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Welcome to
SESYNC
The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) is dedicated to accelerating scientific discovery at the interface of human and ecological systems. We support new interdisciplinary collaborations that pursue data-driven solutions to pressing socio-environmental problems. SESYNC features a range of services from project inception through results dissemination, including supporting the team science process, meeting planning and facilitation, travel and logistical support, and cyberinfrastructure resources. SESYNC is funded by an award to the University of Maryland from the National Science Foundation. Learn more about SESYNC.

SESYNC Welcomes Summer 2016 Interns!

June 10, 2016

SESYNC Associate Director of Education, Dr. Cindy Wei, University of Maryland graduate student, Alec Armstrong, and the SESYNC 2016 summer interns! Intern Angelica Li not pictured.

by HANNAH GRIMES

Communications Intern

The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) proudly welcomes undergraduates from University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) and Coppin State University (CSU) to our 2016 summer internship program!

Starting June 6, 18 dynamic undergraduate students joined the SESYNC team for a summer of experimental learning and valuable professional experience. Interns will be challenged to use critical thinking and problem solving skills in order to address both social and environmental issues presented to them in their work.

Each intern is paired with a mentor, either on UMD’s College Park campus, in SESYNC’s Annapolis center, or at CSU.  These interns represent a diverse group of undergraduates, with varying backgrounds and research interests.  Interns will assist their mentor in data collection, management, compilation, and more. Once a week, all the interns will convene at SESYNC to share and reflect on their experiences, and to participate in activities on topics from data synthesis to science communication.

Check out our diverse group of summer 2016 interns and their mentors!

 

Adrienne Beerman

  • Major: Biological Sciences
  • Mentor: Kelly Hamby 
  • University: UMD

Aisha Ward

  • Major: Biology and Life Sciences
  • Mentor: Mintesinot Jiru
  • University: CSU

Angelica Li

  • Major: Environmental Science and Policy: Environmental Politics and Policy
  • Mentor: Melissa Kenney
  • University: UMD

Beatrice O'Connor

  • Major: Government and Politics
  • Mentors: Ariana Sutton-Grier and Melissa Kenney
  • University: UMD

Belton DeLaine-Facey

  • Major: Biological Sciences: Ecology and Evolution
  • Mentor: Cerruti RR Hooks
  • University: UMD

Ben Swartz

  • Major: Biological Sciences: Ecology and Evolution
  • Mentor: Kate Tully
  • University: UMD

Brije Smith

  • Major: Biology and Life Sciences
  • Mentor: Mintesinot Jiru
  • University: CSU

Christodia Forsen

  • Major: Political Science
  • Mentor: Mintesinot Jiru
  • University: CSU

Coline Bodenreider

  • Major: Environmental Science and Policy
  • Mentor: Alba Torrents
  • University: UMD

Devin Simmons

  • Major: Geology
  • Mentor: Daniel Engelberg
  • University: UMD

Heather Levine

  • Major: Engineering: Mechanical Engineering
  • Mentor: Evan Ellicott
  • University: UMD

Jake Shapiro

  • Major: Government and Politics\
  • Mentor: Julie A. Silva
  • University: UMD

Jessica Ho

  • Major: Biological Sciences:General Biology
    • Minor: Sustainability Studies
  • Mentor: Karen R. Lips
  • University: UMD

Natalia Jaffee

  • Major: Environmental Science and Policy: Environmental Economics
  • Mentor: Michael Gerst
  • University: UMD

Noah Maghsadi

  • Major: Anthropology
    • Minor: International Development and Conflict Resolution
  • Mentor: Lea Johnson
  • University: UMD

Ryan Bolt

  • Major: Atmospheric and Oceanic Science
    • Minor: Geographic Information Systems
  • Mentor: Joe Maher
  • University: UMD

Tonle Bloomer

  • Major: Engineering: Bioengineering
  • Mentor: Cerruti RR Hooks
  • University: UMD

Virginia Hagerott

  • Major: Environmental Science and Policy: Environmental Politics and Policy
    • Minor: Spanish Language and Cultures
  • Mentor: Elizabeth F. Daut
  • University: UMD

The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, funded through an award to the University of Maryland from the National Science Foundation, is a research center dedicated to accelerating data-driven scientific discovery at the interface of human and ecological systems. Visit us online at www.sesync.org and follow us on Twitter @SESYNC.

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Associated SESYNC Researcher(s): 

SESYNC Welcomes Ian Carroll

May 31, 2016

Ian Carroll, SESYNC's new Data Science Instructor

Ian Carroll, SESYNC's new Data Science Instructor

by HANNAH GRIMES

Communications Intern

The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) is pleased to welcome Dr. Ian Carroll, as our new Data Science Instructor. 

The position of Data Science Instructor entails teaching workshops on cyberinfrastructure and its utilization. “I am most excited for the live teaching. It’s exciting; you get immediate feedback on how well you are doing,” said Carroll, who thinks his days teaching in front of groups will be his real pay-off days. 

Carroll comes to SESYNC from Georgetown University, where he developed web-scraping tools as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Bansal Lab. Carroll received his Ph.D. in theoretical ecology from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2012.

Carroll was drawn to SESYNC by the “…diverse opportunities to be engaged with the environmental academic community in a way different than just being involved directly in research.” Carroll looks forward to lending a unique perspective to working groups at SESYNC, as he believes his background in ecology will help connect gaps between ecologists and data scientists. Carroll joins Philippe Marchand, also a SESYNC Data Scientist, in helping the Center's supported researchers overcome the computational and methodological challenges they face.

A native Marylander, Carroll enjoys sailing and cooking in his free time. His specialty? Homemade cherry pies, with cherries picked from his wife’s family farm in New York.

The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, funded through an award to the University of Maryland from the National Science Foundation, is a research center dedicated to accelerating data-driven scientific discovery at the interface of human and ecological systems. Visit us online at www.sesync.org and follow us on Twitter @SESYNC.

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Associated SESYNC Researcher(s): 

SESYNC Releases R Package for Working with PostGIS

May 4, 2016

by PHILIPPE MARCHAND

Data Scientist

From geotagged social media posts to satellite-based remote sensors, the variety and volume of geodatasets – data items associated with specific spatial coordinates or areas – are rapidly growing, as is their use in socio-environmental systems research. Today, free and open source spatial analysis software offer a level of functionality and efficiency matching that of proprietary Geographical Information Systems (GIS). At SESYNC, we provide tools for and training on how to use the R programming language for spatial data analysis and visualization, and also host a PostGIS server to store larger geodatabases. PostGIS is the spatial extension to the popular open source database system, PostgreSQL. A typical workflow integrating both resources might involve importing a subset of the geodata from PostGIS into R, performing some analysis, and possibly re-exporting the output to the database.

A data table containing both geometries (spatial points, lines or polygons) and hstores (sets of key-value pairs) – Diagram made by Kelly Hondula, SESYNC

Above graphic: A data table containing both geometries (spatial points, lines or polygons) and hstores (sets of key-value pairs) – Diagram courtesy of Kelly Hondula, SESYNC

To simplify data transfer between PostGIS and R, we developed a set of functions that was recently released as a R package on CRAN. These functions automate the conversion between the PostGIS “geometry” data type and the standard spatial data types in R; they can also read and write data in the PostgreSQL “hstore” format, a flexible data type where each table cell can contain multiple named attributes. Example use cases can be found in the accompanying vignette/tutorial.

We plan to update these tools based on user needs, and thus welcome any feedback on current features or potential new features that would be of interest. For more details or to open an issue concerning the software package, please visit our Github site.

The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, funded through an award to the University of Maryland from the National Science Foundation, is a research center dedicated to accelerating data-driven scientific discovery at the interface of human and ecological systems. Visit us online at www.sesync.org and follow us on Twitter @SESYNC.

Associated SESYNC Researcher(s): 

Emerging Force on Building Resources for Complex, Action-Oriented Team Science: Gabriele Bammer’s Mission to Join Scholarly Knowledge

April 1, 2016

Gabriele Bammer, Leader of the Building Resources for Complex Action-Oriented Team Science Theme and professor in the Research School of Population Health at The Australian National University (ANU).

Gabriele Bammer, Leader of SESYNC's "Building Resources for Complex, Action-Oriented Team Science" Theme and Professor in the Research School of Population Health at The Australian National University (ANU).

by LISA PALMER
Fellow for Socio-Environmental Understanding

A scholar in the 1990s played a hunch and is now giving rise to a new field of study focusing on enhancing complex team science--including socio-environmental research and education--through the synthesis of practices and theories.

No academic discipline in multidisciplinary studies existed when Gabriele Bammer received her joint BS in biology and BA in psychology/geography at Flinders University in Australia in the 1970s. But she was excited when her professors announced, “Multidisciplinarity is the way of the future!” She remembers, “At the time, no one was talking about multiple disciplinary studies.” 

After receiving her Ph.D. in behavioral pharmacology, Bammer spent the next 20 years trying to find where, exactly, these shared scholarly approaches lived at universities. She found that they were fragmented across many areas of study. Because scholars and decision-makers would ultimately benefit from a unified repository of knowledge, she developed a formal name for it: Integration and Implementation Sciences, which seeks to improve research impact on complex real-world problems. She and 26 other scholars are currently writing a paper advocating for the development of this joint knowledge bank.

Bammer is leading a new theme at SESYNC that uses Integration and Implementation Sciences to build resources for studying complex, real-world problems. The theme focuses on effective team science and addresses problems that may arise from complex, action-oriented research. For example, researchers may encounter trouble communicating both qualitative and quantitative data across academic disciplines because of differences in language or specified concept. The aim is to build a repository of knowledge so that new collaborations can accelerate discovery. “Researchers won’t need to reinvent the wheel each time,” Bammer says.

Bammer’s insights have emerged over time. She has integrated ideas, data, and methods across diverse disciplines while researching and teaching. She researched and taught in the neurosciences, where she focused on behavioral pharmacology; human sciences, where she helped students integrate the theories of Darwin, Marx and Freud in a course; and occupational health, where she investigated an upsurge in repetition strain injuries—better known in the U.S. as carpal tunnel syndrome—associated with the introduction of computers into offices. It may be no surprise to learn she moved from department to department—six different times—at The Australian National University (ANU) until she finally landed an appointment in 1989 to ANU’s National Center for Epidemiology and Population Health, where she remains today. 

The research process Bammer advocates gained prominence in the 1990s when she directed a study that spanned multiple fields while investigating the feasibility of prescribing pharmaceutical heroin to dependent heroin users as a new treatment option in Canberra, the capital of Australia. The work engaged a wide range of disciplines, including epidemiology, economics, anthropology, pharmacology, criminology, philosophy, political science, demography, and clinical science. It also engaged with stakeholders, including illicit drug users and ex-users, their families, police, drug treatment and other service providers, and policy makers. After five years of investigating every conceivable aspect, and two additional years of political debate, a limited trial was approved only to be overturned 18 days later. But all was not lost. The research informed successful trials in Switzerland and the Netherlands. 

The field of Integration and Implementation Sciences is poised to gain further traction with socio-environmental synthesis. Bammer is convening a meeting this month with one of the three Pursuits SESYNC supports under this research theme. SESYNC is also inviting proposals for synthesis projects focused on tools, methods, and other practices applicable to actionable team science. Multiple teams will be supported, and together their syntheses will contribute towards the development of new toolkits, roadmaps, curricula, and other practical advice. Applications are due May 16

The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, funded through an award to the University of Maryland from the National Science Foundation, is a research center dedicated to accelerating data-driven scientific discovery at the interface of human and ecological systems. Visit us online at www.sesync.org and follow us on Twitter @SESYNC.

Associated SESYNC Researcher(s): 

Teaching Socio-Environmental Synthesis with Case Studies: Moving Toward Best Practices

SESYNC invites past participants of the Teaching about Socio-envrionmental Synthesis with Case Studies short course to apply for a 3.5 day workshop to be held June 21-24, 2016 at SESYNC in Annapolis, MD. Approximately 12-15 participants will be selected to attend, and priority will be given to those who have tested their cases in the classroom, and who have, or plan to, revise their case studies to reflect these teaching experiences.

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