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Our Advisors

Guided by the recognition that we create greater value and impact by seeking the advice of outside experts, the NASA Lifelines Advisory Committee provides direct, honest, and expert guidance on matters of program strategy and results. NASA Lifelines advisors strengthen the community, sharing knowledge based on their experiences, serving as champions to reach every community, and providing recommendations to meet our goals
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Dr. Andreas Gros

Andi’s background is in complex systems analysis, computer science, and theoretical ecology. Over the past 10 years of working as a research scientist in Silicon Valley, he specialized in machine learning, computer vision, and data science, with a strong emphasis on remote sensing data.  Andi was one of the first contributors to Meta’s Data-for-Good program and led the work on the High-Resolution Settlement Layer for a number of years. He is now the ML Lead Engineer at Vibrant Planet, focusing on scaling and productionizing models used to understand forest vegetation and prevent wildfire.

Diya Abdo

Diya Abdo is the Lincoln Financial Professor of English at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC. A second-generation Palestinian refugee born and raised in Jordan, Dr. Abdo’s teaching, research, and scholarship focus on Arab women writers and Arab and Islamic feminisms. Her book AMERICAN REFUGE: True Stories of the Refugee Experience was selected as a North Carolina Reads 2024 Book. In 2015, Dr. Abdo founded Every Campus A Refuge (ECAR), which advocates for housing refugee families on college and university campus grounds and supporting them in their resettlement. The flagship chapter at Guilford College, now one of many ECAR campuses across the country, has hosted nearly 90 refugees thus far. Dr. Abdo is the recipient of several awards including the J.M. Kaplan Fund’s Innovation Prize (2021); she sits on the Advisory Board of the Community Sponsorship Hub.
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Dr. Freddie E. Wills, Jr.

Freddie E. Wills, Jr., Ph.D. is a higher education professional knowledgeable about theories and practices that meet at the intersection of secondary and post-secondary education. Dr. Wills serves as the Vice President for STEM Initiatives and Research Partnerships and he leads the Missouri Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (MOLSAMP) as its Principal Investigator. In his role, Dr. Wills works to develop and implement institutional partnerships that advance HSSU’s STEM agenda and supports student success.

Dr. Fawad Akbari MD, MPH

Director, Humanitarian Innovation, Grand Challenges Canada
Adjunct Professor, School of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Ottawa
Fawad is an expert in pediatric medicine, global health, and humanitarian response. As the Director, Humanitarian Innovation at Grand Challenges Canada, he leads initiatives to fund and nurture health, WASH, life-saving information, and alternative energy innovations in conflict-affected countries. Fawad has held leadership positions in various organizations, including Aga Khan Foundation in Canada, the USA and Afghanistan. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Ottawa, School of Epidemiology and Public Health. He has been a fellow, coach, mentor, and instructor with the Unites Nations Institute for Training and Research fellowship programs for Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt since 2009.
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Heather Leson

Heather Leson is the Digital Innovation Lead with the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies Solferino Academy. She delivers innovative products and experiences with global networks at the intersection of social impact and technology. Heather created and co-edited the IFRC Data Playbook by engaging 1000s to improve data literacy. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Combined Political Science and History from Carleton University and a Library and Information Technician diploma from Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology. In 2020, she received a post-graduate Emeritus diploma in Digital Business Strategies and 2022, she obtained a certificate in Applied Behavior Design. She is a Climatebase Fellow.
For the past 13 years, she has led governance and engagement in open projects, including board and advisory positions and is the chair of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team Governance Working Group

Linet Kwamboka

Linet Kwamboka is a leading practitioner in data science, policy and sustainable development. As the Senior Program Manager for Data4Now at the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, she works to strengthen African countries with data and technical skills to tackle challenges and achieve the SDGs. She’s the Founder of DataScience LTD™. With a background in Computer Science, Software Engineering, Data Analysis, and GIS, Linet approaches complex issues with a multidisciplinary perspective. Her exceptional contributions have earned her international recognition, including being named one of the World’s 100 Most Influential People in Digital Government and top 30 women in data. She’s been recognized as a global open data champion and is dedicated to transparency and data-driven decision-making. With her expertise and commitment to utilizing data for sustainable development, Linet continues to shape the future of data science. She is a former Mozilla Foundation Fellow, former consultant at the World Bank and UNDP. She currently serves as a board member at WeRobotics and B-Lab Africa.
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Nuala Cowan

Nuala Cowan is a member of the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) at the World Bank. As part of GFDRR’s Digital Earth Partnership (DEP) Team, Nuala supports World Bank clients, associated Bank task teams and project beneficiaries to create, access, and use localized Digital Earth data and services to enhance the outcomes of development operations.  Nuala is also research faculty at The George Washington University, Department of Geography, and is one of the co-founders of the YouthMappers, a university consortium initiative funded by the Geocenter at USAID.

Olivier Cottray

Olivier Cottray is director of Humanitarian Solutions at Esri, where he helps relief organizations get the most out of Esri solutions and develops best practices for the global humanitarian GIS community. Prior to joining Esri, Cottray led the Information Management Division of the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) where he developed and implemented the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA). Before focusing on remnants of war, he helped optimize and complement the logistics of cooperating agencies at the UN Joint Logistics Centre. He first applied GIS for humanitarian aid in 2002, when he helped found MapAction to provide rapid information management and GIS support following a crisis.
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Patrick Gathara

Patrick Gathara is a Kenyan journalist and political cartoonist based in Nairobi. He is the Snr Editor for Inclusive Storytelling at The New Humanitarian, one of only a handful of newsrooms world-wide that specialize in covering humanitarian crises and in holding the aid industry accountable.

Dr. Qiusheng Wu

Dr. Qiusheng Wu is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography & Sustainability at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He specializes in geospatial data science and open-source software development. Check out his open-source projects at
Qiusheng Wu
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Rohini Sampoornam Swaminathan

Rohini Sampoornam Swaminathan is a geospatial expert with close to 12 years of international experience working with the humanitarian and development sectors. She currently heads the Geospatial Support Unit at the United Nations World Food Programme and previously served with UNICEF, WHO, UNDP, UNITAR and the NASA DEVELOP program.
Rohini holds a Bachelors and Masters in Geomatics Engineering, an MBA and currently pursuing her PhD in climate science and sustainability.

Sarah McLane Bryan

With over two decades of experience, Sarah Bryan has a background in Geographic Information Systems data development, project design, curriculum development, grant management, and natural resource management fieldwork. She has worked collaboratively with private companies, national governments, non-profits, and grassroots organizations. Serving as an advisor to non-profit boards, Sarah fosters long-term connections between practitioners and scientists. Passionate about making a positive impact, she is now focused on disaster response and recovery, contributing to the development of tools for quick decision-making. Currently based on the beautiful island of Maui in Hawai’i, Sarah is a Senior Disaster Services Analyst at the Pacific Disaster Center, where she provides data and technical assistance and serves as subject matter expert to internal and external clients on disaster mapping, risk and vulnerability assessment, and comprehensive disaster management.
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