CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy attended the final Lead Authors' Meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II held in Bled, Slovenia July 14–18. Working Group II, which focuses on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, is devoting a chapter to the topic of human security, including such issues as conflict, migration, employment, inequality, and indigenous peoples. As one of the chapter's lead authors, Levy spent the week with his co-authors evaluating responses to peer-review comments, coordinating with other chapter teams, and discussing final revisions to the chapter. The IPCC Fifth Assessment is expected to be released in spring 2014.
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The human and economic toll of large-scale disasters is widely recognized, but in many parts of the world efforts to reduce disaster risks are limited and not well integrated into economic and social development. To help focus attention on the benefits of disaster risk reduction for sustainable development, a technical meeting “Targets and Indicators for Addressing Disaster Risk Management in the Post-2015 Development Agenda” was held in New York July 18–19. CIESIN senior staff associate Alex de Sherbinin gave a presentation on the use of indicators related to environmental performance and sustainability in policy and decision making. Director Robert Chen moderated a panel session on building the evidence base for key indicators and targets identified in the meeting breakout groups. Alliance Program intern Fannie Delavelle also participated in the meeting as a rapporteur.
The technical meeting was organized by the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Children's Fund, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery. It aims to provide technical inputs on potential disaster-related targets and indicators to be incorporated into a new set of sustainable development goals that would supersede the current Millennium Development Goals in 2015.
CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert Downs gives a presentation July 10 at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, on the SEDAC Population Estimation Service and data resources. 2013 ESIP Summer Meeting, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Chapel Hill, North Carolina was the venue for back-to-back meetings addressing different aspects of the use of remote sensing and other environmental data in research, applications, and teaching. CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert Downs participated in the 2013 DataONE User Group Meeting July 7–8, where he presented a poster authored with CIESIN director Robert Chen, “Enabling Discovery and Use of Education and Professional Development Resources to Improve Geospatial Data Management and Preservation Practices.” As part of the meeting, he led a roundtable on data management planning.
Downs then joined the 2013 Summer Meeting of the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) July 9–12, where, in a special workshop for teachers, he gave a presentation on classroom use of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Information Applications Center (SEDAC) Population Estimation Service. He also presented a second poster authored with Chen, “Measuring the Multidisciplinary Impact of Scientific Data Disseminated by the NASA SEDAC.” On July 10, Downs was one of the ESIP meeting attendees who shared their work at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and on July 11 he gave another presentation on the topic of using SEDAC data to meet next-generation science education standards.
The ESIP Federation meeting was hosted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Renaissance Computing Initiative (RENCI). DataOne, the Data Observation Network for Earth, is one of the DataNet projects supported by the National Science Foundation; CIESIN is also a partner in a DataNet project led by the University of Minnesota, Terra Populus.
CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy and director Robert Chen gave virtual lectures June 27 to two different groups of scientists and scholars. Levy spoke to a distributed international network of health researchers involved in the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Innovation Collaborative on Global Environmental Health and Sustainable Development. He described the ongoing development of new socioeconomic and climate scenarios needed to assess the long-term implications of climate change, through a process coordinated with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). Chen gave an invited talk to more than 100 faculty, staff, students, and other guests at the Forum on the Future of Scientific Publishing: Open Access to Manuscripts & Big Data held at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. His presentation addressed the need for sustainable, open access data in the rapidly expanding field of sustainability science.
CIESIN staff members recently participated in four meetings around the U.S. on different aspects of data management, analysis, and visualization. On June 16-20, senior staff associate Sonya Ahmed attended the 2013 National Cooperative Soil Survey (NCSS) National Conference in Annapolis, Maryland. She gave an overview of efforts to develop digital soils maps for Africa as part of the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS), a major initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
On June 24-25 in Hampton, Virginia, senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin and senior media designer Al Pinto participated in a NASA technical meeting on data visualization and browse imagery for data from the Earth Observing Data and Information System (EOSDIS), including data from the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. At the same time, CIESIN director Robert Chen traveled to Ann Arbor, Michigan to attend a workshop on "Sustaining Domain Repositories for Digital Data," organized by the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan and sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. He participated in a panel discussion on data infrastructure at national and international levels chaired by Sayeed Choudhury of Johns Hopkins University.
Further west, geographic information specialist Kytt MacManus attended the twelfth annual Scientific Computing with Python conference (SciPy 2013) June 24-28 in Austin, Texas. He gave a presentation on recent research activities at CIESIN to develop a uniform and efficient data structure for summarizing global geographic information.
Satellite observations are proving to be a valuable tool in assessing air pollution, specifically one of the worst pollutants, PM2.5 (microscopic particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter). Ground-based monitoring of this type of pollutant, which can lodge deep in lungs and may lead to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, is expensive. Many countries lack the technical and financial resources to set up their own monitoring systems. Satellite monitoring, though less accurate than ground-based measurements, has the advantage of providing wall-to-wall coverage at relatively low cost.
Building on a model developed by researchers at Dalhousie University that estimates ground-based concentrations of PM2.5 from data on aerosol optical depth (AOD), a team from the Battelle Memorial Institute and CIESIN developed annual estimates of PM2.5 concentrations over a 10-year period on a global latitude-longitude grid. The AOD data were obtained from two different NASA instruments, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR).
The gridded data, developed by the NASA-funded project, "Using Satellite Data to Develop Environmental Indicators: An Application of NASA Data Products to Support High Level Decisions for National and International Environmental Protection," are the basis for environmental indicators designed to support health and environmental research and decision making. For example, they have been used in developing the particulate matter indicator of the 2012 Environmental Performance Index (EPI).
Exposure to high levels of PM2.5 is associated with premature death as well as increased morbidity from respiratory and cardiovascular disease, especially among the elderly, young children, and those already suffering from these illnesses. The World Health Organization guideline for PM2.5 average annual exposure is less than or equal to 10.0 micrograms per cubic meter, whereas the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) primary standard is less than or equal to 12.0 micrograms per cubic meter.
Lars Jan, founding artistic director of Early Morning Opera, visited CIESIN in Palisades, New York June 4 to continue collaborative discussions started at the “Art and Science Dating Game,” which took place in March at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Jan met again with CIESIN director Robert Chen as well as with other CIESIN and Earth Institute staff members to examine how various types of scientific data could be woven into Jan's new performance project, Holoscenes. Holoscenes is an ambitious effort to use water as a medium of expression about human-climate interactions on multiple time and space scales.
Jan gave an informal brown bag talk about his work to CIESIN and other staff at the Lamont campus. He was accompanied by Rasu Jilani, director of community programs at Mapp International Productions, which is producing Holoscenes. This art-science collaboration was facilitated by PositiveFeedback, an initiative of the Earth Institute, the Center for Creative Research at New York University, and the Institute for Sustainable Cities of the City University of New York.
CIESIN has released a digital global data set on intercity roads, the Global Roads Open Access Data Set, Version 1 (gROADSv1). Developed under the auspices of the Global Roads Data Development Task Group of the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) of the International Council for Science, gROADSv1 combines the best available open access data on roads between human settlements into a global roads coverage consistent with the United Nations Spatial Data Infrastructure Transport (UNSDI-T) version 2 data model.
This first version of the gROADS data set is part of a continuing effort to address the need among professionals in the humanitarian response, development, transportation, biodiversity conservation, and allied fields for free and open, spatially accurate, and readily updateable data on roads in order to better understand issues such as market access, cost of transportation, and human pressures on the environment. Data on road networks connecting human settlements may be especially valuable when used in conjunction with remote sensing and other spatial data to improve decision making related to urbanization and rural development. gROADSv1 is being distributed by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, and represents an important step towards addressing the criteria established by the CODATA Task Group.
CIESIN has recently begun work on a new project funded by the World Bank to use night-time lights data to analyze growth patterns of South Asian cities over time. Cities in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives with populations greater than 100,000 in the year 2000 have been mapped at two points in time, 1999 and 2010, and patterns of change in urban extent over the decade are being analyzed.
CIESIN has also joined an international team led by the UNEP-DHI Center for Water and Environment that is developing an assessment of transboundary river basins as part of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Transboundary Water Assessment Program (TWAP). The overall purpose of the TWAP is to carry out a global comparison of approximately 200 transboundary river basins in order to improve understanding and management of current and future risks to both society and ecosystems at the river basin scale. The transboundary river basins component aims to develop quantitative indicators on a variety of dimensions, including water quantity, water quality, ecosystems, governance, and socioeconomic trends, for use by the GEF and other stakeholders. CIESIN′s role is to create indicators of economic activity, socioeconomic well-being, vulnerability to natural disasters, and dependence on water resources. Other team members include the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI); the Center for Environmental Systems Research (CESR) at the University of Kassel, Germany; the City University of New York (CUNY); and the Delta Alliance.
The NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN has released an update of its Population Estimation Service Map Client that now supports mobile devices such as tablets and smart phones. The new client uses version 3 of the Google Maps API to provide a user-friendly query interface to the SEDAC Population Estimation Service (PES), which is a standards-based Web service that provides an estimate of total 2005 population for a specific area of interest. The population estimates are based on the SEDAC Gridded Population of the World version 3 (GPWv3) data set. The new map client auto-detects screen size and automatically adjusts fonts and presentation to fit the device. Users are also now able to modify an existing polygon in order to refine their query, and to search for locations by name.
Data Needs for Understanding Urbanization and for Developing Climate Indicators Examined in Washington DC MeetingMay 10, 2013
How remote sensing data from the NASA Earth observation satellites can be used in conjunction with socioeconomic data to improve assessment of urbanization patterns and trends was one of two main topics addressed in a technical interchange meeting organized by SEDAC, the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center operated by CIESIN, May 8–9 in Washington, D.C. The second topic was the potential role of NASA data centers like SEDAC in supporting the development of a system of indicators for the U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA), a Congressionally-mandated assessment of climate change and its impacts in the United States.
As part of the meeting, two parallel breakout sessions were held with members from the SEDAC User Working Group (UWG) and the UWG of the Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC), to take advantage of their combined expertise and understanding of remote sensing and socioeconomic data. Experts from NASA, the NCA, other NASA data centers, and the World Bank also participated in person and by teleconference. Later in the meeting, SEDAC manager Robert Chen, deputy manager Alex de Sherbinin, and lead project scientist Marc Levy briefed the SEDAC UWG on recent activities and progress, including improvements to the SEDAC Web site and the expanding range of scientific citations of SEDAC data.
The SEDAC UWG is chaired by Molly Macauley of Resources for the Future. The UWG provides strategic advice and guidance to SEDAC and NASA and reviews SEDAC data development and dissemination plans.
CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert Downs created seven modules for the online learning resource, Data Management for Scientists Short Course, which was developed as a collaborative effort of the ESIP Commons, the knowledge repository of the Federation of the Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP). The short course aims to improve data management practices of scientists and data management professionals. Modules developed by Downs include Providing Access to Your Data: Access Mechanisms,” “Providing Access to Your Data: Determining Your Audience,” “Providing Access to Your Data: Rights,” “Responsible Data Use: Data Restrictions,” “Working with Your Archive: Broadening Your User Community,” “Providing Access to Your Data: Tracking Data Usage,” and “Providing Access to Your Data: Handling Sensitive Data.” All of the modules in the short course are freely available for use under a Creative Commons Attribution License, and may be used individually or combined to support instruction and learning on data management, dissemination, stewardship, and related issues.
CIESIN staff members participated in two recent scientific conferences, the annual meetings of the Population Association of America (PAA) and the Association of American Geographers (AAG). Associate research scientist Susana Adamo organized two sessions at the PAA, held in New Orleans April 11–13. The first session, in which she served as the discussant, focused on urbanization and climate change. Presenters included former CIESIN scientist Deborah Balk of the CUNY Institute for Demographic Research. The second session, which Adamo chaired, addressed the demographic dimensions of climate change and included presenters from the U.S., Burkina Faso, and Ghana. More than 2,000 demographers, sociologists, economists, public health professionals, and other population experts attended the conference.
At the AAG annual meeting in Los Angeles April 9–13, geographic information specialist Tricia Chai-Onn staffed the NASA booth, helping to increase awareness and understanding of NASA Earth science data and services, including those offered by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. The AAG meeting attracts more than 5,000 geographers, Geographic Information System specialists, environmental scientists, and other scholars from around the world, providing an excellent opportunity to interact directly with SEDAC users.
CIESIN welcomed three interns April 16 from the École Polytechnique in Paris: Guillem Bardy, Juliette Mansard, and Sarah Le Net. Bardy is majoring in environmental sciences and is working with senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin to study flood resilience in New York City, Mumbai, and Ho Chi Minh City. Mansard, also an environmental sciences major, is working with associate director for geospatial applications, Mark Becker, on a new project to develop a decision support system on flood hazards for the lower Hudson River Valley. Le Net is majoring in renewable energies and civil engineering and is collaborating with information scientist Xiaoshi Xing to retrieve and analyze sulphur dioxide emissions data by region and by country for the period 1850 to 1969. All three interns are third-year students enrolled in a four-year program at École Polytechnique that leads to the equivalent of a U.S. masters degree. This is the sixth year that CIESIN has hosted three-month internships arranged through the Alliance program, a joint venture between Columbia University, École Polytechnique, Sciences Po, and the Université de Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne.
SEDAC has a long history of disseminating sustainability indicator data, including the Environmental Performance Index (EPI), Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI), and the Compendium of Environmental Sustainability Indicators (CESIC). These indicators have generally been developed in a partnership between CIESIN and the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy (YCELP). Now, in a new report, CIESIN and YCELP assess the use of indicators in policy and management contexts. The report, Indicators in Practice: How Environmental Indicators Are Being Used in Policy and Management Contexts, identifies three potential applications for indicators: use by policymakers to help choose a course of action; broad, conceptual use of indicators to frame an issue for society; and a political role in helping make a case for or against a particular policy action.
CIESIN senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin was lead author of the report, written with deputy director Marc Levy and researchers Aaron Reuben and Laura Johnson from YCELP and the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. The study will continue to track the evolving uses and impacts of environmental indicators, adding new case studies as they are produced to the Indicator Case Studies Web site.
CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy and associate research scientist Susana Adamo participated in an Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on Science and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) held March 20-21 at United Nations headquarters in New York City. Adamo chaired a portion of the meeting, and Levy served as rapporteur for one of the two break-out groups. Organized by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) in partnership with the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the International Social Science Council (ISSC), the purpose of the meeting was to assess how science can best inform the SDG process and provide guidance to the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (OWG). The OWG is a body of the UN General Assembly charged with developing proposals for the SDGs, which are expected to guide international development efforts after 2015.
CIESIN is pleased to welcome Erin Doxsey-Whitfield and Gina Dinnegan as staff members and Jared Talkin as an intern. Doxsey-Whitfield is now a senior research staff assistant in the Geospatial Applications Division, after working at CIESIN last year as a casual employee. She received a M.S. in physical geography from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, where her research focused on glacial biogeochemistry and alpine water quality. Dinnegan has joined CIESIN's administrative team as a part-time administrative assistant. She had been a teacher’s assistant at St. Dominic’s School in Blauvelt, New York, working with special education students. Talkin is majoring in sustainable development at Columbia's School of General Studies and is a senior editor of Consilience, The Journal of Sustainable Development, hosted by the Columbia Libraries. At CIESIN, he is working on the fourth version of the Gridded Population of the World data product.
CIESIN moved to the Lamont Campus of Columbia University in Palisades, New York, in July 1998, becoming a center in the newly established Earth Institute along with the International Research Institute on Climate and Society (IRI).
In late 1992, I received a call from a head hunter who was seeking suggestions for a senior scientist with a non-profit organization that had an odd acronym and long name: CIESIN, the Consortium for International Earth Science Information Network, based in Saginaw, Michigan. Although not senior myself, I thought I had a lot of the desired interdisciplinary expertise and experience already—in part from working with geographer Bob Kates as an assistant professor with the Alan Shawn Feinstein World Hunger Program at Brown University—so I applied for the position. After a short period working as a consultant, I began at CIESIN fulltime in March 1993, the same month that Dr. Roberta Balstad Miller took over as CIESIN’s second president.
The Science Division I joined was directed by the late Jack Eddy, a noted space scientist with whom I had worked on a National Research Council study for the International-Geosphere Biosphere Program. In the first few years, we had the opportunity to launch some exciting new activities, including a Global Demography Project proposed by distinguished geographer Waldo Tobler and some innovative online data resources such as the Environmental Treaties and Resource Indicators (ENTRI) database and the China Dimensions data collection. With the Internet and the World Wide Web still in their early stages, CIESIN was ahead of the curve in bringing new data and information technologies to bear on interdisciplinary problems involving both the natural and social sciences. Full Story
CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert Downs participated in the EarthCube Education End-User Workshop, which was held at the University of California, San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography March 4–6. Sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the workshop focused on tools and capabilities for improving undergraduate education in the Earth and environmental sciences. It included scientist-educators, data providers, and employers. Downs gave a presentation highlighting interdisciplinary uses of SEDAC data and he served as a facilitator of a breakout session on Interface Design. EarthCube is a collaborative endeavor between NSF and the community of geoscientists and cyberscientists to transform research and data management practices and provide new access and visualization capabilities to the geosciences community over the next decade.
The Transboundary Waters Assessment Programme (TWAP) River Basins kickoff workshop took place March 4–5 in Copenhagen, with CIESIN senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin presenting a summary of the SEDAC data sets relevant to the assessment. Funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), TWAP is an indicator-based global assessment of all transboundary freshwater and marine systems, including physical, socioeconomic, and governance aspects. CIESIN's primary role is to develop socioeconomic indicators based on a range of data sets for approximately 260 transboundary river basins globally.
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