Feb. 15, 2000
Contact: Marianne Kunnen-Jones

[Beck, left, Frohn, right][farm where researchers stand shown in square]


farm where researchers stand is within
square shown on remote image

Cincinnati -- Nearly four years ago, Richard Beck wanted to obtain a satellite image to get his students at Miami University more interested in global mapping. But he was halted by the purchase price. The private company that was handling the contract for NASA satellite imagery at the time wanted him to pay $4,400 per picture.

"It was much, much more than cost recovery for them," said Beck, now adjunct professor in geography at the University of Cincinnati. So he approached the U.S. Geological Survey looking for a way to get the space-aged snapshots cheaper. "We basically got together and said 'you have stopped remote sensing in its tracks.'"

By October 1998, Beck's efforts had reached across the state of Ohio and resulted in a coalition called Ohioview. An Ohioview Web site was launched to make satellite images of the state available to individual educators and researchers for free. The freebies are made possible because participating universities share the costs of greatly reduced prices that have been negotiated between USGS, Ohioview and NASA.

Today Beck serves as Ohioview's project director from an office in UC's Swift Hall. Various pieces of the technology that make the web site possible are scattered around Ohio and the central United States: University of Akron houses its two servers; there's a high-speed network running from the USGS satellite data center in Sioux Falls, S.D. to the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, where images are transmitted before putting them on the Web; and at MU, an electronic card catalog is taking shape to go online.

UC will be responsible for managing approximately $375,000 in NASA funds over the next two years for Ohioview projects and operations. The support is part of a $1.8 million package appropriated for Ohioview through the NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC) in Cleveland, according to Calvin Ramos, chief of the satellite networks and architectures branch at GRC.

"With this funding, Ohioview is postured to make significant impacts for how near real-time sensing data sets will be used for everyday applications like agriculture, land management, range resources, etc., in the state of Ohio and eventually to other parts of the Midwest," said Ramos.

At UC, Beck said, the NASA funds will be targeted to:

  • An outreach project to remote Native American reservations, geared to transmitting distance education courses and satellite images. Ohioview director and UC adjunct professor Richard Beck and UC assistant professor Robert Frohn will also research Native American land use and resource management issues.

  • Ohioview administration and operations.
  • In addition Beck and Frohn are part of a statewide Ohioview research project that will be using the space-orbiting satellites to provide data to learn more about a very down-to-earth subject in Ohio: the loss of the state's farmland. The U.S. Geological Survey has provided $250,000 to fund the first phase of the research, which will examine satellite images of Ohio dating back to 1975.

    Frohn is involving graduate and undergraduate students in his advanced remote sensing courses in winter and spring quarters in the research. He and Beck are arranging to make their findings available to a task force formed by Ohio Gov. Bob Taft to study Ohio's farmland losses.

    In addition to UC, universities participating in the study are Bowling Green, University of Toledo, University of Akron, Ohio State, Ohio University and University of Illinois.

    Every 16 days, the online images shown on Ohioview are updated and transmitted from NASA's Landsat-7 earth-observing satellite. The cost per scene, each covering 111-by-102 square miles shot from 423 miles above the earth's atmosphere, is now about $600 per image to the participating universities. In all, it takes about 10 scenes to put together an entire view of the state of Ohio, said Beck. To the trained observe, buildings and farmlands can be distinguished.

    No other states have a similar system in place yet, Beck said. But it may not be long before the Ohioview approach is copied elsewhere. UC geography department head Robert South said NASA "may be using it as a prototype across the nation."

    To view the satellite images available on Ohioview, the public domain address is www.ohioview.org/. Anyone may view the images, but use is restricted to non-commercial purposes. Educators and researchers interested in downloading the images and data can contact Beck by e-mailing him at beckra@ohioview.swf.uc.edu.

    Ohioview was originally founded with help from Ohio congressional representatives and funding from the USGS. Today it is formally affiliated with the USGS EROS Data Center, the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland (formerly Lewis), the Ohio Supercomputer Center, OARnet, NASA Research and Education Network (NREN) and eight Ohio universities (UC, Bowling Green, Toledo, Akron, Kent State, Ohio State, Ohio University and MU). Other partners include OhioLINK, Ohio State Center for Mapping and Miami University Libraries.


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