Geospatial Pioneer – In Memory of Doug Nebert (1962-2014)

Photo of Doug Nebert The geospatial community recently lost a distinguished colleague. Doug Nebert was an incredible force behind many of the things we take for granted in modern day geospatial information systems.  Whether you knew Doug or not, his work affected you. We here at NOAA owe so much to his work with standards and distributed metadata catalogs. He played an important role in the development of the National Geospatial Platform and other internet-based systems that allow us to share and discover trusted geospatial data.  This ability to communicate information through maps impacts our work broadly especially in areas such as natural disasters, planning, and economic impacts to communities.  He truly was a pioneer in spatial data interoperability and a force behind what makes much of our national, regional, and state data useable, shareable, and discoverable.

Doug was passionate about metadata and standards long before it was in vogue.  He encouraged, cajoled, prodded, and supported all of us in doing the right thing with national and international geospatial standards.  He was unassuming, responsive,  and always interested in getting the job done.

I remember being in awe of his ability to understand and explain the complex systems architecture of our first metadata catalog.  I am indebted to his early enthusiastic support to our Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) subcommittees and efforts to improve coastal and ocean geospatial data.  I know Doug made a significant contribution to our work and he will be sorely missed.  We extend our deepest sympathies to his family and invite our colleagues to take a moment to appreciate all that Doug has contributed and to share any thoughts they have with everyone in the comments below.  Note that these are moderated and there may be a delay in seeing your comment.


  1. Doug’s family asks people who want to express their thoughts, sympathies and condolences to please send these to:

    Ms. Dee Nebert and Family
    c/o Tyee Lodge
    4925 NW Woody Way
    Newport, OR 97365

    Dates for the Memorial Services to celebrate Doug’s life have yet to be determined, but they are targeting the August/September timeframe and they will occur in Portland, Oregon, and Reston, Virginia. We will provide the additional information once it becomes available. The family asks that if anyone would like to make a contribution, donations be sent to two different charities in Doug and his granddaughter Zoey’s honor.

    Donations can be made in Zoey’s name to the Teddy Bears for Kids program by clicking here.

    In Doug’s name, donations can be made to the Young Eagles program by clicking here.


  2. Doug was brilliant. It is terribly sad to such a talented and dedicated public servant leave our ranks. He was a luminary, advancing a vision of a federal geospatial program serving the public through common standards and shared infrastructure. His vision, and the contributions he made to all federal agencies and public, should never be forgotten.


  3. I first met Doug at the USGS in the mid-90s. I was hired to be the NOAA Office for Coastal Management’s Metadata Specialist. I was a GIS hack at the time and knew next to nothing about metadata but was told to go spend some time with the experts at the Federal Geographic Data Committee. Doug was the first person I met. He was patient, thoughtful, and extremely thorough in his explanation of the finer points of the metadata standard and catalogs. I was able to take copious notes and bring my newly found understanding and appreciation of metadata back to my office and eventually train countless numbers of coastal managers. Doug and I ran into each other occasionally over the years– the last time was last Summer at a Marine Planning Portal Network Meeting in Portland where he was presenting on the National GeoPlatform and interoperability with regional ocean portals. Doug was known in our community as a founding father of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure, which has grown from a concept to a reality during his tenure. His expertise is irreplaceable and he will be sorely missed.


    • Dave, I remember those days when you were a metadata newbie. You became a metadata “rock star” so Doug must have been a good teacher. Amazing how his training of you was magnified to train so many people working on coastal data. What an impact he had on our community. Thanks for sharing.


  4. I met Doug while I was with the USGS during the 1990’s. We worked together, as I was helping to deploy the National Map, and found Doug’s knowledge and expertise invaluable. He was always ready to help, and guided our efforts, especially building metadata for the various map layers. I found him personally to be friendly, warm and possessing a keen sense of humor.
    Although we haven’t had contact for several years, I was very saddened by this loss. My prayers go out to his family. Know that this was an exceptional person, and he will be missed by all who knew him.


  5. Doug will be missed by so many. He was that “go-to” person that always provided quick and thorough responses to questions. I was lucky enough to meet him about 20 years ago and have relied on his help and expertise since then. His absence is deeply felt.


  6. I have known Douglas Nebert since about 1998 from such activities as Digital Earth, Geospatial One-Stop, Open Geospatial Consortium, and Global Earth Observation System of Systems, while I was at NASA and NOAA. He was an intelligent, active, and valued member of the geospatial information community, and he was also a kind and generous person. Losing him, and his step-granddaughter, both at much too young an age, is a great tragedy. I will miss Doug but also remember his example of living in the place he loved on this Earth and departing the Earth doing what he loved. My thoughts are with his family in this difficult time.


  7. Like so many others, I knew Doug from my involvement with the FGDC subcommittees and working groups. But I really got to know him from being a member of the Cartography and Geographic Information Society (CaGIS). Doug was always so willing to help get things done, and usually had an idea for a more efficient or faster way to do something. One of the last times I saw him was at the Home Depot in Reston a few years ago. We talked about work, CaGIS, and the home projects we were working on. For all of his many talents, the guy was always very down to earth. I will miss him.


  8. Doug Nebert, George Thomas, Dave Merrill and I had a vision for “instantly available cloud based geospatial services”, and from a meeting way back in 2010 we began what became the FGDC GeoCloud Platform, now in its fourth year of operation.

    Doug was the main government impetus for the project (I’m a contractor, and technical architect of the program), and his interest, drive, deep knowledge of geospatial technologies, and infectious enthusiasm were the key factors in moving us through four rounds of development, new projects and project graduation. Through his effort agency after agency was able to rapidly deploy, tailor and eventually take charge of and own geospatial services created in minutes — and paid for by the hour.

    He was a great person to work with, full of ideas and enthusiasm, loving to travel, loving his aeroplanes and the heights that eventually claimed him, ready to explore new landscapes, whether exterior or technical in nature. He was a brave person, intellectually and physically, and it was an honor to work with him.

    He was also a lot of fun … his readings went well beyond the technical — I recall he’s the only other person I know that both read and appreciated the before-its-time ecological novel “Ecotopia”, and he brought a broad and compassionate understanding of the world to his day to day dealings.

    I’m going to miss him, and think the world’s a better place for his being here.



  9. I met Doug in the late 1980s when I was working for the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory. At the time I was collecting precip data around Mount St. Helens and Doug was interested in using my data to test some new software. He talked about this new program called GIS and using isohyetal polygons to analyze the data. Say what I said! Well Doug changed my career- I soon transferred to the Oregon USGS and became a part of the budding GIS section and the River Reach project. Doug and I have since gone our separate ways but our paths crossed often, usually at the ESRI conference. I am truly sadden by losing Doug as he was so instrumental in steering my career path. Doug was one of the brightest scientists I have ever known, he will be deeply missed


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