Meet Data Scientist Kaylin Bugbee

"I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2018, Mount Fuji in 2019, and hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in June," notes NASA Data Scientist Kaylin Bugbee. Even when she's not climbing mountains, she's climbing mountains – mountains of data, that is.

Every day, an ever-growing number of Earth observation satellites transmit a deluge of images and data to be processed, stored, shared, and studied. NASA planetary science, heliophysics, astrophysics, and biological and physical science missions gather and transmit data too. Bugbee helps create centralized systems to ensure that scientists, the public, and others around the world can easily locate and access this information.

One project she works on at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) is the Science Discover Engine, which streamlines search and discovery of data and information for NASA's five science disciplines. "For this project in the first year we are collecting the low hanging fruit – the core data located in well-known places and likely to be heavily used. We want to make the first release of the system publicly available by early December with a good solid representation of data and documents for all five disciplines. As people use it and give us feedback, we can improve it, add features, and collect more data."

The second project Bugbee works on at Marshall is the Multi-Mission Algorithm and Analysis Platform, or MAAP. A collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), MAAP provides easy access to both agencies' Earth science data. "We've released the first version of the MAAP dashboard, focusing on comprehensive mapping of Earth's forests. Several ESA and NASA Earth observation satellites and instruments are measuring this biomass and newer, more advanced missions are on tap. The continuous data record from all these sensors is key to understanding how biomass is changing on the planet and will throw some light on climate change. We've already assembled a huge amount of the data."

There's another mountain Bugbee has had to climb. "When I was 35, working full time at UAH and earning my master's in Earth System science, I was diagnosed with cancer. I had to have both surgery and chemotherapy. She came out on top. "Soon after being declared cancer-free, I got the NASA job. It was all a 'dream come true.' There's a Swahili saying the porters used when we were climbing Kilimanjaro. They'd say, 'pole pole.' That means 'slowly, slowly.' I believe you have to be slow and steady and unwavering in your approach to overcome any challenge you face. And remember each day is a gift."


Kaylin Bugbee above the clouds somewhere on Kilimanjaro (2018)

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