A portion of the reef surrounding New Caledonia, from Planet’s October—December 2017 Basemap © 2017, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Joe Mascaro is Planet's Director of Science Programs

On Earth Day, More Eyes on Our Planet


In 1969, a well blew out off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. Miles of beaches, filled with animal and human life covered in oily sludge, captivated public interest and galvanized the local community to take action. One year later, in part through the efforts of the Santa Barbara community, we celebrated the first Earth Day.

A light was cast on a single environmental catastrophe, bringing into focus our responsibility as stewards of the planet. Today, we have more eyes watching the planet than ever before. The dredging of coral reefs in the remote South China Sea, the conversion of Peruvian jungle to oil palm plantations, and the collapse of alpine glaciers—all can be seen in near real-time.

More than 1,700 university students, faculty and researchers are using Planet data to study our changing Earth

Planet’s Dove satellites now image the entire land surface—and a good portion the oceans—of the Earth every day, not just on Earth Day. And there is perhaps no group more important to help us understand this enormous volume of data than the scientists that are working to mitigate threats to coral reefs, forests, and glaciers.

On Earth Day last year, Planet launched the Education and Research Program, which enables non-commercial access to global daily satellite imagery to students, faculty and researchers at accredited universities. In this short time, the community has grown to more than 1,700 people, representing more than 600 universities across 70 countries.

Their research now spans every continent, and their discoveries are making headlines. Working in Saudi Arabia, Rasmus Houborg and Matt McCabe fused Planet, Landsat, and MODIS data for unprecedented spatiotemporal understanding of agricultural production, which could help reduce risk in food supply. The work was published in Remote Sensing of Environment. Andreas Kääb led a paper in Nature Geoscience exploring the climate-change cause of the collapse of two alpine glaciers in Tibet in 2016, which were captured by Planet imagery. The work was subsequently featured in the The New York Times.

With such a large—and growing—community, these studies are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, helping us execute our vision to use space to help life on Earth.

To read more about the work of the Education and Research community, visit Planet Publications

Planet’s Education and Research Community. From left: Sarah Cooley, Ph.D. student at Brown University, demos a Planet Dove satellite at the AGU meeting in December, 2017; Greg Asner, Airborne Ecologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, explains how hyperspectral sensors can track threats to coral reefs; Kaiyu Guan, Assistant Professor at University of Illinois becomes a Planet Investigator; Kelly Hondula, Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland, measures wetland methane dynamics in the field; Jurmen Hughes from Planet welcomes undergraduates at Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences to the Education and Research Program; Sydney Lui, a 4th grader considering a career in STEM, sends a letter to Astronauts onboard a Dove Spacecraft. The Dove was deployed in the fall of 2017 after launching on a Minotaur-C rocket.