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Published January 26, 2024
Data centers promote research and inform smart decision making.
By Micaela Myers
Analyzing large data sets created by modern research can reveal important patterns, trends and associations and inform smart decision making. To stay ahead of the curve, the University of Wyoming launched the Data Science Center in 2018, and the UW’s Wyoming DataHub initiative was established by the Wyoming Innovation Partnership in 2022.
Wyoming Data Science Center
The UW Data Science Center started as part of a $20 million research infrastructure improvement award from the National Science Foundation. In 2023, the center joined the new School of Computing.
“Data science is an in-demand career path as companies, research labs, national defense units, nonprofits and other private and public organizations struggle to take advantage of the massive and growing data in the world,” says School of Computing Director Gabrielle Allen. “The center will work to enhance data science offerings for students across disciplines and contribute to building a broader data science initiative with other UW partners and initiatives.”
School of Computing Associate Director Jeffrey Hamerlinck says the center will encourage innovative research. Philanthropic contributions such as those from the Trent and Mary McDonald fund further support this aim, with funding for graduate student research and career preparation, as well as faculty research, teaching and engagement.
The vision for the DataHub is to develop and promote a community of users around data-driven science, ultimately serving as a central stop for all sectors to access data tools to spur economic development, strengthen Wyoming’s workforce, support industry and promote research collaborations, including with the state’s community colleges. Infrastructure will include digital storage and management resources. Providing centralized access to data will enable future innovation in machine learning and artificial intelligence.
“We see the DataHub — as a component of the Wyoming Innovation Partnership — as being a way to make researchers’ data more discoverable, sharable and reusable for teaching and research and to integrate and discover new uses for that data,” Hamerlinck says.
Projects that were initially funded included creating an interactive map for the Malcolm Wallop Civic Engagement Program’s Profiles in Wyoming Resilience, integrating plant data between the Rocky Mountain Herbarium and Wyoming Natural Diversity Database, digitizing the American Heritage Center’s Anaconda Company (copper mining) collection, and coalescing wildlife and weather data to inform wildlife management decisions.
In partnership with the 9H Research Foundation, UW students are also using drones to map invasive species and computer vision to track cattle. “One of 9H’s goals is to do things on a working ranch that can then be made accessible to other ranchers across the state,” Hamerlinck says. “There’s a great outreach and tech transfer potential with this partnership.”
The state is funding a new set of derivative data from lidar to generate new terrain models and contour maps. The hub also funded the purchase of state-of-the-art equipment for the Center for Advanced Scientific Instrumentation at UW, including a plant phenotyping machine.
“One of the great things about the School of Computing is the emphasis on applied computing and data science to solve real-world problems,” Hamerlinck says. “The fact we can build the Data Science Center and DataHub under the school’s umbrella makes it that much more impactful.”