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North America Assessment Identifies Emerging Areas of Environmental Concern

May 25, 2016

Report cover of GEO-6 Regional Assessment for North America

A new report on regional environmental trends released May 20 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recognizes overall progress in policy-driven environmental conditions in North America, but emphasizes the urgency of attending to key emerging areas of concern: accelerated climate change impacts, water security issues, and land fragmentation/threats to biodiversity. On the positive side, air quality continues to improve, land resources are appear in good condition in general, and energy efficiency, particularly use of solar power, is improving. However, the report identifies new risks to human wellbeing and ecosystems in the region, for example:

—Threats to biodiversity from urban encroachment and climate change impacts, including loss of species habitat (especially birds) and risk of extinction to widespread species;

—Land fragmentation from wildfires, pest outbreaks, and land management, especially in relationship to increased conversion of forest to cropland; and

—Impacts of climate change such as drought, extreme events like Hurricane Sandy, and the environmental consequences of drastic changes to the Arctic.

The report was one of six regional assessments produced as part of the UNEP Sixth Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-6). CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy co-chaired the North America Assessment, and was a coordinating lead author of several chapters. Contributing authors were program manager Minal Patel, senior research associate Sandra Baptista, and staff associate Emilie Schnarr. Graphics and data analytics support was provided by senior research associate Paola Kim-Blanco, geographic information specialist Tricia Chai-Onn, senior research associate Valentina Mara, and senior research staff assistant Alyssa Fico.

See: GEO-6 Regional Assessment for North America (76 MB PDF)
       Press release/download all GEO-6 assessments
       Regional Factsheet for North America

Hudson River Flood Mapping Tool Featured in Westchester

May 16, 2016

An interactive mapping tool that enables users to explore scenarios of flooding and inundation in New York’s Hudson Valley was the subject of a presentation by CIESIN geographic information systems (GIS) programmer Kytt MacManus at the 2016 meeting of the Westchester County GIS User group May 12 in Rye, New York. Version 1 of the Hudson River Flooding Decision Support System mapping tool was developed by CIESIN and colleagues from Stevens Institute of Technology to inform community planners, public officials, resource managers, and others looking to assess the risks of flooding and sea level rise. The project is sponsored by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). In addition to demonstrating the tool, MacManus described plans for a new CIESIN project funded by NYSERDA, Assessment of Potential Flood Impacts to Buildings in the Hudson Valley/Long Island Regions. The meeting, which was sponsored by Westchester County Geographic Information Systems and hosted by the State University of New York-Purchase, brought together approximately 75 GIS experts and users from both public and private organizations in Westchester and surrounding areas.

See: Presentation abstract

Environmental Change and Migration Explored at World Bank Workshop

May 14, 2016

Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for science applications, joined demographers, geographers, economists, and other researchers in a workshop on environment and migration issues sponsored by the Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD), held at World Bank headquarters in Washington DC May 9–10. He presented the methodology used to develop the data set, Global Estimated Net Migration Grids By Decade, v1 (1970 – 2000), available from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center, and discussed approaches to integrating remote sensing and socioeconomic data in climate vulnerability mapping. The workshop explored the data sources and methods available to assess the role of environmental change in migration and in particular the number of people who may have migrated primarily or partially as the result of environmental extremes or other environmental factors.

See: KNOMAD Meeting Agenda

Recent Transitions at CIESIN

May 14, 2016

Two CIESIN staff members were honored at a luncheon recognizing Columbia University employees for ten years of service. The May 10 luncheon was hosted by Sean Solomon, director of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), Erica Allis, associate director of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), and Robert Chen, director of CIESIN, at Confetti restaurant in Piermont, New York. Linda Pagliaroli joined CIESIN in September 2005 as administrative assistant, and has served as grants coordinator since 2008, supporting proposal development and submission. Elisabeth Sydor was hired as Web content manager in October that year and became communications coordinator in 2008, responsible for CIESIN print, online, and multimedia outreach.

Several CIESIN staff have recently received promotions. In the data center services group, Merlie Hansen was promoted to senior staff associate, recognizing her increased responsibilities with respect to CIESIN′s world class digital data and metadata resources. Hansen has a BS in agricultural education from University of Southeastern Philippines and a MS in agricultural systems from Asian Institute of Technology. Sydor, who has a BA in English and history from Kalamazoo College and an MA in oral history from Columbia, was promoted to administrative grade 11, recognizing her increased responsibilities and CIESIN′s evolving communication needs.

In the geospatial applications division, Olena Borkovska, Jane Mills, and John Squires have become senior research staff assistants. Borkovska has a BA in environmental policy and management from Hunter College, City University of New York; Mills has a BA in applied mathematics from Barnard and a minor in environmental science; and Squires received his BA in sustainable development from Columbia. All three joined CIESIN in 2013 and contribute to a diverse set of geospatial data development and application projects.

Experts Gather in Geneva to Plan Remote Sensing Applications

May 13, 2016

CIESIN director Robert Chen traveled to Geneva May 2–6 for a meeting organized by the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and the conference, “GIS for a Sustainable World,” sponsored by Esri. GEO held its annual Work Programme Symposium, aimed at furthering its 2016 activities and planning its 2017–19 work programme. Chen reported on activities of the GEO Data Sharing Working Group (DSWG), which he co-chairs, and gave a presentation on data related to human settlements, infrastructure, and population in support of a proposed GEO Human Planet Initiative. He also participated in planning a GEO initiative on Earth Observations in service of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. While in Geneva, Chen gave a presentation, “Integrating Population and Infrastructure Data in Support of Climate Services,” in the session, “Climate Services and the SDGs″ at the Esri conference May 4. He then co-chaired a working meeting of the GEO DSWG May 5.

Greg Yetman, associate director for Geospatial Applications, also traveled to Geneva to participate in an expert meeting on the use of space technologies for environmental monitoring and humanitarian affairs, organized by the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) May 11–13. He gave a presentation, “Integrating Sensor and Socioeconomic Data,″ highlighting a range of geospatial data sets developed by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) that may be useful in disaster management and environmental applications. He also attended the UNOOSA/GEO Discovery Day May 13 at the World Meteorological Organization, supported by DigitalGlobe.

The World′s Shared River Basins Are Under Stress

May 5, 2016

Map of transboundary economic dependence on water resources

International river basins are under growing pressure from water stress related to human activities, impoundments, poor governance, and climate change, a new report finds. The report, Transboundary River Basins: Status and Trends, is an outcome of the Global Environment Facility Transboundary Waters Assessment Programme, led by the UNEP-DHI Center on Waste and Environment, CIESIN, and other partners. The report documents a baseline assessment of all transboundary water resources on Earth, the most comprehensive analysis of its kind to date. A team from CIESIN led by Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for Science Applications, and Valentina Mara, senior research associate, authored the chapter on socioeconomic indicators, calculating three indicators of risk: economic dependence on water resources; societal well-being levels; and the risk of climate-related hazards. CIESIN geographic information specialist Malanding Jaiteh and deputy director Marc Levy were contributing authors. Findings include that climate-related risk is linked to high economic dependence on transboundary water resources and low well-being; and well-being is linked to governance capacity to address climate-related disasters. In addition to the Final Technical Report and the Summary for Policy Makers, an interactive results portal provides access to global maps of assessment results and indicator metadata sheets. All assessment results, analyses, and supplementary data may be freely downloaded.

See: TWAP River Basins Report and supplementary publications
       "Report Assesses Risks to World’s Shared River Basins" (blog)

Bogotá Meetings Address Sustainable Development Data Needs

May 3, 2016

Several CIESIN staff members participated in a series of meetings organized by the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data in Bogotá, Colombia, April 27–30. Hosted by Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística (DANE), the national administrative department of statistics, with the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce and Cepei, the meetings highlighted case studies and the identification of new and innovative methods for data analysis, continued monitoring, and data-driven decision making related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Marc Levy, CIESIN deputy director, gave a presentation April 27, “Smart Strategies for Integrating Subnational Data into SDG Information Systems.” While in Bogotá, Levy and CIESIN project manager Minal Patel also met with representatives from DANE, as part of the initiative, “New Data Infrastructures for Sustainable Development: Technical Tools for National Policy Makers,” a project of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). The project's goal is to produce a “living manual” that illustrates how countries can harness recent developments in sustainability science, data technologies, and decision-support methodologies to design information systems that effectively support progress toward the SDGs.

Greg Yetman, CIESIN associate director for Geospatial Applications, participated in a working group meeting on SDG data roadmaps/ecosystems April 29–30. The working group is developing a strategic work plan for the Global Partnership, a multi-stakeholder network of more than 100 members working to improve the use of data for sustainable development. CIESIN and SDSN are anchor partners in the Global Partnership.

“Big Data” for Social Science Highlighted in Mexico City

April 29, 2016

photos of panelists at The Big Data Revolution in the Social Sciences

CIESIN research scientist Susana Adamo gave a presentation on “Integrating Traditional and Big Data in the Social Sciences: Challenges and Possibilities″ April 29 at the conference, La Revolución Big Data en Estudios Sociales (“The Big Data Revolution in the Social Sciences″) in Mexico City. The conference sought to raise awareness of the importance of “big data” for the social science community, its use in exploring questions pertinent to research in Mexico, and its impact on policy making. The 1,700 registrants included both prominent researchers who shared their research agendas and policymakers who with the academic community helped to identify new research niches using big data. The conference, which was streamed live with presentations in both Spanish and English, was jointly organized by the World Bank and El Colegio de Mexico. The video of the conference is available on YouTube.

See: "The Big Data Revolution in the Social Sciences" video in Spanish (Adamo presentation begins at about 3:32)
       Adamo PPT presentation (in Spanish)

Earth Day Fair Features Hands-on Science Activities at St. Thomas Aquinas College

April 25, 2016

CIESIN director Robert Chen, senior research associate Sandra Baptista, and senior research staff assistant Alyssa Fico joined other scientists and students from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) and St. Thomas Aquinas College (STAC) at an Earth Day fair April 22 at the STAC campus in Sparkill, New York. The event, which drew both K–12 students and STAC undergraduates, offered a range of hands-on demonstrations and other activities focused on environmental science and sustainability. CIESIN′s table on interactive mapping of regional environment and hazards featured the new HazPop mobile app (available from the Apple iTunes store) as well as the National Priorities List Superfund Footprint Mapper.

See: STAC Earth Day Fair Announcement

United Nations General Assembly Debates Sustainable Development Implementation

April 22, 2016

The prompt and inclusive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a major priority of the 70th President of the United Nations General Assembly, H.E. Mogens Lykketoft. The High-Level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was held at UN Headquarters April 21 to increase international awareness and political momentum related to the so-called global goals. Earth Institute director Jeffrey Sachs participated in a moderated dialogue during the opening ceremony of the debate, and he and CIESIN director Robert Chen were among the participants in the High-Level Lunch on Partnerships for SDG Implementation. Chen then participated as a discussant in the panel, “Harnessing the Data Revolution for SDGs: Opportunities and Challenges,″ as part of “Technology and Data for the SDGs,” the second of two interactive discussions. The event was broadcast live on UN Web TV and summarized in a briefing note by the Earth Negotiations Bulletin.

Settlement Patterns in Brazil's Legal Amazonia Examined

April 21, 2016

CIESIN visiting associate professor Douglas Sathler gave a lunchtime talk April 21, presenting an exploratory analysis of the socioeconomic, demographic, and environmental patterns of municipalities in the “deforestation arc” of the Legal Amazonia in Brazil. In collaboration with CIESIN research scientist Susana Adamo and Everton M. Lima of Unicamp in Brazil, Sathler aims to support the design of policies for local sustainable development in these municipalities for the preservation and regeneration of the forest.

Sathler is a professor with the Institute of Humanities at Brazil’s Universidade Federal dos Vales do Jequitinhonha e Mucuri (UFVJM), Diamantina, Minas Gerais. He coordinates the network Population, Space, and Environment, of the Brazilian Association of Population Studies, and is chief editor of Revista Espinhaço, a journal of geography and geosciences. His sabbatical at CIESIN is supported by CAPES (Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel), a public foundation within the Brazil Ministry of Higher Education.

Demographer Deborah Balk Awarded Carnegie Fellowship

April 20, 2016

Former CIESIN research scientist Deborah Balk has been named a recipient of the prestigious 2016 Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, one of 33 awardees among nearly 200 nominations. Now a professor at the Baruch School of Public Affairs, City University of New York (CUNY), Balk is also associate director of the CUNY Institute of Demographic Research. Her award will fund research on climate-related vulnerability in the 21st century and the related roles of urbanization and migration. Balk and her team continue to use georeferenced population and urbanization data from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, which she helped develop while lead project scientist for SEDAC. She is currently a member of the SEDAC User Working Group.

See: Announcement of Deborah Balk's Carnegie Award

Adaptation to Sea-Level Rise in India Addressed in Miami Lecture

April 13, 2016

Saleem Khan, Fulbright-Nehru Postdoctoral Fellow at CIESIN, delivered the lecture, “Adaptation to Sea-level Rise in Tamil Nadu, India: Implications for Florida,” April 8 at Florida International University in Miami. Khan discussed projections of sea-level rise due to climate change, predicted impacts, and adaptation planning for Tamil Nadu, one of India's 29 states located on the southern coast of India. Drawing on lessons learned from Tamil Nadu, he emphasized the necessity of ecosystem- and community-based adaptation to sea-level rise and the implications for Miami. While at the university Khan also visited with faculty of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Department of Economics (Environmental Economics). His visit was supported by the Fulbright Outreach Lecturing Fund (OLF) Program.

Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation in India Focus of Journal Special Section

April 12, 2016

A Special Section, “Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation,″ appears in the April issue of Current Science. Pinki Mondal, CIESIN senior research associate, serves as guest editor together with Prof. Harini Nagendra of Azim Premji University and Prof. Ruth DeFries, who has just been named a University Professor at Columbia together with Earth Institute director Jeffrey Sachs. The eight papers in the Special Section cover a range of topics related to crop and climate variability, livelihood, and adaptation planning at diverse spatial scales in different Indian eco-regions. The Special Section is an outcome of an Indo-US bilateral workshop held in Bengaluru, India in 2014, funded through the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF), for which Mondal was the US principal investigator.

See: Preface to “Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation”—Special Section, Current Science, vol. 110, No. 7, April 2016

Spring Brings Science Data Management to the Fore

April 11, 2016

CIESIN staff members participated in a range of technical meetings in the U.S. and Japan March 30–April 8, addressing many different aspects of science data management. The Journal of Map & Geography Libraries also released the third in a series of special issues on geospatial data management, curation, and preservation, guest edited by Robert Downs, senior digital archivist.

Director Robert Chen attended the annual meeting of the Science Advisory Board of the Climate Change Science Institute (CCSI) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory March 30–31 in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, beginning his second three-year term as a member of the Board. The Board reviewed recent progress in developing the CCSI, including efforts to improve integrated data management across climate and ecological domains and between modeling and observational activities.

Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for Science Applications, traveled to Tokyo April 4–6 for a meeting of the Scientific Committee of the International Council for Science World Data System (ICSU-WDS). The Committee, which serves as the ICSU-WDS governing body, reviewed a range of WDS issues, including plans for the WDS Forum and International Data Week in Denver, Colorado, in September 2016.

Robert Downs participated in two technical meetings on the management and interoperability of scientific data, held in College Park and Greenbelt, Maryland, April 4–8. The first meeting April 4–6, organized by the Consultative Committee on Space Data Systems (CCSDS), focused on the development of new standards and reviews of previously published standards. Downs gave a presentation on “Evaluating the Trustworthiness of a Scientific Data Center to Inform Continuous Improvement,” co-authored with Chen. The second meeting, organized by NASA Earth Science Data Systems Working Groups (ESDSWG) April 6–8, covered different topics on earth science data interoperability. Downs presented the poster, “The Data Paper: An Opportunity to Improve Data Discovery, Exploration, and Use,″ and with members of the ESDSWG Data Quality team he co-presented three other posters. He also co-presented the ESDSWG-Data-Recipe 2015 Report: Recommendations to Create Data Recipes.

Susana Adamo, research scientist, participated in the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) Second Expert Group Meeting on the forthcoming World Economic and Social Survey (WESS) 2016 in New York City April 7–8, where she reviewed and commented on the section on access and use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) data and environment/climate change statistics.

Chen also attended a meeting of the Board of Directors of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) April 7–8 in Boulder. At the meeting, the Board transferred control of NEON, Inc., the non-profit consortium managing NEON's construction, to Battelle. Chen then joined the other directors in resigning from the Board.

As part of the special issue of Journal of Map & Geography Libraries, Robert Downs authored the editorial, “Reflections on the Management, Curation, and Preservation of Geospatial Data.” Downs served as guest editor of this issue, as well as the two previous special issues in the series.

Hazard Mapping Tools Demonstrated at Columbia Data Science Event

April 7, 2016

photo of CIESIN development team at Data Science Day @Columbia

CIESIN’s new Hazards Mapper and related iOS app, the Hazards and Population Mapper (HazPop), were demonstrated at the Data Science Day @ Columbia event April 6 at Lerner Hall on the Columbia University Morningside campus. Staffing CIESIN’s exhibit booth were members of the development team, including associate director for Information Technology Sri Vinay, developers Frank Pascuzzi and Al Pinto, and associate director for Geospatial Applications Greg Yetman, along with CIESIN director Robert Chen. The booth included a poster co-authored by the team with GIS programmer Kytt MacManus, “Visualizing Population Exposure to Hazards.” Senior research associate Paola Kim-Blanco also presented a poster on the validation of intercity roads data using crowd-sourcing methods. The hazard mapping tools enable users to visualize recent data on earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires, and other hazards in relationship to population, settlements, and major infrastructure such as dams and power plants. The Hazards Mapper is available through the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, and the initial version of the HazPop app may be downloaded through Apple iTunes. The event, sponsored by Columbia's Data Science Institute, drew more than 600 attendees from both the public and private sectors.

Grand Challenges Regarding Food Security Data Highlighted

April 6, 2016

Marc Levy, CIESIN deputy director, gave a lightning talk April 5 at a Food Security Symposium organized by the World Wide Human Geography Data (WWHGD) Working Group and hosted by the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, Virginia. His talk highlighted three grand challenges regarding food security data related to population and food security mapping and modeling. His presentation and an audio file of the panel discussion are available through the WWHGD Web site (free registration required).

New Mobile App Supports Hazard Vulnerability Assessment

March 31, 2016

Screenshot of iTunes description page for HazPop mobile app

A new mobile application, the Hazards and Population Mapper (HazPop), enables users to display recent data on hazards such as earthquakes and tornados in relationship to population, major infrastructure, and satellite imagery. The initial version of HazPop is now available for mobile phones and tablets running Apple′s iOS9 operating system via the iTunes store. HazPop draws on three data sets available from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC)—Gridded Population of the World v3, Nuclear Power Plants Locations v1, and Global Reservoirs and Dams v1.1—along with NASA real-time active fire and aerosol optical depth (AOD) data, earthquake alerts from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and flood and tornado alerts for the US from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Users can visualize the location of active fires over the past 48 hours, earthquake alerts over the past seven days, and yesterday′s air pollution data measured from space. A key feature of the app is the ability to obtain an estimate of the total population in proximity to the user′s current location or to a recent hazard event or other point of interest.

HazPop is designed for use by disaster risk managers, humanitarian response organizations, public health professionals, journalists, and others needing a quick assessment of the population potentially exposed to a major hazard event or developing emergency. It is not intended to support in-depth risk assessment or estimation of actual disaster losses. The initial version has been released to enable further testing of the app and associated data services by a broad user community. User feedback on HazPop is welcome at

Population Researchers Convene at Annual Meeting in Washington, DC

March 30, 2016

CIESIN research scientist Susana Adamo, visiting research scientist Douglas Sathler, and user services manager Joe Schumacher attended the 2016 annual meeting of the Population Association of America (PAA) March 30–April 2 in Washington, DC. Adamo presented a paper co-authored with research associate Paola Kim-Blanco on migrants in urban areas of developing countries and their exposure to environmental  hazards. Sathler presented a poster on deforestation and local development in the Brazilian Legal Amazonia, co-authored with Adamo and Everton Lima of the University of Campinas. Schumacher staffed an exhibit booth at the meeting, showcasing the new version of the Gridded Population of the World data set and other georeferenced population data products and services available through the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. Each year the PAA meeting brings together more than 2,000 scientists and other professionals engaged in research on population issues.

See: 2016 Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America

Geographers from China Visit CIESIN to Explore Collaboration

March 28, 2016

Photo of visiting delegation from GSNRR, with CIESIN associate director Alex de Sherbinin, second from right

A delegation from the Center for Regional Agriculture and Rural Development (CRARD) of the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research (IGSNRR) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing visited CIESIN on Monday, March 28. Professor Liu Yansui, director of CRARD, gave a presentation at the Lamont campus on China’s urbanization and the transformation of rural areas, with a brief second presentation by his colleague, deputy director Long Hualou, deputy director. CRARD and CIESIN have begun exploring potential areas of collaboration on topics such as poverty mapping, resource management, and climate vulnerability mapping. Former CIESIN visitor Yang Yuanyuan (Sophia), who is now a research assistant at CRARD, was a member of the delegation.

Environmental Assessment for North America To Be Released in May

March 25, 2016

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) convened a meeting at its Washington, DC, office March 21–22 to review the draft North America Regional Assessment, part of the UNEP Sixth Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-6). The North America Assessment, produced by a team of more than 30 leading environmental experts, takes stock of the current state of the region′s environment and evaluates a range of promising options for tackling the most pressing priorities facing the region. CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy, who co-chairs the assessment, participated in the meeting, which also involved officials from the US Department of State and from Environment and Climate Change Canada, members of the GEO-6 High-Level Intergovernmental and Stakeholder Advisory Group (HLG) and the GEO-6 Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP), and several Coordinating Lead Authors of the assessment. Outcomes of the meeting included approval of the draft assessment, an initial draft of assessment key messages, and agreement on revisions for the final version and its delivery at the second United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya in May 2016. CIESIN is one of the GEO-6 Partner Centers of Excellence.

See: UNEP Sixth Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-6)

Recent CIESIN Departures and Arrivals

March 25, 2016

Recent staff changes at CIESIN include the departure of Erin Doxsey-Whitfield, geographic information specialist, to pursue other opportunities in Edmonton, Alberta. Doxsey-Whitfield joined CIESIN's Geospatial Applications Division in May 2012. She was a key member of the team for version four of the Gridded Population of the World data collection, for which she coordinated much of the data acquisition and contributed extensively to data processing and outreach. She also supported a variety of projects related to population geography, flood mapping, and social vulnerability to hazards.

Minal Patel has joined CIESIN's Science Applications Division, working primarily with deputy director Marc Levy on the UNEP Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6) North American Assessment and on a solutions initiative of the UN Sustainable Development Solution Network (SDSN) Thematic Network on Data for Sustainable Development. For GEO-6 Patel is managing efforts to produce an assessment of environmental conditions and policy innovations in the U.S. and Canada. For the SDSN Thematic Network she is serving as project manager for a "solutions initiative" to develop a “living manual” on how countries can harness recent developments in sustainability science, data technologies, and decision-support methodologies to design information systems that most effectively support progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals. Patel has a master of science in sustainability management from Columbia University and a bachelor of commerce with a focus on information systems. Formerly, she worked as senior advisor for the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, and has more than ten years of experience in various roles in program management, finance, business strategy, and process improvement for the federal government of Canada.

Through the Alliance program, an academic joint-venture between Columbia and the École Polytechnique (EP), Sciences Po, and Panthéon-Sorbonne University, Wei Wang, an international student at EP in Paris, has arrived at CIESIN for a four-month master’s internship. Under the guidance of information scientist Xiaoshi Xing, he is working on model optimization and geospatial analysis of estimates of energy and emissions from power plants. Wang is currently majoring in environmental science at EP and holds a bachelor’s in aircraft design and engineering from Harbin Institute of Technology in China. CIESIN has hosted Alliance Program interns since 2008.

Assessing User Satisfaction Can Be Valuable to Scientific Data Centers

March 24, 2016

Periodic surveys of users can be a valuable and cost effective way to improve the operations of scientific data centers. In a blog post just released by the International Council for Science (ICSU) World Data System (WDS), Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for science applications and a member of the WDS Scientific Committee, describes the utility of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey for the NASA Distributed Active Archive Centers. He describes how ACSI scores and free text responses by users help the DAACs to identify problems and issues and take steps to improve user satisfaction. The ACSI also serves as an important performance metric for NASA, providing a way to compare how the DAACs are performing in comparison with other public and private sector service providers. Based on his experience as deputy manager of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, de Sherbinin argues that all data centers in the WDS could benefit from conducting periodic user surveys, and that the ACSI serves as a useful model.

See: "Surveying User Satisfaction: The NASA DAAC Experience" (blog)
       American Customer Satisfaction Index

Modeling Human Mobility for Disaster Management

March 22, 2016

Modeling human mobility after medium- to large-size hazard events was the subject of a lunchtime talk by Takahiro Yabe March 11 at Columbia University′s Lamont Campus. A master’s student at the University of Tokyo, Yabe is developing a methodology that uses mobile-phone data, such as geo-location information from cell phone service providers and Yahoo! smartphone apps, to evaluate models of human behavior in emergency situations following a major hazard event. The methodology was piloted for Tokyo following the East Japan Earthquake of 2011. Work is beginning on how to use location information to tailor early warning messages based on location.

“Messy” Urbanization in South Asia Revealed in World Bank Report

March 15, 2016

The World Bank recently released the report, Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia: Managing Spatial Transformation for Prosperity and Livability, which notes that the region has experienced hidden “messy” urbanization—widespread slums and urban sprawl—leading to adverse impacts on basic services, housing, environment, and economic development. A CIESIN team led by deputy director Marc Levy conducted a background analysis for the report in 2013, focusing on urbanization patterns based on nighttime lights and other spatial data. The report recommends a range of reforms to make the region′s cities more prosperous and livable.

See: Report: Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia (5.2MB PDF)

UN Events Focus on Sustainable Development Indicators

March 15, 2016

A series of New York City meetings March 5–14 held in conjunction with the 47th session of the United Nations Statistical Commission addressed the development and implementation of indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the international community in September 2015. On March 5, CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy participated in a multi-stakeholder workshop, “Data Revolution Roadmaps for Sustainable Development,″ hosted by the United Nations Foundation and organized by the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data. He gave a flash presentation on demand-driven, cost-effective integrated information systems in a session, “Mapping Existing Tools to Identified Needs,″ based on a project he is leading under the auspices of the Thematic Network on Sustainable Development Data of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).

On March 7, CIESIN director Robert Chen was one of four invited panelists discussing the topic of partnerships, innovative approaches, and solutions from data experts and data producers, at the “High-Level Forum on Official Statistics: Dialogue toward the UN World Data Forum,” a side event held at United Nations headquarters. A video of the Forum is available online through UN WebTV. Air quality data from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) were also featured in a presentation by Lawrence Friedl, director of the NASA Applied Sciences Program, at an earlier side event, “Geospatial Information and Earth Observations Supporting Official Statistics in Monitoring the SDGs.″

After the adoption of the SDG indicator framework by the Statistical Commission on March 11, the SDSN Thematic Network on Sustainable Development Data met at Columbia University March 13–14. The meeting focused on the role of the Thematic Network in bringing academic expertise and perspectives into multi-stakeholder discussions about the implementation of the SDG indicator framework. Robert Chen co-chairs the Thematic Network together with Shaida Baidee of Open Data Watch and Enrico Giovannini of the University of Rome Tor Vergata.

See: “Partnerships, innovative approaches, and solutions from data experts and data producers″ panel (video—second panel with Robert Chen begins at about 1:31)
       Presentation by Lawrence Friedl (video—Lawrence Friedl’s 13-minute talk begins at about 1:21:30)

Value of Geospatial Information in Decision Making Examined at Paris Workshop

March 11, 2016

The workshop, “Data to Decisions: Valuing the Societal Benefit of Geospatial Information,” was organized by the GEOValue community, in collaboration with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), NASA, and the U.S. Geological Survey, in Paris March 10–11. The workshop sought to define case studies and use cases that assess value by tracing the information flow end-to-end from geospatial data acquisition system to decisions by end users related to managing disasters and ecosystems. CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert Downs presented a poster paper on spatial information for disaster planning and the reinsurance industry, co-authored with associate director for geospatial applications Greg Yetman, research staff assistant John Squires, and director Robert Chen. Downs also attended a pre-workshop tutorial March 9 on cost-benefit analysis, sponsored by the workshop organizers and the Association of European Operational Research Societies (EURO). GEOValue is an international group concerned with the value and socioeconomic impacts of geospatial information for decision making.

See: Data to Decisions Workshop

Experts Gather to Explore Equitable Pathways to "The World in 2050”

March 10, 2016

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy joined Earth Institute director Jeffrey Sachs and some 50 other representatives of research institutes from around the world in Laxenburg, Austria, March 7–9 for the second annual workshop of the project, “The World in 2050” (TWI2050).  The workshop included the kick-off of the technical phase of the TWI2050 project, which was launched in March 2015 by International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), the Stockholm Resilience Center (SRC) and the Earth Institute at Columbia University. The project aims to develop equitable pathways to sustainable development within safe planetary boundaries in order to build human and environmental resilience to global change.

See: “The World in 2050”: Second Workshop

Environment, Peace, and Security Certificate Program Announces Fellowship Support

March 4, 2016

The new Environment, Peace, and Security Certificate Program at the Columbia University School of Professional Studies is now accepting applications for fellowship funding for the academic year 2016–2017. A limited number of fellowships will be awarded to students enrolling in the certificate program, with selection based on academic and professional merit. The average fellowship award is expected to be $11,532. The application deadline is March 15, 2016.

The certificate program is aimed at practitioners involved in providing environment-security assessments or designing programs to manage such risks, especially those who work at the United Nations or in diplomatic missions, global finance organizations, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, consulting companies, emerging market investment firms, or public relations agencies. The program may be completed in two terms of part-time study. CIESIN has collaborated with the Master of Science in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Program and other faculty and centers in the Earth Institute to develop the certificate program.

The mission of Columbia's School of Professional Studies (formerly the School of Continuing Education) is to provide rigorous educational offerings, informed by rapidly evolving global market needs, that support the academic and professional demands of individuals and organizations worldwide. The school offers 14 professional master′s degrees as well as a range of other postbaccalaureate, high school, and summer programs to about 6,000 students each year.

See: Environment, Peace and Security Certification of Professional Achievement

Experts Gather to Refine Indicators of Land Degradation

February 26, 2016

Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for science applications and deputy manager of SEDAC, participated in an expert meeting, Land-Based Indicators for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 15.3, in Washington, DC, February 24–26. The meeting was convened by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and co-hosted by the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel of the Global Environment Facility (GEF-STAP). Participants focused on refining a proposed indicator of land degradation that will be presented at the forthcoming session of the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) in Mexico City. This indicator would be complemented by additional data and indicators on land use/cover change, change in land productivity, and change in above- and below-ground carbon, that could also support reporting processes for the UNCCD, CBD, and GEF.

See: Life on Land: The Challenge of Halting and Reversing Land Degradation

Improving Mali’s Climate Services: Status and Next Steps

February 24, 2016

CIESIN associate research scientist Sylwia Trzaska traveled to Bamako, Mali, February 22–23 with Tufa Dinku and Alessandra Giannini, research scientists with the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, to meet with staff from Mali-Meteo, the country’s meterological service. Participants in the meeting included local representatives of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and partners from development projects in Mali that use climate information. The meeting reviewed progress to date, most notably new data sets, tools, and methods implemented at Mali-Meteo; presented project achievements; and discussed next steps. Trzaska described methods for seasonal forecasting of rainfall and the results of the verification of the seasonal forecasts carried out by Mali-Meteo since 1998. The meeting was organized as part of the USAID-funded project, Building Mali-Météo’s Capacity to Deliver Improved Climate Services.

CIESIN and Facebook Begin Collaboration on More Detailed Population Mapping

February 22, 2016

CIESIN has begun working with Facebook’s initiative to conduct systematic validation and quality assessment of high-resolution gridded population data, as announced by Facebook at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona February 22. Last year, Facebook launched a project to utilize high-resolution (50-centimeter) remote sensing imagery in combination with the Gridded Population of the World version 4 (GPWv4) data set, to produce a 5-meter population map in order to better understand population and settlement patterns in rural areas of the developing world. Their main objective is to optimize strategies for extending Internet to these populations as part of the organization’s larger goal to bring connectivity to the four billion people who are not yet online. Recognizing the potential value of these data for a wide range of applications, Facebook decided to work with CIESIN to assess and improve the quality of the data. Facebook plans to make the new population distribution data for more than 20 developing countries openly available by summer 2016 and to continue expanding the data’s coverage to additional countries.

See: "Working with Facebook" (blog)

Mapping Climate Vulnerability: Annapolis Workshop Develops Best Practices

February 19, 2016

A workshop on climate vulnerability and risk mapping and identifying best practices was held February 16 at the National Socio-Ecological Synthesis Center (SESYNC) in Annapolis, Maryland. Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for science applications, organized the workshop, in which twelve scientists and two individuals from decision making communities worked together over three days to design a protocol for assessing existing studies, including outputs of method (conceptual models, data, and spatial analysis techniques) and mapping (clarity of communication and adherence to cartographic convention). The goal was to develop best practice guidelines for use in climate vulnerability and risk mapping. Such mapping is increasingly used for targeting adaptation programs and for local planning. Saleem Khan, visiting Fulbright-Nehru Fellow at CIESIN, was one of the participants in the workshop. SESYNC is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation.


Approaches to Integrating OpenStreetMap and Global Roads Data Examined

February 12, 2016

Bogdan-Mihai Cîrlugea giving a presentation of his work on validating OpenStreetMap data

A presentation, “Validation of OpenStreetMap for Integration into the gROADS v1,” was given by visiting staff associate Bogdan-Mihai Cîrlugea at the Lamont campus in Palisades, New York, February 11 at the conclusion of his five-month visit to CIESIN. Launched in 2004, OpenStreetMap (OSM) is the largest collaborative project to date to create free and editable cartographic data of the world. Cîrlugea’s work advances understanding about OSM's data structures and the potential advantages and limitations of using the OSM roads data set in geospatial research and applications. The work is the basis of Cîrlugea’s thesis for his master’s degree in environmental engineering, with a specialization in environmental modeling and monitoring, from l’École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausannne (EPFL) in Switzerland. It is also a contribution to the work of an international task group of the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) of the International Council for Science, which is developing a digital, publicly-available database of intercity roads, the Global Roads Open Access Data Set (gROADS). The current version of gROADS is available via the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN.

See: Presentation on Validating OSM Data (3.27MB PDF)

Webinar Highlights Efforts to Validate OpenStreetMap Data

February 11, 2016

CIESIN senior research associate Paola Kim-Blanco was one of two presenters in the February 10 webinar, “Crowdsourcing Data and Quality Control—The Experience of OpenStreetMap,” sponsored by the World Data System (WDS) of the International Council for Science (ICSU). Co-presenter Mikel Maron of the OpenStreet Map Foundation, Humanitarian OSM Team, and Mapbox described the evolution of approaches to providing guidance to members and of applying quality assurance/quality control methods to the data. Kim-Blanco summarized the literature on independent validation of the road and street data developed by more than 2.3 million registered OpenStreetMap (OSM) users, and reported on CIESIN’s efforts to validate intercity roads data in low-income countries. Launched in 2004, OSM is the largest crowd-sourced spatial data effort to date, having mapped more than 34 million kilometers of roads throughout the world. The Webinar was the eighth in a series organized by the WDS. The NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN is a regular member of the WDS.

See: “Crowdsourcing Data and Quality Control—The Experience of OpenStreetMap” (Webinar)

Coastal Climate Vulnerability Examined in Sierra Leone and Côte d'Ivoire

February 8, 2016

Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for Science Applications at CIESIN, stands by a pile of mangrove wood harvested for smoking fish.

Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for science applications, and Sylwia Trzaska, associate research scientist, recently conducted field scoping missions in Sierra Leone and Côte d′Ivoire to plan coastal climate vulnerability assessments. The trip included meetings with government agencies and potential partners in both countries, as well as field visits to mangrove-dependent communities in the coastal zone. The missions were undertaken as part of the West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WA-BiCC) project, a five-year effort funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development to improve conservation and climate-resilient, low-emission growth across West Africa. CIESIN is part of an implementing team led by Tetra Tech/ARD, contributing to project components focused on improving forest conservation and building coastal climate resilience.

See: West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WA-BiCC)

Google Earth Engine Developers Hosted by CIESIN

February 5, 2016

A team from Google Earth Engine, Google’s cloud platform for petabyte-scale analysis of satellite imagery and other geospatial data, visited CIESIN February 4–5 to provide training and discuss potential areas of collaboration. Tyler Erickson, Matt Hancher, and Allison Lieber met in the morning of February 4 with staff and researchers from CIESIN, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society. That afternoon at the Comer Building, Hancher and Erickson led a public workshop tutorial on using Google Earth Engine. Hancher subsequently gave an evening presentation at Butler Library on Columbia's Morningside campus, in which he talked about the trends and technologies that have informed Google’s development of the Earth Engine platform over the past six years. On February 5, CIESIN director Robert Chen, deputy director Marc Levy, and associate director for geospatial applications Gregory Yetman met with Lieber and Rebecca Moore, Google's director of engineering for Google Earth, Earth Engine and Earth Outreach, to explore collaboration on population data access and integration. Originally conceived in 2009 as a platform for global forest monitoring, Earth Engine today is used by scientists, governments, and organizations around the world in diverse areas, ranging from food and water security to disaster risk management and public health to biodiversity and climate change adaptation.

CIESIN’s Meredith Golden Retires After Long Career in Environmental Health

February 3, 2016

CIESIN senior research associate Meredith Golden demonstrates the Superfund Footprint Mapping tool to visitors at the 2012 Lamont-Doherty Open House in Palisades, New York

After more than 35 years working in the field of environmental health, Meredith Golden, senior research associate at CIESIN, has retired. Golden joined the Consortium for International Earth Science Information Network in Saginaw, Michigan, 22 years ago, with a background in economics, medical geography, and epidemiology. She relocated to Columbia when CIESIN became an Earth Institute Center in 1998. She has served as a principal investigator of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Columbia Superfund Research Program, leading the interdisciplinary Research Translation Core and coordinating development of the National Priorities List Superfund Footprint Mapper, a decision-making tool for researchers, regulators, and community partners. Golden also led the environment and health mission area of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center and contributed to other CIESIN and Earth Institute activities on health and hazards. Going forward, Golden plans to continue to use her public health expertise in assisting communities in environmental education and hazard mitigation.

See: Columbia University Superfund Research Program (SRP)
       NPL Superfund Footprint Mapper

Moving from Talk to Action Urged in Planetary Security Presentation

February 2, 2016

The post-1990 trend towards lower global insecurity is in reversal, with unanticipated and poorly managed climate shocks partly to blame, according to Marc Levy, CIESIN deputy director, in a presentation given in New York City January 25. The event, “Planetary Security: An Action Agenda on the Frontlines of Climate Change,” was hosted by the government of The Netherlands. Levy’s talk, “Time to Move from Talk to Action,” argued against scare tactics and overwhelming the public with large amounts of data. Among other recommendations, he called for the development of tools, techniques, and methods that drive effective action coalitions.

See: Conference Agenda
       “Time to Move from Talk to Action” (1.65 MB PDF)

Latest Environmental Performance Index Released at World Economic Forum

February 1, 2016

image from 2016 EPI report cover

More deaths globally occur from poor air quality than from water, and more than half the world’s population is subject to unsafe air—these are some of the findings of the 2016 Performance Environmental Index (EPI) released January 23 at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The biennial report, produced this year by the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy (YCELP), Yale Data-Driven Environmental Solutions Group at Yale University, and CIESIN, in collaboration with the Samuel Family Foundation, McCall MacBain Foundation, and the World Economic Forum, ranks country performance on high-priority environmental issues in two broad policy areas: protection of human health from environmental harm and protection of ecosystems. The 2016 EPI measures the performance of 180 countries in nine categories of environmental concern.

A major goal of the EPI is to organize the best available information to make it as relevant as possible.  “Even when data exists, policymakers often struggle to apply this information appropriately,” notes Marc Levy, CIESIN deputy director. “The EPI works to identify and address these blind spots within existing policy goals. For instance, a new biodiversity indicator weeds out protected areas that do not intersect with species’ habitats, showing where national parks may be ineffective at protecting species.”  

The 2016 version of the EPI awards Finland the top slot, followed by Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, and Slovenia. These five environmental leaders have policies that target protections to natural and built environments, with strong commitments to renewable energy. Finland’s top rank indicates its commitment to achieving a carbon-neutral society that will not exceed nature’s carrying capacity by 2050. Countries performing poorly—such as lowest ranked Somalia, Eritrea, Madagascar, Niger, and Afghanistan—are reminders that stable governance is necessary for effective environmental management and conflict disrupts environmental performance. Around one-third of countries that were scored on Climate and Energy are reducing their carbon intensity, and globally, trends in carbon intensity show a slight decline.

See: 2016 Environmental Performance Index

Access to Climate, Earth Science, and Social Science Data Addressed in Multiple Meetings

January 29, 2016

Experts gathered in Geneva, Switzerland; Huntsville, Alabama; and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for three different technical meetings addressing data access and management of scientific data related to climate change, remote sensing, and the social sciences. Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications, participated in an experts meeting January 26–27 in Geneva, organized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to examine the future role and activities of its Task Group on Data and Scenario Support for Impact and Climate Analysis (TGICA). The TGICA oversees the IPCC Data Distribution Center (DDC), which is co-managed by the British Atmospheric Data Center (BADC), the World Data Center-Climate in Germany, and the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN.

At the same time in Huntsville, CIESIN director Robert Chen, in his capacity as manager of SEDAC, attended the annual meeting of the NASA Distributed Active Archive Center (DAAC) managers hosted by the Global Hydrology Resource Center (GHRC) DAAC at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Together with NASA personnel from the Goddard Space Flight Center, the DAAC Managers planned cross-DAAC activities to improve the ability of users to seamlessly access, integrate, and analyze diverse Earth and social science data available from the NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS).

Chen subsequently traveled to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for a workshop on public access to social science data, organized by the Minnesota Population Center (MPC) with support from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). The workshop brought together more than 25 scientists and data experts from a diverse set of social science disciplines to develop recommendations to the NSF on how to improve data management plans and their implementation. Chen is a member of the workshop organizing committee that is drafting the workshop report and recommendations.

Consortium Supports Environmental Education in the Hudson-Mohawk River Watershed

January 27, 2016

Kytt MacManus, GIS programmer, has been re-elected to a second three-year term on the steering committee of the Environmental Consortium of Colleges & Universities. He first joined the steering committee in 2012. The Environmental Consortium aims to harness intellectual and physical resources in higher education to advance regional, ecosystem-based environmental research and education in the greater Hudson-Mohawk River watershed. The Consortium sponsors a range of activities in the region, including the upcoming 11th Annual Student Summit taking place April 15 at Pace University in Pleasantville, New York. Columbia University is one of more than 60 institutional members of the Consortium.

See: Environmental Consortium of Colleges & Universities

Conference Considers the Role of Education in Sustainable Development

January 26, 2016

Fulbright-Nehru Fellow Saleem Khan stands by a poster illustrating the Sustainable Development Goals.

Saleem Khan was among 30 Fulbright scholars who participated in the conference, “Stewardship for a Sustainable World: Education in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” organized by the Committee on Teaching About the United Nations (CTAUN) January 22 at the United Nations in New York City. The day-long conference explored the role of educators in advancing the SDGs and helping students and community members in their sustainable development activities. Discussion focused on the politics of food security and sustainable production and consumption, including issues surrounding water, energy use, and climate change. Khan is a Fulbright-Nehru Postdoctoral Fellow from India who is conducting research at CIESIN on communicating the risks of sea level rise and engaging urban stakeholders in framing community-based adaptation strategies.

See: “Stewardship for a Sustainable World” conference

CIESIN Scientist Elected to Columbia University Senate

January 25, 2016

Sylwia Trzaska, CIESIN associate research scientist

Sylwia Trzaska, CIESIN associate research scientist, has been elected to the Columbia University Senate for a two-year term. The seat is one of six reserved for officers of research out of 108 total voting seats. The Senate is a University-wide legislature representing faculty, students, and other constituencies. It determines policy on educational programs and priorities, the budget, academic freedom and tenure, the conduct of research, external relations, and other issues related to the welfare of faculty, students, and research officers. Concurrence by the University′s Board of Trustees is required for acts of the Senate. Since spring 2015, Trzaska has been a member of the Senate research officers committee, which addresses specific concerns of research officers throughout the University.

See: Columbia University Senate

New Project Focuses on Learning about Computing and Ecosystems

January 22, 2016

The New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) in Queens, New York, has launched a new project, Computational Thinking in Ecosystems (CT-E), that seeks to integrate computing concepts and skills with learning about ecosystems in both formal and informal educational settings. CIESIN director Robert Chen is co-principal investigator of the effort, which is led by Stephen Uzzo of NYSCI. Supported by the STEM+Computing Partnership (STEM+C) initiated by the U.S. National Science Foundation, the two-year project is developing innovative ways to engage students with hands-on tools to develop and use computer programming as part of learning about ecological systems and how scientists study them. CT-E builds on a previous collaboration between NYSCI, CIESIN, and Design I/O that led to the design and implementation of NYSCI's unique immersive, interactive installation, Connected Worlds. One of the planned outcomes is development of a tablet-based interface that allows students to take home elements of the Connected Worlds exhibit for further game-based learning.

See: Integrating Computational Thinking and Environmental Science...

Geospatial Data Preservation and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation the Focus of New Publications

January 14, 2016

Geospatial data management, curation, and preservation are the focus of three special issues of the Journal of Map & Geography Libraries, guest-edited by senior digital archivist Robert Downs. Due to a large number of high quality submissions, Downs and the editorial team were able to expand the original planned special issue into a sequence of three. The first issue, published in September 2015, contains an editorial by Downs, “Management, Curation, and Preservation of Geospatial Data: Introductory Perspectives,″ and six research articles. The second issue, published in December 2015, includes another introductory editorial, “Progress on the Management, Curation, and Preservation of Geospatial Data,″ and five more articles. The third special issue will be released in early 2016.

CIESIN research scientist Susana Adamo has published the opinion piece, “About Mitigation, Adaptation, and the UNFCCC’s 21st Conference of the Parties,” in REBEP-Revista Brasileira de Estudos de População. She argues for greater attention to linkages between mitigation and adaptation, and in particular to the role of population dynamics, in the context of international climate negotiations. Also appearing in the same journal is the paper, “Climate change and mitigation in the forestry sector: REDD+, national policies and local sustainable development in the Legal Amazon,″ by visiting senior research scientist Douglas Sathler, with Adamo and Everton Lima as co-authors. 

See: “Management, Curation, and Preservation of Geospatial Data: Introductory Perspectives″--Guest Editorial, First Special Issue, published September 2015, Volume 11, No. 2
       “Progress on the Management, Curation, and Preservation of Geospatial Data”--Guest Editorial, Second Special Issue, Volume 11, No. 3
       “About Mitigation, Adaptation, and the UNFCCC’s 21st Conference of the Parties”
       “Climate Change and Mitigation in the Forestry Sector: REDD+, National Policies, and Local Sustainable Development in the Legal Amazon”

Coastal Flood Risk in Shanghai Presented at CIESIN

January 13, 2016

Min Liu, dean of School of Geographic Sciences at East China Normal University in Shanghai, with Robert Chen, CIESIN director

Representatives from the School of Geographic Sciences (SGS) at East China Normal University in Shanghai visited CIESIN offices at the Lamont Campus January 12 to discuss collaborative opportunities. Min Liu, dean of SGS, gave a presentation on coastal flood and sea level risks and associated risk management efforts in Shanghai. Liu was accompanied by Ruishan Chen, an associate professor at SGS and former visiting scholar at CIESIN from October 2011 to March 2013. During their visit, Liu and Chen also met with other experts on urban climate risks including Klaus Jacob of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Cynthia Rosenzweig of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and William Solecki of Hunter College. CIESIN director Robert Chen and associate director for science applications Alex de Sherbinin have been named to the SGS International Advisory Committee.

New Population and Urbanization Data Released for Testing

January 12, 2016

The NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) has released three new geospatial data products for external user testing.

The Global Urban Heat Island data set estimates the average land surface temperature within urban areas in degrees Celsius (summer daytime maximum and nighttime minimum), as well as the difference between those temperatures and the temperatures in surrounding rural areas, defined as a 10-kilometer buffer around the urban extent.

The Global Grid of Probabilities of Urban Expansion data set assesses likely future areas of urban expansion up to the year 2030. The projections are based on a model of global urban land-cover change developed by Karen C. Seto of Yale University, Burak Güneralp of Texas A&M University, and Lucy R. Hutyra of Boston University, described in a 2012 paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Gridded Population of the World, version 4 (GPWv4), data collection is the fourth version of SEDAC′s flagship data product, which models the global distribution of human population on a continuous surface. New features of GPWv4, which is expected to be released in production in early 2016, include more recent census data; a smaller grid size; and many more input census units.

Users are invited to submit comments and suggestions regarding these test versions of the data through the online “Feedback and Support″ link on the SEDAC Web site or by contacting SEDAC User Services at A free Earthdata Login is now required to download data from SEDAC.

See: Global Urban Heat Island, v1 (2013)
       Global Grid of Probabilities of Urban Expansion to 2030, v1 (2000-2030)
       The Gridded Population of the World, version 4 (GPWv4)

Earth Science Data Community Kicks off New Year in Washington DC

January 11, 2016

The winter meeting of the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP Federation) brought together more than 275 representatives of earth science data organizations at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington DC January 6–8. The NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) was represented by CIESIN director and SEDAC manager Robert Chen and by senior digital archivist Robert Downs, who is also a member of the board of the Foundation for Earth Science. Downs participated in the ESIP Federation awards ceremony on January 6, introducing the winner of the Martha Maiden Lifetime Achievement Award for Service to the Earth Science Information Community, Ruth Duerr of the Ronin Institute for Independent Scholars. Downs also presented a poster, “Improving the Usability of Earth Science Data Products and Services by Enhancing Documentation.″ Chen gave a live demo of the recently released SEDAC Hazards Mapper as well as the HazPop mobile application currently under development in a session, “Trusted Data for Disaster Lifecycle Applications.″ On January 8, Downs summarized the activities of the Data Systems Integration Committee of the Earth Science Data System Working Group on Data Quality during the session, “Information Quality Cluster—Introduction, Reporting and Use Case Tutorial.″ He also led the development of use cases for the session, “Information Quality Cluster—Use Case Development Working Session.″

The ESIP Federation elected Emily Law of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory as its new president, replacing outgoing president Peter Fox of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. SEDAC has been a Federation “Type 1″ member since 1999.

See: ESIP Winter Meeting