Liping Yang, assistant professor of Geographic Information Science (GIScience) in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at The University of New Mexico, was chosen to participate in the 2022 cohort of the TRELIS project, Training and Retaining Leaders in STEM-Geospatial Sciences, at its fourth workshop in June in New York. Her participation in the prestigious event comes as her UNM lab’s research gains worldwide attention.

Yang’s research focuses on geospatial AI, “which lies at the interaction of GIScience, remote sensing, machine learning, and computer vision, and geovisualization.” She has directed the GeoAIR Lab (Geospatial Artificial Intelligence Research and Visualization Lab) since 2020.

Yang, who also also has a secondary appointment in the UNM Department of Computer Science, said she learned many things at the TRELIS workshop, including a component about managing conflict and converting conflict to collaboration, as well as new language and communication skills.

“I knew the importance of communication and language before attending TRELIS but did not know there are communication and language skills specifically for women,” she explained, citing two books recommended at the workshop: How to Say It For Women: Communicating with Confidence and Power Using the Language of Success by Phyllis Mindell, and A Leadership Guide for Women in Higher Education by Marjorie Hass. “This makes me think that, in the Internet era, it is not true that it is possible for us to learn anything if we want. If we do not know what keyword to search, we simply do not know something useful exists.”

Her TRELIS participation will, indirectly and directly, benefit her students.

“What I have learned from the workshop will be woven into my mentoring strategies and also the large STEM network I built from TRELIS — 71 current and promising-future women leaders in geospatial sciences — will for sure benefit my students for future graduate school and job seeking. More directly, I am honored to receive the Carolyn Merry mini-grant funded by TRELIS, to partially support my Ph.D. student’s dissertation work,” she noted.

“From TRELIS I am aware that I am not alone, as most of the challenges I have been facing are also not easy for most TRELIS Fellows. This is impactful, because it makes me feel much more confident and gets me motivated to move on, with the ultimate goal of enjoying both work and life. Another important impact I can foresee is the big geospatial female STEM network I built from TRELIS, which will for sure boost collaboration opportunities in near future for myself and potentially for my current and future students,” Yang added.

After the TRELIS workshop in June, Yang attended the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS) 2022 symposium at Syracuse University where she attended a research panel on past, present and future of AI and spatial supporting support.

“I’m very honored to be part of this great UCGIS research panel to discuss the past, present and future of AI in spatial decision support.”

Of her lab’s research, Yang explained, “Sensors and actuators are around us everywhere, from video cameras, environment sensing, remote sensing, traffic sensing, smart meters, vehicles, to the mobile phones we all carry. These are big and fast data. These data can be used to extract actionable insights where GeoAI will shine. To get actionable insights from geospatial big data to support intelligent decisions, geovisualization plays a vital role. GeoAI and geovisualization are the core of our GeoAIR lab.”


Yang noted that GeoAIR lab's recent publication, Google Earth Engine and Artificial Intelligence (AI): A Comprehensive Review, has received worldwide attention, including 2,250 total views and 45+ tweets/retweets within six days of being published online and one of the top nine most-viewed articles among all papers published within six months of the journal. The publication has an accompanying web app and it also has received worldwide attention.

“I think the main reason our research gained so much attention is that our GeoAIR lab, leveraging our unique strengths, fills the missing and very needed gap in the research community. As one of the reviewers of our article emphasized, ‘...Such really comprehensive review would be useful for a broad audience, from more novice users of GEE to more experienced. The even better contribution is the developed web app and i really hope that you will manage to maintain it up-to-date or add an option for users to report related literature.’"

Yang said the interactive web tool the lab developed for the review article also grabbed wide attention around the world.

“Our ultimate goal for this web tool is to build an up-to-date, searchable literature list for the GEE and AI community in order to advance science and to support researchers to tackle challenging problems such as global warming…,” she said.

Geospatial combines geography and spatial: Geography is a science about the earth, and spatial is about the space around us, Yang explained.

“Geospatial science is an incredibly diverse field and studies why things are where they are at different times. Geospatial scientists nowadays are focusing much more on studying the interactions between people and the environment in the context of places and regions to better understand their changing mechanisms, which in turn helps to resolve global, regional, and local problems adequately in a timely manner. Geospatial science nowadays is not only about where and why things happen but also about how to use cutting-edge geospatial technologies to locate, monitor, and analyze them and to forecast their future… The applications of geospatial science range, from natural and social sciences to marketing and communications. The U.S. Department of Labor predicted that geospatial jobs would be one of the three fastest growing sectors in the coming decades.”