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Second Human Planet Forum to be Hosted by CIESIN at Lamont Campus

August 5, 2019

The second Human Planet Forum will be held September 30–October 2, 2019, at the Columbia University Lamont campus in Palisades, New York, organized by the Human Planet Initiative of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO). Following on the first Forum, which was held in November 2017 at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, the second Forum will bring together a range of experts from around the world who are working to better understand and map human presence on Planet Earth. Key Forum topics include the global definition of cities and rural areas, mapping of secondary and tertiary administrative boundaries, advances in slum mapping, downscaled future scenarios of population and economic activity, validation and intercomparison strategies for human settlement and population data, and continued development of the Human Planet Atlases. The program will include a mix of keynote talks, panel discussions, lightning talks, working meetings, and interactive sessions. Advanced registration is required (see link below).

The GEO Human Planet Initiative was launched as part of the GEO Work Programme in 2017–2019 and is expected to continue as an element of the 2020–2022 Work Programme. The initiative is co-chaired by Martino Pesaresi of the European Commission′s Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Ispra, Italy, and CIESIN director Robert Chen. GEO is a voluntary partnership of more than 100 national governments and in excess of 100 Participating Organizations. Contributing organizations to the second Forum include the Geo-Referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) program; the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data; ITC/University of Twente; the Thematic Research Network on Data and Statistics (TReNDS) of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network; and the World Wide Human Geography Data (WWHGD) Working Group. Funding support is being provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the European Commission, and NASA.

See: Human Planet Forum Registration and Hotel Reservation Site


CIESIN Summer Interns Support Africa Data Development

August 2, 2019

International interns from an array of educational backgrounds have joined CIESIN’s Geo-Referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) program for the summer. The interns are assisting with three lines of work: data processing and mapping, country support and coordination, and project management and partnership relations. GRID3 is currently engaged in activities in Nigeria, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mozambique, and South Sudan.

Yangcheng Liu, Jiajia (Jessie) Chen, and Yunhai Xiong are conducting geospatial data processing and mapping activities, primarily supporting the work in the DRC. Liu and Chen are graduate students majoring in earth and environmental engineering at the Columbia University Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. Liu has a Bachelor of Engineering (BE) in earth information science and technology from Central South University in China. Chen obtained a BA in environmental engineering from Zhejiang University in China. Xiong is currently studying in Columbia’s Climate and Society Program, and received his BS in geography from Peking University in China. GRID3 project coordinator Kevin Tschirhart, senior geographic information specialist Linda Pistolesi, and data and program analyst Jolynn Schmidt are overseeing the activities by Liu, Chen, and Xiong.

Jaymia Ecker, Yuelin Li, Annie Werner, and Qi (Vera) Yang are supporting country coordination activities, including desk research and stakeholder mapping. Ecker has a BS in geography, with a concentration in resource and environmental studies, from Texas State University. Li is studying for an MA in quantitative methods and an MPA in international development at Columbia’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and holds a BA in economics and literature from Peking University. Werner has a BA in international and area studies, and psychological and brain sciences, from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Yang is working toward an MPA at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), with a concentration in economic and political development, and has a BS in biochemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles. Ecker and Li are supervised by Tschirhart, Werner by geographic information specialist Olena Borkovska, and Yang by senior research associate Sandra Baptista.

Finally, SIPA students Johanna Snell and Steve Maroti are supporting cross-cutting management and coordination tasks across partners; Snell is also assisting in use case development for Nigeria. Snell, who has an MS in technology and industrial management from the Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland, is working toward a master of international affairs (MIA) with a concentration in economic and political development. Maroti, who has a BA in psychology from Columbia’s School of General Studies, is earning an MIA, concentrating in international finance and economic policy, and international security policy, with a specialization in advanced policy and economic analysis. Snell is working under the direction of both deputy director Marc Levy and senior research associate Emilie Schnarr, and Maroti is supervised by senior research associate Paola Kim-Blanco.


Collaboration with Zhejiang University Extended to 2024

July 31, 2019

The School of Public Affairs at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China and CIESIN have agreed to continue collaborating for another five years, building on the initial relationship established with the School′s Department of Land Management in 2013. The collaboration encompasses research and capacity building activities such as exchange of visitors and students, joint workshops, training activities, and collaborative research projects. CIESIN recently organized a week-long seminar, “Environmental Policy and Sustainable Development,” attended by more than 20 Zhejiang University students, and has hosted several graduate students for 6- to 12-month visits focused mainly on urban and regional planning studies. In a July 26 visit to Zhejiang University, CIESIN director Robert Chen and information scientist Xiaoshi Xing gave guest lectures at the Department of Land Management on sustainable development and urban planning topics. During the visit, the letter of agreement was signed by Chen and Prof. Jianxing Yu, Dean of the School of Public Affairs.


NASA SEDAC Invites Community Submissions of Human Dimensions Data

July 30, 2019

The NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN has begun accepting submissions of scientific data related to human-environment interactions that may be of high utility to the human dimensions research and applications communities. In light of increased recognition of the importance of open access to research data by universities, scientific publishers, funding organizations, and other organizations, SEDAC seeks to increase the accessibility and utilization of important global- or regional-scale spatial data, especially those derived from or complementary to remote sensing data from NASA or other sources. SEDAC will also consider other types of data that meet its acquisition criteria. Priority topics of interest for data acquisition and dissemination include administrative boundaries and other reference layers, population dynamics, human settlements and infrastructure, land use/land cover change, economic development, environmental health, and policy-relevant environmental and sustainable development indicators.

Submission of candidate data sets is a two-step process. In the first step, SEDAC requests basic information on the data (e.g., nature of the data set and its primary purpose) that will help evaluate suitability for SEDAC archiving and dissemination. If the data appear appropriate, a copy of the data will be requested along with additional information for review by the SEDAC User Working Group (UWG). If feasible and appropriate, SEDAC will work with data authors and journal publishers to coordinate data release with publication of a peer-reviewed article. SEDAC will also consider valuable older data sets that may be at risk of loss if not properly archived, as well as national or sub-national data for key countries or regions, on a case-by-case basis.

See: SEDAC Data Submission


International Approaches to Geographic Education and Research Compared

July 30, 2019

The 2nd Seminar on International Geography Education and Frontier Research was held July 22–25 at East China Normal University (ECNU) in Shanghai, China, organized collaboratively by the School of Geographic Sciences at ECNU, CIESIN, and the American Geographical Society (AGS). The seminar drew more than 240 faculty and graduate students from universities and schools across China who are involved in teaching geography at the middle and high school levels. CIESIN director Robert Chen gave welcoming remarks and lectured on geospatial data and applications in support of sustainable development, including an in-depth look at global mapping of human settlements, infrastructure, and population. Information scientist Xiaoshi Xing described CIESIN work in support of climate change research and assessments, and also gave background information on the Advanced Placement (AP) exam in geography offered in the U.S. Other participants included Marie Price of George Washington University (GWU), the current AGS president; Alexander Murphy of Oregon State University and AGS senior vice president; and Lisa Benton-Short of GWU, a leader in the AGS Geography Teacher Fellow Initiative. The seminar included two panel discussions on college and high school geography education and research. The first seminar was held at ECNU in August 2017.


Scheduled Web Site Outage Planned for July 29

July 25, 2019

All CIESIN and SEDAC Web sites, including PERN, POPGRID, the IPCC Data Distribution Center and others,  will be down for scheduled maintenance Monday, July 29, beginning around 5 p.m. US Eastern Daylight Time (2100 UTC). We expect the Web sites to be fully operational by 9 a.m. EDT Tuesday, July 30.


July Meetings Tackle Diverse Earth Science and Geospatial Data Challenges

July 23, 2019

CIESIN associate director for Information Technology Sri Vinay and senior digital archivist Robert Downs participated in several workshops and meetings in July, addressing different aspects of Earth science and geospatial data and software management. In early July, Downs traveled to Frascati, Italy, to participate in the workshop, “Advancing the Understanding and Measurement of the Societal Benefits of Earth Observations,” organized to advance the understanding and measurement of the societal benefits of Earth Observations. He served as rapporteur for the session, “Understanding the Context,” and presented briefings from that session during two roundtable sessions. The workshop was held July 1–3 at the European Space Agency (ESA) Centre for Earth Observation.

Later in the month, Vinay attended the workshop, “Conceptualizing a Geospatial Software Institute (GSI) Workshop 3: Strategic Plan and Governance of GSI,” held July 14–16 at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) and the Westin Hotel in Annapolis, Maryland. Funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), the workshop aimed to first brainstorm and then draft a strategic plan for a GSI. Vinay was one of the discussion leads for the session, “What Services Should GSI Provide to Enable Broad and Impactful Scientific Advances?” which focused on challenges, opportunities, and strategies for achieving the plan’s first and fifth goals—to combine geospatial data and software at scale for scientists to harness the geospatial data revolution, and to advance high-performance geospatial software while making synergistic contributions to data-intensive and high-performance computing. Vinay, together with CIESIN director Robert Chen and associate director for Geospatial Applications Greg Yetman, provided a position paper, "Geospatial Software Governance from an Applied Research Perspective," as an input to the workshop.

During the same week in Tacoma, Washington, Downs attended three different meetings: the DataONE Users Group and Council of Data Facilities meetings on July 16, and the 2019 ESIP Summer meeting, July 16–19. He presented the poster, “Data Lifecycle Opportunities for Improving the Usability of Earth Science Data,” at the DataONE meeting. At the ESIP meeting, he gave the paper, “Socioeconomic Data Citations and Impact,” during the session, “Current Approaches for Tracking and Exposing Research Object Usage Metric,” and also presented the poster, “Understanding the Impact of Global Earth Science Data," during the poster session.


CIESIN Projects Featured at Annual Esri User Conference

July 16, 2019

CIESIN staff members exhibiting a display graphic describing the goals of the GRID3 program, at the Sustainable World Showcase of the 2019 Esri User Conference.

CIESIN staff joined more than 17,000 other geographic information system (GIS) experts at the annual Esri User Conference, held July 8–12 at the Convention Center in San Diego, California. The conference theme was “The Intelligent Nervous System,” emphasizing the fundamental role of GIS in supporting an organization’s capabilities. For the plenary, famed researchers and conservation activists Jane Goodall and E.O. Wilson spoke with Esri founder and CEO Jack Dangermond about the critical importance of preserving biodiversity and the work they are doing towards this goal. Deputy director Marc Levy, senior geographic information specialist Linda Pistolesi, and senior research assistants Matthew Heaton and Anela Layugan took part in the Sustainable World Showcase, highlighting the GRID3 program, which CIESIN coordinates. Geographic information specialists Olena Borkovska, John Squires, and Pistolesi presented a poster in the Map Gallery, describing the development of the Basic Demographic Characteristics data set of SEDAC′s Gridded Population of the World, version 4.11 (GPW4.11) data collection. Former GRID3 intern Haokai Zhao and colleagues from the Population and Development Branch of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) also participated in the conference.

See: 2019 Esri User Conference


Second Seminar on Environmental Policy and Sustainable Development Held at Columbia

July 15, 2019

Following on from the successful first seminar on environmental policy and sustainable development held in 2018, CIESIN organized and hosted a second seminar on the same topic July 8–12 at the Morningside campus. This year's seminar brought 21 graduate and undergraduate students from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, to the week-long seminar, which addressed a range of topics including climate change impacts and adaptation, population dynamics, geospatial methods and data, sustainability indicators, smart cities and transportation, natural systems on climate studies, and the role of nongovernmental organizations. CIESIN presenters were director Robert Chen, associate directors Alex de Sherbinin and Greg Yetman, research scientist Susana Adamo, senior digital archivist Robert Downs, and information scientist Xiaoshi Xing. Other speakers included Paul Olsen, Arthur D. Storke Memorial Professor; Radley Horton, Lamont Associate Research Professor; and John Konarski, chief executive officer of the American Geographical Society. The group also visited Prof. Sarah Kaufman, associate director of the Rudin Center for Transportation at New York University, and Kyoung-Soo Eom, chief, United Nations Geospatial Information Section. The seminar was organized in collaboration with the School of Public Affairs at Zhejiang University. 


Partners and Government Agencies Launch GRID3 Mozambique

July 12, 2019

Geo-Referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) Mozambique partners and stakeholders in Matola, Mozambique, for the program launch event held on June 20

As part of the Geo-Referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) program, CIESIN senior research associate Sandra Baptista, senior geographic information specialist Linda Pistolesi, and colleagues from WorldPop/Flowminder and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) carried out a technical mission in Maputo and Matola, Mozambique, June 17–21. On June 20, Mozambique’s National Institute of Statistics (INE) hosted the official launch of GRID3 Mozambique, convening more than 40 participants at the Matola Hotel, including colleagues from the UNFPA Country Office and the following Mozambican government agencies: INE, the National Center for Cartography and Remote Sensing (CENACARTA), the Ministry of State Administration and Public Function (MAEFP), the Spatial Development Programme at the Ministry of Transport and Communications (SDP-MTC), the National Institute for Disaster Management (INGC), the Ministry of Education and Human Development (MINEDH), and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MASA). While in Maputo, Baptista, Pistolesi, and WorldPop/Flowminder and UNFPA colleagues also visited Mozambique’s Training Institute for Land Management and Cartography (INFATEC) and the Department of Mathematics and Informatics at Eduardo Mondlane University. The purpose was to discuss potential areas and activities for collaboration as part of GRID3, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID).


Workshop in Nigeria Informs GRID3 Data Policy and Planning by Educators

July 12, 2019

attendees of the June 24-26 GRID3 education baseline workshop gather in Abuja, Nigeria.

The Geo-Referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) program and Columbia University's Center for Sustainable Development (CSD) conducted an education baseline workshop in Abuja, Nigeria, June 24–26. The aim of the workshop was to identify ways in which education leaders from the Nigerian states of Kaduna, Adamawa, and Gombe envision using GRID3 data to aid policy and planning decisions. Key stakeholders were encouraged to discuss their current use of data, the challenges they face in using data for decision making—including any data availability gaps—and staff capacity for data-driven decision making. The workshop featured 30 participants including Nigerian education leaders from Kaduna, Adamawa, and Gombe; Nigerian government agencies such as the Ministry of Budget and National Planning (MBNP), National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), and National Commission for Nomadic Education (NCNE); and the American University of Nigeria. CIESIN was represented by senior research associate Emilie Schnarr and deputy director Marc Levy. One major outcome from the workshop was the development of a use case work plan that will inform education planning in Nigeria over the next year. The GRID3 program is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID).

See: Workshop Agenda


New Data and Indicators Available from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center

July 8, 2019

global map of freshwater availability trends imaged from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE)

The NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN has recently released three global data sets that utilize satellite-based remote sensing data to help characterize critical aspects of human-environment interactions: Trends in Global Freshwater Availability from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), v1 (2002 – 2016), Development Threat Index, v1 (2015), and Altimeter Corrected Elevations (ACE2), v2 (1994 – 2005).

The ability to measure trends in global freshwater availability has been made possible by NASA′s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE). By measuring small changes in Earth′s gravity field, the GRACE mission was able to track key dynamics of the global water cycle at a spatial resolution of 0.5 degrees during the period from 2002 to 2016. Terrestrial water availability storage is the sum of groundwater, soil moisture, snow and ice, surface waters, and wet biomass, expressed as an equivalent height of water. The data are valuable in helping to evaluate and predict emerging threats to water and food security. Part of SEDAC's Satellite-Derived Environmental Indicators (SDEI) data collection, the data set was developed by researchers from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and Jet Propulsion Laboratory and from National Taiwan University.

The Development Threat Index, v1 seeks to map terrestrial global, future development threats resulting from agricultural expansion, urban expansion, and energy development (conventional oil and gas, unconventional oil and gas, coal, mining, biofuels, solar, and wind). Individual threat layers draw on several different data sets derived in part from satellite remote sensing data, including the Global Grid of Probabilities of Urban Expansion to 2030, the Global Roads Open Access Data Set (gROADS), and the Global Reservoir and Dam (GRanD) data sets, all available through SEDAC. The Index has been produced on a 50 square kilometer grid by a team from The Nature Conservancy, the University of Minnesota, and the University of British Columbia. It has been added to SEDAC′s Land Use and Land Cover (LULC) data collection, but shares similar objectives with the Human Footprint data also distributed by SEDAC (e.g., Human Footprint, 2018 Release).

The ACE2 data set is based on a Global Digital Elevation Model (GDEM) derived primarily from multi-mission Satellite Radar Altimetry in combination with data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM). By using data from an altimeter, an instrument that uses radar to measure height, researchers were able to better assess ground elevation in areas with high tree cover. This represents an improvement over the original SRTM data, which only measured the top of the canopy. ACE2 is intended for research and applications such as flood risk assessment, landslide modelling, urban planning, and sea level rise impact assessment. In light of ongoing efforts to improve GDEMs, SEDAC has decided to preserve this version for future analysis and intercomparison as part of a new Digital Elevation Data Collection (DEDC). The data set was developed by a team from the UK and the European Space Agency.

See: Trends in Global Freshwater Availability from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), v1 (2002 – 2016)
       Development Threat Index, v1 (2015)
       Altimeter-Corrected Elevations (ACE2), v2 (1994 – 2005)


Linkages between Water and Disaster the Focus of United Nations Meetings

June 28, 2019

The United Nations(UN) held the Fourth Special Thematic Session on Water and Disasters June 24 at UN headquarters in New York City, including sessions on ″building back better″ after cyclones Idai and Kenneth, science and technology, and financing and investment. Opening remarks were given by Han Seung-Soo, former prime minister of the Republic of Korea and chair of the UN High-level Experts and Leaders Panel on Water and Disasters (HELP), and by H.E. Ms. Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, president of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly. Other speakers included Lt. General Todd Samonite, chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE); Prof. Alex Halliday, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University; and Claire Melamed, chief executive officer of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data.

In conjunction with the Thematic Session, the 13th meeting of HELP was held June 25 at the Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice, co-hosted by USACE, the Earth Institute, and the Global Partnership. Prof. Halliday welcomed the panel members in the morning session, together with Joe Manous, director of the USACE Institute for Water Resources. CIESIN director Robert Chen organized an afternoon breakout session on decision support tools for water and disaster decision making, including presentations by Jonathan Sury of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP) and Mark Wahl of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC). Chen gave a presentation, “Decision Support Tools for Coastal Planning and Adaptation,” featuring a range of CIESIN data, mapping tools, and applications useful for water and disaster management. He also hosted the closing reception sponsored by the Earth Institute.

On June 26, the Data ANalytics and Tools for Ecosecurity (DANTE) project held a working meeting at the InterChurch building next to Columbia′s Morningside campus, with project staff from CIESIN, Isciences, and CASE Consultants International, together with USACE personnel who oversee the project. DANTE is developing an open source software toolkit for systematic monitoring, forecasting, and analysis of environmental stressors and their impacts on security. The project is the second phase of a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) award from ERDC, led by CIESIN alumnus Tom Parris of ISciences.

See: United Nations High-level Experts and Leaders Panel on Water and Disasters (UN HELP)


The Potential for Managed Coastal Retreat Explored at Columbia University Conference

June 25, 2019

Many coastal communities are starting to realize that rising sea levels and intensified coastal flooding stemming from climate change may require significant adaptation measures, including the option to relocate coastal infrastructure and residents to less vulnerable areas. More than 400 participants from government, business, academia, and news organizations attended the conference, “At What Point Managed Retreat? Resilience Building in the Coastal Zone,” held June 19–22 at Columbia University’s Morningside campus in New York City. Organized by the Climate Adaptation Initiative of the Earth Institute, the conference sought to address questions of when, and under what circumstances, communities should consider retreat from low-lying coastal areas versus onsite measures such as hardened defenses, raised housing, or ecosystem-based approaches. CIESIN associate director for science applications Alex de Sherbinin co-chaired the conference with Lamont Associate Research Professor Radley Horton. Conference speakers discussed government policy, legal issues, buyouts, insurance schemes, and private sector responses, as well as case studies of retreat and out-migration. During the conference, de Sherbinin chaired the session “Migration as Adaptation” and gave a presentation on population exposure and vulnerability. CIESIN senior systems analyst/programmer Kytt MacManus was a co-author of a presentation by former CIESIN research scientist Deborah Balk, “Urban Change in the Low Elevation Coastal Zone: 1990-2015.” Innovative aspects of the program included a dramatic presentation by PowerPlay, a performance group from the University of New Hampshire that uses theater to address conflict issues, and a screening of the film Managed Retreat, which was followed by a discussion with the film’s director. On the final day, a tour by ferry of Edgemere, Queens, and Red Hook, Brooklyn, gave participants the chance to observe the geography of New York Harbor and its changing land uses, and the regional impact of Hurricane Sandy.

See: “At What Point Managed Retreat? Resilience Building in the Coastal Zone”
       Conference Agenda


Recent Departures and Arrivals at CIESIN

June 24, 2019

CIESIN bids farewell to Kira Topik, senior research staff assistant, who has moved to the West Coast to pursue other opportunities. Topik began at CIESIN in the summer of 2017 as an intern while pursuing her MA in Columbia University’s Climate and Society program. Previously, she earned a BA in international and intercultural studies, and Spanish, from Pitzer College. Topik supported the communications and coordination needs of the Geo-Referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) program, helping to establish and operationalize relationships with various partners and stakeholders around the world.

Tiago Nascimento, a doctoral student hosted by CIESIN since June 2018, has completed his visit, returning to the Center for Development and Regional Planning (Cedeplar) at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG) in Brazil. While at CIESIN, Nascimento conducted research on the spatial mobility of the population in response to the incidence of droughts in Brazil’s Northeast. He has a bachelor’s degree in geography and a master’s degree in demography from the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte, also in Brazil. CIESIN research scientist Susana Adamo served as his host supervisor.

Prof. Sophie Vanwambeke of the Department of Geography at the UCLouvain in Belgium is finishing her 9-month appointment as a visiting senior research scientist at the end of June. While at Columbia, she worked with Maria Diuk-Wasser of the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology (E3B) on the ecology and epidemiology of vector-borne diseases and with CIESIN scientists on spatial heterogeneity of population exposure to hazards. She gave an informal talk about her work June 18 at the Lamont campus.

CIESIN has also gained three interns for the summer. Mairead Milán has returned to CIESIN after working as an Earth Institute intern during the spring 2019 semester. She graduated in May with a BA in sustainable development from Columbia College. Milán is working with senior systems analyst/programmer Kytt MacManus, continuing her work on the fifth version of the Gridded Population of the World (GPW) to be developed and released by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC). Dorothee Grant is also working with MacManus, helping to integrate population data with night time lights data collected by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument on the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite. Grant is a Columbia College undergraduate majoring in computer science. Sarah Smith, a graduate student in the Climate and Society program, is working with associate director for science applications Alex de Sherbinin on the West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WABiCC) project, which is funded by the US Agency for International Development. She is putting together a manual for adaptation practitioners on incorporating climate information into management strategies. Smith has a BA from Lehigh University in anthropology, with a concentration in physical anthropology.


Flood Assessment Tools Featured at Hudson Valley Talk

June 21, 2019

Resources to assess potential flood impacts, including an online mapping tool, were the subject of a talk by CIESIN senior systems analyst/programmer Kytt MacManus at a June 20 meeting of the Board of Directors of the Hudson Valley Regional Council. The audience included public legislators and executives, planners, and county developers. MacManus summarized the scope, goals, and progress of the project, “Assessment of Potential Flood Impacts to Buildings,″ which is developing building footprint data and conducting a flood scenario impact analysis for the Hudson Valley. The project is supported by the Climate Change Adaptation Research and Strategies Program of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Building on previous NYSERDA-funded work in collaboration with the Stevens Institute of Technology, the project encompasses all counties adjacent to the Hudson River from the southern border of Westchester County to the Federal Dam at Troy, as well as counties outside New York City adjacent to Long Island Sound. It draws on property asset and critical infrastructure data, future storm surge and sea level rise impacts to model different climate change scenarios. The project includes analysis of alternative adaptation and mitigation strategies to address flood risks for buildings. MacManus also described the Hudson River Flood Impacts Decision Support System, an online mapping tool designed to help municipalities in the lower Hudson Valley assess flood risk and plan mitigation efforts.

See: Hudson River Flood Impacts Decision Support System


CIESIN Represented at Diverse Scientific Gatherings in June

June 19, 2019

CIESIN scientists attended a diverse set of scientific meetings in North and South America in June to stay on top of ongoing developments and interact with partners and users. Research sientist Susana Adamo participated in the Science Advisory Committee (SAC) meeting of the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) and the Belmont Forum’s Scoping Workshop, “Pathways to the SDGs,” June 2–4 in Brasilia, Brazil. CIESIN is one of six Associate organizations of the IAI. June 3–5 in Washington DC, associate director for science applications Alex de Sherbinin participated as an observer in a joint meeting of the User Working Groups of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) Distributed Active Archive Center (DAAC) and the Land Processes DAAC, which is based at the Earth Resources and Science (EROS) Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

On June 10, CIESIN director Robert Chen attended a Forum on Disaster Preparedness, Resilience, and Response organized by the Columbia World Projects at the Columbia University Manhattanville campus. He presented a concept for a multi-hazard disaster risk assessment building on a range of global-scale geospatial data sets on hazards, exposure, and vulnerability. Nearby in Princeton, New Jersey, information scientist Xiaoshi Xing participated June 11-13 in Tri-MIP-athlon 2, the second joint meeting of three different Model Intercomparison Projects (MIPs) that are supporting phase 6 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP-6).

Senior digital archivist Robert Downs traveled to Denver, Colorado June 12-14 for the annual EarthCube meeting, which addressed the theme, “Science in Action.″ He presented a lightning talk and poster, “Data Lifecycle Actions to Improve the Usability of Earth Science Data for Heterogeneous User Communities.″ EarthCube is a community of geoscientists and geoinformatics researchers initiated and supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation. Harvard University′s Center for Geographical Analysis was the venue June 18 for a symposium, “Geographic Perspectives on Infectious Disease in Humans, Animals and Environment," organized by the World Wide Human Geography Data (WWHGD) working group. Susana Adamo participated in the symposium, which was broadcast live.


New Publications Feature CIESIN Co-Authors

June 13, 2019

Six papers co-authored by CIESIN scientists have recently been released in a new book and in several different high impact journals such as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science of the Total Environment, and Conservation Letters:

  • Former CIESIN senior research associate Xue Liu is lead author of the paper, “Mapping Urban Extent at Large Spatial Scales Using Machine Learning Methods with VIIRS Nighttime Light and MODIS Daytime NDVI Data,” in the journal Remote Sensing; Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for science applications, and Yanni Zhan, senior research staff assistant, are co-authors.
  • Alex de Sherbinin is co-author of the chapter, “The Impacts of Climate Change on Ecosystem Services and Resulting Losses and Damages to People and Society,” by Kees van der Geest et al. in the open access book, Loss and Damage from Climate Change: Concepts, Methods and Policy Options (edited by Reinhard Mechler et al. and published by Springer).
  • Alex de Sherbinin is a co-author of the letter, “Mapping Global Human Dependence on Marine Ecosystems,” by  Elizabeth Selig et al. in the journal Conservation Letters.
  • CIESIN director Robert Chen and information scientist Xiaoshi Xing are co-authors of the paper, “Data Distribution Centre Support for the IPCC Sixth Assessment,” by Martina Stockhause et al. in Data Science Journal, based on a presentation given at International Data Week in Gabarone, Botswana, in 2018.
  • Research scientist Susana Adamo is co-author of “Reimagining the Potential of Earth Observations for Ecosystem Services Assessments,” a paper by Carlos Ramirez-Reyes et al. in Science of the Total Environment, based on a set of workshops held in 2018.
  • Kevin Tschirhart, project coordinator for the GRID3 program, is a co-author of “Socioecologically Informed Use of Remote Sensing Data to Predict Rural Household Poverty,” by Gary Watmough et al. in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

See: “Mapping Urban Extent at Large Spatial Scales Using Machine Learning Methods with VIIRS Nighttime Light and MODIS Daytime NDVI Data”
       “The Impacts of Climate Change on Ecosystem Services and Resulting Losses and Damages to People and Society”
       “Mapping Global Human Dependence on Marine Ecosystems”
       “Data Distribution Centre Support for the IPCC Sixth Assessment”
       “Reimagining the Potential of Earth Observations for Ecosystem Services Assessments”
       “Socioecologically Informed Use of Remote Sensing Data to Predict Rural Household Poverty”


SEDAC's User Working Group Convenes in Washington DC under New Leadership

June 10, 2019

The User Working Group (UWG) of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN met in Washington DC June 6–7. The meeting was chaired for the first time by Barbara Ryan, former executive director of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and winner of the 2018 William T. Pecora Individual Award given by the U.S. Geological Survey. Nine UWG members participated in person, including new members Ryan and Navin Ramankutty of the University of British Columbia. Brian O'Neill of the University of Denver participated remotely in a breakout session. UWG member Dave Jones of StormCenter Communications gave an informal lunch talk, “Creating a Unified Response During Disasters by Sharing Trusted Data Across Platforms in Real-Time.″ The UWG received updates on SEDAC strategic priorities related to global-scale human population and settlement data and support for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Potential new activities to archive and disseminate spatially explicit scenarios of Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) and to update low-elevation coastal zone (LECZ) data were reviewed in detail, together with plans for expanding training on the integration of remote sensing and socioeconomic data. A new process for third-party submissions of data was also discussed.

The UWG meets in person once per year, typically either at Columbia University in New York City or in Washington DC. More than 10 representatives from NASA headquarters and the Goddard Space Flight Center participated in this year's meeting, including Nancy Searby of the NASA Applied Sciences Program, who has recently been appointed as SEDAC's program scientist. Three other NASA Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs) also sent observers. CIESIN participants included director Robert Chen, who serves as SEDAC manager; associate director for science applications Alex de Sherbinin, who serves as SEDAC deputy manager; and research scientist Susana Adamo, who serves as lead SEDAC project scientist.

See: SEDAC User Working Group


Sustainability and Preservation of Digital Mapping Examined at Columbia Libraries Summit

June 5, 2019

Online, interactive mapping tools and services such as Google Maps, Apple Maps, and embedded map interfaces have become ubiquitous, providing invaluable functions for everyday navigation, commerce, social media, and research and scholarly communication. However, these digital mapping resources are constantly changing and require substantial effort to maintain, given rapidly evolving technology, operating environments, user interfaces, and content. How important is it to preserve the state of knowledge embodied in these resources, and the ways in which users can access and utilize the underlying data, for the future? What can we learn from the evolution of these resources over the past few decades, and is it important to try to capture and document their future evolution? These issues and more were the subject of a two-day summit, “Towards an Understanding of Sustainability of Web-based Digital Mapping Projects,″ organized and hosted by the Columbia Libraries May 30–31 in New York. CIESIN director Robert Chen and associate director for geospatial applications Greg Yetman joined more than 20 other invited experts from the geographic, library, and computer science communities at the summit. The summit was organized by Barbara Rockenbach, associate university librarian for research and learning, and Robert Cartolano, associate vice president for Ttchnology and preservation, with support from a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Chen is a member of the grant′s advisory group.


"The Pack" Takes Computational and Ecological Learning Beyond the Textbook

June 4, 2019

Image of imaginary small creatures in the game, The Pack

A new digital game for players of any age, created by the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) and Design I/O, uses theories of playful learning to encourage computational thinking and scientific inquiry. CIESIN was a partner in the project, supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), that sought to develop innovative ways to teach kids about ecological concepts using approaches drawn from the computer sciences.

The interactive game, The Pack, takes place in a futuristic world called Algos, where food and water are scarce. The challenge of the game is to restore ecosystem balance. The player marshalls different creatures to perform a variety of tasks—digging, moving, holding, grabbing, seeking, and bumping—in order to move water around the environment and find seeds. By arranging and repeating tasks in different order, the player can develop, test, and modify new algorithms to achieve specific objectives.

The Pack is an “open world,” meaning players can explore and choose their objectives more freely than in a linear game with directed goals. As players continue in the game, they encounter increasingly complex opportunities to develop and use their algorithmic thinking skills. For young players, the game seeks to develop a problem-solving mindset and to strengthen social and strategic-thinking skills.

The game leverages increased awareness in the education field that children learn best through play, especially in science. The NYSCI is a pioneer of “design-make-play,” an approach that is central to all of NYSCI's exhibits and activities at its museum location in Queens, New York. Based on the two concepts, awareness of the environment and computational thinking, The Pack is meant for both informal and formal settings in support of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Computing (STEM+C) education.

The Pack was inspired by the award-winning Connected Worlds installation, which came out of a previous NSF-funded collaboration between NYSCI, Design I/O, and CIESIN. This immersive fantastical virtual world lets visitors playfully and tactilely interact with and explore the interdependence of different habitats within a larger ecosystem. The JPB Foundation supported the final production and release of both Connected Worlds and The Pack.

The Pack is free and available for download for Mac OSX, Windows, and iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch). The game is intended for children 4 years old and up. It currently has a rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars in Apple's App Store.

See: “The Pack” (download available for Mac OSX, Windows, and iOS)


Meetings on Earth Observation, Climate, and Poverty Data Held in Geneva

May 30, 2019

“Earth Observations for Impact” was the theme this year of the annual Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Symposium 2019, held at the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) headquarters in Geneva May 27–29. Robert Chen, CIESIN director, and Robert Downs, CIESIN senior digital archivist, participated in the Symposium, which brought together representatives from many different GEO member countries and participating organizations to plan the 2020–2022 GEO Work Programme. CIESIN is contributing to a number of GEO activities, including the Human Planet Initiative, which Chen co-chairs with Martino Pesaresi of the European Commission′s Joint Research Center, and Earth Observations for the Sustainable Development Goals (EO4SDG), which is co-chaired by NASA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and Mexico′s National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI). During the Symposium, Chen and Downs helped lead discussions about the proposed GEO Knowledge Hub and participated in side meetings to plan coordination between the GEO Data Sharing Working Group and the GEO Data Management Principles subtask, as part of a new Foundational Task in the new Work Programme. They also had the opportunity to meet with Nancy Searby of the NASA Applied Sciences Program, who has begun serving as the NASA Program Scientist overseeing the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, and Betzy Hernandez Sandoval of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, who helps Searby oversee several Human Planet projects supported by NASA, including one led by Chen. 

While at the WMO, Chen and Downs arranged a meeting with Mxolisi Shongwe of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on May 27 to discuss CIESIN′s continued operation of the socioeconomic portion of the IPCC Data Distribution Center (DDC) and its participation in the new IPCC Task Group on Data Support for Climate Change Assessments (TG-Data). They also met with Maxx Dilley, director of the WMO Climate Prediction and Adaptation Branch and a former scientist with the Columbia University International Research Center on Climate and Society, on May 29, to discuss hazard data issues. Chen then stayed in Geneva the morning of May 30, in order to participate in a kick-off meeting of a new initiatve on poverty mapping, held in conjunction with the AI for Good Conference organized by the International Telecommunications Union.

See: GEO Symposium 2019


Climate Adaptation Addressed at Annapolis Workshop and New York City Side Event

May 24, 2019

Annapolis, Maryland, was the setting for a National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) workshop May 15–17, “Socio-environmental Systems Indicators for Climate Change Adaptation & Resilience in the US.” The goal of the workshop was to develop indicators of climate change that address both biophysical and social impacts, in support of adaptation and resilience decisions in the United States. Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for science applications, gave a presentation, “Geospatial Indicators of Global Change,” which featured descriptions of data products from the NASA Socieoeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. He also discussed climate change hotspots and best practices in vulnerability mapping and data visualization. SESYNC, which facilitates interdisciplinary collaborations to develop data-driven solutions to socio-environmental issues, is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and administered by the University of Maryland.  

On May 23, de Sherbinin presented work on climate change-induced migration in Africa at a side event, “Addressing Climate Change, Disasters and Environmental Degradation: Development Solutions for Displacement in Africa,” held at United Nations headquarters in New York City. The event was part of the Africa Dialogue Series 2019, which is focusing on the theme, “Towards Durable Solutions for Forcibly Displaced Persons in Africa.″

See: Geospatial Indicators of Global Change (5 KB PDF)
       “Socio-environmental Systems Indicators for Climate Change Adaptation & Resilience in the US” Workshop Agenda


Climate Change, Migration, and Health Focus of Boulder Mini-Conference

May 23, 2019

Group photo of participants in the University of Colorado Boulder conference, “Climate Change, Human Migration and Health

More than 25 experts on climate change, human migration, and health gathered at the University of Colorado (CU) in Boulder May 20–21 for a mini-conference, “Climate Change, Human Migration and Health: Integrating Social and Environmental Data to Accelerate Innovative Science.″ Keynote speakers included former CIESIN research scientist Deborah Balk, who is now associate director of the City University of New York (CUNY) Institute for Demographic Research; and Jennifer Balch, assistant professor of geography, and Kris Karnauskus, associate professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, both from CU-Boulder. Each spoke from a particular perspective: Balk, from that of population; Balch, Earth observation; and Karnauskus, climate. The conference was supported and organized by the CU Population Center, the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP), and CU-Boulder’s Institute of Behavioral Science, Grand Challenge and Earth Lab.

CIESIN research scientist Susana Adamo was one of the invited participants and presented a poster, “An Open Community Platform for Environment and Security Research and Development.” The poster describes the project, Data ANalytics and Tools for Ecosecurity (DANTE), led by Isciences with CIESIN and CASE Consultants International and funded by the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC). DANTE is developing an open source software toolkit for systematic monitoring, forecasting, and analysis of environmental stressors and their impacts on security. Adamo also serves as lead project scientist for the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), a role previously held by Balk.

See: “Climate Change, Human Migration, and Health” conference
       “An Open Community Platform for Environment and Security Research and Development” (751 KB PDF)


Students Visit CIESIN to Explore Global Population Issues

May 17, 2019

A group of PhD students and professors in the bus on their return to New York City from Lamont

Eleven doctoral students whose research focus is population dynamics visited CIESIN at the Lamont Campus the morning of May 16. The students from McGill University and the University of Vermont are part of the Leadership for Ecozoic (L4E) network, a global partnership that aims to help PhD students better understand global population issues. Leiwen Jiang, senior associate at the Population Council, organized a week-long trip to New York City together with Professors Peter Brown of McGill University, Jon Erikson of the University of Vermont, and Kate Greswold of the TOSA Foundation. At CIESIN the visitors met with research scientist Susana Adamo, who gave an overview of CIESIN’s extensive population-related work, including population data products and services available through the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. Associate director for Geospatial Applications Greg Yetman talked about CIESIN’s approach to population modelling and collaborative efforts with external partners such as Facebook's Connectivity Lab. Senior research associate Emilie Schnarr described the Geo-Referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) program, for which CIESIN serves as coordinating partner, and the activities under way in five African countries. The L4E network advances its goals through joint courses, lectures, research projects, and service on doctoral committees, and is working towards establishing a global campus.

See: Leadership for Ecozoic (L4E) network


Training Workshop Supports Mapping Activities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

May 14, 2019

Cartographers Christian Shadrack and Elysabeth Kiwngu working at a computer as they participate in a pre-fieldwork training convened by the Geo-Referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) program

As part of the Geo-Referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) program, CIESIN program coordinator Kevin Tschirhart and research staff assistant Anne Laure-White led a training workshop in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), May 6–9. The workshop sought to strengthen the methodology for fieldwork and data validation efforts to be implemented in the eastern DRC provinces of Tanganyika and Haut-Lomami. A team of sixteen geographic information system (GIS) specialists and health practitioners were trained in data workflows and protocols for participatory mapping sessions with local health care staff in the two provinces. The workshop also provided attendees with practical experience in the use of hand-held devices for field data collection. GRID3 regional coordinator Christian Shadrack helped to facilitate the workshop. Fieldwork is expected to start in June.


Scientific Committee Reviews World Data System Progress in Beijing

May 13, 2019

Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for Science Applications, traveled to Beijing, China to participate in a meeting of the Scientific Committee of the International Science Council (ISC) World Data System (WDS), hosted May 9–10 by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). At the meeting, de Sherbinin reported on the work of a joint task group of WDS and the ISC Committee on Data (CODATA), Citizen Science Data for the Sustainable Development Goals, which he co-chairs. He also highlighted efforts to develop an online training resource for developing country scholars on research data management. While in Beijing he met with former CIESIN scientist Liu Chuang and former visiting scholar Yuanyuan Yang, both with the CAS Institute for Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research (IGSNRR). The WDS Scientific Committee is chaired by Sandy Harrison of the University of Reading in the United Kingdom; de Sherbinin is one of two vice chairs. The NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), for which de Sherbinin serves as deputy manager, is a Regular Member of the WDS.


Presentations Highlight Graduate Research on Methane and Wildfires

May 2, 2019

CIESIN Intern Haokai Zhao (left) and senior research staff assistant Eniko Kelly-Voicu (right), April 30, Palisades, New York

CIESIN intern Haokai Zhao and senior research staff assistant Eniko Kelly-Voicu gave presentations based on their graduate research April 30 in the Geoscience Building at the Lamont Campus. Zhao, who received his MS in earth and environmental engineering in February 2019 from the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University, presented “Methane Emission from Landfills,” addressing topics including gas-generating processes and current models and estimates. Zhao was recently accepted to Columbia’s doctoral program in civil engineering and engineering mechanics, where he will focus on environmental protection and sustainable development. Kelly-Voicu received her MS in geoinformatics from Hunter College, City University of New York, in December 2018. Her presentation, “Exploratory Data Analysis of the California Wild Fires Space–Time Pattern,” highlighted a user-friendly Python tool she developed to visualize point data in four dimensions. Both Zhao and Kelly-Voicu are currently supporting the Geo-referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) project.

 


Recent Seminar Offers New U.S. Population Scenarios for Better Understanding of Climate Risks

May 1, 2019

The latest offering in the Population Dynamics and Environmental Change seminar series was a presentation April 30 by Leiwen Jiang, senior associate at the Population Council, on multiscale population projections for the U.S. The population scenarios are intended to help improve understanding of climate-related risks to populations, taking into account the impacts of migration between sub-regions. The seminar series is organized jointly by CIESIN, the Population Council, the Institute for Demographic Research (CIDR) of the City University of New York, and the United Nations Population Division. It aims to explore links between people and their environments against the backdrop of rapid change. The next seminar, scheduled for May 31, will feature micro-economist Partha Dasgupta.

See: “Population Dynamics and Environmental Change” seminar series
       Multiscale Population Projections for the US Consistent with Climate Scenarios


CIESIN Staff Members Move Up

May 1, 2019

Several CIESIN staff members have recently received promotions. Kytt MacManus, who joined CIESIN as an intern in 2007, is now senior systems analyst/programmer in the Information Technology Division. He is currently an adjunct lecturer for the sustainable development undergraduate major at Columbia College and serves as the CIESIN lead of a project at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center that is exploring applications of the “Black Marble” night-time lights data. MacManus has an MS in environmental policy from the Bard Center for Environmental Policy.

Emilie Schnarr has been promoted to senior staff associate in the Science Division, and is now serving as a project manager for the Georeferenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) project. Schnarr joined CIESIN in 2012. She most recently earned her MS in earth and environmental engineering at Columbia, and also has an MA in climate and society from Columbia and a BS in environmental systems from the University of California, San Diego.

Olena Borkovska, Jane Mills, and John Squires have been appointed as staff associates in the Geospatial Applications Division. All three began at CIESIN at about the same time in fall 2013. Borkovska, who is serving as country project manager for Zambia on GRID3, has a BA in environmental management and policy from Hunter College, City University of New York. She is also working on an MS in sustainability management from Columbia’s School of Professional Studies.

Mills is involved in several different projects dealing with regional flood risk assessment, population modeling, and internal migration stemming from climate change. She has a BA in applied math and a minor in environmental studies from Barnard College, and is working towards her MA in quantitative methods in the social sciences at Columbia.

Squires is currently focused on building a Web application for a project on solar thermal desalination models, led by Columbia University and funded by the Department of Energy, and is also contributing to the Data ANalytics and Tools for Ecosecurity (DANTE) project. Squires has a BA in sustainable development from Columbia′s School of General Studies.


Recent Meetings Highlight the Key Role of Data in Sustainable, Global Solutions

April 30, 2019

Several different meetings in late April addressed the role of scientific data in finding sustainable solutions to challenging global problems. More than 600 experts gathered in Bern, Switzerland, April 24–26 to examine the theme, “Transforming Land Systems for People and Nature,” at the fourth Open Science Meeting of the Global Land Programme. Greg Yetman, CIESIN associate director for Geospatial Applications, helped organize one of the meeting sessions, “Gridded Population and Settlement Data and Models for Integrative Analysis of Land Systems,” which highlighted the growing variety of population and settlement data sets and their potential use in land-related research and applications. He gave the presentation, “The High Resolution Settlement Layer: Improving Population Allocation Methods,” based on data developed with the Connectivity Lab at Facebook. Yetman was also a co-author on three other presentations in the session. The Global Land Programme is an interdisciplinary community of science and practice fostering the study of land systems and the co-design of solutions for global sustainability.

In Vienna, Austria, April 23–25, the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) organized the 4th GEO Data Technology Workshop, hosted by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. The workshop explored how to best make available Earth observations-based knowledge for international policy frameworks, including the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction, and the Paris Climate Agreement. CIESIN director Robert Chen, in his capacity as co-chair of the Thematic Research Network on Data and Statistics (TReNDS) of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), gave a plenary talk, “United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: New Technologies for the Sustainable Development Goals.” He also participated in a panel on data ethics and governance on the final day of the workshop, giving the presentation, “GEO Data Sharing—Far Beyond FAIR!,″ which highlighted how the GEO community has supported open data sharing well beyond that promoted by the FAIR Principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable). GEO is an intergovernmental organizaiton with more than 100 Member Countries and over 125 Participating Organizations, working together to coordinate comprehensive and sustained Earth observations for the public good.

Following the GEO workshop, Chen travelled to Bogotá, Colombia for a working meeting of TReNDS, hosted by the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce April 29-30. The meeting included a public session, “Closing Data Gaps for Sustainable Development,” presented in both Spanish and English. During the meeting, Chen reported on progress in developing the POPGRID Data Collective, which is coordinated by CIESIN, TReNDS, and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The meeting was led by TReNDS co-chairs Shaida Baidee of Open Data Watch, Laveesh Bhandari of the Indicus Foundation, and Chen, and included representatives from CEPEI (Centro de Pensamiento Estratégico Internacional) and DANE (National Administrative Department of Statistics of Colombia).

See: Gridded population and settlement data and models for integrative analysis of land systems
       GEO Data Technology Workshop presentations


Links between Flooding and Climate Change Demonstrated at New York Area Events

April 19, 2019

CIESIN staff displaying AdaptMap mapping tool and hands-on activity for children

The online mapping tools AdaptMap and the Hudson River Flood Impacts Decision Support System were among several projects demonstrated at an April 17 workshop held during the annual meeting of the New York State Floodplain and Stormwater Managers Association in Suffern, New York, April 15–17. CIESIN senior systems analyst/programmer Kytt MacManus and geographic information specialist Jane Mills demonstrated the tools with Philip Orton from the Stevens Institute of Technology, who helped develop them. AdaptMap demonstrates how sea level rise may worsen storm-driven flooding in Jamaica Bay, and enables users to select flood adaptation scenarios to see how they reduce flooding. The Hudson River Flood Impacts Decision Support System is a flood assessment mapping tool for the lower Hudson Valley region. The workshop also highlighted the project, Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast (CCRUN), which is led by the Earth Institute and funded by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well as the CIESIN project, Building Data for Climate Change. The latter project, supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), is developing data on the "footprint" of buildings across New York State and analyzing potential flood scenarios and impacts. Approximately 40 people attended the workshop, which was eligible for professional development credit. During the April 16 plenary session, CIESIN associate director for Geospatial Applications Greg Yetman gave the presentation, “Building Data for Climate Change Adaptation.”

AdaptMap was also the subject of Earthfest, held April 13 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City in honor of Earth Day. CIESIN staff exhibited a 3-dimensional topographical map of Jamaica Bay and organized a hands-on activity for children to learn about how sea level rise will worsen storm-driven flooding. The exhibit included a digital display of historical maps of the Bay.

See: New York State Floodplain and Stormwater Managers Association Annual Meeting
       Workshop: “Utilizing Web Mapping Applications and GIS Data to Better Prepare for Flood Events in New York”


New Faces at CIESIN

April 17, 2019

CIESIN has hired several staff and interns for different projects, and a new scholar is visiting from China. 

Joining the Geo-referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) project are Justine Dowden, Chisimdi Onwuteaka, Matthew Heaton, and Eniko Kelly. Justine Dowden comes to CIESIN from the Earth Institute, now project manager responsible for coordination, reporting, and managing support of activities planned for countries under GRID3. She is also providing technical support during the design and implementation phases of data collection for developing health infrastructure data systems in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Dowden has worked with international aid organizations and non-profits that advance women’s rights globally and domestically, and she has co-led related research. She has a BA in sociology, French, and art history, from Brandeis University, and an MPH from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

Chisimidi Onwuteaka brings communications expertise from her work in Peace Corps South Africa and Americorps to her new role as communications officer for GRID3. She is helping develop materials to inform and support project stakeholders, as part of a comprehensive GRID3 communications strategy between partners. She has a BA from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with a double major in global studies and public policy, and a minor in public health entrepreneurship.

Former interns Matthew Heaton and Eniko Kelly are now senior research staff assistants. Matthew Heaton has a dual degree in geography and psychology from the State University of New York at Geneseo. Eniko Kelly recently received her MS in geoinformatics from Hunter College, City University of New York, and has a combined BS and MS in geological engineering and applied geo-sciences from the University of Bucharest, Romania, and the University of Leoben, Austria. 

Several interns have also joined GRID3, assisting with data downloading, documentation, and exploratory data analyses. Jiayi Fan has a BS in managerial economics and a BA in statistics, from the University of California, Davis; and an MA in quantitative methods in social science from Columbia University. Erin Gregoire is a senior at Columbia College, majoring in sustainable development.  

Edna Egal and Mairead Milán are Earth Institute interns for the spring 2019 semester. Egal is supporting the HRSL project, a collaboration with Facebook’s Internet.org, working with geographic information specialist Linda Pistolesi. Egal is a first year student in the Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) program, majoring in computer science. Milán is a senior at Columbia College, majoring in sustainable development, and is working on the fifth version of CIESIN’s flagship data product, the Gridded Population of the World (GPW).

Nanshan Li is working with GIS programmer Kytt MacManus and associate director for geospatial applications Greg Yetman on a new project on population modeling using wireless data and nighttime lights data, supported by the Schmidt Futures Foundation. Li is a master’s student in the Data Science Program of the Columbia University Data Science Institute, and has a BS in civil engineering from University of California, Los Angeles.

Visiting from Hohai University in Nanjing, China, for one year is Prof. Yan Sun. She is vice director of the Land Resource Management Institute of Hohai University and consults for the World Bank as a resettlement specialist. While at CIESIN she is working with Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications, focused on her research on the social impact of involuntary resettlement.


Use of Spatial Data in Population-Environment Research Addressed at Annual Population Meeting

April 15, 2019

CIESIN research scientist Susana Adamo and geographic information specialist Dara Mendeloff participated in the Population Association of America Annual Meeting held April 10–13 in Austin, Texas, where they organized and co-led a one-day workshop on spatial data integration in population-environment research. In addition to the workshop, Adamo was chair of a session on climate change and population health, and participated in two other sessions. Mendeloff presented the paper, “Global Subnational Distribution of Infant Mortality Rates,” co-authored by Adamo, CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy, and associate director for Science Applications Alex de Sherbinin. The paper is based on the updated 2015 version of the Global Subnational Infant Mortality Rates data set released by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, with more recent and higher resolution input data.

See: Population Association of America Annual Meeting
       Global Subnational Infant Mortality Rates, v2 (2015) (data set)
       “Global Subnational Distribution of Infant Mortality Rates” (abstract)


GRID3 Convenes Nigeria Workshop on Application of Geospatial Data

April 11, 2019

Some participants in a workshop convened by the Geo-Referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) program April 9–10, 2019

Abuja, Nigeria, was the setting for a workshop held April 9–10 featuring use cases for data and methods developed under the Geo-Referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) program. The more than 125 participants included the Nigerian government agencies Ministry of Budget and Planning, National Bureau of Statistics, National Population Commission, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPCHDA), and Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC); donors the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development; program partners WorldPop/Flowminder, the United Nations Population Fund, and CIESIN; and other GRID3 country representatives and stakeholders. CIESIN representatives Emilie Schnarr, senior research associate; Jolynn Schmidt, data and program analyst; and Marc Levy, deputy director, were in attendance. The aim of the workshop, which focused on health, education, survey, and population sectors, was to demonstrate the added value of applying GRID3 data and methods to understanding and addressing sustainable development challenges. Thematic breakout sessions during the workshop facilitated group discussion of data needs and challenges, and enabled participants to learn how GRID3 data and methods can be applied in their specific fields of work. A major workshop outcome was the formal agreement by Nigerian government agencies UBEC and NPCHDA to partner with GRID3 to further develop and implement priority use cases.

See: COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT GRID3 NIGERIA USE CASE WORKSHOP (17 KB PDF)


Environmental Migration Panels Held at Annual Geography Conference

April 9, 2019

Geographers and other experts from around the world met in Washington DC April 3–7 for the annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers (AAG). Three panels, organized by the AAG Specialty Groups on Population and Human Dimensions of Global Change, focused on the topic, ″environmental migration, current realities, and future prospects.″ Associate director for science applications Alex de Sherbinin gave one of 12 presented papers, summarizing efforts to model climate change-induced migration based on the World Bank′s 2018 Groundswell report. The project continues to examine climate impacts on crop and water resources and the ways in which they may influence internal migration in the future. Sophie Vanwambeke, a geographer visiting CIESIN for one year from UC Louvain in Belgium, and Sheng Miao, visiting for one year from East China Normal University in Shanghai, also participated in the conference.

See: American Association of Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting


Modeling Population Change in Mexico Described in Columbia Data Science Poster

April 8, 2019

Nanshan Li standing in front of the poster she authored on modeling population change in Mexico using wireless device location and nighttime lights data

As part of Columbia University′s Data Science Day held April 3 at Lerner Hall in Manhattan, CIESIN intern Nanshan Li presented a poster on a project that aims to model population change using new sources of data such as wireless device location and night-time lights data. The poster was one of 36 selected for presentation at the event, which featured keynote speaker Brad Smith, president of Microsoft. The poster described initial analysis of test data available for Mexico, to see if such new data sources could help detect or monitor population change on short to medium time scales. Li is working towards her Master of Science degree in Data Science at Columbia. The poster was co-authored with Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications; Kytt MacManus, CIESIN Senior Systems Programmer; Greg Yetman, associate director for geospatial applications; and Robert Chen, CIESIN director. The project is supported by a grant to the Data Science Institute from the Schmidt Futures Foundation.

See: Population Modeling in Mexico with Wireless Device Location and Nighttime Lights Data (Poster)
       Data Science Day 2019


GRID3 Project Partners Gather in Morocco for Strategy Workshop

April 7, 2019

The Geo-Referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) project held a strategy and planning workshop in El Jadida, Morocco, March 19–22, aimed at reaching a collective understanding of program goals and progress. Representatives from project partners—the United Nations Population Fund and WorldPop/Flowminder—and from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), joined Marc Levy, CIESIN deputy director, and other CIESIN and Earth Institute staff members at the workshop to discuss opportunities for increasing collaboration among GRID3 partners, donors, and national organizations, and ensuring efficient coordination and implementation.


Responsible Management and Use of Research Data Addressed in Philadelphia Meetings

April 5, 2019

The semi-annual plenary of the Research Data Alliance (RDA) drew nearly 500 research data experts to Philadelphia for a series of workshops and sessions under the theme, “With Data Comes Responsibility.” March 31–April 1 and April 4, CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert Downs participated in the RDA workshop, “International Network-of-Networks: Data Experts Workshop (iN2N),” aimed at producing a scientific white paper articulating the complexities of conducting research across international borders with a focus on data use and interoperability. The workshop was organized by Leslie McIntosh-Borrelli of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, with support from the U.S. National Science Foundation. CIESIN director Robert Chen also participated in a parallel workshop, “FAIR and Responsible Research Data Management.” Led by Jane Greenberg of Drexel University and Simon Hodson of the Committee on Data (CODATA) of the International Science Council (ISC), the workshop examined how the research data community could expand implementation of the FAIR principles—guidelines for making data findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable. Chen gave a presentation, “Addressing FAIR through Legal Interoperability: Principles and Practice,” co-authored with Downs, reviewing the legal basis for developing open access data resources through the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN.

Both Downs and Chen then participated in the 13th RDA Plenary April 2–4 at the Loews Hotel in Philadelphia. Chen led a discussion on the proposed revised charter for the RDA-CODATA Legal Interoperability Group, which he co-chairs. He also gave the presentation, “Global Fundamental Geospatial Data for Sustainable Development,” in a session on data for sustainable development goals and RDA connections. Downs summarized the work of the Data Granularity Task Force during the Data Discovery Paradigms Interest Group meeting, and co-led sessions on data versioning and on bringing data and computational infrastructures together to support open, reproducible research. Downs and Chen also presented the poster, “Exceeding Legacy Requirements to Meet New Requirements for Trustworthy Data Repositories,” co-authored with Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for Science Applications. SEDAC has undergone certification by the ISC World Data System as a trustworthy data repository, to become one of more than 110 member organizations, in the category of Regular Member.


New York City Panel on Climate Change Releases Third Report at Tenth Anniversary Summit

March 18, 2019

The New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC) held a half-day summit, “Science for Decision-Making in a Warmer World: 10 Years of the NPCC,″ at the New York Academy of Sciences March 15 in Manhattan. The summit marked the tenth anniversary since the founding of the NPCC in 2008 as a partnership with New York City and the Academy. It featured the launch of the third NPCC report, a special issue of The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, “Advancing Tools and Methods for Flexible Adaptation Pathways and Science Policy Integration.″ At the event, New York City officials, private sector representatives, and leading climate experts reflected on the importance of independent scientific assessment of climate change impacts affecting the City. Cynthia Rosenzweig of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and the Earth Institute, and William Solecki of Hunter College serve as co-chairs of the NPCC. CIESIN associate director Alex de Sherbinin, who was a contributor to the second NPCC report published in 2015, was one of more than 100 participants at the summit.

See: Summit Announcement
       NPCC 2019 Report (Special Issue)
       Earth Institute Press Release


Climate Scenarios the Focus of Presentations at Denver Forum

March 14, 2019

The 2019 Forum on Scenarios for Climate and Societal Futures was held at the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado, March 12–13. Organized by the International Committee on New Integrated Climate Change Assessment Scenarios (ICONICS) and the Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures, the Forum brought together more than 250 experts from around the world who are using or developing scenarios for use in climate change and sustainability analysis. Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for science applications, gave a presentation, “Data Visualization and Cognition: The Challenge of Future Scenario Development,” and presented a poster, “Policy Responses to Future Scenario Development: Lessons from the Groundswell Project.“

See: 2019 Forum on Scenarios for Climate and Societal Futures


Latest Update to Global Gridded Population Data Available Via Web Map Service

March 12, 2019

Comparison map of basic demographics, young populations on top and aging populations on bottom

The latest update to the Gridded Population of the World data collection, GPW version 4.11, provides access to more than 100 interactive map layers through a Web Map Service (WMS), facilitating visualization through map tools such as the SEDAC Map Viewer. The WMS now includes 78 map layers for population estimates by age and sex categories for the year 2010, enabling users to explore potential differences in the spatial distribution of specific population subgroups. Version 4.11, available from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, also corrects several technical issues from the previous version, most notably re-coding missing data values.

First developed in 1994, GPW has been used widely to support research, planning, and applications on diverse topics, including energy and water management, disaster and humanitarian response, agriculture and food security, public health, transportation and communications, and urban and coastal zone planning. The recently released age and sex data expand GPW’s usefulness for mapping differential vulnerability and risk, studying urbanization and migration, assessing emergency response and public health needs, and other sustainable development applications. The data are free and downloadable from SEDAC, which also provides detailed documentation, premade maps, and interactive mapping tools. Free registration with NASA's Earthdata system is required to download data and maps.

See: Gridded Population of the World (GPWv4.11) data collection
       What's New in Revision 11


New Project To Develop Tools for Assessing Security Implications of Environmental Stressors

March 8, 2019

CIESIN is partnering with ISciences and Case Consulting International on a new two-year project, Data ANalytics and Tools for Ecosecurity (DANTE), which is developing an open source software toolkit for systematic monitoring, forecasting, and analysis of environmental stressors and their impacts on security. Supported by the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), DANTE is focusing on the role of environmental stressors in three key areas: international migration and refugee flows; internal migration and isolated populations; and conflict and political instability. The tools are being designed to accelerate quantitative interdisciplinary analysis of environmental stressors, taking into account demographics, economics, health, conflict, hazards, and other factors. The project aims to create a shared resource for analysts from academic, intelligence, business, and nongovernmental communities to better and more rapidly anticipate conditions that may require humanitarian assistance, efforts to reduce conflict potential, or other measures. The project represents the second phase of a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) award from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), led by CIESIN alumnus Tom Parris of ISciences. CIESIN is developing analytic use cases, providing expertise on demographic, conflict, and other data, and supporting tool development. A project kickoff meeting was held at the Lamont campus in mid January, and the project web site was launched in early March.

See: Data ANalytics and Tools for Ecosecurity (DANTE)


Population and Infrastructure Data Needs Discussed at United Nations Side Event

March 7, 2019

Robert Chen

The United Nations Statistical Commission held its 50th Session at UN headquarters in New York City March 5-8, bringing together representatives of National Statistical Offices from around the world. On March 6, the side event, "Where We Live and Work: The POPGRID Data Collective," drew more than 70 participants to discuss recent progress and unfilled needs for consistent, high resolution population and infrastructure data. CIESIN director Robert Chen opened the session with a brief overview about POPGRID. This was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Claire Melamed, Executive Director of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data. Panelists included Lisa Bersales, National Statistician from the Philippine Statistics Authority; Homère Ngoma Ngoma from the Central Bureau of Census at the National Institute of Statistics of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and Pablo Salazar Canelos, Regional Population and Development Advisor from the Regional Office in Panama of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The morning event was organized by CIESIN, the Global Partnership, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UNSDSN) Thematic Research Network on Data and Statistics (TReNDS), and UNFPA. A blog post summarizing the event is available from TReNDS. The POPGRID initiative is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

See: Side Event Invitation
       United Nations Statistical Commission 50th Session


Recent Milestones and Transitions at CIESIN

February 28, 2019

CIESIN Deputy Director Marc Levy, left and senior research associate Sandra Baptista, right

Senior research associate Sandra Baptista was among 11 employees at the Lamont Campus of Columbia University who were celebrated for a 10 year anniversary of service to Columbia, at a special luncheon held February 21 at the restaurant Madeleine’s Petit Paris in Northvale, New Jersey. The occasion was hosted by Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory director Sean Solomon and CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy. Baptista is co-investigator with Levy of the project, Geo-referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID³), and co-principal investigator of the Research Translation Core of Columbia University′s Superfund Research Program on Health Effects and Geochemistry of Arsenic, which is supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). She began her tenure at CIESIN as an Earth Institute postdoctoral researcher, expanding on her doctoral research on demographic change, urbanization, vegetation dynamics, and environmental governance in southern Brazil, including the examination of vulnerabilities and adaptation to climate change in Brazil’s coastal city-regions. Her master’s and PhD degrees are in geography from Rutgers University, and she has a BA in environmental studies and Portuguese and Brazilian studies from Brown University.

Intern Matthew Heaton has been promoted to senior research staff assistant in CIESIN′s Geospatial Applications Division. As part of the GRID³ team, Heaton has been focused on integration and validation of health facility and settlement data in provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has also helped develop validation protocols, and a technical manual to guide upcoming field work. Heaton has a dual degree in geography and psychology from the State University of New York at Geneseo, with a background in multimedia and community mapping initiatives.

A new visitor from East China Normal University, Siduo Wu, will spend six months at CIESIN conducting research on scenarios for developing a world-class eco-island in a major coast urban setting, with an emphasis on waterfront resilience issues. She will be working with CIESIN director Robert Chen and associate director for science applications, Alex de Sherbinin. Wu has a bachelor’s degree from Fujian Normal University and an anticipated master’s degree from East China Normal University, both in physical geography.


Technical Workshops Focus on Improving Information Architecture for Sahel Data Collection

February 20, 2019

Greg Yetman, CIESIN associate director Geospatial Applications, participated recently in a series of technical workshops addressing data infrastructure issues, held in Niamey, Niger, under the aegis of SERVIR. SERVIR is a joint venture between NASA and the U.S. Agency for International Development to provide satellite-based earth monitoring data, geospatial information, and tools to help improve environmental decision-making in developing nations. For SERVIR, CIESIN is helping develop applications of data products and conducting technical training in data management. At the first workshop, held February 13, Yetman gave a presentation, “Information for Infrastructure: Lessons Learned.” The audience was comprised of representatives from the Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), in this case, Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Mali; CILSS is an organization which addresses desertification in the Sahel. Yetman also participated in a hands-on workshop February 18 by making technical recommendations for improving information architecture, based on workshop presentations. Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for Science Applications, presented remotely on February 13 on data repository certification processes and the ISC World Data System.


Updated Infant Mortality Rates Data Set Released

February 12, 2019

Comparison map of global subnational infant mortality rates, shows version 1 with data from the year 2000 postioned on top and version 2 with data from circa 2015 positioned on the bottom

An updated version of the Global Subnational Infant Mortality Rates (IMRv2) data set has been released by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, with more recent (circa 2015) and higher resolution input data. IMR data have been collected for 234 countries and territories, of which 143 include subnational units and 91, mostly smaller nations, include only national units. Compared to version one of the Global IMR data set, which was benchmarked to the year 2000, version two has 78 more countries with subnational data, and the average input unit size has declined. As a georeferenced global subnational dataset of infant mortality rates, IMRv2 has many potential applications that may be of interest to a wide user community in interdisciplinary studies of health, development, sustainability, and the environment, as well as policy making. The IMRv2 data set is part of the SEDAC Poverty Mapping collection, an extensive group of data sets related to various aspects of the geographic distribution of people living in poverty.

See: Global Subnational Infant Mortality Rates, v2 (2015)


Advisory Committee Convenes in Switzerland to Address Next Steps for Platform on Disaster Displacement

February 11, 2019

Photo of participants in the workshop of the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD) Advisory Committee Workshop held February 4–5

Susana Adamo, CIESIN research scientist, participated in the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD) Advisory Committee Workshop held February 4–5 in Bogis Bossey, Switzerland, near Geneva. This third meeting of the committee was focused on defining the next phase of the PDD, and involved participants sharing their latest work on disaster displacement. Adamo also took part in a meeting of the PDD′s Data and Knowledge Working Group (DKWG), where the work plan for the next three years was discussed.

Adamo has served on the PDD Advisory Committee with Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications, since 2016. The PDD continues the work of the Nansen Initiative, providing strategic guidance to the PDD chair and steering group, and helping implement PDD activities. Based in Geneva, the PDD is supported by the governments of France, Germany, and Switzerland; and by the MacArthur Foundation.

See: Advisory Committee Workshop
       Platform on Disaster Displacement/Follow-up to Nansen Initiative


Barbara Ryan Assumes Chair of SEDAC User Working Group; New Members Added

February 1, 2019

Barbara Ryan, former secretariat director of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and a Geospatial Hall of Fame awardee, is the new chair of the User Working Group (UWG) of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. With a multi-disciplinary academic background in geology, geography, and civil engineering, Ryan’s illustrious career spanned oversight of all US Geological Survey programs and policies associated with national mapping and remote sensing, including Landsat satellites; assignments in the U.S. Department of the Interior; and directing the space program at the World Meterological Organization, prior to her tenure at GEO, from which she is retired. She replaces Myron Gutmann, of the Institute of Behavioral Science at the University of Colorado. Two new members have also joined the UWG: Brian O'Neill, University of Denver; and Navin Ramankutty, University of British Columbia. O’Neill is a professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver and director of research at the School’s Pardee Center for International Futures. His research interests are in human-environment interactions, in particular the relationship between future societal development, greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change impacts. Ramankutty is an agricultural geographer and professor of global food security and sustainability at the University of British Columbia, studying changes in land use and agricultural practices, and the effect on global food production. Ramankutty has contributed multiple data sets to SEDAC, including the cropland and pastureland data sets of the Global Agricultural Lands data collection, and he was co-author with Erle Ellis of the Anthropogenic Biomes of the World data collection.

The UWG provides guidance to SEDAC on user needs and priorities, drawing on the diverse expertise and experience of its members.

See: SEDAC User Working Group


CIESIN IT Staff Learn About New Technologies to Enhance Geospatial Data Development

February 1, 2019

CIESIN information technology staff travelled to Washington DC recently to learn about the latest geographic information system (GIS) technologies and trends showcased by the software giant Esri at its annual gathering for developers, the 2019 Esri Developers Summit DC, held January 31 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. CIESIN associate director for information technology Sri Vinay, senior systems analyst and programmer Frank Pascuzzi, and senior media designer Al Pinto focused on innovative technologies and best practices for improving the organization’s capabilities for Esri’s ArcGIS, the GIS software used widely by today’s geospatial community. The overall goal is to improve the infrastructure that supports geospatial data development, mapping, and the implementation of geoprocessing services at CIESIN and its main program, the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center, including the development of web and mobile mapping applications.

See: The 2019 Esri Developer Summit


Earth Science Data Community Focuses on Value of Data and Information

January 18, 2019

Earth science data creators, system developers, stewards, disseminators, and users met in Bethesda, Maryland, for the Winter Meeting of the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) January 14–17. Beginning in 2019, the theme of the ESIP meetings, held twice a year, is “Increasing the Use and Value of Earth Science Data and Information.” Robert Downs, CIESIN senior digital archivist, participated in the meeting, representing the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Application Center (SEDAC), one of the original ESIP members. During the business meeting of the ESIP Assembly on January 16, Downs was re-elected as the Type 1 Representative on the ESIP Governance Committee. At the meeting, he presented the poster, “Assessing Data Curation at a Scientific Data Center,″ authored with Robert Chen, CIESIN director and SEDAC manager, and Alexander de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for Science Applications and SEDAC deputy manager. 


Project to Build Capacity in Population Mapping in Africa Expands Staff

January 7, 2019

The Geo-referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID³) project has recently brought on several new staff members at CIESIN. Jolynn Schmidt is a new data and program analyst who is helping to develop methodologies for the production and implementation of GRID3 core data layers and providing technical support to in-country implementing partners. With a background in Linux systems engineering, she has a masters in geographic information systems (GIS) from Pennsylvania State University and a BS in environmental studies from Western Michigan University. Anela Layugan is a senior research staff assistant supporting the quality control processes, data explorations, and data visualization tasks of GRID³ data collected and/or consolidated by in-country implementing partners. She earned a BA in environmental science (Earth Systems Science) and an MS in GIS under Clark University′s Accelerated Degree Program.

New interns include Matthew Heaton, who is full-time, and Eniko Kelly, Marchelle Lundquist, and Haokai Zhao, who are part-time. Heaton has a dual degree in geography and psychology from the State University of New York at Geneseo, with a background in multimedia and community mapping initiatives. Kelly is an MS student in the geoinformatics program at Hunter College, City University of New York, where she completed advanced training in the GIS Certificate Program. She has a combined BS and MS in geological engineering and applied geo-sciences from the University of Bucharest, Romania, and the University of Leoben, Austria. Lundquist is a senior at Columbia College, majoring in sustainable development. Zhao is an MS student at Columbia's Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering. He has a BS in electrical engineering and automation from Tongji University and a minor certificate in law from Fudan University, both located in Shanghai, China. The interns are focused on data collection and cleaning, data quality assessment, and creating and curating maps.

The GRID³ project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID), aims to increase developing country capability for mapping population distribution as a way of ensuring that everyone, especially the most vulnerable, are counted. Key partners are Flowminder/WorldPop and UNFPA-United Nations Population Fund.