Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) Columbia University
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Past Programs & Projects

CIESIN’s major ongoing activities are:
SEDAC logoNASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC)
One of twelve NASA Earth Science Data Centers, SEDAC provides access to socioeconomic and environmental data for integration with NASA’s earth science and remote sensing data resources.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Socioeconomic Data Distribution Centre (DDC)
A data center operated collaboratively by SEDAC, the UK’s British Atmospheric Data Centre, and the World Data Center for Climate in Hamburg, Germany, the DDC provides access to key data sets used in IPCC assessments and reports.
Environmental Performance Index (EPI)
Produced every two years by a research team from the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and CIESIN, Columbia University, the EPI ranks country performance on high-priority environmental issues in two broad policy areas, protection of human health from environmental harm, and protection of ecosystems. The 2022 EPI uses 40 performance indicators to compare 180 countries.

Geo-Referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3)
GRID3 is facilitating the collection, analysis, integration, dissemination, and utilization of high-resolution population, infrastructure, and other reference data in support of national sectoral development priorities, humanitarian efforts, health, and sustainable development goals (SDGs). The project aims to increase developing countries’ capabilities for mapping population distribution as a way of ensuring that everyone, especially the most vulnerable, is counted, refining development priorities and extending and improving the scope and efficacy of countries’ development efforts. The project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).

Population-Environment Research Network (PERN)
Promotes online scientific exchange to further academic research on population and the environment. Sponsored by the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP) and the International Human Dimensions on Global Environmental Change Programme (IHDP).
Environment and Security
CIESIN is part of a number of initiatives and projects assessing the impacts of environmental stress, especially climate change, on national and global security concerns. Among the workshops, trainings, and academic courses offered is a Massive Online Course (MOOC) CIESIN helped lead.
Recent Awards

Science Core Heuristics for Open Science Outcomes in Learning (SCHOOL)
A two-year, half-million dollar award to CIESIN will help kick off the Transforming to Open Science (TOPS) initiative, part of the NASA Open-Source Science Initiative (OSSI), the agency’s new five-year commitment to advancing open science literacy for all that was declared a priority by US President Joe Biden in 2023. The CIESIN-led project will develop online curricula to educate scientists at multiple career levels. The new SCHOOL lessons will be structured around the data science life cycle using open, interactive, earth science applications use cases that span the disciplinary areas of water resources, agriculture, health and air quality, disasters, climate, wildfires, and environmental justice, with the areas of population and infrastructure integrated into each. Instruction will involve accessing and analyzing NASA data sources in Open Data Science lifecycle workflows, drawing heavily on data and services from the twelve NASA Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs), of which CIESIN’s Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) is one. The highly interactive modules will utilize core open-source data, analysis, and visualization libraries. Users will be guided through generation, collection, processing, storage, management, analysis, visualization, and interpretation of NASA data.


SERVIR-West Africa (Phase II)
CIESIN is part of a team led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) to continue Phase II of the SERVIR West Africa Hub, one of five global hubs of a joint initiative of NASA, USAID, and leading geospatial organizations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Established in 2016, Phase II of SERVIR will continue five years of operations in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal as well as opening activities in other West African States. CIESIN is a partner with the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, also a center of the Columbia Climate School, and the University of Florida, with a consortium comprised of the African Regional Institute for Geospatial Information Science and Technology (AFRIGIST, Ile-Ife, Nigeria),  the Agrometeorology, Hydrology, Meteorology Regional Center (AGRHYMET, Niamey, Niger), the Centre for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Services (CERSGIS, Accra, Ghana), the Centre de Suivi Écologique (CSE, Dakar, Senegal), the Institut Supérieur d’Études Spatiales et des Télécommunications (Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso), and the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences (AIMS, Mbour, Senegal and Cape Coast, Ghana).

Collaborative Projects
CIESIN collaborates with a number of partners on projects spanning a wide range of themes related to human dimensions of environmental change and sustainability.
Addressing Climate-Forced Displacement in Africa
A new project under the African Union Commission, the UN Development Programme, and the World Bank, with support from the Robert Bosch Foundation, aims for a comprehensive report on the scope, nature, and implications of climate-forced mobility on the African continent. CIESIN will build a comprehensive climate-forced mobility model informed by a wide range of drivers—sea level rise, desertification, land degradation, extreme weather events, landslide, floods, rise in temperatures, water scarcity, and decreased crop yield—for 2030 and 2050. The model will have three to four scenarios, informed by combinations of two climate trends outlined in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on emissions: low (or moderate) and high; and have two possible development trends: unequal (or fragmented) and conventional development.
Assessing NASA’s SUOMI-Nighttime Product Suite to Improve Measurement Monitoring and Achievement of Urban SDGs and Associated Targets and Indicators
A project with the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) to validate and explore the use of more frequent remote sensing data to improve the spatial and temporal accuracy of population estimates, especially towards addressing targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which require more frequent population estimates than are currently available. Earlier efforts to refine census-based population estimates, for example, the Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project (GRUMP), used DMSP-OLS Nighttime Lights data comprised of annual aggregations. This project instead explores the use of daily frequency nighttime lights data collected by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument on the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite, which is jointly operated by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA). It provides a new and unique opportunity to contribute to the development of near real-time estimates of global population distributions. Data from GPW4.11 and the U.S. Census Grids (Summary File 1) data collections, and additional demographic and mobility layers from American Community Survey (ACS) as well as other sources (including big data sources on human mobility) are also explored.
Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast (CCRUN)
CIESIN’s role in a consortium to address climate change risks in the urban U.S. corridor from Philadelphia to Boston includes gathering and integrating diverse data on the region in the initial focus areas of water, health, and coastal zone management. CIESIN will also support outreach and training activities and establish the project Web site. The consortium, under a five-year award from the NOAA Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) initiative, includes members from the Earth Institute; University of Massachusetts-Amherst; City College/CUNY; Stevens Institute of Technology; and Drexel University.  

Data ANalytics and Tools for Ecosecurity
CIESIN is partnering with ISciences and Case Consulting International on a two-year project, Data ANalytics and Tools for Ecosecurity (DANTE), to develop an open source software toolkit for systematic monitoring, forecasting, and analysis of environmental stressors and their impacts on security. Supported by the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), DANTE is focusing on the role of environmental stressors in three key areas: international migration and refugee flows; internal migration and isolated populations; and conflict and political instability. The tools are being designed to accelerate quantitative interdisciplinary analysis of environmental stressors, taking into account demographics, economics, health, conflict, hazards, and other factors.

Developing and Enhancing Infrastructure Hazards Data
CIESIN is collaborating with the Department of Earth, Environmental, and Geospatial Sciences at Lehman College of the City University of New York to use machine learning methods to develop and enhance data on the exposure and vulnerability of buildings and other infrastructure to hazards, working initially with five Lehman graduate and undergraduate students. This project extends recent work for the State of New York supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Application of the data to flash flood hazard assessment is also a project component, in concert with the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI).

Drivers of Migration in and out of West Africa
CIESIN is teaming with scientists at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), and the Earth Institute’s Center for Climate Systems Research (CCSR) on a four-year grant from the National Science Foundation to integrate climate science, crop modeling, geography, economics and political science in the study and prediction of migration within and out of West Africa. This trans-disciplinary approach aims to increase understanding of the convergence of complex factors that influence migration, from climate and environmental influences to changing political, social, economic and demographic conditions, locally and globally.

Geospatial Data Preservation Resource Center
The Web site enables discovery and access to documents and tools to facilitate long-term geospatial data preservation and stewardship. Accessible resources include descriptions and links for a variety of relevant resources, including education and training modules, useful tools and software, information on policies and standards for preserving geospatial data, and examples of successful preservation and associated benefits. The resource center is being developed as part of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) of the Library of Congress.
Global High Resolution Population Denominators
Partnering with WorldPop and University of Louisville, CIESIN is using a statistical model based on census and biophysical data to create a high-resolution (100 m) global surface of population. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
High Resolution Settlement Layer
A joint effort between Facebook, Columbia University, and the World Bank using high-resolution satellite imagery and census data to develop estimates of human population distribution, providing unprecedented levels of detail, especially for rural areas. The most recent data for all countries to date are accessible via the Humanitarian Data Exchange. Web map visualization is available via the SEDAC POPGRID Viewer (click on upper right menu of any map, and click "+" to add HRSL to the Viewer).
Mapping the Missing Millions
This project led by Oregon State University aims to address the issue of the approximately 250 million people estimated as missing from the progress assessments of the global sustainable development goals (SDGs). The project will develop a global database of informal settlement location, schema, and SDGs indicators using crowdsourced data, machine learning, and multi-sensor satellite imagery.

POPGRID Data Collective
The Collective was established in 2017 to bring together and expand the international community of data providers, users, and sponsors concerned with producing georeferenced data on population, human settlements, and infrastructure. The POPGRID Web site and mapping tool were developed by CIESIN under the auspices of the Collective, to inform user decisions selecting population data sets. CIESIN is now working with the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD) and the Thematic Research Network on Data and Statistics (TReNDS) of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UNSDSN) to initiate a second phase of POPGRID with support from BMGF. POPGRID is also contributing to the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Human Planet Initiative, which aims to improve the quality and accessibility of data needed for assessing humanity’s impact on the planet, access to resources, and exposure to risk. POPGRID is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and underwritten by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) managed by CIESIN. Major participants are included on the Explore Data page.

Population and Infrastructure on Our Human Planet: Supporting Sustainable Development through Improved Spatial Data and Models for Human Settlements, Infrastructure, and Population Distribution Based on Earth Observations

With partners from the University of Louisville, ImageCat, Inc., NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Baruch College, and Yale University, the three-year project is funded by the NASA Applied Sciences program, as part of its support of the Human Planet Initiative of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO). The project team will work with national statistical offices and other agencies in several developing countries to better utilize population and related data in sustainable development monitoring and decision making. CIESIN director Robert Chen is the principal investigator.

South-North Migration in Central America and West Africa
An award from the US Department of Defense FY2021 Minerva Research Initiative to support research in social and behavioral science will support a multi-institution, interdisciplinary team to conduct a three-year study comparing underlying drivers of international migration flows from Central America and West Africa to the US and Europe, respectively. Increased understanding of these dynamics will make a critical contribution to improved policy responses to the humanitarian and security challenges posed by migration crises. The team will use innovative methodologies to answer two questions: one, to what degree do climate factors contribute to migration flows, versus individual, structural, and governance factors? And two, how may such flows change in response to combined changes in social, political, economic and climate factors? The research team is formed across the Columbia Climate School entities CIESIN, the Center for Climate Systems Research (CCSR), the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), and Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, and includes scientists at Oregon State University (OSU). For more information visit:
Task Group on Citizen Science Data
This CODATA–WDS task group focuses on data-generating citizen science, crowdsourced, and volunteered geographic information (VGI) projects for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Use of Satellite and Socioeconomic Data for Disaster Risk Management
Under the NASA Applied Sciences Division, CIESIN is working with NASA scientists to support the development organization Mercy Corps by applying remote sensing and socioeconomic data for disaster risk management and early warning systems.
Past Programs & Projects
Africa Exposure Data Development
In collaboration with ImageCAT, Inc., CIESIN used optical remote sensing and demographic and economic data, along with inventories of critical infrastructure facilities and transportation networks, to establish a baseline for assessing natural disaster impacts for Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Niger, and Senegal. Funded by the World Bank.
Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS)
A collaboration between the Earth Institute and African scientists and institutions, that developed detailed digital maps of soils in 42 countries of sub-Saharan Africa in support of sustainable agriculture. CIESIN helped build the information systems for collecting, analyzing, and disseminating the data to a wide range of end users. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.
African and Latin American Resilience to Climate Change (ARCC)
With Tetra Tech/ARD, CIESIN provided technical support in climate science/vulnerability assessments in Africa and Latin America. Funded by the US AID.
Assessment of Potential Flood Impacts to Buildings in the Hudson Valley/Long Island Regions
A three-year project to develop building footprint data and conduct a flood scenario impact analysis, supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) Climate Change Adaptation Research and Strategies Program. Building on previous NYSERDA projects conducted in collaboration with the Stevens Institute of Technology, the project will focus on all counties adjacent to the Hudson River from the southern border of Westchester County to the Federal Dam at Troy, as well as counties outside New York City adjacent to Long Island Sound. Using published data on property assets and critical infrastructure, modelled future storm surge and sea level rise impacts will be evaluated under different climate change scenarios. Adaptation and mitigation strategies appropriate for addressing flood risk for buildings will also be identified.
Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) and Urbanization in Modern China
CIESIN collaborated with a medical researcher at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons to explore the implications of trends in urbanization and related population changes for future patterns of CVD in China.
Climate Change and Human Health (CHANGE Viewer)
CIESIN partnered with the Institute for the Application of Geospatial Technology (IAGT) to develop the Climate and Health Analysis for Global Education Viewer (CHANGE Viewer), which uses 3-D NASA World Wind technology to visualize climate change impacts on human health. Part of the NASA Climate Change Impacts and Human Health program.

Climate Change Information Resources for the New York Metropolitan Region (CCIR-NYC)
Funded through a grant from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Global Programs, the aim of the CCIR-NYC was to advance scientific research and public policy by improving the communication of climate change data and information to urban policy-and decision makers and residents and, by so doing, to improve their capacity to respond to the impacts of climate change. The CCIR-NYC is a flexible framework that allows the addition of new data and information as they become available.

CODATA Global Roads Data Development Task Group
CIESIN led an international group of experts under the ICSU Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA), working to develop a global, publicly-available database on intercity roads. It is being used for sustainable development, humanitarian response, transportation planning, and biodiversity conservation.
Computational Thinking in Ecosystems (CT-E)
This project sought to integrate computing concepts and skills with learning about ecosystems in both formal and informal educational settings. CIESIN director Robert Chen was co-principal investigator of the effort, which was led by Stephen Uzzo of NYSCI. Supported by the STEM+Computing Partnership (STEM+C) initiated by the U.S. National Science Foundation, the two-year project developed innovative ways to engage students with hands-on tools to develop and use computer programming as part of learning about ecological systems and how scientists study them. CT-E built on a previous collaboration between NYSCI, CIESIN, and Design I/O that led to the design and implementation of NYSCI’s unique immersive, interactive installation, Connected Worlds. One of the planned outcomes was development of a tablet-based interface that allows students to take home elements of the Connected Worlds exhibit for further game-based learning.
Connected Worlds Project
CIESIN with the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) and others prototyped and implemented a data-rich, interactive environment for learning about sustainability, which was installed at the NYSCI facility in Queens, New York. Funded by the US National Science Foundation.
Cyberinfrastructure for the Earth Institute (CI4EI)
A project led by CIESIN, as part of the Earth Institute’s Cross-Cutting Initiative (CCI) program, in response to a perceived need for a coherent strategy for developing and using cyberinfrastructure to fulfill organizational missions. CI4EI aimed to identify cyberinfrastructure needs—software, human resources, policies and procedures, and development and maintenance of applications—throughout the scientific and engineering communities of the EI and other interested Columbia units; and to assess opportunities to address these needs.
Detecting Water Quality Regime Shifts
For a two-year project funded by the US Department of the Interior, CIESIN with Brooklyn College and partners of the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Ba,y (SRI@JB) developed an integrated data management system to assess spatial and temporal patterns of water quality in Jamaica Bay, and created an online interactive mapping tool, the Jamaica Bay Water Quality Data Visualization and Access Tool.
Developing Global Building Exposure for Disaster Forecasting, Mitigation, and Response
A NASA-funded collaboration with ImageCat Inc. USA to develop and test methods of assessing global building exposure for disaster forecasting, mitigation, and response. Building on ongoing work with the Global Earthquake Model (GEM) initiative, this one-year project explored the feasibility of combining remote sensing data from various sources with population data from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), to better characterize the built environment in ways useful for catastrophe (CAT) modeling and loss estimation. The grant was among 17 awards in 2011 by the NASA Applied Sciences Program.
Controlled block failure of ice wedge polygons o nthe Beaufort Sea coast.Discovery, Access, and Delivery of Data for the International Polar Year
CIESIN was part of a NASA-funded team, led by the National Snow and Ice Data Center, that developed and implemented a Web services portal for cryospheric data and information focused on arctic coastal processes.
Ecological Assessment of the Hudson River
CIESIN worked with the Nature Conservancy to implement a physical habitat model of the Hudson River floor and conduct a comprehensive ecological assessment to characterize the habitat units. The assessment served as a foundation for the Hudson River Comprehensive Restoration Plan.
2016 Environmental Performance Index (EPI)
The 2016 EPI measured the performance of 180 countries in nine categories of environmental concern.
2014 Environmental Performance Index (EPI)
The 2014 EPI evaluated 178 countries, with new additions, in large part, from Small-Island Developing States and sub-Saharan Africa. Innovations in the 2014 year release included: a new wastewater treatment indicator, which is a major driver of ecosystem water quality; a new approach to climate change indicators, which evaluates emissions relative to a country’s economic development; and two newsatellite-derived indicators for air quality and forests, which more accurately depict environmental policy performance than did previous models and national reports. Produced every two years by a research team from the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and CIESIN
2012 Environmental Performance Index (EPI)
The 2012 EPI ranked 132 countries, using 22 indicators in ten major policy categories including air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity, and forest management. The 2011 NRMI focused more narrowly on natural resource management issues, used as one of a basket of indicators by the Millennium Challenge Corporation in assessing country eligibility for development assistance. PLACE III is a tabular data set providing national-level aggregates of territorial extent and population size by biome, climate zone, coastal proximity and elevation. It includes separate estimates for urban and rural populations and a pivot table to facilitate selection and analysis.
2010 Environmental Performance Index (EPI)
The 2010 EPI ranked 163 countries on environmental performance based on twenty-five indicators grouped within ten core policy categories—including environmental health, air quality, water resource management, biodiversity and habitat, forestry, fisheries, agriculture, and climate change. The EPI’s proximity-to-target approach, in which each country’s performance is measured against clearly defined targets, enabled comparisons among countries with very different characteristics. Produced every two years in collaboration with Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, in association with the World Economic Forum.
2008 Environmental Performance Index (EPI)
A collaboration with the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, in association with the World Economic Forum. The 2008 EPI measuredprogress toward environmental goals for 149 countries.
Environmental Performance Index (Pilot 2006 EPI)
Using a “proximity to target” approach, the 2006 EPI measured progress towards environmental goals for 133 countries.
Environmental Sustainability Compendium of Indicators
Containing 411 indicators compiled from the ESI, EPI, the Environmental Vulnerability Index, the Wellbeing Index, and the Rio-Jo’burg Dashboard.

Estimating and Mapping Off-Grid Populations

The project seeks to increase the visibility of off-grid, hard-to-reach populations by providing information about the location and size of small settlements/villages through an online interface. High-resolution satellite imagery, volunteered geographic information (VGI), and modeling will be leveraged, with a focus on small settlements within mangrove areas of six data-poor countries in West Africa, including Sierra Leone and Liberia. Partners are The Connectivity Lab at Facebook (contributing their computing capacity, which will enable the delineation of houses based on high resolution satellite data) and Wetlands International Africa (with expertise working in mangrove areas in West Africa and in Africa more generally). CIESIN associate research scientist Sylwia Trzaska is the principal investigator of the project.

Estimating Total Ecosystem Carbon in Blue Carbon and Tropical Peatland Ecosystems 
CIESIN was responsible for mapping mangrove extent and change for West Africa and select areas of Southeast Asia using high resolution open satellite data from Landsat, Sentinel 1 and Sentinel 2. Part of a three-year project on the estimation of total carbon in coastal and freshwater peatland forests. Led by Lola Fatoyinbo, research physical scientist with the Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, including collaborators from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the University of Maryland, and the U.S. Forest Service.

logo for Geoinformatics for Geochemistry programGeoinformatics for Geochemistry
Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), scientists at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) and CIESIN designed and developed online databases and tools for the geoscience community. Now maintained by LDEO, these databases include PetDB (Petrologic Database of the Ocean Floor); SedDB (Data Management System for Sediment Geochemistry); EarthChem (Integrated Data Management for Solid Earth Geochemistry); and SESAR (System for Earth SAmple Registration).
GIS-Based Assessment of Undeveloped Parcels in New York Coastal Counties
GIS analysis of parcel data from the most significant unprotected and undeveloped coastal areas of New York, to be used by NYS DEC and Long Island Sound Study in conservation efforts.
GIS-Based Graphical User interface Tools for Analyzing Solar-Thermal Desalination Systems and High-Potential Implementation Regions
Funded by the United States Department of Energy, this project led by Columbia University is using state-of-the-art-solar-thermal desalination models to develop software that supports the planning and valuation of solar-thermal and hybrid technologies. CIESIN’s focus is the integration of spatial data and geographic system functions with the desalination models.

Global Change Research and Information Office (GCRIO)
CIESIN managed the GCRIO on behalf of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program through 2002. GCRIO provides access to data and information on climate change research, adaptation and mitigation strategies, and global change related educational resources. As of 2003 the responsibility for GCRIO was assumed by the USCCSP.

Global Trends in Emerging Infectious Diseases
Study results in the journal Nature show EIDS on the rise and zoonoses (diseases from wildlife) as the prime threat. Funded by the NSF, the team included scientists from CIESIN, London’s Institute of Zoology, CCM-Wildlife Trust NY, and The University of Georgia Odum School of Ecology.

Global Natural Disaster Hotspots
With support from the World Bank and the ProVention Consortium, CIESIN worked with the Center for Hazards and Risk Research (CHRR) of the Earth Institute of Columbia University on a global analysis of high risk disaster hotspots. CIESIN conducted the geospatial analysis and was involved in the overall conceptualization of the project.

thumbnail map of Latin AmericaThe Global Poverty Mapping Project A collaboration between CIESIN, The World Bank, and the Japanese government's Policy and Human Resource Development Fund that aimed to depict the global distribution of poverty in order to help design and enact interventions. Downloadable maps, spatial data, and tabular data are available on the Web site: Global coverage for infant mortality and malnutrition, and higher-resolution national coverage for consumption and basic needs in 28 countries. Selected maps appear in Where the Poor Are: An Atlas of Poverty (available for PDF download on the Web site.)

Groundswell II and Groundswell Africa Reports
A collaboration between the World Bank Climate Change Group, CIESIN, and City University of New York (CUNY) Institute for Demographic Research, the Groundswell work builds on the work of the original project and report released in 2018, employing s a novel modeling framework that provides estimates not only of future numbers out to 2050, but also likely hotspots of climate out-migration and in-migration. The focus of Groundswell II is the remaining World Bank regions—North Africa, Mashreq (the Middle East), the Balkans, Central Asia, East and Southeast Asia, and the Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

The reports Groundswell Africa: Internal Climate Migration in West African Countries and Groundswell Africa: Internal Climate Migration in the Lake Victoria Basin provide in-depth analysis on the potential scale of internal climate migration in West Africa and the Lake Victoria Basin, with country level analysis from Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda, to better inform policy dialogue and action.

This collaboration between the World Bank Climate Change Group,CIESIN, City University of New York (CUNY) Institute for Demographic Research, and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research was the first to focus on longer-term climate impacts on crop and water resources and the ways in which they may influence internal migration. The project was organized around the production of a report, Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Migration, published in March 2018, which assesses the potential future impacts of climate change on migration within countries in Latin America, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. The Groundswell project employed a novel modeling framework that provides estimates not only of future numbers, but also likely hotspots of climate out-migration and in-migration in three regions: Mexico and Central America, East Africa, and South Asia. Unlike other recent efforts to model the impact of future climate change on population movements, this effort models across entire regions rather than at local or subnational levels. It is also based upon impacts on crop production and water resources, using model outputs from PIK’s ISIMIP project, rather than projected temperature and precipitation from global climate models.

Haiti Regeneration Initiative
The Haiti Regeneration Initiative was a major collaboration between the the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Earth Institute, and various other organizations in Haiti that aims to provide sustainable solutions to some of the country’s most pressing challenges: post-earthquake reconstruction, economic and social development, environmental stabilization and restoration, and disaster risk management. The program was originally conceptualized as a long-term effort with a 20-year planning horizon, in four parts: Sustainable Development Solutions, the Côte Sud Initiative (CSI), the Port-à-Piment Millennium Village Project, and Haiti 2040. The CSI is the launch project of the HRI, located in the south department of Haiti.

Haiti Research and Policy Program
CIESIN developed the Haiti GeoPortal, a since-retired web site which featured an online interactive map component for visualizing spatial and environmental data collected from prior fieldwork and from research that had been conducted under the broader Earth Institute Haiti Research and Policy Program. The web site resources, including downloadable maps and data visualization videos that help identify multi-hazard risk in the watershed of Port-à-Piment, were intended for local communities, partners, and researchers.

High-Performance Green Infrastructure to Sustain Coastal Cities
Development and testing of a new framework for the next generation of “high performance” green infrastructure (GI) systems for coastal sustainability under a five-year award from the National Science Foundation to Columbia’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. CIESIN focused on geospatial infrastructure and analysis.
Hudson River Flood Impacts Decision Support System
A grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) supported development of a flood assessment mapping tool for the lower Hudson Valley region. The Hudson River Flood Hazard Decision Support System is a free, easy to use, online mapping tool that allows users to assess the impacts of flood inundation posed by sea level rise, storm surge, and rain events on communities bordering the lower Hudson River. Based on a flood inundation model developed by researchers from the Stevens Institute of Technology, the mapping tool will help public officials, resource managers, and others assess risk and plan flood mitigation efforts.
Hudson River Mapping Tool
CIESIN’s NBII-NIN, with the Beacon Institute, developed a Web-based data portal and mapping tool for exploring the physical and cultural geography of the Hudson River Watershed.

Human Dynamics of Emerging Diseases
This NSF-funded project is focused on population dynamics, climate change, and emerging diseases.

Hydrology and Conflict in Africa
An interdiscliplinary exploration of the impact of drought on the incidence of civil War in Africa over the past three decades, in collaboration with UNH Water Systems Analysis Group and Peace Research Institute of Oslo.

The Impact of Climate Change on Population Distribution and Migration: An Evidence-Based Analysis
This modelling project for the World Bank deployed innovative methods to develop future scenarios of population distribution incorporating climate impacts on the water and agriculture sectors. To be undertaken with City University of New York (CUNY) Institute for Demographic Research and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), the project analyzed the relationship between past climate impacts and population distribution, and deployed a gravity model to model future population distributions under climate impacts. Spatially and temporally explicit population outcomes are projected under a range of climate and demographic/socio-economic scenarios across developing countries, in order to reveal the propensity for populations to move in response to climate-induced factors. More detailed case studies were planned for a subset of developing countries. This research contributed to the World Bank report, “Climate Change, Migration and Securing Resilience: An Evidence-Based Approach for Action,” officially released in March 2018.
Improving Estimates of Building Exposure to Earthquake and Related Hazards
The NASA Applied Sciences Program granted a three-year award to ImageCat, Inc. in collaboration with CIESIN, to utilize remote sensing data to improve estimates of building exposure to earthquake and related hazards. The project built on a one-year feasibility study completed in early 2014 that demonstrated the potential value of medium-resolution remote sensing data in estimating building structural characteristics in urban areas that lack sufficient building data for risk assessment.
Interactive Mapping Tool for HIV/AIDS Care Information Management Systems
An online interactive mapping tool for incorporation into HIV/AIDS care information management systems. Developed by CIESIN with the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs (ICAP) at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
Land-Use/Land Cover Change Issues in Latin America and the Caribbean
A collaborative NSF grant exploring land use patterns in Latin America and the Caribbean, and how they are affected by demographic, economic, and ecological factors.

Managing and Preserving Geospatial Electronic Records (MAPGER)
This project, funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), investigated the requirements for state and local government archivists, records managers, and other institutional recordkeepers to manage and preserve electronic records with significant geospatial components, especially those records generated by Geographic Information System (GIS) software. The project identified and recommended practical and appropriate policies, techniques, standards, and practices to manage geospatial electronic records (GERs) to support their long-term retention and dissemination and to facilitate their usability and utility as important information resources of significant historical interest.

Mapping Water Infrastructure in the Hudson Valley
An award by the New York State Water Resources Institute at Cornell University, in collaboration with the NYS DEC Hudson River Estuary Program, for a pilot project to assist communities in mapping wastewater infrastructure for flood resilience planning.

Metadata Training for Public Health Records Data
With funding from U.S. Federal Geographic Data Committee, CIESIN worked with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to support training on metadata preparation for geospatial public health data.

Metropolitan East Coast Climate Impacts Assessment (MEC)
The MetroEast Coast study examined the New York metropolitan area’s vulnerability to climate change as part of the United States National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change. CIESIN provided support in data management, electronic outreach, and cartographic presentation of data for educational purposes.

Millennium Development Project Support
CIESIN served as the “mapping arm” in support of the UN Millennium Project’s task forces. CIESIN’s maps and data were used in the reports of the poverty, hunger, health, and environmental sustainability task forces. CIESIN worked closely with the World Bank Development Economics Data and Research Groups collecting and integrating subnational poverty data for a wide range of developing countries.

members of a village working together under the Millennium villages projectMillennium Villages Project
Overseen by the Tropical Agriculture Program of the Earth Institute, the Millennium Villages Project was a collaborative initiative meant to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by improving the health, education, and livelihoods of select rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa. Specialists in agriculture, nutrition, energy, water, health, environment, and information technology worked in partnership with select communities (14 villages to date). Areas of focus include soil fertility restoration; nutritional programs; drinking water and sanitation facilities; energy and transportation initiatives; and malaria and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.
New Methods for Understanding Intra-Urban Contours at a Global Scale
The project used a new sampling method to delineate urban and intra-urban areas at a much higher resolution (~1 km). The DSM results were meant to be analyzed together with information on population and housing censuses, with Spectral Mixture Analysis (SMA) of moderate and high spatial resolution optical satellite imagery, and with both DMSP night lights. Funded by the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, the project was a collaboration among researchers from Baruch College-City University; California Institute of Technology; and Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory.

invasive plant of the northeast region of the United StatesNortheast Information Node of the National Biological Information infrastructure (NBII)

The NBII was an electronic information network of the U.S. Geological Survey that provides access to biological data and information on U.S. plants, animals, and ecosystems; NIN focused on eight states in the Northeast.

Polar Information Commons
A CODATA initiative co-led by CIESIN to develop an international framework for the long-term preservation of and access to polar region data, generated in part by the International Polar Year. Initial funding from ICSU.
Partnering with a core consortium (UC-Davis, GVF, WCS, and EcoHealth Alliance), CIESIN helped improve the ability to generate predictive models of emerging infectious disease outbreaks and to support more effective risk surveillance. Supported by the Emerging Pandemic Threats Program of the USAID.
Planning for Resilience in East Africa through Policy, Adaptation, Research, and Economic Development

With ARD/Tetra Tech, CIESIN developed data/information systems for climate change adaptation, biodiversity conservation, and water supply and sanitation services in East Africa. Funded by the US Agency for International Development.
Prevention of Health Effects in Children from Energy-Related Air Pollution
CIESIN worked with the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health to integrate a novel biomedical approach, molecular epidemiology, and spatial analysis methods to determine the health risks to children from environmental pollutants generated by burning coals and other fossil fuels. CIESIN’s role was to develop the Geographic Information System (GIS) data and tools to help researchers understand the complex spatio-temporal relationships between the environmental pollution and disease and for identifying exposures.
Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts, and Adaptation (PROVIA)
A global initiative toward a cohesive and coordianted approach to the growing knowledge base on vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation. A collaboration by UNEP, UNESCO, and WMO, with the Earth Institute.
Quantifying the Value and Communicating the Protective Services of Living Shorelines
A sub-contract from the Stevens Institute of Technology (SIT) on a grant funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration supported development for a flood, sea level rise, and adaptation mapping tool for Jamaica Bay, New York, called AdaptMap. AdaptMap is an online mapping tool that demonstrates how sea level rise will worsen storm-driven flooding, such as the 100-year flood zone. It also enables users to select flood adaptation scenarios to see how they reduce flooding. Additionally, AdaptMap displays historic landscapes for the years 1609 and 1877 with associated historic flood zones. Based on a flood inundation model developed by researchers from the Stevens Institute of Technology, the mapping tool is meant to help public officials, resource managers, and others assess risk and plan flood mitigation efforts. Funded by NOAA Coastal and Ocean Climate Applications (COCA).

Remote Sensing Technologies for Ecosystem Management Treaties
This two-year project (2003-2005), funded by the US Department of State, involved a collaboration with the Brazilian Institute the Environment and Natural Resources (IBAMA), and the Program for Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Development of Bados del Este (PROBIDES) in Uruguay. The project focused on the utilization of satellite remote sensing data to improve the effectiveness of ecosystem-oriented multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and transboundary conservation.

Research Translation Core (RTC) for Columbia University Superfund Research Program (SRP)
Led by the Mailman School of Public Health and sponsored by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the RTC communicates scientific information on the health effects, geochemistry, and remediation of arsenic and manganese in groundwater in Bangladesh and the United States.

Revitalizing Urban Population Projections: New Data, New Methods
The aimed production and evaluation of new spatially-explicit demographic methods for estimating and projecting city populations in the developing world. Funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Risk Assessment and Mitigation Measures for Natural and Conflict-Related Hazards in the Asian Region
CIESIN contributed to a recently completed study led by the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute to assess the risks of natural hazards and civil conflict in Asia in support of the humanitarian response needs of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
SERVIR-West Africa
CIESIN was part of a team led by Tetra Tech/ARD to implement the West Africa hub of the SERVIR project, a joint venture between NASA and the U.S. Agency for International Development. SERVIR provides state-of-the-art, satellite-based earth monitoring data, geospatial information, and tools to help improve environmental decision-making among developing nations. Operational hubs have been established in Eastern and Southern Africa, the Hindu-Kush-Himalaya region and the Mekong River Basin in Southeast Asia. For this five-year grant CIESIN and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) will develop applications of NASA data products for regional decision-making and will conduct technical training for regional partners, acting as subcontractors to Tetra Tech/ARD, who will manage the West Africa hub for USAID and NASA. See above, Recent Projects, for CIESIN’s role in Phase II of the SERVIR-West Africa Hub.
Social and Environmental Vulnerability in Disasters: Spatial Analysis and Information Management for Humanitarian Decision Making
An integrated approach to disaster assessment—bringing together the fields of physical science, demography, public health, and informatics—that aims to enhance the understanding of vulnerability and provide information for decision making post-disaster. A collaboration with the Center for Refugee and Disaster Response at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
South Asia Urbanization
CIESIN used night-time lights data to analyze growth patterns of South Asian cities over time. For phase one of the project, cities in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives with populations greater than 100,000 in the year 2000 were mapped at two points in time, 1999 and 2010, and patterns of change in urban extent over the decade are being analyzed. Funded by the World Bank.
Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES)
The SRES was a key input into the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Assessment Report. CIESIN provided an Internet forum for the “open process” that contributed to the review of greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, and CIESIN currently posts the new SRES emissions scenarios. These scenarios, in turn, form the basis of major IPCC climate change and impact projections over the next century. (Funded under SEDAC)

Sustainable Rural Development Information System (SRDIS)
SRDIS is a specialized, online library of Internet resources developed by CIESIN for the World Bank’s Rural Development Department. The site includes country profiles and case studies.

Terra Populus: A Global Population/Environment Data Network (TerraPop)
The National Science Foundation made a major, $8 million, five-year award to a team led by the University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Population Center for a project, Terra Populus: A Global Population / Environment Data Network (TerraPop). The goal of TerraPop was to integrate population census data from the past two centuries with global land cover, land use, and other environmental data, providing a unique data access and analysis system for improving understanding of the interactions between humans and the environment from local to global scales. As part of NSF’s Sustainable Digital Data Preservation and Access Network (DataNet), TerraPop developed a sustainable digital archive for its data, accessible to researchers worldwide and building on the distributed capabilities of its partners. CIESIN was a key partner in the project, contributing its expertise in integrating socioeconomic and environmental data.
Transboundary Water Assessment Program (TWAP)
CIESIN joined an international team developing an assessment of transboundary river basins as part of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) Transboundary Water Assessment Program (TWAP), a project comparing approximately 200 transboundary river basins around the world in order to improve understanding and management of current and future risks to both society and ecosystems at the river basin scale The team was led by the UNEP-DHI Center for Water and Environment with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI); the Center for Environmental Systems Research (CESR) at the University of Kassel, Germany; the City University of New York (CUNY); and the Delta Alliance, The transboundary river basins component of the project aimed to develop quantitative indicators on a variety of dimensions, including water quantity, water quality, ecosystems, governance, and socioeconomic trends, for use by the GEF and other stakeholders. CIESIN's role was to create indicators of economic activity, socioeconomic well-being, vulnerability to natural disasters, and dependence on water resources.
Transatlantic Seminar Series
A seminar series on multiple risks in the context of sustainable development, co-organized by CIESIN, beginning Spring 2009. Funded by Columbia University’s Alliance Program, the seminars will be given by CIESIN and Earth Institute scientists at three universities in Paris, and by French scholars at Columbia.
Troubled Teleconnections: Migration, the COVID 19 Pandemic, and Climate in Central America’s Northern Triangle
Under an Earth Frontiers seed grant, the team will investigate the observed and projected impacts of the compound risks of climate impacts and COVID-19 pandemic on current trends and future scenarios of climate-induced migration in Central America’s Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador), using a mixed methods approach based on diagnostic and projecting modeling and qualitative comparative analysis.
Urban Population in Low-lying Coastal Zones
Using data from the Global Human Settlement Layer (GHSL) and MERIT-DEM, this project with the Coalition on Urban Transitions-World Resources Institute assesses the size of urban populations living within low-elevation coastal zones, for a study and new report supported by 50 leading institutions, on measures to implement low-carbon cities.
Using Satellite Data to Develop Environmental Indicators
A project invorporating NASA satellite data in environmental indicators with improved spatial and temporal coverage. Project partners: Battelle Memorial Institute, NASA, NOAA, and the World Bank.
Vulnerability of the U.S. Atlantic Coast to Haards Associated with Extreme Winter Stormms (StormEVAAC)
CIESIN contributed to research on coastal vulnerability, for a three-year project led by the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Center for Climate Systems Research.
West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WA-BiCC)
This five-year, $48.9 million dollar project addresses direct and indirect drivers of natural resource degradation to improve livelihoods and natural ecosystems across the region. The project will work with partners at the community, national, and regional levels, including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Manu River Union (MRU), to strengthen policies and systems that will improve natural resource management and the health and resilience of selected coastal and upland forest ecosystems. The project is divided into three complementary components: combatting wildlife trafficking, improving forest conservation, and building coastal climate resilience. An implementing partner with Tetra Tech/ARD, CIESIN will contribute to the last two components.
Where the Rain Falls
A series of case studies and associated maps examining the interplay between rainfall patterns, food security, and human mobility. Participatory research, household surveys, and expert interviews were conducted in eight countries:Bangladesh, India, Guatemala, Peru, Ghana, Tanzania, Thailand, and Vietnam. Led by the development non-governmental organization CARE, with the United Nations University (UNU) and CIESIN.


This page last modified: Nov 13, 2023