A Day in the Life features the people, places and things that make aquatic field research possible.
This October 2023 we’ve asked Ishfaq Rahman, Wetland Analytical (Data) Specialist with University of Toledo’s Lake Erie Center, to share his experiences supporting the H2Ohio Wetland Monitoring Program in a specialty role.
What are three things you do (almost) every week in your job?
- Design and execute techniques for harvesting, cleaning, and standardizing data from sensor networks and wetland monitoring surveys.
- Establish and maintain Quality Assurance/ Quality Control protocols for data derived from sensor networks and surveys.
- Work closely with other crews and teams to create data management strategies tailored toward end-user requirements that support future research endeavors.
How does your job vary day to day?
Every day brings new challenges! My work balances between diving deep into datasets to uncover patterns and crafting efficient data management pipelines.
On certain days, I find myself deeply absorbed in code, fine-tuning algorithms, while on others, I collaborate with field teams to gain a deeper understanding of the sensors and the data they collect. As new sensors become operational and new datasets emerge, I might rapidly prototype a new QA/QC pipeline or set up a meeting with environmental specialists to understand its scope.
All the while, I’m continually strategizing on how best to ensure that the final data products align with and amplify the overarching project goals.
Who do you work with (almost) every day and how?
I maintain a close collaboration with Raissa Mendonca (Kent State University), Chief Data Manager for the H2Ohio Wetland Monitoring Program, strategizing on the refinement of data management practices and QA/QC methodologies. My work is also intricately connected to the sensor network deployment spearheaded by Zachary Swan and Luke Skowronek at the Lake Erie Center. Their expertise in sensor networks is invaluable to my algorithm and data solution development. Their fresh perspectives and questions often lead me to novel insights. Additionally, Dr. Thomas Bridgeman oversees our efforts at the Lake Erie Center, and I consistently communicate with him to ensure alignment on various facets of the project.
What is one skill you recommend a student learns to be successful in this job?
Without a doubt, the ability to communicate complex findings in simple terms. A solid foundation in computational statistics, data science, and coding is essential, but translating those insights for end-users and stakeholders is equally critical. It’s about making your findings actionable and relevant to the broader community.
How did your coursework prepare you for this job? What is something new you learned since starting this job?
With an academic background in spatial analysis, data science, computational statistics, and coding, courses like GIS, algorithmic foundations, and statistical modeling were instrumental in preparing me for this role. These modules gave me a solid base for handling, analyzing, and visualizing complex datasets. Since starting the job, I’ve delved deeper into the world of real-time data and environmental sensor networks, something that was beyond the scope of my academic coursework. Now, integrating data science with real-world environmental parameters is something I can passionately discuss at length.