Jeff de La Beaujardiere

2003 Charles S. Falkenberg Award Winner

Jeff de La Beaujardière received the Falkenberg Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, which was held on 10 December 2003, in San Francisco, California. The award honors “a scientist under 45 years of age who has contributed to the quality of life, economic opportunities, and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the public awareness of the importance of understanding our planet.”


“Jeff de La Beaujardière received his B.A. in physics in 1985 from the University of California, Berkeley, and his Ph.D. in astrophysics in 1990 from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Captivated by the Web’s potential for information distribution, in 1994 he joined the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, first as a contractor and then as a civil servant. He is currently with the Geospatial Interoperability Office in NASA’s Earth Science Applications Division.

“From 1994 to 1998, Jeff was Webmaster of NASA’s Public Use of Remote Sensing Data Program, whose unofficial motto was ‘Data to the people.’ The Web site was a showcase for satellite images of hurricanes and other natural phenomena. He was also lead Web developer for the GLOBE Visualization project, which displays environmental data gathered and used by a worldwide network of students, teachers, and scientists.

“In 1998, when NASA was leading the effort to implement the Digital Earth program, Jeff championed interoperability standards as fundamental to realizing the Digital Earth vision. That program ended, but Jeff’s advocacy for open standards has had a lasting and positive effect in NASA and other agencies. Charles Falkenberg worked with the Web-based System for Terrestrial Environmental Research (WEBSTER), a NASA-funded Earth Science Information Partner (ESIP). The ESIPs and other NASA centers that work with Earth images are beginning to share data more easily, thanks in part to Jeff’s standards advocacy.

“Jeff has been much more than an advocate. He has provided leadership to the Geospatial Applications and Interoperability (GAI) Working Group of the U.S. Federal Geographic Data Committee and to the Open GIS Consortium (OGC) Technical Committee. He has been an editor of OGC and ISO specification documents, as well as a contributor to test beds and pilot projects that produce and advance new open-standard interfaces. He is well liked for his honesty and humor; and like Charles Falkenberg, he is admired for his technical excellence, his willingness to take on challenges, and his determination ‘to do the right thing.’

“In 2002 and 2003, Jeff served as Portal Manager for Geospatial One-Stop, a federal electronic government initiative. He led a team of experts in defining the requirements, architecture, and competitive solicitation for a Portal based on open standards, and led an OGC interoperability initiative in developing and demonstrating a working implementation. This was a fast-paced, high-stakes effort involving many companies and agencies. The results of this initiative will be applied to a new Earth Science Gateway that will provide seamless access to information about our planet to scientists and the public.

“By playing a leading role in developing geospatial Web services, Dr. Jeff de La Beaujardière is contributing significantly to the interdisciplinary exchange of spatial information that is critical in environmental research, monitoring and education, and many other applications. He has contributed greatly ‘to the quality of life, economic opportunities and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the public awareness of the importance of understanding our planet.’ It is most appropriate that he receive the Charles S. Falkenberg award.”

—DAVID SCHELL, Open GIS Consortium, Inc., Wayland, Mass.


“I am deeply honored and moved to receive the Charles S. Falkenberg Award. I learned of it with mixed emotions given the tragic loss of young Charles and his family on September 11, 2001. For me, this award will serve as an inspiration in my future work and as a reminder that our time here is short and our loved ones are precious.

“Charles Falkenberg contributed ‘to the quality of life, economic opportunities, and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the public awareness of the importance of understanding our planet.’ I will carry on that legacy in his memory. I believe all of us, as members of the AGU, as people privileged to have received higher education, as scientists, professors, and government employees, and as citizens of this fragile planet, have an obligation to use our knowledge and the information we work with for the benefit of all living things, to help the public and the policy-makers understand the facts and the issues, and even to raise our voices in opposition to the misuse or willful disregard of scientific knowledge.

“NASA has some 80 Earth-observing instruments on 18 satellites generating more than 2 terabytes of data per day. This information can best be used for the public good if it is broadly accessible and usable. The mission of the Earth Science Applications division is to expand the societal and economic benefits of these data. We are working with other federal agencies on a dozen applications of national priority to make specific measurements and predictions directly usable by decision support systems and other policy tools. Part of my work with NASA’s Geospatial Interoperability Office is to ensure that instead of creating solutions that only work for one application we use open-standard protocols to disseminate Earth science information to all.

“When I first came to NASA, I worked on GLOBE, a science and education program that engages schoolchildren throughout the world to make measurements in the field, report their data online, and retrieve data and visualizations for further study. That project was very rewarding because it brought the students into hands-on contact with science and the planet and connected them to a global network of other schools performing the same experiments. Getting young people involved is critical to the future of our science and our planet.

“In closing, I would like to thank those who supported me in this award: Rob Raskin, from JPL; my citationist, David Schell, president of the Open GIS Consortium; Myra Bambacus and Horace Mitchell, of NASA; and Tom Pyke, the first director of GLOBE. I also wish to thank my colleagues from NASA, Digital Earth, and OGC with whom I have been privileged to work.”

—JEFF DE LA BEAUJARDIÈRE, National Aeronautic and Space Administration, Greenbelt, Md.