Discovering planet Earth

Kutz explores it all through role with U.S. Forest Service in Utah

-Submitted photo
Kain Kutz, a graduate of St. Edmond, is a Remote Sensing Training Specialist at the Geospatial Technology Application Center with the United States Forest Service in Salt Lake City, Utah. Kutz graduated from St. Edmond in 2011.

Kain Kutz did all the same things growing up as those around him.

The St. Edmond Catholic School graduate would go on to attend the University of Iowa in Iowa City, and that is where he found his calling.

Kutz is currently a remote sensing training specialist at the Geospatial Technology Application Center (GTAC) with the United States Forest Service in Salt Lake City, Utah.

A 2011 graduate of St. Edmond, Kutz was involved in several activities at the school including football, tennis, wrestling and student advisory board. He attended Iowa and earned his Bachelor of Science in Environmental Policy and Planning with a minor in geography in 2015 before earning his master’s in geography two years later.

“I’ve always felt drawn towards natural resource management,” Kutz said. “In my undergraduate program, I tried exploring everything related to the environment. Things changed when I became aware of what Remote Sensing was.

“It kind of blew my mind the amount of information we could create/derive about the Earth’s surface from satellites, planes or drones. This information could then be used to inform decision-making.

“The field also sparked my interest because of how interdisciplinary it was. I’m not pigeonholed to a particular resource area or discipline; I get to play with hydrology, fire, forestry, policy, drones and aviation, data mining, image analysis and more.”

Remote sensing is the process of detecting and monitoring the physical characteristics of an area by measuring the reflected and emitted radiation at a distance. This is typically done by satellite or aircraft, but any camera can capture remotely sensed images.

From there, measurements are taken and information relayed to be studied or for land managers to make decisions. GTAC focuses its work on the implementation of the scientific data gathered by this process to advance the Forest Service’s mission to result in better land management decisions, more effective work processes and improved communication with the public, interest groups and partners.

Some of the key responsibilities for Kutz include training and training development which includes exploring and testing new geospatial technologies, developing workflows and creating and delivering training that shows how to implement that technology.

“Recently, I have been involved with developing and supporting the Unmanned Aerial Systems/Drones (UAS) activities within the Forest Service,” Kutz said. “I am the lead developer and instructor for the UAS for Resource Management applications workshop that instructs interagency personnel on how to operate UAS aircraft in national airspace, scope and plan a project, execute the project and then process the imagery into useful geospatial products.”

Kutz has been with the Forest Service’s GTAC in Salt Lake City since 2017.

“Like most people, my workdays vary,” he said. “Some days, I attend meetings or review and write reports. Other days, I am flying drones and learning more about new UAS technology. I’m continuously working on material and guides for other employees within the Forest Service to help them use remote sensing technology.

“I deliver a lot of virtual webinars showing others in the government how to use remote sensing tech in their jobs. I’m also expecting to be traveling or on the road for work about 20 to 30 percent of the year supporting wildland fire response, delivering UAS workshops and conducting our own UAS projects.”


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