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Skip to 0 minutes and 9 secondsMy name is Jon Blower. I'm the lead educator on this course, and the Chief Technology Officer for the Institute for Environmental Analytics. At the IEA, we work with a huge number of partners in a variety of industries, all the way from supermarkets, to environmental consultancies, providers of renewable energy, to manufacturing industry and government, to solve all kinds of fascinating problems, all of which can be attacked by the use of environmental data and information. So the IEA has many strands of activity, including training and community building. But one of our main strands is technical developments and performing technical projects. And that's the side of the organisation that I look after.

Skip to 0 minutes and 42 secondsSo I look after a team of data scientists, software developers, programmers, and consultants, who all bring their own skills to these problems and environmental analytics. The phrase big data encompasses many, many aspects of data. It's not just that the data are very large in terms of their size, although that's certainly true that we work with very large volumes of data. The data centres we work with, for example, will work with many, many petabytes of data. It's also that the data are very, very diverse in their nature. We work with a very large variety of data from satellite images, to climate projections, weather forecasts, and sensor data.

Skip to 1 minute and 13 secondsAnd it's a challenge to find the right kind of data that we need to address a certain problem. The reasons we are making this course is really to raise awareness of the impact that environmental data analytics can have on businesses and decision making, to look at some of the challenges that are involved in solving some of these problems, to share some of our excitements about how interesting this area is, and why we want lots more people to get involved, and also to show how we form partnerships and collaborations to solve all these really important problems.

Skip to 1 minute and 38 secondsIn this course you will be meeting a wide range of experts, who will talk about a variety of subjects from satellite imagery, to big data management, open data, machine learning, and visualisation. And this is all part of the wider area of environmental data analytics.

What is big data?

In this video, Dr Jon Blower, Chief Technology Officer at the IEA and one of your Educators for this course, introduces the concept of big data and environmental analytics.

As you progress through the course, you may find this glossary helpful.

Meet Jon Blower

Avatar image Jon Blower

Jon has a background in software engineering and environmental analytics and has participated in, and led, a number of national and international projects concerning environmental data exchange and visualisation. Since 2013, he has been the coordinator of the MELODIES project, in which eight new diverse environmental applications are being developed, based upon open data.

Meet Vicky Lucas

Avatar image of Vicky

Vicky has a background in environmental science and training. At the IEA she develops training on IEA projects, to ensure effective transfer of new tools to clients and creating short courses useful to the environmental analytics community, such as cloud computing. She is currently working on online training in data management for early career researchers. She has worked extensively in meteorology and air quality, including environmental compliance for coal-fired power stations and spending a summer in the Antarctic, weather forecasting to support scientific fieldwork.

Vicky and Jon will be joined in the course discussions by their colleagues at the IEA:

You can ‘follow’ the team to see their comments on the course by clicking on the ‘follow’ button on their profiles.

The course also features contributions from experts across the University of Reading, IEA and its partner institutions. They won’t be present to answer your questions and comments during the course, but the team above will be there to support and guide you.


In the next Step, Vicky highlights some sources of big data. Don’t forget to mark this Step as complete using the button on the bottom-right corner of this page, before you move on.

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This video is from the free online course:

Big Data and the Environment

University of Reading

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