March 8th Speakers


March 8th, 2023 (Wednesday)

Welcome and Announcements + Drs. Joan and Peter Cohn Keynote: Nutrition, Sustainability, and Health – The Big Picture (12:00 - 1:15 PM)

Description: Global food security is predicated on identifying sustainable production systems that can adapt to and mitigate climate change. Regions like Sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 60% of the population are smallholder farmers, are particularly vulnerable given challenges related to infrastructure, access to farming inputs and sources of information, and a rapidly changing climate. Assessing (e.g., mapping) and monitoring smallholder agriculture is critical to building sustainable farms that are as productive or even more productive than large-scale farms. Recent advances in Earth observation (EO) and Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) offer scalable, affordable methods to quantify, monitor, and analyze risks to the agricultural sector at unprecedented scales. This information can help understand, plan and manage climate risk and offer insights and a quantitative basis for policies toward climate-resilient food systems. In this talk, I will describe open problems for research in AI/ML methods and applications utilizing EO for agriculture. I will provide detailed examples of the utility of methods and products, discuss some pathways from deployment to impact, and include resources to datasets, repositories, and other information to get started. I will also discuss the challenges and gaps in supporting agricultural monitoring in smallholder, low-resource regions.

Keynote Speaker: Catherine Nakalembe


Dr. Nakalembe is an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland, the Africa Program Director under NASA Harvest, and a member of the NASA SERVIR Applied Sciences Team on which she serves as the Agriculture and Food Security Thematic Lead. Catherine has broad research interests and leads projects focusing on the development methods and applications of satellite remote sensing and machine learning to agriculture and food security, land use and land-use change mapping, humanitarian mapping, and climate change, and supports several capacity-building in the use of remote sensing for agriculture monitoring and research.

She was the 2020 Africa Food Prize Laureate for her dedication to improving the lives of smallholder farmers by using satellite technology to harness data to guide agricultural decision-making. Her efforts have also promoted the formulation of policies and programs that are directly impacting farmers against the impacts of food failure. Dr. Nakalembe was a 2020 UMD Research Excellence Honoree and in 2019 was a recipient of the Inaugural GEO Individual Excellence Award. She was featured in the 2020 Women and GIS, Volume 2: Stars of Spatial Science ESRI Press book. Her work led to the development and establishment of food security and crop monitoring bulletins that integrate satellite data including the Tanzania National Food Security Bulletin, the Uganda National Integrated Early Warning Bulletin, Kenya, Rwanda Crop Monitor reports, and the Eastern Africa Crop Monitor as well as designing the trigger mechanism of the disaster risk financing program in Uganda that supported over 300,000 households in the Karamoja region as part of her Ph.D. research. Born and raised in Kampala, Uganda, and has a Bs. in Environmental Sciences from Makerere University, a Master of Science in Geography and Environmental Engineering from The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore Maryland, and a Ph.D. in Geographical Sciences from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Moderator: Jiantao Ma (Tufts)

Jiantao Ma, PhD, MBBS, received his PhD at Tufts and completed the Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) Fellowship Program at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Jiantao’s research focuses on the study of diet in relation to cardiometabolic diseases and risk factors, with an emphasis on epigenetics, protein biomarkers, and diet-gene interaction.

The Future of Hybrid Conferencing

Event: In-person Social Mixer (1:15 - 3:00 PM)

Speaker: Dr. Parke Wilde

Parke Wilde (PhD, Cornell) is a food economist and professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. Previously, he worked for USDA’s Economic Research Service. He studies food security and hunger measurement, the economics of food assistance programs, and federal dietary guidance policy. With USDA support, he directs the RIDGE extramural research grants program and a 2021-2022 grants program on household food security measurement. He is co-organizer of a university climate initiative ( He received the AAEA Distinguished Quality of Communication award for the textbook, Food Policy in the United States: An Introduction, second edition (Routledge/Earthscan, 2018).

For general inquiries on the symposium program and/or registration, to provide feedback to the Student Planning Committee, or for those seeking collaboration, please contact us at!

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