"It is indeed the brightest candles that burn the fastest" - Dave Flanders-Valencia
  • 40 years old
  • Born on February 23, 1976 in Paderborn, Germany.
  • Passed away on September 5, 2016 in Brazil.

Memorial Walk, Sunday September 10th to Bald Hill 

It has been a year since Thomas Hilker left us and a month since Paul Doescher died. Please join us for a memorial hike onSunday, September 10 at 2pm. We will meet at the Oak Creek parking lot of Bald Hill Park, hike to the top of Bald Hill, and share memories and thoughts. If you get thirsty during the hike, join us on the rooftop of Sky High afterwards. For questions, please contactKlaus.Puettmann@oregonstate.edu


Posted by Jing Chen on 5th September 2017
Thomas wrote a book chapter entitled "Surface Reflectance/BRDF" in Volume 3 "Remote Sensing of Terrestrial Ecosystems" in the book series "Comprehensive Remote Sensing" edited by S. Liang. As the editor of the volume, I did the galley proof of this chapter in his absence, but made only a few minor edits. This chapter was written by Thomas shortly before his passing and could be his last scholarly work. The book series will be published in November 2017 by Elsevier.
Posted by Huy Bao on 5th September 2017
I am always grateful to him for what he supported me! I miss you a lot Thomas.
Posted by Caroline Nichol on 23rd February 2017
Happy Birthday Thomas, up in the stars. Miss you as much Caroline.
Posted by Huy Bao on 23rd February 2017
I always miss him. I am grateful to him for what he shared with me.
Posted by Gigi Mathews on 20th December 2016
Had the opportunity know Thomas, a cheerful, empathetic young man, while he was in Washington, DC. His stay in DC was short-lived, but left a lasting impression that will always be cherished. Miss you, dear friend.
Posted by Praveena Krishnan on 26th October 2016
So shocked and saddened by this news! Thomas you will be missed. RIP. Thomas was a great colleague,friend and above all a great scientist. I still remember his bright smile and positive outlook. It was a pleasure working with him while in UBC and to catch up with him in AGU meetings. My heartfelt condolences to his family.
Posted by Hank Margolis on 8th October 2016
I first met Thomas when he was a PhD student and then a postdoc with the Canadian Carbon Program. His intelligence, kindness and free spirit were obvious right away. He loved forests, satellites, remote sensing and putting them all together. He was a very creative being. I had the pleasure of working with him again at Goddard and he also helped me out enthusiastically when I first started at NASA HQ. The planet will surely feel his loss – I certainly will.
Posted by Yvonne Jakobs on 2nd October 2016
"Thomas and I went to kindergarten and school together, but I knew also him and his brother since i was 5 years old. So we grew up together and we had been playmates and best friends. I won´t forget his smile and his ideas. He has been helpful and truthful. When a friend told me he passed away I felt I´ve lost a part of my childhood forever. I can´t realize, he is not alive. You are always on my mind. You are always on my mind."
Posted by Huy Bao on 27th September 2016
Thomas, I was a visiting scholar from Viet Nam who has worked at OSU and had good luck working with Thomas. He was a good-hearted scientist I will truly miss you.
Posted by Petya Campbell on 21st September 2016
I met Thomas as a graduate student, at the BIOGEOMON 2006 symposium in Santa Cruz, where Mary Martin invited us. I admired his kind attitude, amazingly clever ideas, shining smile and enthusiastic work. My heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. He will always be missed.
Posted by Angela Haney on 20th September 2016
I was one of the first to welcome Thomas to the College of Forestry, and was taken immediately by his sweet and gentle demeanor. He always greeted me with that fabulous smile and kind words. The sadness is great that we won't get to experience that again in this world, but the memories are lasting in our hearts! What a beautiful person to have in our lives!
Posted by Michael Schaepman on 19th September 2016
I had many interactions with Thomas, in particular being able to assess him on various occasions. His scientific and personal contributions will be unforgotten - he made incredible contributions to science and life. We will always miss him.
Posted by Laurie Holst on 16th September 2016
I have just learned of Thomas' passing, and I am heartbroken. As a former colleague of his within the College of Forestry at Oregon State University, I have the fondest memories of his smile, his friendliness, and his attention to undergraduate students. Often, he would stop by my office to grab some chocolate, and we would chat about any number of things. I loved his pup, Jazzy!! To his other friends and family, I am deeply sorry for this incredible loss. The world is much poorer without Thomas as a part of it.
Posted by Jamon Van Den Hoek on 15th September 2016
I knew Thomas all too briefly. He was leaving Goddard just as I started, and left Oregon State less than a year after I arrived. My postdoc advisor put us in touch... he raved about Thomas, calling him 'an expert on photosynthesis,' as I'll never forget. We met in person at a student committee meeting, and it was great to finally speak with this person with whom I had so many friends in common. I'm very glad to have known him even for such a brief time. Sending my deepest condolences to Thomas' loved ones, family, and friends...
Posted by Yanlian Zhou on 14th September 2016
I am saddened to learn of the passing of Thomas.Thomas supervised me when I was a visisting scholar during the past one year. He is diligent, briliant, and he always smiles. We discussed scientific research problems together six months ago, and we emailed each onter just 20 days ago. It's hard to believe the bad news. May his soul rest in peace.
Posted by Gang Chen on 14th September 2016
Thomas was the most brilliant colleague I've ever met. I was so fortunate to have had a chance to collaborate with him. May his soul rest in peace.
Posted by David Mildrexler on 13th September 2016
Thomas was on my PhD committee here at OSU, as he was with numerous other graduate students. I felt very fortunate, and I was hoping to keep him onboard even though he was moving to England. Thomas was very generous with his time, and supportive of graduate students. I know several students whom Thomas advised here at OSU and they all seemed to be doing well. As a condition for passing my oral exams, I had to meet with each of my committee members individually. Thomas was first, and I studied hard as I was a bit intimidated. When I got to his office he disarmed me quickly with his kindness, and we had a relaxed and stimulating conversation about remote sensing. I would often see Thomas walking with his dog in the morning to OSU. It's about 3 miles, and he looked at ease walking into campus. I think it was very nice for him. I got to have several impromptu and casual conversations with him during these walks. We were very lucky to have Thomas here at OSU. My heart goes out to Yhasmin and family.
Posted by Sam Coggins on 12th September 2016
Thanks for the hiking, biking, snowboarding, laughs, insight, and help. Taken too soon. He was my friend and I will miss him.
Posted by Jackie Rosette on 11th September 2016
I have so many memories over the years… always with that radiant smile that lights every corner. Your passing has broken my heart, and it is very hard to accept that you have gone, but I am happy that you found such happiness. Rest in peace dear Thomas, you will never be forgotten x
Posted by Compton Tucker on 11th September 2016
Thomas was a gentleman, a scholar, and a friend to many of us. With malice toward none, we wish Thomas well as he crosses the River Styx and lament his passing.
Posted by Sassan Saatchi on 10th September 2016
I am shocked and deeply saddened about the news. I have been in many meetings with Thomas and have always enjoyed our conversations, his brilliant scientific insights, and his gentle and attentive mannerism. I have several great memories of him in social gatherings and outings, specially in Brazilian Remote Sensing Symposiums, where he attended fully with heart and soul. I miss having him around in our gatherings.
Posted by Chuanmin Hu on 10th September 2016
I feel sorry to lose a wonderful colleague. May he rest in peace.
Posted by Feng Gao on 10th September 2016
I was so shocked and deeply saddened to hear the news. Thomas was always smiling and came across as a truly brilliant and wonderful person. It was always a pleasure to collaborate with him on various papers. My sincere condolences to his family.
Posted by Ranga Myneni on 10th September 2016
We spent good times together in April 2015 while attending the Brazilian RS symposium in Nordeste. Long lunches and dinners by the beach with a large group of friends - Thomas and Yhasmin in the center. Fond memories that we shall treasure forever. I am personally proud to count as Thomas' co-author on a couple of brilliant research articles. We were exchanging emails on some recent work as late as August ... Dear Thomas you will live in our hearts and minds for as long as we live ...
Posted by Jing Chen on 10th September 2016
Very sad to see a rising star diminished.
Posted by Jing Chen on 10th September 2016
Very sad to see a rising star diminished.
Posted by Martin Van Leeuwen on 9th September 2016
Thomas was a very bright and quick learner, with an amazing and intimidating repertoire of works. Upon entering the lab, unknowing as to anyone’s expectations, I initially tried to follow, which I soon discovered I simply could not. He combined broad interests with specialized skills. But my best memories were when we spent hiking the Golden Ears or when we were zooming through Hinton and Saskatoon, Switzerland, Spain and many other places. He was font of nature and knowledgeable about the trees. My deepest condolences to Yhasmin and his family.
Posted by Aramde Fetene on 9th September 2016
I was very much shocked when I heard the passing of Thomas Hilker in the evening of September 5, 2016. I was lucky and had got a chance to work with him in 2013 to study landscape change and landscape disturbance from remote sensing data at Oregon State University. I never forget his ever bright face and he was a great source of comfort and support for my PhD studies in Environmental planning. Thomas’s soul is now at peace and is resting with the lord. His pain is gone and it is our turn to deal with sorrow. We know the day will come but death always leaves us with grief. I can’t begin to imagine what Thomas families and friends are feeling, but let me share my heart-felt condolence. Let patience be upon Yhasmin and family at this time of grief. My prayers and thoughts are with you all during this horrible time.
Posted by Jan Pisek on 9th September 2016
I always looked forward to catching up with Thomas and attending his presentations at AGU - the passion, scientific excellence, his ability to explain even quite complicated things in simple words - they were always great. Equally awesome was his genuine way of showing interest while talking to you - no matter if the topic was research-related or just sharing some anecdote experience from everyday life - he was curious about everything. His smile is indeed a great way to remember Thomas and his influence on life of others.
Posted by Laura Chasmer on 8th September 2016
I was so sorry to hear about the sudden passing of Thomas. Although I only met him a few times, he was such a vibrant and warm person. I first met him soon after he started working with Nicholas. He asked me about lidar. The next time I met him, I was amazed at the progress he had made. It just really blew me away and I thought, wow, this is someone who is going to make strides in remote sensing! Yet he was humble and he loved what he did. You could tell. He glowed (and if you didn't see the glow, you could feel it in his writing). My most heartfelt condolences to his family and his wife. May we always keep in mind those who are most precious to us.
Posted by Amanda Mathys on 8th September 2016
Thomas was a great scientist and always kind and helpful. He was my first contact with IRSS during my MSc when we collaborated on a flux tower project of Andy Black. He was a great mentor and helped me to find my path when I was deciding where to do a PhD, highly encouraging me to work with Nicholas Coops and IRSS. I am always grateful for his advice, his intelligence & for sharing his experiences. It was an honour to work with him and to catch up with him at AGU and NASA meetings and at OSU and UBC. Thomas, you will be greatly missed and your contributions will be remembered in the scientific community. My condolences to Yhasmin and his family in Germany.
Posted by Daniel Soto on 8th September 2016
Sometimes the life has unexpected ways...sometimes we don't understand these ways, and sometimes the life send us messages to learn...and sometimes some of these are so rough for family and friends. What happened to Thomas is one of this, he was so young, and with a brilliant future that we don't understand this, it's unfair. But the life works unexpected way, and we cannot predict it... I remember when I priest told to the folks that this world is for imperfect people and heaven is for good guys, now this argument makes me think about that. My deepest condolences to his family and friends.
Posted by Guido Wulf on 8th September 2016
Since we were born and raised in the same German small town I knew Thomas from the very early days of our lives. We went to the same elementary school and a few years later did our high school graduation (Abitur) together being in the same class for several years. We weren't close friends but it always was a pleasure enjoying his company since he simply was a friendly, always helpful and smart guy. After leaving school I lost sight of him for quite a while and only picked up snippets of what he was up to from time to time. But with Social Media appearing I had the chance to catch a glimpse at his outstanding career and private life from thousands of miles away. When I learned that Thomas had died under such tragic circumstances a few days ago I was devastated. I knew that he and his wife had big plans for the near future and thinking about all of this felt so unreal, more like a nightmare. But unfortunately it is reality and from the bottom of my heart I wish his friends and especially his family all the best and all the strength needed for the days ahead. Thomas, you will be sadly missed. Farewell and rest in peace.
Posted by Birgit Frewer on 8th September 2016
Thomas and I went to school together, 1982-1995, so to say we grew up together. That smile he always had. When my Mom told me last night he passed away I felt a part of my childhood had gone with him, it really hurts. But truth is, he will always be with us, in our memories and hearts…
Posted by Zhenlin Yang on 8th September 2016
I was very much shocked at the news yesterday. It took me and will take me more days to get over this. I thought he is going to UK for a better opportunity. I thought he is in his way to the very top of the field. I thought I would hear from him again or meet him again somewhere. Thomas is such a nice and friendly person with a smiling face. I did not expect such kinds of heartbroken news.. Rest in Peace...Condolences to his family..
Posted by Michele Justice on 7th September 2016
Thomas was a delight to know - cheerful, kind, forward-thinking and optimistic. He will be very much missed by all whom he touched - colleagues, students and friends. May Yhasmin, his family, and all who knew him be blessed by his memory.
Posted by Marc Imhoff on 7th September 2016
I am deeply saddened to hear of Thomas Hilker’s passing. He was a wonder. It’s not often that you get to watch a young person develop from student and post doc to one of the very best scientists in the field even surpassing his mentors! He is gone too soon. I am grateful for his time on this Earth and what he has done for us. A while ago, NASA had a mission statement that read, “To understand and protect the home planet”. Many of us deeply believed in this and Thomas did it naturally. He is a hero for Earth.
Posted by Jaime Nickeson on 7th September 2016
Such a sweet man! Gentle, humble and kind. In his short life Thomas clearly left his mark in the hearts all who knew him and in his relatively brief career he has made an indelible mark as well. We will miss that contagious smile and the sharing of ideas, stories, and a beer. I know we all feel his premature loss deeply. Thanks to all who have shared your memories and photos, it’s both sad and wonderful to see. My sincere condolences to Yhasmin, his brother and father.
Posted by Zbynek Malenovsky on 7th September 2016
I remember happy Thomas when running downhill the Berg Rigi in Switzerland few years ago. He enjoyed being outdoor as much as pushing forward frontiers of science from behind his computer. The true pioneer in all his being and doing!
Posted by Warren Cohen on 7th September 2016
Every time I interacted with Thomas I was left with this singular impression: the man is truly awesome. What a loss! My heart goes out to Yhasmin and Thomas' family. RIP my friend.
Posted by Joanne White on 7th September 2016
Thomas was gracious, gregarious, and incredibly generous with his time and ideas. He was a true gentleman and a brilliant scientist. Thomas was the dream collaborator, skilled at communicating complex concepts and providing insightful and thoughtful feedback. His positive outlook on life was contagious and meeting with him was always a delight. Thomas has left us far too soon, but what an indelible personal and professional legacy he leaves behind. My sincerest condolences to Yhasmin and his family.
Posted by Steve Watchorn on 7th September 2016
Though I never met Thomas in person, I had the chance to collaborate with him on a very interesting proposal a few years ago, and found him to be a delightful colleague in all respects. My best thoughts to all of his family and loved ones in his untimely passing, far too soon.
Posted by Lucie Lepine on 7th September 2016
Thomas was among the kindest, most genuine and sincere people I've met in my life, and a real joy to be around. I feel so lucky to have known him, and to have had the opportunity to work with him, albeit briefly. He will indeed be missed.
Posted by Albert Porcar on 7th September 2016
I first met Thomas in 2008 in a SpecNet meeting. It was impossible not to start admiring his sharpness, his intellect yet modesty, his charm and positive attitude. It was impossible to meet Thomas and not to become his friend. The results of his too short but extremely productive scientific life will certainly serve as reference for years to come. More importantly, his memory shall live to remind us of smiling one another and be positive. We will miss you Thomas. My deepest condolences.
Posted by Nicholas Soverel on 7th September 2016
My condolences to Thomas' family and especially to his partner Yhasmin. These past few days have made me reflect on my experience of Thomas and I want to share these with others. Thomas took two things very seriously in his life: his relationships and his research. I break these two out below. His research: I saw Thomas walking home with his sizable external hard drive one day. He explained this was just in case of fire or burglary. I remember sharing a hotel room with Thomas during one of the Coops' famous lab retreats. The lab retreats were really a chance to catch up with the other researchers and drink. However, I distinctly remember waking up late one of the evenings after all the festivities to see that Dr. Hilker was very quietly coding on his computer. His relationships: He was always available to talk, to help, to have a laugh. He smiled to see you. He genuinely inquired about people and about the world around him. He would talk to me about Volkswagens - how the ones made in Germany were much more reliable than those made in North America. He asked me about forest fire and fire ecology even though our remote sensing modeling didn't require this understanding. Anyone who knew Thomas knows that the world has lost someone very special and very dear to many people. May you rest in peace Thomas and we will miss you and not forget you!
Posted by Andrew Hudak on 7th September 2016
Thomas was adept at every aspect of being a successful scientist. He left an indelible mark in our field, yet really was only just getting started. This is a tragedy that is difficult to process. My heart goes out to Yhasmin. Yes, science creds for sure, but it was his composure and grace that I admired most. That spirit will live on.
Posted by Logan Berner on 6th September 2016
Thomas was a shining light of humanity and an exceptional scientist. His passing is a loss to the world. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family.
Posted by Nicholas Coops on 6th September 2016
Thomas was, of course, a gifted PhD student. Hard working, polite, respectful and efficient. He completed his PHD in 3 years, a record, as well as publishing 6 papers. He quickly out-paced his supervisor. During that time as a student he spent what time he could outdoors, learning about the trees, forests and fluxes. Indoors it was coding, databasing (oh.. his beloved database!) and writing. A gifted combination of skills that served him well throughout his career. Thomas was a lab-mates dream He was up for a drink (or many), a hike, a party, and a joke. He was often the victim of having his screen backdrops changed when away from his desk. To cats, which Thomas didn’t have much time for, and often much worse. He was the first to pitch in, to organize, to clean up or to pay. Thomas became a stellar scientist. He approached environmental questions and challenges with vigor and zeal. He had an enormous curiosity and passion for science. He loved tinkering with equipment, field and spectral data collection, programming, modelling, simulation and writing; making him a true all-rounder. From Landsat to LiDAR he moved between technologies with ease as he researched important issues of our time. Thomas was also a collaborators delight. He was respective of other opinions, eager to share ideas and approaches, happy to slow down and explain ideas simply or speed up and jump to the answer. He recognized others contribution and knew science was a collaborative endeavor. He was loyal to those he worked with, and travelled the world building networks of colleagues, based on respect, and the love of science. But most of all….. Thomas was my friend.
Posted by Scott Ollinger on 6th September 2016
This is such a sad loss. What a wonderful and gifted person. Thomas was an amazing scientist as well as a bright light of a human being... full of creative ideas, positive vibes, radiant smiles and kindness. He was a friend and colleague who I will really miss.
Posted by Jeff Masek on 6th September 2016
Thomas made a huge impact on those who were lucky enough to work with him. In addition to having one of the keenest minds in Earth science, he was one of the friendliest and most gregarious people you'd ever meet. I'm glad that he was able to spend a few years at GSFC, and we'll all miss him terribly.

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