ASU school renames Alumni Scholar Award for retired Professor John R. Hepburn


June 2, 2021

ASU’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice has renamed the annual Alumni Scholar Award for a distinguished member of its faculty who retired this spring.

The Dr. John R. Hepburn Alumni Scholar Award was renamed at the request of the faculty. It is an annual award presented for outstanding scholarly contributions to the discipline of criminology and criminal justice by a recipient of a MA, MS, or PhD degree from the school. John Hepburn, Professor Emeritus, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, SCCJ, CCJ, ASU John Hepburn, professor emeritus of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University. ASU photo Download Full Image

Hepburn’s career started at the University of Iowa where he obtained a PhD in sociology. He spent time at Augustana College in Illinois and was an associate professor and fellow for the Center of Metropolitan Studies at the University of Missouri, St. Louis. 

SCCJ  criminal justice, ASU, logo

Hepburn came to Arizona State University in 1984 as director and professor of justice studies (at the renamed School of Justice and Social Inquiry). He served as director for five years. In 2005, he was named dean of the College of Human Services on ASU’s West campus and was instrumental in transforming the Administration of Justice program into the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, which has continued to thrive since its move to the Downtown Phoenix campus. From 2008 through 2014, he served as vice provost of academic affairs. Since then, Hepburn has served in the role he loves most: a professor who teaches, researches and mentors. He retired from ASU at the end of the spring 2021 semester.

Hepburn has extensive research experience on contemporary issues of corrections, including offender reentry into the community. He studies the effects of individual risk factors and criminal justice organizational structures and processes on the offender’s future social and criminal outcomes. The other focus of his research is the sociology of the prison as a complex organization. Throughout his career, Hepburn not only served in key administrative roles, but he also secured over $3.5 million in funded research. He has numerous publications, including both refereed and nonrefereed articles, books and book chapters.

Hepburn has also served as a mentor and friend to countless students and faculty. School of Criminology and Criminal Justice Associate Director Hank Fradella is one of those individuals.

“Since 1994, John has been my primary academic mentor. He has had a huge influence on my work as a teacher, author, administrator and professional in our discipline. He instilled in me the importance of being a servant-leader and a good mentor for the next generation of scholars,” Fradella said. “I now know him as one of my dearest friends. While he will be absent from our school, I look forward to seeing John’s continued work in the field and at conferences and symposia. Moreover, I look forward to spending social time with him in his retirement.”

The school's Director Jon Gould reflected that, “John has been a wealth of information supporting me and the school. I have appreciated his institutional knowledge and help in navigating the university. He may be retiring, but I have his cell number, and he has promised to still answer.”

Gould also noted that when Hepburn announced his retirement, several faculty members independently approached him about naming an award in his honor. “John always has been — and always will be — highly regarded, and I am very pleased that we moved forward on naming this award after him,” Gould said.

The 2020–2021 recipients of the Dr. John R. Hepburn Alumni Scholar Award are David Pyrooz, PhD (Class of 2012) associate professor, University of Colorado; and Jill Turanovic, PhD (Class of 2015) associate professor, Florida State University.

ASU research plays key role in lower Salt River restoration

Recently published study uses drone data to identify and 3D map invasive vegetation species with unprecedented detail


June 2, 2021

Along the lower banks of the Salt River, dense thickets of tall, weedlike invasive saltcedar and giant reed threaten native vegetation vital to preserving the biodiversity of one of the few remaining low elevation desert riparian vegetation communities in the state.

Accurately mapping species level vegetation is an essential step in managing invasion risk, guiding remediation efforts and intervention strategies and ultimately understanding what processes are facilitating invasive species growth or expansion.  the Salt River running along the base of a mountainous terrain The Salt River in Arizona. Photo courtesy of Depositphotos.

However, mapping large areas of vegetation manually from the ground is both labor- and time-intensive, and using traditional satellite platform imagery is difficult due to its coarse spatial resolution. Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones, provide a largely new opportunity for high-resolution remote sensing and capturing this critical data. 

Recently published research led by Arizona State University Master of Advanced Study in Geographic Information Systems (MAS-GIS) alumnus Arnold Chi Kedia and co-authored by Amy Frazier, assistant professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, uses drone-sensed data to spatially map vegetation along the lower Salt River and distinguish native and non-native vegetation species.

In their paper, “An Integrated Spectral-Structural Workflow for Invasive Vegetation Mapping in an Arid Region Using Drones,” published in Drones, the researchers develop a new mapping process combining structural data with spectral data to three-dimensionally model the lower Salt River landscape with precise resolution within 3-5 centimeters.

“Not only do we have the spectral reflectance, how different vegetation species are reflecting light, but we also have their structure in terms of how tall they are or how voluminous they are,” said Frazier, who also is the associate director of ASU’s Geospatial Research and Solutions. “Both of those data streams came from drone data, and the combination of adding the structure actually made our accuracy for figuring out where things were much higher.” 

The researchers found that including spectral and three-dimensional structural layers in their classification, as opposed to just using spectral data, improved overall vegetation species identification accuracy from 80% to 93%. 

“Using terrain data and canopy height were actually very important characteristics to identify these plant species,” Kedia said. “Most research just uses spectral data, but structural data controls how plant species are distributed in their natural habitat. This is what makes our paper unique; this method of combining both structural and spectral information has not been used before.”

The three structural layers, including (a) digital terrain model (DTM), (b) canopy height model (CHM) and (c) flow accumulation.

With a more accurate and detailed picture of what’s happening, land managers can use the information to better develop strategies to monitor and control invasive vegetation in the lower Salt River.  

The research was conducted in collaboration with local drone company Green Drone AZ, and the data from the study is now being used in the continuing Lower Salt River Restoration Project

Additional co-authors of the research include ASU MAS-GIS graduates Brandi Kapos and Songmei Liao, and Green Drone AZ team members Jacob Draper, Justin Eddinger and Christopher Updike.

David Rozul

Communications Specialist, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning

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