Big Data & Decision Making: The Future of the Water Space

Event Location: 
UF Hilton Conference Center, Gainesville, Florida USA
Start Date: 
08 December 2015
End Date: 
09 December 2015


The term “big data” has clearly come into the limelight recently as the capacity of organizations that collect water-related data grows at an exponential rate.  This conference looks at efforts, both nationally and internationally, to harness the mass of information collected in the water space and convert it to tools useful to make decisions that can efficiently manage systems, especially those that are coastal, that interconnect ecology, water resources and society.  The interdisciplinary nature of this conference is intended to engage many areas of expertise as we grapple with mountains of information we are now capable of generating.

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Keynote Speakers

Peter Wiliams, CTO of Big Green Innovations, IBM
Mr. Peter Williams, Ph.D. serves as the Chief Technology Officer of Big Green Innovations at International Business Machines Corp. He is responsible for assembling, maintaining and developing the portfolio of businesses included, and technologies used. His particular focus areas have been PV technologies; developing greenhouse gas reduction solutions and services; and most intensively, water management solutions, covering entire water resources, utility infrastructures, and enterprise water management. Mr. Williams is IBM Distinguished Engineer. He has been heavily involved in creating the intellectual foundation for IBM's “Smarter Planet“ initiative. His particular areas of focus are water management solutions, enterprise water management and utility infrastructures. As such, he has had a major role in developing IBM’s water management solution framework and a number of specific areas of intellectual property within that framework. He is a Member of Advisory Council of Emerald Technology Ventures AG. He serves as Member of Advisory Board of McRock Capital. He holds or co-holds nine US patents with others pending. By background, he is a management consultant with over 20 years of experience in technology and business issues together to develop novel solutions and business models. His PhD was awarded by the School of Management at the University of Bath, England, in 1986.

Steve Bourne, AtkinsSteve Bourne is North America Research and Development Chair at Atkins, one of the world’s leading design, engineering, and project management consultancies. His climate research, water resources decision support system design, and software development and training are helping to establish resilient cities that can react, recover, adapt, and transform to meet future needs. A key player in Atkins’ Future Proofing Cities initiative, Bourne focuses on helping communities understand their city’s strengths and risks, while building consensus and ownership of solutions. Active in national water resources and GIS communities, Steve also leads cross-disciplinary teams represented by academia, government, and private industry in developing resource management solutions. Steve’s recent projects have focused on reviewing climate change impacts on the arctic, forecasting climate change impact on the 100-year storm in individual communities, enabling residents to design their own stormwater systems, and examining 100-year infrastructure cost forecasting and optimization.

Greg van der Vink, Terrametrics and Princeton University                                                                                            Gregory E. van der Vink was a visiting faculty member in the Department of Geosciences between 1991 and 2015, teaching courses in environmental decision making and investigating natural hazards.  He remains an advisor for the Ghana Project undertaken by Princeton University's chapter of Engineers Without Borders.  As the President and CEO of Terrametrics, van der Vink’s specializes in predicting human responses to environmental change that impact poverty-reduction efforts and that are precursors for conflict. Terrametrics is a firm specializing in poverty reduction, conflict mitigation, and environmentally-sustainable economic growth in the developing world. The company is also developing a solar salt facility in Ghana to hep eliminate Iodine Deficiency Disorder and the associated mental impairment among infants and children.

Robert J. Lempert (Invited), Rand Corporation
Robert Lempert is a senior scientist at the RAND Corporation and director of the Frederick S. Pardee Center for Longer Range Global Policy and the Future Human Condition. His research focuses on decisionmaking under conditions of deep uncertainty, with an emphasis on climate change, energy, and the environment. Lempert and his research team assist a number of natural resource agencies in their efforts to include climate change in their long-range plans. He has also led studies on national security strategies and science and technology investment strategies for clients such as the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Tentative Agenda

Tuesday, December 8: Ecology and Big Data

8:00 Registration Opens

9:00 AM  Welcome & Introductory Remarks - Jack Payne, VP, University of Florida IFAS

9:15 AM Keynote Address - Peter Williams, CTO of IBM's Big Green Innovations

9:45 AM Using Big Data for Ecology - Moderator, Tom Frazer, Director of UF's School for Natural Resources, Frank Davis, Director, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) (Invited)

10:45 AM Break

11:00 AM Federal Perspectives on the Big Data Dilemma - Eric Bush, Chief of Planning, USACE South Atlantic Division,

12:00 PM Lunch with Rob Lempert, Rand Graduate School of Public Policy

1:00 PM Data Research Efforts - Moderator, Gerald Corzo, UNESCO-IHE, David Tarboton, Utah State University, Dan Ames, Brigham Young University, David Maidment, University of Texas

5:30 PM Reception with NOAA's Tools Showcase

Wednesday, December 9, Big Data and Water Management

8:00 AM Registration and Coffee

9:00 AM Keynote - Steve Bourne, Atkins - Making Data Fun

9:30 AM An International Case Study - The Dutch Digital Delta Initiative - Joost De Haan, Delfland Water Authority, 

10:45 AM Break

11:00 AM Big Data and Decision Making in Practice - Akin Owosina, or Matahal Ansar, South Florida Water Management, Donna Page, Deputy Director, NOAA National Water Center, Al Karlin, Southwest Florida Water Management District

12:00 PM Lunch with Greg van der Vink, Princeton and Terrametrics - What's all this Noise?

1:00 PM Data and US Higher Education - Nancy Gram, Director of Educational Programs, NEON, Jay Martin, Director, OSU Global Water Institute, Kirk Hatfield, UF Engineering School for Sustainable Infrastructure & Environment

2:00 PM Integration of Data and Adaptation


Stan Bronson
Florida Earth
Jack Payne
Kirk Hatfield
Tom Frazer
Eric Bush
Joost de Haan
Delfland Water

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