Kyle C. McDonald Ph.D.

Title: Terry Elkes Professor, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

CUNY Environmental Crossroads Initiative and CREST Institute

Marshak Room 925
The City College of New York, City University of New York
160 Convent Ave. & W. 138th St., New York, NY 10031 USA

Phone: 212-650-8218
Fax: 212-650-7064


1991 — Ph.D, Electrical Engineering, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

1986 — Electrical Engineering, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

1985 — M.S. Numerical Science, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland

1983 — B.E.E. with Highest Honors Electrical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology

Professional Experience

Dr. McDonald has over 20 years experience in microwave remote sensing of terrestrial ecosystems. His more recent research activities have involved the application of microwave remote sensing techniques for monitoring boreal wetlands and seasonal dynamics in boreal-arctic ecosystems as related to ecological and hydrological processes. He has extensive experience in developing microwave scattering models for surfaces and complex, random media. Dr. McDonald has been a Principal and Co-Investigator on numerous NASA Earth Science investigations. He has been active in advancing NASA and ESA Earth Mission Concepts (SMAP, Hydros, Cold Land Process, CoReH2O) and NASA Instrument Incubator Program investigations. He was previously the key science lead of the freeze/thaw element of the Hydros ESSP mission and served as the Hydros Freeze/Thaw algorithm lead. His effort was one of key factors in resulting in the selection of the Hydros proposal by NASA for risk-reduction studies under the ESSP-3 program. He continues to support the SMAP mission in this context.

Research Interests

Remote sensing of Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems and cryosphere. Electromagnetic scattering and propagation with emphasis on microwave remote sensing of complex media. Application of active and passive microwave sensors including interpretation and modeling of microwave backscatter and emissivity.


2011-present:Terry Elkes Professor, Dep. Earth and Atmospheric Sciences City College of New York

2011-present: Part-Time Faculty, Water and Carbon Cycles Group, Science Division, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

1991-2011: Principal Scientist, Water and Carbon Cycles Group, Science Division, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

2008-present: Research Scientist, Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering (JIFRESSE), University of California at Los Angeles

2009-present: Lecturer, Div. of Astronautical Engineering, University of Southern California

2000-present: Faculty Affiliate & Adjunct, Univ. Montana Flathead Lake Biological Station.

1997: Visiting Scientist, Bayreuth Institute for Terrestrial Ecosystem Research, Germany.

1985-1991: Graduate Student Research Assistant, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

1983-1985: Associate Engineer, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

Professional Affiliations

Senior Member, IEEE

Member, IEEE Geoscience & Remote Sensing Society, Antennas and Propagation Society, Microwave Theory and Techniques Society.

Member, American Geophysical Union

Member, European Geosciences Union


2010 Canadian Journal of Remote Sensing Best Paper of the Year Award.

2007 NASA Space Act Award

2006 NASA Tech Brief Award

1996 NASA Tech Brief Award

1994 IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing Prize Paper Award

1993 IGARSS 1993 Interactive Session Prize Paper Award

Current Project Involvement (Selected)

2010-present: Co-I, NASA TE project: “Development of a satellite-based terrestrial carbon flux model in support of SMAP carbon cycle science.”

2009-present: PI, NASA TE project: "Vegetation Phenology Assessment Using Satellite Radar Remote Sensing: Global Monitoring of Daily and Seasonal Changes in Canopy Structure and Water Status”

2009-present Co-I, NASA TE project: “Development of a satellite-based terrestrial carbon flux model in support of SMAP carbon cycle science”

2008-present PI, NASA MEaSUREs Project: “An Inundated Wetlands Earth System Data Record: Global; Monitoring of Wetlands Extent and Dynamics”

2008-present PI, NASA EOS project: “Pan-Arctic Assessment of Terrestrial Freeze-Thaw State and Associated Biophysical Constraints to Northern Vegetation Productivity.”

Selected Publications

Entekhabi, D., E. Njoku, P. O’Neill, K. Kellogg, W. Crow, W. Edelstein, J. Entin, S. Goodman, T. Jackson, J. Johnson, J. Kimball, J. Piepmeier, R. Koster, K. McDonald, M. Moghaddam, S. Moran, R. Reichle, J.C. Shi, M. Spencer, S. Thurman, L. Tsang, J. van Zyl, 2010. The Soil Moisture Active and Passive (SMAP) Mission. Proceedings of the IEEE 98:5, pp.704-716.

Frolking S, Milliman T, McDonald K, Kimball J, Zhao M, Fahnestock M. 2005. “Evaluating SeaWinds scatterometer backscatter sensitivity to growing season vegetation dynamics across a range of ecosystem types.” J.Geophys Rsch, vol. 111, D17302, doi:10.1029/2005JD006588.

Kimball, J. S., K. C. McDonald and M. Zhao, 2006. “Spring thaw and its effect on terrestrial vegetation productivity in the western arctic observed from satellite microwave abd optical remote sensing,” Earth Interactions, vol. 10, paper no. 21, pp. 1-22.

Kimball, J.S., M. Zhao, K.C. McDonald, and S.W. Running, 2005. Satellite remote sensing of terrestrial net primary production for the pan-Arctic basin and Alaska. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change DOI:10.1007/s11027-005-9014-5.

Kimball, J., K. C. McDonald, S. W. Running, and S. Frolking, 2004. “Satellite Radar Remote Sensing of Seasonal Growing Seasons for Boreal and Sub-alpine Evergreen Forests,” Remote Sensing of Environment, 90:243-258.

McDonald, K. C, J. S. Kimball, E. Njoku, R. Zimmermann, and M. Zhao, 2004. “Variability in Springtime Thaw in the Terrestrial High Latitudes: Monitoring a major control on the biospheric assimilation of atmospheric CO2 with spaceborne microwave remote sensing,” Earth Interactions, Vol. 8 No. 20.

Rawlins, M. A, M. Steele, M. C. Serreze, C. J. Vörösmarty, W. Ermold, R. B. Lammers, K. C,. McDonald, T. M. Pavelsky, A. Shiklomanov, and J. Zhang, 2009. Tracing freshwater anomalies through the air-land-ocean system: A case study from the Mackenzie River basin and the Beaufort gyre. Atmopspher-Ocean. 47(1) 2009, pp. 79-97. doi:10.3137/OC281.2009.

Schroeder, R. M. A. Rawlins, K. C. McDonald, E. Podest, R. Zimmermann and M. Kueppers, 2010. Satellite Microwave Remote Sensing of North Eurasian Inundation Dynamics: Development of Coarse-Resolution Products and Comparison with High-Resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar Data. Environmental Research Letters, special issue on Northern Hemisphere high latitude climate and environmental change, 5 (2010) 7pp. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/5/1/015003

Whitcomb, J., M. Moghaddam, K. C. McDonald, J. Kellndorfer, and E. Podest, 2009. “Wetlands map of Alaska using L-band radar satellite imagery,” Canadian Journal of Remote Sensing, Vol. 35, No. 1, pp 1-20.