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John Townshend became dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences in July 2009. He is also a professor of geography and the former chair of the Department of Geography. As dean of the college, Dr. Townshend is responsible for providing leadership and managing the University of Maryland's largest college, which teaches more than 5,700 undergraduates and 900 graduate students each year. The 11 academic departments in the college offer a wide array of innovative degree and non-degree educational programs both at College Park and in Nanjing and Shanghai, China. The global reach of the college's educational efforts is matched by the breadth of its research programs, which include 42 research centers that combine to make the college the second largest recipient of social science research and development dollars in the country.
Under his leadership as chair (1989-1995 and 2001-2009), the Department of Geography has achieved higher levels of excellence in its programs as well as the recruitment of outstanding faculty, staff and students, and it has earned a reputation as one of the leaders in research income of any geography department in the country.
Dr. Townshend earned his BSc (1967) and PhD (1971) in geography from University College London. Dr. Townshend has held academic positions at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the University of Reading, UK and Clark University in Worcester Massachusetts. He also held a senior National Academy of Sciences fellowship at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the University of Reading (England), and the University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania). He has held affiliate positions of the University of Maryland’s Institute for Advanced Computing Studies and the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center.
His current research focuses on the rates and causes of vegetation cover change, especially deforestation, through the use of remotely sensed data from satellites, funded primarily through NASA grants. He is also the principal investigator of the Global Land Cover Facility, which houses the largest open access non-governmental online collection of Landsat data in the world. He is the author of more than 100 articles in the refereed literature and more than 30 book chapters.
He is a member of the Science Advisory Committee of the College of Global Change and Earth Sciences, Beijing Normal University, and the Advisory Committee for LIESMARS, Wuhan University, China. He serves as a member of the editorial board of the International Journal of Digital Earth and is a member of the executive committee of the International Society for Digital Earth. He is chair of the advisory committee to the United Nations Environment Programme’s Division of Environmental Information, Assessment and Early Warning for North America. He has served on several committees of the National Research Council.
The most recent of Dr. Townshend’s honors is this year’s award as Honorary Fellow of the UK Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society. Currently he is visiting professor at Beijing Normal University and was made an honorary professor of the University of Wuhan in 2007.