Last month, the Massive Data Institute (MDI) completed its Data Workshop series that was offered throughout the fall semester. In collaborating with the Georgetown Environment Initiative (GEI), MDI put together a two-part series titled “Large Scale Analysis of Climate and Land Cover Data,” to explore climate and land cover data. GEI is a multi-campus effort to advance the interdisciplinary study of the environment in relation to society, scientific understanding, policy, and in researching the planet’s natural resources. The goal of GEI is to reinforce foundations and set direction for Georgetown’s future scholarship and education efforts toward the environment and in sustainability.

The two workshops ー held on November 7th and 14th ー were led by Dr. Leslie Ries and Dr. Naresh Neupane respectively. Dr. Ries is an associate professor in the department of biology. As an ecologist by training, Dr. Ries works in the fields of landscape ecology and biogeography, with a focus on butterflies and citizen science monitoring networks. She applies these data to answer large-scale ecological questions, especially those related to climate and land cover, and develops statistical tools to extract the most robust information from the data. Dr. Neupane is an assistant research professor in the department of biology. His research interests explore the impacts of global warming upon the physical and biological components of the earth system. Dr. Neupane currently collaborates with Dr. Ries in her lab, and works on understanding the population size and distribution of butterfly under various global warming scenarios. Previous research focused on understanding the response of the West African monsoon system to global warming.

In the first workshop, Dr. Ries provided an introductory overview to the uses and benefits of climate and land cover data. For the second part of the series, the participants gained some worked with Dr. Neupane to create custom environmental products based on their research interests. In speaking with Dr. Neupane, he said that the goal of the workshops was “to expose participants to various large-scale climate and land cover data from various sources, such as meteorological stations, reanalyses, satellite observations, and climate model and provide hands-on experience and training to extract the data in the desired formal using various computing tools and softwares.” 

The two workshops in this series were indeed successful in meeting these two objectives. And more so, they showed that combining lab and field research with large-scale distribution data could provide a powerful approach to exploring the impacts of changing land cover and climate at regional, continental and global scales.

Currently, the Ries lab stores data sets relevant to climate data. Dr. Ries, however, wants to make these data available to the university community under a shared server, and help extract the necessary variables and provide them in the right or desired format for researchers. Many researchers at Georgetown, faculty and students alike, rely on these data. By converting these data under a shared server, it would benefit them by accessing these data and more efficiently carry out their calculations. MDI and GEI are currently in collaboration to facilitate the move of these data and build a set of servers to house them.