Meet a Data Scientist: Justin Kitzes

CDN member and data scientist Justin Kitzes


Dr. Justin Kitzes studied earth systems as an undergraduate student at Stanford University and went on to earn his master’s degree from the same program. He earned his PhD in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at the University of California, Berkeley, where he subsequently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Berkeley Institute for Data Science. At BIDS, Dr. Kitzes was a data science fellow and a postdoctoral scholar in the Energy and Resources Group. His research focused on the development and application of quantitative approaches for predicting the effects of land use and climate change on biodiversity.

Current Role

Dr. Kitzes is an Assistant Professor of biological sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. His lab, the Kitzes Lab, focuses on measuring, understanding, and predicting biodiversity loss on a planet increasingly dominated by human activities. As part of their effort to advance this area of research, his lab has developed several open source monitoring protocols and software packages.

Dr. Kitzes is also advancing the field in other ways. For example, he and two collaborators received a seed grant from ADSA and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to organize the first AudioXD meeting, which is a cross-disciplinary meeting for audio data scientists to connect, share ideas, and collaborate. You can learn more about AudioXD and some of the promising developments from the meeting in this 14 minute video by WILDLABS.NET.

Career Advice

Dr. Kitzes has an impressive track record of landing competitive grants, publishing studies in high impact journals, and contributing to and writing books. He also manages a productive lab, teaches, mentors, and serves on leadership committees like the ADSA Advisory Board in 2021 and two Technical Working Groups for the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON).

When prompted for strategies behind his success, Dr. Kitzes shared two tips. The first is to narrow in on the things that you are uniquely good at and hone these strengths. The second tip is to broaden your knowledge by searching for opportunities that will expose you to advancements in your field and ones that are adjacent. Examples include attending and presenting at interdisciplinary conferences and workshops. These strategies are helpful for seeding collaborations and innovative ideas for advancing your research.

When it comes to research, Dr. Kitzes warned that it can be easy to get bogged down by projects and activities that ultimately don’t have enough potential upside to be worth your time. It’s worth spending some time to identify what these projects and activities are and dropping them as soon as possible. If you’re a new assistant professor, that often means activities that do not meaningfully contribute to your ability to secure grants and publish in prestigious journals. Some people interpret this as a reason to limit service obligations such as advising junior scholars, but Dr. Kitzes prioritizes mentoring. His publication record suggests that his time is well spent.

Outside of Work

When Dr. Kitzes isn’t researching, teaching, mentoring, developing open source tools, or building data science communities, he is hanging out with his kiddos in fun places like museums and parks.

How to Connect

Check out Dr. Kitzes’s profile in the CDN Member Directory to learn more about his research and how to get in touch.

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