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February 12, 2003
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Tucson Scientist Wins Research Honor

By Marcia Wood
February 12, 2003

BELTSVILLE, Md., Feb. 12-Hydrologist M. Susan Moran of Tucson, Ariz., has been named an "Outstanding Senior Research Scientist of 2002" by the Agricultural Research Service(ARS) for her pioneering research designed to help ranchers, wildlife specialists and water managers more easily use eye-in-the-sky imagery captured by orbiting satellites or low-flying airplanes. ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Moran, a hydrologist, directs a team of more than 40 scientists, technicians and others at ARS' Southwest Watershed Research Centerin Tucson and Tombstone, Ariz.

Moran and other top ARS scientists were honored at an awards ceremony today at the agency's Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center here. Moran received a plaque, a cash award and additional research funds.

In her laboratory, and at field sites throughout Arizona, Moran has developed innovative ways to harness the speed and power of desktop computers to analyze remote sensing imagery gathered by cameras and sensors mounted aboard satellites and aircraft. The computerized, math-based models that Moran and colleagues develop enable users to determine the present and possible future condition of rangeland grasses, for example.

The "SEHEM" model, short for "Spatially Explicit Hydro-Ecological Model," that Moran and colleagues developed uses weather data and information about grasses to produce customized color maps on a desktop computer and color printer. Ranchers and others can use the maps to estimate where, and how much, forage might be available for hungry cattle and wildlife to graze in the coming months.

"Dr. Moran is internationally known for her high-tech, leading-edge research on how information gathered by the three major types of remote sensing--radar, thermal, and visible infrared--can be used to improve management of plants, soil and water," said Acting ARS Administrator Edward B. Knipling.

Moran has presented results of her research at major national and international scientific meetings. She joined ARS in 1984 and has been research leader at the Southwest Watershed Research Center since 2000. In addition, Moran is an adjunct professor in the Department of Soil, Water, and Environmental Science at the University of Arizona, Tucson. She has served on many research teams organized by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Moran received her bachelor of science degree from San Diego State University in 1976 in geography, her master of science degree from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1982, also in geography, and her doctorate from the University of Arizona at Tucson in 1990 in soil and water science.