Using Data to Help Shellfish Growers: Postdoc spotlight

This originally appeared in the Graduate School News.

As the annual Postdoctoral Research Symposium (PRS) will not be an in-person event this year, the NC State Office of Postdoctoral Affairs & Postdoctoral Association is using their blog as a platform to highlight the amazing research our postdoctoral community does.

They will feature more of these research highlights from our postdocs beginning the week of May 25th leading up to their online career panel and virtual happy hour that will take place on the date PRS 2020 was to take place.

Sheila Saia, Ph.D.

Postdoc in Biological & Agricultural Engineering & Co-Chair of the PRS Planning Committee

Research Blurb: I’m broadly interested in research questions exploring the relationships between humans, climate, and water resources (water quantity and water quality). I use data analytics (i.e., data wrangling, statistical and physically-based modeling, and data visualizing) to predict and minimize human impacts on water resources at regional and national scales. My current research project centers around the development and testing of a data-driven web application called ShellCast. ShellCast aims to help North Carolina shellfish growers decide when is the best time to harvest their shellfish. This is important because certain shellfish growing areas along the North Carolina coast are subject to closures when it rains too much. These closures ensure shellfish have not ingested bacteria that is harmful to humans when shellfish are eaten raw. ShellCast will use rainfall forecasts from the National Weather Service to first determine whether shellfish harvest areas along the North Carolina coast will be closed in the next 1 to 3 days and then alert shellfish growers of the potential for closure.

Research Impact: I hope ShellCast as a combination of applied and basic research impacts. From an applied research perspective, I hope ShellCast is a useful tool that helps North Carolina shellfish growers make data-driven decisions about their harvest schedule. From a basic research standpoint, I hope data analysis that goes into the development of ShellCast can address the utility of using National Weather Service products in the North Carolina coastal plain – a region where rainfall data is more scarce due to higher maintenance costs.