Dr. Curtiss O. Davis Wins Presidential Rank of Meritorious Senior Professional Award

6/14/2006 - 37-06r
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Dr. Curtiss O. Davis, who recently retired as the Senior Scientist for Optical Remote Sensing at the Naval Research Laboratory and now serves as a senior research professor at Oregon State University, is a recipient of the 2005 Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Senior Professional. Annually, the President recognizes a small group of career Senior Executives with the President's Rank Award for exceptional long-term accomplishments. Winners of this prestigious award are strong leaders, professionals, and scientists who achieve results and consistently demonstrate strength, integrity, industry, and a relentless commitment to excellence in public service.

The Presidential Rank award recognizes Dr. Davis as a pioneer in the application of a new class of sensors, called hyperspectral imagers, to physical and biological oceanography. Hyperspectral imagers collect continuous spectra for each point in the scene, which is then used to interpret the properties of the land and ocean at that location. During his 11 years at NRL, the work of Dr. Davis and his team with these sensors has revolutionized the field of bio-optical oceanography, allowing a transition from research centered on the open ocean to the study of the far more biologically diverse and complex coastal regions. Hyperspectral sensors also allow measurement of other important coastal ocean geophysical quantities such as bathymetry and bottom type, and the rapid characterization of nearshore environments. Development of these sensors is one of the most important measurement capability advances in the field of oceanography in the last several decades.

The group led by Dr. Davis at NRL has expertise and capability ranging from the design, calibration, and field validation of instruments and algorithms, to the post-processing of imagery to provide high-precision products both in water and in the near-shore land. Under his leadership, the group designed and tested one of the most advanced hyperspectral instruments for the coastal ocean, the Portable Hyperspectral Imager for Low-Light Spectroscopy (PHILLS). Constructed from commercial, off-the-shelf components, PHILLS is relatively inexpensive, relatively lightweight and easy to deploy, greatly increasing the availability and accessibility of hyperspectral imaging for oceanographic studies. With PHILLS, measurements that would formerly have been made from ships in a slow and expensive manner can now be done rapidly from aircraft for a fraction of the cost. Further, the pioneering work on the PHILLS sensor design laid the groundwork for the development of a new class of robust sensors for deployment on UAVs and for space-based applications.

Dr. Davis worked with the broader DOD community to exploit the utility of hyperspectral imaging. He supported the Army Corps of Engineers and the Naval Oceanographic Office to develop a joint mapping program to combine hyperspectral imaging with their Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) systems. Expanding NRL's input in the broader remote sensing community, he has worked with the Space Test Program to pursue opportunities to fly the Coastal Ocean Imaging Spectrometer (COIS) and has served as the Navy lead on a number of other DOD hyperspectral studies and programs.

Dr. Davis serves on numerous inter-governmental committees dedicated to the development of the next generation of spaceborne sensors. He is a member of the NASA Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) science team and the International Ocean Color Coordinating Group (IOCCG), which coordinates ocean color remote sensing activities around the world, and he recently served on the governing council of The Oceanography Society. Dr. Davis worked as an advisor to the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite Systems (NPOESS) Integrated Program Office (IPO). As an advisor to the IPO, Dr. Davis assured the Navy a voice in the design phase of the satellite and instruments, helping the Navy to obtain strategically and tactically useful data for a fraction of the cost of the full satellite. He is also working with NOAA and NASA as a technical expert to define the criteria and prepare for the first ocean color imager planned for the geostationary weather satellites beginning in 2014. He is the Project Scientist for the Navy's Hyperspectral Remote Sensing Technology (HRST) Program, a program to develop hyperspectral imaging to characterize the coastal ocean and fly COIS on a space-based platform. He continues to work with the NRL team to address all aspects of hyperspectral remote sensing including instrument design, calibration, atmospheric correction, ocean and land products development, and product validation.

Dr. Davis worked closely with the Office of Naval Research to implement several large multi-institutional research programs to develop the needed understanding of the optics and remote sensing properties of the coastal ocean. Among the programs are Coastal Ocean Benthic Optical Properties (COBOP) and the Hyperspectral Coupled Ocean Dynamics Experiment (HYCODE). The goal of COBOP was to understand the optical properties of shallow water environments and develop the ability to use data from hyperspectral imagers, notably the PHILLS, to extract important in-water properties such as suspended sediments, chlorophyll, bathymetry, and bottom type, focusing on a site in the Bahamas where extensive field validation was undertaken. HYCODE continued these efforts in the more challenging turbid waters off the coast of Florida and New Jersey at the Long-term Ecosystem Observatory site. These multi-year programs have been instrumental in developing and testing PHILLS, and in developing new products derived from hyperspectral imagery for the near-shore ocean environment.

Dr. Davis believes that the technologies essential for this work need to be readily available to the research and operational community. To that end he has frequently worked with industry on the development of new commercialized instruments such as the HiStar, a hyperspectral instrument that makes in-situ measurements of the in-water scattering and absorption, important for understanding the bio-optical processes in the water and for validation of the measured aircraft data. He also pursued the development of the Microtops sun photometer, the first commercial sun photometer that can be used from a moving ship to measure the atmospheric parameters needed to fully process the hyperspectral data. Finally, he has supported the commercialization of the spectrograph used in the PHILLS sensor.

Dr. Davis holds a B.A. in zoology from the University of California at Berkeley, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in oceanography from the University of Washington. He has published over 60 articles in peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings, as well as authored numerous textbooks chapters. Dr. Davis is an active member of the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography, the American Geophysical Union, The Oceanography Society (TOS), and International Society for Optical Engineering.

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