Geography alumna Rebekah Jones tracks the COVID-19 outbreak

Rebekah JonesWhen the COVID-19 virus outbreak hit Florida and the public needed information, Rebekah Jones ’12 was ready for action. As the geographic information systems (GIS) manager for the State of Florida Department of Health (DOH), she built the state’s COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard, an interactive website that provides key information on the virus, detailed down to the county level. "I started from scratch and decided what I thought was important," says Jones, a geospatial scientist who earned a dual bachelor’s degree in geography and journalism at Syracuse University. “I really wanted people to be able to quickly, easily and clearly understand what the numbers are in our state.”

Ever since she was young, Jones has been acutely aware of the suffering in the world and has sought to alleviate it in some way. A first-generation college student, she experienced poverty growing up and earned a scholarship to Syracuse. She enrolled in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications to study journalism, intent on giving a "voice to the voiceless," she says. By the time she left the Hill, graduating cum laude from Newhouse, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School, she had a new focus: hurricane climatology. Jones credits Maxwell associate geography professor Jane Read for guiding her in that direction. In her junior year, Jones took a seat in Read’s Global Environmental Change course, admittedly without a solid science education and skeptical of climate change. "Everything I had seen in my life changing around me was explained in her class,” she says. “That was the moment for me when it was like I’d found religion, and I knew I wanted to take every class she taught, which I did. I wanted to throw myself into this field of science as much as I could."

Read the full article, written by Jay Cox, on the Syracuse University website.