Me elsewhere and in other formats:

Hello! I am an associate professor of information at the University of Arizona School of Information.  I am also the product manager of the System for Earth Sample Registration (SESAR) and affiliate faculty at the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR).

I study the maintenance and creation of knowledge infrastructures (KI), as well as the data practices that go into that maintenance. The overarching questions driving my research are: 

I am especially interested in the use and curation of natural history collections data, and much of my research and service focuses on this community. 

In some of my work, I directly contribute to the development of digital curation best practices and the creation and maintenance of KI; simultaneously, I develop theory about data practices and critically examine the role of KI in scholarship and society. In all my work, I strive to make science and collections more equitable and inclusive. 

I am the proud product of a community college, and am passionate about supporting students from under-represented backgrounds -- particularly, first generation and community college students -- through my teaching, mentorship, and grant funding.  I attended Orange Coast Community College and obtained my bachelor's degree from the University of California, Los Angeles (2007). My MLIS (2012) and PhD (2017) are from the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana‐Champaign. Prior to grad school, I dug up fossils at the La Brea Tar Pits. When not professoring, I try to get outside to admire rocks and cacti, or stay inside to take up overly complicated art projects.

Recent news

Jul 6, 2023: Lots of updates:
- New paper in Science, Technology & Human Values, with the excellent Alexandria Rayburn
- New paper in New Media & Society, with the excellent Jean-Christophe Plantin
- I'm truly honored to have received the 2022 JASIST Best Paper Award.
- I'm excited to share that I have joined the System for Earth Sample Registration (SESAR) team as their product manager.

Jan 25, 2023:  New paper in Data Science Journal: Making Drone Data FAIR Through a Community-Developed Information Framework, with Lindsay Barbieri, Jane Wyngaard, and Sarah Swanz. This paper was funded through an ESIP Lab grant back in 2017 and we are very glad to finally get this framework out.

Nov 1, 2022:  New paper presented at ASIST 2022!  Maintaining Repositories, Databases, and Digital Collections in Memory Institutions: An Integrative Review.  More work from this project hopefully appearing soon....

Sept 6, 2022:  New paper led by Sara Lafia out in Quantitative Science Studies: Subdivisions and Crossroads: Identifying Hidden Community Structures in a Data Archive’s Citation Network

Apr 22, 2022: I'm thrilled to share that I'll be joining the University of Arizona iSchool this fall! UMSI has been a great place to work and I'll so miss my Michigan friends, but I'm excited to make this move, and join a growing department with such strengths in biodiversity informatics. 

Feb 8, 2022: New paper out in JASIST: Integrative data reuse at scientifically significant sites: Case studies from Yellowstone National Park and the La Brea Tar Pits! This paper summarizes some of the core findings from my dissertation, notably that we must curate data about natural sites in order to support the later integrative reuse of data from these sites. 

Jan 12, 2022: My and my PhD student Alli Rayburn's poster, "The craft of database curation: Taking cues from quiltmaking," won the best poster award at iConference!

Mar 18, 2021: Just launched another new citizen science project on Zooniverse: Angling for Data on Michigan Fishes! We (Karen Alofs (PI), Hernan Lopez-Fernandez, Randy Singer, Justin Schell, Kevin Wehrly, Michael Lenard + students Kartik Tharwani, Calla Beers, Faye Polasek) will use this historical data to study how climate and other ecological changes have impacted the fish populations over time. This project was funded through a MIDAS PODS grant, and we are very excited about it!  At some point we will need to write up a blog post on how COVID-19 totally disrupted our plans, and how we recovered thanks to our dilligent students.  More details on the project here.

Feb 27, 2021: I had a lot of fun writing this response to Leigh Alexander's "The Void" as part of Slate's Future Tense Fiction series.  This series aims to explore how learning experiences — of all kinds — will be shaped by technology and other future forces, along with the moral, ethical and social challenges this will entail. ASU hosted a discussion between me and Leigh, available here.

Jan 20, 2021: We just launched Sedimental Values: Digging In To La Brea's Past on Zooniverse! This is a new community science project, transcribing 50+ years of field data at La Brea. Working with this messy data is basically what sent me to grad school.  Help us transcribe it to make curation at La Brea more efficient, and to contribute to studies of taphonomy and paleoecology!  Bonus, once this data is curated I'll feel like I can retire in peace.