Geographers from across the U.S. and the world met in New Orleans, Louisiana, April 10–14 to present and discuss recent and ongoing research on diverse geographic topics, including hazards, urbanization, public engagement. Several sessions on human settlement and population mapping were organized, including two on high-resolution population modeling and a session on advancements in detecting and projecting population and the footprint of human settlements. CIESIN director Robert Chen gave a presentation in the latter session on the ongoing efforts of the POPGRID Data Collective to advance the use and impact of geospatial settlement, infrastructure, and population data in sustainable development and other applications. Greg Yetman, associate director for Geospatial Applications, discussed mapping green infrastructure and impervious surfaces in New York City, in a session, “Making the City Green.″ His presentation was co-authored with John Squires, senior research staff assistant, and was based on work supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation as part of the project, Developing High Performance Green Infrastructure Systems to Sustain Coastal Cities, led by Patricia Culligan of the Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics and the Urban Design Lab. POPGRID activities are supported in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN.
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Current trends suggest that the already extensive populations of the Asian megadeltas, where more than 174 million people now live less than 7 meters above sea level, will continue to grow. A new study appearing in the journal Global and Planetary Change combines updated gridded population density data with data on “night-time lights″ measured from space and a digital elevation model to assess the spatial evolution of population and development on the nine Asian megadeltas. The invited research article, “Decades of Urban Growth and Development on the Asian Megadeltas,” is authored by Lamont Research Professor Christopher Small, together with Daniel Sousa, a graduate student with the Columbia University Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences; CIESIN associate director Gregory Yetman and GIS programmer Kytt MacManus; and Christopher Elvidge of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The gridded population data are from the fourth version of the Gridded Population of the World data collection developed by the NASA Socioeconomic and Data Applications center operated by CIESIN.
MacManus is also a co-author of “Palm Oil in Myanmar: A Spatiotemporal Analysis of the Effects of Industrial Framing on Biodiversity Loss,” which presents the results of a spatial analysis to determine areas in Myanmar best suited for oil palm tree growth. Findings suggest potential tension in the Tanintharyi region between suitability of oil palm trees and biodiversity protection. Kristopher Nicholas, a recent Columbia College graduate and an advisee of MacManus, was the lead author of the paper, which is published in the open access journal, Global Health: Science and Practice. MacManus serves as a lecturer at Columbia College and the School of International and Public Affairs.
The third round of intergovernmental negotiations on the Global Compact for Migration was held at United Nations headquarters in New York City April 3–6. In conjunction with the negotiations, the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD) organized a briefing April 4 at the Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to discuss migration in the context of disasters and climate change. Susana Adamo, CIESIN research scientist, and Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for Science Applications, spoke on data and knowledge gaps at the briefing. Other event speakers included Professor Walter Kaelin, Envoy of the Chair of the PDD, and representatives of Refugees International, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the International Organization for Migration. The PDD, which is currently chaired by Bangladesh, is following up on work begun by the Nansen Initiative to implement the Nansen Initiative Protection Agenda, endorsed by 109 governmental delegations during a Global Consultation in October 2015. The Global Compact for Migration will be the first intergovernmental negotiated agreement prepared under the auspices of the United Nations to cover all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner.
CIESIN welcomes two new visitors, Koji Osumi and Rebeca de Bakker Doctors, this spring. Osumi, who is section chief in the Geographic Department, Geoinformation Processing Division at the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan, is being hosted by the Geospatial Applications Division for one year. He will be collaborating with the associate director of the division, Greg Yetman, and with associate director of Science Applications, Alex de Sherbinin, on studies of spectral mixing analysis from satellite imagery and modeling of temporal change using vegetation indexes. Osumi has a BS and MA in earth science from Hokkaido University and has worked at both the Geospatial Information Authority and the Ministry of the Environment in Japan.
An Alliance Program intern from École Polytechnique, de Bakker Doctors is conducting research on the use of geospatial data for decision making in complex settings, supervised by deputy director Marc Levy. She will work with senior research associate Sandra Baptista and team members on the new Geo-referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) initiative. She is studying for an MS in the Challenges for Environmental Sciences program at École Polytechnique, and has a BSc in economics from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro.
Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for Science Applications, participated in a National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) Pursuit event March 28–29 that focused on populations displaced by sea level rise and coastal extremes. The workshop was hosted by the University of Maryland in Annapolis and led by David Wrathall of Oregon State University and Valerie Mueller of Arizona State University. Twenty researchers from a variety of academic and government institutions in the United States and abroad were invited to participate. Funded by a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation, SESYNC facilitates interdisciplinary collaborations to develop data-driven solutions to socio-environmental issues.
Two new data sets have been released by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. The India Village-Level Geospatial Socio-Economic Data Set: 1991, 2001, provides detailed administrative boundary data for India (village/town-level) together with more than 200 socioeconomic variables from the 1991 and 2001 censuses. The data are available for the 28 states and combined Union Territories in existence in 1991 and 2001. The data set was developed as part of a research project on the dynamics and determinants of land change in India by Prasanth Meiyappan of the University of Illinois and colleagues from India and from Columbia University. This is the second data set in the India Data Collection, which also includes the data set, India Annual Winter Cropped Area, v1 (2001–2016).
SEDAC has also released a new data set on global patterns of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) over nearly two decades: the Global PM2.5 Grids from MODIS, MISR and SeaWiFS Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) with Geographically Weighted Regression (GWR), 1998–2016. The data set consists of estimated annual concentrations (micrograms per cubic meter) of PM2.5, with dust and sea salt removed, on a grid of 0.01 degree resolution, or about 1 km at the equator. This version supersedes a previous data set with coarser resolution (0.1 degree, or about 10 km) and data only through 2012. The new data set combines AOD measurements from the NASA Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR), and the Sea-Viewing Wide Field-of-View Sensor (SeaWiFS) with a chemical transport model. GWR is used to adjust estimates drawing on available ground-based measurements. The data set was developed by a team led by Aaron van Donkelaar at Dalhousie University in Canada.
Attendees at the workshop, “Linkages between Earth Observations and Ecosystem Services,” March 21‒22 in Palo Alto, California. CIESIN research scientist Susana Adamo is third from left in the first standing row.
Potsdam and Berlin in Germany, Palo Alto in California, and Bristol in the United Kingdom were the venues for meetings of three different communities concerned with digital data for different applications. Robert Downs, CIESIN senior digital archivist, traveled to Potsdam March 18 for the FAIR Data Workshop organized by the American Geophysical Union and then to Berlin March 20 for a meeting of the Research Data Alliance (RDA) Technical Advisory Board and Chairs. He then participated in the 11th RDA Plenary March 21–23, where he gave presentations about the World Data System of the International Council for Science (ICSU-WDS), principles and practices for enabling open data use, and characterizing data quality. He also co-convened a session of the RDA interest group on Repository Platforms for Research Data, which he co-chairs.
CIESIN research scientist Susana Adamo joined researchers from academia, government, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector for a March 21–22 workshop in Palo Alto, “Linkages between Earth Observations and Ecosystem Services,” as part of the Natural Capital Symposium. This was the second workshop in a series of three exploring the use of Earth observations in ecosystem services research and applications, organized by the Institute on the Environment-University of Minnesota, Stanford Woods Institute-Stanford University, and the Gund Institute for Environment-The University of Vermont, and funded by NASA.
The emerging community of organizations and individuals involved in data for international development gathered in Bristol March 21–23 for the first Data for Development Festival organized by the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD). CIESIN director Robert Chen and deputy director Marc Levy both attended, giving presentations on two initiatives addressing foundational geospatial data needs for sustainable development. Chen described efforts to coordinate global-scale data on human settlements, infrastructure, and population through POPGRID, a project supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). Levy participated in a special session on the new Geo-referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) initiative, supported by BMGF and the UK Department for International Development (DFID). GRID3 aims to build national capacity to collect, analyze, integrate, disseminate, and utilize high-resolution population, infrastructure, and other reference data in support of national sectoral development priorities, humanitarian efforts, public health, and sustainable development goals (SDGs). Chen remained in Bristol March 24–25 to co-chair a meeting of the Thematic Research Network on Data and Statistics (TReNDS) of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. CIESIN is an anchor partner of the GPSDD and coordinating partner of GRID3.
Several CIESIN staff members have contributed to a range of publications in prominent journals and books and to a major new World Bank report. Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for Science Applications, is lead author of the chapter, “Geospatial Modeling and Mapping,” in the Routledge Handbook of Environmental Displacement and Migration. Edited by Robert McLeman of Wilfrid Laurier University and François Gemenne of the Hugo Observatory at the University of Liège, Belgium, the Handbook constitutes a major review of research on how environmental variability and change influence current and future global migration patterns and may trigger large-scale population movement. The chapter′s co-author is Ling Bai, a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Southern California.
The World Bank report, Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration, was released March 19 through the Bank's Open Knowledge Repository. Alex de Sherbinin and research scientist Susana Adamo are among the co-authors of the report, which examines the potential impacts of climate change on population movement within countries in Latin America, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa in future decades. CIESIN coordinated the study with the Institute for Demographic Research at the City University of New York and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
Kytt MacManus, CIESIN GIS programmer, is a co-author of the paper, “Flood Hazard Assessment from Storm Tides, Rain and Sea Level Rise for a Tidal River Estuary,” appearing in the journal, Natural Hazards. The research team led by Philip Orton of Stevens Institute of Technology found that areas along the Hudson River south of Poughkeepsie are dominated by storm surge-induced flooding, whereas areas north of Poughkeepsie to Albany are impacted more by precipitation-based flooding. The research included further development of the Hudson River Flood Impact Decision Support System, and was supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
MacManus also contributed to a second paper, “NASA’s Black Marble Nighttime Lights Product Suite,” published in the journal, Remote Sensing of Environment. A companion to the well-known “Blue Marble” image of the Earth, the Black Marble provides insight into distributions and changes in visible lights at night. The lead author of the paper, Miguel Román of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, is collaborating with CIESIN on two new projects funded by NASA in support of the Human Planet initiative of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO).
The most recent update to the fourth version of the Gridded Population of the World data collection, GPW version 4.10, contains the first global data set on the spatial distribution of population broken down into different age groups by sex (male and female). The data were developed by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN.
Prior versions of GPW provided estimates of the total population in each latitude-longitude grid cell. Now with the inclusion of age and sex information drawn from the 2010 round of national population censuses, it is possible to map specific demographic subgroups such as elderly populations, school-aged children, young adults, and women of childbearing age. This enables users to better understand spatial variations in age structure and sex ratios within countries for specific regions of interest. The age and sex data expand GPW’s usefulness in many research and application areas, including vulnerability and risk mapping, urbanization and migration studies, and emergency response and public health applications. In addition, gridded age and sex data can help in monitoring and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially with respect to efforts to disaggregate data to support the objective to “leave no one behind,” e.g., the elderly, the young, and other subgroups who may be geographically isolated.
The new downloadable data consist of population counts and density rasters for 5-year age groups and for selected age categories (0–14, 15–64, 65 and older), as totals and by sex. A raster data set of women of childbearing age (15–49) is also available. All of the GPWv4.10 raster data sets are now available in ASCII and netCDF formats as well as GeoTiff. Files with coarser resolution (2.5, 15, 30, and 60 arc minutes) may be selected to enable faster raster processing and compatibility with data sets from other scientific domains. A vector data set, “Administrative Unit Center Points,” has been updated to include age and sex attributes.
First developed in 1994, GPW provides population estimates on a latitude-longitude grid for all land on the planet except Antarctica, created through analysis of census and administrative boundary data from every country in the world. The gridded format permits easy integration with a wide range of data, supporting research, planning, and applications in energy and water management, disaster and humanitarian response, agriculture and food security planning, public health interventions, transportation and communications development, urban and coastal zone planning, and many other aspects of sustainable development.
The free, downloadable data and descriptions, including documentation and maps, are available at http://sedac.ciesin.columbia.edu/data/collection/gpw-v4/whatsnewrev10. The data are disseminated using the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC-BY-4.0) license, which permits free sharing, adaptation, and use of the data for both commercial and noncommercial purposes, so long as appropriate credit is given.
Participants in the launch of a new project, “Geo-referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3),″ at at a side event of the 49th session of the United Nations Statistical Commission held March 7 in New York City. Left to right: Roger Shulungu Runika, director general, Ministry of Planning, National Statistics Institute, Democratic Republic of the Congo; Rachel Snow, chief, UNFPA; Homere Ngoma Ngoma, census coordinator at the Central Bureau of the Census, National Statistics Institute, Democratic Republic of the Congo; Marc Levy, deputy director, CIESIN; Linus Bengtsson, executive director and co-founder, Flowminder; and Tapiwa Jhamba, technical advisor, UNFPA.
A new project, “Geo-referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3),” was launched at a side event of the 49th session of the United Nations Statistical Commission held March 7 in New York City. The side event featured a panel presentation on project objectives and applications by representatives of core GRID3 partners, including Marc Levy, CIESIN deputy director; Linus Bengtsson, executive director and co-founder of Flowminder; Rachel Snow, chief, Population and Development Branch, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); and Tapiwa Jhamba, technical advisor, also of UNFPA. Joining the core partners as a panelist was Homere Ngoma Ngoma, census coordinator at the Central Bureau of the Census, National Statistics Institute, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), who made a presentation on the 2019 DRC census and the potential impact of GRID3 involvement. Also attending were CIESIN senior research staff assistants Olena Borkovska and Kira Topik, and project coordinator Kevin Tschirhart. A lively question-and- answer session followed the presentations.
GRID3 is facilitating the collection, analysis, integration, dissemination, and utilization of high-resolution population, infrastructure, and other reference data in support of national sectoral development priorities, humanitarian efforts, health, and sustainable development goals (SDGs). The project aims to increase developing countries’ capabilities for mapping population distribution as a way of ensuring that everyone, especially the most vulnerable, is counted, refining development priorities and extending and improving the scope and efficacy of countries’ development efforts. The project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom′s Department for International Development (DFID). Sandra Baptista, senior research associate, is a co-project investigator, with Marc Levy.
Heather Chamberlain of WorldPop and Flowminder visited CIESIN March 8 in Palisades, New York to give an informal talk on high-resolution population mapping in Afghanistan. Chamberlin is a geographer based at Southampton University in the UK working on humanitarian applications of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing. She discussed methods used to create population estimates for Afghanistan using statistical models, geographic correlates, and survey data. CIESIN is a partner with WorldPop and the University of Louisville on the project, “Global High Resolution Population Denominators,″ supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. WorldPop is also participating in the POPGRID initiative, which seeks to expand and coordinate the international community of data providers, users, and sponsors of georeferenced data on population, human settlements, and infrastructure.
A talk given by CIESIN director Robert Chen, “Who’s at Risk? Rapid Mapping of Potential Hazard Exposure,” has been released online by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as part of its inaugural PrepTalks series. PrepTalks seek to promote conversation and innovation on issues facing emergency managers through a video presentation, discussion guide, and other information resources. Chen’s presentation features a range of hazard mapping tools and data developed by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) and other groups useful for assessing exposure and vulnerability to a variety of natural hazards. Eight PrepTalks were recorded at George Washington University in Washington DC in January 2018, including presentations by Dennis Mileti of the University of Colorado, Francis Ghesquiere of the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, and Amanda Ripley of the Emerson Collective.
Chen also presented “Mapping the Human Planet: Integrating Settlement, Infrastructure and Population Data to Leave No One Behind” in a panel on geospatial information for addressing inequalities and safeguarding public health, organized by the World Health Organization (WHO). The panel was part of the Statistical-Geospatial Integration Forum side event held March 5 in conjunction with the 49th session of the United Nations Statistical Commission at United Nations headquarters in New York City. Marie Haldorson of Statistics Sweden, who co-chairs the Working Group on Geospatial Information of the Inter-agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs), moderated the panel, which also included Lisa Bersales of the Philippines Statistical Agency, Rifat Hossain of WHO, and Lawrence Friedl of NASA. The Forum was broadcast live on UN WebTV and is available on demand.
More than 40 experts on mapping of human settlements, infrastructure, and population from a range of organizations participated in the second “POPGRID″ working meeting, held at the Lamont campus February 28–March 1 and at the Population Council in New York City March 2. Organized by CIESIN with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the Earth Institute, the meeting focused on the rapidly growing number and variety of georeferenced data products aimed at improving understanding of human settlement patterns, population distribution, and associated built infrastructure. New mapping approaches are being developed that take advantage of new sources of data such as radar, night-time lights, and high-resolution remote sensing. More information about these data and how they compare is needed to support not only scientific research, but also a variety of critical applications in sustainable development, disaster risk management and response, public health planning, and resource management.
Participants in the meeting came from organizations in both the United States and Europe, including the European Commission′s Joint Research Centre, the German Aerospace Center, the Group on Earth Observations, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Bureau of the Census. Private companies such as Esri, Facebook, and Google were also represented. Increased collaboration among these groups, and between both producers and users of these data, will improve data quality and usability, reduce duplication, facilitate data access and sharing of resources, and improve the impact and effectiveness of the data for both research and applications.
A new POPGRID web site has been released that brings together information about the different data products currently available and that will serve as an access point for the growing number of tools that provide visualization and analysis tools for the different data sets. Three POPGRID scientific sessions were held at the fall American Geophysical Union meeting in New Orleans in December 2017, and several additional sessions are scheduled April 14 at the annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers, also in New Orleans.
CIESIN is leading or participating in several new projects aimed at improving integration of human settlement, population, and environmental data in sustainable development efforts. CIESIN director Robert Chen is the principal investigator for the three-year project, “Population and Infrastructure on Our Human Planet: Supporting Sustainable Development through Improved Spatial Data and Models for Human Settlements, Infrastructure and Population Distribution Based on Earth Observations.” The project team will work with national statistical offices and other agencies in several developing countries to better utilize population and related data in sustainable development monitoring and decision making. Partners include experts from the University of Louisville, ImageCat, Inc., NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), Baruch College, and Yale University. Funding is being provided by the NASA Applied Sciences program, as part of its support of the Human Planet Initiative of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO).
Senior research associate Xue Liu has also received NASA funding as part of a three-year effort to estimate total carbon in coastal and freshwater peatland forests. The project is led by Lola Fatoyinbo, research scientist with the Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at GSFC, and includes collaborators from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the University of Maryland, and the U.S. Forest Service.
Kytt MacManus, GIS programmer, is co-investigator of a third project, led by Miguel Román of GSFC, which is focusing on validation of global night-time environmental products, commonly known as night-time lights data. MacManus is leading the evaluation of daily night-time light data for developing near real-time population estimates as well as for improving existing population data products. The project will carry out validation activities in areas such as Puerto Rico, South Dakota, and Bangladesh.
NASA has also funded the project, “Mapping the Missing Millions,” led by Jamon Van Den Hoek of Oregon State University. Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for Science Applications, is a collaborator on the project, together with experts from DevSeed and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. The project aims to improve mapping of approximately 250 million refugees, displaced persons, and other people living in informal settlements, using crowdsourced data, machine learning, and multi-sensor satellite imagery.
Waldo Tobler, world-renowned geographer and cartographer and Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Santa Barbara, passed away February 20 at the age of eighty-eight. Among his many accomplishments, Tobler created the first global gridded population data set, working with colleagues, Uwe Deichmann, Jan Gottsegen, and Kelley Maloy. Tobler also formulated the so-called first law of geography: “Everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things.” He was an early pioneer in applying digital technologies and mathematical methods to geographic research and visualization, inventing new map projections, reallocation methods, and spatial analysis techniques.
In 1994, Tobler was a key participant in the Global Demography workshop held in Saginaw, Michigan, organized by the Science division of what was then the Consortium for International Earth Science Information Network. CIESIN supported Tobler′s development of the initial version of the Gridded Population of the World (GPW) data set, which was based on population and administrative boundary data for about 19,000 administrative units. CIESIN has continued to refine and improve GPW for more than two decades, recently releasing version 4.10 through the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC).
Tobler was a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, recipient of the O.M. Miller Cartographic Medal of the American Geographical Society (AGS), and winner of Esri's Lifetime Achievement in GIS Award, among other honors. For more information about Tobler's work and the planned memorial service, see his department′s Web site.
Greg Yetman, CIESIN associate director for Geospatial Applications, and Robert Chen, CIESIN director, gave three talks in the Washington DC area January 25–29 as part of events organized for three different U.S. government agencies. On January 25, Yetman gave an invited presentation at the MapTech GEO seminar at the U.S. Bureau of the Census in Suitland, Maryland. His presentation, “Integration and Transformation of Census Data: Modeling Population on Raster Surfaces,″ described a range of approaches to modeling population distribution utilized in different data products, including CIESIN's new Gridded Population of the World version 4.10 (GPWv4.10) data set, the High Resolution Settlement Layer (HRSL) data developed in collaboration with Facebook, and other datasets produced through collaborations with the WorldPop project and the European Commission's Joint Research Center (JRC).
On January 25-26, Chen attended a two-day workshop, “Creating and Implementing Sustainability Plans for Data Repositories,” organized by the Ecological Society of America on behalf of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). The workshop, held in Alexandria, Virginia, near NSF′s new headquarters, brought together more than 30 managers of digital data repositories, data science experts, and NSF staff members to explore challenges and opportunities in increasing the long-term sustainability of valuable scientific data archives and services given changing technology, user needs, funding environments, and business models. Chen gave a plenary talk about the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), which he has managed for more than two decades. The chair of the SEDAC User Working Group, Myron Gutmann of the University of Colorado, was a member of the workshop's organizing committee.
Chen returned to the Washington DC area January 29 to give a presentation as part of the PrepTalks Symposium organized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The Symposium, held at George Washington University, featured eight speakers showcasing cutting-edge research and relevant experience of value to emergency managers. Chen gave the presentation, “Who's at Risk: Rapid Mapping of Potential Hazard Exposure,″ featuring a range of data and tools from SEDAC and other NASA data sources useful in emergency planning and response. The PrepTalks are recorded on video and subsequently posted to YouTube as an online resource for the emergency management community.
Air quality is the leading environmental threat to public health, according to the 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) released January 23 at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The biennial report, which ranks 180 countries on 24 performance indicators across 10 issue categories covering environmental health and ecosystem vitality, was produced by the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy (YCELP) and CIESIN. Switzerland is ranked first in environmental performance, followed by France, Denmark, Malta, and Sweden. In 2016, France and Sweden also made the top five.
In spite of strong scores on sanitation and air quality, the United States places only 27th in the 2018 EPI, thanks to weak performance on deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions, among other issues. This puts the United States near the back of the industrialized nations, behind France (2nd), the United Kingdom (6th), Germany (13th), Japan (20th), and Canada (25th).
Of the large emerging economies, China and India rank 120th and 177th respectively, due to pressures on the environment from high population densities and rapid economic expansion. “The strain on resources from past and current population growth, and the challenges of raising two billion people out of poverty, has meant that these countries face particular challenges,” according to co-author Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications at CIESIN. “From nitrogen pollution, inadequate waste water treatment, air pollutant emissions and concentrations, China and India face severe environmental challenges.”
In addition to rankings, the EPI identifies important environmental trends. For example, the report finds that fisheries continue to deteriorate in most countries, and air pollution—a problem largely “solved” in advanced developed countries—is still a critical problem in many developing countries, especially in India, China, and Pakistan. And some countries are failing to address critical problems. Deforestation, for example, has been a significant issue for Indonesia, Malaysia, and Cambodia for the past five years, reflecting broad policy failures, according to the report.
Five staff members who joined CIESIN a decade ago were among those honored at a luncheon January 18 recognizing employees for ten years of service at Columbia University. The event at the Confetti Restaurant in Piermont, New York was hosted by Sean Solomon, director of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory; Lisa Goddard, director of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society; and Robert Chen, director of CIESIN.
Susana Adamo began at CIESIN as an associate research scientist in the Science Applications division, and was promoted to research scientist in July 2015. A demographer, she focuses on georeferenced population data; migration, environment, and climate change; and livelihoods and social vulnerability. Adamo also serves as an adjunct assistant professor in Columbia's Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology (E3B), teaching “Human Populations and Sustainable Development.”
Kytt MacManus started at CIESIN as a research assistant in the Geospatial Applications division, where he attained the positions of staff associate and later senior staff associate. In 2014 he transferred to the Information Technology division as a geographic information systems programmer. MacManus has been an adjunct lecturer at Columbia's School of international and Public Affairs (SIPA) since 2010 and has taught in E3B since 2014.
After working as a part time research assistant at CIESIN beginning in 2005, Valentina Mara joined the Science Applications division as a staff associate in 2007. She was promoted in 2010 to senior staff associate, focusing on urbanization, climate vulnerability, and environmental performance metrics. Mara also serves as adjunct faculty in SIPA and the School of Professional Studies, co-teaching courses in data analysis and visualization.
James Carcone and Frank Pascuzzi joined CIESIN as senior system analysts and programmers in CIESIN's Information Technology division. They have developed and implemented a wide range of server-side and web-client applications to support the dissemination, visualization, and analysis of scientific data and information. A key focus of their work has been the use of open, standards-based technologies to facilitate interdisciplinary integration and delivery of geospatial data to diverse users, e.g., through interactive web mapping tools and mobile applications.
The 2018 winter meeting of the Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) was the focal point for a set of co-located meetings in Bethesda and Gaithersburg, Maryland, January 8–12 to which several CIESIN staff members contributed. Senior digital archivist Robert Downs participated in the Enabling FAIR Data Project: Targeted Adoption Group Workshop January 8, part of a new initiative recently launched by the American Geophysical Union to develop standards to connect researchers, publishers, and data repositories in support of the Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR) data principles. At the ESIP winter meeting, Downs served on the plenary panel, ‟Wildfires, Hurricanes, and Drought, Oh My!,” describing hazard-related data and tools available from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. He also gave presentations on data management training, information quality, and data risk factors in a number of other sessions. Downs was re-elected as the Type 1 Representative to the ESIP Governance Committee during the business meeting.
Two other joint meetings were held January 11. Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for Science Applications, participated in the General Assembly of the EarthCube Council of Data Facilities, a federation of existing and emerging geoscience data facilities supporting the National Science Foundation′s EarthCube community. He represented the International Council for Science (ICSU) World Data System (WDS) in his capacity as a member of the WDS Scientific Committee, and gave a presentation, “Certification for Open and Trustworthy Data Repositories.″ CIESIN director Robert Chen also attended the ESIP winter meeting, participating in an all-day joint meeting with the All Hazards Consortium (AHC) focused on operational readiness of data and data services for emergency response to disasters. The AHC supports industry, government, and other stakeholders in their efforts to coordinate restoration of power and other utilities after hurricanes and other major disruptions. Chen gave a short presentation, “Operational Readiness of SEDAC Data and Services,″ at the session, “Operational Readiness Levels: Measuring the Benefit of Trusted Data for End Users,″ organized by the ESIP Disaster Cluster. The SEDAC Population Estimation Service is an element of the AHC Multi-State Fleet Response Working Group GeoCollaborate service.
Downs also attended the 8th Working Group/Interest Group Collaboration meeting of the Research Data Alliance (RDA) January 11–12 at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He represented the Repository Platforms for Research Data Interest Group, which he co-chairs.
NASA has recently released the 2017 edition of Sensing Our Planet, free in print or for download at the Earthdata Web site. The publication highlights the use of earth science data in a range of scientific research areas, from hazard prediction to public health to water resource management. One of this year′s articles, “Zika Zone,” focuses on mapping the spread of the Zika virus. Researchers Moritz Kramer from the Harvard Medical School and Janey Messina from the University of Oxford combined environmental data about the Zika virus—for example, preferred habitat, temperature and rainfall requirements, and need for stagnant water to lay eggs in and heavily populated urban environments—with population data to create maps showing environmental suitability for the transmission of the virus. Data sources included the Gridded Population of the World (GPW) data collection from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN and a vegetation index based on Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data from the Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC). Mapping the transmission in this way let the scientists estimate the number of people globally at risk—more than two billion—and anticipate areas of potential Zika outbreaks, helping to inform public health decisions. GPW data were also used together with gravity and radar data and land surface models from several other DAACs to assess groundwater resources in Mexico, as described in the article, “Closed Season.″
Sensing Our Planet highlights data from the twelve DAACs of the NASA Earth Observing Data and Information System (EOSDIS). The publication has been produced since 1994 by the Snow and Ice DAAC at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado Boulder.
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