CEOS Development Environment

SEO Retirement: A New Chapter for Brian Killough

Brian at his “office” in Frascati, Italy.

Dr. Brian Killough has led the CEOS Systems Engineering Office (SEO) since its establishment in 2007. Now retiring from NASA after 35 years with the agency, and 15 years as head of the CEOS SEO, the 36th CEOS Plenary thanked Brian for his dedication and commitment to CEOS and Earth observation more broadly. As Brian closes this chapter, this article highlights some of his most significant contributions to CEOS and the Earth observation community.

One of Brian’s first objectives as SEO was to improve CEOS systems and communications. At the 22nd CEOS Plenary in 2008, Brian presented the new “CEOS Information System”, which provided a single server for the web-based CEOS calendar and documentation. Today, the SEO supports the CEOS website, social media and online meeting software, among other tools that strengthen the efficiency of CEOS.   

The CEOS Visualisation Environment (COVE) is a browser-based suite of tools for searching, analysing and visualising actual and potential satellite sensor coverage. Brian led the development of this tool, first introduced in 2010. The COVE tool has continued to develop, and is used today by data users worldwide.

The Open Data Cube (ODC) was born out of the work done under the “Unlocking the Landsat Archive” and the Australian Geoscience Data Cube (AGDC) projects. CEOS is a founding partner of the ODC, with the SEO heavily involved in the development, deployment and operation of the initiative. Brian oversaw (and co-authored) the development of the ODC-Google Sandbox, a free and open programming interface that connects users worldwide to Google Earth Engine datasets through the ODC python library. Brian also contributed to CEOS and GEO capacity building efforts on use of the ODC in a number of countries. 

Through the ODC initiative and the example of Digital Earth Australia, Brian helped develop Digital Earth Africa (DE Africa), which has recently transferred from Australian to African leadership and is an exemplar case of the global Earth observation community coming together. Following the example of DE Africa, Brian serves on the Steering Committee for Digital Earth Pacific, and is facilitating discussions for the development of Digital Earth Americas. 

Brian has championed the CEOS Analysis Ready Data (CEOS-ARD) initiative since its foundation in the Land Surface Imaging Virtual Constellation (LSI-VC). As a member of the Analysis Ready Data Oversight Group, Brian led the development of the Nighttime Lights Surface Radiance Product Family Specification (PFS), which was endorsed by CEOS in October 2022, and he led the self-assessment of NASA’s Black Marble dataset for CEOS-ARD. 

Since the inception of the CEOS Sustainable Development Goals Ad Hoc Team (SDG-AHT) in 2016, Brian has served as a member. In November 2021, the SEO’s proposal for a “federated approach” to take the SDG Team forward was approved, and Brian has served as the lead for the SDG Team for the past year. The SDG Team’s accomplishments can be seen in the presentation from the recent 36th CEOS Plenary. 

Brian at the recent CEOS Plenary in Biarritz, France, with his gift from CEOS.

Other activities the SEO has supported over the past 15 years include:

Beyond his professional achievements, Brian has been greatly appreciated by all his CEOS colleagues for his exceptional human qualities such as kindness, openness, empathy, enthusiasm, motivation and great sense of humour. The SEO has always been distinguished by its transparency in service of CEOS, something highly valued by the community.

CEOS sincerely thanks Brian for his contributions to the global Earth observation community, and we look forward to seeing what he will do next.