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Kerry Cawse-Nicholson

Photo of Kerry Cawse-Nicholson


4800 Oak Grove Drive
M/S 183-518

Pasadena, CA 91109



Curriculum Vitae:

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Member of:

Carbon Cycle And Ecosystems


Employed By



Dr. Kerry Cawse-Nicholson is an expert in spectroscopic imagery, particularly in fusing datasets acquired over different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum and in quantifying uncertainty. Kerry works as part of several mission teams, as the Science Lead for ECOSTRESS – a thermal radiometer mounted on the International Space Station – and the Deputy Project Scientist for the thermal portion of an upcoming NASA mission designated to study the Earth’s Surface Biology and Geology (SBG). Kerry studies land surface temperature, wildfires, evapotranspiration, and biodiversity, and produces a number of publicly available data products. She also serves as an invited working group member of the land processes distributed active archive center (LP DAAC) which distributes these products.


  • PhD., Computational and Applied Mathematics, University of the Witwatersrand (2012)
  • M.S., Computational and Applied Mathematics, University of the Witwatersrand (2009)
  • B.S., Computational and Applied Mathematics, University of the Witwatersrand (2008)

Professional Experience

  • Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2016 – present)
  • Asst Manager, Earth Science Section, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2022 – 2024)
  • Image Processing Specialist, TerraCore Africa (2015 – 2016)
  • Remote Sensing Specialist, Southern Mapping Company (2014 – 2015)
  • Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Center for Imaging Science, Rochester Institute of Technology (2012 – 2014)
  • Student Researcher, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (2009 – 2012)

Research Interests

  • Using spectroscopic imagery to study the properties of Earth’s surface
  • Dimensionality estimation for the study of diversity on land and in water
  • Fusion of different data sources for a full understanding of scene composition
  • The use of evapotranspiration in water resource management
  • Uncertainty characterization

Selected Awards

  • JPL Voyager Award, 2024
  • JPL Excellence in Science Leadership, 2022
  • NASA Early Career Public Achievement Medal, 2020
  • NASA Honor Award (Group Achievement Award), 2020
  • JPL Voyager Award, 2020
  • JPL Group Achievement Award, 2019
  • JPL Voyager Award, 2017
  • Best PhD Thesis in Computational and Applied Mathematics, 2012
  • Best Honours Student in Computational and Applied Mathematics, 2008

Selected Publications

  1. Aragon, B., Cawse-Nicholson, K., Hulley, G., Houborg, R., Fisher, J.B. (2023) K-sharp: a segmented regression approach for image sharpening and normalization. Science of remote sensing, 100095.
  2. Hu, T., Mallick, K., Hitzelberger, P., … Cawse-Nicholson, K. (2023). Evaluating European ECOSTRESS Hub Evapotranspiration Products Retrieved from Three Structurally Contrasting SEB Models over Europe. Water Resources Research,
  3. Cawse-Nicholson, K., Raiho, A. M., Thompson, D. R., Hulley, G. C., Miller, C. E., Miner, K. R., ... & Zareh, S. K. (2023). Surface Biology and Geology imaging spectrometer: A case study to optimize the mission design using intrinsic dimensionality. Remote Sensing of Environment, 290, 113534.
  4. Poulter, B., Currey, B., Calle, L., Brookshire, J., Campbell, P., Chlus, A., Cawse-Nicholson, K... & Stutz, J. (2023). Simulating global dynamic surface reflectances for imaging spectroscopy spaceborne missions-LPJ-PROSAIL. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 128 (1), e2022JG006935.
  5. Bhattacharya, B. K., Mallick, K., Desai, D., Bhat, G. S., Morrison, R., Clevery, J. R., ... & Baldocchi, D. (2022). A coupled ground heat flux–surface energy balance model of evaporation using thermal remote sensing observations. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 19(23), 5521-5551.
  6. Raiho, A.M., Cawse-Nicholson, K., Chlus, A., Dozier, J., Gierach, M. et al. (2022) Exploring mission design for imaging spectroscopy retrievals for land and aquatic ecosystems. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 128(4), e2022JG006833.
  7. Cawse-Nicholson, K., Raiho, A., Thompson, D. R., Hulley, G., Miller, C. E., Miner, K., ... & Zareh, S. K. (2022). Intrinsic dimensionality as a metric for the impact of mission design parameters. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 127 (8), e2022JG006876.
  8. Stavros, E. N., Chrone, J., Cawse‐Nicholson, K., Freeman, A., Glenn, N. F., Guild, L., ... & Schimel, D. (2022). Designing an Observing System to Study the Surface Biology and Geology (SBG) of the Earth in the 2020s. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, e2021JG006471.
  9. Desai, D., Mallick, K., Bhattacharya, B., Bhat, G. S., Morrison, R., Cleverly, J., Woodgate, W., Beringer, J., Cawse-Nicholson, K., Ma, S., Verfaillie, J., and Baldocchi, D. (2022) A Coupled Ground Heat Flux-Surface Energy Balance Model of Evaporation Using Thermal Remote Sensing Observations, Biogeosciences,
  10. Gorokhovich, Y., Cawse-Nicholson, K., Papadopoulos, N., Oikonomou, D. (2022). Use of ECOSTRESS data for measurements of the surface water temperature: Significance of data filtering in accuracy assessment, Remote Sensing Applications: Society and Environment, 100739,
  11. Cira, M., Bafna, A., Lee, C.M. Kong, Y., Holt, B., Ginger, L., Cawse-Nicholson, K., Rieves, L., Jay, J.A. (2022). Turbidity and fecal indicator bacteria in recreational marine waters increase following the 2018 Woolsey Fire. Nature Scientific Reports 12, 2428 (2022).
  12. Halverson, G.H., Lee, C.M., Hestir, E.L., Hulley, G.C., Cawse-Nicholson, K., et al. (2022). Decline in Thermal Habitat Conditions for the Endangered Delta Smelt as Seen from Landsat Satellites (1985–2019). Environmental Science & Technology 56 (1), 185-193
  13. Sousa, D., Brodrick, P., Cawse‐Nicholson, K., Fisher, J. B., Pavlick, R., Small, C., & Thompson, D. R. (2021). The Spectral Mixture Residual: A Source of Low‐Variance Information to Enhance the Explainability and Accuracy of Surface Biology and Geology Retrievals. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, e2021JG006672.
  14. Gustine, R.N., Lee, C.M., Halverson, G.H., Acuña, S.C., Cawse-Nicholson, K. et al. (2021). Using ECOSTRESS to Observe and Model Diurnal Variability in Water Temperature Conditions in the San Francisco Estuary. IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, 60, 1-10.
  15. Stavros, E.N., Chrone, J., Cawse-Nicholson, K., Freeman, A., Glenn, N.F., Guild, L., Kokaly, R.Lee, C., Luvall, J.C., Pavlick, R. et al. (2021). Designing an Observing System to Study the Surface Biology and Geology of the Earth in the 2020s. Earth and Space Science Open Archive, pp. 31,
  16. Cawse-Nicholson, K., Anderson, M., Yang, Y., Yang, Y., Hook, S. J., Fisher, J., ... & Novick, K. (2021). Evaluation of a CONUS-wide ECOSTRESS DisALEXI evapotranspiration product. IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing.
  17. Thompson, D. R., Brodrick, P. G., Cawse‐Nicholson, K., Dana Chadwick, K., Green, R. O., Poulter, B., ... & Turpie, K. R. (2021). Spectral fidelity of Earth's terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 126(8), e2021JG006273.
  18. Fahlen, J. E., Brodrick, P. G., Thompson, D. R., Herman, R. L., Hulley, G., Cawse-Nicholson, K., ... & Miller, C. E. (2021). Joint VSWIR-TIR retrievals of earth's surface and atmosphere. Remote Sensing of Environment, 267, 112727.
  19. Konings, A. G., Saatchi, S. S., Frankenberg, C., Keller, M., Leshyk, V., Anderegg, W. R. L., Humphrey, V., Matheny, A. M., Trugman, A., Sack, L., Agee, E., Barnes, M. L., Binks, O., Cawse-Nicholson, K., Christoffersen, B. O., Entekhabi, D., Gentine, P., Holtzman, N. M., Katul, G. G., … Zuidema, P. A. (2021). Detecting forest response to droughts with global observations of vegetation water content. Global Change Biology, 00, 1– 20.
  20. Cawse-Nicholson, K., et al. (2021) NASA's surface biology and geology designated observable: A perspective on surface imaging algorithms. Remote Sensing of Environment, 257, 112349.
  21. Chen, W., Pinker, R.T., Ma, Y., Hulley, G., Borbas, E., Islam, T., Cawse-Nicholson, K.A., Hook, S., Hain, C. and Basara, J., 2021. Land Surface Temperature from GOES-East and GOES-West. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology.
  22. Loveless, M., Borbas, E.E., Knuteson, R., Cawse-Nicholson, K., Hulley, G., Hook, S. (2021). Climatology of the Combined ASTER MODIS Emissivity over Land (CAMEL) Version 2. Remote Sensing, 13(1), 111.
  23. Anderson, M.C., Yang, Y., Xue, J., Knipper, K.R., Yang, Y., Gao, F., Hain, C.R., Kustas, W.P., Cawse-Nicholson, K., et al. (2021). Interoperability of ECOSTRESS and Landsat for mapping evapotranspiration time series at sub-field scales. Remote Sensing of Environment, 252, 112189.
  24. Carmon, N., Thompson, D.R., Bohn, N., Susiluoto, J., Turmon, M., Brodrick, P.G., Connelly, D.S., Braverman, A., Cawse-Nicholson, K., Green, R.O., Gunson, M. (2020). Uncertainty quantification for a global imaging spectroscopy surface composition investigation. Remote Sensing of Environment, 251, 112038.
  25. Cawse-Nicholson, K., Braverman, A., Kang, E.L., Li, M., Johnson, M., Halverson, G., Anderson, M., Hain, C., Gunson, M., Hook, S. (2020). Sensitivity and uncertainty quantification for the ECOSTRESS evapotranspiration algorithm–DisALEXI. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, 89, 102088.
  26. Fisher, J.B., Lee, B., Purdy, A.J., Halverson, G.H., Dohlen, M.B., Cawse‐Nicholson, K. et al. (2020). ECOSTRESS: NASA's next generation mission to measure evapotranspiration from the International Space Station. Water Resources Research, 56(4), e2019WR026058.
  27. Hook, S.J., Cawse-Nicholson, K., Barsi, J., Radocinski, R., Hulley, G.C., Johnson, W.R., Rivera, G., Markham, B. (2019). In-Flight Validation of the ECOSTRESS, Landsats 7 and 8 Thermal Infrared Spectral Channels Using the Lake Tahoe CA/NV and Salton Sea CA Automated Validation Sites. IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, 58(2), 1294-1302.
  28. Cawse-Nicholson, K., Hook, S.J., Miller, C.E., Thompson, D.R. (2019). Intrinsic Dimensionality in Combined Visible to Thermal Infrared Imagery. IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing, 12(12), 4977-4984.
  29. Schimel, D., Schneider, F.D., JPL Carbon and Ecosystem Participants (incl Cawse-Nicholson, K.) (2019). Flux towers in the sky: global ecology from space. New Phytologist, 224(2), 570-584.
  30. Thompson, D.R., Cawse-Nicholson, K., Erickson, Z., Fichot, C.G., Frankenberg, C., Gao, B.-C., Gierach, M.M., Green, R.O., Jensen, D., Natraj, V., Thompson, A. (2019). A unified approach to estimate land and water reflectances with uncertainties for coastal imaging spectroscopy. Remote Sensing of Environment, 231, 111198.
  31. Bogue, R. R., Schwandner, F. M., Fisher, J. B., Pavlick, R., Magney, T. S., Famiglietti, C. A., Cawse-Nicholson, K., Yadav, V., Linick, J. P., North, G. B., Duarte, E. (2019). Plant responses to volcanically elevated CO2 in two Costa Rican forests. Biogeosciences, 16 (6), 1343-1360.
  32. Pinker, R.T., Ma, Y., Chen, W., Hulley, G., Borbas, E., Islam, T., Hain, C., Cawse-Nicholson, K., Hook, S., Basara, J. (2019). Towards a unified and coherent land surface temperature earth system data record from geostationary satellites. Remote Sensing, 11(12), 1399.
  33. Cawse-Nicholson, K., Fisher, J. B., Famiglietti, C. A., Braverman, A., Schwandner, F. M., Lewicki, J. L., Townsend, P. A., Schimel, D. S., Pavlick, R., Bormann, K. J., Ferraz, A., Kang, E. L., Ma, P., Bogue, R. R., Youmans, T., Pieri, D. C. (2018). Ecosystem responses to elevated CO2 using airborne remote sensing at Mammoth Mountain, California, Biogeosciences, 15, 7403-7418.
  34. Bandyopadhyay, M., van Aardt, J.A.N., Cawse-Nicholson, K., Ientilucci E. (2017). On the fusion of lidar and aerial color imagery to detect urban vegetation and buildings, PE&RS, 83(2) 123 – 136.
  35. D. Kelbe, J. van Aardt, P. Romanczyk, M. van Leeuwen, K. Cawse-Nicholson. (2016). Marker-free registration of forest terrestrial laser scanner data pairs with embedded confidence metrics, IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing (TGARS), 54(7), 4314 – 4330.
  36. Robin, K. Cawse-Nicholson, A. Mahmood, M. Sears. (2015). Estimation of the Intrinsic Dimension of Hyperspectral Images: Comparison of Current Methods, IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing, 8(6), 2854 – 2861.
  37. D. Kelbe, J. van Aardt, P. Romanczyk, M. van Leeuwen, K. Cawse-Nicholson, Single-scan stem reconstruction using sparse terrestrial laser scanner data, Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observation and Remote Sensing (JSTARS), Vol. 8 (7), pp. 3414 – 3427, 2015.
  38. J. McGlinchy, J. van Aardt, B. Erasmus, G. Asner, R. Mathieu, K. Wessels, D. Knapp, T. Kennedy-Bowdoin, H. Rhody, J. Kerekes, E. Ientilucci, J. Wu, D. Sarrazin, K. Cawse-Nicholson, Extracting structural vegetation components from smallfootprint waveform lidar for biomass estimation in Savanna ecosystems, Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observation and Remote Sensing (JSTARS), Vol. 7 (2), pp. 480 – 490, 2014.
  39. K. Cawse-Nicholson, S. Damelin, A. Robin, M. Sears, Determining the intrinsic dimension of a hyperspectral image using Random Matrix Theory, IEEE Transactions on Image Processing, Vol. 22 (4), pp. 1301 –1310, 2013.
  40. K. Cawse-Nicholson, A. Robin, M. Sears, The effect of correlation on determining the intrinsic dimension of a hyperspectral image, Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observation and Remote Sensing, Vol. 6 (2), pp. 482 – 487, 2013.
  41. P. Romanczyk, J. van Aardt, K. Cawse-Nicholson, D. Kelbe, J. McGlinchy, K. Krause, Assessing the impact of broadleaf tree structure on airborne full-waveform small-footprint lidar signals through simulation, Canadian Journal of Remote Sensing, Vol 39 (S1), pp. S60 – S72, 2013.
  42. J. Wu, K. Cawse-Nicholson, J. van Aardt, 3D tree reconstruction from small footprint waveform lidar, PE&RS, Vol. 79 (12), pp. 1147 – 1157, 2013.