CU-Boulder launches EARTH LAB


Accelerating scientific discovery with a view from Space

Earth Lab is a new initiative launched in September 2015 by the University of Colorado-Boulder as part of the campus-wide Grand Challenge effort called “Our Space. Our Future.” 

Earth Lab’s mission is to harness the wave of Earth observations from space and integrate them to answer outstanding questions about the pace and pattern of environmental change, from our backyards to our world. 

Earth Lab will:

Capitalize on the data deluge from Space and other platforms to accelerate science;

Reduce environmental risk by using this wealth of data to better understand and predict Earth System change;

Train a new generation of data scientists who can address outstanding Earth Science questions.

At the core of Earth Lab is the Analytics Hub, a state-of-the-art computing facility that leverages CU-Boulder’s cyberinfrastructure and houses analytics specialists who assist researchers and students along the discovery pathway—from data integration and management to analysis and visualization. Earth Lab’s Analytics Hub will ultimately lower the barriers to engagement with ‘big Earth data’ so that students, researchers, and partners can quickly generate new insights.

Earth Lab’s initial portfolio of Science Projects builds on existing research strengths at CU-Boulder to better:

●Understand how fire is changing in the western U.S. over the past two decades. (Project Fire)

●Improve risk management and decision-making in land use and hazards mitigation. (Project Risk)

●Determine the sensitivity of permafrost to a warming Arctic. (Project Permafrost)

●Identify how rapid and slow landscape evolution impacts our lives. (Project Erosion)

●Determine what is driving Colorado forest dieback. (Project Forest)

●Examine how data at varying resolutions represents Earth System phenomena. (Project Data Harmonization)

●Understand the fundamental processes driving extreme events and threshold behavior across several systems in Earth Lab’s initial Science Projects, including fire, drought, flooding, erosion, and permafrost contexts. (Project Extremes)

Education Initiative

Earth Lab will also help to train the next generation of Earth scientists who are among the leaders in data analytics. The educational mission accelerates from short courses and certificates to a professional master’s degree in Earth Analytics. Earth Lab will provide a rich environment for student and professional development through innovative, interdisciplinary course and curriculum design.

Keys to Success

Earth Lab will yield new insights by capitalizing on existing resources already devoted to data generation. This effort enhances the value of the entire Earth observation enterprise. Through Earth Lab, CU-Boulder will be known as the place for cutting-edge Earth Analytics that thrives on the wealth of aerospace-derived data, and as the place for training the next generation of data scientists who have the knowledge and expertise to tackle the most pressing environmental questions.

Who we are:

Dr. Jennifer K. Balch, Director of Earth Lab,

Dr. William R. Travis, Deputy Director of Earth Lab, Department of Geography and Institute of Behavioral Science,

Dr. Thomas Hauser, Co-Director of Earth Lab Analytics & Director of Research Computing,

Dr. Chelsea Nagy, Program Manager for Earth Lab,

Dr. Suzanne Anderson, Department of Geography and Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR),

Dr. Bob Anderson, Department of Geological Sciences and Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR),

Dr. Barbara Buttenfield, Department of Geography,

Dr. James Curry, Department of Applied Mathematics,

Dr. Carson Farmer, Department of Geography,

Dr. Brian Johnson, National Snow and Ice Data Center,

Dr. Greg Tucker, Department of Geological Sciences and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES),

Dr. Carol Wessman, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Environmental Studies Program, and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences,

Photo credits: NASA.