The EarthCube All Hands Meeting held in Washington DC June 24–26 brought together members of the earth science community to share progress and plan future activities. CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert Downs presented a poster at the session June 23 on the use of online educational technology to improve capabilities for data sharing and use. The following day, in collaboration with Leslie Hsu and Kerstin Lehnert of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), Erin Robinson of the Foundation for Earth Science, and Ilya Zaslavsky of the San Diego Supercomputer Center, Downs organized a breakout session on workforce development. At the same session he also presented, “Professional Development for an Evolving Earth Science Workforce,” authored with CIESIN director Robert Chen. The National Science Foundation (NSF) launched EarthCube in 2011 as a collaborative partnership between NSF’s Directorate for Geosciences (GEO) and the Division of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure (ACI) to support data sharing across the geosciences.
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At an Expert Roundtable, “Designing Indicators for the SDGs: Collecting Comprehensive, Timely Data,” convened in New York City June 23–24 by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) in cooperation with the UN Statistics Division (UNSD), CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy gave a presentation on environmental sustainability data gaps relevant to the SDSN draft sustainable development goals (SDGs). The SDSN supports the development of the SDGs to address the challenges of economic development, social inclusion, environmental sustainability, and good governance, in relation to the Millennium Development Goals to end poverty.
Associate research scientist Susana Adamo and senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin joined a group of demographers, geographers, economists, and modelers for a workshop focused on demographic scenarios in support of the US Global Change Research Program and the National Climate Assessment. Held June 23–24 in Rockville, Maryland, the workshop aimed to assess key factors in the production of long-term scenarios of U.S. demographic change for use in interdisciplinary analysis of social and environmental issues. Discussion recognized that trends in fertility and mortality will be easier to predict than migration, and population characteristics will be the hardest to project, especially for smaller administrative units. Scenario development following different story lines with internally consistent narratives was suggested as a way to characterize multiple possible futures.
Staff from CIESIN, LDEO, and the Agriculture and Food Security Center and scientists from the Sichuan Academy of Agricultural Sciences at the Comer Building on the Lamont campus, Palisades, New York, June 23.
A delegation of twenty scientists from the Sichuan Academy of Agricultural Sciences visited the Lamont campus the morning of June 23 to learn about the Earth Institute’s diverse work in the area of agriculture and food security. An overview of the Earth Institute and CIESIN’s research and data resources related to agriculture and climate was presented by CIESIN director Robert Chen, followed by a description of the processing and soils data delivery component of the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS), provided by staff associate Kimberly Peng. Mark Musumba, postdoctoral research fellow with the Agriculture and Food Security Center, summarized plans for the Vital Signs project, which is focused on integrated agricultural development in Tanzania. Lamont associate research professor Benjamin Bostick concluded the visit with a presentation on arsenic and other heavy metal contamination of soils, a major issue for public health and agriculture in China and other parts of Asia. The delegation was led by Prof. Jianjun Liu, vice president of the Sichuan Academy.
Geospatial data are developed and managed by many different government agencies but are used for many different purposes by the broad geodata research and applications community. Addressing the social, political, financial, and technical issues of connecting geodata in and among governmental agencies was the focus of the GeoData 2014 workshop, held at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, June 17–19. CIESIN director Robert Chen gave an invited presentation as part of the first plenary panel, highlighting the complex network of stakeholders and challenges strengthening collaboration and ensuring long-term sustainability. The workshop plenary and panel sessions were livecast and will be posted for viewing. A workshop report is also in preparation. The workshop was sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and aimed at complementing the NSF EarthCube initiative by extending the scope of the discourse beyond the NSF-funded geoscience research community.
Future climate vulnerability under scenario RCP8.5, a high-concentration pathway described by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for 2050.
A new report on mapping climate vulnerability hotspots in Mali, West Africa, has been produced under the auspices of the project, African and Latin American Resilience to Climate Change (ARCC), funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Authored by a team led by senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin, the report uses a spatial vulnerability index comprised of 18 indicators grouped into three vulnerability components: climate exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity. The index suggests that relatively large areas of northern Mali have high vulnerability, although they are thinly settled; the capital, Bamako, has low vulnerability; and the southeast, which is the most densely populated area of Mali, has medium to medium-high vulnerability. Downscaled future climate scenarios indicate an expansion of higher vulnerability regions southward (see map; areas north of 17.2° N were excluded because of data limitations). The mapping exercise integrated several data sets from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center operated by CIESIN with satellite-derived vegetation and soil carbon data.
USGS environmental scientist Chandra Giri and CIESIN geographic information specialist meet on break from the June 14 meeting of the SEDAC User Working Group, of which Giri is a member. A former CIESIN researcher, he led development of the new Mangroves data, in collaboration with Jaiteh.
The User Working Group (UWG) of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) met June 12–13 at Columbia University to assess SEDAC’s recent progress and planned strategic initiatives in areas such as urban land use change and infrastructure data development. Chaired by Molly Macauley of Resources for the Future, the meeting brought together UWG members from a range of scientific disciplines and institutions along with representatives from NASA headquarters and the Goddard Space Flight Center. Uwe Deichmann of the World Bank, a member since 2011, Nancy Searby of the NASA Applied Sciences Program, and SEDAC’s manager Robert Chen gave presentations on the use of SEDAC data in research, training, and applications. Stephen Mooney of the Built Environment and Health Research Group, Columbia University also gave a short presentation on crowd sourcing of socioeconomic and health data. The UWG advises NASA and CIESIN on the continued operation and development of SEDAC.
CIESIN joins the national and international geospatial community in mourning the passing of Douglas Nebert, a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) expert who died in a small plane accident May 31 in Oregon. Nebert, age 51, was a senior advisor for geospatial technology at the USGS and an internationally known leader in promoting data interoperability and the development of geospatial data infrastructure. He was a recipient of the Kenneth D. Gardels Award of the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) and contributed actively to the work of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO). CIESIN staff members interacted with Nebert extensively over the past 15 years on geospatial data and metadata activities in support of the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) and through the OGC and GEO.
A delegation from the Iraq Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Planning met with CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy and senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin at CIESIN June 5. The purpose of the visit was to discuss the availability and quality of Iraq’s data in the 2014 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) and possible collaboration on mechanisms to help Iraq better track progress on key environmental issues. The delegation was headed by Ali Abdulzahra Al-Lami, deputy minister of environment.
New methods for improving data on intercity roads are reviewed and assessed in an article by Taro Ubukawa of the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan, CIESIN associate research scientist Alex de Sherbinin, and others, just published in the CODATA Data Science Journal. The article, “A Review of Roads Data Development Methodologies,” was produced by the International Council for Science Committee on Data for Science and Technology (ICSU-CODATA) Global Roads Data Development Task Group (CODATA gROADS), which de Sherbinin chairs. Ubukawa was a visiting scholar at CIESIN from 2012 to 2013.
Yuanyuan Yang, a graduate student in land resource management at the College of Earth Sciences of Jilin University in China and staff associate at CIESIN, is lead author of the article, “A Review of Historical Reconstruction Methods of Land Use/Land Cover,” published in the August issue of the Journal of Geographical Sciences. Xiaoshi Xing, CIESIN information scientist, is also a co-author.
Senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin participated in the International Symposium on Environmental Change and Migration held May 28–29 in Washington DC. Sponsored by The World Bank Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD), the symposium included a presentation by de Sherbinin, “Resettlement in an Age of Dislocations,” as part of a panel on resettlement migration as a risk management strategy. One of the panel moderators was Koko Warner of the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security, who collaborated with de Sherbinin and others on the climate and migration projects and reports, Where the Rain Falls and In Search of Shelter. KNOMAD is a group within the World Bank that acts as a global hub of knowledge and policy expertise on migration and development issues.
Associate research scientist and demographer Susana Adamo provided expertise on population issues to two recent meetings focused on the environmental and security risks of climate change and on disaster loss assessment. On May 14, she served as one of three speakers in a panel, “Strengthening the Field: The Role of Demography in Responding to Climate Change,” at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC. The panel focused on how demographers can help anticipate interactions between climate change and demographic factors such as population growth, women’s empowerment, age-structure, migration, and urbanization and assess the population, environment, and security implications of extreme weather and climate variability. Event co-sponsors were the Wilson Center’s Africa Program and the Global Sustainability and Resilience Program.
On May 19–20, Adamo attended the Third Expert Meeting of the Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR) Data Working Group held in Ispra, Italy. The meeting focused on methods for assessing economic losses and human impacts of disasters and on implementation of the recently released Peril Classification and Hazard Glossary, that provides guidelines on disaster event classification and consistent terminology. The IRDR is co-sponsored by the International Council for Science (ICSU), the International Social Science Council (ISSC), and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), and takes a global, multi-disciplinary approach to research on disasters.
CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy participated in an expert workshop, “Highest Priority Researchable Questions for Agricultural and Food System Security in the 21st Century,” held May 14–16 at the University of Oxford, England. Chaired by Molly Jahn of the University of Wisconsin and Charles Godfray of Oxford, the workshop was convened to provide input to the CGIAR Mid-Term Review Panel led by Sir John Beddington, who participated in the workshop. The panel is an independent body of reviewers assessing progress in reforming the CGIAR, a global partnership of organizations engaged in research for a food secure future.
Gora Mboup, the chief of the Global Urban Observatory (GUO) at the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), gave a talk on streets as public spaces and drivers of urban prosperity at a brownbag seminar May 8 at Columbia′s Morningside Heights campus. Mboup summarized the results of a recent study released by UN-Habitat that demonstrates the importance of allocating sufficient urban land to streets and supporting multiple functions to enhance urban productivity, prosperity, and quality of life. The lecture was co-hosted by CIESIN and the Center for Sustainable Urban Development (CSUD). Mboup has collaborated with CIESIN for a number of years on projects related to mapping of urban slum development and exposure to earthquakes.
The “triple threat” posed by rising sea levels, extreme storms such as Hurricane Sandy, and aging coastal infrastructure was a key focus of a May 7 Business Summit at the New York Academy of Sciences Conference Center in Manhattan. CIESIN director Robert Chen moderated a session on this topic, which included presentations by Cynthia Rosenzweig of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Earth Institute, and by Mary Munson of the Organization of Coastal States. The Summit, organized by the National Institute for Coastal & Harbor Infrastructure (NICHI), brought together key stakeholders from both the private and public sectors to address not only the risks posed by climate change to coastal cities and infrastructure, but also opportunities to invest in resilient multi-purpose coastal infrastructure. The Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast (CCRUN), in which CIESIN is a partner, was one of the sponsors.
Olena Borkovska, Jane Mills, and John Squires have joined CIESIN's Geospatial Applications Division as research staff assistants. Borkovska, who has a BA in environmental policy and management from the Geography Department of Hunter College, City University of New York, is working on the fourth version of the Gridded Population of the World (GPWv4) dataset for the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) and on an ecological assessment project funded by the Nature Conservancy. Squires, who received his BA in sustainable development from Columbia University, is contributing to the same projects and to a National Science Foundation-funded project on the Bronx River "sewershed" led by Prof. Patricia Culligan of Columbia's Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics. Mills has a BA in applied mathematics from Barnard with a minor in environmental science. She is supporting the Hudson River Flood Hazard Decision Support System project, as well as SEDAC's GPWv4 effort.
Lola Olsen of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center passed away April 19 in North Carolina. Olsen spearheaded the development of the Global Change Master Directory (GCMD), one of the largest public data catalogs in the world and a key element of the NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System. Olsen was known as a dedicated metadata champion and a lively member of the Earth science data management community. She pioneered the use of keywords and vocabularies for Earth science data and mentored many staff and students now involved in data management. Memorial donations may be made to www.unitingagainstlungcancer.org or Hospice of the Chesapeake.
The GCMD enables discovery and facilitates access to all of NASA’s Earth science data sets and services, including those provided by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC).
CIESIN senior research staff assistant Kimberly Peng participated in the Third Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Workshop in Boulder, Colorado, April 8–10. NASA's SMAP mission, scheduled to be launched in October 2014, will provide unique new measurements of surface soil moisture and freeze-thaw state that will help improve understanding of regional water cycles, ecosystem productivity, and processes linking the water, energy, and carbon cycles. Peng attended a short course on soil moisture and ocean salinity (SMOS) April 8. At the workshop April 9–10, she presented a poster on the integration of remote sensing data to support agricultural applications, based on work by the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS) and the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC). The workshop was co-hosted by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), and EXELIS Inc.
The NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN has released several new datasets on anthropogenic transformation of the terrestrial biosphere over three centuries and on population and land area in the Low-Elevation Coastal Zone (LECZ).
Version 2 of Anthropogenic Biomes of the World, developed by Erle C. Ellis of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and colleagues (Ellis et al., 2010), consists of 4 datasets that characterize changes in terrestrial ecosystems over the time period 1700 to 2000 caused by sustained direct human interactions such as urbanization and agriculture. The datasets depict 21 global anthropogenic biomes or "anthromes" derived from analysis of a range of historical data on land use/land cover, agriculture, and population.
Version 2 of the Urban-Rural Population and Land Area Estimates, part of SEDAC's LECZ collection, provides aggregate estimates of land area and urban, rural, and total population for 202 statistical areas (countries and other UN recognized territories). Population and land area estimates are subdivided by elevation zones derived from NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) elevation data at two spatial resolutions, approximately 90 meters and approximately 1 kilometer, providing a range of estimates. Data are provided for the years 1990, 2000, and 2010 along with a long-term projection to the year 2100. Pivot tables enable grouping and filtering of data by country, region, continent, income level, elevation zone, and other attributes.
Three students from École Polytechnique, the prestigious French university located near Paris, have begun three-month internships at CIESIN beginning in early April. The interns, Amine Allouah, Nicolas Ma, and Emilie Maysonnave, are third-year students enrolled in a four-year program that leads to the equivalent of a U.S. masters degree. Allouah, who is majoring in applied mathematics, is helping to develop an updated Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI) for 2015 as part of a team led by senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin. Ma is majoring in optimization, combining computer science and applied mathematics, and is assisting program manager Alex Fischer and staff associate Paola Kim-Blanco with spatial analysis of Haiti's national infrastructure and facilities inventory data. Maysonnave, who is majoring in environmental sciences, is working with deputy director Marc Levy to develop tools and data to assist Tanzania in sustainable agricultural management. These recent arrivals increase the total to 20 French students hosted by CIESIN since 2008 under the auspices of the Alliance program, a joint venture between Columbia University, École Polytechnique, Sciences Po, and the Université de Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne.
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