Environmental Data Science


Emily Burchfield, Department of Environmental Sciences, with Elizabeth Jarrett, experiential designer
Environmental Data Science

This multimedia map is composed of work students did throughout the entire semester, but focuses on four specific assignments. While the technical side of this class requires students to develop basic programming and statistical knowledge, our overall goals were to engage students in critical reflections  about how their world-view, biases, and experiences affect their work as data scientists and to use those experiences and reflections to emphasize that each data point represents complex interactions of places, people, processes, etc. Our data sets centered on gentrification and food access in the city of Atlanta, and we focused in-class discussions on how that data can be used to leverage change within a community. 

DIY Google Earth

We asked students how they defined “home.” They were asked to go and explore a place they considered home in Google Earth and reflect on what changes they can visibly see and what Google Earth didn’t capture. How have these changes affected you personally and your community? 

Changing Atlanta

Students were split into groups representing four Atlanta neighborhoods: Kirkwood, Old Fourth Ward, West End, and Summerhill. They were asked to create visualizations representing the data they were interested in examining. They discussed patterns and findings with their groups and generated questions around food access for current residents. 

Dear Data

This assignment comes from information designers Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec who spent a year sending hand-drawn data postcards back and forth across the Atlantic. We asked students to track their own interactions with food for three days and visualize it by hand. They chose the variables they wanted to represent and then reflected on how their access to food might change if they lived somewhere else. Read more about Dear Data here

Critical Response: Turn Back

This assignment started with Alice Walker’s question, “What is the work my soul must have?” Students were asked to write a short bio on themselves, specifically considering what concepts, experiences, and points of view are more dominant in their history than others? Are there patterns or motifs that are repeated? How has that history informed the data they chose to examine in their neighborhood project? They could submit a poem, song, or any other medium they chose to explore. They were also asked to create a portrait reflecting “the work their soul must have.”