Professional headshot of Sarah Walters.

Sarah E Walters

Associate Research Scientist, Human Geography Group

Sarah E. Walters is an Associate Research Scientist with the ORNL Human Geography group and is Co-PI for the Population Density Tables (PDT) project, a data content management and learning system that supports very high-resolution modeling efforts here at ORNL, as well as meeting the needs and requests of project sponsors.  PDT reports human activity at the building-level, pulling information from a broad range of open-source platforms, to include governmental, NGO, Humanitarian, and academic journals and other educational resources, as well as news outlets, and various social media platforms to include Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, among many others.  Other research that PDT supports includes green building technologies, energy-use, humanitarian aid efforts such as disaster preparedness, response and recovery, and natural hazard loss analysis.

In addition to her direct work with PDT, Sarah is also engaged as the PDT Research Lead for the LandScan project, a global gridded population modeling project, also within the Human Geography group (

Her research interests include investigating the intersection of anthropological methods and theory with ongoing population modeling research - understanding the impacts of issues such as perception, bias, and censorship; understanding how people make use of their surroundings and how this is impacted by (and conversely impacts) culture, geography, socioeconomics, and the environment throughout time; how to best predict, identify, and mitigate the impact of social unrest, exploitation, population expansion, and human migration on the preservation and protection of cultural heritage sites; and maintaining purposeful data integration utilizing a mixed-methods research approach. 

Sarah graduated from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 2016 with a Master's Degree in Anthropology.  Along with her work and research at ORNL, Sarah is a registered professional archaeologist and is also the flute section head in the Oak Ridge Community Band, an organization she has been involved with for the past six and a half years.

ORNL Service Award (2023)

Recognized by the ORNL Geospatial Science and Human Security Division for providing enthusiastic support of peers and colleagues, success as a reviewer of documents, presentations, and other artifacts for publication in peer-reviewed platforms.

ORNL National Security Sciences Distinguished Innovation Team Award (2023)

Award presented to the Population Density Tables project team by the ORNL National Security Science Directorate in recognition of novel advancements in the temporal reporting of building occupancy to improve decision makes' ability to detect the possibility for civilian casualties.

Your Science in a Nutshell Competition – Finalist (2022)

Selected as a finalist in the 2022 Your Science in a Nutshell Competition, an annual competition supported by the Department of Energy and held at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  The competition involves Early Career Scientists providing an overview of their current research in two minutes using no more than two slides to Laboratory leadership, colleagues, and peers.

M.A. Anthropology – University of Tennessee (UTK), Knoxville (2016)

B.A. Anthropology – Louisiana State University (LSU), Baton Rouge (2009)

Board Member – American Association of Geographers, Student Paper Award Committee (2023-2024)

Civility Judge – Tennessee Science Bowl (2022-2023)

Secretary – East Tennessee Chapter of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (2018-2019)

American Geophysical Union (AGU) 

American Association of Geographers (AAG)

Southern Demographic Association (SDA)

Registered Professional Archaeologist (RPA No. 42997323) – Issued August 2016