Thomas Juntunen, Geospatial Developer at the Polar Geospatial Center (PGC), passed away on Wednesday, Aug 26th. Thomas began working for PGC when he was a graduate student in the University’s Masters of Geographic Information Science program and stayed on as a valued staff member for the past eleven years. He helped turn a small Antarctic mapping project into a successful science support organization helping scientists in both the Arctic and Antarctic accomplish groundbreaking new research. He served as PGC’s satellite imagery archivist, designing and building software systems that facilitated the use of millions of satellite images by the scientific and polar logistics communities. His work revolutionized the way science is done in polar regions. He was proud to be part of PGC, and as was usual for him, he could never quite believe that he played a crucial role.
Thomas was known for his generous spirit and open heart, for sharing interesting tidbits of trivia that he thought were right up your alley, for wearing his heart on his sleeve, and for his meandering and welcoming conversations. He loved geeking out on science, technology, and anything related to space. He could (and would) discuss science fiction with you for hours. He approached the world with curiosity, innocence, and profound humility. Though he confessed he was sometimes unable to pick up on social cues, he would always respond with heartfelt empathy to the struggles of others. He was a beloved part of our lives, and will miss him terribly.