Student and Early Career Member Spotlight

Science and Society is excited to feature the work of our student and early career members. If you would like us to highlight your work (or know someone who should be highlighted), please fill out our survey and we'll be in touch.

September 2020
Ian Bolliger

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Institution: Rhodium Group
Position: Climate Data Scientist
Contact Info: ibolliger@rhg.com
Tell us about your science and society experiences: I am an interdisciplinary environmental data scientist with a background in natural hazards, climate change impacts, geospatial analysis, remote sensing, economics, and global health. In my research, I quantify risks from extreme events in a changing climate, and I use this knowledge to evaluate strategies that mitigate and adapt to these changes. I blend large-scale observational data with insights from lab experiments, and I pair geophysical models with econometric estimates and optimization models. In one example, I lead a team of data scientists, hydrologists, and economists forecasting costs from hurricane-driven flooding and wind damage in the 21st century. In another, my colleagues and I develop a machine learning-based feature extraction algorithm that facilitates the use of remote sensing data for efficiently monitoring numerous socio-environmental metrics at a global scale. Learn more about this work here, here, here, and here. Recently, my co-authors and I applied familiar tools to a different field, joining econometric and epidemiological models to quantify the effectiveness of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) on the spread of COVID-19.

July 2020
Sarah Alexander

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Institution: University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Position: Graduate Research Assistant
Contact Info: salexander6@wisc.edu
Tell us about your science and society experiences: Communities worldwide suffer from variabilities in climate, such as drought or flood. These variations threaten livelihoods, creating food and water insecurity, and prompting public health concerns – particularly in areas with a single rainy season. Scientists have developed ‘seasonal climate forecasts,’ or ways to predict in advance the climate conditions expected the following season (wet or dry), which may assist farmers’ agricultural decisions. Yet, this information is under-utilized. Our research uses multiple methods from engineering, science communication, and sociology to develop a way to communicate climate information to farmers in Ethiopia for integration to decision-making. By engaging directly with our target audience, we developed a highly visual forecast bulletin and public engagement sessions to help potential users understand seasonal climate forecasts. This novel approach bridges the gap between scientific forecast development and integration to decision-making for increased resilience, food, and water security for communities vulnerable to climate variability. This work is part of an NSF PIRE project. More details about my work can also be found at the Water Systems and Society Research group at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.