Jennifer Pontius – Interim Program Director


Dr. Jen Pontius serves as the Associate Dean for Curricular Affairs in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, is the principle investigator for the Forest Ecosystem Monitoring Cooperative and is the Program Director of the Environmental Science Program. She teaches in UVM’s Environmental Science, Forestry and Sustainability, Ecology and Policy programs. Her research is cross-disciplinary with the goal of scaling field observations and relationships to a landscape-scale using remote sensing and GIS tools to inform the management of northeastern forests.  Often this involves working across scales (temporal and spatial), data sources (field, satellite, spatial) and integrating across disciplines. This linking of geospatial and natural science methodologies provides the landscape perspective necessary to mitigate the impacts of environmental stressors, with the information necessary to guide activities at local to regional scales.

Dr. Pontius holds a B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Virginia, a M.S. in Natural Resources, and a PhD in Earth & Ecosystem Sciences from the University of New Hampshire.  Previously, Dr. Pontius was a research ecologist and remote sensing specialist with the US Forest Service Northern Research Station.

Gillian Galford – Program Director

Research Associate Professor and Academic Director, Geospatial Technologies, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources | Fellow, Gund Institute for Environment

Photo of Gillian GalfordDr. Gillian L. Galford directs the Certificate and UVM’s Geospatial Technologies program. She teaches in UVM’s Environmental Science Program/Rubenstein School of Environment and is a Fellow at the Gund Institute for Environment. Her research focuses on land-cover and land-use change in the tropics and its impacts, particularly on greenhouse gas emissions and the water cycle. She works across scales, from plot level studies on farms to regional analyses through remote sensing and ecosystems modeling. Strong partnerships and collaborations are a hallmark of Gillian’s work. Her colleagues represent universities in the USA, Brazil and Cuba, NGOs, international research organizations and government institutions. Gillian maintains active research projects funded by NASA, NSF, USDA and private foundations.

Gillian holds a B.A. in Earth & Planetary Sciences with a double major in Environmental Studies (social science track) from Washington University in St. Louis. She holds a Ph.D. from Brown University where she studied ecosystems ecology and remote sensing through the Brown-MBL Joint Program with a focus on remote sensing and ecosystems ecology through the Brown-MBL Joint Program in Environmental Science and Biology. Previously, Gillian was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Earth Institute of Columbia University and the Woods Hole Research Center.

Amanda Armstrong

Senior Research Scientist, NASA GESTAR Program| Course Instructor

Amanda Armstrong headshotAmanda Armstrong is a Senior Research Scientist working in NASA Goddard’s Earth Science Technology and Research (GESTAR) Program since 2015. Prior to her position with UMBC-GESTAR II, she was a postdoctoral research fellow in the Biospheric Sciences Lab at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) with the NASA Postdoctoral Program. Dr Armstrong received her doctorate in Environmental Sciences from the University of Virginia with a focus on forest ecology, remote sensing and high-resolution forest modeling.

The aim of Dr. Armstrong’s recent work within NASA’s Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) Program is to understand the rates and drivers of tundra-taiga ecotone shift, using high resolution modelling and remote sensing. She also has worked as part of a research team at the University of Virginia funded by NASA’s Applied Sciences program, using the latest tools in Google Earth Engine to create a process stream to calculate and study Ecosystem Functional Types (EFTs) for the circumpolar Arctic Tundra using optical sensor data (MODIS, Landsat).

Her other areas of research interest include: the application and fusion of high-resolution forest models with remote sensing data products to improve estimates of vegetation structure, carbon stocks and land cover change at multi-temporal and multi-spatial scales; and the development and use of high-resolution remote sensing data products toward the improvement of metrics and understanding of forest structure and biodiversity.

J. Dennis Baldwin

Course Instructor

Area of Interest

Archaeology, Remote Sensing, Lidar, Water Management, Subsistence and Settlement Patterns


I am a PhD student in Geography at the University of Texas at Austin, originally from Ithaca, New York.  I recently finished my MA in Geography at UT Austin, and have a BA in Anthropology and a BS in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh. My research explores the ancient landscape of the Maya through analysis of lidar data combined with traditional archeological field methods including survey and excavation. For my Master’s thesis fieldwork, I excavated an ancient dam and an adjacent residential group in order to understand the chronology of settlement and water management strategies near the major Maya center of El Zotz in north-central Guatemala. My prospective PhD research will explore similar themes at other sites across the Maya lowlands in order to gain a better understanding of human-environment interactions across the wider landscape.

Why students should study GIS?

Every discipline whether it is in the “hard” sciences, social sciences, business, and beyond, has a spatial element which can be better understood using the powerful tools available to GIS practitioners. Familiarity with GIS analysis allows students to gain a better understanding of our increasingly complex and globalized world. From a practical standpoint, students can also achieve a competitive edge on the job market by becoming more adept with GIS tools.

Dylan Broderick

Independent Study Mentor

Dylan BroderickArea of Interest

Conservation, land cover mapping, technical writing, suitability mapping, expanding accessibility of GIS and spatial data


I grew up in Vermont and currently work for the Vermont Center for Geographic Information (VCGI). I am primarily involved with boundary-related datasets including parcels, protected lands, and other administrative boundaries. Prior to VCGI, I provided GIS support at an environmental consulting firm, with projects largely focused on the detection and remediation of contaminated soil and groundwater in the eastern U.S. I received Bachelors and Masters degrees in GIS from Clark University in Worcester, MA (2012/2013). While in school, my research involved calculating the carbon storage of a watershed in northeastern Siberia. This work combined field data with medium- and high-resolution imagery, spectral mixture analysis, and land cover classifications to derive estimates of soil carbon content. I enjoy learning about a variety of topics, and exploring how GIS can be used for problem solving and developing new approaches to existing challenges. I am also interested in expanding the utility and accessibility of spatial data to audiences that may not have a GIS background.

Why students should study GIS

GIS is a practical skill that can be applied to numerous disciplines. It can quickly present large amounts of complicated or nebulous information in ways that are clear and impactful. Even a basic understanding of GIS concepts and tools is often valuable to employers, and can provide a gateway to growing one’s skills even further.

Lukas Kopacki


Areas of Interest

ArcPy automation, climate change exposure and forest carbon modeling, LiDAR analysis, forestry, fish and wildlife GIS modeling applications.


Hello! I’m Lukas and I am a New Jersey native currently living in Portland, OR.  I have a deep love for forest ecosystems, and currently work for a timberland investment company, where I use GIS and linear programming software to predict and model tree growth. Much of my work incorporates the use of Python and its ArcPy library, which automates workflows in GIS.

In a consulting role I also work with several natural resource organizations to develop GIS models and data visualization tools. This includes work with: the Forest Ecosystem Monitoring Cooperative, focused on understanding how tree species are projected to be impacted by climate change across the northeastern US; the Native Fish Society, focused on the recovery of wild runs of Pacific salmon and steelhead; and the Cascade Carnivore Project, where I have analyzed habitat distribution of Canada Lynx throughout the northern Cascade Range.

I graduated from the University of Vermont with B.S. in Forestry with minors in geospatial technologies, computer science, and history.

Why students should study GIS

It is one thing to want to learn GIS because it is a good skill to have in the job market.  But GIS is at its best when you apply it to projects you actually care about.  This pursuit of curiosity through projects outside the bounds of the certificate program will go ways in making you better at geospatial technologies, and allow you to see firsthand the power of GIS applications.

Kaylyn Levine

Independent Study Mentor

Kaylyn Levine headshotArea of Interest

Transportation planning, equity, mobility justice, social justice, pedestrian and cyclist travel, accessibility


I am PhD candidate in Community and Regional Planning at the University of Texas at Austin. I have supported research on transportation equity practices at public transit agencies, transportation justice, and accessibility measurement in practice. My dissertation integrates transportation and disability justice to improve access to opportunities for people with disabilities along the first and last mile. I use mixed methods in my work, including network analysis, spatial statistics, equity analysis, and participatory mapping. I employ GIS in my work to help quantify features of the built and social environments that affect how people reach their destinations. Before moving to Texas, I completed my Master of Science in Applied Urban Science and Informatics from New York University and my Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Why students should study GIS

GIS is a valuable tool to help explore and communicate spatial relationships and trends. It provides students with the skills to wrangle and clean data, as well as present findings in a meaningful, visual format. The problem-solving and creativity that GIS facilitates can be applied to a diverse range of fields and is useful for expanding career opportunities.

Alejandro Prieto

Independent Study Mentor

Alejandro PrietoArea of Interest

Wetlands, landscape ecology, basic habitat suitability, watershed analysis, salt marsh ecology, historical analysis, climate/wetness indexes and remote sensing.


Greetings! I’m Alejandro Prieto and I was born and raised in Connecticut but performed my undergraduate studies at St. John’s University in Queens, New York. There, I found my interest in Ecology and Wetland ecosystems, especially the impacts of human dimensions. This helped me land a position as an educator and steward of the Hudson River Park Trust where we focused on Estuarian environments and the fauna within them. We performed a lot of work, and still do, on the Eastern Oyster in conjunction with the Billion Oyster project. Shortly after, I began my Master’s program at the University of New Haven in Environmental Science with GIS applications. Here, I worked further on ecological research projects that incorporated GIS such as populations of the invasive tree species to the Bahamas, Casuarina equisetifolia. My thesis was on a marsh mussel, Geukensia demissa, and its population related to sea level rise on high marsh environments. More recently, I’ve been an adjunct at both SJU and UNH as well as a seasonal employee for the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in the Forestry Division, aiding in habitat suitably for Oak/Hickory. I’ve also worked on a farm on/off for the past few years. I was recently accepted to a PhD program at Vanderbilt University in Earth and Environmental Science with a concentration in Paleoecology.

From my experience, I do a little bit of everything and I consider myself more of a generalist. Some interests I have include, but are not limited to; ecology, geology, geomorphology, wetlands, salt marshes, natural resources, forestry and paleoecology.

Why students should study GIS

GIS is a great way to enhance technical computer skills as well as give an edge to spatial analysis. There are many different ways to use GIS, which makes this class versatile for students from diverse academic backgrounds. Many job opportunities always like to see proficiency with computer data and analysis which makes GIS a viable skill for many to pursue.

Bill Shander

Founder & CEO, Beehive Media | Course Instructor | Independent Study Mentor

Picture of Bill ShandeBill Shander is an information designer, helping clients turn their data into compelling visual and often interactive experiences. He is the founder of Beehive Media, a Boston-based data visualization and information design consultancy. Bill teaches data storytelling, information design and data visualization on LinkedIn Learning, for a Big Four accounting and consulting firm, and in workshops around the world. Clients include the World Bank, United Nations, Starbucks, MIT, multiple U.S. Government agencies, and many more. Bill is also on the board of directors of the Data Visualization Society, a global member-driven community of over 16,000 data visualization professionals. Bill has a B.A. in English from Wesleyan University and a M.A. in Journalism from the University of Colorado.


Brian Voigt

Lecturer I, University of Vermont | Fellow, Gund Institute for Environment | Course Instructor | Independent Study Mentor

Dr. Brian Voigt’s research interests include developing and applying computer based systems for modeling land use change and the interaction between humans and their environment. His interests also include: ecosystem services and natural hazards, addressing existing and emerging environmental issues through participatory modeling and spatial analysis, and creating knowledge to facilitate improved environmental management. Over the past decade Brian has worked on a variety of research topics, including modeling freshwater ecosystem services and the spread of infectious disease in Tanzania, modeling environmental tradeoffs resulting from alternative development patterns in Chittenden County, VT, USA, quantifying the value of clean water in the Lake Champlain Basin, and exploring impacts on recreation from oil, gas and potash development in the Moab, UT region. Dr. Voigt earned his PhD in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont, a Master of City and Regional Planning from Clemson University and Bachelor’s of Arts in Mathematics and Sociology at Miami University.

Deidre Zoll

Course Instructor | Independent Study Mentor

Deidre ZollArea of Interest

Environmental justice, environmental racism, climate risks, climate adaptation, social vulnerability


I’m a postdoctoral fellow in Integrated Biology at the University of Texas at Austin. I finished my Ph.D. in Community and Regional Planning at the University of Texas at Austin. My research investigates the connections between city-led climate adaptation planning and environmental racism in the United States. I use mixed methods including plan evaluation, spatial statistics, and case studies to identify the ways structural racism influences exposure to climate risks and proximity to adaptation interventions, and how urban planners and community activists navigate these dynamics.

Before landing in Texas, I studied Global Environmental Policy and International Development (MA, 2008) at American University and Environmental Policy and Planning (BA, 2003) at Alaska Pacific University.

Why students should study GIS

GIS helps us conduct applied research through analysis and visualization tools to answer questions related to the spatial distribution of things like flood risks, species distribution, gentrification, and socio-ecological inequalities. There is a consistent demand for employees to have GIS and spatial analysis skills across multiple sectors ranging from NGOs to government agencies, which can open up new career trajectories or opportunities.