While the demand for earth data science skills in the workforce is exploding, the availability of programs that teach these in demand skills is not equally distributed. Specifically, smaller schools that support communities that have been historically underrepresented in STEM, often lack the capacity to teach technical skills due to limited resources, faculty expertise and challenges associated with adding new curriculum. This lack of capacity in turn yields a lack of diversity in the technology sector. The Earth Data Science Corps, funded by the National Science Foundation  is a 1.2 million dollar NSF funded three-year project that builds capacity to teach and learn earth data science at schools serving communities that are historically underrepresented in STEM. The project includes a combination of online data skills training for students and faculty, career focused webinars and project based learning. Faculty training builds capacity to teach earth data science at each school. 

Participants are trained through online workshops for students and faculty as well as a paid applied internship and full semester-long Earth Analytics Bootcamp course for students. Through the whole program, students learn the core data science skills necessary for careers in earth data science, including Python programming, Git/GitHub for version control and collaboration, and JupyterHub for working reproducibly in the cloud. Faculty are then able to teach these skills to the broader population of students at their schools.

A Suite of Educational Activities for Students and Faculty

The program includes a suite of activities to empower students to pursue earth data science jobs and build sustainable earth data science educational programs at partner institutions. For the first half of the summer, faculty and students from each institution attend a series of data science workshops hosted by Earth Lab, aimed at teaching the foundations of earth data science. Faculty attend teaching specific events including a Software Carpentry Instructor Training. In July and August, students apply the scientific programming skills they have learned through an applied paid internship. In the fall, students take an online Earth Analytics Bootcamp course that provides a deep dive into core earth data science skills. Throughout the program there are career development webinars and workshops on topics such as scientific communication, resume writing and interviewing, and building a professional online presence. All project educational materials are shared on Earth Lab’s open education portal and YouTube channel.

Partner Schools Serve Diverse Student Populations

Earth Lab has partnered with five schools serving diverse student populations including: 

  • Front Range Community College,

  • Metropolitan State University of Denver, 

  • Ogalala Lakota College,

  • United Tribes Technical College, and

  • University of Colorado - Boulder (while CU Boulder does not explicitly serve underrepresented groups, CU students from these groups participated in the summer program).

Student and Faculty Training in Earth and Environmental Data Science Skills

All aspects of our program are delivered fully online. Our program consists of:

Faculty and Student Data Skills Training That Teach Scientific Programming in Python

We provide a suite of training including workshops and student assignments that both develop the skills needed to complete a final internship project, begin to prepare students for a career in earth data science and finally prime faculty to teach these topics in their existing courses. The trainings cover the following topics: 

Career Development Events

Career development events provide exposure to career options in earth data science 

  • Panel: Careers in Earth Data Science - In this event four professionals, who ranged in background from recent graduates to mid career, talked about career opportunities and challenges in earth data science.

  • Webinar: Reproducible Science - In this event, Dr. Max Joseph offered tips on getting started with research compendia, which allow for bundling analysis associated with a research project to ensure that other can install the same software dependencies and run the same workflow on their machines.

  • Workshop: Science Communication - This training exposed students to the message box as a way of communicating science to different audiences using a core message that relates to a given audience.

Project Based Learning Through Paid Data-Intensive, Group Based Internships

The final internship project supports project-based learning. Here students solidify skills learned in workshops. They also learn how to tackle a real-world data problem and develop collaboration skills and communication skills as they present their work to their peers. These applied skills in turn add to their professional portfolio which will  make them more marketable on the job market. 

Students worked with technical and project mentors from Earth Lab and its partners on their projects. The 2020 projects included:

  1. Quantifying the impacts of flooding on tribal lands,

  2. Assessing the effects of the invasive Emerald Ash Borer on urban trees,

  3. Using the white tailed ptarmigan to understand climate adaptation, 

  4. Studying the South Platte river to assess phenology changes due to climate change, 

  5. Democratizing access to COVID-19 data for tribal communities, and

  6. Using NEON Lidar Remote Sensing Data To Quantify Forest structure.

Education Research: Understanding Approaches and Effectiveness of Online Learning With Diverse Student Groups

The EDSC is founded in evaluation and assessment activities that assess the effectiveness of student learning while also improving the program over its three year span. As a part of this effort we are studying the effectiveness of online learning of earth data science skills and the associated barriers to diverse groups learning these skills.


An Earth Lab instructor helps a group with code

An Earth Lab instructor helps a group with an earth data science project. 

Who Is This Program For: Undergraduate Student Participants

Meet the 2020 student cohort!

This program is aimed at undergraduate students who are new to data science and interested in applying it to earth and environmental science. It is offered to participants at each partner school and CU Boulder, providing experience to students with previously limited access to earth data science educational resources, laying a solid foundation for future earth data science work. Students are not expected to have any previous programming experience before beginning the Earth Data Science Corps program and undergraduate students in all majors and class levels are eligible. While applications are no longer being accepted for the 2020 program, interested students can check back next spring for summer 2021 application details.

This project is funded by NSF Award #1924337.