Carnegie staff scientist Greg Asner has been awarded the 22nd Heinz Award for the Environment,* “ for developing ultra-high-resolution imaging technology that provides unprecedented detail on the biodiversity and health of the world’s forests and coral reefs, and the impact of deforestation, land degradation and climate change.” The annual award comes with a cash award of $250,000.
Asner was hired in 2001 as the Department of Global Ecology’s first staff scientist. Since coming to Carnegie, Asner has pioneered new methods for investigating tropical deforestation, degradation, ecosystem diversity, invasive species, carbon emissions, climate change, and much more using satellite and airborne instrumentation. His innovations measure the chemistry, structure, biomass, and biodiversity of the Earth in unprecedented detail over massive areas not thought possible before. He has developed new technologies for conservation assessments, including tropical forest carbon emissions and stocks, hydrologic function and biodiversity.
Asner leads the CLASLite forest change mapping project, oversees the spectranomics biodiversity project, and pioneered the one-of-a-kind Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO) with its laser-guided imaging spectroscopy system. The fixed-wing CAO laboratory reveals the structure and chemistry of the ecosystem below the forest canopy in unprecedented detail.
“Greg’s research has enormous international significance,” commented Carnegie president Matthew Scott. “Andrew Carnegie’s original vision of enabling gifted researchers to follow independent paths to pursue extraordinary discoveries are embodied in Greg’s work. We are extremely proud of his accomplishments and congratulate him on this recognition.”
Asner received his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate from the University of Colorado at Boulder in environmental engineering, biogeography, and environmental biology, respectively. In 2007, Popular Science magazine selected him as one of its Brilliant Ten young scientists.
In addition to his work at the interface of ecosystems, land use and climate change, Asner is heavily engaged in teaching others to use his technology for tropical forest management and conservation.
*The Heinz Awards were created by Teresa Heinz “to honor the memory of her late husband, U.S. Senator John Heinz, the Heinz Awards celebrates his accomplishments and spirit by recognizing the extraordinary achievements of individuals in the areas of greatest importance to him.”