Our History

CReSIS scientists and researchers wearing orange and sunglasses on a snowy deployment

A History of Excellence in Polar Science

The University of Kansas has been a home to groundbreaking polar science for decades. Since 2005, CReSIS researchers have pioneered the science and technology of remote sensing, contributing to advancing our understanding of how the cryosphere is affected by a changing climate.

For more than half a century, the University has been a leader in radar remote sensing beginning with the establishment of the Radar Systems and Remote Sensing Laboratory (RSL) and then director, Richard K. Moore’s, pioneering work on the use of microwave radar systems for satellite-based remote sensing of the Earth’s surface. His early work in polar remote sensing included developing a radar systems to track sea ice and made internationally significant progress in wind-vector data and frequency modulated continuous wave (FMCW) radars. David Braaten and Sivaprasad Gogineni established KU as a locus for remote sensing activities beginning in 1993 and began making trips to Greenland and Antarctica to continue their research. 

In 2005, the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS) was established as a National Science Foundation, Science and Technology Center. Led by Siva Prasad Gogineni as the Project PI and Center Director, the $19 million grant was at the time the largest single research grant given to a university in Kansas. The University of Kansas was the lead institution of the project, with partners including Penn State, the Ohio State University, the University of Maine, Elizabeth City State University, and Haskell University.

The primary focus of CReSIS was the development of new technologies and computer models to measure and predict the response of sea level change to the mass balance of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. The center also had an emphasis on public outreach, educational activities for K-12 students and educators, and research experiences for undergraduate students.  Faculty involvement at KU included professors primarily from electrical engineering and computer science, aerospace engineering, geology, geography, sociology, and business.

A  man in an orange arctic suit stands in front of a remote National Science Foundation building

With the exploding popularity of drone technology, CReSIS researchers have been at the forefront of exciting new developments in creating and designing both the vehicles themselves and suitable equipment to make these small devices even more useful for scientific, industrial, agricultural, and many other applications. CReSIS engineers have become experts in integration of systems on large long-range aircraft, deployment of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) for use in polar regions, and development of radar processing algorithms with a goal of generating high quality three-dimensional models of the internal structure and stratigraphy of the ice sheets. The center explores the use of small sensor equipped UAS in remote applications and expanding the use of instrumentation into new areas such as agriculture and infrastructure monitoring.

CReSIS has developed and successfully deployed airborne radars operating over a wide range of frequencies. Our key systems include a compact ~2 kg dual band HF sounder for use on mid-size ~50 kg unmanned vehicles, a 24 independent channel VHF radar sounder and 3D imager, and an ultra-wideband snow radar capable of resolving snow accumulation at resolutions of ~2 cm.  The NSF Major Research Instrumentation Program supported the development of a 25’x25’x40’ anechoic chamber in the M2SEC engineering building, used for research and educational activities in characterizing antennas and mitigating electromagnetic inteference.  A second NSF/MRI project supported the development of a large antenna array fairing for use on airborne surveys.  CReSIS played a key role in the NASA's Operation Ice Bridge Program by providing operational radar support to routine survey ice sheets and sea ice in the arctic and Antarctic during an 11-year mission beginning in 2009.   Internationally recognized as a leader in the polar radar remote sensing, several large projects have supported the development of radar systems for loan and purchase. 

Three CReSIS engineers stand happily in front of a large aircraft

Since the core NSF/STC funding concluded, the center has continued to broaden its research activities. The center has a wide range of testing and fabrication equipment to develop state-of-art electronics for use in harsh environments, and continues to oversee the large anechoic chamber in the M2SEC building.  Major research directions continue to include the development and field deployment of radar remote sensing technologies for measurements of ice sheets and sea ice.  Our current funding support comes from a number of sources, including NASA, NSF, USDA, NOAA, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, Heising-Simons Foundation, and others.  After the departure of founding director Siva Prasad Gogineni in 2017, Carl Leuschen took the helm first as Interim Director and then as just the Director in 2020.

In 2022, we announced a new name to reflect our changing research focus. CReSIS now stands for the Center for Remote Sensing and Integrated Systems. Throughout our history, CReSIS has prioritized providing the scientific community with open-source data from our suite of radar and antenna systems, in addition to our CReSIS toolbox and the Open Polar Server. Over the years, we have collected 1.2 petabytes worth of data.