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Award Winners for 2021 Celebrated


Projects showing “productivity, innovation, novelty and exemplary efforts in the use of Earth observations for sustainable development,” are the endeavors that the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) looks to celebrate in their search for nominations for their 2022 Sustainable Development Goals Awards. Nominations for the awards are open until July 1, 2022, and details are available at the awards nomination website.

This annual awards program is led by the GEO Earth Observations for Sustainable Development Goals (EO4SDG) initiative, honoring those making an impact on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

flyer image for 2022 nominations
Nominations are open until July 1, 2022. Credits: GEO

GEO honored three Applied Sciences Program project teams in their 2021 awards.

The Sustainable Development Goals project team won for their creation of the Earth Observations Toolkit for Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements. The team received a Special Category Award for Collaboration for their cooperation with diverse partnerships and commitment to transparency and innovation. The Toolkit is an online knowledge hub promoting open science, open data, and open tools. It incorporates local participation and enables the use of Earth observations to advance Sustainable Development Goal 11 and the New Urban Agenda. A collaboration between NASA, UN-Habitat, and other government and nonprofit partners, the project aims to provide communities with a resource that empowers customization of their own analysis to best support their specific sustainability goals. An overview of this work can be found in the feature story EO Toolkit for Sustainable Cities & Human Settlements.

Two Ecological Forecasting program area projects also received 2021 awards. One project team partnered with Costa Rica’s Ministry of Environment, Energy and Telecommunications (MINAE) to advance the integration of Earth observations into biodiversity and ecosystem service modeling. Principal investigator Becky Chaplin Kramer and her team received the Special Category Award for Academia for their work to make information about the values of nature more accessible, relevant, and accurate. The project has produced national maps of more than 30 data products hosted on MINAE’s data portal, including vertebrate and pollinator diversity and ecosystem functional diversity, and found that tourism increases when species richness of birds increases. The team is integrating these advances into free and open-source software, to make this approach more accessible to communities and decision makers around the world.

The “Life on Land” project focuses on Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, which are home to 17% of the world’s last tropical forests with high ecological quality. GEO awarded the project in the Inter-governmental category. It brings together the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), university partners, and scientists and policymakers from 37 institutions in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. They address gaps in forest quality monitoring in these three pilot countries, and plan to support monitoring the quality of tropical forest ecosystems. The UN Biodiversity Lab then makes this validated spatial data publicly available for policy development and reporting on Sustainable Development Goals. More information about this project can be found in the feature story SDG 15: Maintaining Life on Land.

screenshot of 15 people smiling on a video conference
GEO Sustainable Development Goals 2021 Award Winners at the Virtual GEO SDG Awards Ceremony. Credits: GEO

“These awards are an honor and a testament to the work of both project teams,” said Cindy Schmidt, associate program manager for the Ecological Forecasting program area. She oversees both projects.

"They worked tirelessly with communities and end users to understand their specific needs and create tools that would serve them for years to come,” Schmidt said. “We’re all excited to see the great work highlighted in nominations for 2022.”

Lawrence Friedl, director of the Applied Sciences Program, serves as a co-chair of EO4SDG on behalf of the United States. Argyro Kavvada, Applied Sciences Sustainable Development Goals initiative program manager, serves as the executive director of EO4SDG and is the administrator of the awards program.

image of 6 circular trophies
Caption: Award trophies from the inaugural 2019 GEO SDG Awards. Credits: GEO

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