“One of the most important skills I am learning is the ability to manage really massive data.”
Every morning, Lorena Castro García goes swimming in her office. But, instead of doing laps in a chlorinated pool, she strokes across a sea of data. The goal of these daily workouts is to build a prototype of the Water for Food Interoperable System (WaFIS), a tool for farmers and academics alike to upload, transform, store and communicate water and agricultural data. García, a postdoctoral fellow from Zacatecas, Mexico, is working with DWFI Faculty Fellow and University of Nebraska-Lincoln assistant professor of biological systems engineering Francisco Muñoz-Arriola to create a WaFIS prototype for two natural resources districts in Nebraska.
In August 2014, the Water for Food Institute awarded its inaugural round of student support grants to faculty fellows. The grants provide stipends to students like García who are working on projects that contribute to a more water and food secure world. For García – who received a PhD in Computer Science from the Autonomous University of Baja California in 2013 – this means coupling her technological expertise with hydro- and climatological data to make WaFIS useful on the ground. “These tools will help farmers make better decisions regarding the use of resources, such as water and fertilizer. We believe they will be better prepared for the climate variability.”
But it’s one thing to integrate diffuse data and another to make that synthesis meaningful to the intended beneficiaries. That, García says, is where Muñoz-Arriola comes into play. “He’s helping me to understand the hydrologic and climatologic data. He also helps to take problems away from the hypothetical and put them into reality.”