SIG is a company made up of scientists, project mangers, software developers, and most importantly, nature lovers. This is no different for Jeff Knickerbocker, head of IT at SIG. Behind the scenes at SIG, Jeff is one of the unsung heroes ensuring the seamless operation of projects through the often invisible world of software development and information technology.

Jeff first became interested in technology when his father brought home a computer in the early 1980s, and he almost immediately wiped the hard drive. His dad wasn’t upset but told him he needed to fix it, sparking a lifelong passion for computing. Fast forward to 2012, when Jeff’s childhood friend asked him to work as an IT specialist for his company. That friend is SIG’s Managing Principal, David Saah, and Jeff was able to lend his technological expertise to completely change the course for what SIG was capable of. By scaling up SIG’s internal infrastructure, the company could now take on hundreds of more projects, grow the software team, and begin making more and more new programs to house the vast storage of environmental science and data.

One of the main projects Jeff is currently focusing on is the SERVIR Operational Cluster Resource for Applications – Terabytes for Earth Science (SOCRATES). Starting approximately seven years ago, the SOCRATES project marked a significant milestone for SIG. Collaborating with NASA and USAID, the SOCRATES project aimed to support SERVIR’s “connecting space to village” mission in developing countries. By leveraging satellite data, it addresses critical challenges like food security, water resources, weather patterns, land use, and natural disasters.

The establishment of the SOCRATES cluster facilitated the creation of the High-Impact Weather Assessment Toolkit (HIWAT). This toolkit enables the evaluation of severe weather events across the Hindu Kush Himalayan region. Additionally, SOCRATES powers ClimateSERV 2.0, offering user-friendly access to 180-day forecasts of rainfall and temperature, alongside historical data on rainfall and vegetation conditions. Another significant program being run on SOCRATES is the Regional Hydrologic Extremes Assessment System (RHEAS), a flexible hydrological modeling framework operating with both real-time and predictive modes.

Similarly, Jeff has lent his engineering expertise to Gaia, a system SIG maintains for First Street Foundation. Gaia plays a vital role in generating nationwide hazard data, including the First Street Foundation Wildfire Model (FSF-WFM). This model calculates climate-adjusted wildfire hazards across the contiguous United States at an impressive 30-meter resolution.

Taken inside Hurricane Electric, which houses hundreds of secured server racks, including the Gaia cluster

While Jeff leads IT at SIG, driving groundbreaking innovations in climate and fire science, his true passion lies in the great outdoors. Like many at SIG, he’s a nature enthusiast and often travels to Mendocino National Forest in his home state of California. Jeff combines his technological capabilities with his profound love for nature with his work at SIG. This commitment to safeguarding our environment through technological innovation and dedication is the driving force for Jeff as well as the entire SIG team.

Just some of the many photos Jeff has captured during his trips to Mendocino National Forest

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