Research Interests Molly E. Brown, PhD

I have two decades of experience in interdisciplinary research using satellite remote sensing data and models with socio-economic and demographic information to better understand food security drivers. I have worked on conflict, climate, and agricultural development impacts on communities in Africa and Asia, with a focus on improving decision making at a variety of scales. I have projects in Africa and south Asia and lived in Senegal while in the Peace Corps in the early 1990s. I have published over 120 journal articles in a variety of disciplines and have two books. In 2015, I was the lead author of a US Climate Assessment report published by the US Department of Agriculture entitled ‘Climate Change, Global Food Security and the U.S. Food System’. Previously, I worked for thirteen years first as a contractor and then as a civil servant at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in the Biospheric Sciences Branch. I work with the Carbon Monitoring System community to identify and document uptake of scientific data products by decision makers working to mitigate and adapt to climate change. I served as a member of the Coordination Group on Meteorological Satellites Working Group III Tiger team on Socio-Economic Benefits (CGMS), 2013-2015, the National Science Foundation (NSF) Environmental Research and Education Advisory Committee (ERE-AC), 2010-2012, and since 2017 have served as a member of the US National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Earth Sciences and Applications from Space.

I recently have begun working part time with 6th Grain Corporation as their Chief Science Officer. 6th Grain is an innovative and agile digital agriculture technology company with solutions being used by leading input suppliers and other large international companies in both low and high-income country settings. 6th Grain provides high quality, actionable intelligence via web and mobile device that guides field management, marketing and infrastructure investments by growers and agricultural companies.

I have four active research agendas. First, I work on developing and using remote sensing of vegetation from various sensors to understand climate variability. Second, I explore how satellite remote sensing data is used in decision making processes through engagement with pre-launch applications programs for the Carbon Management System, Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) and ICESat-2. I engage with the Science Team and mission leadership, and write papers documenting the impact of applied science stakeholder engagement on community development and use of the data after launch. Third, I have an ongoing research program that uses models to predict climate impacts on the prevalence of acute malnutrition in Africa, with a focus on designing interventions to improve decision making for the humanitarian community. Finally, I work with companies and institutions in agriculture to find ways to identify or create new training data that can be used to transform remote sensing data into actionable information. I am working on a new book about using digital tools, artificial intelligence and machine learning with geospatial and farm-level digital data to transform the way food is produced.    



Areas of Interest

  • remote sensing, agriculture, food security, digital software


  • Degree Type
    Degree Details
    Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland College Park
  • Degree Type
    Degree Details
    Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland College Park
  • Degree Type
    Degree Details
    Biology and Environmental Studies, Tufts University
  • National
    National Academy of Science's Committee on Earth Sciences and Applications from Space
  • National
    Member of the NACP Science Implementation Plan writing committee, to be issued in 2021
  • International
    Associate Editor for Open Climate Change Journal from the Oxford University Press

Current Students

Former Students

  • Matthew Cooper
    Post-doctoral Fellow, Harvard University

Related Students (Listed by Student on Student's Profile)

  • Walid Ouaret
Molly's picture
Off campus office
Department of Geographical Sciences
mbrown52 [at]
Office Hours
7:30 am to 4:00 pm