Hannah Kerner, assistant research professor in the Department of Geographical Sciences and NASA Harvest’s U.S. Domestic Lead and Machine Learning expert, has been named to the 2021 Forbes 30 Under 30 List in the Science category.
Each year as part of the 30 Under 30 List, Forbes recognizes early-career scientists who are stepping up to solve some of the most challenging issues facing humankind. Kerner is dedicated to advancing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technology using Earth observing satellites to help bolster food security around the world.
“What I love about both coding and satellites is that they enable you to build tools that reach people all over the world,” Kerner said. “My goal is to use these tools to help solve the world’s most pressing challenges, including food security, climate change, natural hazards and disasters, and space exploration.”
The Department of Geographical Sciences is home to the NASA Harvest Consortium, NASA’s Food Security and Agriculture Program in the NASA Applied Sciences division. In her role as the U.S. Domestic Lead and resident AI and ML expert for NASA Harvest, Kerner uses machine learning and satellite data to monitor crops, inform climate mitigation strategies, and identify potential natural disasters, applying these technologies to create operational systems for monitoring agriculture and food security globally.
Kerner has worked on a wide range of projects for the consortium, identifying many ways that remotely-sensed satellite data can be used to better inform agricultural practices, government policies and decision-support tools. For example, earlier this year she worked with NASA Harvest partners at Planet, Inc. to support the Government of Togo in their COVID-19-related food security relief efforts by creating a cropland map, at 10-meter resolution, of the entire country. The resulting crop maps helped to inform policy makers on how agricultural aid should be distributed to support smallholder farmers, filling existing data gaps due to lack of ground access as a result of pandemic restrictions on movement. Read more about this project here.
“We are very proud to have Hannah as part of the NASA Harvest team and are thrilled for her well-deserved recognition by Forbes,” said Inbal Becker-Reshef, NASA Harvest Program Director and associate research professor in geographical sciences at UMD. “Hannah is a key member of NASA Harvest and is driving impactful solutions through advancing applications of machine learning and satellite data to address critical aspects of agricultural monitoring and food security. She is among a special class of young individuals who are paving the way for a healthier and more equitable world.”