Meet ORAU Employee Niko Ilias. As an ORAU contractor working at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Niko provides Environmental Evaluation Support to the Gulf Ecosystem Measurement and Modeling Division (GEMMD).
Alongside the EPA team, Niko supports research to develop methods and metrics for evaluating restoration effectiveness. He examines databases, develops environmental and socio-ecological characterizations, organizes and analyzes data, and conducts literature searches and reviews. Additionally, he conducts GIS activities and has begun to code and script in Python. Currently, Niko is contributing to a project focused on local greenspace access across a variety of locations and demographics. Traditionally, social sciences and environmental justice issues have been difficult to quantify. However, with continued progress in spatial data and analysis, the EPA team hopes to create tools with the ability to accurately highlight potential social, racial, or economic disparities.
“The tools that I have been creating help foster the further development of these projects, which would ultimately bridge the gap between lower-income families and their access to open, green spaces,” Niko said.
Niko is a self-proclaimed outdoor enthusiast. In fact, he spent a significant portion of his 20s traveling around the world participating in outdoor activities, such as hiking, camping, and surfing. This love of nature led him to pursue environmental studies.
“I figured if there was ever a career that I could believe in, it would be one where I could help protect what I love the most—our beautiful planet,” Niko said.
In 2019, he received his Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Management from the University of West Florida and quickly entered a graduate program. In 2020, he completed his Master’s degree in Environmental Science with an emphasis in Management. Not only was Niko the first person in his family to attend college, but he was also the first to earn a graduate degree and finish at the top of his class. Outside of his studies, Niko started a small business of restoring and selling antique Volkswagen buses out of his garage.
Fun Fact: Look for Niko to appear on your Netflix screen in early 2021. After auditioning for several movies and television series, he landed a role in an upcoming Netflix feature film.