BIDS and Accenture Applied Intelligence are pleased to welcome R.J. Cody Markelz as the inaugural BIDS-Accenture Global Environmental Change Research Fellow. The Data Science and Global Environmental Change Independent Research Fellowship is a full-time two-year position at BIDS made possible by funding from Accenture Applied Intelligence.
Markelz will work with mentors from BIDS and Accenture who will provide support to navigate the current data landscape to address urgent, complex and critical environmental issues — such as researching how biodiversity is affected by increasing wildfires — and work toward improvements in research, innovative approaches to sustainability, and effective governmental policy recommendations.
As an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, Markelz studied the effects of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide and water availability on plant growth. He then blended this knowledge of plant metabolism with computational biology to build genetically informed mathematical models of plant growth as part of an NSF postdoctoral fellowship at UC Davis. Recently, Markelz’ co-founded and was the VP of Genomics at Rev Genomics, which uses genomics, statistics, molecular genetics, and tissue culture to create new strains of Cannabis for the legal market. Rev Genomics was funded by Y-Combinator and continues to innovate in the Cannabis biotech space.
Markelz’ research in the fellowship will focus on the intersection between invasive species, climate change, and wildfire in Californian ecosystems. “I am excited to scale my background in functional genomics and physiological ecology with larger spatial scale models to better understand climate change and fire effects on Californian ecosystems and biodiversity,” said Markelz. He intends to develop probabilistic models that work with newly collated datasets and meta-data to work across environmental scales to understand wildfire spread and impact.
According to BIDS Faculty Affiliate, Ciera Martinez, Biodiversity and Environmental Sciences Research Lead at BIDS, “We believe that this new fellowship has the potential to make a profound impact – generating groundbreaking research with the potential to affect environmental policy. There’s particular interest in how aspects of this research could affect environmental policy in California. The increase in wildfires means there’s an urgent need to mitigate future outbreaks, as well as gain a deeper understanding of how wildfire affects our ecosystems.”
Along with Martinez, at UC Berkeley, the BIDS-Accenture Global Environmental Change Fellow will be supported by a mentorship team composed of BIDS Senior Data Scientist Karthik Ram, Director of the rOpenSci Project and the US Research Software Sustainability Institute; David Ackerly, Dean of Rausser College of Natural Resources and professor of Integrative Biology, and Environmental Science, Policy, and Management; and Rosemary Gillespie, Professor of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at UC Berkeley, and the Associate Director of the Berkeley Natural History Museums.
Gillespie is particularly pleased with the opportunity through the fellowship to explore the connections between biodiversity and wildfires. “Biodiversity is increasingly threatened by the impacts of habitat modification, invasive species, and climate change in particular, yet we have little understanding of how we might mitigate the impacts of such change. The number and diversity of rich data sources that describe our environment and the biodiversity within it are increasing rapidly. We see huge potential in the expertise that Cody brings in integrating diverse data to understand how the organisms on this planet react to environmental disturbance – such as wildfires and associated issues of habitat transformation.”
The fellowship is being launched as part of BIDS’ strategic relationship with Accenture Applied Intelligence to explore key interdisciplinary areas in data science and AI research that will have a significant impact on real-world social and scientific challenges, such as ethical AI, biomedicine, and environmental sustainability in California.
Arnab Chakraborty, who leads Accenture’s North America and US West Applied Intelligence practices, and is based in the Bay Area, is excited to be a part of this new effort toward creating innovative societal solutions and cross-disciplinary skill building: “Research is one of our top priorities. Both our organizations passionately believe in the combined power of data science and human ingenuity to address some of the most complex challenges we face. Connected to that, we’re committed to developing the new generation of outstanding talent in this vital space.”
For more information or to discuss possible research collaborations as part of this program, please contact Cody Markelz (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Ciera Martinez, BIDS Biodiversity and Environmental Sciences Research Lead (email@example.com) with the subject line “GEC Research Fellowship: Collaborations”.
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