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Celebrating Our Community: Fourth Annual CGA Awards

2023 CGA Awards honorees

On January 31, the Center for Geospatial Analytics celebrated its fourth Awards Ceremony, honoring 2022 achievements by our exceptional students, faculty and staff. Check out the event program and photo gallery!

At the awards banquet held at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, the fourth round of CGA Awards were presented. These awards, established in 2019, honor members of the Center for Geospatial Analytics community whose efforts exemplify Center ideals of collaboration, inclusion and excellence in research, teaching and service. Center students and faculty/staff were nominated by other Center members for the awards, and winners were selected by the Awards Committee.

Advocate Award

Given to one student and one faculty/staff member who demonstrates a commitment to equity and inclusion.

  • Student awardee: Shannon McAvoy, a second-year Geospatial Analytics Ph.D. student who received seven nominations for this award. One nominator wrote: “Whether it’s serving as a leader for the Graduate Student Union, making a difference as an AGU Thriving Earth Exchange Fellow, or volunteering at the local food bank every week, Shannon embodies a commitment to equity and inclusion that starts at the Center but extends beyond. Not only is she inclusive and friendly to every person she comes into contact with, but she dedicates a significant amount of her time to advocating for equity in both the classroom and beyond. As a part of the Graduate Student Union, she’s helping work to get fees reduced for NC State graduate students to improve their financial well-being. As an AGU Thriving Earth Exchange Fellow, she’s partnering with a community science project seeking to advance environmental and social justice in Montevallo, Alabama. She also serves as the Social Chair on the GGSO, planning activities to build community with all students in the Center for Geospatial Analytics.”
  • Staff awardee: Lois Utt, the Center’s Executive Assistant, who also received multiple nominations. While her work is primarily behind the scenes, Lois works tirelessly to ensure that students receive equitable pay. She spent considerable time this past summer gathering data on the stipends paid by comparable Ph.D. programs, which played a large role in the raise students will be receiving in Fall 2023. She also determined the necessary raise to give our international students to ensure that they are paid equally with domestic students after taxes. Lois also cares deeply about ensuring that Center resources are accessible for all students, faculty and staff, whether that is travel funding or good coffee! One of her nominators said, “There are so many more examples, but I also appreciate that Lois has discovered that vacation time accumulates inequitably for SHRA and EHRA employees and has made it her mission to bring awareness to (and ultimately change) this issue.”

Beacon Award

Given to one student and one faculty/staff member who shines a light on the Center for Geospatial Analytics in the wider scientific community.

  • Student awardee: Katie McQuillan, a fourth-year Geospatial Analytics Ph.D. student. Since starting the program, Katie worked with numerous external partners, including The Nature Conservancy, to conduct innovative research on hydrologic processes in western North Carolina that are affected by climate change and species migration. She has worked to set up a field experiment at the Coweeta Hydrologic Lab with the US Forest Service. She has also worked with the open-source LANDIS-II modeling community to create a new extension of the model that better incorporates species’ water usage. Through these three organizations (TNC, USFS and LANDIS-II Users) Katie has shone a light on the Center within the wider scientific community. Katie also took the initiative to work with NC State News Services on her first-author publication in Landscape Ecology, and received press attention as a result.
  • Faculty awardee: Katie Martin, an associate professor in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources and a Center faculty fellow. Her nominator said: “In April 2022, ongoing research by Katie Martin and her students using the Center’s FUTURES land change model was reported by WHOR Public Media (Wilmington, NC), and the article referenced how FUTURES will be used to assess the impacts of different development and conservation scenarios in the Cape Fear watershed. The work was further reported by Coastwatch magazine in Autumn 2022. Katie has also worked with NC State News Services on several press releases for publications she has affiliated with the Center,” all of which highlight the Center’s contributions toward addressing real-world problems.

Collaboration & Innovation Award

Given to a research team who collaborates across disciplinary boundaries to address environmental and societal challenges.

  • Team awardee: the Geospatial Analysis for Environmental Change Lab, led by Mirela Tulbure (associate professor in Forestry and Environmental Resources and Center faculty fellow), with Geospatial Analytics Ph.D. students Rebecca Composto, Mollie Gaines and Varun Tiwari, as well as Ph.D. program alum Vini Perin. An example of their commitment to collaborate across disciplinary and institutional boundaries is their most recent publication in the Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. To develop advanced methods to improve flood detection using fused satellite data from multiple sensors across large geographical extents, the team brought together engineers, data and remote sensing scientists, applied statisticians and hydrologists from NC State, University of New South Wales, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, State University of New York, Syracuse, and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Creativity in Teaching Award

Given to one student and one faculty/staff member who creates an innovative learning environment that engages diverse learners in the study of geospatial data science.

  • Student awardee: Myleigh Neill, who recently completed the Graduate Certificate in GIS program and was a teaching assistant (TA) for the GIS 520 Spatial Problem Solving course during the Fall 2022 semester. Her nomination says: “Myleigh did an exceptional job as a TA and she approached her responsibilities with great enthusiasm and dedication, and always went above and beyond to help.” In addition to her regular TA duties, Myleigh integrated her real-world experience performing suitability modeling to develop a suitability analysis exercise in which students determined potential locations for new surface-based weather stations for the North Carolina Environment and Climate Observing Network (ECONet), considering distance from existing stations, land cover type, percent slope and site accessibility. This exercise helped students complete the suitability analysis assessment without much difficulty.
  • Faculty awardee: Stacy Supak, an associate teaching professor at the Center and a lead faculty member for the Center’s professional master’s (MGIST) program, for which she teaches introductory GIS courses to over 400 students each year. Stacy’s nominator said: “Stacy goes above and beyond helping students in her 280 and 510 classes.” Using emails and discussion forum posts, Stacy “provides positive, helpful and understanding feedback––she makes it very easy to come to her with any questions.” Nominations continued, “Stacy’s always open to new ideas and approaches.” For example, she implemented “ungrading” into her GIS 280 class last semester. She constantly refines her teaching materials to address students’ ever-changing GIS software experiences. And, “after being a TA for her over the last several semesters and reviewing numerous final projects, I feel like students certainly walk away with a solid ability to utilize GIS in their future endeavors.”

Interdisciplinary Advancement Award

Gven to one student not enrolled in a Center degree program who applies principles of geospatial analysis to address grand challenges requiring an interdisciplinary approach.

  • Awardee: Andrea Saravitz, an undergraduate student majoring in statistics and minoring in computer programming. She joined the Biological Invasions group of the Landscape Dynamics lab and quickly got up to speed with the biology of the spongy moth so that she could model their population dynamics through space and time. This was a key component of the lab’s goal to build a library of pest and pathogen parameters for modeling the spread of future invasive species.

Gladys West Award

Gladys West was one of science’s “hidden figures,” her contributions to GPS technology going unrecognized for decades. At the Center, we have many hidden figures who serve as role models and consistently exceed expectations but are not often recognized.

  • Student awardee: Izzi Hinks, a third-year Geospatial Analytics Ph.D. student. One nominator said, “As co-president of GGSO, Izzi Hinks works tirelessly to advocate for students, improve inclusivity and build community at the Center. She consistently steps up to make sure nothing falls through the cracks and is always on top of our to-do list. GGSO would not function as it does without her dedication.” Another nominator said, Izzi “put a considerable amount of time and effort into helping conduct the student financial well-being survey this past year. Not many people realize she also led the effort in presenting the results of this survey to the Center’s Steering Committee all on her own and did an amazing job advocating on behalf of all of us to get student stipends raised. Whether it’s knocking it out of the park with her oral presentation at AGU or being one of the best sources of advice for all things technical to anyone in the Center, Izzi continues to be a remarkable role model to all to all who come in contact with her!”
  • Staff awardee: John Vogler, a research scholar at the Center who received multiple nominations. One nominator wrote: “John makes such a significant impact on the Center but rarely receives recognition! In addition to his own research, John handles many research administration and communications tasks for the Center, including executing the Geospatial Forum, which is the primary event where we gather several times per semester. He organizes the Forum Committee, reaches out to speakers, arranges schedules, organizes the advertising, etc. It’s a LOT of work!”