Published: Nov. 21, 2019

Leah Wasser, Director of the education team

Earth Lab is proud to announce that their Earth Analytics Education Initiative recently received NSF grant funding for the project, Earth Data Science Corps - Fulfilling Workforce Demand at the Intersection of Environmental Science and Data Science. The grant includes $1.2 million in funding over the course of three years to build sustainable earth data science teaching capacity at institutions serving students historically underrepresented in STEM and the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder). The program includes online and in-person workshops for faculty and students, an applied internship, and a full-semester course. Partner institutions include United Tribes Technical College (UTTC), Oglala Lakota College (OLC), Front Range Community College (FRCC), and Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU-Denver). 

Through this grant, the Education Initiative aims to tackle the larger issues of the workforce shortage of people with both data science skills and scientific knowledge and educational inequality that leads to a lack of diversity in the tech sector. Due to the explosion of data over the past decade, there is significant opportunity in the realm of earth data science. However, institutional and personnel barriers, such as lack of faculty with the background to teach technical skills, mean that earth data science education programs are scarce, particularly at small institutions and those that serve populations historically underrepresented in STEM. The mission of the Earth Data Science Corps is to build data science teaching capacity at partner institutions, giving students the ability to pursue available, well-paid, and meaningful jobs in the field of earth data science, helping to fill the gap in the workforce. 

The Earth Data Science Corps will involve a sequential program of activities throughout the summer. For the first half of the summer, faculty and students from each institution will attend a series of workshops hosted by Earth Lab. This will also include Software Carpentry Instructor Training for faculty at partner institutions, allowing them to then use these skills to teach a Carpentry Introduction to Python Workshop at each school. Then beginning in July, as real world experience is key to cementing skills and gaining future employment, students will apply the techniques they have learned and gain new skills including communication and collaboration through an applied paid internship with a university, private sector, or agency partner. Finally, in the fall, students will take a modular online Earth Analytics Bootcamp course, either at their home institutions or through CU Boulder’s fully online course option, that provides a deep dive into core earth data science skills. Throughout the duration of the program a number of career development workshops and opportunities will be offered, including education in resume writing, interviewing, and building a professional online presence. All of these project materials are shared on Earth Lab’s open education portal.

With NSF funding, this project will empower students with skills and awareness of career opportunities, and equip faculty to teach these skills as a part of their institution’s core curriculum, providing hundreds of students with the opportunity to begin careers in earth data science.