September 25, 2007 "Observing, Fighting and Mitigating Damage from Wildfires" To Be Discussed on Oct. 17

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Science, Technology and Business Division (202) 707-5664; Jeannie Allen, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (301) 614-6627

Satellites are making it possible to observe, investigate and understand wildfires in ways that are impossible from the ground. What are they showing us? In an illustrated presentation at the Library of Congress, a NASA scientist will explain the profound effect of fires on Earth’s natural systems and methods used to better manage these fires. Compton J. Tucker will discuss “Observing, Fighting and Mitigating Damage from Wildfires” at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 17, in Dining Room A on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The lecture is the last in a series of four programs in 2007 about cutting-edge science, presented through a partnership between the Library’s Science, Technology and Business Division and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. The event is free and open to the public; tickets are not required. According to Tucker, wildfires play a central role in Earth’s ecosystems. They affect plant and animal habitat, air and water quality, greenhouse gas emissions and human lives. Globally, fires may contribute to climate change, emitting both greenhouse gases and smoke particles into the atmosphere. These emissions have played a role in the 0.5 degree Celsius increase in Earth’s average surface temperature over the past 100 years. By using digital imagery collected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite, scientists at Goddard Space Flight Center and the University of Maryland have been mapping wildfire activity for the entire surface of the planet every day since February 2000. Never before have scientists had the opportunity to map fires across the entire Earth with such detail, accuracy and frequency. Satellite imagery enables scientists to assess risks and reduce hazards; support active fire fighting; study and monitor fire effects; quantify the flux of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere from biomass burning; restore fire-dependent ecosystems; and provide information for management policies and practices. Tucker is a senior Earth Scientist in the Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. Since 1980 he has used satellite data to study deforestation, habitat fragmentation, desert boundary determination, ecologically coupled diseases, terrestrial primary production and climate’s effect on global vegetation. He has authored or coauthored more than 140 journal articles. Tucker is an adjunct professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Maryland, and has been awarded several prestigious medals and honors, including the National Air and Space Museum Trophy for Current Achievement. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in biological science from Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, Tucker worked briefly in banking but soon realized he preferred the natural sciences. He returned to school and earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D., both from the College of Forestry at Colorado State University. The Library of Congress maintains one of the largest and most diverse collections of scientific and technical information in the world. The Science, Technology and Business Division provides reference and bibliographic services and develops the general collections of the Library in all areas of science, technology, business and economics. For more information, visit For more information on the Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, visit


PR 07-186
ISSN 0731-3527