West Lafayette, IN | Certificate of Distinction: 2006
Chris Johannsen is Professor Emeritus of Agronomy and former Director of the Laboratory of Remote Sensing (LARS) at Purdue University. A native of Nebraska, Johannsen graduated twice from the University of Nebraska: in 1959 with a B. S. in agronomy, and in 1961 with an M.S. in agronomy. In 1969 he received his Ph.D. in soil physics from Purdue University.
Johannsen has been an international leader in developing agricultural uses of remote sensing technologies. He was a pioneer in the analysis and applications of remotely sensed data in agriculture systems, work that has helped develop what we commonly call “precision agriculture.” He provided leadership at Purdue for spatial technologies—remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), and global positioning systems (GPS)—and has been involved in many national and international remote sensing committees. He was the first soils and land use scientist to join Purdue’s multidisciplinary team, funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) in 1966, to conduct pioneering research on the applications of data obtained by sensors on orbiting satellites. Johannsen first joined the Purdue faculty in 1963 and served as a program leader for the newly established LARS from 1966 to 1972. From 1972 to 1985 he was on the faculty of the University of Missouri, returning to Purdue in 1985 as Director of both the Agricultural Data Network (ADN) and LARS. In 1996-97 he was a Visiting Chief Scientist with Space Imaging, Inc., developing ag applications of remote sensing. He has worked and traveled in 53 countries and has given remote sensing presentations to international meetings in ten countries and has taught his remote sensing course in both Argentina (2004) and the United Arab Emirates (2005). He assisted in establishing a joint M.S. program in Earth Observations between Purdue University and the University of Leuven, Belgium. A program that he helped develop between the United States, Greece and France has trained more than 100 participants in the digital analysis of remotely sensed data, and he helped develop AGRIDAYS, an agricultural exchange program that focuses on the use of spatial technologies in the U.S. and France.
His professional memberships and service are numerous. His primary professional society is the Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS), where during his term as President, he pushed for they society’s name change (formerly it was the Soil Conservation Society of America) to properly reflect water conservation and to encourage international membership. He is also an active member of the American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Soil Science Society of America (SSSA), American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) and the Indiana Academy of Science, all of whom have awarded him the distinction of Fellow.
His numerous community activities include Boy Scouts, where he is currently a sustaining member of the Sagamore Boy Scout Council and counselor for the Environment Merit Badge. He is active in the Lafayette Rotary Club where his service includes director (1995-97) and chairing the World Community Service Committee (1993-2002). He is active in Lutheran Church activities and served on the church council in both West Lafayette (1965-68, 2005-07) and Columbia, MO (1974-79). For more than 10 years he has been chair of the Men’s Breakfast Group that meets monthly. From 1985-95 he served on the board of the Purdue Lutheran Ministry and was president from 1988-95.
In addition to the four professional societies that have awarded him the distinction of Fellow, Johannsen’s awards include National Commendation Award, SWCS (1975); Outstanding Service Award, SWCS (1978); NASA Technology Innovation Award (1991); Outstanding Service Award, ASPRS (1992); and the Alumni Merit Award, University of Nebraska (1995).