What Students Do

Students working with me are engaged in a variety of projects to combine knowledge about the physical environment and social, political, and economic conditions. This can include analysis of remote-sensing imagery from satellites, working with GIS databases, developing agent-based models, and conducting spatiotemporal statistical analysis.

Students write and publish papers, often as first-author, in scientific journals and present research results at national and international conferences.

Current Students

  • Kelsea Best is researching connections between environmental change, livelihoods, and population movement in Bangladesh. Kelsea applies machine learning to survey data to identify patterns in the characteristics of people who relocate and will use those insights to develop agent-based models to simulate migration patterns.

    Kelsea is also Principal Investigator on a graduate pursuit project at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center. This project is a graduate-student only research project for which Kelsea recruited an interdisciplinary team of graduate students from universities across the U.S. to work together on understanding connections between climate change and gentrification along the entire Atlantic Coast of the United States.

  • Bowen He is studying ways to use data science to promote social justice and effective policymaking on the environment. His principal dissertation project is investigating the impact of the 2010 flood in Nashville and the subsequent home buyout program on social vulnerability and the integrity of neighborhoods in Nashville. He is also developing an interactive web-based application for comparing the potential impacts of different policies on greenhouse gas emissions in Nashville, and he is developing indices of climate change for a proposed climate prediction market.

  • Pam Hoover is studying the decision processes used by water treatment operators. She hopes to apply the results of this investigation to developing technology for training and and providing decision-support for the next generation of water treatment operators.

  • Chris Tasich is studying governance of vulnerable landscapes in Bangladesh. Chris has developed a model of sediment deposition in intertidal lands along the tidal channels in coastal Bangladesh. He is applying agent-based models of local decision-making to study how communities might make use of different approaches to managing vulnerable lands in the face of sea-level rise and other environmental change.

Recently Graduated Students

  • David Knorr graduated with his M.S. in 2019. His graduate studies focused on investigating connections between gentrification and access to public transit in Nashville. David applied machine learning techniques to analyzing patterns of change in home sales and prices, building permits, and demographic and economic changes throughout Nashville and Davidson County. David developed a new way to identify gentrification based on patterns in data, rather than older approaches that defined gentrification based on theoretical considerations that often did not fit the reality of what was happening in different cities. David's method also allowed him to develop a predictive model that can provide early warning of which census tracts are at greatest risk for disruptive gentrification.

    David is now a Staff Scientist at Newfields, a large environmental engineering firm in Atlanta, GA.

  • Emily K. Burchfield graduated with her Ph.D. in 2017. Her graduate studies focused on combining intensive computational methods of geospatial analysis with satellite remote-sensing imagery and on-the-ground research on farmers coping with water scarcity in Bangladesh. Emily made extensive use of Bayesian statistical methods to analyze her data and developed agent-based models of the economic and social impacts of farmers’ decision processes.

    Emily also obtained a grant from the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center to run a graduate pursuit project: This was a graduate-student only research project for which Emily was principal investigator. She recruited an interdisciplinary team of graduate students from universities across the U.S. to work together assessing the economic and non-economic impact of drought in every county in the contiguous United States.

    Emily is now an Assistant Professor at Emory University's Department of Environmental Science.

  • John J. Nay graduated with his Ph.D. in 2017. His graduate studies focused on computational decision science, combining machine learning, behavioral economics, and field work in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. John applied machine learning tools and agent-based modeling to a wide variety of problems, from identifying the strategies real people use in playing games to analyzing law and policy.

    While he was still a graduate student, John founded a company, Skopos Labs, which applies artificial intelligence to predicting developments in policy and financial markets, with an emphasis on connections to climate change.

    After graduating, John divided his time between being CEO of Skopos Labs and two postdoctoral fellowships: in legal informatics at the New York University Law School and in internet and society at Harvard University's Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society.

    John is now working full time as CEO of Skopos Labs.

  • Rachel Shoemaker Manning graduated with her M.S. in 2017. Her graduate studies focused on statistical analysis of access to safe drinking water in rural communities in Southwestern Bangladesh.

    Rachel is now an Environmental Scientist at Dewberry Engineers and co-owner of Carolina Blooms, a family-owned flower business.

  • Laura Benneyworth graduated with her Ph.D. in 2016. Her graduate studies focused on integrating detailed chemical analysis of water quality in Bangladesh with social-scientific research on people's perceptions of water quality and the sources of water they use.

    Laura discovered that rural households in Bangladesh often have great difficulty finding safe water to drink and often don't even realize how poor the quality of their water is. These difficulties are far greater than one would guess from the official figures on water availablity.

    After graduating, Laura has worked as a GIS analyst for the Tennessee Department of Transportation and as a GIS consultant.


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