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Science Wednesday: A Visit to the Geo-VI Plenary

2009 November 25

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

“I’ll never get lost again,” I exclaimed as I opened the box containing my new GPS unit, an early holiday gift from my folks. Now I can harness the power of coordinated satellites as I confidently venture toward my destination, forever settling the age-old argument over the efficacy of stopping to ask for directions.

It seemed fitting that my new toy arrived the same week the Group on Earth Observations, better known as GEO, held its 6th plenary meetings. Thanks to EPA securing the space, the gathering took place in the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC, just a few floors below my office.

GEO members, including some 80 governments, the European Commission, and 56 intergovernmental, international, and regional organizations with mandates in Earth Observation or related issues, are coordinating their efforts to build a Global Earth Observation System of Systems, or GEOSS.

The goal of GEOSS is to create a flexible network where all sorts of earth observations—from direct observations of temperature and other climate data, to networks of open-ocean buoys, and high-tech satellite imagery—are standardized, coordinated, and shared.

The end result will be kind of like the Internet, except instead of Facebook-like social updates, content providers will supply a wealth of earth observation data, providing decision makers access to an extraordinary range of information right at their desktops.

The potential benefits of such a system are enormous: improved understanding of environmental factors affecting human health, disaster reduction, integrated water resource management, ocean and marine resource monitoring and management, weather and air quality monitoring and management, sustainable land use, development of energy sources, and adaptation to climate variability and change.

The Plenary-VI meeting featured a large public exhibit area where delegates from across the world demonstrated their research efforts. My EPA colleague and fellow Science Wednesday blogger Dr. Montira Pongsiri staffed the US-GEO booth, sharing highlights of her GEOSS work exploring the links between biodiversity and human health.

Of course now that I have my own, personal satellite access, my favorite exhibits were those illustrating how GEOSS is harnessing high-tech satellite datasets and imagery. It was all very exciting, and I didn’t even need to stop and ask for directions on my way back to the office.

About the author: Aaron Ferster is the “Science Wednesday” editor and a regular contributor. He is the lead science writer for EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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11 Responses leave one →
  1. armansyahardanis permalink
    November 25, 2009

    My favorite words in Geography are culmination and north. Both is similar meaning. All the people need them, now and future. The people still alive for step-up their career, it’s call culmination of theirs’. North identicals a growing-up. Sure, the people of north are best depends south. Migration of the nature evolutes from south to the north.

    Both, culmination and north have been drawn as arrow, as well as Zorro, the Hero.

  2. Al Bannet permalink
    November 25, 2009

    Geo IV may or may not be fully attended, but do they have a full agenda that includes discussion of the massive global pollution that is daily accumulating in the ocean and on land?

  3. Al Bannet permalink
    November 25, 2009

    Correction — Geo VI.

  4. Joseph Zummach permalink
    November 25, 2009

    I’m interested in the studies of biodiversity and human health, by Dr Montira Pongsiri. How would I get access to publications of her results?

    I live down here on the edge of the Gila Wilderness where Aldo Leapold first applied the science of Ecology in the field, concluding that there was a need to set aside large tracts of wild land for study and preservation of habitat. You’re welcome to come down where to try out your GPS.

  5. armansyahardanis permalink
    November 25, 2009

    Future……, how we will search if our children lost in the other planet ?
    Ya, they must be will have Universe Positioning System (UPS) unit and the Authorities of Universe must be preparedness Global Universe Observation System of Systems (GUOSS) !!!

  6. Anonymous permalink
    November 26, 2009

    Its all very well having this information available, but in the end will any government actually do anything about climate change.

  7. Alan Bennet permalink
    November 26, 2009

    Sounds like a very informative research facility hopefully it will open governments bodies minds more.

  8. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    November 29, 2009

    This will be one of the most important programs of the first half of the 21st Century. It could be important in how we plan for reducing and hopefully eliminating greenhouse gases. It could be very important in helping us develop more alternative, renewable sources of energy. And it could be very important in helping us create the transit systems we will need for the 21st Century. This is great. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  9. Al Bannet permalink
    November 30, 2009

    I agree, and I hope so too. Meanwhile, since we agree, it won’t matter if posters and readers get our very similar names mixed up, or maybe you would prefer I change mine – again?

  10. Aaron permalink
    December 2, 2009

    Joseph: Sorry for the tardy reply!

    For additional resouces, take a look at the papers listed here:

    Also, a paper by Dr. Pongsiri and research partners will be coming out in the journal “Bioscience” in the next week or so. She’ll be blogging about that, so keep an eye on Science Wednesday for her post.

  11. jeff permalink
    July 14, 2010

    It will be interesting to see if this really transpires the way that it is planned!

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