The windows of Room 202 of the Shaich Family Alumni and Student Engagement Center offer a breathtaking view of Jonas Clark Hall, a testament to Clark’s treasured history.
But on September 27, in room 202, the focus remained firmly on the future.
The new Clark Geospatial Analysis Center debuted with a conference that attracted nearly 40 stakeholders from the United States and abroad to discuss issues and advances in a field that is revolutionizing geography. And it is in geographical terms that the center’s director, Hamed Alemohammad, characterized the impact of the launch event: “It put us on the map.”
Geospatial analysis 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. The workshop was designed to foster candid conversations on a range of topics related to the field of geospatial analysis, including: technological breakthroughs and their use to solve pressing problems; the need to encourage and cultivate widespread data literacy; train the next generation of scientists and innovators; and build a more diverse geospatial community.
Alemohammad noted that the discussions among the participants, drawn from academia, science and industry, were both lively and productive.
“One of the goals of the workshop, from Clark’s perspective, was to learn how we can harness technological advances in a way that benefits Clark, but also in a way that allows us to be contributors ” said Alemohammad.
Some of the key takeaways from the conference:
- Participants in a technology-focused panel were challenged to think about how to best teach students in a culture fueled by unstoppable technological change. Alemohammad pointed out that a course he designed six months ago now needs to be redesigned due to constant advancements in technology. “We need to empower faculty to be nimble when thinking about new technologies,” he said.
- The key to preparing the next workforce is enabling widespread sharing of technical content, he said. “The more we invest in this area, the more we will encourage people to go into this field,” Alemohammad said. “We need to consider the impacts of our work – on issues of social justice, on adaptation to climate change. We need to be more forward-thinking to listen to the 17-year-old.
- In breakout sessions, Alemohammad asked panelists questions about how they view the role of the Center for Geospatial Analysis, how they would like to work with the Center in the future, and what types of initiatives the Center should pursue in the near future.
- Data literacy was an important point of discussion. While most people have countless technological devices, they rarely understand how to consume and analyze data, Alemohammad noted. “This was a shared theme throughout the workshop,” he said. “It’s a skill that will be increasingly in demand.”
- Racial diversity in the geospatial science ranks has also been a topic of intense conversation. “The geospatial community is neither diverse nor inclusive, and it is our responsibility to fix the leaks entering our profession. »
In his opening remarks to workshop participants, Dr. Budhendra “Budhu” Bhaduri, Director of the Division of Geospatial Sciences and Human Security and Corporate Researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, highlighted the incredible progress of GeoAI technology in areas such as disaster response, human security, energy security and damage assessment.
Tomorrow’s workforce will still need “core training” in areas such as math, computer science and geography, he said, but interdisciplinary teams will increasingly become important for solving problems related to GeoAI. Integrating physical and social sciences with AI used ethically and responsibly will help find solutions to imposing problems. “Data and computing technologies will be an integral part of our academic DNA,” he said.
In his opening remarks to workshop participants, President David Fithian cited the lasting contributions of Clark Labs founder Ron Eastman and the “outsized impact” Clark has had in GIS and other fields. scientific fields, noting that Clark “actively and passionately draws on our historic assets” to contribute to a better planet.
Before the various sessions began, Alemohammad spoke to attendees about Clark rocket pioneer Robert Goddard and the University’s connection to world-changing research and discovery. A number of them had professional associations with NASA’s Goddard Space Center and later walked around campus to see the memorial to the famous physicist.
The glorious past gives way to a promising future for the Center, Alemohammad noted. Last week’s conference provided a solid foundation on which to build.
“I will use the results of this workshop to design CGA’s strategy for the next two years,” he said, “and I will work with other faculty on campus to establish partnerships outside of University in order to increase our impact.