Stanford Earth launches new Big Data course

Big Data map
From west to east, this data visualization moves from true color to false color infrared to show healthier vegetation appearing in deeper hues of red than lighter or less vigorous vegetation. The data were prepared in Google Earth Engine using about 100,000 Landsat images taken over 11 months and the visualization was assembled using GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP).

Big Data, which includes massive sets of information from sources like archives, satellites, smart phones and remote-sensing devices, has become cheaper and more accessible than ever. With the integration of statistics, simulations and machine learning, Big Data can help solve major problems that confront our world.

It is a critical skill set for the next generation. But how do you work with Big Data?

A new one-credit introductory course, Know Your Planet: Big Earth, in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, hopes to answer that question. Big Earth — a play on Big Data — explores how new techniques advance research on water resources, sustainable food production, renewable energy and more. It is designed for students from any major or background who want to understand how Big Data can help solve challenges that affect our planet and the people on it.

“When I started my PhD in geophysics, I hadn’t taken an Earth science class since seventh grade,” said radio glaciologist DUSTIN SCHROEDER, an assistant professor who uses ice-penetrating radar to study glaciers and ice sheets. “I was into instruments and observations and data, and I discovered that the Earth is a cool thing to make measurements of.”

Schroeder is one of four Stanford Earth faculty members lecturing in the course during Winter Quarter. Other faculty speakers include MARGOT GERRITSEN, who focuses on computational mathematics and energy production; DAVID LOBELL, who studies crops from space to understand agriculture; MARSHALL BURKE, who researches the social and economic impacts of environmental change; and BIONDO BIONDI, who improves imaging of seismic data to better understand Earth’s subsurface.

Read more on the Stanford Earth website.