We are CARES.

The Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems, or CARES, is a small and adventurous group of geographic information specialists, programmers, and data nerds. We love making maps, developing new data visualizations, and helping individuals and organizations figure out ways to do their work better. While many of our current projects are focused on health, over the past 29 years we’ve collected, analyzed, and visualized data related to the environment, agriculture, safety, education, and the economy. We appreciate and understand the challenges and opportunities related to data collection and analysis in rural America. We seek to partner with like-minded organizations, build tools, and find data that supports positive population change. Oh – and we also like coffee and Mexican food…A LOT!

The University of Missouri is our home.

The University of Missouri has been CARES‘ home since it was founded in 1992. Our affiliation to the University of Missouri and University of Missouri Extension provides CARES with a strong foundation for our technical infrastructure, access to applied research opportunities, and a welcoming work environment on campus.

The CARES team has more than 200 years of combined experience.

Chris Barnett
Chris Barnett


Chris has been with CARES since it launched back in 1992. With almost 30 years of data analysis and leadership experience, Chris keeps projects moving while also keeping a pulse on new technologies and data.

Yan BarnettMichael BarbaroMelissa DeBartolomeoDavid CavinsAmy Keith
Yan Barnett
Michael Barbaro
Melissa DeBartolomeo
David Cavins
Amy Keith


The CARES programming team is a strong group of creative problem-solvers. Together they have almost 70 years of programming experience.

Elisa Cardenas OleasMichael HardyZhengting HeAngela JohnsonJustin Krohn
Elisa Cardenas Oleas
Michael Hardy
Zhengting He
Angela Johnson
Justin Krohn

Research Analysts

Research and analysis are at the heart of what we do. Our research analyst team has over 40 years of combined experience.

Angie StewartAdam Banning
Angie Stewart
Adam Banning


Our core systems and financial administration team has been crossing t’s and dotting i’s for 25 years.

Chris Stephens
Chris Stephens

Geographic Information Systems Specialist

The CARES GIS team loves cartography and are up for any mapping challenge.

Jamie KleinsorgeJordan Rhodes
Jamie Kleinsorge
Jordan Rhodes

Project Coordinators

Coordinators at CARES manage project tasks and timelines, facilitate training, and provide user support. Our project coordination team has 10 years of solid experience.

Shaye MorrisonRobert Simpson
Shaye Morrison
Robert Simpson

Visiting Experts

Our visiting experts bring strong research backgrounds to step in and step up on projects of all kinds.

Chris Fulcher
Chris Fulcher

Director Emeritus

Chris is one of the original founders of CARES and served the organization for 29 years before retiring. He continues to be a strong supporter and a great source of institutional wisdom.

CARES has data and partnerships across sectors.

  • American Heart Association
  • Advent Health
  • Adventist Health System
  • University of Missouri Extension
  • Community Action Association of Pennsylvania
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • New York State Community Action Association
  • Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
  • Partnership for a Healthier America
  • Rural Community Opioid Response Program
  • Colorado Food Policy Network
  • Springfield/Greene County Health Department (MO)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • W.K. Kellogg Foundation
  • Council on Black Health
  • National Community Action Partnership
  • Community Action Partnership Association of Idaho
  • Creating Healthy Communities Ohio
  • Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center
  • RocHealthData
  • OWN-It Taney and Stone County Coalition
  • United Way of Greater St. Louis
  • St. Louis Regional Data Alliance/Community Innovation and Action Center
  • Trinity Health Systems
  • Washington State Community Action Partnership
  • Missouri Foundation for Health
  • Providence/St. Joseph Health System
  • Safe Routes to School
  • United Way of Chattanooga
  • Institute for People, Place, and Possibility
  • Appalachian Regional Commission
  • Innovia Foundation/Inland Northwest Insights
  • Lehigh Valley Health System
  • Missouri Broadband Resource Rail
  • Missouri Community Action Network
  • National 4H Council/Well Connected Communities
  • Missouri Hospital Assocaiton
  • American Board of Family Medicine
  • Salud America
  • University of Missouri System
  • US News & World Report
  • Missouri Department of Natural Resources
  • YUSA
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • California 4 Health
  • United Way of Central Maryland

Evolution is key. See how CARES has developed over the last 30 years.


The Center for Agricultural, Resource and Environmental Systems was founded by two Agriculture Economists at the University of Missouri.

Dr. Anthony Prato and Dr. Chris Fulcher (former Directors at CARES) began using geographic information systems (GIS) to better understand environmental conditions and impacts. Together they agreed to take on what would become CARES’ first and longest running project – the Missouri Source Water Assessment.

Funded by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the Missouri Source Water Protection project created a vulnerability assessment to map public drinking water wells and potential sources of contamination. CARES continues to support this project 30 years later through the Missouri Source Water Protection and Assessment Hub.


The Center for Applied Research and Environmental Systems updates its name and moves online.

Dr. Chris Fulcher and Yan Barnett

Prior to 1997, CARES work was being done locally on campus computers. From SPANS Maps (Canada) to ArcInfo (ESRI) on a UNIX computer (IBM Risc/6000 320H), CARES embraced new technologies as they became available and began transitioning to online platforms and databases. Over the next five years, CARES converted their entire research portfolio to active online visualizations.


CARES expands its portfolios of work outside of agricultural and environmental projects and becomes a national resource.

Beginning in 2000, with the release of a national interactive mapping platform, CARES branched outside of Missouri and began capturing opportunities to do more mapping across sectors and across the nation. Having primarily developed expertise and completed projects related to agriculture and the environment, CARES expanded project capacity to health informatics, public policy, and community development.

In 2006, CARES developed and launched its first collaborative management system for organizations and agencies – Community Issues Management (CIM). CIM was used successfully by a network of United Ways and philanthropic organizations to assess community needs, collect and share local data, and explore ways to tell stories with data.


CARES becomes the data, mapping, and reporting provider for Community Commons.

Launched in October 2011, Community Commons became CARES’ feature project – hosting organizational data collaboration spaces, national map room, community health needs assessment (CHNA) report, and nationally-recognized tools like the Vulnerable Populations Footprint. Community Commons, with the technical support from CARES, grew to have a user-base of over 65,000 members.


The Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems joins University of Missouri Extension, launches CARES Network.

CARES, with one more slight name change, welcomed the opportunity to join University of Missouri Extension and Engagement in 2018. With a focus on people and place, and roots in agriculture and environment, Extension values and objectives aligned and supported CARES’ evolving mission.

In 2018 CARES also launched the CARES Network as a way to continue supporting Hubs (organizations and data collaboratives) that once were part of Community Commons. The national Map Room and CHNA report also transitioned to the CARES Network as well.


CARES launches SparkMap.org.

CARES’ most recent endeavor is SparkMap.org – a subscription-based site that hosts a suite of our best and most useful “add-ons.” From adding data to and building custom maps to creating sub-county reports with hundreds of reliable indicators, SparkMap is our way of meeting the needs of healthcare consultants, grant writers, real estate brokers and lenders, and other for-profit businesses.

We’re still supporting organizational access to these advanced features through the CARES Network, but SparkMap allows us to provide enhanced features to individuals and single user accounts.