About Michael

Michael Lefsky grew up in Farmingdale, New York where he developed an early interest in computer science, and then studied forest and wetland ecology at Bard College. While at the University of Virginia, he was awarded a NASA Earth Systems Science Fellowship to support his work on the remote sensing of forested wetlands. In that work, he combined his interests in forest ecology and computer science to develop some of the first processing algorithms for waveform-sampling lidar sensors, which use lasers to measure the three dimensional structure of canopies and terrain surfaces. He then moved to Corvallis, Oregon where he was a research professor at Oregon State University before coming to Colorado State in 2002. He has served as a member of the science team for the ICESat (Ice, Cloud,and land Elevation Satellite) and currently serves on the science teams for the ICESat-2 and Landsat Data Continuity Missions.

Website CV


  • Ecosystem science spans spatial scales from microbial to global. Remote sensing provides the tools that allow ecosystem scientists to address questions even when the spatial extent of problems exceeds our ability to make measurements on the ground. My interests are in the field of forest ecology, specifically in the global distribution of forest biomass, carbon storage, and productivity as well as the structure of forest canopies and the functional consequences of that structure. My work focuses on mapping forest height and aboveground biomass at scales from individual plots of less than 1 km2 to the extent of the entire global forest. Much of that effort had involved the development of the science required to relate lidar measured canopy heights to traditional measurements made in the field. Whereas most scientists involved in this work focus on airborne mapping of relatively small regions, my focus has been on using satellite platforms such as ICESat and ICEsat-2 to map forests at continental and global scales. As well as working at the global scale, I have study sites throughout North and South America, northern Europe and China.


PhD, Environmental Science - University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA, 1997

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