Earth Lab is an initiative launched in September 2015 by the University of Colorado Boulder as part of the campus-wide Grand Challenge effort called “Our Space. Our Future.”  

Earth Lab will:

  • Capitalize on the data deluge from Space and other platforms to accelerate science;
  • Reduce environmental risk by using this wealth of data to better understand and predict Earth System change;
  • Train a new generation of data scientists who can address outstanding Earth Science questions.

Mission Statement

Earth Lab’s mission is to harmonize the wave of Earth observations from aerospace platforms and other sources to address scientific challenges in understanding the pace and pattern of global change to help society better manage and adapt.


Earth Lab will accelerate discovery and generate insights about the pace and pattern of global environmental change through the integration of Earth observations from space-, aero-, and ground-based platforms. This initiative will: i) Capitalize on the data deluge from Space and other platforms to accelerate science; ii) Reduce Environmental Risk and Surprise by using this wealth of data to better understanding and prediction of slow, fast, and abrupt Earth System change to help society adapt; and iii) Train a New Generation of Data Scientists who can apply their knowledge to addressing outstanding Earth Science questions. We will begin to implement this vision in Year 1 by establishing the foundational Analytics Hub, developing capacity through an initial portfolio of Science Projects, and designing a new education initiative in Earth Science Analytics. In Year 1 alone, the Earth Lab initiative builds on data from seven Earth observing missions : including NASA’s MODIS Terra and Aqua, VIIRS, GRACE, and SMAP, USGS’s Landsat, and industry leader DigitalGlobe’s WorldView 3. As Earth Lab promotes synthesis across all scales of observation, partnership with IRISS (Integrated Remote and In Situ Sensing) is a natural fit. Earth Lab and IRISS, complementary pillars of the Grand Challenge initiative, will collaborate on two exciting projects that draw on strengths in engineering solutions and data analytics to address issues that are close to home, drought and forest health.

Keys to Success

Earth Lab will yield new insights by capitalizing on existing resources already devoted to data generation. This effort enhances the value of the entire Earth observation enterprise. Through Earth Lab, CU-Boulder will be known as the place for cutting-edge Earth Analytics that thrives on the wealth of aerospace-derived data, and as the place for training the next generation of data scientists who have the knowledge and expertise to tackle the most pressing environmental questions.

Flowchart illustrating Earth Systems & Processes

The model for Earth Lab to engage in scientific discovery follows the knowledge pipeline—from data acquisition to discovery of new insights and information about Earth System dynamics.  A combination of satellite, survey, and field data at various spatial and temporal scales will be combined to answer critical Earth Science questions.  These disparate data sources can be analyzed and visualized in the Earth Lab Analytics Hub and linked with models to provide new insights and predictive capability for current and future Earth Lab missions.