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Google Earth Engine GDE Liza Goldberg uses tech to fight climate change

Google Developers
Published: August 29, 2022

Posted by Janelle Kuhlman, Developer Relations Program Manager

Photo of Liza Goldberg, Google Earth GDE
Liza Goldberg, Google Earth GDE

Google Earth Engine GDE Liza Goldberg uses tech to fight climate change

Liza Goldberg learned to code through Google Earth Engine at age fourteen, when her mentors at NASA, where she was an intern, introduced the tool as a way to model global trends in environmental change. Liza, who had arrived at NASA with no coding or remote sensing experience, gradually gained expertise in the platform, thanks to strong mentorship, Google training, and guidance from the Google Earth Engine developer community. The fact that Google Earth Engine is built for scientists and has a clear world impact aligned with Liza’s commitment to using technology to combat climate change.

“Earth Engine enabled me to write each line of code knowing that my algorithms could eventually make true change in climate monitoring,” she says. “The visualization-focused interface of Earth Engine showed me that coding could be simple, data focused, and broadly influential across all fields of climate science.”

Liza Goldberg on stage speaking at the Geo for Good Summit
Liza Goldberg speaking at the Geo for Good Summit

Becoming a GDE

Liza used Earth Engine for years at her NASA internship, which grew into a part-time research position. In 2022, her longtime collaborator on the Google Earth Engine team, Tyler Erickson, nominated Liza for the GDE Program, and she became a GDE in April 2022.

“When I found out about my nomination, I felt admittedly nostalgic,” she says. “I remembered my 14-year-old excitement when I first opened Earth Engine – how the whole world suddenly seemed open to me. Becoming a GDE felt like coming full-circle; in many ways, I grew up with Earth Engine.”

Liza hopes her GDE role encourages other young students to explore new technologies.

“I hope that my position as a GDE can show other young students – particularly women – that starting with no knowledge of a field doesn’t need to be a barrier towards accomplishing your ultimate goals,” she says. “As the youngest female GDE in North America, I hope to break the barriers that prevent other young women from chasing down their passions in male-dominated arenas.”

In her GDE role, Liza is collaborating with Google India and the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) to launch a series of Google Earth Engine trainings across the country, building technical capacity among the next generation of climate scientists.

“We’ll be guiding students in basic geospatial skills, preparing them for fellowships with partner conservation organizations in the coming year,” she says. “I’m optimistic that this program can distribute the advanced computing power of Earth Engine to students who can leverage its tools for local-to-national scale change.”

Working at NASA

Liza has continued her longtime work on global mangrove ecosystem vulnerability at NASA, analyzing the impact of various mangrove protection and governance models on the degree of forest disturbance. Liza is spending the summer in West Africa with her NASA colleagues, completing mangrove-based fieldwork and delivering Google Earth Engine trainings to academic and conservation institutions in the area.

Liza is also currently leading The Atlantis Project, a global initiative to enable the Earth’s most climate vulnerable populations to develop community disaster response capacity, at NASA.

“We’re using Google Earth Engine to map the key barriers toward a community’s recovery from impending climatic disasters, enabling aid organizations to more effectively target the right stressors in the right communities,” she says. “We’re currently training highly flood vulnerable communities in early warning system deployment and household disaster preparation and response.”

Her team is also collaborating with NGOs in India to educate communities on their post-disaster aid rights.

Studying at Stanford

Liza is also a college student, studying Earth Systems and international development policy at Stanford University.

“I seek to better understand how climate change can further trap the extreme poor in cycles of lagging economic growth,” she says. “I will then combine my remote sensing knowledge with this policy and climate change background to develop new solutions for climate adaptation across the developing world.”

Ultimately, Liza seeks to use technology to help the planet’s most climate-vulnerable populations respond most effectively to climate impacts.

“I’ve found that satellite analysis is among the most effective ways to tackle many of these challenges, but I’ve fallen in love with the problem, not any particular solution to it,” she says. “In my professional future, I seek to continue applying satellite tech towards building these critical bridges between technical capacity and on-the-ground need.”

Learn more about Liza on LinkedIn.

The Google Developer Experts (GDE) program is a global network of highly experienced technology experts, influencers, and thought leaders who actively support developers, companies, and tech communities by speaking at events and publishing content.