Team Members


Africa Flores-Anderson

Research Scientist, Project Principal Investigator
Originally from Guatemala, PI Africa I. Flores-Anderson is a research scientist at the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. She is passionate about developing technical capacities in geospatial technologies for societal benefit. She is a National Geographic Explorer, working to forecast harmful algae blooms in Lake Atitlán using artificial intelligence. She also works with SERVIR, a joint NASA and USAID initiative, where she leads the Land Cover Land Use Change and Ecosystems thematic portfolio and is the SERVIR-Amazonia science coordination lead. Flores’s research focuses on forest monitoring, water quality, and ecological forecasting.

John Mecikalski

Full Professor & Department Chair, UAH Atmospheric and Earth Science Department, Co-I
Dr. John Mecikalski is a Full Professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), and currently is the Chair of the Atmospheric and Earth Science Department. He has worked on a wide variety of Earth science-related projects over the past 15 years, with topics involving solar radiation retrievals from satellites, evapotranspiration estimation, soil moisture retrievals, and use of soil moisture retrievals in data assimilation techniques to improve short-range weather forecasting. He has also been involved in projects that combine multiple datasets in machine learning algorithms to improve convective storm forecasts in the 0-1 hour and 1-4 hour timeframes, and in severe weather forecasting in the 0-2 hour timeframe. He has worked with a number of NASA colleagues since arriving at UAH in early 2004.

Xiang Li

Research Scientist
Dr. Xiang Li is a research scientist at the Information Technology and Systems Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He has the background of Atmospheric Sciences and has been involved in many Earth Science related projects funded by NASA and NSF over the years. Many of these projects are about the applications of machine learning and data science technologies for Earth sciences.

Betzy Hernandez

Research Associate, Co-I
Betzy Hernandez is a Research Associate with the University of Alabama in Huntsville's Earth System Science Center. Originally from Guatemala, she is an agronomist by training she has been working in applied remote sensing projects for over 12 years. As a part of the SERVIR-Mesoamerica team in 2009, she contributed to the original research for monitoring Lake Atitlan's algal blooms using satellite imagery. She currently serves as both the Capacity Building Lead for SERVIR's Science Coordination Office, and an Associate Program Manager in the NASA Earth Science Division's Applied Sciences Program.

Emil Cherrington

Research Scientist, Co-I
An ecologist with over fifteen years of experience working in Earth science, Dr. Emil Cherrington is a research scientist with the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He also serves as the West Africa Regional Science Coordination Lead for NASA's SERVIR Science Coordination Office, and previously spent almost a decade working on a range of research projects for SERVIR-Mesoamerica. Dr. Cherrington also serves as the Science PI for a related NASA-funded project looking at coastal water quality in the neighboring Central American nation of Belize.

Robert Griffin

Associate Dean, College of Science, Co-I
Dr. Robert Griffin is an applied Earth scientist, environmental anthropologist, and a remote sensing and GIS specialist. He received his Ph.D. from Penn State University having received a graduate fellowship from NASA, and he is certified as both a GIS Professional and Certified Mapping Scientist in Remote Sensing (CMS/RS). Dr. Griffin has received research funding from NASA and NSF, and he has conducted fieldwork on human-environment interactions across Latin America. He principally serves as the Science and Educational Partnerships Lead and PI for the NASA SERVIR UAH science team, the Science Advisor for the NASA DEVELOP at Marshall Space Flight Center, the Science and Missions Operations Director for the Sally Ride ISS EarthKAM project, and as the PI for the NSF REU Site, Remote Sensing of Land-Atmosphere Systems.

Christopher Jewett

Research Scientist III
Mr. Chris Jewett was employed on this project as an atmospheric data scientist to collect and process input datasets for the machine learning model. Chris was employed at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) from 2004-2019, and is well versed in meteorological and other data processing methods, real-time algorithm development, and software development. He has been involved in a wide range of projects in collaboration with Co-I John Mecikalski, many of which were funded by NASA, NOAA, NSF and other agencies.

Billy Ashmall

Senior Software Engineer
Billy is a seasoned senior software engineer with work experience focusing on GIS and custom mapping solutions. His software helps government officials, managers, and all sorts of people in the developing nations make decisions by providing Earth observations and predictive models based on data from orbiting satellites via the internet. As a software engineer, Billy is the link between the scientific data produced by the researchers and web pages that serve the developing nations and inevitability serves the entire world.

Leah Kucera

Research Scientist
Leah Kucera is the Technical Reporting and Communications Lead for the NASA SERVIR Science Coordination Office at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Kucera is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, where she studied geology and communication design. She is widely interested in the intersection of earth sciences and strategic communications and has conducted research projects in water quality and availability in the San Francisco Bay Delta and the Intermountain West.

Andrew Loehr

Web Developer
Andrew Loehr is a graphic designer and web developer with 20 years of front-end, user-centered (UI), structure-oriented, design experience comprised of web site design and development, software application design and development, consulting, company branding, marketing, graphic design, and search engine optimization (SEO).