ESSIC’s Liza Goldberg Uses National Geographic Young Explorers Grant to Bring Satellite Imagery into Classrooms

Last week, The National Geographic Society announced the 2020 recipients of the Young Explorers Grant, a prestigious grant awarded to young people, between the ages of 16 and 26, engaged in complex, impact-driven efforts to address global issues. Liza Goldberg, 18-year-old ESSIC and NASA student research assistant, is one of the 22 recipients.


With this grant, Goldberg will launch Cloud to Classroom, an innovative project that uses satellite imagery to help K-12 classrooms understand global environmental change through remote sensing.  Starting this Fall, Goldberg and the Google Earth Engine and Outreach team will travel to San Francisco, Mexico City, and Washington D.C. to complete several training programs. There, the team will teach students and teachers on how they can integrate these satellite-based tools into their Biology and Earth Sciences curriculum.


“Looking at news articles and statistics isn’t really enough when we’re trying to get kids to understand how severe the problems like deforestation, urbanization, and climate change are,” says Goldberg, “Through using satellite imagery and a series of apps that we’ll be building, we’ll be able to actually put the satellite imagery in their hands and let them visualize for themself what’s actually going on on the grounds.”


Goldberg is making these apps alongside the Google Earth Engine and Outreach team based in Mountain View, California. The team will be building these apps using Google Earth Engine tools and developer resources.


Goldberg has also been using Google Earth Engine tools in her research with NASA. For the past year, she’s been mapping the global drivers of mangrove loss with her lab group using the Google Earth engine and other forms of satellite imagery. Just last week, Goldberg and her team were published on this research in Global Change Biology.


“Using satellite imagery, I’ve been able to see the climate change challenge and global environmental changes from a new perspective,” says Goldberg, “I want to see if I can give that same opportunity to other high school students who might not be as familiar with these sorts of global environmental changes that we’re seeing.”


Goldberg graduated from high school this past Spring, but her research started much earlier than that. She began working at NASA Goddard when she was 14, after a local science fair judge from NASA took interest in her project. Goldberg was presenting on her three-year study on the impact of climate change on the carbon dioxide exchange of red maple saplings. Ever since then, Goldberg has been immersed in climate change research.


In the Fall, Goldberg plans on joining her colleagues in California to begin training teachers and students as a part of Cloud to Classroom. She’ll also begin her undergraduate education at Stanford, where she will major in Earth Systems Science and minor in Computer Science. While attending school and beginning Cloud to Classroom, Goldberg will continue her work with NASA Goddard and plans to undertake new projects with several research groups at Stanford.


“With NASA and ESSIC, I’ve been able to have the wonderful opportunity to see the world from a new perspective,” she reflects.


Congratulations, Liza, and good luck!