Dr. Susan L. Ustin

Interim Director,  Muir Institute

Vice Chancellor for Research Prasant Mohapatra announced the appointment of Susan Ustin as interim director of the John Muir Institute of the Environment effective August 1, 2020.

Ustin, a distinguished professor emeritus of environmental and resource sciences and the director of the UC Davis Center for Spatial Technologies and Remote Sensing (CSTARS), has been associate director of research at the Muir Institute since 2017.

Ustin, who retired from her faculty appointment last year, steps in to replace Benjamin Houlton, a professor in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources. Houlton directed the Muir Institute for the last four years. Under his guidance, the program has become a leader in environmental sustainability and a hub for large multidisciplinary and out-of-the-box environmental programs.

“We are thankful for Dr. Houlton’s leadership and wish him well in his new endeavor,” said Mohapatra. “Dr. Ustin has worked closely with the programs in the Muir Institute over the past three years, and is herself a pioneer in environmental research. Her experience and demonstrated leadership will help the institute continue its progress and impact during this transition.”

Associate Director of Research, Muir Institute

Distinguished Professor, Environmental and Resource Science; Vice Chair, Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources; Director, Center for Spatial Technologies and Remote Sensing (CSTARS); Ph.D, Botany (UC Davis); M.S. Biology (CSU Hayward); B.S. Biology (CSU Hayward). 

Ustin has more than 35 years of experience working with satellite and airborne earth observing remote sensing programs, including extensive field – based methods (spectral signature development, radiance/reflectance calibration, quantifying biophysical condition of targets). Ustin was a pioneer in the development of environmental applications of imaging spectroscopy data from spectral mixture analysis to leaf radiative transfer models and has worked on a wide range of terrestrial, freshwater, and near – shore aquatic ecosystems, advancing community scale mapping and more recently of species mapping, development of methods for quantifying canopy/soil/water chemistry.

Over the past 25 years, Ustin has served on or led several NASA satellite proposals to fly an imaging spectrometer in space. She has received various awards for her work, most notably being awarded an honorary Doctorate from the University of Zurich in 2010. She has managed two educational outreach programs, the UCD Space Grant (NASA) and CalView (USGS AmericaView) programs, and has published more than 200 peer reviewed journal articles and 130 scientific proceedings, among various other documents.