understanding the Earth (land, oceans and air), educating the next generation of scientists, informing decision makers or supporting natural or human-induced disaster response. 

The second of two awards given in 2021 was a group award to AmericaView for advancing Earth observation education through remote sensing science, applied research, workforce development, technology transfer, and community outreach.

A formal presentation to the 2021 Pecora award recipients, delayed due to the pandemic, is planned during the 22nd William T. Pecora Memorial Remote Sensing Symposium in Denver on October 26, 2022.

Dr. Frank Muller-Karger

Dr. Frank Muller-Karger

Dr. Frank Muller-Karger has made outstanding contributions to the field of Earth science and to the study of the ocean through the use of remote sensing.  His significant and sustained achievements have laid the groundwork for the use of multi- and hyperspectral sensors for the observation of ocean biology, biogeochemistry, and biodiversity.

Dr. Muller-Karger has dedicated his professional career to studying how ocean biogeochemistry and marine ecosystems change in time and space using remote sensing.  His work has greatly advanced our knowledge of the role of continental margins, including areas of upwelling and river discharge, in the global carbon budget.  Some of his most salient contributions include using satellite ocean color to better understand the impact of large rivers on ocean biogeochemistry, and the use of in situ and remote sensing time series data to observe climate-driven shifts of marine ecosystems.  His invaluable contributions have advanced the use of satellite remote sensing to understand and conserve life in the ocean.  Dr. Muller-Karger’s leadership has led to breakthroughs and accelerated the adoption of remote sensing for biodiversity applications across marine habitats and trophic levels.

Dr. Muller-Karger has strongly promoted science and technology as an integral element of society. His visionary leadership style empowers young and established researchers in applied, academic, and government institutions to use Earth observing data for societal benefit around the world, even in areas where remote sensing has not been traditionally used.

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