Year in Review: 2022–23

Dear Friends of TGI,

As we celebrate the first anniversary of the Taylor Geospatial Institute, it is with great excitement that we share with you this Year In Review. Looking back on our first year, we hope you can see the spirit of collaboration that has guided TGI’s growth and early successes. TGI has thrived because our community of faculty, researchers, and partners believe in collaboration as the key to innovative geospatial research. By bringing together eight outstanding research institutions in an impactful partnership, TGI is cementing the St. Louis region’s status as a global geospatial center of excellence.    

Collaborative and innovative geospatial research is needed now more than ever. With the explosion of digital data and the growing importance of location science, TGI is addressing a critical need for geospatial research to tackle some of our biggest challenges. We are incredibly grateful for the legacy investment from Andrew C. Taylor, which allowed us to establish this unique research collaborative here in the Midwest.

TGI has accomplished much to realize our vision to be the nation’s leader in geospatial science research. Faculty from across the consortium have secured major grants to carry out innovative work and to develop TGI’s research infrastructure. The TGI Data Services team is supporting our researchers in collecting, accessing, and analyzing geospatial data. Perhaps most importantly, TGI has supported the work of faculty and researchers across the consortium who are advancing geospatial science through multi-institutional collaborations.

On behalf of TGI’s Governing Council, I invite you to learn more about the TGI community and our early successes. I also want to thank you, friends of TGI, for your support in making the Institute’s first year a resounding success. The TGI is only as strong as its community of faculty, researchers, staff, partners, and friends. We look forward to working with you to grow the TGI in the years ahead.

In gratitude,

Ken Olliff
Vice President for Research and Partnerships, Saint Louis University
Chair, Governing Council, Taylor Geospatial Institute

Dear Friends of TGI,

As we celebrate the first anniversary of the Taylor Geospatial Institute, it is with great excitement that we share with you this Year In Review. Looking back on our first year, we hope you can see the spirit of collaboration that has guided TGI’s growth and early successes. By bringing together eight outstanding research institutions in an impactful partnership, TGI is cementing the St. Louis region’s status as a global geospatial center of excellence.  

Collaborative and innovative geospatial research is needed now more than ever. With the explosion of digital data and the growing importance of location science, TGI is addressing a critical need for geospatial research. We are incredibly grateful for the legacy investment from Andrew C. Taylor, which allowed us to establish this unique research collaborative here in the Midwest.

TGI has accomplished much to realize our vision to be the nation’s leader in geospatial science research. Faculty from across the consortium have secured major grants and TGI’s Data Services team is supporting our researchers in collecting, accessing, and analyzing geospatial data. Perhaps most importantly, TGI has supported the work of researchers across the consortium who are advancing geospatial science through multi-institutional collaborations.

On behalf of TGI’s Governing Council, I invite you to learn more about the TGI community and our early successes. I also want to thank you, friends of TGI, for your support in making the Institute’s first year a resounding success. The TGI is only as strong as its community of faculty, researchers, staff, partners, and friends. We look forward to working with you to grow the TGI in the years ahead.

In gratitude,

Ken Olliff
Vice President for Research and Partnerships, Saint Louis University
Chair, Governing Council, Taylor Geospatial Institute

Location. Collaboration. Impact.

Since its launch on April 21, 2022, the Taylor Geospatial Institute has quickly become an important catalyst for advancing collaborative geospatial research and cementing the St. Louis region’s reputation as a global center of geospatial excellence. 

Founded through a legacy gift by Andrew C. Taylor, the eight partner institutions of TGI encompass a breadth of strengths in geospatial research and are working together to help address some of the world’s most pressing challenges. From climate change to precision agriculture, public health to national security, researchers across the consortium are utilizing geospatial tools to make important impacts in a wide range of critical fields. 

To support its researchers, faculty, and students, the Institute has in its first year awarded more than $4 million in research funding, initiated major projects to develop the Institute’s research infrastructure, and secured nearly $15 million in external grant funding.   

Our Vision & Mission

Our Vision

To be the nation’s leader in geospatial science research and accelerate the St. Louis region’s development as a global geospatial center of excellence.

Our Mission

To advance geospatial science through multi-institutional, interdisciplinary collaborations in order to create innovative, real-world solutions to societal grand challenges.

Year One:
By the Numbers

Institutions

Faculty

involved in TGI-funded research projects

Faculty

across the entire
consortium

Students

across the entire
consortium

in external grant
funding secured

given in 2022 block grant funding to consortium institutions

given in 2023 seed grant funding to consortium faculty

included in TGI-led proposal to make St. Louis an NSF Regional Engine for geospatial science

Projects

funded by TGI grants

TGI Working
Groups

TGI Postdoctoral
Fellows

Full-Time
Staff

An Exceptional Year

An Exceptional First Year

TGI celebrates its official launch

Joined by Andrew C. Taylor & distinguished guests from the region. Researchers from all 8 institutions convene for the first TGI Research Day, a collaborative research workshop Read more

First block grants distributed

$1.2M supporting 25 research projects at all 8 partner institutions

Partnership with Planet Labs

Planet’s largest-ever direct university engagement providing data, workshops, and student fellowships Read more

TGI faculty awarded $1M NSF grant

Enables high-performance computing capability through TGI RAILS Read more

TGI Research Day fosters collaboration

Faculty share research updates and collaborative opportunities

Harris-Stowe & SLU host national leaders

Director of National Intelligence, the Honorable Avril Haines, & Director of the NGA, Vice Admiral Frank Whitworth, visited with students & faculty leaders Read more

First Ph.D. students selected as Planet Fellows

Supria Sarkar (SLU) & Zijun Yang (UIUC)

New workshops launched

Launched first TGI student workshops on spatial diversity, equity, and inclusion

Partnership with Esri
Promotes an exchange of talent & technologies with this leading GIS software company
Awarded $1M from the State of Missouri

Major grant to establish TGI Academy and develop training initiatives for the region Read more

TGI leads a region-wide initiative

Submission of a major NSF proposal that would make St. Louis a Regional Innovation Engine

TGI launches Industry Engagement Program

Engagement opportunities focus on talent, research, and technology Read more

$1.7 Million awarded in seed grants

To advance collaborative research across the Institute Read more

Our one-year anniversary

Commemorated with a TGI Research Day highlighting the collaborative work of consortium members

Interview with Acting Director
Vasit Sagan, Ph.D.

Looking back on TGI’s first year, what are some accomplishments you’re proudest of?

First of all, I’m very proud that we’ve built trust in the partnership. It’s so important for a multi-university institute like TGI to build trust so we can work together to bring external grants to the region. And I’m proud that we’ve created so many new incentives to support researchers and students. We’re supporting students through the Taylor Diversity Fellowship and the Planet Fellowship, we’re supporting the broader ecosystem through our Industry Engagement program, and we’re advancing innovative science through our seed grants and research funding. I’m also proud of how quickly we’re building TGI’s geospatial data computing infrastructure. We secured funding for a cutting-edge computational infrastructure through the TGI RAILS grant. We invested in creating data collection capabilities and we’ve hired and trained talented people to create a nimble data collection team. Finally, I’m proud of TGI’s support for workforce training and supporting the future generation of geospatial talent. Harris-Stowe and UMSL have been critical in this effort to take an inclusive approach and work towards increasing diversity in geospatial science.

That brings us to your experience as Acting Director. Over the past year, what have you enjoyed the most about being Acting Director of TGI?

The part I’ve enjoyed most is building partnerships. It’s been a great experience to bring so many people together for opportunities like the NSF Innovation Engines proposal. More than 80 people from both the consortium and the St. Louis geospatial ecosystem were involved in putting that proposal together, which could bring $160 million to the region over ten years. The second thing I’ve enjoyed the most is creating opportunities for faculty to do great research and advance their careers. A lot of early career faculty are seeing TGI as an enabler for them to get their next big grant and I see tremendous energy from young faculty involved in the Institute. And then finally I’m a researcher at heart and I’ve been proud to empower faculty to do great research.

St. Louis has a very vibrant geospatial ecosystem and TGI is now a part of that. How do you see TGI fitting in with the broader geospatial ecosystem in the region?

This goes back to the GeoFutures coalition that was established to bring the community together and make a case for St. Louis to be the nation’s geospatial center of excellence. The GeoFutures report released in 2020 highlighted a need to create a strong research collaborative for the region. TGI was established as a response to that call to build a strong research collaborative. We want to make St. Louis better and we want to see more inclusive economic development and to see the St. Louis region thrive. An important part of that is to have a world-class research collaborative. Which means next-generation geospatial technologies are developed here. Which means St. Louis becomes a research powerhouse for the nation in geospatial science.

What are you most excited about for TGI in the next few years?

Four words: people, people, people, and people. What does that mean? First, we have to continue to get the community behind us and build trust. That’s so important for TGI’s success. Second, we have to build a very strong partnership. The eight institutions of TGI represent a strong powerhouse in research, but together we can be even stronger, and we have to build and enhance that partnership. Third, we have to continue hiring great people and building our capacity. We want to attract great talent not just to do research but also to ensure TGI’s operational success, and we want to train the next generation of talent in geospatial science. Finally, I’m excited to see TGI building on its early successes. We want to expand those efforts and excel in a number of areas where we can utilize the collective strengths of the partnership. Digital agriculture is one area and of course national security is another where TGI can truly be a national leader and excel. TGI will play an important role in the next few years in shaping the future of geospatial science in the nation and shaping a national strategy for geospatial excellence.

Looking back on TGI’s first year, what are some accomplishments you’re proudest of?

I’m very proud that we’ve built trust in the partnership and I’m proud that we’ve created so many new incentives to support researchers and students. We’re supporting students through the Taylor Diversity Fellowship and the Planet Fellowship, we’re supporting the broader ecosystem through our Industry Engagement program, and we’re advancing innovative science through our seed grants and research funding. I’m also proud of how quickly we’re building TGI’s geospatial data computing infrastructure through the TGI RAILS grant and investing in our data services team. Finally, I’m proud of TGI’s support for workforce training and supporting the future generation of geospatial talent. Harris-Stowe and UMSL have been critical in this effort to take an inclusive approach and work towards increasing diversity in geospatial science.

That brings us to your experience as Acting Director. Over the past year, what have you enjoyed the most about being Acting Director of TGI?

The part I’ve enjoyed most is building partnerships. It’s been a great experience to bring so many people together for opportunities like the NSF Innovation Engines proposal. More than 80 people from both the consortium and the St. Louis geospatial ecosystem were involved in putting that proposal together, which could bring $160 million to the region over ten years. The second thing I’ve enjoyed the most is creating opportunities for faculty to do great research and advance their careers. I’m a researcher at heart and I’ve been proud to empower faculty to do great research.

St. Louis has a very vibrant geospatial ecosystem and TGI is now a part of that. How do you see TGI fitting in with the broader geospatial ecosystem in the region?

This goes back to the GeoFutures coalition that was established to bring the community together and make a case for St. Louis to be the nation’s geospatial center of excellence. The GeoFutures report released in 2020 highlighted a need to create a strong research collaborative for the region. TGI was established as a response to that call to build a strong research collaborative. We want to make St. Louis better and we want to see more inclusive economic development and to see the St. Louis region thrive. An important part of that is to have a world-class research collaborative. Which means next-generation geospatial technologies are developed here. Which means St. Louis becomes a research powerhouse for the nation in geospatial science.

What are you most excited about for TGI in the next few years?

Four words: people, people, people, and people. What does that mean? First, we have to continue to get the community behind us and build trust. Second, we have to build a very strong partnership. Third, we have to continue hiring great people and building our capacity. Finally, I’m excited to see TGI building on its early successes. We want to expand those efforts and excel in a number of areas where we can utilize the collective strengths of the partnership. Digital agriculture is one area and of course national security is another where TGI can truly be a national leader and excel.

Researcher Spotlight

Advancing the Region’s Geospatial Ecosystem

TGI is proud to be part of a thriving and growing geospatial ecosystem centered in the St. Louis region. One of the Institute’s key goals is to help grow this geospatial ecosystem in an inclusive, sustainable, and impactful way.

92 Research and Industry Collaborators in TGI-led NSF Regional Innovation Engine proposal

9 TGI Incentive Programs totaling $6.4 Million in support to faculty, researchers, and students

$1 Million NSF Grant for the TGI RAILS project, to establish a shared computing infrastructure for the Institute

$1 Million grant from the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development to establish the TGI Academy

8 Students supported by TGI fellowships

15 Local Organizations at Geo-Resolution 2022 Career Fair attended by more than 150 students & job-seekers

Hundreds of Faculty and Students exposed to collaboration and network events like our Research Days and Seminar Series

Researcher Spotlight

 

Building a Research Infrastructure

Cutting-edge geospatial research requires a cutting-edge research infrastructure. 

TGI worked hard to build its capabilities in high-performance computing, remote sensing, data analysis, and other geospatial technologies. TGI faculty were awarded a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to create TGI RAILS, a high-performance computing and data analysis system. Housed at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, TGI RAILS will be crucial for supporting advanced research and providing TGI researchers with the latest AI and data analytics technologies.

Our Data Services Team

TGI is investing in talented people who can grow and build its research infrastructure. We’ve built a team of accomplished data scientists and geospatial computing engineers to provide research services across the consortium.

Logged 6,000+ miles in dozens of data collection trips to collect, access & analyze data for consortium researchers (over 4TB in less than 1 year)

Conducted 4,320+ minutes (72 hours) of flight time for data collection using remote sensing drones

A critical resource to our success that continues to expand: providing expertise in remote sensing, data collection & hyperspectral imaging

 

Fostering Innovative Research

TGI distributed its first block grants in June 2022 and since then has awarded close to $3 million in block and seed grants to researchers in fields as varied as computer science, sociology, plant science, and aerospace engineering.

Dmitri Nusinow, Danforth Plant Science Center

With a TGI block grant, Dr. Nusinow’s lab planted a field of pearl millet with multiple ratios and patterns of green and purple varieties. This is helping them study how to use plants as sensors to signal when the remediation of contaminated soil is complete.

Srikanth Gururajan, Saint Louis University

Dr. Gururajan is developing test facilities to enable experimental validation of drone flights under real world conditions. He is designing a scaled-down version of a dense urban environment equipped with devices to gather multi-modal data.

Lara Kelland and Lauren Obermark, University of Missouri-St. Louis

Dr. Kelland and Dr. Obermark are developing a participatory geospatial public history initiative called We Are St. Louis. This aims to be a living archive, developed with and for the St. Louis community, while resonating with broader humanistic inquiry on place and public memory, counterstory, lived experience, and social justice.

Carmel Martin-Fairey, Harris-Stowe State University

Dr. Martin-Fairey’s lab studies how our environment influences the health and welfare of moms and their children. With a TGI block grant, Dr. Martin-Fairey studied effects of light pollution on pregnancy and fetal outcomes using geospatial data to create a data driven analysis.

Jeremy Maurer, University of Missouri Science & Technology

Dr. Maurer’s block grant focuses on improving InSAR deformation measurements, which are useful for identifying potential locations for natural hazards. This research is advancing our ability to predict where destructive hazards like sinkholes and landslides will occur.

Ashlynn Stillwell, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Dr. Stillwell’s block grant studies the relationship between water quality and consumption in residential water systems. She is quantifying stagnation time for different water end uses across residential housing configurations, with important implications for sustainability in the residential environment.

Michael Sunde, University of Missouri-Columbia

Dr. Sunde uses census data and canopy cover estimates to examine relationships between tree cover and sociodemographic factors. With this information, he is developing suitability maps that provide spatial information to help guide the establishment of new trees.

Yevgeniy Vorobeychik, Washington University in St. Louis

Dr. Vorobeychik’s block grant makes key contributions to visual active search, advancing our ability to accurately and efficiently identify objects of interest in a given area. This has important applications like search and rescue operations, and is part of his broader research vision of trustworthy AI.

Forging Partnerships

Deep partnerships between members of the consortium and organizations from government and industry are a key factor in TGI’s success. They’re a foundational element of the Institute’s vision for impact.

Our industry engagement plan guides our long-term strategy for forging impactful relationships with external, innovative partners who are leading the way. The goal of the plan’s core engagement is to build powerful collaborations:

  • Talent Partnerships that address the needs of the geospatial industry for skilled and knowledgeable professionals.
  • Research Partnerships that create new geospatial innovations and solutions.
  • Technology Partnerships that expand use cases for tools or data ready for commercialization in the geospatial industry.

Talent

TGI has partnered with Esri, a global leader in GIS software, to strengthen the pipeline of talent being developed in the academy and to collaborate on programs like guest speakers, workshops, and student internships.

Research

Our partnership with the lead federal agency for geospatial intelligence, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), is creating new solutions and innovations that support the NGA’s mission and strengthen national security. NGA partners with the Institute through a cooperative research and development agreement that fosters exciting collaborations on challenging problems.

Technology

The Institute has developed an exemplary partnership and agreement with Planet, a leading provider of daily satellite data for business, governments, and researchers. Planet is providing TGI with access to vast libraries of imagery and data that empower researchers to spend more time focused on novel research and innovative problem-solving and less time in search of usable sources and datasets. They also sponsor workshops for consortium researchers, and fund fellowships for student researchers who use Planet’s imagery.

Industry representatives are invited to play a role in many of the activities sponsored by the Institute. Dozens of companies participated in the Institute’s career day during the 2022 Geo-Resolution Conference. Commercial partners have been integrated into collaborative grant opportunities led by the Institute, such as the National Science Foundation’s Regional Innovation Engines Program. Others are bringing educational programs to campuses across the consortium.

Researcher Spotlight

 

Preparing the Next Generation

TGI launched several initiatives to support students and develop education and training programs for the region.

The Taylor Diversity Fellowship supports distinguished undergraduate and graduate students from underrepresented groups in the geospatial sciences to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the field.

The Planet Fellowship, in partnership with Planet Labs, supports Ph.D. students whose dissertations use Planet datasets to address societal challenges and advance geospatial science.

TGI has also made strides in building its infrastructure for training the region’s current and future workforce. TGI was awarded a $1 million grant from the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development to create the TGI Academy. It will include a high-performance computing training lab, innovative virtual reality applications, and microcredentials for continued training. 

 

Supria Sarkar
Saint Louis University

Supria Sarkar is a Ph.D. student in Geoinformatics and Geospatial Analytics at Saint Louis University and a recipient of the TGI Planet Fellowship. With the support of the fellowship, she is carrying out her project “Seed-AI for the Planet: Using AI and Planet Imagery for Large-Scale Seed Composition Estimation.” She is leveraging satellite-level information and machine learning to address the seed composition of crops while the plants are still growing in the field. This work will benefit a wide range of stakeholders including farmers, scientists, crop breeders, and policy makers.

As we finish our first year and look ahead to the next, we want to thank the entire geospatial community across the St. Louis region for supporting the Taylor Geospatial Institute, and we look forward to continued partnerships and collaborations. Together we can accomplish so much more than alone.

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