Clark will introduce its new Center for Geospatial Analytics this month by welcoming nearly 40 stakeholders from the U.S. and abroad to discuss the latest advancements in a field that is revolutionizing geography and explore how best to prepare students to become its next generation of scientists and innovators.
The workshop will host leaders in the field of geospatial analytics, which leverages satellite imagery and other location-specific data to help researchers, policymakers, and the public study the earth and visualize the impact of human activities on our environment.
“Climate change is a reality of our life now. We are beyond the mitigation stage because we are not meeting any of our targets in terms of reducing emissions,” says Hamed Alemohammad, the inaugural director of the Center for Geospatial Analytics (CGA) and an associate professor in the Graduate School of Geography. “We need to design our adaptation strategy to this changing climate, and that’s where geospatial analytics can help us.”
By combining new software technologies with data science and harnessing artificial intelligence (AI), geospatial analytics allows scientists to inspect various observations and better understand the impacts of climate change — from analyzing trends in flooding and wildfires, to studying how human health is affected by air and water quality, to mapping the causes and effects of biodiversity loss.
But to make headway, “we need more people in this realm of geospatial research,” Alemohammad notes.
He hopes the Center can play a part in filling the current knowledge gap and educate students who can transition seamlessly from academia to the workplace as well as empowering those who want to continue in a research track with skills that can help them be more productive.
“We want to work hand in hand with those in the industry so we can be more agile in what and how we teach our students, especially those in the M.S. GIS Program,” he says. “We want to make sure that when they enter the workplace, they don’t need to be trained another six more months to get on board. We want them to be market-ready so they can land quickly in these jobs.”
The Center plans tap into a wave of emerging technologies and research, much as Clark Labs did when it was founded by Geography Professor Emeritus Ron Eastman in 1987. Clark Labs developed the IDRISI/TerrSet geographic information and image processing system, which became the most affordable way for hundreds of universities and nonprofits across the world to pursue research in earth system science and climate change.
Now, Alemohammad wants to consult leaders in industry, government and academic to identify the role that Clark’s CGA will play in the geospatial analytics space and establish strategic partnerships to establish it as a center of excellence at the forefront of innovation in this sector.
The outcomes of the workshop, he says, will inform the development of the Center’s strategy over the next few years to work with government and industry partners to share knowledge and technology and attract funding to grow the Center. CGA is going to be a gateway for Clark faculty and students who want to connect with partners outside of Clark and work on innovative geospatial analytics problems.
“We want to work hand in hand with those in the industry so we can be more agile in what and how we teach our students, especially those in the M.S. GIS Program.”
Recently, for example, Alemohammad teamed up with IBM and NASA’s Interagency Implementation and Advanced Concepts Team (IMPACT) to develop the world’s first geospatial AI foundation model, a milestone that will allow climate and earth scientists to access and study data more quickly and efficiently.
Representatives from NASA and IMPACT will attend CGA’s Strategic Launch Workshop on Sept. 27. So will executives from the German Agency for International Cooperation (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) and Radiant Earth, where Alemohammad served as executive director and chief data scientist and now is a board member.
Industry leaders will come from Microsoft’s AI for Good Lab, Astraea, Element 84, Floodbase, Tetra Tech, Planet, Location Inc., Sinergise, and Development Seed.
On the academic side, faculty members from Harvard, Brown, Boston University, Arizona State, University of Tennessee, University of San Francisco, and Technische Universität Berlin will join Eastman, director of Clark Labs, plus faculty from Clark’s Graduate School of Geography — Professors Lyndon Estes, Karen Frey, John Rogan, Rinku Roy Chowdhury, Robert Pontius, Florencia Sangermano, and Christopher Williams — and Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger of the International Development, Community, and Environment Department.
Dr. Budhendra Bhaduri, director of the Geospatial Science and Human Security Division and a Corporate Research Fellow at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, will present the keynote, following a welcome address by President David Fithian ’87. The event is by invitation only.