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Applying What She’s Learning to the Hunt for MH 370

 Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER (9M-MRO) taking off at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport (LFPG) in France.

Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER (9M-MRO) taking off at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport (LFPG) in France (Wikipedia/Laurent ERRERA from L’Union, France photo).

From home, a Spartan is helping search for the missing Malaysian Airlines jet.

Joyce Monsees, ’14 Library and Information Science, is one of thousands of volunteers scanning satellite imagery for MH 370.

Joyce Monsees

Joyce Monsees

The work continues even as the Australian Air Force flies to possible wreckage spotted overnight.

Every time we go through another mile, I think at least we’ve narrowed it down, at least we know where it is not,” she said.

What sets Monsees apart from the general public is her experience, goals and academic training.

Since 2012, Monsees has been a member of The Standby Task Force, which organizes digital volunteers into a network poised to deploy in emergencies.  

“In the past, people had to travel to the disaster, and if they couldn’t, all they could do was send money,” she said. The Internet is “making people aware that they can help if they are willing to give their time.”

Analyzing Online Data

The task force analyzes online information, from social media to official records, to create graphics that help relief organizations respond to humanitarian crises, especially natural disasters.

Increasingly and unfortunately, there are more and more disasters that are occurring because of global warming,” said Assistant Professor Christine Hagar. Given “the business that we are in with information science, we can be key players in gathering and disseminating information to various stakeholders.”

Christine Hagar

Assistant Professor Christine Hagar

Hagar’s courses include “Crisis/Disaster Health Informatics,” which Monsees completed. And she’s putting to work what she learned.

“Relief agencies need really good research skills in order to find credible information during a disaster and I’ve got skills,” she says.  After the crisis, “we need to catalog all of this data in a digital library.”

“During the quiet times, we get prepared for the next one by creating emergency operations center pages with databases, medical information and the best news sources for vulnerable areas.”

Crisis Informatics

Although this isn’t an official deployment, Monsees is clarifying the MH 370 search process for everyday people who ask the task force for help.

Like Monsees’ volunteer work, her degree program is exclusively online. Monsees lives in Southern California and Hagar in Great Britain.

Hagar coined the term “crisis informatics” following her study of the information needs of farmers during the U.K. foot-and-mouth outbreak back in 2001.

Monsees hopes her volunteer work will help her land a full time job in informatics, a field she first learned about as a School of Library and Information Science student.

In the first semester is when I discovered all this and that’s when I tailored my degree to head into that direction,” she said. “I realized the skills I’m going to get out of this degree are going to take me where ever I want to go.”