Monday, May 2, 2016

Space 2.0 takes off

(photo taken at Astro Digital)
After returning from last week’s Space2.0 conference in Silicon Valley last week, a number of assumptions were confirmed.  Chief among the confirmations: (a) there is significant value to be generated from location-based information derived from space-based technologies, and (b) achieving value will not be easy.  

Sensors, small-sats, machine learning, computer vision, rapid analytics, new markets, etc....  These were just a few of the many topics discussed over the course of the three day meeting, and there is plenty of room for optimism regarding Newspace.  But as many speakers noted, optimism needs to be viewed cautiously.  As a well-known game changer in the space industry (and electric cars, and solar energy, and transportation, and…) has stated, ‘Space is hard’.  Taking new concepts to market is difficult in any industry.  Then when we add on risks associated with launch failure, changing attitudes towards privacy, and the proliferation of new sources of data from both ground and space, we can easily see how months can turn into years.  Difficulty notwithstanding, those of us in the space-based information industry have always known that there is something ‘there’.  However, monetizing what is there towards a cost effective commercial application has typically proven to be a significant challenge, with many more misses than hits.  With the avalanche of new data coupled with the computational resources to analyze ever increasing volumes, there does seem to be a new sense of optimism, and the future in my view is bright.  While many are in search of the killer app, practicality will trump flash, and solid technology platforms that address specific business challenges would appear to be better bets, from both a business adaptation perspective as well as a funding perspective, as many of the participants in attendance from the venture community can attest to. Further, as more back end moves to the cloud, this frees up workers to creatively engage with their data, spending more time thinking about how their structures and solutions fit the needs of commercial customers, rather than managing and organizing (the 80% of data science).  It follows that partnerships will be necessary as a key ingredient for success for both large and small players.  Also, no emerging company, no matter how innovative the technology may be, will receive the necessary funding and support to mature, without a solid commercial proposal.  The space sector is not one where outsized returns are realized over a short time frame. Patience is needed on the part of the funders, and this needs to be balanced with the needs and focus of a solid technology platform, complimented by a management team that can balance innovation with focus.

In my opinion, this is a great time for both established and fledgling companies to be participating in Newspace.  The opportunities are everywhere, but this does need to be balanced with focus.  My hope, and expectation, is that many of the views and aspirations expressed at Space2.0_2016 will be on their way to becoming a reality at Space2.0_2017.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Senior Research Scientist in Climate Change Data Integration, Dissemination, and Informatics at Oak Ridge National Laboratory

posted on KDnuggets


The Climate Change Science Institute (CCSI and National Center for Computational Science (NCCS - at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Lab) have an opening for a senior research scientist in data integration, dissemination, and informatics (DIDI). 

Institutes and centers bring together expert researchers and tools from across the Lab to focus on complex and novel interdisciplinary research projects. The CCSI focus is on Earth system modeling; terrestrial ecosystem sciences; environmental data management; and impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability research. The NCCS focus is on using novel and state-of-the-art computer and computational approaches to help researchers deliver new scientific knowledge in a range of scientific areas including climate. The CCSI and NCCS collaborate closely on research to better understand the climate system and the implications of climate change. 

The current DIDI mission is ensuring that researchers addressing climate change and its effects can readily discover and use data. The CCSI curates more than 10,000 diverse environmental and climate data sets and many tools for their management, navigation, and analysis, including atmospheric radiation measurements about cloud formation and its influence on heat transfer; carbon dioxide and other atmospheric trace gases of interest to climate studies, and a broad range of biogeochemical data. These data are regularly used by world-class researchers and cited in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's assessment reports. The DIDI effort optimizes strategies for proactively supporting integrated experiment-observation-modeling (MODEX) research and for coping with the variety, velocity, and volume of big data that climate and environmental sciences generate. 

We are looking for a nationally and internationally recognized thought leader to help lead and grow the DIDI research efforts. This person will help us solve the "big data" problem associated with studying the climate system and how natural and human systems influence and are impacted by a changing climate. A key focus will be identifying, accessing, and using data in novel ways to address some of the most pressing challenges facing humankind. The successful candidate will be able to draw upon the substantial expertise and tools available at the CCSI, NCCS, and the Lab; including one of the fastest and most capable supercomputers in the world; world-class climate, population, and urban dynamic models; sophisticated data management and visualization tools; and an exceptional collaborative research environment. 

Major Duties/Responsibilities 

The successful candidate will lead DIDI research projects and staff that advance the use of data, informatics, data architectures, and computational approaches to better understand and solve climate-related challenges facing humankind. The candidate will develop data infrastructure and capabilities to support the full data lifecycle of how models, experiments, and observations are integrated together to advance climate science; ensure that these systems complement existing and emerging community data activities and requirements; and anticipate innovative community data tools needed by the climate research community. 

The research will also explore opportunities for linking DIDI research to model development and analysis efforts associated with the Department of Energy Office of Science's next generation, exascale climate model development project called the Accelerated Climate Model for Energy. This model will produce enormous amounts of data and information at scales useful for regional to local decision-making. A strong focus for both CCSI and NCCS is improving our understanding of how urban ecosystems impact the climate system and are influenced by a changing climate since urban areas have such a significant impact on energy and water use and the production of greenhouse gases. Thus, we are particularly interested in candidates that have experience and interest in growing the data, informatics, and computational approach associated with this important research area. Candidates with background or interest in research at the energy-water nexus are also of strong interest. Responsibilities will include development of new research proposals, communication with research sponsors, execution of research tasks, supervision of support staff, and communication of research outcomes via publications and professional presentations. 

Qualifications Required 
  • Ph.D. in data, informatics, or computational science and relative domain (e.g., climate, environmental, etc.) with strong computational and data backgrounds.
  • Research experience in optimizing the use of big data, data mining, data visualization data architectures, and computational approaches in novels ways to better understand and solve climate-related challenges facing humankind.
  • Track record of research excellence as measured by research grants, peer-reviewed publications, and service to the DIDI research community
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Ability to lead and work effectively with interdisciplinary research teams
  • Eligibility to work in the United States

Preferred Qualifications: 
  • +10 years beyond PhD
  • Experience with stakeholder engagement and science communication
  • Demonstrated success mentoring early career researchers
  • Project management experience
  • Interest and experience in using data to better understand how urban ecosystems impact the climate system and are influenced by a changing climate, the energy-water nexus, and preparing society for and improving resiliency to extreme events

For more information please contact our recruiter, Julianna Presley, or apply online at -Reference NB50526657. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Solving Big Problems @SOLVE_MIT

Recently I was fortunate enough to participate in the inaugural SOLVE conference, held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  In the words of the conference organizers, ‘Solve’s mission is to inspire extraordinary people to work together to solve some of the world’s toughest problems.’   The event was organized around four pillars: Fuel, Make, Cure and Learn.  As anything agriculture or climate related was housed under the Fuel pillar, most of my interactions were among participants with an agriculture, energy or climate focus.  Fortunately, the Food-Energy-Water nexus theme was present throughout many of the sessions.  I was certainly grateful to be invited to participate in this event and my expectations were exceeded.  Most of the conference was subject to Chatham House Rule so specifics can not be discussed, but a notable highlight from the opening (public) keynote is described below.

SOLVE kicked off with a keynote by Dr. Jeffrey Sachs (@JeffDSachs) who directs the Earth Institute at Columbia.  He energetically delivered the updates around the new Sustainable Development Goals, with one very noteworthy announcement.  I have seen Professor Sachs discuss the SDGs in the past, but this time he really emphasized the importance of data and analytics towards meeting these goals so that they really do what they set out to do.  For years, many of the goals have been platforms for project based work, but in the end when it is time to evaluate the effectiveness of the instituted measures, the results were unclear.  It was very refreshing to see the emphasis on what the analytics related approaches can provide; further, it was clear that without a data-driven emphasis, many of the goals are doomed to failure.  In addition, this approach plays right into the business model and platform that we offer at aWhere.

Many potential partnerships were established, with equal representation among other commercial companies, not for profit organizations and academia.  As expected, many of the themes ran across pillars, so cross fertilization of ideas should lead to the development of some interesting tools that can tackle these big global problems.  I will continue to report on any collaborative activities that were germinated at SOLVE, and I hope to be back again next year for the next session.

Photography credit: Dominick Reuter

Friday, August 28, 2015

Eyes in the Sky: 'Other' Careers in the Atmospheric Sciences

I get several calls/emails each week from undergraduate students, graduate students, post-grads, potential career-changers, etc., all asking what 'other' career options are available to those with a degree in the atmospheric sciences.  By 'other', I mean non-meteorologist careers (I am not a meteorologist; my background can be found here).  Since I receive inquiries like this so frequently, I thought that it would be a good idea to put together a list of job titles from people that I know who have an atmospheric science background.

This list is intentionally informal (sample size = 1) and is obviously not meant to represent all possibilities, but as I started thinking about the careers taken by colleagues past and present (myself included), I even surprised myself when I realized the interesting opportunities that this foundation provides.  Also, I only listed those positions with a scientific/technical focus; there are many other possibilities if we expand into other areas of business, where the mathematics, problem solving and critical thinking that comes with the rigorous curriculum are highly sought after skills. 

Atmospheric Scientist*
Meteorologist (non-forecasting, ie., air quality)
Physical Scientist
Data/Informatics Scientist*
Aviation Meteorologist
Risk Management Specialist*
Renewable Energy Scientist (Wind, Solar, Hydro)
Geospatial Information Specialist/Developer
Space Weather Scientist
Marine Geologist
Remote Sensing Scientist
Climate Modeler*
Planetary Scientist
Paleoscientist (oceanographer)
Agricultural Climatologist
Atmospheric Chemist
Aerospace Engineer
Planetary Scientist
Environmental Scientist*
Environmental Engineer*
Information Systems Specialist
AMS President
Systems Engineer
Commodity Specialist*

(*titles that I hold or have held)

Feel free to send along suggestions to add to the list.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The 5th International Workshop on Climate Informatics

The 5th International Workshop on Climate Informatics,          September 2015  Boulder, CO

New: This year, we are excited to add a climate informatics "hackathon" immediately following the Climate Informatics workshop, on Saturday September 26th

We have greatly increased the volume and diversity of climate data from satellites, environmental sensors and climate models in order to improve our understanding of the climate system.  However, this very increase in volume and diversity can make the use of traditional analysis tools impractical and necessitate the need to carry out knowledge discovery from data. Machine learning has made significant impacts in fields ranging from web search to bioinformatics, and the impact of machine learning on climate science could be as profound. However, because the goal of machine learning in climate science is to improve our understanding of the climate system, it is necessary to employ techniques that go beyond simply taking advantage of co-occurence, and, instead, enable increased understanding. 
The Climate Informatics workshop series seeks to build collaborative relationships between researchers from statistics, machine learning and data mining and researchers in climate science.  Because climate models and observed datasets are increasing in complexity and volume, and because the nature of our changing climate is an urgent area of discovery, there are many opportunities for such partnerships.
Climate informatics broadly refers to any research combining climate science with approaches from statistics, machine learning and data mining. The Climate Informatics workshop series, now in its fifth year, seeks to bring together researchers from all of these areas. We aim to stimulate the discussion of new ideas, foster new collaborations, grow the climate informatics community, and thus accelerate discovery across disciplinary boundaries. The format of the workshop seeks to overcome cross-disciplinary language barriers and to emphasize communication between participants by featuring tutorials, invited talks, panel discussions, posters and break-out sessions. The programs of previous workshops can be found here (CI 2014CI 2013CI 2012CI 2011). We invite all researchers interested in learning about critical issues and opportunities in the field of climate informatics to join us, whether established in the field or just starting out.
Important Dates
Monday, August 3, 2015: Poster abstracts due
Monday, August 17, 2015: Author notification
Monday, August 17, 2015: Travel fellowship notification
Tuesday, September 8, 2015: Revised abstracts due
Thursday-Friday, September 24-25, 2015: Workshop takes place at NCAR, in Boulder, CO
**Saturday, September 26, 2015: Climate Informatics Hackathon

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Postdoctoral Research Scientist @NASAGISS

Postdoctoral Research Scientist

The Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics at Columbia University in New York seeks applicants for a Postdoctoral Research Scientist appointment in the area of modeling radiative processes and their effect on planetary climates in a three-dimensional general circulation model. The appointment is for a 2-year period.

The successful candidate will participate in a groundbreaking NASA research initiative, the Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS), with an interdisciplinary team of scientists from the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), the Goddard Space Flight Center, Columbia University, and other institutions. The broad goals of the team’s research are to address questions about the habitability of past Solar System climates, to use these insights to assess the habitability of exoplanet climates, and to inform the design of future spacecraft missions for detecting and characterizing habitable exoplanets. The candidate will be expected to perform original research, present the results of the research at scientific meetings, and publish first-author papers in peer-reviewed journals. The candidate will be resident at NASA GISS, located in New York City near the Morningside Campus of Columbia University.
Successful applicants will have a Ph.D. in atmospheric science, planetary science, astrobiology, astronomy, physics, or a similar field. Expertise in radiative transfer and a willingness to become involved in radiation parameterization development are required, but the broad scope of the research initiative allows for many possible research directions and collaborations using the model. Strong mathematics and programming skills are also a requirement. Strong candidates will be interested in highly interdisciplinary questions and the challenges of interacting with scientists from diverse fields. For more information about the GISS-Columbia role in the new NExSS research initiative, see

Columbia University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. For application requirements and instructions please visit:

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

President Obama announcing @dpatil as the first Chief Data Scientist

At Strata 2015, nice shout out for data, science, weather, climate.

Weather Brains discussion - Agriculture Commodities

Weather Brains discussion - Agriculture Commodities

While I have been a long time listener of the show, last night I participated as a guest in my first Weather Brains hangout.  Weather Brains is a weekly podcast that is pure weather geekery, with no agenda other than the open-ended questions geared towards the interests of the invited guests.  I try to listen every week, either on the live broadcast or through the archives  as shows are posted for viewing shortly thereafter.  If you are not truly a weather geek there is no reason to tune in, but as weather is a subject that touches everyone in a unique way, the interest in the weekly discussion is generally pretty high.  Recent episodes have addressed a wide variety of topics including (of course) the recent extreme cold and ice in the US, model scoring, a discussion from past AMS president Dr. Marshall Shepherd, and aviation/transportation weather, among other subjects.  For last night’s discussion, I tried to focus most of my contributions around the close relationship at the confluence of weather/climate, agriculture and global commercial activity.

The conversation touched upon some of the tools and recommendations that aWhere develops and provides to our customers in the global agriculture sector, how I became interested in this field including my graduate work at Rutgers, and ways in which companies in the food and beverage sector (including organizations such as Mars and Coke) utilize weather and climate information as a source of competitive advantage.  Throughout the chat, we touched upon the general state of the weather and climate services enterprise several times, which I described as healthy. From the number of companies that have emerged in the agritech and weather information services space to the amount of investment capital that has entered this sector over the last 1-2 years, I feel that the current position of our field is quite strong.  In addition, the conversation allowed for my perspectives of climate science as data science, and specific financial instruments that commodity risk managers can access and utilize towards efforts to manage price volatility as a result of weather-driven markets.  Most people understand the relationship between weather/climate and agriculture on the surface, but many don’t dig deeper to uncover how valuable it is when using our data as a cornerstone in fundamental analysis of global commerce.  This goes beyond what is happening the field, as the analysis expands into topics such as plant disease, nutritional requirements, water stress, foreign exchange rates and geopolitics.  The use of financial futures and options as tools to manage the risk is available to a wider sector of participants than just the traders, and should be used accordingly.

I think that I was able to provide a slightly different perspective for viewers and listeners.  This discussion was more about ‘applied weather intelligence, as opposed to weather forecasting, and this is a good thing.  The applied wx intelligence arena is the space where aWhere plays, so we are well positioned to provide new tools to the commodity risk management community, which includes traditional traders, but also encapsulates small farmers, food security analysts, food and beverage companies, and information service providers.  Not everyone in the sciences of climate and meteorology go into forecasting or basic research, and I think that I highlighted just one of many alternatives that students should be aware of.  As weather and climate touch virtually every aspect of society in some way, the options for the next generation of scientists are far wider than what we may have seen in the past.

It was fun participating in the discussion (video below), and I would be happy to become a ‘repeat guest’ in a future episode.  And thanks to the always-entertaining James Spann (@spann) for hosting, in between real-time forecast activities.