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Massive Open Online Course in Development on Environmental Security and Peace

Wed Sep 20 00:00:00 EDT 2017

A new Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Environmental Security and Sustaining Peace is currently being developed by United Nations Environment, the Environmental Law Institute, the University of California-Irvine, Duke University, and CIESIN. CIESIN program manager Minal Patel is coordinating development of the MOOC, working closely with deputy director Marc Levy. The MOOC will be accessible through the SDG Academy in early 2018. Students around the world will learn how natural resources can present both conflict risks and peacebuilding opportunities before, during, and after conflict. The course looks specifically at extractive industries, resource scarcity, and climate change and will illustrate how to apply innovative policies, tools, and practices to reduce and manage conflict risks.

Filming for the MOOC took place at the Dakota Studios in New York City earlier this month. The SDG Academy is an initiative of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) to provide free, graduate-level courses on sustainable development for students around the world.

See: MOOC: Environmental Security and Sustaining Peace
       RSVP for the MOOC

Forum Highlights New Ways to Assess Human Settlement Patterns and Change

Mon Sep 18 00:00:00 EDT 2017

The University of Twente in Enschede, the Netherlands, hosted more than 90 experts on population distribution and change, urbanization, remote sensing, and related fields for the first Human Planet Forum, organized September 13-15 by the Human Planet initiative (HPI) of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO). The Forum sought to highlight recent progress since last year's HPI launch as part of GEO's 2017-2019 work programme, to expand participation and partnerships in the initiative, and refine plans for collaborative work. CIESIN director Robert Chen participated in the Forum's opening session, giving a welcome on behalf of William Sonntag of the GEO Secretariat, whose arrival was delayed by poor weather. Chen also served as a session moderator and gave a presentation on a new project on human settlement, infrastructure, and population data, recently funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aimed at better coordinating and documenting the growing number of global data products on population distribution and related settlement characteristics. Deputy director Marc Levy and Geographic Information Systems programmer Kytt MacManus also attended the Forum, participating in planning discussions for several HPI activities and related projects. The Forum was organized jointly by GEO, the European Commission (EC) Joint Research Centre (JRC), and the University of Twente's Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC).

See: Human Planet Forum

Strengthening Disaster Risk Reduction Addressed in Buenos Aires Summit

Tue Sep 12 00:00:00 EDT 2017

Representatives of government agencies, United Nations bodies, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, other nongovernmental organizations and civil society groups, businesses, and scientific institutions gathered in Buenos Aires, Argentina September 3-8 for a Regional Summit on Strengthening Disaster Risk Reduction across the Americas. The Summit focused on how Earth Observations (EO) can help reduce the risks of disasters to society through open exchange and dissemination of EO data and improved end-to-end flow of data and information from providers to practitioners and decision makers. Research scientist Susana Adamo participated in the Summit as a representative of the Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP), giving an oral presentation on "ESIP strategies on data driven decision making in disaster risk reduction." She also presented a poster on ESIP initiatives in disaster lifecycle management and helped to organize and evaluate a simulation exercise, held during the Summit in both Spanish and English, for a fictional disaster scenario.

The Summit was hosted by Argentina's space agency, the National Commission for Space Activities (CONAE), and organized by the NASA Disasters Program in collaboration with the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS), the Global Flood Partnership (GFP), and the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). The NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN is a Type 2 ESIP member, and is an active contributor to the ESIP Disaster Lifecycle Cluster.

See: Strengthening Disaster Risk Reduction across the Americas: A Regional Summit...

CIESIN Scientists Active in Two Workshops in Accra, Ghana

Mon Sep 11 00:00:00 EDT 2017

Participants in Geospatial Data Training Workshop in Accra, Ghana

More than 20 data experts and managers met in Accra, Ghana September 6-8 to participate in a training workshop on geospatial data management, policy, and use, organized in support of the West Africa hub of SERVIR, a joint development initiative of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Greg Yetman, associate director for geospatial applications, and Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications, co-led the workshop, together with John Del Corral of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI). The workshop addressed the importance of standards, open data, and sound data management practices, and included hands-on exercises in metadata development and use of IRI's climate data library. Sessions were also held on the architecture for the new SERVIR West Africa hub data portal and the development of data sharing agreements between members of the SERVIR consortium. Consortium members include the Regional Center of Agro-Meteorology (AGRHYMET), the Center for Ecological Monitoring (CSE) of Senegal, the African Center for Meteorology Applied to Development (ACMAD), the Centre for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems (CERSGIS) of Ghana, the African Regional Institute for Geospatial Information Science and Technology (AfriGIST), and International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). CIESIN is part of a team led by Tetra Tech, Inc. that is supporting development of the West Africa hub, which aims to help stakeholders and decision makers make more informed decisions related to agriculture and food security, water resources and hydroclimatic disasters, weather and climate, and land cover and land use change and ecosystems.

In parallel with the SERVIR workshop, climate scientist Sylwia Trzaska, together with de Sherbinin, participated in the West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WA BiCC) project's annual work plan validation workshop September 6-7. The two-day workshop involved project staff and representatives of regional partners, including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Abidjan Convention for Co-Operation in the Protection and Development of the Marine and Coastal environment of the West and Central African Region, and the Manor River Union, as well as representatives of USAID. Workshop participants reviewed progress to date and activities proposed for the next year. Trzaska briefly presented the results of a vulnerability assessment carried out by CIESIN in the mangrove areas of Sierra Leone last year. CIESIN is also a partner with Tetra Tech in supporting the USAID-funded WA BiCC project.

See: West Africa Hub of SERVIR
       West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change Project

Climate Change and Population Dynamics Examined at Alpach Forum Seminar

Tue Aug 22 00:00:00 EDT 2017

Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications, co-chaired a six-day seminar on climate change and population dynamics at the European Forum Alpbach in Alpach, Austria, August 17-22. Together with fellow chair Dr. Raya Muttarak of the University of East Anglia and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), de Sherbinin lectured daily to more than 60 participants on topics including climate change science, vulnerability mapping, climate change-induced migration, and demographic aspects of climate mitigation. The Alpbach Forum has been convened each year since 1946 in Alpbach as an effort to broaden the education and offer new perspectives to students in post-World War II Europe. The Forum now has 700 students, selected from an applicant pool of 3,500, from all over the world, at different stages in their academic careers, and from many disciplines. The Seminar Week is the academic centerpiece of the Forum, with 18 interdisciplinary seminars conceptualised and facilitated by internationally-renowned academics.

See: Seminar: Global Weirding? Global Change and Population Dynamics

Seasonal Climate Forecasts for East Africa Reviewed at Meetings in Zanzibar

Mon Aug 21 00:00:00 EDT 2017

Participants in SCIPEA seasonal climate forecasting workshop, Zanzibar, Tanzania, August 16-19.

Associate research scientist Sylwia Trzaska participated in a workshop on data and tools for seasonal forecasting in Zanzibar, Tanzania, August 16-19. The workshop, organized by the Strengthening Climate Information Partnership - East Africa (SCIPEA) project, included hands-on interactions with participants from Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Trzaska gave a presentation on the recent evolution of the global climate relevant to the forecast for the October-December rainy season in East Africa. She is also participating in the regional Climate Outlook Forum August 21-22 and in a stakeholder meeting on August 23. SCIPEA is a project of the United Kingdom's Weather and Climate Information Services for Africa (WISER) program.

Open Geospatial Community Gathers in Boston

Fri Aug 18 00:00:00 EDT 2017

Boston Harbor was the backdrop for more than 1,000 geospatial software developers, users, and other experts attending the International Conference for Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G) August 14-19. Kytt MacManus, geospatial information system programmer, gave a talk on "Open Data and Processing Services at NASA's Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC)," providing an overview of SEDAC's many free and open mapping tools and data services. FOSS4G is the largest global gathering focused on open source geospatial software and associated products, standards, and protocols.

Experts on Geographic Names Hold 11th Conference in New York

Thu Aug 17 00:00:00 EDT 2017

The United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN) held the 11th United Nations Conference on the Standardisation of Geographical Names at UN Headquarters in New York on August 8-17. The Conference, which marked the 50th anniversary of the UNGEGN, serves as a forum to encourage national and international geographical names standardization, promote international dissemination of nationally standardized geographical names information, and adopt single romanization systems for converting non-Roman writing systems to the Roman alphabet. On August 15, Greg Yetman, CIESIN associate director for geospatial applications, gave a special presentation on “Detailed Population Modeling: The Integration of Satellite and Census Data,” highlighting work by CIESIN and other groups around the world on population and settlement mapping. A video of his presentation and subsequent discussion is available through UN WebTV.

See: 11th UN Conference on the Standardisation of Geographical Names
       UN WebTV video (~40 minutes)

Shanghai Seminar Focuses on Geographic Education and Research

Mon Aug 14 00:00:00 EDT 2017

Faculty and Students at the Seminar on International Geography Education and Frontier Research

More than 100 faculty and students engaged in geographic education in China met at East China Normal University (ECNU) in Shanghai August 7-10 for a seminar on International Geography Education and Frontier Research. The seminar was organized jointly by ECNU's School of Geographic Sciences, CIESIN, and the American Geographical Society (AGS). CIESIN director Robert Chen gave two lectures during the seminar, reviewing geospatial data and applications in support of sustainable development including global mapping of human settlements, infrastructure, and population. CIESIN information scientist Xiaoshi Xing presented on geographical and mapping applications related to climate change research and assessment. Marie Price, AGS president and faculty member at George Washington University, lectured on immigrants and cities and on teaching geography in the U.S. Alexander Murphy, AGS vice president and faculty member at Oregon State University, provided talks on key concepts in teaching human geography and on research frontiers in geography, based on a recent study by the U.S. National Research Council in which he participated. Liliana Monk, an AGS Teacher Fellow and high school geography teacher in Maryland, discussed her experiences with the Advanced Placement exam for Human Geography, including the development of study guides and grading rubrics. The seminar included panel discussions with geography faculty from ECNU and other universities in China as well as a tour of ECNU's teaching and laboratory faciltiies at its Minhang campus in Shanghai.

After the seminar, Chen traveled to Hangzhou, China to give a lecture August 11 on sustainable development data to graduate students in the Department of Land Management of the College of Public Administration at Zhejiang University (ZJU). CIESIN has developed collaborative activities with both ECNU and ZJU in recent years, including hosting of a number of visiting scholars at Columbia and organization of joint research symposia.

Ecology from Space Demonstrated at Portland, Oregon Workshop

Fri Aug 11 00:00:00 EDT 2017

Presenters at the Ecology from Space workshop at the Ecological Society of America annual meeting, Portland, Oregon, August 10

Scientists from three NASA Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs) joined together at the Ecological Society of America annual meeting in Portland, Oregon to give a workshop on "Ecology from Space: How Can NASA Remote-Sensing Data Inform Your Research?" August 10. CIESIN senior research associate Pinki Mondal gave a presentation and demonstration about data and applications from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, highlighting geospatial data sets from SEDAC relevant to ecological research. The workshop was organized by Alison G. Boyer of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) DAAC, with presentations from ORNL scientist Michele M. Thornton, Cole Krehbiel from the Land Processes (LP) DAAC, and Jennifer Brennan from NASA's Earth Science Data and Information System (ESDIS) project. The aim of this workshop was to provide a beginner's level introduction to NASA's remote-sensing and ground-based ecological data and to demonstrate user friendly tools to access, subset, and visualize these data.

See: Ecology from Space Workshop

Planning Meeting for West Africa SERVIR Node Held in Niger

Mon Aug 07 00:00:00 EDT 2017

Greg Yetman, associate director for geospatial applications, attended the SERVIR West Africa annual work plan meeting at the Agriculture, Hydrology and Meteorology (AGRHYMET) Regional Center in Niamey, Niger, August 1-2. CIESIN is an implementing partner of the West Africa node of SERVIR, a joint development initiative of NASA and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The meeting brought together consortium members from West Africa, prime contractor Tetra Tech, and USAID staff to review progress and plan work items for the coming year. The primary focus is the development of services in support of environmental monitoring in key areas related to charcoal production and deforestation, desertification, agriculture and food production, and land use/land cover change. A workshop on geospatial data and metadata is planned in September in Accra, Ghana. Established in 1974, AGRHYMET is a specialized agency of the Permanent Inter-State Committee against Drought in the Sahel (CILSS).

Geospatial Data for Sustainable Development Addressed by United Nations Experts

Fri Aug 04 00:00:00 EDT 2017

More than 85 countries and 70 international agencies and organizations were represented at the 7th Session of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM), held at UN Headquarters in New York July 31-August 4. The Session included a number of side events on key geospatial data topics related to disaster management, marine resources, planning of national censuses, and other aspects of sustainable development. CIESIN director Robert Chen participated in the August 1 side event, "The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Where is the Data?," giving a brief presentation on recent efforts to develop a public-private partnership for human settlement, infrastructure, and population data, as part of a panel on "Data Solutions and Platforms for the Sustainable Development Goals." The panel was moderated by Sanjay Kumar, chair of the UN-GGIM's Private Sector Network, and included Anne Hale Miglarese of Radiant Earth, Peter Rabley of the Omidyar Network, and Vincent Seaman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Chen and deputy director Marc Levy attended another August 1 side event, on Second Administrative Level Boundaries (SALB), and Chen participated in an August 3 meeting of the UN-GGIM Academic Network. Geographic information specialists Malanding Jaiteh and Dara Mendeloff, together with geographic information system programmer Kytt MacManus, also attended selected sessions and side events during the week.

Earth Science Data Experts Connect with Teachers and Data Users

Mon Jul 31 00:00:00 EDT 2017

Participants in the ESIP Educators Workshop at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, July 27

Robert Downs, CIESIN senior digital archivist, joined more than 250 Earth science data experts at the summer meeting of the Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana July 25-28. The meeting continued the 2017 ESIP focus on the theme, "Strengthening the Ties Between Observations and User Communities." As part of an all-day educators workshop on "Drones, Data, and the Great American Eclipse," Downs demonstrated several different mapping tools for visualizing data related to hazards and population exposure, developed by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. He also gave a presentation in the ESIP session, "What Do We Mean by 'Trusted' Data?," on the topic, "Trusted Data for Disaster Management," co-authored with CIESIN director Robert Chen and Gregory Yetman, associate director for geospatial applications.

In a session focused on evaluating options for becoming a trusted data repository, Downs presented "Adopting World Data System Certification to Improve a Trustworthy Data Repository," co-authored with Chen and Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications. The presentation summarized the certification process that SEDAC completed to become a Regular Member of the International Council for Science World Data System (ICSU-WDS). He also presented a poster depicting SEDAC citation metrics in a special "Research As Art" session held at the Wonderlab, a science museum in downtown Bloomington. Downs serves as the Type I representative on the ESIP Governance Committee.

See: Using Mapping Tools to Work with Natural Hazards Data (423 KB PDF)
       Trusted Data for Disaster Management (1.3 MB PDF)
       Adopting World Data System Certification to Improve a Trustworthy Data Repository (241 KB PDF)

World Bank Launches Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals

Wed Jul 19 00:00:00 EDT 2017

The World Bank Group has launched the 2017 Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals, an interactive data platform and publication aimed at charting the progress that countries are making towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were adopted by the international community in September 2015. The Atlas illustrates trends and challenges for each goal, drawing on the Bank's existing World Development Indicators database and highlighting ongoing measurement challenges. At a July 18 breakfast event in conjunction with the 2017 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York, Umar Serajuddin, senior economist with the World Bank Group, gave an overview of the Atlas and its potential use by the sustainable development community. His Excellency Juan Carlos Mendoz Garcia, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the UN, together with Stefan Schweinfest, Director of the UN Statistics Division, and Robert Chen, CIESIN director, then commented on the Atlas, focusing in part on its complementarity to other SDG-related data reports such as the recently released UN Sustainable Development Goals Report 2017. The panel discussion was moderated by Mahmoud Mohieldin, senior vice president for the 2030 Development Agenda, United Nations Relations, and Partnerships at the World Bank Group.

CIESIN Postdoctoral Fellow to Move to University of Lausanne

Mon Jul 17 00:00:00 EDT 2017

Lucille Maertens, postdoctoral fellow at CIESIN (center), standing with CIESIN associate director for science applications Alex de Sherbinin (left) and deputy director Marc Levy (right)

Lucille Maertens will complete her part-time postdoctoral appointment at CIESIN this month, and shortly thereafter assume the position of lecturer in international relations at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. She will also continue her affiliation with the Center for International Studies and Research (CERI) at Sciences Po in Paris. Maertens has a PhD in political science from Sciences Po and the University of Geneva. While at CIESIN, she has been examining competition and cooperation among United Nations agencies and programs involved in environmental restoration and protection in Haiti. She summarized her project at a lunch presentation July 14 at the Lamont campus.

New Geospatial Data and Tools Featured at Annual Esri User Conference

Fri Jul 14 00:00:00 EDT 2017

CIESIN associate director for geospatial applications Greg Yetman (left) and geographic information specialists Linda Pistolesi (center) and Dara Mendeloff (right) at the ESRI User Conference Map Gallery Reception July 10–17 in San Diego

The annual Esri User Conference reportedly drew nearly 18,000 geospatial data and software users to San Diego July 10-14. Three CIESIN geospatial experts gave presentations and posters and staffed an exhibit booth. Greg Yetman, associate director for geospatial applications, gave an invited presentation on spatial data for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in a July 12 meeting of the SDG Special Interest Group. He also presented a poster on a new data resource on impervious surfaces and human built-up and settlement extents developed by researchers from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the University of Maryland. The Global Man-made Impervious Surface (GMIS) and Human Built-up and Settlement Extent (HBASE) data sets are based on Landsat 8 images circa 2010 and will be made available through an interactive data visualization and access interface, now in beta testing, from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. The poster was co-authored with: Sri Vinay, CIESIN associate director for information technology; Kytt MacManus, geographic information systems programmer; Frank Pascuzzi, programmer; and Al Pinto, senior media designer, together with Panshi Wang and Chengquan Huang of the University of Maryland and Eric Brown de Colstoun of GSFC.

Geographic information specialists Dara Mendeloff and Linda Pistolesi also presented posters: Mendeloff′s on the forthcoming SEDAC data set, Global Subnational Infant Mortality Rates, v2 (2014), and Pistolesi′s on the addition of age and sex data to the recently released Gridded Population of the World v4 data collection. The latter was co-authored with research scientist Susana Adamo and senior research assistant Olena Borkovska.

See: “Global Subnational Infant Mortality Rates, v2 (2014)” (poster, 888KB PDF), D. Mendeloff
       “Global Mapping of Diversity: Subnational Age & Sex Data” (poster, 871KB PDF), L. Pistolesi, S. Adamo, and O. Borkovska
       “Data Visualization and Access Services for Global Man-made Impervious Surface (GMIS) and Human Built-up and Settlement Extent (HBASE) Data Sets” (poster, 1 MB PDF), G. Yetman et al

Hazard Researchers and Practitioners Convene in Colorado

Thu Jul 13 00:00:00 EDT 2017

More than 500 hazard researchers, professionals involved in hazard response and mitigation, students, journalists, and representatives of key government and private sector organizations met in Broomfield, Colorado, July 9–12 for the 42nd annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop. The annual workshop, organized by the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado-Boulder, is a unique forum for interaction between researchers and practitioners involved in improving understanding and management of hazards and efforts to reduce the impacts and risks of disasters. CIESIN director Robert Chen participated in a panel, “Keeping Count: Deaths, Damage, and Dollars Lost from Disasters," highlighting the role of remote sensing and population and infrastructure data in assessing and tracking hazard exposure, vulnerability, and impact. He also participated July 9 in a working meeting of directors, funders, and partners of hazards and disaster centers, aimed at promoting coordination and collaboration across the academic community, relevant Federal agencies, and other key organizations. The theme of the 2017 workshop was “Knowledge to Action: Reducing Hazards Losses and Promoting Disaster Resilience.″

See: Panel on Keeping Count: Deaths, Damage, and Dollars Lost from Disasters

New Application Supports Integrated Access to Population and Remote Sensing Data

Mon Jul 10 00:00:00 EDT 2017

A new application lets users more easily and efficiently access and transform remote sensing data on land cover and land use change together with spatial population data. Released by the NASA Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC) in collaboration with the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, Version 1.9 of the Application for Extracting and Exploring Analysis Ready Samples (AppEEARS) leverages two data sets from the SEDAC Gridded Population of the World v4 data collection. AppEEARS enables users to subset data spatially, temporally, and by layer, reducing the volume of data they need to download for analysis. When a request is submitted to AppEEARS, users receive sample data values and associated quality data for data products of interest. Users may then preview and interact with their sample before actually downloading the full set of data of interest. Integrated access to LP DAAC data about land processes with SEDAC data on population distribution facilitates interdisciplinary analysis of interactions between environmental and human systems.

Step-by-step instructions for how to use AρρEEARS and a full listing of available products may be found on the AppEEARS Help page. Additional resources for using AρρEEARS and its services are available on the LP DAAC E-Learning page. For questions, contact LP DAAC User Services ( LP DAAC and SEDAC are two of the data centers in the NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System.

See: AρρEEARS application

WorldPop Project Holds Second Annual Workshop in Winchester, England

Fri Jun 30 00:00:00 EDT 2017

CIESIN staff members Greg Yetman, Linda Pistolesi, and Jane Mills traveled to Winchester, England, for the second annual WorldPop Global Development Workshop June 26–29. The main goal of the meeting was to review data inputs, review and revise the methodology for modeling population, and discuss the system design for delivering the project outputs. Yetman, associate director for geospatial applications, summarized CIESIN′s contributions to the project to date for both the workshop participants and the Project Advisory Committee. He, geographic information specialist Pistolesi, and senior research staff assistant Mills worked with partners at the workshop on technical issues and final plans. Initiated in late 2013, WorldPop is a project to develop detailed and open access population distribution data sets built using transparent approaches. With support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, an international team from the University of Southampton, the University of Louisville, and CIESIN is working to update and extend the WorldPop database to cover all countries, using a consistent methodology with a time series of population estimates, including age and sex ratio breakdowns.

Sharing of Earth Observation Data Addressed in TransAtlantic Working Group Meeting

Fri Jun 23 00:00:00 EDT 2017

The annual meeting of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Data Sharing Working Group (DSWG) was held June 21 and 22 in two separate locations, Helsinki, Finland, and Palisades, New York. Taking into consideration a seven-hour time difference between the meeting sites, plenary sessions were held each day via video and telecon. Separate breakout group meetings were then held at each location, focused on specific issues such as international trends in open data sharing and building national capacity for data sharing. Robert Chen, CIESIN director, hosted the New York subgroup at Columbia′s Lamont campus in his capacity as one of the DSWG co-chairs. GEO is a voluntary partnership of national governments and participating organizations working together to improve decision-making informed through coordinated, comprehensive and sustained Earth observations. Improving data access and sharing has been a key GEO focus since it was established in 2005.

See: GEO Data Sharing and Data Management Principles

New Profiles Feature Yale's Karen Seto and CIESIN's Robert Chen

Mon Jun 19 00:00:00 EDT 2017

The work of Karen Seto, associate dean for research and Frederick C. Hixon professor of geography and urbanization science at Yale University′s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, is featured in a new User Profile on the NASA Earthdata web site. Seto is an active user of and contributor to the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. She served as a member of the SEDAC User Working Group from 2005 to 2011. Seto′s research focuses on urbanization and its effects on local and global environments, relying on both field and remotely-sensed data. Her data set, Global Grid of Probabilities of Urban Expansion to 2030, v.1 (2000-2030), developed with Burak Güneralp and Lucy Hutyra, is currently available from SEDAC. A second data set on long-term urban settlement growth, from 3700 BC to 2000 AD, will be released later this year. Seto recently received NASA funding for a project that will use multi-scale and multi-source satellite data to examine urban growth in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region.

Robert Chen, director of CIESIN and SEDAC's manager, discusses the role of geography and innovative geospatial data and technologies in a profile in Ubique, the newsletter of the American Geographical Society (AGS). One of Chen′s early SEDAC activities was to support development of the first global gridded data set on population distribution, Gridded Population of the World (GPW), created by geographers Waldo Tobler and Uwe Deichmann, then with the University of California-Santa Barbara. SEDAC released the fourth version of GPW in 2016. Chen′s recent collaborations include activities with Facebook′s Connectivity Lab on population mapping in rural areas, the New York Hall of Science on informal sustainability education, the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and the Research Data Alliance (RDA) on open data sharing, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UNSDSN) on sustainable development data. He joined the AGS Council in 2015.

See: Karen Seto profile
       Robert Chen profile

Partnerships for Sustainable Development Data Highlighted at Columbia′s Casa Italiana

Fri Jun 16 00:00:00 EDT 2017

Enrico Giovannini, professor at University of Rome Tor Vergata

“Navigating the Data Revolution: New Partnerships and Pathways Towards a World that Counts” was the topic of an evening event June 15 at Casa Italiana, co-sponsored by the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, and the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America. Enrico Giovannini, professor at University of Rome Tor Vergata, gave a keynote speech, highlighting the challenges and opportunities facing the development data community since the 2014 publication of the influential report, A World That Counts, produced by the UN Secretary-General′s Independent Expert Advisory Group on the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development. Giovannini′s presentation was followed by a panel discussion on the need for new data partnerships and pathways, moderated by Shaida Badiee, managing director of Open Data Watch. Panelists were Laveesh Bhandari of the Indicus Foundation, CIESIN director Robert Chen, Chukwudozie Ezigbalike of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, and Jenna Slotin of the Global Partnership. The event was held in conjunction with the June 15–16 meeting of the SDSN′s Thematic Network on Data for Sustainable Development, which is co-chaired by Giovannini, Badiee, and Chen. Giovannini also chaired the 2014 group, which included Badiee and Chen as members.

Global Change in the Americas Focus of Bogota Meetings

Mon Jun 12 00:00:00 EDT 2017

Susana Adamo, research scientist at CIESIN, participated in the 37th annual meeting of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) in Bogota, Colombia, June 9–10, and in the subsequent 43rd meeting of the IAI Executive Committee and the 25th Conference of the Parties June 12–13. This series of institutional meetings had the overall goal of defining the IAI′s direction and vision for the next 25 years. The IAI currently has 19 member countries, who are collaborating on research and capacity building to inform decision-makers on the extent, causes, and consequences of global change in the Americas. CIESIN has been an associate member of IAI for more than 15 years, and Adamo has served on the IAI Scientific Advisory Committee since 2013. She gave an overview presentation of CIESIN during the Conference of the Parties on June 13. The IAI recently appointed a new executive director, Marcos Regis da Silva, a leading expert on biodiversity, sustainable development, and multilateral environmental agreements.

See: Susana Adamo presentation (634 KB PDF)
       Facebook page, Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI)

CIESIN Welcomes New Staff and Summer Interns

Thu Jun 08 00:00:00 EDT 2017

New personnel have joined CIESIN recently, including Markus Walsh, senior research scientist. Formerly Walsh was a senior research scientist with the Agriculture and Food Security Center of the Earth Institute, focused on ecosystems and landscape ecology. Prior to that, he was a senior research scientist for ten years at the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), where he led research on land degradation assessment, monitoring and rehabilitation in the Lake Victoria Basin, based in Kisumu, Kenya. He holds a PhD in rangeland ecology and management from Texas A&M University and BSc degrees in animal science and in agricultural mechanization from Iowa State University. Walsh grew up in Kenya and has more than 25 years of experience in ecosystems and landscape ecology research in Africa. Since joining the Earth Institute in 2007, his research has focused on developing operational tools for diagnosis, mapping and monitoring of the ecological condition of African landscapes with an emphasis on the application of information technology and data science in agriculture. He is based at the Selian Agricultural Research Institute in Arusha, Tanzania, where he is the science coordinator for the Africa Soil Information Service.

Also new to CIESIN is Ryan Marriott, who is program coordinator for the Millennium Villages data archiving project. Marriott worked on the Millennium Villages Project from January 2010 until June 2016. He has an MPA in energy and environmental policy from the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, and a BA in economics from Macalester College.

Several interns have joined CIESIN for the summer. Anna Kaplan and Seyi Olojo, both rising seniors at Barnard College, are researching the relationship between infant mortality rates and the environment, as part of the creation of a new version of the Global Subnational Infant Mortality Rates (IMR) data set. They are working with Dara Mendeloff, CIESIN geographic information specialist, and Sandra Baptista, senior research associate. Majoring in environmental biology, Kaplan is part of the summer Earth Intern Program for Columbia University and Barnard College students, coordinated by Lamont research scientist Dallas Abbott. Olojo is a rising senior, majoring in environmental policy with a minor in statistics. She is a recipient of an Athena Summer Fellowship at Barnard. Last summer she was an Earth Intern, working with CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy.

Kira Topik is working with Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications, on links between climate change, population distribution, and migration, in support of an ongoing project for the World Bank. A graduate of Pitzer College with dual BA degrees in international and intercultural studies and in Spanish, Topik will receive her MA from Columbia′s Climate and Society program in August. Previously she was a program officer in the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Latin America and Caribbean Program.

Satellites Enable Mapping of Nitrogen Dioxide Exposure for 1996 to 2012

Wed Jun 07 00:00:00 EDT 2017

Map of Global 3-year running mean ground-level nitrogen dioxide (NO2) grids from GOME, SCIAMACHY and GOME-2, 2010-2012

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is major constituent in air pollution, with direct impacts on respiratory health and a key role as a chemical precursor in the overall air pollution mix. As a common by-product of internal combustion, outdoor NO2 pollution is mainly associated with motor vehicle traffic and energy production. A team of scientists led by Jeff Geddes and Randall Martin from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, has produced a new data set that tracks long-term trends in ambient NO2 concentrations based on observations from three satellite instruments over the 17-year period, 1996–2012. The estimates of surface NO2 levels were validated against ground-based monitors and combined with the Gridded Population of the World version 3 (GPWv3) data set distributed by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) to produce a population-weighted time series of NO2 exposure. The data are now available from SEDAC as part of the data collection, Satellite Derived Environmental Indicators. The data set, Global 3-Year Running Mean Ground-Level NO2 Grids from GOME, SCIAMACHY and GOME-2, v1 (1996–2012), consists of a series of 0.1-degree latitude-longitude grids (approximately 10 x 10 km resolution) representing averages for overlapping 3-year periods. The grids for 1996–1998 and 2010–2012 may be visualized through the Web Mapping Service (WMS).

SEDAC has also recently released other new and updated data sets. The U.S. Census Grids Summary File 1, v1 (2010 ), provides grids for selected population and housing variables for the year 2010 consistent with previous grids released for 1990 and 2000 based on earlier U.S. censuses. These grids have a resolution of 30 arc-seconds (approximately 1 square km) and are based on census block geography from the Census 2010 TIGER/Line Files.

Settlement Points, v1.01 (1990, 1995, 2000), and Urban Extent Polygons, v1.01 (1995), are updates to human settlement data from the Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project (GRUMP) data collection. These revisions incorporate improved geospatial location information, new settlement points, and new urban extents identified from multiple sources. The Urban Extent Polygons data set now includes polygons in Esri shapefile format with the settlement name (or name of the largest city, in the case of multi-city agglomerations). Polygons are defined by the extent of night-time lights and approximated urban extents (circles) based on buffered settlement points.

For more information about these data sets, please see the links below.

See: Global 3-Year Running Mean Ground-Level NO2 Grids from GOME, SCIAMACHY and GOME-2, v1 (1996 – 2012)
       U.S. Census Grids Summary File 1, v1 (2010 – 2010)
       Settlement Points, v1.01 (1990, 1995, 2000)
       Urban Extent Polygons, v1.01 (1995)

User Working Group Advises on SEDAC Priorities

Fri Jun 02 00:00:00 EDT 2017

The NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN hosted a technical interchange meeting of its User Working Group (UWG) May 31–June 1 to review progress and advise on strategic priorities. The meeting began with reports on recent SEDAC accomplishments and ongoing projects, followed by in-depth discussion of revised and proposed new priorities for SEDAC for the next five years. A joint breakout session was held via telecon with the UWG of the Land Processes-Distributed Active Archive Center (LP-DAAC) to discuss the accessibility of SEDAC data through the LP-DAAC's Application for Extracting and Exploring Analysis Ready Samples (AppEEARS). The LP-DAAC UWG was meeting simultaneously in Fort Collins, Colorado. The meeting also included presentations by two UWG members on recent approaches to the use of remote sensing data in the social sciences and in land cover/land use change research, as well as a guest lecture on big social science data and sustainable development by Emmanuel Letouzé of the Data-Pop Alliance. The first day of the meeting was held at the Lamont campus of Columbia University, and the second on the Morningside campus in Manhattan. Other participants included representatives from NASA headquarters and the Goddard Space Flight Center, and from the LP-DAAC and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) DAAC. Chaired by Myron Gutmann of the University of Colorado, the UWG has members from a diverse set of disciplines and application areas from both the public and private sectors.

Climate Change and Conflict Discussed in ABC-TV Interview

Wed May 31 00:00:00 EDT 2017

In conjunction with a documentary segment of the ABC-TV news show Nightline, “Climate for Conflict: Fighting to Survive in Somalia Plagued by Drought,“ that aired May 30, CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy was interviewed by Amna Nawaz on the intersection of climate change and conflict in Somalia May 26. Levy argued that there is a direct cause-and-effect relationship between climate change and conflict, though the net impact depends on interactions with other factors. In the past eight years the nexus of climate change and conflict has emerged as critical, Levy said, noting that in 2016 the National Security Council mandated comprehensive inclusion of climate change impacts in Department of Defense planning. Pointing out that extreme consequences of climate change can also be seen in Yemen, South Sudan, and Northern Nigeria, he added, “All signs are that this interacting instability that creates surprising catastrophic problems is with us for a while until we figure out how to deal with it.” Levy is a political scientist and expert on the political and environmental implications of climate change and instability, utilizing interdisciplinary research to understand how humans can better manage complex, interlinked systemic risk.

See: 'Climate Stress' and the Next Global Conflict (video interview)

Human Rights Conference in The Gambia Addresses Land Grabbing

Tue May 30 00:00:00 EDT 2017

Following the recent end of a 22-year dictatorship in The Gambia in West Africa and restoration of a democratic government, a National Stakeholder’s Conference on Justice and Human Rights was held May 23–25 in Banjul, the nation’s capital. The conference brought together participants from the legal sector, civil society, the media, and international human rights organizations to gain perspective on the abuses of the previous government and to kick start a comprehensive reform of the country’s constitutional, legal, and institutional framework. Malanding Jaiteh, CIESIN geographic information specialist, participated as an invited expert at the conference in his personal capacity. He demonstrated the applications of geospatial technologies in documenting “land grabbing,” in which both urban and rural land are forcibly taken from private citizens, framing the issue as a human rights abuse. He noted that land grabbing was a widespread problem and that any discussion of environmental sustainability and conservation must first deal with recognizing it as a critical issue and establishing the importance of restoring the appropriated land. He also urged the creation of a commission to investigate and map the incidence of land grabbing throughout The Gambia. Jaiteh, whose research focuses on conservation, the environment, and sustainability, was born in The Gambia.

See: Land Grabbing in The Gambia

Social Science Data Experts Explore Data′s Role in Research

Fri May 26 00:00:00 EDT 2017

“Data in the Middle: the Common Language of Research” was the theme of the 2017 conference of the International Association for Social Science Information Services and Technology (IASSIST) in Lawrence, Kansas, May 23–26. At the meeting CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert Downs presented the paper, “Facilitating Integration of Socioeconomic and Remote Sensing Data to Support Interdisciplinary Research and Applications,” co-authored with CIESIN director Robert Chen. IASSIST is an international organization of data librarians, data managers, and other information technology professionals who support data management, research, and teaching in the social sciences. The conference was hosted this year by the University of Kansas, in collaboration with the Kansas University Libraries, the Institute for Policy and Social Research, and the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank.

See: IASSIST 2017

Climate Change, Disasters, and Migration Examined at United Nations Panel

Wed May 24 00:00:00 EDT 2017

At United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York City May 23, CIESIN research scientist Susana Adamo participated as an expert speaker on a panel, “Adverse Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters as Drivers of Migration.” The panel was part of the informal second thematic session on addressing drivers of migration, including adverse effects of climate change, natural disasters, and human-made crisis, through actions such as protection and assistance, sustainable development, poverty eradication, and conflict prevention and resolution. Adamo was invited by the Office of the President of the General Assembly, which organized the panel with the UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General. This panel, together with a May 16 academic panel on climate change, migration, and displacement organized by the United Nations University (UNU), supported the Preparatory Process for the Global Compact for Migration. The call for the Global Compact follows the adoption in 2016 of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, in which the 193 UN Member States recognized the need for a comprehensive approach to human mobility and enhanced cooperation at the global level.

See: “Adverse Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters as Drivers of Migration” (video—Susana Adamo begins around 00:24)
       UNU Panel Series on Academic Thinking on Migration (video—Susana Adamo begins around 00:32)
       Preparatory Process for the Global Compact for Migration

Online Seminar Explores Interactions between Demography, Culture, and Environment

Fri May 19 00:00:00 EDT 2017

How demographic shifts, evolving cultural values and beliefs, and the changing environment may interact was the focus of an online “cyberseminar″ hosted by the Population and Environment Research Network (PERN) May 15–19, organized by CIESIN and the Columbia Aging Center. The cyberseminar began May 15 with a webinar hosted by Future Earth that summarized the background paper and introduced the themes addressed by panelists. Webinar presenters were Vegard Skirbekk of the Columbia Aging Center and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, and PERN coordinators, Susana Adamo, CIESIN research scientist, and Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications. They presented a paper co-authored with Tricia Chai-Onn, CIESIN geographic information specialist. Other invited experts provided comments on specific topics: Raya Muttarak of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) on ethnic and religious affiliation as they relate to vulnerability to natural hazards; Richard Wilk of the Department of Anthropology, Indiana University, on culture and environmentally significant consumption; and Tom Dietz of the Department of Sociology, Michigan State University, and Rachael Shwom of the Department of Human Ecology, Rutgers University, on culture, environmental risk perception, and behavior. Additional comments by experts from around the world have been posted to the cyberseminar discussion list.

The mission of PERN is to advance academic research on population and the environment by promoting online scientific exchange among researchers from social and natural science disciplines worldwide. PERN is a scientific panel of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP) and a sustained partner of Future Earth, an international initiative to advance global sustainability science.

See: PERN Cyberseminar Page

CIESIN Addresses Data Needs in Africa

Fri May 19 00:00:00 EDT 2017

Men fishing in Sierra Leone

Awareness is growing of the vital importance of evidence-based decision making in Africa, for example, in agricultural development, natural resource management, and climate vulnerability assessment. CIESIN continues to work actively to address key African data needs through a number of different projects and initiatives, including the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS) funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and operated by Rothamsted Research; the West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WA-BiCC) project of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); and the West Africa SERVIR hub being established jointly by USAID and NASA.

AfSIS is helping several African countries establish national soil information systems and services based on a range of new technologies. Senior research scientist Markus Walsh and deputy director Marc Levy manage CIESIN’s component of AfSIS, which is utilizing soil infrared spectroscopy, remote sensing, crowdsourcing, and other methods to accelerate development of digital soil maps. Such maps support efforts in partner countries Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, and Tanzania to intensify agricultural production sustainably. Ethiopia, for example, has been able to formulate five fertilizer blends and target their use geographically, which is more effective and less harmful than the single blend formerly in use. Swetha Ramaswamy, education and outreach coordinator for AfSIS, is spending more than two months in Africa this spring, working to develop an eLearning course based on AfSIS field and laboratory protocols. The course will be made available in multiple languages through low bandwidth Internet connections.

CIESIN associate director for science applications Alex de Sherbinin and associate research scientist Sylwia Trzaska are leading CIESIN’s activities on improving climate analyses and assessing vulnerability to climate change in Africa. This past spring Trzaska participated in several workshops and meetings for the United Kingdom’s Weather and Climate Information Services for Africa (WISER) program, in collaboration with colleagues from the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI). These meetings addressed a range of climate information issues, including the use of seasonal climate forecasts and “downscaling” of data to meet local needs. For the WA-BiCC project, Trzaska led a vulnerability assessment in the coastal areas of Sierra Leone, involving field data collection on household poverty, livelihoods, and environmental perceptions as well as mangrove data collection. She also led the data analysis, which involved several CIESIN staff members. Senior research associate Pinki Mondal is also contributing to the project, through an analysis of mangrove degradation along the coast of Sierra Leone using remote sensing data. For the new West African SERVIR node, CIESIN is assisting the prime contractor, Tetra Tech ARD, in developing technical capacity among consortium members and providing technical expertise on geospatial data acquisition, analysis, and application in support of national and regional decision making in the region.

CIESIN Staff Featured at Recent Events in New York and Mumbai

Thu May 18 00:00:00 EDT 2017

CIESIN staff members had prominent roles in a number of recent events in New York City, in Mumbai, and at other venues around New York State. Senior research associate Pinki Mondal gave a public lecture, “Mangroves through the Eye of a Satellite,” at the Columbia Global Center located in Mumbai, India, May 8. She described how remote sensing images from the past 27 years have provided insights into changes in mangrove ecosystems in Sierra Leone, West Africa, and how this approach can help estimate mangrove extents in India.

On May 13, CIESIN director Robert Chen gave a lightning talk at New York University in New York City, “Enabling Interdisciplinary Use of Scientific Data on Human Interactions in the Environment,” co-authored with senior digital archivist Robert Downs. The talk was part of a Colloquium on Libraries and Archives in the Anthropocene organized by Litwin Books.

During the United Nations (UN) 2017 Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals (STI Forum), the International Council for Science (ICSU), in collaboration with its Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UNSDSN), organized a side event, “Open Data and Open Science for the SDGs,” at UN headquarters May 15. In his capacity as co-chair of the UNSDSN Thematic Network on Data for Sustainable Development, Robert Chen moderated the panel, which featured talks by Heide Hackmann, executive director of ICSU, and Geoffrey Boulton, president of CODATA. CIESIN research scientist Susana Adamo served as a discussant, together with George Essegby, director of the Science and Technology Policy Research Institute of Ghana's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

Susana Adamo also participated in a May 16 academic panel,  “Climate Change, Migration and Displacement,” organized by the United Nations University (UNU) at UN headquarters. The panel was held in the context of regional consultations in support of negotiations for the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, with the aim of helping diplomatic communities in New York engage with the latest academic research and thinking on relevant migration policy issues.

Robert Downs traveled to Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York, May 17-18 for the Research Data Alliance United States (RDA/US) leadership meeting. Issues discussed included the sustainability of the RDA, engagement with the private sector, updates on current initiatives, current challenges, and new and existing programs. Downs serves as a co-chair of the RDA Interest Group on Repository Platforms for Research Data, and Chen is a co-chair of the RDA Legal Interoperability Interest Group.

More than 100 geographic information system (GIS) experts gathered in Purchase, New York, May 18 for the annual Westchester GIS User Group Meeting. Greg Yetman, associate director for geospatial applications, gave a presentation on the Hudson River Flooding Decision Support System and other related CIESIN projects. The meeting was held in collaboration with the Purchase College Environmental Studies Program.

See: “Climate Change, Migration, and Displacement” panel (video—Susana Adamo begins around 00:31)

Remote Sensing Data Experts Meet in South Africa

Sat May 13 00:00:00 EDT 2017

Senior digital archivist Robert Downs joined more than 500 remote sensing scientists, data experts, and space agency representatives from around the world in Tshwane, South Africa at the 37th International Symposium on Remote Sensing of Environment (ISRSE37) May 8‒12. During a session organized by the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), he presented “Implementing the Group on Earth Observations Data Management Principles: Lessons from a Scientific Data Center.“ Downs also attended the GEO Work Programme Symposium (WPS) May 12‒13, which focused on coordination across GEO initiatives and priorities. There he participated in discussions about potential adoption of the GEO data management and data sharing principles by the GEO community and presented a poster about relevant experience at the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC). GEO is a voluntary partnership of more than 100 national governments and over 100 Participating Organizations aimed at improving the coordination and sustained use of Earth observations in societal decision making.

Climate Vulnerability Mapping Addressed in Annapolis Workshop

Thu May 11 00:00:00 EDT 2017

participants in workshop,

Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications, led the workshop, “Meta-Analysis of Climate Vulnerability Mapping Studies,” at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) in Annapolis, Maryland, May 8‒10. Funded by a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation administered by the University of Maryland, SESYNC is focused on interdisciplinary collaborations that drive data-driven solutions to socio-environmental issues. The workshop brought together more than a dozen experts on climate vulnerability mapping, with several additional team members participating remotely. During the workshop, de Sherbinin gave a presentation on the SEDAC Hazards Mapper, an interactive tool for visualizing and accessing data on exposure and vulnerability of population and infrastructure to natural hazards, available from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center operated by CIESIN. The overall project is seeking to identify good practices in integrating spatial data representing climate exposure, biophysical systems, and social vulnerability, and to improve climate vulnerability maps and online map tools to facilitate science-policy communication.

See: “Meta-Analysis of Climate Vulnerability Mapping Studies″ (Workshop)

Connected Worlds Honored with Gold MUSE Award

Mon May 08 00:00:00 EDT 2017

Geralyn Abinder of NYSCI demonstrates the new Living Library at the Connected Worlds exhibit at the New York Hall of Science, Queens, New York

Connected Worlds, the innovative digital exhibit developed by the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) in partnership with Design I/O and CIESIN, has received the prestigious MUSE Media & Technology Gold Award in the interpretive interactive installations category. The first-place award was announced at a May 7 ceremony during the 2017 annual meeting of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) in St. Louis, Missouri. Permanently installed at the NYSCI in Queens, New York, Connected Worlds provides an immersive, interactive experience that engages children of all ages in active play and learning about sustainability concepts in six imaginary interlinked biomes. A new component of the exhibit, the digitally-projected “Living Library,″ serves as an interactive user manual. The MUSE awards recognize outstanding achievement in media for galleries, libraries, archives and museums in 14 categories, celebrating scholarship, community, innovation, creativity, education, and inclusiveness. Gold award winners will be featured in a special edition of the AAM's Museum magazine.

Last fall, Connected Worlds won the 2016 Science Media Award in the Interactive category, given by Jackson Hole WILD and WGBH Boston. CIESIN was part of the NYSCI team that conceptualized and developed the exhibit as part of a research project on informal learning, funded by the National Science Foundation. CIESIN is currently collaborating with NYSCI and Design I/O to develop an interactive tablet-based game aimed at integrating computational thinking with environmental science learning.

See: American Alliance of Museums (AAM) Media & Technology MUSE award

Scientific Data and Tools Highlighted at New York-Area Events

Fri Apr 28 00:00:00 EDT 2017

CIESIN staff at an Earth Day Fair at St. Thomas Aquinas College

CIESIN data and information resources were featured at several recent community events in the greater New York metropolitan area focused on science and the environment. At the St. Thomas Aquinas College (STAC) campus in Orangeburg, New York, April 26, senior digital archivist Robert Downs, senior research staff assistants Olena Borkovska and John Squires, and information scientist Xiaoshi Xing staffed a CIESIN booth as part of an Earth Day Fair for STAC students and K-12 attendees from nearby schools. The booth included a poster on the concept of map projections, a projection puzzle to engage students in hands-on learning, and a multimedia “story map” about the evolution and use of CIESIN's gridded population data products over the past twenty years. The fair was jointly organized by STAC and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Later that evening, senior research associate Pinki Mondal joined other female science professionals at the 4th Annual Women in Science Night, hosted by the East Side Community High School in the East Village area of New York City. In breakout sessions that followed a panel discussion, Mondal interacted with young women students interested in science careers, discussing her current research using remote sensing to assess how food crops respond to changing patterns of temperature/rainfall in India and how mangrove forests are changing in West Africa.

Farmingdale State College in Farmingdale, New York, was the venue for the 2017 Long Island GIS User Conference, which senior research staff assistants Alyssa Fico and Jane Mills attended, also on April 26. Fico and Mills gave a presentation, “Building Data for Climate Change Adaptation,” describing the Hudson River Flood Impact Decision Support System mapping tool in the context of challenges posed by climate change. The mapping tool was also presented at an April 27 event, “Hudson River on the Rise: Waterfront Planning for Communities and Nature,” at the Henry A. Wallace Center of the FDR Presidential Library and Home in Hyde Park, New York. GIS programmer Kytt MacManus, who coordinated development of the tool for CIESIN, spoke about how the tool could be valuable in resiliency planning to an audience of about 200 Hudson Estuary riverfront stakeholders, including municipal officials, community leaders, landowners, planners, resource managers, regulators, developers, and private sector professionals.

See: Building Data for Climate Change Adaptation (presentation, 2.04 MB PDF)
       4th Annual Women in Science Night (642 KB PDF)

SEDAC User Working Group Welcomes New Members

Fri Apr 21 00:00:00 EDT 2017

Four new members have joined the User Working Group (UWG) of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN: Shaida Baidee of Open Data Watch; Douglas Comer of Cultural Site Research and Management, Inc. (CSRM); Dave Jones of StormCenter Communications, Inc.; and Lea Shanley of the South Big Data Innovation Hub. Baidee is co-founder and managing director of Open Data Watch, a non-governmental organization focused on monitoring and promoting open development data, and she previously served as director of the World Bank’s Development Data Group. Comer is an expert on remote sensing applications in archaeology, and is currently president of the International Scientific Committee for Archaeological Heritage Management (ICAHM). Jones is Chief Executive Officer, President, and Founder of StormCenter Communications, bringing to bear decades of experience in remote sensing, meteorology, and broadcasting, involving both the private and public sectors. Shanley recently became co-Executive Director of the South Big Data Innovation Hub funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, after working on a range of geospatial technology and policy issues in government and academia in Washington DC. Chaired by Myron Gutmann of the Institute of Behavioral Science at the University of Colorado, the UWG provides guidance to SEDAC on user needs and priorities for data and services and helps SEDAC improve data quality and usability in both research and applications.

See: SEDAC User Working Group

Meeting in Grenoble Examines Opportunities for Data Initiatives in Africa

Fri Apr 14 00:00:00 EDT 2017

The World Data System (WDS) of the International Council for Science (ICSU), in collaboration with the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) and the Observatoire des Sciences de l’Univers de Grenoble (OSUG) and with support from the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), hosted a two-day exploratory meeting April 12–13 in Grenoble, France. The meeting, Data Initiatives in Africa—Opportunities and Challenges for Research and Sustainable Development, highlighted different data initiatives taking place in Africa, including those led by the IRD; presented the work of the WDS; and explored how the WDS might support development of data networks and the certification of data repositories. Two projects funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) were included among the presentations at the meeting. Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for science applications, gave a lightning talk on SERVIR West Africa, a joint venture between NASA and the USAID for which CIESIN serves as a subcontractor. SERVIR provides state-of-the-art, satellite-based earth monitoring data, geospatial information, and tools to help improve environmental decision-making in developing nations. Kenan Mogultay of the West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change project (WA-BiCC), a five-year USAID-supported project which CIESIN also supports, described preliminary efforts to set up a clearinghouse mechanism for environmental data in West Africa.

See: Data Initiatives in Africa – Opportunities and Challenges for Research and Sustainable Development

Geographers from around the Globe Gather in Boston

Mon Apr 10 00:00:00 EDT 2017

Alex de Sherbinin (left) and Dara Mendeloff (right)

The 2017 annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers (AAG) drew more than 9,000 geographers, spatial data experts, and other scientists and scholars from around the world to Boston April 5–9 to focus on the latest in research and applications in geography, sustainability, and geographic information science. Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for science applications, gave a presentation on mapping and modeling climate change migration, and served as a panelist in two separate sessions on environmental migration. Geographic information specialist Dara Mendeloff presented a poster on the Global Subnational Infant Mortality Rates, v2 (2014) data set to be released in the near future by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center operated by CIESIN. As part of the Symposium on Human Dynamics in Smart and Connected Communities: Methods and Practices for Estimating Gridded Global Population held April 7, Greg Yetman, associate director for geospatial applications, described the High Resolution Settlement Layer (HRSL) data developed with Facebook’s Connectivity Lab. Haibin Xia of East China Normal University, who is visiting CIESIN this year, chaired a session on remote sensing techniques for understanding populations and culture and presented “The Spatial Distribution and Change of Chinese Population with Agent-based GIS” in this session. 

See: 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers (Program)
       Mapping and Modeling the Flow of Climate Change Migrants” (Presentation, 4.8 mb PDF)

Data Infrastructures for Open Science Focus of Barcelona Meeting

Fri Apr 07 00:00:00 EDT 2017

CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert Downs joined more than 600 data science researchers, scholars, librarians, and technologists in Barcelona, Spain, April 5–7 at the 9th Plenary Meeting of the Research Data Alliance (RDA). During the poster session, Downs presented “Evaluating and Documenting Interdisciplinary Data to Support Research and Applications,” co-authored with CIESIN director Robert Chen, and “Creative Commons Licensing of Gridded Population of the World Version 4 (GPWv4) Data at SEDAC,” co-authored with Chen and Rina Pantalony of the Copyright Advisory Office of the Columbia University Libraries. SEDAC is the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center managed by CIESIN. Downs was a co-convener for the proposed Data Versioning Interest Group session on data versioning, and gave a presentation on scientific data versioning at SEDAC. As a co-chair of the RDA Interest Group on Repository Platforms for Research Data (RPRD) Interest Group, he co-convened the group′s April 7 session, “IG Repository Platforms for Research Data,” at which he presented “Selection of FEDORA with VITAL as a Digital Repository Platform for Preserving Scientific Data.”

See: Research Data Alliance 9th Plenary Meeting

A Day Devoted To Data Science: CIESIN Mapping Tools Featured

Wed Apr 05 00:00:00 EDT 2017

CIESIN staff demonstrate mapping tool AdaptMap at Data Science Day, April 5, Columbia University

Nearly 700 people from industry, government, and academia visited Columbia University′s Lerner Hall for the third Data Science Day organized by the university′s Data Science Institute. Two CIESIN mapping tools were demonstrated at the event, AdaptMap and the Jamaica Bay Water Quality Data Visualization and Access Tool. CIESIN senior research associate Sandra Baptista, programmers Jim Carcone and Kytt MacManus, and research assistant Jane Mills, together with Danielle Alexander, a graduate student in Earth and Environmental Sciences at CUNY Brooklyn College, interacted with visitors, demonstrating how these data-enabled tools can be used to support decision making related to water quality and sea level rise in Jamaica Bay.

AdaptMap was developed by CIESIN with partners at the Stevens Institute of Technology and the Wildlife Conservation Society, with support from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Jamaica Bay Water Quality Data Visualization and Access Tool was created by CIESIN and Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, with inputs from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and the Gateway National Recreation Area of the National Park Service and support from the U.S. Department of the Interior via the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay.

Later in the day, MacManus presented another mapping tool, the Hudson River Flood Impacts Decision Support System (HRFIDSS), at the Land Use Institute, a training event for municipal planners to learn about sea level rise and other land use issues. The Institute was organized by the Westchester Municipal Planning Federation in White Plains, New York. HRFIDSS was developed with support from the New York Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

See: New Mapping Tools Support Environmental Decision Making for Jamaica Bay

Indicators for Natural Resource Protection and Child Health Updated

Tue Apr 04 00:00:00 EDT 2017

The NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN recently released the 2016 update of the Natural Resource Protection and Child Health Indicators (NRPI-CHI), a data collection that supports the use of selection criteria to determine low-income countries’ eligibility for development assistance from the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). For the past ten years, CIESIN has updated the NRPI-CHI annually as part of a diverse basket of indicators used by the MCC. To receive MCC funding, countries must perform above the median for low-income countries on a high proportion of indicators in three categories considered instrumental to good governance: ruling justly, investing in people, and encouraging economic freedom. The Natural Resource Protection Indicator (NRPI) and Child Health Indicator (CHI) are based on proximity-to-target scores ranging from 0 to 100 (at target). Each country is measured in terms of how close it gets to the target, which is defined for the NRPI as 17% coverage of terrestrial land area weighted by biome (the so-called Aichi Target of the Convention on Biological Diversity), and for the CHI as 100% coverage for access to water and sanitation, and child mortality levels that are equivalent to the highest performing country. The 2016 release includes a consistent time series of NRPI scores for 2012 to 2016 and CHI scores for 2010 to 2016.

See: Natural Resource Protection Indicator (NRPI) and the Child Health Indicator (CHI), 2016 Release
       MCC Selection Indicators Overview
       Guide to Indicators 2017

Shanghai Delegation Explores Collaboration on Geographic Education and Urban Remote Sensing

Mon Apr 03 00:00:00 EDT 2017

Delegation from East China Normal University in Shanghai, with John Konarski of the American Geographical Society and CIESIN and Lamont staff

A delegation from the School of Geographic Sciences at East China Normal University (ECNU) in Shanghai visited CIESIN March 31 to discuss collaboration on geography education and urban remote sensing applications. During the morning session, Yushan Duan, professor of geography, gave a presentation on the state of geography education in China, including the recent introduction of high school geography curriculum standards. John Konarski, chief executive officer of the American Geographical Society (AGS), summarized the development of the Advanced Placement exam in human geography and a new exam under development on geographic information systems and technologies. The group then discussed potential areas of collaboration between ECNU, AGS, and CIESIN, including training opportunities and exchange of teaching materials.

In the afternoon session, Bailang Yu, professor of geography and associate dean, described his work on analyzing urban structure and urbanization processes using night-time lights data. Lamont research professor Christopher Small joined the meeting, presenting his latest research on urbanization and population distribution using night-time lights data. Robert Chen, CIESIN director, and Greg Yetman, associate director for geospatial applications, summarized CIESIN's ongoing activities related to population mapping and modeling, including efforts to coordinate the international community involved in developing geospatial data on human settlements, infrastructure, and population.

The ECNU delegation included seven graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. On April 1, CIESIN hosted the delegation at the New York Hall of Science in Queens, New York, where they were able to experience the Connected Worlds immersive installation that CIESIN helped to develop. The delegation subsequently traveled to Boston to participate in the annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers April 5–9, where they had the opportunity to meet with Marie Price, AGS president; Alexander Murphy, senior vice president; and Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for science applications. CIESIN′s collaborative relationship with the School of Geographic Sciences was launched in mid-2016, on issues related to geographic science, education, and applications. CIESIN is currently hosting visitor Haibin Xia from the School for one year.

Responsible Land Governance Focus of World Bank Conference

Sat Mar 25 00:00:00 EDT 2017

The annual World Bank Land and Poverty Conference tackled the theme, “Responsible Land Governance: Towards an Evidence-Based Approach,” March 20–24 in Washington, D.C. CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy chaired a session, “Reducing the Risks of Agribusiness Investment,” and also gave the presentation, “A Cost-Effective Approach to Meeting Data Needs for Multi-Purpose Land Governance in Africa,” in the session, “Using Remotely-sensed Data to Improve Land Use Efficiency.″ The presentation, co-authored with senior research scientist Markus Walsh, drew on examples from the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS) to show how a portfolio approach to data technology can generate more value than focusing on one data technology at a time. Levy leads CIESIN's participation in AfSIS; Walsh is its chief scientist. The Land and Poverty conference attracted more than 1,200 participants from government, academia, civil society, and the private sector from around the world involved in the land sector.

See: Land and Poverty Conference 2017 Agenda
       A Cost-Effective Approach to Meeting Data Needs...(6 MB PPTX)

NASA Earth Science Data Experts Meet in Annapolis

Fri Mar 24 00:00:00 EDT 2017

NASA scientists, data managers, and data product and service developers met in Annapolis, Maryland, March 21–23 for the annual meeting of the Earth Science Data System Working Groups (ESDSWG). Robert Downs, senior digital archivist for the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, participated in the meeting and presented the poster, “Improving the Quality of Scientific Data throughout the Data Lifecycle: A Case Study.“ Downs has contributed to ESDSWG activities since its inception in 2004, focusing recently on data quality and software reuse and citation. The annual meeting serves as a venue for reporting on the progress and results of topical working group activities during the past year and for planning new activities to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of NASA's Earth science data systems and the use of NASA data to support research, applications, and education.

Improving Sustainability through Voluntary Certification and Big Data

Wed Mar 22 00:00:00 EDT 2017

Two recent publications address ways to improve sustainability through voluntary certification of commodities and through development of “big data” approaches. The paper, “Is voluntary certification of tropical agricultural commodities achieving sustainability goals for small-scale producers?: A review of the evidence,” was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. University Professor Ruth DeFries of the Columbia University Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology (E3B) authored the paper together with CIESIN research associate Pinki Mondal and colleagues from Johns Hopkins University, Yale University, and Biodiversity International. The paper finds that that voluntary certification programs can help communities meet sustainable development goals, but are not a panacea for improving smallholder income or social outcomes.

A special issue of the Renewable Resources Journal features a report on the 2016 Congress on Harnessing Big Data for the Environment, including a summary of the presentations by invited speakers. CIESIN director Robert Chen gave one of the plenary talks at the Washington DC meeting, focusing on the challenges of harnessing the rapidly growing deluge of environmental and socioeconomic data to support monitoring and decision making related to sustainable development. The Congress and the special issue were organized by the Renewable Natural Resources Federation (RNRF), a consortium of organizations advancing science, education, and applications in managing and conserving renewable natural resources. Videos of speaker presentations are available here.

See: Is voluntary certification of tropical agricultural commodities... (0.8 MB PDF)
       Renewable Resources Journal issue (1.3 MB PDF)

Students Learn About Local Water Quality at Intrepid Museum Event

Mon Mar 13 00:00:00 EDT 2017

CIESIN table at the Girls in Science and Engineering Day March 11 at the Intrepid Museum

CIESIN senior research associate Sandra Baptista and geographic information specialist Dara Mendeloff participated in the fifth annual Girls in Science and Engineering Day at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City March 11. Educational organizations, students, and professionals engaged more than 1,600 visitors with hands-on activities and demonstrations highlighting science, technology, engineering, art, and math. To promote better understanding of local water quality issues, Baptista and Mendeloff demonstrated the Jamaica Bay Water Quality Data Visualization and Access Tool as well as a range of instruments used to collect data on water quality, including a Niskin bottle, a Secchi disk, and a multi-parameter sonde.

Panel Discusses HBO Reports on Climate Change and Displacement

Fri Mar 10 00:00:00 EST 2017

The David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center in New York was the venue March 8 for an advance screening of Episode 57 of HBO′s VICE News Tonight. CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy served on a panel that discussed the episode′s two video segments, “When the Earth Melts,″ and “The Displaced,″ and the connections between their subjects of climate change and refugees. Moderated by Bev Chase, supervising producer at VICE on HBO, the panel included two of the episode producers together with Levy and Ninette Kelley, New York director of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The event was organized by VICE Media and New America.

See: Episode 57: When the Earth Melts & The Displaced

International Challenge Launched on Data for Climate Action

Thu Mar 09 00:00:00 EST 2017

An open international challenge has been established to demonstrate how data-driven innovation can enable new ways to address climate change. The Data for Climate Action Challenge seeks to harness data science and big data from the private sector to generate new solutions that can help communities respond to climate change and increase their resilience and sustainability. Organized by UN Global Pulse in partnership with Western Digital Corporation, the Skoll Global Threats Fund, and a diverse set of private sector contributors, the Challenge will provide data scientists, researchers, and other innovators with access to unique data and resources as a testbed for new analytic approaches and tools. Applications to participate are due April 10, and winners will be announced in November 2017. CIESIN director Robert Chen is one of the strategic advisors to the Challenge.

See: Data for Climate Action Challenge Announcement

Experiences in Teaching Environmental Peacebuilding Shared

Fri Mar 03 00:00:00 EST 2017

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy joined a panel on the teaching of environmental peacebuilding at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association February 21‒24 in Baltimore, Maryland. During the roundtable discussion, Levy reflected on lessons learned from his experience in offering environmental security courses over the past two decades. Levy is an adjunct professor in Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, where he teaches graduate courses on environment-security linkages. He also co-directs Columbia’s Certificate Program in Environment, Peace and Security. Founded in 1959, the International Studies Association is one of the oldest interdisciplinary associations dedicated to understanding international, transnational, and global affairs.

See: International Studies Association Annual Convention 2017

Experts Consider How to Measure the Impact of Digital Repositories

Thu Mar 02 00:00:00 EST 2017

Data repository managers, digital resource project leaders, and representatives from several Federal agencies met at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Virginia, February 28 and March 1 to take part in the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program (NITRD) Big Data Workshop: Measuring the Impact of Digital Repositories. CIESIN's senior digital archivist, Robert Downs, served on an initial panel of repository managers who discussed issues, tools, and methodologies for measuring the impact of digital repositories. He gave a presentation on “Measuring the Impact of a Scientific Data Center,” briefly highlighting efforts over many years by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) to track scientific citations of its data. The workshop sought to identify current metrics, tools, and practices for assessing and communicating the impact of digital repositories; technical, social, and financial obstacles; and research topics designed to advance the creation and adoption of high quality evaluation criteria.

See: Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program (NITRD) Big Data Workshop

New Mapping Tools Support Environmental Decision Making for Jamaica Bay

Mon Feb 27 00:00:00 EST 2017

Left side of image shows screenshot of Jamaica Bay Water Quality Data Visualization and Access Tool, right side shows screenshot of Adaptmap

Jamaica Bay in New York is a vital natural resource for the New York metropolitan area that is facing a range of human and environmental stresses. CIESIN recently released two interactive mapping tools aimed at helping decision makers and the general public better understand and manage these stresses: AdaptMap and the Jamaica Bay Water Quality Data Visualization and Access Tool.

AdaptMap demonstrates how sea level rise may worsen storm-driven flooding in the Jamaica Bay watershed. Users may view future flood adaptation scenarios to see how potential flooding might be reduced, and examine the costs and benefits of alternative adaptation measures. To provide historical context, AdaptMap includes past landscapes for the years 1609 and 1877, with associated historic flood zones, and portrays landscape changes over time. AdaptMap was developed by CIESIN with partners at the Stevens Institute of Technology and the Wildlife Conservation Society, with support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The research team found that changes to the surrounding landscape since the 1870s have made the Bay more susceptible to flooding. They used this knowledge in developing nature-based adaptation approaches for reducing future flooding. The AdaptMap tool provides download access to underlying data sets, storm animations, and documentation, along with the ability to interactively visualize historic, present day, and potential future flooding. 

The Jamaica Bay Water Quality Data Visualization and Access Tool enables users to explore, visualize, and download water quality data and metadata for Jamaica Bay. It centralizes access to water quality data to facilitate research and education and to improve resource management and resilience in Jamaica Bay and the surrounding communities. CIESIN created the tool in collaboration with Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, with extensive stakeholder input and user testing. The water quality data sets were provided by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and the Gateway National Recreation Area of the National Park Service. The U.S. Department of the Interior supported the project as part of Hurricane Sandy Mitigation Funding awarded to the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay.

See: Introduction to AdaptMap
       About the Jamaica Bay Water Quality Database

Earth Imagery Platform for Impact Launched at Seattle Summit

Fri Feb 24 00:00:00 EST 2017

More than 100 experts and stakeholders from around the world met February 21–23 at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle to participate in and advise on the launch of Radiant, an initiative to develop a unique geospatial and imagery platform to help address the developing world’s greatest social, economic and environmental challenges. Established by the Omidyar Network and BMGF as the Open Imagery Network in August 2016, Radiant seeks to promote open access to geospatial data, support knowledge transfer and analytical tools for global development practitioners, and foster innovation and entrepreneurship worldwide. CIESIN director Robert Chen participated in the Thought Leaders Summit, chairing two breakout sessions with participants from academia and consulting organizations. Radiant seeks to build upon existing open repositories of Earth observations and other geospatial data, and to capture and integrate rapidly expanding sources of imagery in support of sustainable development.

Dartmouth College Radio Show Interviews CIESIN Demographer

Fri Feb 17 00:00:00 EST 2017

In addition to sudden natural disasters such as hurricanes or flash floods, slow-moving climate change events such as drought can cause displacement and migration, explains CIESIN research scientist and demographer Susana Adamo in an interview for the radio show, “The Briefing Powered by Dartmouth,“ broadcast on SiriusXM Insight Channel 121. Speaking with the host, Mike Mastanduno, Dartmouth College dean of faculty and an expert in international relations, Adamo discusses current research and concerns about climate change and human migration. The program is airing Saturday, February 18, at 8 am EST with re-broadcasts February 19 at 6 am and 7 pm. “The Briefing” is a new weekly satellite radio show that aims to provide historical and factual perspectives on the week’s news. To hear an excerpt from Adamo’s interview, go here.

See: “The Briefing Powered by Dartmouth”—Sirius XM weekly schedule
       (Non-subscribers may create a free trial account)

Role of Population Data in Monitoring Sustainable Development Discussed at Esri FedGIS Conference

Wed Feb 15 00:00:00 EST 2017

Greg Yetman, associate director for geospatial applications, joined more than 4,000 federal geospatial technology professionals at the 2017 Esri FedGIS Conference, “GIS–Improving Our Nation,” February 13–14 in Washington, D.C. He gave an invited presentation, “Population Data for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” as part of the session, “GIS Data for the SDGs.” His presentation focused on the implications of using different population data sets for developing indicators linked to the SDGs, which were adopted by the international community in September 2015. Drawing on recent discussions at an expert meeting on geospatial settlement, infrastructure, and population data organized by CIESIN February 1–3, Yetman highlighted differences among several global population distribution data sets to illustrate the issues surrounding the selection of input data sets in developing indicators for any of the SDGs. 

See: “GIS–Improving Our Nation” (Esri FedGIS Conference)

“Behind the Scenes″ Tour of Connected Worlds Exhibit Given

Mon Feb 13 00:00:00 EST 2017

Located at the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) in Queens, Connected Worlds is the world′s largest immersive digital museum exhibition, developed by NYSCI in partnership with Design I/O and CIESIN. The unique installation engages children of all ages in active play and learning about sustainability concepts in six imaginary interlinked biomes. On February 12, the NYSCI president, Margaret Honey, hosted a special behind the scenes tour of Connected Worlds for members of the President′s Council. CIESIN director Robert Chen joined NYSCI chief scientist Steven Uzzo and Design I/O computer artist Theo Watson in describing the science and creative process behind the exhibit, as well as the challenges in implementing a robust and working system that is also engaging. Chen underscored the importance of educating the next generation of students to think systematically and sustainably, and highlighted several online tools developed by CIESIN aimed at helping decision makers and the public deal with complex environmental issues in the real world. Participants in the tour then had a chance to experience Connected Worlds for themselves, including the new digitally-projected “Living Library″ that serves as an interactive users' manual for the exhibit. Last fall, the Connected Worlds exhibit won the 2016 Science Media Award in the Interactive category, awarded by Jackson Hole WILD and WGBH Boston.

Data Rescue, Data Integration, and Land Use Change Highlighted in New Publications

Thu Feb 09 00:00:00 EST 2017

CIESIN staff members and a former visitor have authored several new papers on diverse topics. Senior digital archivist Robert Downs and director Robert Chen are co-authors of the chapter, “Curation of Scientific Data at Risk of Loss: Data Rescue and Dissemination,” in the book, Curating Research Data Volume One: Practical Strategies for Your Digital Repository. They document efforts by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) to rescue data from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a major international assessment of the world′s ecosystems, conducted 2001–2005. The book is edited by Lisa Johnston and published by the American Library Association.

Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications, has authored the chapter, “Remote Sensing and Socioeconomic Data Integration: Lessons from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center,” in the CRC Press book, Integrating Scale in Remote Sensing and GIS. The chapter highlights a range of examples in which remote sensing data have been combined with other environmental and socioeconomic data to produce new products designed to support both interdisciplinary research and applications.

Information scientist Xiaoshi Xing and de Sherbinin are co-authors of an article on historical land use change in China published in Nature Scientific Reports. The lead author, Yuanyuan Yang of the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, visited CIESIN in 2013‒2014 while a doctoral student in land use management at Jilin University in China. The article describes a spatially-explicit modeling framework for reconstructing historical land use change in Zhenlai County in northeastern China.

Experts on Geospatial Settlement, Infrastructure, and Population Data Gather at Columbia

Fri Feb 03 00:00:00 EST 2017

Participants at a meeting on settlements, infrastructure, and population data, Lamont campus, February 2.

Understanding where people live and where their buildings and other infrastructure are located is critical to improving health care and other essential services, reducing vulnerability to hazards, expanding access to markets, and supporting other aspects of sustainable development. Numerous public and private sector organizations around the world are working to produce geospatial data on human settlements, the built infrastructure, and population distribution, drawing on a growing array of data sources including satellite-based radar, night-time light sensors, and high-resolution imagery. Following up on an initial meeting held at SciDataCon 2016 in Denver last fall, CIESIN invited more than 25 experts from academia, private companies, international organizations, and development agencies to the Columbia University Lamont campus in Palisades, New York, February 1–2 to compare methods, explore opportunities to collaborate, and assess how to make data more usable for a range of applications. The group then met February 3 on the Morningside campus with more than 15 representatives of stakeholder organizations, to identify user needs and priorities from the perspective of United Nations agencies, development organizations, funders, and other interested parties.

Participants in the meeting agreed to collaborate on an intercomparison study in Nigeria, to improve understanding about the advantages and limitations of different settlement, infrastructure, and population data sets and their appropriateness for different applications. There was also strong support for efforts to better coordinate data access and documentation, improve consistency and transparency of data and methods, and share data, computing resources, and expertise. Recognition is clearly growing among users and other stakeholders of the importance of these data as an essential foundation for monitoring and decision making with respect to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and as a unique resource to enable better integration of data across boundaries, time periods, and the public and private sectors.

The meeting was supported by a Cross-Cutting Initiative grant from the Earth Institute and by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. Participants included experts from Facebook, Google Earth Engine, Esri, ImageCat, the European Commission's Joint Research Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the World Bank, the WorldPop project, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management, and several different universities in the United States, United Kingdom, and China.

Benefits of Investing in Data Repositories Examined

Sat Jan 28 00:00:00 EST 2017

The return on investment (ROI) of scientific data repositories was the subject of a workshop at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, January 25‒26. Representatives from a diverse group of repositories participated in the workshop, including Robert Downs, CIESIN senior digital archivist. Participants examined current approaches for evaluating the ROI of scientific data repositories, and explored potential methodologies for measuring and reporting the ROI in various settings. Downs gave presentations on approaches for measuring the value of scientific data centers and evaluating their impact, drawing on CIESIN′s long experience in operating the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC). The workshop was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Enhancing Disaster Decision Making Addressed in Philadelphia Workshop

Sat Jan 28 00:00:00 EST 2017

When major storms or other extreme events occur, key organizations such as emergency management and utilities, transportation, and communication networks must mobilize quickly to activate and position resources and make a range of decisions to ensure public safety, reduce the severity of impacts, and improve recovery times. Representatives of a diverse set of Federal, state, and local agencies, public and private utilities, and other business groups met January 26 in Philadelphia for the second Data Driven Decision Making (D3M) workshop, held to examine how improved access to diverse earth science and socioeconomic data could help improve disaster decisionmaking in specific use cases related to flooding, power restoration, and regional situational awareness. During the meeting, CIESIN director Robert Chen gave presentations on a range of decision support tools and data sets relevant to these use cases, including the Hazards Mapper and HazPop mobile app available from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), as well as data on building footprints, critical infrastructure, impervious surfaces, and social vulnerability. CIESIN is working with StormCenter Communications, Inc. to incorporate the SEDAC Population Estimation Service into StormCenter′s GeoCollaborate tool, which provides a disaster data Daily Dashboard for the Fleet Response Working Group (FRWG). The FRWG is a public-private working group of the All Hazards Consortium (AHC), co-organizer of the D3M workshops with the ESIP Federation.

Scenarios of Future Population Distribution To Be Developed

Fri Jan 27 00:00:00 EST 2017

CIESIN, in collaboration with the City University of New York (CUNY) Institute for Demographic Research and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), has begun an innovative modelling project for the World Bank that aims to develop scenarios of future population distribution taking into account climate impacts in key socioeconomic sectors. The project will contribute to the World Bank report, “Climate Change, Migration and Securing Resilience: An Evidence-Based Approach for Action,” to be published in late 2017. The work builds on existing spatial population projections that do not incorporate climate impacts. Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications, is co-leading the project. He travelled to Washington DC January 25–26 to participate in the project kickoff meeting at the World Bank.

While in DC, de Sherbinin also joined food security experts for the January 26 panel, “Ending Famines, Creating Food Security, and Fostering Thriving Livelihoods in a Changing World,” sponsored by Tetra Tech and the Wilson Center Environmental Change and Security Program. Panelists offered insights on innovative initiatives to increase food security and bolster resilience to climate-related disasters in the world’s food insecurity hotspots. Comments by de Sherbinin focused on the use of geospatial data and analytics to study the factors contributing to past crises, to address crises as they unfold, and to build resilience for the future.

Development Data Experts Gather in Cape Town

Fri Jan 20 00:00:00 EST 2017

CIESIN director Robert Chen (left) with Talip Kilic senior economist, Development Data Group, The World Bank

The first United Nations World Data Forum brought together more than 1,000 experts on sustainable development data and monitoring from approximately 100 countries to Cape Town, South Africa, January 15–18 to consider data challenges and opportunities associated with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In order to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the international community in September 2015, significant improvements are needed in the breadth, quality, and timeliness of a diverse set of socioeconomic and environmental data and indicators, not only to support monitoring of the SDGs, but also to facilitate effective sustainable development decision-making from local to global scales. With this in mind, the UN Independent Expert Advisory Group on the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development (IEAG) recommended the establishment of the World Data Forum in its 2014 report, A World That Counts. CIESIN director Robert Chen, who served as a member of the IEAG, was invited by the UN Statistics Division to join the Forum’s Programme Committee in July 2016. He coordinated more than six different sessions dealing with open data principles, technical standards and best practices, applications of geospatial and remote sensing data, and development of new data tools and services. He also gave a presentation on legal interoperability of data, based on the work of the Legal Interoperability Interest Group of the Research Data Alliance (RDA) and Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA), which he co-chairs.

The Forum also served as a venue for several side events and activities. On January 19, Chen participated in the Third UN Data Innovation Lab workshop, organized by the UN World Food Programme and UN Global Pulse. He gave a presentation to mid-career staff from various UN and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) on CIESIN′s partnership with Facebook and the World Bank in developing new high resolution settlement layer (HRSL) data, and ongoing efforts to develop a broader “data collaborative″ for georeferenced population, settlement, and infrastructure data. Chen also participated in January 15 and 19 meetings of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD), a global network of governments, NGOs, and businesses working together to mobilize data in support of sustainable development. CIESIN is an Anchor Partner of the GPSDD and also works closely with other members such as the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UNSDSN) and the Group on Earth Observations (GEO).

The UN World Data Forum was hosted by Statistics South Africa at the Cape Town International Convention Center. The next Forum will be hosted by the United Arab Emirates in 2018.

See: Earth Negotiation Bulletin coverage of the UN World Data Forum

January Meeting Strengthens Ties Between Diverse Communities

Sat Jan 14 00:00:00 EST 2017

The Federation of Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) held its winter meeting January 11–13 in Bethesda, Maryland, bringing together a diverse group of producers, managers, distributors, and users of earth science data around the theme, “Strengthening the Ties Between Observations and User Communities.” Greg Yetman, CIESIN associate director for geospatial applications, Robert Downs, senior digital archivist, and John Scialdone, Data Center Services manager, represented the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), an ESIP “Type 1” member, at the meeting. Yetman gave a presentation as part of a panel, “Earth Science Data for Informing Decisions,” and Downs co-chaired a session, “Measuring the Value of Data,” with Ruth Duerr of the Ronin Institute. Downs also presented a poster, “Adoption of the Group on Earth Observations System of Systems Data Management Principles at a Scientific Data Center.” At the ESIP Assembly Meeting January 12, Downs was elected to the ESIP Governance Committee as the Type 1 representative. ESIP now includes more than 180 partners working cooperatively on the collection, stewardship, and use of earth science data, information, and knowledge in ways that are responsive to societal needs.

See: 2017 ESIP Winter Meeting
       "Measuring the Value of Data"–panel presentation slides

Vulnerability Assessment Results Shared with Stakeholders in Sierra Leone

Mon Jan 09 00:00:00 EST 2017

Preliminary results of a vulnerability assessment (VA) for Sierra Leone were presented recently by CIESIN associate research scientist Sylwia Trzaska in a series of meetings there in December 2016, sponsored by the West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WA-BiCC) project of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The WA-BiCC project addresses direct and indirect drivers of natural resource degradation, aiming to improve livelihoods and natural ecosystems across the region. The first meeting in Freetown December 5–6 included an option analysis with project partners and a presentation to a wider audience from the Sierra Leone Environmental Protection Agency, the Natural Protected Areas Authority, other government agencies, and international and non-governmental organizations. Trzaska subsequently participated in meetings December 7-15 with community and partner groups in six coastal locations where data collection had taken place. The feedback and results of the option analysis will be used in finalizing the VA and developing recommendations.

Following her trip to Sierra Leone, Trzaska travelled to Bamako, Mali, where she conducted a three-day, hands-on training on climate predictability for forecasters from Mali’s meteorological service, Mali-Météo. The training focused on the Climate Predictability Tool (CPT), developed by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) for seasonal climate forecasting.

New Year Begins with New Visitors

Thu Jan 05 00:00:00 EST 2017

This January, CIESIN has welcomed two new visitors, Haibin Xia from East China Normal University (ECNU), and Lucile Maertens, a post-doctoral fellow in political science and international relations supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Xia began a one-year research visit January 4. Now an engineer with the ECNU School of Geographic Science in Shanghai, Xia received his PhD, master's, and bachelor degrees from the ECNU College of Resources and Environment Science. At CIESIN he is continuing his research on the biophysical and climatic correlates of population distribution in China, which he presented January 12 at a brown bag lunchtime seminar at the Lamont campus. He will also work with Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications, on a new project on climate change migration modeling.

Lucile Maertens arrived January 9 with an appointment as a part-time postdoctoral fellow at CIESIN through August 2017. Maertens is an associate researcher at Sciences Po in Paris and has been a Visiting Research Fellow at King’s College London. She has a PhD in political science from Sciences Po and the University of Geneva (Switzerland). She is studying interactions between security, environment, and climate change, focusing in particular on United Nations practices related to security and environment in Haiti. At CIESIN, she is working with Alex de Sherbinin and CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy.

Symposium Focused on Reconciling Development and Conservation in Central India

Mon Jan 02 00:00:00 EST 2017

About 70 experts from academic, government, and private sector organizations met December 14‒17, 2016, at the Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, India, for the Central Indian Landscape Symposium (CILS). Pinki Mondal, senior research associate at CIESIN, was a co-organizer of the 2016 Symposium, which focused on the theme, “Reconciling Development, Livelihoods and Conservation Goals.” She also co-chaired the session, “The Future of Water, Climate, and Agriculture,” and gave an oral presentation, “Implications of Agricultural Intensification for Diet and Nutrition in Central India.” The Symposium concluded with a presentation by Praveen Pardeshi, principal secretary in the Chief Minister’s Office in Maharashtra. Local partners in organizing the Symposium included the World Wildlife Fund-India and the Satpuda Foundation.

See: Central Indian Landscape Symposium (CILS)