Ladies of Landsat
Ladies of Landsat is a Twitter-based organization that got its start officially in 2018. Led by a group of women hoping to increase inclusivity in the field of remote sensing and earth observation, we have grown our following to over 5,000 members since we first began! Our efforts include a weekly Twitter series highlighting research led by women in remote sensing, in-person and virtual networking events, conference symposiums, member highlight videos with the USGS, and more. We pride ourselves on being each other’s virtual cheerleaders in a field that is primarily dominated by men. Spanning many domains, Ladies of Landsat members tend to be application-oriented scientists hoping to make a difference using earth observations as their primary tool. Our group has an amazing overlapping Venn diagram with Women in Wood because many Ladies of Landsat have strong forestry backgrounds in their applied sciences!
Long before our presence on Twitter, we got our start slowly around the world as a catchphrase to empower women at heavily male-dominated remote-sensing conferences. In 2015, Kate Fickas and Meghan Halabisky first inspired each other as Ladies of Landsat at an international conference in Spain - where they were the only women in attendance - helping each other to feel confident in their research in remote sensing of wetlands. Taking that inspiration back home to her lab group at Oregon State University, Kate Fickas connected with her lab member, Jody Vogeler, and they began the practice of supporting each other as women in a field where being a woman is a rarity. Power poses were a big thing around the time of their doctoral studies to grow confidence and reduce nerves before public speaking. These confidence-boosting exercises became their routine before their talks: power posing like Wonder Woman, harnessing the power of being Ladies of Landsat, and then giving a stellar talk about their forestry research in a high-pressured environment. Once returning to their respective universities in the Pacific Northwest, all the women stayed in touch and benefitted from this increased support with other women in the field.
Flash forward to February 2018, it was the night before the Ladies of Landsat Twitter account went live. Kate Fickas had been attending the Landsat Science Team meeting in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and was experiencing some of the worst imposter syndrome of her career. She shared how she was feeling with her Ph.D. advisor and received a powerful pep talk: “You are so strong. You are so special. I believe in you.” In the years since that pep talk, many others have confided in us about feelings of isolation and powerlessness, anxiety and debilitation, and even worse. When working in isolation, it is easy to go down the road of self-blame - that feelings of anxiety and self-confidence are intrinsic to your own personhood rather than rooted in the fact that they are based on feelings of otherness that are a product of the long-standing system. When you are the “only” person with these qualities working in these spaces and uncertain whether it is safe to bring your whole self to the work that you do, you begin to feel different.
We want to push back on these norms and celebrate our differences! Much like Women in Wood, Ladies of Landsat has become a bridge to those in the field who faced feelings like this and supported as they navigate the challenges of being women and underrepresented minorities in male-dominated fields. Our support ranges from direct connections, sharing each others’ successes, lifting one another up when we face failures, communicating our members’ cutting-edge science, tackling the tough subjects, or pushing back against the norms of the field. With so much flexibility as a grassroots network, our efforts continue to shift as we meet the needs of our members and the field.
The field of remote sensing is in a period of growth as it finally breaks out of the ivory tower with increased digital, cloud-based processing of remote sensing imagery as companies like Google Earth Engine and Amazon Cloud Services expand their offerings. As our field continues to shift to advance with these new technologies, we also see new generations of scientists entering the field from all over the world with incredible intellect and potential. While their priorities and experiences may vary, it’s up to organizations like us to support these innovators as they navigate our field through concrete action and efforts. For example, this past summer, we saw a fantastic sister organization launch their Twitter account and weekly series (www.twitter.com/SistersOfSAR). Sisters of SAR is led by a kick-ass team of multi-discipline scientists who are increasing visibility and research capacity for using synthetic aperture radar (SAR) to investigate environmental questions. SAR technology is currently making waves in the forestry realm for informing forest inventories, change detection, fire mapping, and more!
As we look forward to the upcoming years, there are so many things that we hope to tackle with new collaborations and opportunities. Most prominently on our minds as we write this blog is the potential for our groups, Women and Wood and Ladies of Landsat, to work together and learn from each other’s experiences. The intersection of geospatial sciences and forestry is an incredibly unique one, with some scientists in this sector noting they work with less than 2% women! With virtual webinars and conferences still a thing, we hope to learn about the technologies you all are using in Women in Wood. Then, hopefully, once in-person events are a thing again, we can all join forces in person at a future Women in ForestSAT event!
If you want to learn more about our organization or join our efforts, find us on twitter.com/LadiesOfLandsat!
Morgan Crowley is a Ph.D. Candidate at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Her forestry research focuses on mapping Canadian forest fires and their impacts using satellite data and geospatial technologies. Dr. Kate Fickas is research faculty at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Utah State University. She focuses on the nexus between vegetation and water, studying wetlands, aquatic ecosystems, and harmful algal blooms using multiscale earth observation and in-situ methodologies.
Dr. Meghan Halabisky is a remote sensing ecologist with a background in remote sensing of freshwater ecosystems. While still actively involved in research she finds herself serving as an earth observation interpreter working to bridge the gap between scientists, practitioners, and data engineers through a process of co-production.