4 February 2019
By Emil Cherrington
In the Americas, We Use Satellites to Sow Dreams in the Soil is a three-part poem that was presented at the 2018 fall session of American Geophysical Union (AGU). The poem was an alternative – perhaps unconventional – way of presenting about three Earth Observation (EO) initiatives that I and colleagues at NASA’s SERVIR Science Coordination Office and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) are involved with, namely:
- The SERVIR program – a joint effort of NASA, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and regional partners
- AmeriGEOSS – the Americas’ regional implementation of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS)
- The BZ SDG project – a recently-launched NASA-funded research project focused on the Belize Barrier Reef, and involving UAH, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the University of Georgia, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
The poem was inspired by my day to day duties as a Research Scientist with UAH, which includes serving as NASA’s Regional Science Coordination Lead for West Africa within SERVIR. Beyond research, I’ve also dabbled in poetry for over twenty years – ever since I was an undergraduate scientist-in-training. In considering which AGU session to submit to, I and my collaborators therefore thought that the ED-42A session on “Engaging the Public and Inspiring Action Through Effective Science / Arts / Sustainability Communication” was particularly appropriate.
Because of the nature of the three initiatives described, it’s impossible to not want to share the great work being done. One of the lines of the poem reads “SERVIR is life; for me, SERVIR is family.” That sums up how all of us feel about working on SERVIR – a program that’s been going for almost fifteen years and which has sought to bring the best of NASA and USAID to support developing nations build self-reliance and the capacity to us e Earth Observations to address development challenges. And complementing that, the AmeriGEOSS initiative – like sister regional initiatives such as AfriGEOSS and Asia-Oceania GEOSS – has established an effective framework for collaboration in strengthening EO capacity in the Americas. In terms of additional outreach, NASA’s Landsat program also ran a profile of the poem, flatteringly dubbing it “A Geospatial Poem for the Ages.”
One lesson from our participating in the ED-42A session is that scientists should certainly consider creative ways to engage the public and share scientific research results.
-Emil Cherrington, Ph.D., is a Research Scientist with the Earth System Science Center of the University of Alabama in Huntsville. For more information on SERVIR, AmeriGEOSS, or the BZ-SDG project, see: