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University of Michigan School of Information


UMSI affiliates awarded prestigious earth science fellowship

Thursday, 02/04/2021

Three UMSI affiliates were awarded competitive fellowships from Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP).

The organization is dedicated to advancing the work of Earth science through creating a network of data scientists at the intersection of research, application and education. ESIP fellows will spend 2021 working on various environmental data science projects.

Andrea Thomer, an assistant professor of information at UMSI who is affiliated with the organization said: “ESIP is really unique, bringing together researchers and practitioners, and earth, data and even social scientists.  The ESIP community fellows program is similarly unique – there are few opportunities for early career scholars to get involved with such an interdisciplinary and passionate group.”

Meet UMSI’s fellows


Christine Gregg


MSI student Christine Gregg's headshot

Why did you apply to the ESIP Fellowship?

I am a practicing environmental engineer and a data science master's student, so ESIP's mission of expanding the accessibility, understanding, and usefulness of Earth science data sits at the intersection of my professional and academic interests. After about six years in the environmental remediation industry, I found myself missing the human-centered frame of reference that organizations like ESIP (and UMSI!) encourage. 

What work will you be focusing on as a fellow?

My fellowship is with ESIP's Community Resilience cluster. I am supporting an interdisciplinary team of Earth scientists and data professionals as they research how Earth science data accessibility and knowledge can support the resiliency of place-based communities. Community Resilience has a broad reach, so I am also focusing on fostering collaboration between Community Resilience and other ESIP clusters.


Cindy Lin

UMSI PhD Candidate

Headshot of PhD candidate Cindy Lin


Why did you apply to the ESIP Fellowship?

I applied to the ESIP Fellowship to learn more about the information practices and cultures of earth and environmental scientists more broadly. On a more specific note, I was very much curious about how machine learning and data-driven technologies have become fundamental tools for sciences related to climate issues, and the promises and limits of such computational methods. 

What work will you be focusing on as a fellow?

As a fellow, I will be focusing on working with the Machine Learning Research Cluster with other earth and information scientists. This includes studying and writing about both the potential and limits of AI in cases ranging from air pollution tracking to wildfire detection. Of interest to me are recent efforts by both earth and computer scientists to develop what they call inclusive datasets for global South countries who they described as not having sufficient benchmark datasets and machine learning models. This means working closely with local environmental and earth scientists in these regions to annotate and develop appropriate applications of AI for environmental issues. I think the cluster will help facilitate connections to these new socially-oriented research interests by the scientific community. 

What are your primary areas of research interest?

My area of specialization is in critical studies of design and computing, ICTs and social change as well as Science, Technology, and Society (STS). My broader research focuses on the visions, promises, and instruments of data science and AI that are applied to transform environmental sciences and sustainability. I have studied the private-public partnerships between American IT corporations like IBM and environmental state scientists and engineers in Indonesia, evidencing how the story of AI and data science as both inevitable and promising for environmental justice and climate change legitimizes various forms of racialized exploitation.

Sara Lafia

Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) PhD Candidate, UMSI affiliate 

PhD candidate Sara Lafia's headshot


Why did you apply to the ESIP Fellowship?

 I have been involved in the ESIP Community since 2018, when I was fortunate to receive the Raskin Scholarship for Earth and computer science scholars studying semantics, GIS, cyberinfrastructure and computing. As a postdoctoral researcher, I applied for the ESIP Community Fellowship to engage with researchers in the areas of discovery, data stewardship, and research object citation. I'm excited to connect with ESIP as a community of practice and contribute to research on data discovery.

What work will you be focusing on as a fellow?

 As a fellow, I will primarily support the Discovery cluster. We are focusing on usage-based discovery and developing ways to track the reuse of scientific datasets, like satellite imagery, which are often ingested into public-facing applications. I'm also excited to share my interest in data curation with this group and discuss ideas for measuring the impact of curation on data reuse, which is the focus of my current postdoctoral research at ICPSR at the University of Michigan.

- Kate Cammell, Writer UMSI