Gwendolyn Morgan, M.B.A. ’23 has always been interested in sustainability. In fact, Morgan often finds herself wondering: How can we make companies and processes more efficient to in order to protect the environment? What kinds of sustainability standards can we utilize and implement? How can we invest in our employees in order to allow them and the companies they work for to grow in ways that respect people, planet and profit? Not surprisingly, these questions are central to Morgan’s work as a McDevitt Information Systems Research Fellow and student in Le Moyne's Madden School of Business. The Central New York Native is in the process of developing an Arctic communication architecture framework that is mobile, adaptable, energy efficient and sustainable. Her research involves building an Augmented Reality User Interface for Google Glass that provides information visualization using real-time video and data, for both Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) pilots and for U.S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue (SAR) operations. This type of technology will become increasingly important as more ships transit the Northwest Passage as a result of climate change.
Communication in the Arctic is a challenge, even with all the existing technologies and architectures. However, the gaps have become even more pronounced since the Covid-19 pandemic began. The ability to connect to the internet and conduct meetings and classes over Zoom is a luxury that not all Arctic communities have or can afford. Part of that is because of a lack of infrastructure; part is because of location. As Morgan put it, “When you live above 70 degrees north you are outside of the line-of-sight for most satellites. Elon Musk is now working on that, but there is still much that needs to happen for everyone to have access.” Her interest in addressing this challenge stems largely from personal experience. Years ago, when she worked for the National Science Foundation, Morgan witnessed firsthand the challenges communities in the Arctic face as a result of climate change. Now she has the chance to be a part of researching and providing solutions for them, working alongside the U.S. Coast Guard, the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration and MITRE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to tackling challenges to the safety, stability and well-being of our nation.
“What I learned from this research is that the greatest challenges for communication architectures in the Arctic is the increase of human activity, climate change and remote locations,” she says. “Having strong and resilient communication networks is essential, not only during the pandemic, but year-round. What has become the new normal has pushed communities toward the ‘internet of things’ and digital networks for work, education and healthcare, but it has widened the gap of economic inequality. Uneven broadband coverage and connectivity continue, to be a challenge in rural communities and the pandemic has revealed the gaps creating a digital divide.”
While technologies can improve the quality of life, there are limitations. To that end, Morgan says it’s critical for scientists and business leaders to think about how to use technology to benefit society and help the environment. It’s imperative they create new technologies that are themselves sustainable, with parts that can be recycled, and which use minimal energy and leave behind zero emissions. She sees a future in which communities are connected to micro-grids that run on wind, solar, and geothermal power. Morgan acknowledges that there is much that needs to be done to provide accessible and reliable communications in remote regions, but she is hopeful that with the new investments the government has made in infrastructure and the development of new technologies and applications “we will eventually get there.” She is now in the process of applying to a couple of different doctoral programs, including a multidisciplinary science doctoral program, which serves as a bridge between academia and industry. She is eager to expand upon the research she’s undertaken as a McDevitt Fellow, and to uncover ways to use information technologies to build communities, businesses and infrastructure that is resilient and sustainable.
“My goal is to have a career in which I can serve both academia and industry,” she says. “I’d love an opportunity to collaborate with Le Moyne alumni who are interested in finding solutions that use information systems and technological frameworks to mitigate climate change. If we come together to share research and information anything is possible.”
This story is part of a series on the McDevitt Information Systems Research Program at Le Moyne.