SAMSI postdoctoral fellow Kimberly Kaufeld always wanted to apply what she has learned to her love of the outdoors. She grew up in Rochester, Minnesota appreciating the snow and cold. She entered the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2001 where she double majored in psychology and statistics. She liked both subjects, and in her undergraduate was able to merge her studies in a funded undergraduate research project on workplace environments in the psychology department. After graduating from University of Minnesota Duluth in 2005, she joined AmeriCorps and spent a year volunteering. Some of the projects involved working with victims of Hurricane Katrina and in Oregon working on environmental projects such as removing invasive species, sparking her interest in ecology.
When she completed her time with AmeriCorps, she applied for graduate school at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She was accepted into the mathematics/statistics program where she taught statistics courses. Upon completing her Master’s degree in 2009, she was offered an instructor position teaching statistics and mentoring undergraduate students for a year before deciding that she wanted to get her Ph.D.
She then moved to Colorado to attend University of Northern Colorado for her Ph.D. where she was able to do an independent study in spatial statistics. “I liked the program there because it was small enough that I could do the research I really wanted to do,” she explained. She started working on a research project involving the spread of the mountain pine beetle, a pest that has devastated vast swaths of forests in Colorado and other mountain states. She has been looking at developing new methodology and spatio-temporal modeling to measure this spread. Kimberly said, “My advisor, Trent Lalonde, got me involved me in studying health effects as well which was a good pairing for my research.” She became interested in Adolescent Health, in particular, after an internship with the Educational Innovation Institute at Northern Colorado. She went to several statistical, health and ecology conferences during her time there. Kimberly seeks opportunities to expand her knowledge and collaborate with others. After her first year at Northern Colorado she reached out to the Colorado Forestry Service to inquire about their forestry data. She got to see firsthand what real world problems they had by participating in workshops on aerial survey techniques. In her second year she reached out to the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). ” I talked with NCAR to see if there were any student visitor opportunities, so I gave a talk at the mesa campus and was given a student visitor position.” She was involved with the IMAGe program at NCAR for about two years continuing her research on beetle kill and climate modeling. She worked with people such as Doug Nychka and Steve Sain. “During the summer, we would meet as a group with the other graduate students there and talk about the work we were doing. We would give a 5 minute presentation and get feedback on where each person could go next,” she explained. During her time at University of Northern Colorado Kimberly was recognized as a graduate scholar in her college and awarded the Dean’s Citation for Excellence in recognition of her academic research and all the outreach efforts she did including the work at NCAR, Colorado Forestry Service. Kimberly learned about SAMSI from Doug Nychka and Dorit Hammerling, who was a former postdoc at SAMSI. The program at SAMSI in Statistical/Mathematical Ecology was right in line with her interests so she decided to apply to the program. She also thought that the Triangle region was a good place to be because there would be opportunities to reach out to the various universities in the area to give talks and to collaborate with different people. “It has been great to work with ecologists, statisticians and mathematicians this year, getting all the different perspectives and hear about the different types of research that they do and how we can put all these different ideas together,” said Kimberly, “Learning about joint species distribution models has been really great because you learn about how each species interact with each other. When you look across space and across time, how does competition impact another as the species grow together? How do you create a model that will account for these various interactions? And then you have to think about how other factors such as precipitation, temperature and other many others that can have an impact on all these species.” The modeling can get very large and complex vary fast due to large number of species. This is a focus of the multivariate models group that Kimberly is involved in, developing dimension reduction techniques to handle large number of species. These problems are not just in ecology but are also being discussed in the bioinformatics program too, so she has also been attending some workshops that are focusing on similar issues as well. Kimberly will be spending her second year primarily at NC State, but will be continuing the research she began while at SAMSI. She will be working with Montse Fuentes and will be looking at air pollution and mortality rates and collaborating with the EPA.
Kimberly has been very helpful promoting SAMSI this year. She was selected by SAMSI’s communications director to give a talk to the RTP 180 lecture series, which is open to all people in the Research Triangle region. She also helped with a video that was promoting the various research organizations that are in the Triangle University Center for Advanced Studies Inc (TUCASI) campus, which is where SAMSI is located. She also gave a short presentation on mountain pine beetles at RTP 180 with the theme “Creepy Crawlers”. When she is not working, Kimberly likes to spend time with her husband of eight years, Kevin, and go backpacking or hiking. They both love the outdoors, so any time spent in nature is a good day to both of them. They are both enjoying exploring North Carolina. She also enjoys skiing, snowboarding and running.