Renewable Natural 

Resources Foundation

2016 Congress on Harnessing Big Data for the Environment

Speaker Biographies


Robert S. Chen is director of CIESIN, the Center for International Earth Science Information Network, a research unit of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. He manages the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), part of NASA's network of earth science data centers. He also co-manages the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Data Distribution Center, which provides access to data and information from IPCC assessments and reports. Chen is currently a co-chair of the Data Sharing Working Group of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and of the Thematic Network on Sustainable Development Data of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UNSDSN). He also serves on the Governing Council of the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan, the Science Advisory Board of the Climate Change Science Institute at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Council of the American Geographical Society (AGS). At Columbia, Chen is an ex officio member of the Earth Institute Faculty and a member of its Practice Committee, and is serving on the faculty advisory committee for the Columbia Global Center | East Asia. Chen received his Ph.D. in geography from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and M.S. and B.S. degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Matt Cooper is the Data Manager for Vital Signs. He brings a unique combination of experience at the intersection of environmental conservation, international development, and data science. He has worked at every step of the environmental data flow, from identifying plants and collecting soils samples in the field to creating predictive statistical models from large datasets using emerging analytics technologies. Before joining CI, Cooper worked with the Peace Corps, the Forest Service, and in environmental consulting. He has conducted botanical fieldwork in Appalachia, southeast Alaska, urban Miami, the Philippines and in Sudanian savannas in Uganda and Mali. He has worked using many languages (natural and artificial), including Spanish, French, Bambara, and Tagalog, as well as Python, R, SQL and Ruby. Cooper has degrees in Geography from the University of Florida and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Jeff de La Beaujardière has been the NOAA Data Management Architect since May 2011 and Chair of the Environmental Data Management Committee since 2012. He also serves on inter-agency and international groups aimed at enhancing data sharing and interoperability, including the international Group on Earth Observations Data Management Principles Task Force, the US Group on Earth Observations Data Management Working Group, and the Open Geospatial Consortium. In these roles he works toward the vision that NOAA's rich and unique data holdings shall be discoverable, accessible, well-documented, compatible, and preserved for future use. 

Previously, de La Beaujardière was Senior Systems Architect for the US Integrated Ocean Observing System Program Office at NOAA, where he guided the implementation of interoperability standards by IOOS partners for data access and discovery.  Prior to joining NOAA, he spent 13 years at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in such roles as Geospatial One-Stop Portal Manager; web services developer for the Modeling, Analysis and Prediction 2005 project, the GLOBE Program, and the Public Use of Remote Sensing Data Program; and NASA’s representative to OGC and to the Unidata Policy Committee. He participated in the first OGC Web Mapping Testbed in 1998, implemented the first Web Map Server at NASA, and was Editor of the WMS specification for OGC and the International Organization for Standardization.

De La Beaujardière holds a BA in Physics (1985) from the University of California at Berkeley and a PhD in Astrophysics (1990) from the University of Colorado at Boulder.


Ruth Duerr is a research scholar at the Ronin Institute for Independent Scholarship. Her research interests include nearly all facets of science data management, digital archives, records management, digital library science, and software and system engineering. She has authored and co-authored many publications on the management and curation of Earth science data. As a participant in several Federation of Earth Science Partners (ESIP) committees and clusters, she was the first chair of the ESIP Data Preservation and Stewardship cluster, and has more recently served as both co-chair and chair of the Data Stewardship Committee. 

Outside of ESIP, she has participated and held leadership positions in groups such as the NASA Earth Observing System’s (EOS) Operations Working Group and the Research Data Alliance’s (RDA’s) e-Preservation Interest Group and Domain Repositories Interest Group. After previously serving as the elected Secretary for the Earth and Space Science Informatics (ESSI) Focus Group of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), she is currently the President-elect of that group. Duerr also teaches about data management at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, contributing to the expertise of new data management practitioners.

Duerr has a B.S. in math and physics from the University of North Dakota and a M.S. in astronomy from the University of Arizona.

brad garner

Brad Garner is the manager for the USGS water data presence on the web and is a part of the team that is overseeing the once-in-a-generation replacement of the core computing system that stores and delivers all streamflow, groundwater, and water quality data collected by the USGS over the past 125 years. Garner has worked for the USGS since 2003 working on a wide range of hydrologic science topics. He has a B.S. in Computer Sciences and an M.S. in Geological Sciences, both from the University of Texas at Austin.


Carl Gouldman is Deputy Director of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Program. Since 2000, he has served in various capacities at NOAA and IOOS, including program coordinator, program analyst, division chief, and acting deputy director. Prior to his government service he was Education Senior Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Gouldman holds a B.S. in political science and an M.E.M. in coastal environmental management from Duke University.


Gerald "Stinger" Guala is the Branch Chief for Eco-Science Synthesis in the Core Science Analytics and Synthesis Program of the Core Science Systems Mission Area of the United States Geological Survey. His duties include directing the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), which is the Federal standard for the names of biological organisms, and Biodiversity Information Serving Our Nation (BISON), the Federal clearinghouse for species occurrence data with more than 260 million records currently.  He also facilitates other activities at the national level to deliver, integrate, analyze and visualize Federal and non-Federal biodiversity information. For example, he is Co-Chair of the Whitehouse OSTP Committee on Environment and Natural Resources and Sustainability (CENRS) Subcommittee on Ecological Systems (SES) Working Group on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Informatics (BioEco), which is leading the effort to implement EcoINFORMA, the Federal strategy for integration and delivery of environmental data laid out by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Guala holds a B.S. in botany from Michigan State University and an M.S. and Ph.D. in botany from the University of Florida.


Matthew Hansen is a remote sensing scientist with a research specialization in large area land cover and land use change mapping. His research is focused on developing improved algorithms, data inputs and thematic outputs which enable the mapping of land cover change at regional, continental and global scales. Such maps enable better informed approaches to natural resource management, including deforestation and biodiversity monitoring and can also be used by other scientists as inputs to carbon, climate and hydrological modeling studies. Hansen's work as an Associate Team Member of NASA's MODIS Land Science Team included the algorithmic development and product delivery of the MODIS Vegetation Continuous Field land cover layers. His current research includes taking the global processing model for MODIS and applying it to the Landsat archive. Exhausting mining of the Landsat archive has been used to map forest disturbance in the Congo Basin, Indonesia, European Russia, Mexico, Quebec and the U.S. The methods developed in these efforts will be used to test global-scale disturbance mapping with Landsat data.

Hansen has a B.S. in electrical engineering from Auburn University, an M.A. in geography and an M.S. in engineering from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and a Ph.D. in geography from the University of Maryland, College Park.


Matt Hourihan is the director of the R&D Budget and Policy Program for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), where he is a regular source of information and analyses on past, present, and future science budgets for policymakers and the science community. He has served in this position since 2011.

Prior to joining AAAS, he served as a clean energy policy analyst at the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF). While at ITIF, he tracked federal energy R&D investments and innovation activities, and authored several white papers and policy briefs exploring the role of innovation in solving the nation's energy and climate challenges. He also regularly coordinated Congressional briefings, conferences, and events bringing together leading experts in government, industry, and academia. Previously, he served as Jan Schori Fellow at the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, a coalition of energy firms and utilities working to engage policymakers for market-based solutions to sustainable energy development and climate change.

As a student, Hourihan interned with the AAAS Center for Science, Technology and Congress, now the Office of Government Relations. He earned a masters degree in public policy with a focus on science and technology policy at George Mason University, and a B.A. in journalism from Ithaca College. Prior to graduate school, he worked for five years as a cause communications professional and an award-winning journalist.


Lucas Joppa is an environmental scientist at Microsoft Research where he leads engagements on environmental sustainability and heads a research program on artificial intelligence, machine learning, and ubiquitous computing technologies for monitoring, modeling, and managing earth's natural environments. Topics of interest include some of the hardest challenges in environmental sustainability, including conserving biodiversity, ensuring robust food systems, and mitigating climate change. Recently, Joppa co-founded the Nature + Computing group, a diverse collection of scientists drawn from Microsoft Research who develop and apply the tools of data science to scientific data and whose research interests are focused on the study of nature.


Rizwan Khaliq is director of Marketing and Communications for IBM Global Public Sector and Smarter Cities. He is responsible for all marketing, go to market and communications for public sector industries which include government, healthcare, life sciences and education. Prior to his current responsibilities, Khaliq was director of Marketing and Communications for IBM Global Communications Sector, business leader for IBM Intelligent Transportation Systems, and business unit executive for IBM's Digital Communities Business. He also served at the U.S. Department of State as commercial attaché at the embassies of Denmark and South Africa, and additional temporary assignments. For his service, Khaliq was awarded the "Gold Metal Award" for distinguished achievements in foreign services from the U.S Secretary of Commerce, The Secretary's Award from the  U.S Secretary of State, and the "Thomas Jefferson Star for Foreign Service" from President George W. Bush.

Khaliq holds an M.A. in International Transactions and a B.A. from George Mason University.

Rachael petersen

Rachael Petersen is the Impacts Manager of Global Forest Watch (GFW), a powerful near-real-time forest monitoring system that unites technology and human networks to create never-before-possible transparency on what is happening in forests around the world. Petersen coordinates GFW’s 90+ partners, including Google, Digital Globe, Planet, University of Maryland, Orbital Insight and others, to improve the state-of-the-art of real-time forest monitoring, and builds tools to deliver data to stakeholders on the front lines of forest management.

Prior to joining the World Resources Institute, Petersen was a Thomas J. Watson Foundation Fellow, during which she traveled the world researching how remote indigenous communities harness digital technology to preserve their cultures. Her research on how data and technology inform decision making has taken her to the high Canadian Arctic, the Amazon rainforest, Borneo, the Australian outback, Mexico and Uganda. Previously, she worked as a researcher for the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy and as a Data Science Teaching Assistant at General Assembly.

Petersen holds a B.A. in Environmental Policy and Anthropology from Rice University in Houston, Texas. She speaks Spanish, Portuguese, and German, and is conversational in Inuktitut and Penan.


Kristin Tolle is director of Program Management in the Advanced Analytics team at Microsoft. She has more than 20 years of experience in industry and research computing. Since joining Microsoft in 2000, Tolle has generated numerous patents and worked for several product teams including the Natural Language Group, Visual Studio, and the Microsoft Office (MS Excel). During her ten years in Microsoft Research, she launched and managed several major programs including Environmental Infrastructure Development, where she managed a team of program managers, developers and testers to build the infrastructure and data management underpinning a suite of cloud-based environmental science tools. 

Tolle received a B.S. in computer information systems from Boise State University, and an M.S. in management information systems and Ph.D. in management of information science - computational linguistics, medical informatics, both from the University of Arizona.