Dr. Doug Rickman's journey to the frontiers of science started because he wanted his big brother's merit badge.
Rickman remembers as a young boy studying a photo of his Eagle Scout brother. "He had his merit badge sash on, and there was a badge there that was absolutely gorgeous," Rickman recalls. It was the merit badge for geology. "I said, 'I like that. I want to do that.'"
Some 35 years later, Rickman holds a doctorate in geology, and his work at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., has reached beyond rocks, into satellite imagery, improved eyesight and even the future of farming.
Along the way, the Joplin, Mo., native has studied magnetic resonance images of the human brain, directed software development for weather analysis, used satellites to detect Colorado ore deposits, and examined fish scales and turtle flippers. His work on the medical applications of digital image processing even earned him induction into the U.S. Space Foundation's Space Technology Hall of Fame.
"I ended up doing all these seemingly unrelated things. And it's a long way from 'rockology,'" he said. "But they actually all have a fundamental straightforward relationship. They all deal with images."
Rickman, 48, is one of the Marshall Center's leading researchers in remote sensing the use of cameras and other technologies to examine objects from great distances. Working at Marshall's Global Hydrology and Climate Center, he uses optical equipment like satellite photography to spur new developments in other science fields. The self-described "mad scientist" said remote sensing is not as far removed from geology as it may seem.
"Geologists have, for decades, been trained to use aerial photography," he said. "One could think of satellite imagery as a particular type of photograph."
Rickman recently returned to his geologist's aerial photography roots, refining the concept of "precision farming." In traditional farming operations, gro
Contact: Steve Roy
NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center News Center