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MEET: Mike Aslaksen

Remote Sensing Division Chief, National Geodetic Survey

I'm the Chief of the Remote Sensing Division (RSD) of NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey. We use remote sensing technologies to define the national shoreline as depicted on NOAA nautical charts. Additionally, our remote sensing surveys establish airport approach and departure procedures, determine takeoff weights, update aeronautical publications, and are used in airport planning and construction studies for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). RSD also provides remote sensing advice and capabilities to other NOAA offices and other federal programs, including damage assessment imagery to support Homeland Security requirements for events of national concern, such as Hurricane Katrina or the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Mike Aslaksen


What do you like most about working at NOS?

The mission and the people. I believe the mission of NOAA attracts the best and brightest in the business and that NOAA provides real value to the nation and to the taxpayers.

What is the hardest part of your job?

Coordinating with other federal and state agencies on remote sensing projects to ensure maximal utilization of data, collected at the lowest cost to the taxpayer. Especially along the coasts, there is great interest in remotely-sensed data for economic, social, and environmental needs. Often this data can be used for much more than the single intended application, so the challenge is to align requirements and subsequent data collections to meet as many requirements as possible.

What is your educational background?

I have a Bachelor's of Science in Geography from Old Dominion University and a Masterís of Science in Technical Management from The Johns Hopkins University.

What inspired your interest in the ocean and coasts?

Having grown up around the ocean and being especially interested in boating and aviation, I was immediately drawn to the NOAA Navigation missions that produce nautical and aeronautical charts. That interest led to a fascination with how NOAA utilizes surveying to establish and maintain the National Spatial Reference System, the foundation for NOAA’s navigation products.

How did you end up working at NOAA?

Initially, by begging, persisting, and being generally annoying! After graduating from Old Dominion, I knew I wanted to work at NOAA, but at that time the agency was under a hiring freeze. I continued to follow up with my contacts, and finally, after a year and a half of pursuit, I was hired into the Airport Surveys group of NOS.

What advice do you have for young people wanting a career in the "ocean realm"?

Be sure it is something you love, get the most related education you can, and pursue internship opportunities that NOAA and other agencies offer to guide you to where and what you want to do. At NOAA, there are several avenues for young people to experience what the agency has to offer.

What is the most interesting/important thing you've learned while working at NOAA?

It’s all about relationships—both internal and external. The value of building relationships and partnering cannot be understated, and especially in this time of competing resources, reduced budgets, and technology advancements, building and maintaining relationships to meet common goals is vital in public service.