UF partners with SAS to expand artificial intelligence efforts in coastal communities


The University of Florida’s Center for Coastal Solutions (CCS) and SAS Institute (SAS) entered a strategic partnership to develop tools, training programs, curriculum and research that will continue to trailblaze around the UF AI initiative and the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering.

The partnership began in January to integrate the center’s cutting-edge research and SAS’ industry leading data analytics to develop practical solutions to issues surrounding coastal communities.

“Through our collaboration, the CCS is in a unique position to leverage large amounts of environmental data that have been collected by state government and others to better understand why harmful algal blooms and other coastal water quality hazards form when and where they do,” said Christine Angelini, Ph.D., CCS Director and associate professor in Environmental Engineering Sciences. “SAS brings tremendous experience working with government and private sector clients in Florida and is an excellent partner in designing a process and program for how to deliver useful information to these stakeholders.”

A model of the SAS Viya, which is a comprehensive data platform that will analyze and visualize environmental data from different time periods and locations.

According to Dr. Angelini, researchers in CCS will use SAS Viya, a comprehensive data platform, to aggregate, analyze and visualize environmental data from different time periods and locations that are critical to solving coastal problems.

“Our overarching goal is to work side-by-side with SAS to develop the analytical tools needed to be more proactive,” Dr. Angelini added. “There are currently vast amounts of environmental data available, but it is underutilized. Together with SAS, the CCS is drawing new knowledge and predictive intelligence from this data to provide Florida the solutions needed to measurably improve the health of coastal waterways, ecosystems and communities,” she added.

Center for Coastal Solutions was created in 2020 to predict and mitigate the effects of poor water quality and climate change on coastal communities and ecosystems. It brings to this partnership world-class expertise in AI, oceanography, hydrology, ecology, economics, public health, policy and other fields, disciplines that are all being drawn upon to understand and draw actionable information from the data analysis that SAS is providing.

The partnership will give SAS an opportunity to expand in the environmental data analytics space and hire the brightest students from the University of Florida with these highly sought-after skills. With over 40 years of analytics innovation, the SAS’ comprehensive data platform will enhance UF’s AI and data analytics research and provide immediate support for faculty and student research.

“The work that Center for Coastal Solutions is doing to protect our coastal communities will be critical to protecting Florida’s future. SAS understands how important this work is to future generations of Floridians and believes that data analytics is a key piece to finding solutions in collaboration with CCS,” said Brian Logan, a SAS account executive. “The work that CCS is doing is extremely important but can often be laborious and time consuming before any insights are found, especially when it comes to data. SAS’ goal with this partnership has always been to help the CCS team use data analytics and artificial intelligence to speed up their research for better results faster.”

Ultimately, this establishment of newly applied data analytics and visualization training programs will combat environmental hazard impacts to coastal communities throughout the state.

“The combination of our capabilities and an international leader in data analytics certainly sets our program apart from others working in this space,” Dr. Angelini said.

This story originally appeared on UF Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure and Environment.

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