Frederick (Fred) Mertz, Member of the Original Geography Masters Cohort, passes away


After a hard battle with lymphoma and related ailments, Fred Mertz (January 10, 1954 to February 18, 2018) passed away peacefully at his home in San Diego.

Fred received his BA (1976) and MA (1984) degrees in Geography from UCSB. He was in the original cohort of all MA students, when the MA Geography program first started in 1976.

Fred served as a graduate and a staff research associate in the Geography Remote Sensing Unit (GRSU) under the direction of Professor Jack Estes. In the 1970’s and early 80’s GRSU employed between five to eight staff researchers and a similar number of graduate assistants, and Fred was the research, social and athletic catalyst for the Unit. Through his thesis and NASA-sponsored research he developed advanced image processing routines to derive information on crop types and their water demands from Landsat satellite data.

In 1978, Fred married Susan (aka Ethel) Yates, his college sweetheart from the San Nicolas dormitory at UCSB. While working in GRSU and finishing his MA degree, he and Susan lived in Lompoc, when Susan transferred to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to study nutrition. Fred used his GIS and image analysis skills to determine the optimal location for their residence, located between Cal Poly, UCSB and prime surfing spots near Jalama.

In 1982, Fred took a research position at NASA AMES Research Center near Mountain View, CA while Susan attended graduate school at UC Berkeley. There he worked alongside other UCSB Geography MA graduates and GRSU remote sensing researchers, Lee Johnson and Mike Spanner.

In 1987, Fred accepted an image processing and analysis position at Photon Research Associates (PRA) in La Jolla, located a few miles from where he was raised in San Diego. PRA (now Raytheon) was a leading research and development company for scene simulation, atmospheric radiation transfer, and target detection. Fred was a wizard at converting Landsat images into land cover maps, land cover maps into simulated thermal emission images, and then fused in realistic renderings of clouds. Fred retired from PRA in 2012.

Fred was a dedicated family man, and with Susan raised two boys, Erik and Nathan. He taught them to love the ocean and particularly surfing, and instilled in them an appreciation for Geography and Earth Science. Erik graduated from San Diego State University with a BA degree in Geography and Religious Studies, and a MS in Homeland Security, and Nathan graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a BS in Marine Biology.

At 6’8” (note that Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy was only 5’7”) Big Fred always looked down on us literally, but never figuratively. He was one of the kindest and friendliest person one could ever know, and one of the most proactive for stimulating action, research, travel, and the pursuit of knowledge. Fred’s family and many friends miss him tremendously.

Special thanks to Doug Stow for this beautiful remembrance.

Fred’s family is holding a memorial “paddle out”, church memorial and social this Saturday March 24th, 2018. Interested readers who knew Fred are welcome to contact Doug Stow at stow@mail.sdsu.edu if you would like more details.