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Siqueira Selected for NASA Team

Paul Siqueira of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has been selected to serve on the Science Definition Team for DESDynI, a NASA space-borne radar mission meant to study “Earth Deformation, Ecosystem Science, and the Dynamics of Ice,” as the title of the project indicates. DESDynI is intended to be launched before the end of the decade. The Science Definition Team is a group of 15 scientists nationwide who are considered experts in their fields and who will help direct the formulation of the mission.  

The scientists are drawn from the basic disciplines that study earthquakes, volcanoes, land subsidence, glacier movement, and terrestrial ecology. Professor Siqueira’s expertise is studying terrestrial ecology through algorithm development and systems engineering for radars. His specialty is the design, development, and use of remote sensing techniques for applications in terrestrial ecosystems.

“Being on the Science Definition Team at this early stage will leverage my meager voice towards the whole of the mission,” said Siqueira. “More so, because even though there are 15 scientists on the team, I will likely be one of four, or at most five, who are directly related to the terrestrial ecology side of the DESDynI project.”

The DESDynI project will realize more than two decades of effort by NASA to develop and launch a mission with the next generation of a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) system, which is a side-looking radar used for high-resolution, remote-sensing mapping of the ground from moving aircraft or spacecraft.

Siqueira explains that missions such the DESDynI project have a cost of something on the order of $500 million and reflect a planned investment by NASA for continuing to develop this type of technology. While NASA has flown SARs on four space shuttle missions, DESDynI will be its first free-flying, space-borne use of such radars since SEASAT, which was launched in 1978. 

Before coming to UMass in 2005, Siqueira was at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where he worked on the engineering of airborne and space-borne microwave remote sensing systems and their application to earth sciences. Among many important projects he worked on were the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Global 2 Rainforest Mapping Project.

Siqueira recently received a Charles Bullard Fellowship in Forest Research, worth more than $40,000 for the 2012-13 academic year, from Harvard University to work on a probabilistic model of vegetation structure and biomass that would help to characterize forests on a global basis by creating a critical link between detailed ecological models and remote sensing data. (April 2012)