#18: Dan Hammer: Democratizing Environmental Data at the White House, NASA, National Geographic, and More

Ep 18 – Dan Hammer

“It’s not just about deforestation anymore; it’s about human rights abuses, it’s about landslides, it’s about super-blooms in the Sierras, it’s about seeing the way in which the Earth is changing from these medium which I have come to know and love — satellite imagery”

-Dan Hammer


Dan Hammer is an environmental economist and winner of the 2017 Pritzker Prize for the Environment. Currently he serves as a National Geographic Fellow and the co-founder of Earthrise Media, and throughout 2016, he was the Senior Policy Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Megan Smith, as part of the Obama Administration.

Before arriving at the White House, Dan was the Presidential Innovation Fellow that released the first API listing for NASA. Prior to NASA, Hammer was the Chief Data Scientist at the World Resources Institute, where he helped re-launch Global Forest Watch, an open-source project to monitor deforestation.

After graduating from Swarthmore College in 2007 with high honors in mathematics and economics, and before receiving his PhD in environmental economics from the University of California, Berkeley, Dan was a Thomas J. Watson Fellow and traveled to Polynesia to build and race outrigger canoes. Today, among many other amazing mentors, he continues to works with Steve McCormick (former CEO of The Nature Conservancy) on web service infrastructure for environmental information.

Played in the academic/private/public sectors // has stayed so true to a single mission across 17+ positions over 10 years // we took a while to get to the prize & White House

Some topics we covered include:

  • How the strong sense of safety he experienced in his childhood has supported all the risk-taking he now takes on in his career.
  • The lasting impact that mentors like Megan Smith, Steve McCormick, David Wheeler, and Arvind Subramanian have had on his career
  • Where he sees the job of a data scientist (who knows what), ending, and a subject matter expert (who knows why), beginning.
  • The most meaningful moments of his experienced at the White House, from working with a brilliant mentor to being in the situation room during the Flint Water Crisis.
  • How teaching math to inmates at San Quentin State Prison for 2 years catalyzed his path to the World Resources Institute and NASA.
  • Why — across 17+ positions over the past 10 years — democratizing scientific data and making it more accessible to the public has been THE consistent focus of his work.


Show Notes: https://ajgoldsteindotcom.wordpress.com/podcast/ep18/

Dan’s Website: https://www.danham.me/r/about.html

AJ’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/ajgoldstein393/

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