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Data Integration, Access, and Preservation Issues Addressed in Geoscience Conference

December 21, 2009

CIESIN staff joined more than 16,000 geoscientists and other experts in San Francisco at the 2009 Fall AGU Meeting, the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held December 14-18. CIESIN director Robert Chen presented a paper on “Integrating Socioeconomic Data into GEOSS to Enable Societal Benefits,” co-authored with CIESIN geospatial information specialist Gregory Yetman, as part of a Union session on the role of science and technology in the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and the Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS). The paper reported on development of a Population Estimation Service to support spatial queries submitted through GEOSS about the number of people residing in user-defined areas. CIESIN senior information specialist Joachim Schumacher demonstrated a beta version of the service in the context of a natural hazards application in a special interactive demo session, “Geovisualization with Virtual Globes.”

Chen also gave a paper on behalf of Taco de Bruin of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, “Freeing Data through The Polar Information Commons,” co-authored with Mark Parsons of the National Snow and Ice Data Center and David Carlson of the International Polar Year - International Program Office. Robert Downs, senior digital archivist at CIESIN, presented “Enabling Successful Submissions of Scientific Data for Preservation and Future Use,” co-authored with Chen, in a session, “Data Stewardship in the 21st Century.” He also co-authored a poster, “Measuring Software Reusability for Scientific Data Systems,” with James Marshall and Ryan Gerard of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and served as a co-convener of a poster session, “Earth Science Software Reuse: Experiences and Challenges.” At NASA's exhibit booth, Downs gave a tutorial on using the TerraViva! SEDAC Viewer and Schumacher served as a representative of the NASA Earth Science Data Centers.

The AGU is a worldwide scientific community that advances the understanding of Earth and space for the benefit of humanity.

See: 2009 Fall AGU Meeting Web site


Improved Systems for HIV Programs Discussed in New Paper

December 17, 2009

Over the past several years CIESIN has been developing online mapping tools and providing spatial analysis services for HIV monitoring and evaluation programs, as part of a a collaboration with the Center for International AIDS Care and Treatment Programs (ICAP) at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. A paper exploring improved systems for HIV programs, “Strategies for More Effective Monitoring and Evaluation Systems in HIV Programmatic Scale-Up in Resource-Limited Settings: Implications for Health Systems Strengthening,” was recently published in a special issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. CIESIN’s associate director of geospatial applications, Mark Becker, is one of the authors, along with researchers from ICAP and the Department of Epidemiology at Mailman, Denis Nash, Batya Elul, Miriam Rabkin, May Tun, Suzue Saito, and Harriet Nuwagaba-Biribonwoha. The paper discusses the role of geographic information systems and other technologies in improving ICAP’s ability to meet the challenges of a rapid scale-up of HIV services. It also talks about the relevance these systems may have to other programs used to monitor, evaluate, and inform the strengthening of health systems.

See: Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes


Alexandria Digital Library Hosts Expert Working Group on Sustainable Development Indicators

December 13, 2009

The Alexandria Digital Library (ADL), a state-of-the-art distributed digital library in Egypt containing an extensive collection of georeferenced resources, was the site for an expert working group meeting December 7−8 on sustainable development indicators in which CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy participated. Levy gave a talk on sustainable development partnerships, and worked with other members of the group to chart an agenda for a new generation of sustainable development indicators. The ADL is an online information system based on the Map and Imagery Laboratory in the Davidson Library at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The ADL includes the working library, with various nodes and collections, and the research program through which digital library architectures, gazetteer and educational applications, and various components of software are modeled, prototyped, and evaluated. The Library’s staff, along with its director Ismail Serageldin, plan to work closely with the working group experts in coming months to identify promising areas of new indicator work.


‘TippingPoint’ Forum Gathers Artists and Scientists around Topic of Climate Change

December 8, 2009

Participants discuss the workshop exercise with each other.

CIESIN was one of several centers of the Earth Institute, along with the CUNY Hunter College Institute for Sustainable Cities and the British Council USA, to co-host the first U.S-held “TippingPoint,” a conference held December 6−7 for more than 80 scientists and artists. The event brought together performing artists, playwrights, sculptors, writers, and other artists from the New York City area and the UK along with a range of natural and social scientists in an interactive forum aimed at developing a broader understanding of the scientific, ethical, and cultural dimensions of climate change and inspiring both scientific and artistic creativity and collaboration. The event, held at the Lamont campus of Columbia University in Palisades, New York, included remarks by Earth Institute director Jeffrey Sachs, LDEO director Michael Purdy, and LDEO scientist Wally Broecker. CIESIN director Robert Chen, associate research scientist Susana Adamo, and EI postdoc Sandra Baptista also participated.

Based in the U.K., the TippingPoint organization has been in existence since 2003 and has held TippingPoint conferences at a number of venues throughout the world, partnering with organizations involved in sustainable development and furthering understanding of issues around climate change. In addition to CIESIN, participating centers of the Earth Institute included the Columbia Climate Center, the Center for Research in Environmental Decision Making, and the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy.

See: TippingPoint Web site
       Press release


Demographic Factors in Environmental Crises Explored at Recent Mexico Conference

December 5, 2009

Some conference participants stand for a group photo.

“Demographic Factors in the Contemporary Environmental Crisis,” a conference held December 3–4 at the Colegio de Mexico, brought together researchers from the U.S., U.K., Brazil, Argentina and Mexico to heighten awareness of the contribution that demographic research can make to understanding local and global environmental changes. CIESIN associate research scientist Susana Adamo and senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin presented papers at the workshop, which was sponsored by the National Population Council (CONAPO) and the UN Population Fund. Adamo’s paper, “Hogares, Medios de Vida, y Recursos Naturales en Areas Rurales de Argentina” (“Households, Livelihoods, and Natural Resources in Rural Areas of Argentina”) focused on three case studies of environmental migration and land use changes in Argentina. The paper given by de Sherbinin was “Population Consumption and the Environment.”

See: Hogares, Medios de Vida, y Recursos Naturales en Areas Rurales de Argentina (PDF)


CIESIN Data Products Featured in Art Exhibit Opening at COP15

December 4, 2009

Outline of global map showing urban areas susceptible to rising sea level depicted as blue spheres, with a 3-D outline of a globe superimposed on the right

An art exhibition that uses data from CIESIN’s Gridded Population of the World (GPW) data collection and Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project (GRUMP) to dynamically illustrate the economic, political, and environmental causes of global migration is opening in conjunction with the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP15).

The exhibition, Terre Natale: Ailleurs Commence Ici (Native Land: Stop Eject), is being held at the Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Copenhagen from December 5, 2009 to February 21, 2010. It incorporates a 30-minute immersive video presentation that transforms the GPW and GRUMP data from pixels to numbers and integrates them with other types of migration data, projecting the resulting dynamic animations throughout a circular-walled room. The video presentation was co-authored by professor Laura Kurgan, director of the Spatial Information Design Lab at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. “The implications of climate change is a topic perhaps talked about too much and understood too little, and it's hard to visualize,” Kurgan said. “What we have done is taken the best data and the most advanced display technologies available to tell some stories about real effects of climate change on people—some obvious and some completely unexpected—in a visually imaginative way that gets people’s attention.”

Native Land: Stop Eject was created by Raymond Depardon and Paul Virilio, and was originally presented at Fondation/Cartier/ pour l’art contemporain in Paris from November 21, 2008 to March 15, 2009. The exhibition will move to Bilbao, Spain from May 18 to August 1, 2010. The GPW and GRUMP data were developed by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN.

See: Terre Natale: Ailleurs Commence Ici (Native Land: Stop Eject) Web site


Fiftieth Anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty Recognized at D.C. Summit

December 3, 2009

The Antarctic Treaty, signed by 14 countries on December 2, 1959 in Washington, DC, recognized that “it is in the interest of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord.” At the Antarctic Treaty Summit hosted by the Smithsonian Institution on November 30–December 3, a group of diplomats, scientists, scholars, and dignitaries that included Prince Albert II of Monaco and Susan Eisenhower, chairman emeritus of the Eisenhower Institute, gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this ground-breaking treaty and to assess its strengths, weaknesses, and impact on science and policy in relationship to international governance. CIESIN director Robert Chen gave one of the plenary talks at the Summit, “Earth System Information and Common Concerns of Humanity,” in a session on “Governing International Spaces: Lessons from Antarctica.” He focused on the legacy of data sharing established by the Antarctic Treaty and the International Geophysical Year, 1957–1958. Key supporters of the Summit were the Smithsonian Institution, the Tinker Foundation, and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation; CIESIN was one of the Summit co-sponsors.

See: Antarctic Treaty Summit 2009


New Implementation Guidelines Accepted to Support GEO Initiative

November 23, 2009

The Group on Earth Observations (GEO), an intergovernmental initiative involving 80 countries, the European Commission, and more than 50 participating organizations, held its sixth plenary session, GEO-VI, in Washington, DC, November 17–18. A major accomplishment of the meeting was acceptance of a new set of implementation guidelines on sharing of Earth observation and related data in support of the Data Sharing Principles adopted by GEO in 2005. CIESIN director Robert Chen participated in the plenary as a member of the International Council for Science (ICSU) delegation and as a co-chair of the GEO Data Sharing Task Force. He also gave a keynote presentation at a side event on data sharing held November 16 at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, which drew more than 100 participants. The Data Sharing Task Force met on November 19 to plan additional activities in preparation for the GEO Ministerial Summit to be held in Beijing in November 2010.

See: Group on Earth Observations Web site


Scientists from Chinese Earth Observation Center Visit CIESIN

November 20, 2009

CIESIN was host November 19 to a group of scientists from the Center for Earth Observation and Digital Earth (CEODE), a major new center of the Chinese Academy of Sciences located in Beijing that focuses on remote sensing data and geospatial analysis and visualization techniques. Among other roles, CEODE has just been announced as the host of the International Programme Office for the new ICSU program on Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR). CEODE is led by Prof. Guo Huadong, who is a member of the CODATA Executive Committee and a former vice-secretary general of CAS. Other members of the delegation were Prof. Liu Yongwei, Prof. Wang Changlin, and Ms. Liu Jie. The group participated in the GEO-VI Plenary in Washington, DC, November 16–18.

See: Center for Earth Observation and Digital Earth Web site


Open Data Sharing and Implications for Research Discussed in Columbia Panel

November 12, 2009

Is open data the future of research? Three perspectives on this question were presented in a panel co-sponsored by the Scholarly Communication Program of the Columbia University Libraries and CIESIN held on November 12 at Columbia’s Lerner Hall. John Wilbanks, vice president for Science at Creative Commons, described the Science Commons protocol for implementing open access data, building on the public domain in concert with community “norms” of behavior. CIESIN director Robert Chen underscored the urgency of sharing environmental data globally and described two ongoing international data sharing initiatives, one for Earth observation data from satellites (the Group on Earth Observations) and a second for data and information about the Earth’s polar regions (the Polar Information Commons). The third panelist, Andrew Rundle, an associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, concluded with a summary of the opportunities and constraints posed by access to data in conducting policy-relevant public health research in New York City.

The Scholarly Communication Program explores effective uses of digital technology for sharing knowledge. A summary of the panel discussion is available on Twitter, and a video of the event will be available online.

See: Science Commons Protocol for Implementing Open Access Data
       Polar Information Commons Web site
       Group on Earth Observations Web site


Superfund Research Opportunities and Challenges Examined at NYC Meeting

November 6, 2009

CIESIN helped organize and host the Research Translation and Outreach Annual Meeting held Thursday November 5th in New York City, as part of the NIEHS Superfund Research Program 2009 Annual Meeting, “Emerging Issues, Emerging Progress,” held by the Columbia University Superfund Research Program (SRP) November 2−5. Seventy participants from eighteen different universities across the country and four government agencies attended the satellite meeting, which via presentations, panel discussions, and breakout meetings examined the opportunities and obstacles when using SRP science in the development and implementation of Superfund policies and regulations to improve public health in areas around the nation’s hazardous waste sites. Among the panel speakers from federal and local NYC government offices were Randall Wentsel, US EPA national program director for the Land Research Program; Sally Perreault Darney, US EPA national program director for Human Health Research, and Ronald Dan Walsh, New York City Mayor’s Office of Operations, Environmental Remediation. The meeting was funded by the NIEHS Superfund Research Program. CIESIN senior research associate, Meredith Golden, who is co-director of the Columbia University Research Translation Core for the SRP, organized the event with assistance from Steve Chillrud, Doherty senior research scientist and co-director of the Columbia SRP RTC and the RT and Outreach Meeting Planning Committee.


CIESIN Broadens Its Educational Role at Columbia

November 5, 2009

Screen shot of simulation tool used in environment and conflict class

In response to growing student interest at both the undergraduate and graduate levels in interdisciplinary analysis and problem solving focused on critical and complex interactions between humans and the environment, CIESIN is taking a more active role in the educational life of the university. This academic year, CIESIN researchers can be found teaching courses in four Columbia schools: the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), the Mailman School of Public Health, and the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science.

At SIPA, CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy is again leading a graduate course, “Environmental, Conflict, and Resolution Strategies,” that explores the critical linkages between political conflict, environmental change, and natural resource management. The seminar draws on CIESIN’s unique expertise on environment and security issues, including research on hydrology and conflict, possible impacts of climate change on national security, and vulnerability to hazards. Initial development of the course was supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which has partnered with the Earth Institute on a major research project on ecological restoration in post-conflict regions, focusing initially on Haiti. The Columbia Center for New Media, Technology, and Learning (CCNMTL), working closely with Levy and CIESIN researcher Alex Fischer, has produced a simulation tool, Ground|Work, for use in the course. Ground|Work situates students in a fictional post-conflict country and requires them to devise a strategy for managing environment and resource challenges.

Levy also leads a SIPA policy workshop in the spring, which last year worked with UNEP to identify options for improving how environment and resource issues are assessed in post-crisis settings, and conducted a rapid needs assessment in a watershed in southeastern Haiti that was badly damaged by the 2008 hurricanes. He also co-teaches “Advances in Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology,” led by Denning Professor of Sustainable Development Ruth deFries, with Rob Rose and Damien Joly of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). This course uses geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing tools to explore connections between emerging infectious disease, land use, and climate in WCS “living landscapes” where researchers have developed relevant data sets.

Techniques of spatial analysis and the application of GIS are the focus of two courses offered by associate director Mark Becker, one in the School of Public Health slated for spring 2010 and the other currently being taught through SIPA. The “GIS for Public Health” course, now in its third year, is structured around the application of spatial analysis techniques to answer public health research questions. The course also features guest speakers from government agencies and non-profit organizations invited to share real-world examples of using GIS in public health research and practice. Becker’s course in SIPA focuses on giving students the ability to use geospatial technologies to visualize and interpret social and environmental information. Students learn the fundamentals of GIS and GPS systems, data integration methods, and spatial analysis and modeling techniques as they apply to environmental and political policy development and management. In addition, this fall CIESIN geographic information specialist Greg Yetman is teaching a course in the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering on “GIS for Resource, Environmental, and Infrastructure Management,” in which he introduces and applies analytical tools to a variety of problems such as watershed protection, environmental risk assessment, flooding, and emergency response to natural or man-made hazards.

In addition to formal coursework, CIESIN continues to contribute actively to other educational activities at Columbia. This fall, CIESIN director Robert Chen joins Marc Levy in teaching a session of the Earth Institute “Practicum,” and is participating in a speaker series, “Open Data and the Future of Funded Research,” organized by the Scholarly Communication Program of the Columbia University Libraries. CIESIN’s Geospatial Applications Division offers regular training sessions in GIS software, including ESRI-authorized courses, and in remote sensing, metadata tools and management, and online mapping, both at the Lamont and Morningside campuses and international locations. A wide range of student internships are also offered throughout the academic year and summer. This growth in educational and training activities is undertaken by CIESIN as part of the educational missions of the University and the Earth Institute, and helps to enrich and inform the organization’s research and outreach activities.

See: CIESIN Educational Offerings/Resources


Staff Recognized for Service to CIESIN

November 4, 2009

Photo of CIESIN staff members honored at luncheon.

A special luncheon was held at Lamont Campus November 4 to honor employees with more than ten years of employment at Columbia University. Five CIESIN staff members who achieved this important milestone during the past year were recognized for their long and dedicated service to CIESIN and to the University more generally: CIESIN associate director for Geospatial Applications Mark Becker; senior research associate and SEDAC deputy manager Alex de Sherbinin; media designer Annie Gerard; secretary Jennifer Mulvey; and geographic information specialist Greg Yetman. The luncheon was hosted by Mike Purdy, director of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory; Steve Zebiak, director-general of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society; and CIESIN director Robert Chen.


Latest Spatial Data Activities Presented at Africa Geo-Information Conference

November 1, 2009

Kampala, Uganda was the site of the recent AfricaGIS 2009 held October 26-30, attended by CIESIN Geospatial Applications Division associate director, Mark Becker. During the course of the bi-annual conference and exhibition, which focuses on the latest geo-information technologies and applications in Africa, Becker delivered a plenary presentation highlighting CIESIN data sets. He also held a session on spatial data integration that featured the forthcoming SEDAC Global Roads Open Access Data Set, which is currently being developed by CIESIN and an international group of experts under the ICSU Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA).


Disaster Databases Reviewed in Advisory Group Meeting

October 28, 2009

Many different groups around the world gather data about natural and human-induced disasters, both for research and to improve disaster management and response. One of the most widely used databases is the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT), maintained by the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre based in Belgium. CIESIN director Robert Chen, geographic information specialist Greg Yetman, and information scientist Meredith Golden participated in a technical advisory group meeting for EM-DAT on October 26-27 in New York. The meeting brought together experts from the United Nations, the insurance industry, national disaster management centers, and other key organizations to examine the current state of disaster data resources and explore ways to improve their quality, reliability, sustainability, and use. A key challenge is to improve the georeferencing of disaster data to facilitate geospatial analysis and risk mitigation efforts. Yetman gave a presentation on how EM-DAT and other disaster-related data have been used together with CIESIN’s population, poverty, and environmental data in interdisciplinary research and assessments.

See: EM-DAT Technical Advisory Group 2009 meeting


CIESIN Director Participates in ‘Three Screens and the Cloud’ Technology Forum

October 27, 2009

CIESIN director Robert Chen discussed the critical role of digital content in a successful technology transfer strategy, for the forum, “Three Screens and the Cloud,” sponsored recently by the Columbia University Center for Technology, Innovation, and Community Engagement (CTICE) and Microsoft. Chen was part of a panel of experts who reflected on the keynote presentation given by Dr. Akhtar Badshah, senior director for Global Community Affairs at Microsoft Corporation, on the power of technology to empower non-profit organizations and improve lives in both the developing and developed worlds. Chen talked about CIESIN’s experience integrating environmental data with geospatial data to yield powerful new insights and to support real-world applications such as disaster risk management. “Access to data cannot be taken for granted,” he said, and using data effectively involves innovation, he emphasized. Chen’s remarks are available in video here, along with the presentations by Dr. Badshah and other panelists. CTICE was established by the Columbia School of Engineering, and is concerned with in real-world applications of technology to promote community-based learning and capacity building.

See: “Three Screens and the Cloud” forum


Updated Data, Improved Methodology for 2009 NRMI Release

October 20, 2009

The NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN has released the 2009 National Resource Management Index (NRMI). This version of the NRMI has updated data and improved methodology for the eco-region protection indicator, one of the four indicators that make up the NRMI. The improvements included the exclusion of international protected areas, many of which lack effective protection (the ones that do already have a national designation), and improved coastal boundary matching between biomes and national boundaries using the highest resolution coastal data available.

The NRMI is a composite index of four measures. In addition to the eco-region protection indicator, the indicators include: access to improved sanitation, access to improved water, and child mortality. In response to the search for a natural resources management indicator initiated by the the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the NRMI was first developed in May 2005 by a consortium led by CIESIN and including the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy (YCELP), the University of New Hampshire Water Systems Analysis Group, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Columbia University Tropical Agriculture Program. The MCC uses the NRMI as as one of its performance indicators to help determine country eligibility for its foreign aid programs.

See: Natural Resource Management Index Web site


Organization of Research Efforts Discussed during Chinese Academy of Sciences Visit

October 12, 2009

Photo of researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences

More than a dozen research directors and deputy directors from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) travelled from Beijing to the Lamont Campus in Palisades, New York to meet with directors from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) and the Earth Institute of Columbia University on October 12. The focus of the visit was on how Earth Institute centers organize their research efforts to meet both basic and applied research objectives.

LDEO director Mike Purdy described the unique oceanographic research vessel operated by the observatory on behalf of the U.S. and international science community, as well as other LDEO scientific facilities. Pedro Sanchez, director of the Tropical Agriculture Program, summarized ways in which state-of-the-art soil science research and data are being harnessed in support of sustainable agriculture in Africa. CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy talked about how interdisciplinary integration of data can help address pressing problems at the intersection of the natural, social, and health sciences. Juliette Li, special assistant to EI director Jeffrey Sachs, gave an overview of the China 2049 project, which aims to facilitate examination of long-term paths towards sustainable development in China. Finally, CIESIN director Robert Chen, who hosted the group during the day’s meetings, discussed current international approaches to open access to scientific data, including a new “information commons” initiative for data about the polar regions.

The delegation was led by Prof. Miao Hong, deputy director-general of the Bureau of Personnel and Education of CAS. Other CAS institutes represented in the delegation included the Institute of Geographic Science and Natural Resources Research, the South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, and the Institute of Zoology.


Environment-Induced Migration Among Topics Explored at Latest IUSSP Conference

October 6, 2009

CIESIN associate research scientist Susana Adamo travelled to Marrakech, Morocco for the XXVI IUSSP International Population Conference held September 27–October 3. Adamo gave an invited presentation in a plenary session on the topic “Climate change-population interactions from a spatial and regional perspective.” She also chaired a session on environment-induced migration, one of 11 sessions on population-environment topics. Some 2,500 population scientists from around the world attended the conference, organized every four years by the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP).

See: XXVI IUSSP International Population Conference
       Presentation (PDF)


Beijing Scholar Will Research Ecological Issues

October 5, 2009

Photograph of Bao Xiaobin.

Bao Xiaobin, an associate professor with the Rural Development Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) in Beijing, has begun a one-year appointment as a visiting scholar at CIESIN with support from the Ford Foundation. Dr. Bao is conducting research on watershed ecosystem services and ecological compensation mechanisms, and will more generally study water resource policy, ecosystem service evaluation, watershed management, and forest resource conservation. He holds a PhD and MS in ecological economics from Beijing Forestry University, and a BS in soil and water conservation from the Forestry College of Inner Mongolia.


New Grid-Based Cartograms Build on CIESIN Population Data

October 4, 2009

The Gridded Population of the World (GPW) version 3 data set available through the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Application Center operated by CIESIN is the basis for a new set of grid-based population cartograms for most countries of the world recently released on the interactive Worldmapper Web site. Worldmapper is a collection of cartograms in which a particular thematic variable is substituted for the land area of a map, effectively re-sizing the map. In the case of the population grids, each cartogram provides a distinctive visualization of the internal population variations within a country or region. More-populated areas appear inflated whereas less-populated areas are less prominent. The cartograms have been made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported license.

See: Worldmapper Web site
       Gridded Population Cartograms


Human Biomes Defined, Data Available, on New Web Site

October 1, 2009

Anthropogenic biomes, also known as anthromes” or human biomes,” describe the terrestrial biosphere in its contemporary, human-altered form using global ecosystem units defined by patterns of sustained direct human interaction. In a paper presented in the journal, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, Ellis and Ramankutty (2008) delineate 21 anthropogenic biomes based on population density, land use, biota, climate, terrain and geology. The anthropogenic biomes are further grouped into six major categories: dense settlements, villages, croplands, rangeland, forested, and wildlands. A new Web site, “Anthropogenic Biomes (version one),” provides access to the spatial data sets described in the paper. Available in raster GeoTiff and GRID formats, the data may be downloaded as one global grid or a grid for each of the six populated continents. The methodology involves a multi-stage procedure where “anthropogenic” cells are first separated from “wild” cells based on presence of population, crops, or pastures. A detailed description of the methods utilized to produce the data, as well as research results, may be downloaded from the Web site.

See: Anthropogenic Biomes (version one) Web site


Teachers Learn Data Visualization Techniques at Saturday Workshop

September 29, 2009

A hands-on training in data visualization techniques for local high school earth science teachers was conducted by CIESIN on Saturday, September 26. The workshop, “GIS from the Hudson to the Nile: Data Visualization at Local, National, and Global Scales,” kicked off the 2009/2010 “Saturday Workshops for Educators” series, under the auspices of the E2C (Earth to Class) program of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University. CIESIN geospatial information specialist Kytt MacManus led the morning session with a presentation on the basics of GIS and an introduction to the recently released Hudson River Watershed Mapper, an online mapping tool which lets users integrate more than 70 sources of earth science, socioeconomic, and cultural information to create customized maps of the Hudson River Watershed. Rounding out the afternoon was a discussion of CIESIN’s data resources and an introduction to the global spatial visualization and analysis tool, TerraViva! SEDAC Viewer, both led by CIESIN geospatial information specialist Malanding Jaiteh. The training was geared toward eventual implementation of the data products and tools into high school curricula. The E2C series brings together Earth Institute researchers with local K-12 teachers and specialists in curriculum and technology integration from Teachers College Columbia University, and Colégio Bandeirantes, São Paulo, Brazil.

See: E2C (Earth to Class) Web site


Integrating Population and Geographic Data for Insights into Security Issues

September 26, 2009

In a video interview for the September 24 posting of the blog, “The New Security Beat,” which is hosted by Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP) Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy talks about using CIESIN’s gridded population data product, Gridded Population of the World (GPW), to more easily combine population and geographic data. “If you want to ask questions about how people are located with respect to drought hazards, for example, you can take your map of the location of droughts, overlay it with our map of population, and then get a sense of how many people are located in these drought zones,” said Levy. ECSP director Geoff Dabelko is the interviewer.

See: video interview


Basis for Wide Sharing of Earth Observation Data is Documented

September 25, 2009

The Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS) is envisioned as a coordinated, comprehensive, and sustained platform for widespread sharing and use of Earth observations and information in support of decisions and actions for the benefit of humankind. The GEOSS Data Sharing Principles, adopted in 2005 by members of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), emphasize the need for full and open exchange of GEOSS data, metadata, and products, recognizing relevant international instruments and national policies and legislation. To clarify past and current practices in international data sharing, an international group of experts under the auspices of CODATA, the Committee on Data for Science and Technology of the International Council for Science, prepared a white paper on the implementation of the GEOSS Data Sharing Principles.

A version of this white paper, “Toward Implementation of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems Data Sharing Principles,” has now been published as a peer-reviewed, open access article in the Journal of Space Law and the CODATA Data Science Journal. The paper is authored by Paul Uhlir, director of the Board on Research Data and Information of the National Academies; CIESIN director and secretary-general of CODATA, Robert Chen; Joanne Gabrynowicz, director of the National Center for Remote Sensing, Air and Space Law at the University of Mississippi School of Law; and Katleen Janssen of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Law and ICT of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. The paper includes a detailed overview of relevant data sharing laws, principles, and policies; a set of illustrative case studies; and a discussion of key implementation issues. Two appendices also document relevant laws and policies at the regional and national levels. To ensure its wide availability, the paper is being made available with a Creative Commons attribution 3.0 license.

See: Journal of Space Law issue
       Article (PDF)
       CODATA Data Science Journal issue
       Article (PDF)


Researchers Gather to Review Public Health Applications Activities

September 24, 2009

CIESIN associate research scientist Susana Adamo attended NASA’s Public Health Program Review workshop in Savannah, Georgia, September 21–23. The meeting brought together researchers working on projects awarded by the the NASA Applied Science Program for applications in the areas of environmental health emergency preparedness and response, water for public health, and infectious diseases. CIESIN is part of a recently awarded NASA feasibility project, “Environmental Factors and Population Dynamics as Determinants of Meningococcal Meningitis Epidemics in the Sahel: An Integration of NASA and NOAA Products,” which was presented by Sylwia Trzaska of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), who is leading the project.


Digital Earth in Action Highlighted at Beijing Conference

September 14, 2009

A decade after former U.S. vice president Al Gore launched the first international “digital earth” initiative in Beijing, more than 1000 scientists, technologists, students, and users returned for the 6th International Symposium on Digital Earth, held September 9–12. A distinguished slate of keynote speakers addressed the theme of “digital earth in action,” among them Xu Guanhua, former minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology of China; Michael Jones, chief technology advocate for Google Inc.; Jose Achache, director of the GEO Secretariat; and Michael Goodchild of the University of California at Santa Barbara. CIESIN director Robert Chen also gave a keynote presentation, on how new open data access initiatives such as the Polar Information Commons can benefit digital Earth activities and resources.

The paper presentations and exhibits at the symposium focused on progress made over the past ten years in areas such as Earth observation, data visualization, spatial data analysis and mining, and digital earth approaches in decision making. Tan Kun of the China University of Mining and Technology, who recently completed a year in residence at CIESIN, gave a joint presentation with Chris Elvidge of the National Geophysical Data Center on multi-temporal spatial analysis of urban growth and development in China, co-authored with Lamont-Doherty scientist Christopher Small and CIESIN information scientist Xiaoshi Xing. Robert Chen also co-authored a paper on data sharing with Paul Uhlir of the Board on Research Data and Information of the National Research Council.

See: 6th International Symposium on Digital Earth


RESCUE Research Analysis Activities Launched in Paris

September 12, 2009

Alex de Sherbinin, senior research associate at CIESIN, attended a launch event for the European Science Foundation (ESF) Responses to Environmental and Societal Challenges for Our Unstable Earth (RESCUE) held on September 10–11 in Paris. During the workshop he participated in discussions of the Research Methodologies and Data Working Group. An activity of Forward Look, which was established by ESF to develop medium to long-term views and analyses of future research developments, RESCUE is meant to determine key research questions, data and infrastructure that anticipate how science must address global changes both now and in the next decades. One of its major thrusts is the integration of earth and social science approaches to understanding coupled human-environment systems.

See: RESCUE Forward Look Web site
      


Interactive Mapping Tool Invites New Insights into the Hudson River and Its Surroundings

September 11, 2009

Screenshot of the Hudson River Watershed Mapper welcome page showing a map of the population of the counties within the Hudson River Watershed

A new interactive mapping tool, The Hudson River Watershed Mapper, lets a broad community of users―students, educators, land use managers, and scientists—refer to and incorporate more than 70 sources of scientific and cultural information to create customized maps of one of the most populated and historically significant watershed regions on Earth. Developed in partnership between CIESIN’s collaborative program, the Northeast Information Node (NIN) of the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII), and The Beacon Institute, the Mapper can visualize a wide range of features about the Hudson River Watershed, such as demographics, the variability of land use patterns, and the identification of specific agents of water pollution in the region.

The Mapper also acts as a gateway to a network of sensors and observational technology placed within the Watershed, that report near real-time data under the auspices of several environmental agencies and organizations including The Beacon Institute’s recent environmental monitoring collaboration with IBM, REON (the River and Estuary Observation Network). Under continuing development, REON will have the capability to report comprehensive near real-time data on fish migrations, pollutant activity, and physical alterations to the river’s ecosystems, including the effect of global warming on water levels and habitat in tidal estuaries.

The NBII is an electronic information network of access to biological data and information on our nation’s plants, animals, and ecosystems. NIN is one of several geographic focus areas, concentrating on eight states of the Northeast United States. The Beacon Institute is a non-profit global center for scientific and technological innovation to advance research, education, and public policy regarding rivers and estuaries.

See: The Hudson River Watershed Mapper


NIH Award to Map Populations near Superfund Sites

September 11, 2009

CIESIN has received an award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in supplemental funding to the Columbia Superfund Research Program for a study, “Innovative Methodologies and Mapping to Assess Vulnerable Populations near Superfund Sites.” The study will be led by senior research associate Meredith Golden, and include members of CIESIN’s geospatial applications division. The purpose of the research is to continue CIESIN’s 2008 assessment of populations in proximity to Superfund National Priority List (NPL) sites funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). The new project will develop an interactive mapping tool to permit visualization and queries of selected data on socio-demographic characteristics, critical infrastructure, and toxic and natural hazards in proximity of NPL sites. The work will be done in close collaboration with EPA Region 3 and other government agencies concerned with Superfund sites.


Mapping Urban Growth Addressed in Wilson Center Seminar

August 27, 2009

Between now and 2050, the United Nations estimates that there will be more than three billion additional people living in the world’s urban areas, with most of the growth expected in small- and medium-size cities rather than large urban metropolises. At a seminar in Washington, D.C. August 26, co-organized by CIESIN and the Environmental Change and Security Program of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (ESCP), two leading experts on urban demography and land use, Mark Montgomery and Karen Seto, presented their views on future patterns of urban development. Montgomery, senior associate with the Population Council, addressed the demographic data and research methods needed to understand rapid urbanization in the developing world, drawing in part on CIESIN’s Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project (GRUMP) data collection. Seto, associate professor at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, discussed past and prospective changes in urban land-use patterns. The seminar was held in conjunction with an August 26–27 meeting of the User Working Group (UWG) of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), operated by CIESIN. Both Montgomery and Seto are members of the UWG.

The seminar, which drew more than 70 participants from government agencies, universities, and other organizations in the Washington, D.C. area, was broadcast live in a Webcast and will be posted in the near future on the Wilson Center Web site. The Wilson Center ESCP promotes dialogue about the environmental, health, and population dynamics that affect both developing and developed nations.

See: The World’s Cities: Mapping Urban Growth in Developing Countries


The Ecological Dimensions of Population Growth, Migration, and Urbanization Examined at 2009 ESA

August 14, 2009

Sandra Baptista, an Earth Institute post-doctoral fellow currently hosted by CIESIN, participated in the 94th annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America (ESA) held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, August 2–7. At the symposium, “Integrating Ecology and Poverty Alleviation” held on August 6, she presented work co-authored with CIESIN senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin; Peter Marcotullio, Hunter College, City University of New York; CIESIN associate research associate Susana Adamo; Sara Curran, University of Washington; Jason Bremner, Population Reference Bureau; Jason Davis, University of California, Santa Barbara; and David Carr, University of California, Santa Barbara. The poster is entitled “The Ecological Dimensions of Population Growth, Migration, and Urbanization.”

The symposium was co-organized by former Earth Institute post-doctoral fellows Fabrice DeClerck, CATIE; Cristina Rumbaitis del Rio, Rockefeller Foundation; and Jane Carter Ingram, Wildlife Conservation Society, who are co-editors of the forthcoming book Integrating Ecology into Poverty Alleviation and International Development Efforts: A Practical Guide.

See: ESA Conference Web site
       Poster (PDF 1.19 MB)


ESRI Training for Web Mapping Applications Takes Place at CIESIN August 4-6

August 10, 2009

CIESIN Information Technology division members Brian Falk (left) and Andres Gonzalez looking at the course information on the computer monitor during the training.

CIESIN hosted an ESRI client-side training class, “Developing Applications with ArcGIS Server Using the Java Platform,” from August 4 through 6. The course was taught by Paul Trevillion, an ESRI-certified instructor. Twelve CIESIN staff members from the Information Technology and Geospatial Applications divisions successfully completed the training and were awarded certificates from ESRI.

The training is expected to aid in rapid development of Web mapping applications, using ESRI ArcGIS technology, in support of various projects. ESRI is a leading provider of geographic information system (GIS) software based in Redlands, California. CIESIN coordinates the ESRI site license for Columbia University through its GIS Service Center.

See: Course description


Critical Need for Polar Information Sharing Addressed in Fairbanks

August 7, 2009

Rapid environmental changes now evident in both the Arctic and Antarctic underscore the critical importance of international sharing of scientific data and information about the polar regions, not only for research but also for resource management, policy making, and education. The concept of a “Polar Information Commons” (PIC) was presented by CIESIN director Robert Chen at the Second Circumpolar Conference on Geospatial Sciences and Applications (GeoNorth 2009) on August 4–6 in Fairbanks, Alaska. The PIC is envisioned as a virtual knowledge resource for both environmental and socioeconomic data about the poles.

The PIC concept is in development under the auspices of the International Council for Science (ICSU), led by the ICSU Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA), for which Chen serves as secretary-general, and by the International Polar Year Data and Information Service (IPYDIS). The PIC will build on long-standing principles for data sharing embodied in the Antarctic Treaty, the ICSU Principle of Universality of Science, and other declarations and agreements, and will draw on the open access data protocol developed by the Science Commons. It will provide both an institutional and technological framework for access and long-term preservation of polar data and information.

Participants in GeoNorth 2009, which was sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey, Geoconnections Canada, and Compusult, included data experts and scientists from almost all of the Arctic region countries.

See: GeoNorth 2009 Web site


The Use of Socioeconomic Scenarios in the Study of Climate Change Impacts

August 5, 2009

Earth Intern Orly Stampfer discusses her research with Scarsdale High School student Eric Perfetti,  at the Earth Intern poster session.

Research on socioeconomic scenarios, part of a larger analysis of climate change impacts, was presented August 4 at Monell Auditorium by CIESIN summer intern Orly Stampfer, under the auspices of the annual Earth Intern program at Columbia University’s Lamont Campus. The oral presentation and poster, “Building Socioeconomic Scenarios for the Analysis of Climate Impact Vulnerability,” was one of several offered by the group of interns. Stampfer, a rising junior majoring in environmental science at Columbia College, worked with SEDAC lead project scientist and CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy. They proposed that analysis of climate change vulnerability could benefit from more sophisticated and comprehensive socioeconomic scenarios. Stampfer helped devise simulations of plausible socioeconomic change involving income, type of government, and instance of internal armed conflict at the regional and country level. These scenarios incorporated several refinements over currently-used global scenarios of social conditions. They have greater variation in conditions across countries, for example, as well as dynamic fluctuations over time that are more faithful to historical patterns. These improvements are intended to support more effective assessment of vulnerability to climate change by generating more plausible patterns of conditions that affect vulnerability.

See: “Building Socioeconomic Scenarios for the Analysis of Climate Impact Vulnerability” poster, 55KB PDF


Recent Workshops Focus on Partnerships, Remote Sensing Issues, and Global Aquaculture

July 29, 2009

Tan Kun and Chris Small standing in front of the poster they presented at  the Fifth Annual Workshop on the Analysis of Multi-temporal Remote Sensing Images, Mystic, Connecticut, July 28.

CIESIN staff and colleagues have participated in several workshops and conferences recently. On July 28–30, Tan Kun, a CIESIN visiting scholar from Beijing, was in Mystic, Connecticut with LDEO colleague Chris Small to attend the Fifth Annual Workshop on the Analysis of Multi-temporal Remote Sensing Images. Tan Kun and Small presented a poster about the use of multi-temporal images for enhanced analysis of urban growth in China, co-authored with CIESIN information scientist Xiaoshi Xing and Chris Elvidge of the National Geophysical Data Center. The workshop set out to examine some of the more challenging issues the remote sensing community faces today, in particular new methods in acquiring multi-temporal earth observation imagery and the development of effective methods to analyze these data sets. Tan Kun, a graduate student in the School of Environmental Science and Spatial Informatics from the China University of Mining and Technology, will have spent about a year in residence as a visiting scholar at CIESIN, where he has been working in collaboration to study remote sensing data and image processing techniques for improved analysis of intercity roads and related infrastructure.

On July 28 senior staff associate Meredith Golden, co-director of the Columbia University Research Translation Core for the Superfund Research Program, attended an NIEHS-sponsored workshop on improving the use of science in policymaking and implementing regulations through partnering with federal agencies, primarily the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. The workshop was held at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Participants helped identify the most useful contacts, the information and format needed, and when scientists should be brought in to the policymaking and implementation process.

Washington, D.C. was the venue for a meeting of the Pew Trusts Global Aquaculture Performance Index July 23–24 attended by CIESIN senior staff associate Alex de Sherbinin. The GAPI is an index that is built explicitly on the architecture of the Environmental Performance Index developed by CIESIN and Yale University. The focus of the meeting was on nutrient inputs to coastal waters and chemicals used to control disease in finfish production.

See: “Multi-Temporal Analysis of Urban Growth in China” 2.21 MB PDF


Interns Join CIESIN Staff in Research This Summer

July 23, 2009

Several research assistants have joined CIESIN for the summer. Orly Stampfer, a Columbia College rising junior majoring in environmental science, is working with lead project scientist and CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy to simulate socioeconomic scenarios as part of a larger analysis of global climate impact. Her internship is under the auspices of the Earth Intern program of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Diana Zheng, a rising senior at Columbia College working towards a BA in economics and sustainable development, is working with CIESIN information scientist Xiaoshi Xing and scientists at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) on data collection of observed climate change impacts, filling the gaps in the current IPCC Observed Climate Change Impacts Database. She is also working on the georeferencing of the observed impact data and visualization of world country-level and provincial-level emissions of China. Also working with Xiaoshi Xing is Chikara Onda, a rising senior at Columbia majoring in economics with a concentration in environmental sciences, who has returned for his third summer at CIESIN. Onda is focusing on COSMIC2 data aggregation, mapping, and visualization for a dataset that is a project of SEDAC, the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Information Center operated by CIESIN. He is also helping on the mapping and visualization of the newly collected observed impact data. Another intern, Xiaoyi, who has a Master of Arts in economics and education from Teachers College, Columbia University, is working with CIESIN research associate Maria Muñiz on the Millennium Villages Project.

Two students, Valeryia Fiodarava and Steffen Foerster, are working with senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin on developing roads data focusing on Africa for the Global Roads Open Access Data Set (gROADS). Fiodarava, who is majoring in environmental management and policy at the University of Maine, Orono, will graduate with a BS in December 2009. She joins Steffen Foerster, a PhD student in ecology and evolutionary biology at Columbia who is due to graduate in August. Foerster began working at CIESIN in 2007 and joined the global roads project last summer. Another research assistant, Radha Duggal, has been working at CIESIN this past year, arriving September 2008. Duggal, who recently earned her master’s in public health from the Mailman School of Public Health, has worked on a number of projects focusing on demography and natural hazards mapping, working primarily with CIESIN geographic information specialist Greg Yetman.


CIESIN Director is Appointed to National and International Committees

July 18, 2009

CIESIN Director Robert Chen has been named to two new committees, one established by the International Council for Science (ICSU) and a second by the US National Research Council (NRC).

The ICSU ad hoc Strategic Coordinating Committee on Information and Data (SSCID) is charged with developing an overall strategy for the management and use of scientific data and information, for ICSU specifically and the scientific community more generally. One of the SCCID roles is to help coordinate the efforts of the various ICSU interdisciplinary committees concerned with data, including the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA), for which Dr. Chen serves as secretary-general. The SCCID, chaired by Professor Ray Harris of the UK, will be active for three years, with the possibility of a three-year extension.

The NRC Committee on Spatial Data Enabling USGS Strategic Science in the 21st Century has been established to examine progress made in developing spatial data infrastructures in the United States and abroad. It's also meant to assess the role that the U.S. Geological Survey may play in continuing to ensure access to high quality geospatial data in support of scientific analyses and decision making. The committee will be chaired by Robert Denaro of NAVTEQ under the auspices of the NRC Board on Earth Sciences and Resources.

See: SSCID
       NRC Committee on Spatial Data Enabling USGS Strategic Science in the 21st Century


Scholars from Vienna and Paris Visit CIESIN This Summer

July 17, 2009

Two scholars from Europe are visiting CIESIN this summer. The first, Christoph Aubrecht from the Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH in Vienna, arrived July 13 for two months to conduct research on the application of night-time lights satellite remote sensing imagery and the integration of various ancillary global data sets in hazards and disaster risk assessment and protected areas and species conservation. Aubrecht, who is working on his PhD in natural sciences, surveying, and geoinformation at the Vienna University of Technology, has worked previously with Chris Elvidge at the National Geophysical Data Center in Boulder. A second visitor, Eric Strobl from École Polytechnique in Paris, arrives July 17. Professor Strobl, who is also affiliated with the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) at the University of West Indies, Trinidad, is an economist working on the economics of natural hazards. He will be visiting CIESIN for approximately five weeks, kicking off a transatlantic seminar series on the assessment of multiple risks in the context of sustainable development. The seminar is supported by the the Alliance program, a unique joint venture between Columbia University, École Polytechnique, Sciences Po, and the Université de Paris I Panthéon Sorbonne. CIESIN participates regularly in Alliance activities, most recently hosting three interns from École Polytechnique.

See: 2009 News blurb on Transatlantic Seminar Series


Observations of Global Water Cycle Shared at NYC Meeting

July 10, 2009

CIESIN senior staff associate Alex de Sherbinin gave a presentation on human alterations to the water cycle at the Global Terrestrial Network-Hydrology (GTN-H) meeting held at City College of New York July 7–10. The purpose of the meeting was to define the future work program for the GTN-H by presenting key examples of progress in the technical, scientific, and applications realms that have developed or are using GTN-H relevant data sources, and by gathering data provider and data user perspectives.

See: Global Terrestrial Network-Hydrology Workshop Web site
       Presentation (PDF)


CODATA Global Roads Working Group Meets at CIESIN

June 24, 2009

CIESIN hosted a workshop of the CODATA Global Roads Data Development Working Group from June 22-23, including representatives from the Center for Spatial Information Science (CSIS) at the University of Tokyo, the Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development (Kenya), and the Geographic Information Support Team at the University of Georgia (USA). Additional working group members from around the world participated by teleconference on June 23. The workshop included a review of a software tool developed by CSIS for semi-automated road feature extraction from ASTER imagery (funded by the NASA-SERVIR project), and presentation of a PDA-based tool for roads data collection in Ethiopia (funded by the Gates Foundation AGCommons project). A status report on the implementation plan was conducted by the entire working group. The purpose of the CODATA Working Group is to develop the Global Roads Open Access Data Set (gROADS) for use in a range of applications by researchers and the development and humanitarian communities.

See: Global Roads Data Working Group Wiki


John A. Eddy, Former CIESIN Chief Scientist, Passes Away

June 21, 2009

John A. Eddy, who served as CIESIN chief scientist in the early 1990s, died June 10 in Tucson, Arizona. Dr. Eddy was well known for his work in solar physics and his discovery of the Maunder Minimum in the solar sunspot cycle. He had broad interests in cross-disciplinary natural and social science research, chairing an important National Research Council study on geosphere-biosphere interactions in the 1980s. At CIESIN’s former headquarters in Saginaw, Michigan, he led the Science Division and worked with his wife Barbara to publish the newsletter Consequences, with support from the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

See: The New York Times obituary


Spatial Data Infrastructure ‘Convergence’ Highlighted in Rotterdam

June 20, 2009

The 11th Global Spatial Data Infrastructure (GSDI) World Conference held in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, June 15-19 featured a range of discussions on the role of spatial data infrastructure in addressing critical environmental and societal challenges. CIESIN geographic information specialist Gregory Yetman moderated two conference sessions on geoportals and registries and other technical issues. As a member of the GSDI Association Board, he also attended several board meetings and contributed to conference planning. CIESIN director Robert Chen gave an update on implementation of the data sharing principles for the Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS) and moderated a distinguished panel on this issue. The panel included Prof. Harlan Onsrud, executive director of the GSDI Association and chair of the SEDAC User Working Group, and two legal scholars from Australia and Belgium, Prof. Anne Fitzgerald of the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Law Faculty and Katleen Janssen of K.U. Leuven Interdisciplinary Centre for Law and ICT.

See: GSDI 11th World Conference Web site


CIESIN Demographer Receives Grant for Collaborative Studies in Argentina

June 11, 2009

A grant by the Argentine government to encourage collaborative connections with its researchers living abroad has been awarded to CIESIN associate research scientist Susana Adamo. The grant will require Adamo, a demographer specializing in population, migration and environment, to visit Argentina for one month, beginning mid-July, and conduct specific collaborative activities. With researchers at the Institute of Geography, University of Buenos Aires, Adamo will study the transition of two rural areas’ from a reliance on an agrarian-based economy to a current mixed composition of new agriculture, second residences, and rural tourism. A second project with colleagues from the Department of Geography at the National University of Córdoba will involve the study of migration, livelihoods, and social sustainability in the north of the Córdoba province. Adamo will also teach a seminar on the demographic dynamics of agrarian spaces, with a focus on migration, in the masters program on Agrarian Social Studies of FLACSO (Latin American College of Social Sciences), Buenos Aires. The Milstein grant is part of R@ices (Roots, Network of Argentine Researchers and Scientists Abroad), which is housed in the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Production Innovation, and directed by the National Directorate of International Relations.

See: R@ices Web site


New Report Says Climate Change May Cause Human Population Migrations

June 10, 2009

The map depicts glaciers in the Himalayas and the major rivers that flow from them.

A new report says climate change may cause vast human migrations on an order not previously experienced. The report, In Search of Shelter: Mapping the Effects of Climate Change on Displacement and Migration, was written by researchers at CIESIN, the United Nations University, and CARE International. Drawing on empirical evidence from a new survey of every continent, with original maps created by CIESIN that pinpoint potential locations of critical displacements, the report explores how climate change is already causing people to leave their homes, and details some of the specific ways displacement may occur over the next decades. For example, the report says, melting glaciers will negatively affect agricultural systems throughout Asia and contribute to the risk of flooding. Natural disasters will continue to cause short-term migration, while the breakdown of eco-system-dependent livelihoods—such as subsistence herding, farming, and fishing—will cause long-term migration. Developing countries will be most vulnerable to migration and displacement, with less capacity to implement adaptation measures. A potential downward spiral from resulting ecological degradation and breakdown of social structures could ensue, leading to political instability which would further exacerbate population displacement.

The report calls for seeing climate-related migration and displacement as global in nature, not simply isolated local crises. It aims to inform critical policy making by presenting a comprehensive discussion of the linkages between environmental change, displacement, and migration.

See: Climate and Migration Report
      


CIESIN’s Work in Africa Highlighted at Harvard Kennedy School Conference

June 1, 2009

Mark Becker, associate director of the geospatial application division at CIESIN, gave a presentation on the organization’s Africa-based activities for a conference, Geospatial Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in Africa: Partnerships and Applications, held by the Harvard Kennedy School in Cambridge, Massachusetts on May 28–29. The conference brought together more than 50 leaders in geographic information systems and remote sensing to explore building stronger partnerships among government, private industry, non-profit community, and academia to strengthen spatial data development and dissemination, increase technology education, and expand the use and availability of spatial technology for sustainable development in Africa. Becker discussed a wide range of CIESIN’s Africa-centric collaborative projects, including the integration of online mapping tools with information systems for the management of AIDS clinics throughout Africa; data management for the Millennium Villages project; the development of a freely-accessible spatial data set on inter-urban transport networks around the world, focused on developing countries; and the Africa Soil Information Service, for which CIESIN is helping integrate and deliver soil data.


Earth Institute Addresses China’s Sustainability Challenge at Beijing Event

June 1, 2009

A panel on China’s Sustainability Challenge was held as part of a symposium, Columbia and China: Past and Future, held May 31 in Beijing to mark the 60th anniversary of Columbia's Weatherhead East Asian Institute (WEAI). Earth Institute director Jeffrey Sachs gave a short presentation via video on the key issues of environment and development facing both China and the U.S. over the next thirty years and beyond. CIESIN director Robert Chen then discussed the lead roles that both countries need to play in global sustainable development, focusing in particular on the critical challenge posed by climate change. He was followed by EI faculty member John Mutter and by Erika Helms, executive director of the Jane Goodall Institute and an alumna of the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. The panel was chaired by Xiaobo Lü, professor of political science at Barnard College, and director of the Columbia Global Centers | Beijing, launched by Columbia University president Lee Bollinger in March 2009. More than 150 Columbia alumni, colleagues, and students attended the symposium, which included panels on the current global financial crisis and the “local and global” in Chinese culture, and an exhibit of photographs illustrating the history of interactions between China and Columbia University.

See: WEAI 60th Anniversary Symposium Web page


New GEOSS Data Sharing Task Force Launched in Geneva

May 29, 2009

The first meeting of the Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS) Data Sharing Task Force was held May 27-28 in Geneva at the headquarters of the World Meteorological Organization. CIESIN director Robert Chen summarized efforts since 2006 to develop draft implementation guidelines for the GEOSS Data Sharing Principles, which the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) had established in 2005. The new Task Force aims to reach a consensus on the implementation of the Data Sharing Principles to be presented to the next GEO Ministerial Summit in 2010. At the Geneva meeting, the Task Force developed proposed terms of reference and specific plans for activities to reach this goal. The Task Force, which consists of some 30 representatives of GEO national members and participating organizations, will be co-chaired by China, the European Commission, India, Japan, the U.S., and the International Council for Science (ICSU). As lead of the original data sharing task team, Chen will continue as a member of the Task Force and will support ICSU’s role as co-chair in his capacity as secretary-general of the ICSU Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA).

See: GEOSS Data Sharing Principles


Summer Institute 2009 Training for Health-Care Decision Makers June 1-12

May 28, 2009

The second annual Summer Institute, a hands-on training course for healthcare professionals in developing countries, will run June 1 to June 12. Organized by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) and co-sponsored by CIESIN and the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, the Summer Institute 2009 will take place at Columbia’s Lamont Campus in Palisades, New York. The group of 12 students will learn how to integrate climate data with population data to improve decision-making in both the planning and prevention spheres of health care. Institute instructors include Mark Becker, CIESIN associate director of geospatial applications, who will teach the fundamentals of using geographic information systems (GIS) to conduct spatial analysis, as a powerful tool to better understand public health issues and design improved health policies.

See: Summer Institute 2009 Home Page


Long-Term Data Archiving Considerations Examined at Open Repositories 2009

May 26, 2009

Considerations for creating and maintaining a long-term digital archive data collection were discussed in a paper presented by CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert R. Downs and co-authored with director Robert S. Chen at a plenary session of the Open Repositories 2009 meeting in Atlanta, Georgia on May 18–21. The paper, “Conducting a Self-Assessment of a Long-Term Archive for Interdisciplinary Scientific Data as a Trustworthy Digital Repository,” provides recommendations for organizations considering an “internal audit” of a data repository: 1) an organizational strategy for a collaborative approach to managing archival collections over time, 2) a model for supporting submission of scientific data to the repository, and 3) a plan for facilitating transfer of data among collaborating repositories within an organization. In addition, Downs served as a moderator for another plenary session during the meeting.


Symposium Gathers Scholars from Japan, U.S. to Discuss Post-Conflict Issues

May 15, 2009

More than 40 scholars and practitioners from Japan and the United States, two of the most significant sources of bilateral post-conflict reconstruction funding, came together for a two-day symposium on post-conflict issues held May 12–13 at the Morningside Campus of Columbia University. The First Symposium on Strengthening Post-Conflict Security and Diplomacy: Lessons Learned in Integrating Natural Resources, Infrastructure, and Peacebuilding was co-sponsored by CIESIN and the Earth Institute at Columbia University, the Environmental Law Institute (ELI), and the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership. Each symposium participant gave presentations on the role of natural resource management and infrastructure redevelopment in improving security, diplomacy, and peacebuilding as countries and communities emerge from conflict. CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy presented the key overview of the role and influences of natural resource management in reducing the risk of conflict re-occurrence. Levy and program coordinator Alex Fischer presented initial findings from their ongoing environmental restoration research in Haiti, and discussed specific observations regarding the design of post-crisis aid in politically unstable contexts. The findings from this symposium will serve as an initial draft for a forthcoming edited volume being compiled by ELI.


Afghanistan Security Issues the Focus of Arlington Conference

May 14, 2009

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy gave a plenary talk, “Climate, Water and Food as Security Issues in Afghanistan,” on May 13 at a conference in Arlington, Virginia, organized by the U.S. Department of Defense and National Defense University. The conference, Building Health Security in Contemporary Afghanistan, brought together more than 200 senior policy makers to explore the role of health in establishing and sustaining security in the country. The participants included Cabinet ministers and other senior officials from Afghanistan, as well as counterparts from the U.S. and its allies.


Role for Remote Sensing Images in Slum Mapping Explored

May 13, 2009

A presentation on the use of remote sensing imagery for urban slum mapping was offered recently by CIESIN visiting scholar Reinaldo Perez Machado, professor of cartography, geographic information systems, and remote sensing at the University of São Paulo (USP). Machado visited CIESIN from mid-March to mid-May, and his research focused on using moderate-resolution remote sensing images in order to obtain improved delineations of the vast network of slums in and around São Paulo, the largest city in Brazil. If successful, his work will contribute to ongoing slum mapping efforts led by UN-HABITAT, ITC, and CIESIN. Perez Machado’s presentation was followed by a presentation by his wife, Violêta Saldanha Kubrusly, a planner for the municipality of São Paulo, on a major project to upgrade and improve São Paulo slum settlements through improvements to risk areas and creation of public spaces.

See: Global Slum Mapping Wiki


New Web Site Addresses Concerns over Water Resources in Rockland County

May 8, 2009

A new Web site with up-to-date scientific information on water sources in Rockland County, New York, has been released under the auspices of the NIH National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Superfund Basic Research Program (SBRP). The Web site, Water Resources in Rockland County: Planning in a Changing World, is a product of CIESIN’s participation in the Columbia SBRP Research Translation Core (RTC). It was developed by Lamont Doherty adjunct associate research scientist Stuart Braman, with assistance from CIESIN programmer Annie Gerard, and from CIESIN geospatial specialist Kytt MacManus, who generated the maps of the data. The Web site addresses issues relating to Rockland County’s water supply and quality, including drought, development, contaminants, climate change, and desalinization. The information and resources on the Web site are provided by a team of RTC scientists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and federal, state, county, and community partners. Direct links to public and private water resource information are provided. Rockland County is located on the west side of the Hudson River along the border between New York and New Jersey.

See: Water Resources in Rockland County Web site


CIESIN to Assess Use of Satellite Data in Environmental and Health Applications

May 7, 2009

The NASA Science Mission Directorate recently announced 24 grants to develop new, innovative approaches to improving decision making utilizing NASA Earth Science research results. CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy will lead a study on how NASA data products can improve scientifically rigorous national- and global-level environmental indicators that help to guide decision making about environmental protection. The project involves collaborators from Battelle Memorial Insitute, NASA Marshall Space Flight Institute, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the World Bank, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the Free University of Brussels.

A second study led by Sylwia Trzaska of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society aims to determine if the use of NASA and NOAA products could improve prediction of outbreaks of meningococcal meningitis in the Sahel region of Africa. CIESIN associate research scientist Susana Adamo will participate in examining the environmental and demographic risk factors that may serve as predictors of epidemic outbreaks at national and district levels.

See: Earth Science Applications Feasibility Studies 2008 Selections


CIESIN Participates in IHDP Open Meeting 2009

May 1, 2009

CIESIN staff presented papers at a session of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP) Open Meeting 2009, “The Social Challenges of Global Change,” held in Bonn April 26-30. The paper session was organized by Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN senior research associate and co-coordinator of PERN (Population-Environment Research Network), with PERN Steering committee chair, Alisson Barbieri. Several papers explored a possible relationship between population displacement and migration, among them CIESIN associate research scientist Susana Adamo’s paper, “Environmentally Induced Population Displacements,” and de Sherbinin’s paper co-authored with Marcia Castro and Shalini Vajjhala, “Population Displacements Associated with Environmentally Significant Infrastructure Projects.”

See: IHDP Open Meeting 2009 Web site
       PERN Web site


Geospatial Training to Support MDGs Offered in Bonn

April 25, 2009

Photo of participants in geospatial training

In conjunction with the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP) Open Meeting 2009, CIESIN held a five-day training in geospatial data analysis techniques. The training, supported by the IUSSP, was customized to help staff from census bureaus, health ministries, and/or non-governmental organizations in developing countries learn to use geospatial analysis to support efforts to meet the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) and promote sustainable development. Participants from around the world were Abhishek Singh (India), Jessamyn O. Encarncion (Phillipines), Betty Abang (Uganda), Ruamporn Sirirattrakul (Thailand), Pioni Willie (Vanuatu), Samuel Kelodjoue (Cameroon), Vincent O. A. Orekan (Benin), and Alejandra Silva (Chile). The training was led by CIESIN geospatial applications associate director Mark Becker, associate research scientist Susana Adamo, and research associate Valentina Mara, and consisted of an overview of techniques in spatial analysis, use of spatial statistics, and integrating national survey data with CIESIN’s population and hazards data sets. Digital recording of the training and course materials will be made available on the Web site of PERN (Population-Environment Research Network), hosted by CIESIN.


Local Educators Introduced to In-Class Use of GIS

April 20, 2009

An introduction to geographic information systems (GIS) for high school teachers took place at the CIESIN GIS laboratory on Saturday April 18. The workshop was the morning session of Strategies for Applying GIS in the Classroom, an all-day event held under the auspices of Saturday Workshops for Educators, which is sponsored by the E2C (Earth to Class) program of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University. The E2C series brings together Lamont and Earth Institute researchers with local K-12 teachers and specialists in curriculum and technology integration from Teachers College Columbia University and Colégio Bandeirantes, São Paulo, Brazil. CIESIN geographic information specialist Kytt MacManus led the session of about 25 high school earth science teachers in a basic explanation of GIS and the methodology behind the map production of selected CIESIN projects. He also facilitated a group exercise in data visualization using the mapping client NASA WorldWind, and helped workshop participants create individualized maps using a version of GIS software customized for educators. The workshop presentation will be archived and available free of charge on the E2C Web site.

See: E2C (Earth to Class) Web site


Mapping Tool to Enable New Views of Hudson River Watershed

April 17, 2009

Screenshot of the the extent of the Hudson River Watershed

A new Web-based data portal and mapping tool provides powerful new possibilities for exploring the physical and cultural geography of the Hudson River Watershed. Now released for public beta testing, the Hudson River Watershed Mapper stems from a partnership between the Northeast Information Node of the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII-NIN) and The Beacon Institute.

The portal allows users to explore a variety of environmental monitoring data and create customized maps. It will also serve as a central archive of Hudson River Watershed data collections, and is designed to support collaboration among researchers.

The Beacon Institute’s recent environmental monitoring collaboration with IBM, REON (the River and Estuary Observation Network), will be featured through the portal in the near future. REON is a network of real-time sensors and technology that report data on fish migration, the movement of pollutants, and physical alterations to the River, including the effect of global warming on water levels and habitat in tidal estuaries. Currently, the portal provides interactive links to real-time data collected by US Geological Survey stream gages operated as part of the National Water Information System (NWIS).

The NBII is an electronic information network that provides access to biological data and information on our nation’s plants, animals, and ecosystems. The NIN, developed and hosted by CIESIN, focuses on eight states of the Northeast. The Beacon Institute is a non-profit global center for scientific and technological innovation to advance research, education, and public policy regarding rivers and estuaries.

See: The Beacon Institute Web site
       NBII-NIN Web site
       Hudson River Watershed Mapper (beta)


Interns from Paris Welcomed to CIESIN

April 9, 2009

Three students from École Polytechnique in Paris are interning at CIESIN for the next three months, beginning April 8. Guillaume Karakouzian is a third-year student in statistics and economics (sustainable development) who will be working with associate research scientist Susana Adamo and assistant professor Andrew Moran from the Columbia Medical Center on a research project to model the spread of cardiovascular disease in China. Helene Cheval, a third-year student in ecology, will contribute to an Earth Institute project on ecological restoration issues in Haiti led by CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy. Maria-Ioanna Kairi has a degree in chemical engineering from the National Technical University of Athens and is finishing her first year in a Master's program in the Economy of Sustainable Development, Energy, and Environment at École Polytechnique. She will conduct a research project on socioeconomic scenarios for climate impact assessment in collaboration with Marc Levy. The internships have been arranged under the auspices of the Alliance program, a unique joint venture between Columbia University, École Polytechnique, Sciences Po, and the Université de Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne. CIESIN hosted two Alliance program interns in spring 2008 (see story).

See: Alliance Program Web site


CIESIN Participates in Data Manager Training for Kenya Millennium Villages Project

April 4, 2009

Photo of data managers at Kisymu training.

CIESIN research associates Maria Muñiz and Sonya Ahamed were among the facilitators of a data managers meeting for the Millennium Villages Project held in Kisumu, Kenya from March 23–29. The meeting provided training in the Project’s monitoring and evaluation platform; management systems for data being collected in the current round of surveys; and software for data entry, metadata management, and geographic information system analysis. The meeting was organized by the Millennium Villages Project. It included staff from the Earth Institute at Columbia University and data managers for the 14 Millennium Villages sites located in 10 African countries (Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda).

See: Millennium Villages Web site


CIESIN Hosts Visitors from Japan, France, Switzerland, and the U.S.

March 27, 2009

CIESIN’s location outside New York City facilitates frequent interactions with visitors from both the U.S. and abroad. In the past week representatives from four different organizations throughout the world visited CIESIN. Today, Andrew Morton, Programme Development and Assessment Coordinator for the UNEP Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch (PCDMB), visited CIESIN to discuss a collaborative project aimed at restoring ecosystem services in Haiti for the purpose of elevating livelihoods and reducing disaster risk. Earlier in the week, on March 23, Marcia McNiff of the USGS National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) presented a lunchtime seminar to CIESIN staff. She provided an overview of recent developments in the NBII program, including the Northeast Information Node (NIN), of which CIESIN is the primary partner. The next day, March 24, a team of scientists from the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), based at Sciences Po in Paris, met with CIESIN staff as part of a set of visits with Earth Institute centers and programs. The researchers, Raphaël Billé, Alexandre Magnan, and Benjamin Garnaud, are investigating adaptation to climate change, including potential interactions between adaptation and mitigation and the role of migration. On March 20, Hiroyuki Miyazaki of the University of Tokyo gave a presentation, “Developing a Global Urban Extent Map of High Resolution with Satellite Images and Various Geographic Sources.” CIESIN is working with Miyazaki's institute, the Center for Spatial Information Science (CSIS), and other groups on an international task of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) focused on global roads and human settlement mapping.


2009 AAG Participation, Presentations by CIESIN Staff

March 20, 2009

CIESIN is well represented at the 2009 Association of American Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting held March 22–27 this year in Las Vegas, Nevada. The program includes a paper by Earth Institute post-doctoral fellow Sandra Baptista, “Local governance and institutional capacity for adapting to climate change in metropolitan Florianópolis, Santa Catarina State, Brazil,” co-authored with CIESIN associate research scientist Susana Adamo, research associate Maria Muñiz, and research associate Liana Razafindrazay. CIESIN’s booth in the exhibit hall features data and services available from SEDAC, NBII-NIN and other CIESIN projects as well as recent publications by CIESIN staff. User services manager Joe Schumacher is presenting live demos of the capabilities of the TerraViva! SEDAC Viewer, the interactive software application that enables integrated visualization and analysis of socioeconomic and remote sensing data.


CIESIN Data Featured in Paris Exhibition on Environmental Change

March 18, 2009

A recent art exhibition in Paris made prominent use of data developed by CIESIN. The exhibition, Terre Natale: Ailleurs Commence Ici (Native Land: Stop Eject), by Raymond Depardon and Paul Virilio, was presented at Fondation/Cartier/ pour l’art contemporain from November 21, 2008 to March 15, 2009. As part of the exhibition, professor Laura Kurgan, director of the Spatial Information Design Lab at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, co-authored a collaborative design of video presentation that immersed viewers with images from a nearly-360 degree projection displayed throughout a circular room. The 30-minute video, which utilizes data from CIESIN’s Gridded Population of the World (GPW) data collection and Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project (GRUMP) available from the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), includes a moving globe that dynamically illustrates the economic, political, and environmental causes of global migration. “We translated the gridded population data from pixels into numbers and graphs and then animated it, overlaying many other kinds of data about migration such as displacement from floods, voluntary economic migration as seen through remittances, and refugee flows archived by UNHCR,” explained Kurgan. “The piece communicates to scientific, policy, and general audiences—and from children to NGOs—as a device for expressing complex ideas in simple ways.” The exhibition catalog, published by the museum, is available in both English and French.


Students Travel to Haiti to Conduct Post-Disaster Environmental Assessment

March 13, 2009

A team of six Earth Institute (EI) students are traveling to Haiti to conduct a one-week field visit to the southern watersheds of Marigot and Jacamel. Their objective is to evaluate the socioeconomic impacts of severe environmental degradation, erosion of key agriculturally productive land in the river basin, population displacement due to erosion and land degradation, and potential adaptation options.

The team is comprised of graduate students from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and the Department of Ecology, Evolutionary, and Environmental Biology (E3B). They are participating in a semester-long workshop project researching post-disaster environmental needs with a specific focus on issues facing the Caribbean island of Haiti. Haiti, the least developed country in the Americas, is a country highly vulnerable to socioeconomic disruption and severe natural disasters. A series of highly destructive floods, mainly caused by tropical storms in 2004 and exacerbated by soil erosion and deforestation, left more than 3,000 people dead.

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy is faculty advisor to the class, which is part of a project in collaboration with the United Nation Environment Programme’s Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch. Also accompanying the group to Haiti is CIESIN project coordinator Alex Fischer and EI associate research scientist from the Tropical Agriculture and Rural Environment Program, Genrose Nziguheba.

CIESIN research associate Liana Razafindrazay has been working closely with students collecting geospatial data for analysis. By using remote sensing data and satellite images, students will be able to more accurately identify changes over time in specific watersheds, and provide more accurate measures of the damage and impacts to livelihoods.


Draft Report on EPI for Abu Dhabi Reviewed

March 9, 2009

A CIESIN team comprised of project coordinator Alex Fischer, geographic information specialist Malanding Jaiteh, deputy director Marc Levy, and research associate Valentina Mara traveled to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, for a March 2–3 workshop to review a draft report on Environmental Performance Indicators. The report, prepared by CIESIN in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI), explains how the methodology of the global Environmental Performance Index (EPI) can be adapted to the specific environmental characteristics and priorities of Abu Dhabi. At the workshop, CIESIN staff presented the draft architecture for an Abu Dhabi Environmental Performance Index and reviewed indicators which had been calculated. The report is now undergoing final peer review and will be completed in the coming months.


CIESIN Looks Back and Ahead: A Message from the Director

March 6, 2009

Gridded Population of the World, version 3

CIESIN was established in 1989 on the premise that Earth science data and information—brought together using advanced information technology and networks—was central to sound environmental management at local, regional, and global scales.

Looking back over the past two decades, this vision could not have been more prescient!

When I joined CIESIN in 1993 at its original headquarters in Michigan, I was impressed by its ambitious agenda to develop and integrate natural and social science data resources and apply new information technologies in support of interdisciplinary research and applications. The Internet was just getting off the ground. CIESIN staff were experimenting with then-new tools like Gopher, Mosaic (the first widely-used Web browser, developed by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications), and online databases.

One of my first projects was to work with the eminent geographer, Professor Waldo Tobler. He had a unique idea to develop a new view of the distribution of population around the globe—a view not limited by national-level boundaries and data. To implement this idea, it was necessary to gather population and spatial data from sources all over the world and carefully assemble and then transform these data using the emerging technology of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The result was the first version of “Gridded Population of the World” (GPW), a data set that has helped transform our perception and understanding of human settlement of our planet. Full Story


‘Secondhand Planet’ Discussed in Guest Lecture

March 4, 2009

Apollo 8 Earthrise photo

Looked at from space, it easy to grasp what a tiny percentage of the Earth’s surface remains unspoiled. There is little question that human activities are damaging the systems which we depend on to support life. The challenge of keeping the planet habitable for ourselves and future generations is an issue that occupies many of us and affects everyone, researchers and lay persons alike. Will human society be successful in responding to this challenge to patch our tattered environment and find innovative and resourceful means to sustainably manage our secondhand home?

Using this theme of “Secondhand Planet” as a title and a springboard for his presentation, CIESIN director Robert S. Chen on March 4 gave the Goldring Distinguished Visiting Lecture for the Program in the Environment of the University of Michigan. Chen’s talk reviewed the broad range of environmental changes occurring on the Earth visible from space in recent decades, and suggested ways to improve sustainable management of Earth, our “secondhand” home. The public lecture was co-sponsored and hosted by the University of Michigan’s Exhibit Museum of Natural History in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


Bangkok Workshop Examines Asian Cities at Risk

February 27, 2009

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy participated in and gave a plenary address for a workshop, Cities at Risk:Developing Adaptive Capacity for Climate Change in Asia’s Coastal Megacities, held on February 26–28 in Bangkok. Levy’s talk, “Current and Projected Populations at Risk: Dynamics of Asian Urban Population Growth in Low Elevation Coastal Zones,” summarized CIESIN’s work quantifying exposure to potential sea level rise, with particular attention to the especially high exposure in Asian cities. It also drew attention to the need to improve how spatial demographic data is collected. The workshop was organized by International START Secretariat, East West Center, and Ibaraki University/IR3S. The invited group of scientists, urban planners, officials, and representatives of disaster management and development agencies met to review the implications of climate change and sea level rise for rapidly growing coastal populations and infrastructure. They focused on the following cities along Asia’s coast: Dhaka; Shanghai and Hong Kong /Shenzhen/Guangzhou; Mumbai and Calcutta; Jakarta; Karachi; Manila; Bangkok; and Ho Chi Minh City. The group will identify next steps and priorities for subsequent research and capacity building.

See: Cities at Work Workshop Info


New Global Digital Soil Map to Address Critical Gap in Knowledge for Improved Crop Production

February 17, 2009

A major initiative for developing and disseminating accurate digital information about soils in countries throughout the world was announced today. CIESIN’s role in this initiative will be to work with international partners to integrate and deliver soils data for the global database using state-of-the-art information and data management technologies.

The global digital soil map, GlobalSoilMap.net, aims to provide farmers, policy makers, and scientists with critical information on how to address declining soil fertility and improve soil management for better crop productivity. By expanding a spatial database of soil properties, GlobalSoilMap.net will leverage work begun recently by the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS) on the first-ever, detailed digital map of soil in 42 countries of sub-Saharan Africa. GlobalSoilMap.net is being funded in part by the $18 million grant to create AfSIS, which was awarded to International Centre for Tropical Agriculture-Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Institute (CIAT-TSBF) by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). An international consortium led by ISRIC-World Soil Information, based in the Netherlands, and including the Earth Institute of Columbia University will raise further funds and enhance the methodology for the map.

Unlike the existing global soil map, based on outdated data and difficult for non-soil scientists to interpret , GlobalSoilMap.net will leverage contemporary technological advances to more accurately collect soil data, predict soil conditions, and provide usable information for applied users. It will be made freely available online and through cost-effective media, and will utilize innovative new sources of soil information.

See: Africa Soil Information Service Web site
       GlobalSoilMap.net Press Release


Use of SEDAC Data for Environmental Assessments Featured in New NASA Research Anthology

February 16, 2009

As countries begin to see the benefit of treating natural resources like investments, the vital role of data in informing environment policy making is becoming more apparent. But gathering rigorous data that lets countries compare environmental resources is not easy, and many countries lack the resources to do so. An article selected for Sensing Our Planet: NASA Earth Science Research Features 2008 looks at the how data produced by the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center operated by NASA (SEDAC) for the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) and other environmental assessments is helping address this issue. The volume highlights multidisciplinary research that uses Earth-observing data from NASA Earth science data centers, including research on wind power, air pollution, earthquakes, and more. The article, “Scorecard for the Environment,” discusses the pilot EPI produced by SEDAC and the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy (YCELP), that ranked countries according to how well they are taking care of the environment. The 2008 EPI ranks countries based on two objectives, environmental health, and ecosystem vitality; the objectives are broken down into 25 indicators, tracked over time. Also featured in the article: the use of SEDAC data in formulating the Natural Resource Management Index (NRMI), used by the Millennium Challenge Corporpration (MCC). The MCC uses the NRMI as part of a suite of performance indicators to help determine country eligibility for its foreign aid programs.

See: “Scorecard on the Environment” online article


Interactive Map Allows Viewing of Members, Geographical Relationships

February 16, 2009

CIESIN has created an interactive map that facilitates viewing of members of the Environmental Consortium of Hudson Valley Colleges and Universities. The map, created by CIESIN geographic information specialist Tricia Chai-Onn, utilizes Google Earth to display member information and other geographically related resources. The Interactive Membership Map is publicly accessible via the Consortium’s Members Page. There are currently 50 institutional members in the Consortium, 300 individual members, and nine affiliate members. The Environmental Consortium of Hudson Valley Colleges and Universities is an intercollegiate collaboration established to more fully engage its members in the regional environment, emphasizing interdisciplinary study.

See: Interactive Membership Map


Workshop Examines Communications and Collaboration Strategies to Enhance Research Translation

February 14, 2009

CIESIN staff hosted a Research Translation Workshop, “Translating SBRP Triumphs into Public Health Progress: Understanding and Implementing Effective Research Translation,” for the NIEHS Superfund Basic Research Program (SBRP) on February 11-13 at the Lamont Campus of Columbia University (CU) in Palisades, New York. Fifty participants from SBRP university grantees, NIEHS, EPA, and the CDC Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) attended the workshop. Several noted speakers gave presentations on environmental health issues. The workshop provided the time and venue for Research Translation Core scientists and staff to share with each other their expertise, experiences, challenges, and vision through facilitated discussions. The workshop was an integral part of a broader effort to expand capacity and strengthen the effectiveness of the SBRP RTCs in translating basic scientific research to key policymakers, researchers, commercial enterprises, and public groups in a timely and accurate manner to enhance public health.


Climate Vulnerability Issues Raised in DC Briefing

February 12, 2009

A Capitol Hill briefing addressing potential population displacement from climate change impacts was led by CIESIN associate research scientist Susana Adamo and senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin on February 11. The briefing featured past research on environmental migration and the kind of future climate impacts that could result in various forms of population mobility. A morning session addressed members of congress and key staff and an afternoon session was open to staff and the public. The briefings were organized by CARE and the Population Resource Center.

See: “Disaster & Displacement: The Human Face of Climate Change”


Progress Toward Environmental Performance Index for China Reviewed at Beijing Meeting

February 8, 2009

Photo of attendees at China EPI experts meeting

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy, senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin, and information scientist Xiaoshi Xing participated in an experts meeting in Beijing February 5, the purpose of which was to review data and indicators for the China Environmental Performance Index (EPI). The meeting was co-organized with the Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning (CAEP) and the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy (YCELP). CIESIN and YCELP were responsible for leading development of the 2008 EPI, a global environmental performance assessment which ranked 149 countries on 25 indicators tracked across six established policy categories. The China EPI is expected to be released in September 2009.


Database on Impacts Associated with Observed Changes in Climate Now Available

February 6, 2009

World map showing changes in physical and biological systems and surface temperature in relation to temperature changes over the period from 1970-2004

The fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released in 2008 concluded that it is likely that anthropogenic warming has had a discernible influence on many physical and biological systems. The database underlying this conclusion has now been made available through the IPCC Data Distribution Center (DDC), which is collaboratively operated by the British Atmospheric Data Centre in the United Kingdom, the Deutsches Klimarechenzentrum (DKRZ) in Germany, and CIESIN.

The Observed Climate Change Impacts Database was developed by an international team of scientists led by Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and the Earth Institute at Columbia University. The database collates information from a wide range of scientific studies that document significant environmental changes such as diminishing glaciers, melting permafrost, earlier snowmelt, lake and river warming, and coastal erosion as well as changes in biological systems such as earlier leaf unfolding and blooming dates and alterations in species interactions. Studies included in the database were based on observational data for at least 20 years between 1970 and 2004, and in some cases drew on more than 35 years of data. In a paper published in Nature in 2008, Dr. Rosenzweig and her colleagues demonstrated that the patterns of observed changes documented in the database and observed regional changes in temperature cannot be explained by natural variations alone. They therefore concluded that anthropogenic climate change is already having significant impacts on physical and biological systems globally and in some continents.

The DDC was established in 1997 to support the data needs of the IPCC assessments. CIESIN began supporting the DDC in 2003 as part of its NASA-funded Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), focusing on socioeconomic data and scenarios needed for the integrated assessment of climate change impacts.

See: IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) Observed Climate Change Impacts Database


Cooperation on Environmental Treaty Data Formalized

February 5, 2009

Robert Chen countersigns the agreement with IUCN on behalf of CIESIN

CIESIN and the Environmental Law Centre of IUCN (The International Union for Conservation of Nature) have signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that formalizes a long-standing collaboration between the Environmental Treaty and Resource Indicator (ENTRI) service of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) and the ECOLEX service developed by IUCN, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO), and the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP). Under the MOA, IUCN will provide access to its regularly updated treaty status database, and CIESIN will provide ECOLEX with advanced data query functions and ENTRI’s Conference of Party decision search tool (ENTRI COP). The MOA also lays the groundwork for further cooperation in developing new services for the international legal and research communities concerned with environmental treaties.

See: Environmental Treaties and Resource Indicators Web site
       Ecolex Web site


New Digital Soil Map Will Offer Insights Critical to Boosting Africa Food Production

January 29, 2009

A new initiative to produce the first ever detailed digital map of soil in 42 countries of the Sub-Saharan region of Africa will be funded by a four-year award of US$18 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). Led by African soil scientists and CIAT’s Nairobi-based Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility (TSBF) Institute, the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS) project will draw on an international partnership that includes the Earth Institute and CIESIN, the World Soil Information (ISRIC) at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, and the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) in Nairobi. The new digital soil map will ultimately be developed as part of a global soil mapping initiative, called GlobalSoilMap.net.

Information on the condition of soils is considered critical to boosting yields of historically underperforming small farms in this region of Africa. The new project will combine the latest soil science and technology with remote satellite imagery and on-the-ground efforts to analyze thousands of soil samples. The aim is to inform decision making related to the supplementation needed to improve agricultural production, and to target the most appropriate crop varieties for a particular area.

CIESIN will work with African partners to build the data systems required to collect, analyze, and disseminate this information to a wide range of end users.

See: Africa Soil Information Service Web site


Geospatial Analysis Techniques Introduced to Bangladesh Academic and Professional Community

January 18, 2009

Mark Becker instructs a student in geospatial analysis as she sits at the computer.

CIESIN was invited to present a spatial analysis training workshop at Dhaka University, Department of Geology in Dhaka, Bangladesh. More than 40 participants attended the workshop, held January 12–15, including professors and graduate students from the University and members of the Bangladesh Water Development Board and UNICEF. The course was developed and presented by CIESIN’s associate director of Geospatial Applications, Mark Becker. The training focused on basic spatial analysis techniques and mapping with geographic information systems (GIS) using data from Columbia University’s NIEHS Superfund Basic Research Program, which studies the health effects and geochemistry of arsenic and manganese. This workshop was funded by the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, through a grant from the John E. Fogarty International Center for Advanced Study in the Health Sciences.


CIESIN to Expand Collaboration with Scientists and Students from France

January 15, 2009

An award by the Alliance Program to CIESIN director Robert Chen and Prof. Eric Strobl of École Polytechnique in Paris will enable a new transatlantic seminar series beginning in spring 2009 assessing multiple risks in the context of sustainable development. The seminar series will encompass public lectures, informal seminars, and student interactions in both New York and Paris, involving scientists from the Earth Institute at Columbia University and faculty from École Polytechnique, Sciences Po, and Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne. Seminar topics will include global-scale, multi-hazard risk assessment, emerging risks such as genetically modified organisms and emerging infectious diseases, and the economics of natural disasters and climate change.

CIESIN will also host three third-year students from École Polytechnique for three months in the spring of 2009. These interns will work with CIESIN staff on research projects dealing with the spread of cardiovascular disease in China, ecological restoration in Haiti, and socioeconomic scenarios for climate impact assessments. CIESIN successfully hosted two interns from École Polytechnique in spring 2008.

Prof. Strobl, an associate professor in economics, will serve as the faculty coordinator at École Polytechnique, working with Prof. Olivier Godard, professor and research director at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy will also lecture on environment-security interactions and other topics in the seminar series. Other faculty from the Earth Institute and the three French universities will be invited to participate. The series will build on sustainable development discussions begun in 2003 between CIESIN and École Polytechnique in an Alliance Program-sponsored panel chaired by Prof. Godard.

See: Alliance Program Web site
       News item on 2008 interns


Conflict-Related Hazards Study Results Presented at Bangkok Risk Assessment Seminar

January 14, 2009

CIESIN director Robert Chen participated in a Seminar on Risk Assessment and Mitigation Measures for Natural- and Conflict-Related Hazards in Asia organized by the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI) on January 12-13 in Bangkok. The seminar, opened by Norway’s ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand, Merete Fjeld Brattested, presented the results of an 18-month study led by NGI for the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific of the United Nations (UN) Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Chen chaired a session on two unique elements of the study: an analysis of civil conflict in Asia by the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO) and an assessment of disaster coping capacity in the region by Stene & Lahidji. Chen also discussed the context for the study and potential follow-on activities, and chaired a breakout group involving disaster risk managers from the UN and other humanitarian organizations in the Asia-Pacific region. The results of a new drought risk analysis developed with assistance from CIESIN were presented by Brad Lyon of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI). CIESIN and the Center for Hazards and Risk Research (CHRR) also contributed substantially to the assessment of tsunami and earthquake risks in the region.

See: International Centre for Geohazards (NGI) Web site
       UN OCHA Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (ROAP) Web site


CIESIN to Provide Geospatial Analysis Training in Bonn

January 8, 2009

With support from the IUSSP (International Union for the Scientific Study of Population), CIESIN will hold a five-day training workshop in geospatial data analysis techniques in Bonn, Germany in April 2009. The workshop, which is meant for staff from census bureaus, health ministries, and/or non-governmental organizations in developing countries, will focus on using geospatial analysis to help guide efforts to meet the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) and promote sustainable development. The workshop will be held in conjunction with the next International Human Dimensions Programme Open Meeting. Digital recording of the training and course materials will be made available on the Web site of PERN (Population-Environment Research Network), hosted by CIESIN. The training is being developed in response to an identified need for processing spatial data and making such data available at the level of neighborhood and locality in order to improve planning and resource management. The training will also address the growing need by local and national researchers to analyze and integrate census and survey data with environmental, health, and sanitation data in support of sustainable development planning.

See: IUSSP Web site
       More Information/Workshop Application


Climate Change Adaptation, Species Distribution Discussed on Earth and Sky Radio Series

January 7, 2009

Climate change adaptation and species grids data were the subjects of recent interviews with CIESIN staff for the Earth and Sky Radio series podcasts. For a January 6 podcast, senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin spoke about Climate Change to Prompt Migration. Last month, he discussed Adapting to Climate Change.

GIS specialist Malanding Jaiteh was also featured in two podcasts in December focused on species grid data, recently released by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN: On Where Species Live and Scientists Develop Species Distribution Grids.The species grids data document the spatial distribution of birds and mammals of the Americas and amphibians of the world.

Part of the EarthSky network, the Earth and Sky podcasts are distributed to more than 1,900 international broadcast outlets, reaching an audience of 14 million people.

See: Earth and Sky Radio Series Web site