Alumni Mentor
Earth and Environmental Systems

Samuel Goward

PhD, Physical Geography
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Dr. Samuel Goward graduated from Indiana State University in 1979 with a Ph.D. from the Department of Geography and Geology (now Earth and Environmental Systems).  He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees in Geography from Boston University.  A physical geographer and land remote sensing expert, with over 150 published works, he has spent much of his career working on the Landsat program and other crucial earth‑observing satellite missions, all of which have transformed our knowledge of environmental science.

Dr. Goward began his professional career at Columbia University and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City.  In 1982, he moved to the University of Maryland Geography Department.  Beginning in 1985 he spent a year at NASA HQ serving as a program manager in the Earth Sciences Division. In 1992, he was selected by NASA to serve as the science team leader of the NASA/US Geological Survey Landsat mission. He was later invited to serve as co‑chair of the USGS National Satellite Land Remote Sensing Data Archive federal advisory committee in 2001.

His academic career also includes serving as Geography Department Chair at the University of Maryland from 1995‑2001, long considered one of the top programs in the country.

As a graduate student, professor, and Landsat 7 Science Team Leader, Dr. Goward has been a user, teacher, and proponent of Landsat data for more than 40 years.

Landsat, a cooperative program between NASA and the USGS, is the most important project that has, since 1972, collected imagery and data about the earth and natural resources using remote sensing instruments. Landsat 8 was launched in 2013, with Landsat 9 scheduled for 2020. The instruments aboard the Landsat satellites have acquired millions of images through the course of these missions, and the data are a valuable resource for global change research and applications in agriculture, forestry, geology, regional planning, hydrology, urbanization, education, and much more. Landsat data are received and downlinked to ground stations worldwide, archived, and made available for download to all users at no charge (since 2006). This is not only an incredible series of scientific instruments and data, but also one of the most important and serious international scientific goodwill projects.

Landsat’s data archive is the longest land observation archive in existence, and Dr. Goward has been at the center of efforts to improve and make more readily available these data. Particularly in the last two decades his work has led to better defined operational systems and more consistent data for use around the world.

Because of his support of land remote sensing, and Landsat in particular, Dr. Goward was awarded the U.S. Geological Survey’s John Wesley Powell Award in 2006. This is the highest USGS award bestowed upon non‑agency individuals. He also received the William T. Pecora award in 2008, several NASA awards, and honors from the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, and the Association of American Geographers. Currently he and his NASA colleagues are completing a book, Landsat’s Enduring Legacy, on first 50 years of this vital land monitoring mission.

Sam Goward and his wife Susan Goward (née Johnston, class of 1978) are lifelong Sycamores who remember their time at Indiana State University very fondly.