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Global Compact for Migration Negotiations Continue in New York

Fri Apr 06 00:00:00 EDT 2018

The third round of intergovernmental negotiations on the Global Compact for Migration was held at United Nations headquarters in New York April 3–6. In conjunction with the negotiations, the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD) organized a briefing April 4 at the Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to discuss migration in the context of disasters and climate change. Susana Adamo, CIESIN research scientist, and Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for Science Applications, spoke on data and knowledge gaps at the briefing. Other event speakers included Professor Walter Kaelin, Envoy of the Chair of the PDD, and representatives of Refugees International, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the International Organization for Migration. The PDD, which is currently chaired by Bangladesh, is following up on work begun by the Nansen Initiative to implement the Nansen Initiative Protection Agenda, endorsed by 109 governmental delegations during a Global Consultation in October 2015. The Global Compact for Migration will be the first intergovernmental negotiated agreement prepared under the auspices of the United Nations to cover all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner.

See: "Addressing the Needs of Persons Moving in the Context of Disasters and Climate Change in the Global Compact for Migration," (Briefing, April 4, 2018)
       Intergovernmental Negotiations—Third Round


Visitors from Japan and France to Focus on Remote Sensing and Geospatial Applications

Wed Apr 04 00:00:00 EDT 2018

CIESIN welcomes two new visitors, Koji Osumi and Rebeca de Bakker Doctors, this spring. Osumi, who is section chief in the Geographic Department, Geoinformation Processing Division at the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan, is being hosted by the Geospatial Applications Division for one year. He will be collaborating with the associate director of the division, Greg Yetman, and with associate director of Science Applications, Alex de Sherbinin, on studies of spectral mixing analysis from satellite imagery and modeling of temporal change using vegetation indexes. Osumi has a BS and MA in earth science from Hokkaido University and has worked at both the Geospatial Information Authority and the Ministry of the Environment in Japan.

An Alliance Program intern from École Polytechnique, de Bakker Doctors is conducting research on the use of geospatial data for decision making in complex settings, supervised by deputy director Marc Levy. She will work with senior research associate Sandra Baptista and team members on the new Geo-referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) initiative. She is studying for an MS in the Challenges for Environmental Sciences program at École Polytechnique, and has a BSc in economics from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro.


Displacement from Sea Level Rise Addressed at Annapolis Workshop

Tue Apr 03 00:00:00 EDT 2018

Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for Science Applications, participated in a National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) Pursuit event March 28–29 that focused on populations displaced by sea level rise and coastal extremes. The workshop was hosted by the University of Maryland in Annapolis and led by David Wrathall of Oregon State University and Valerie Mueller of Arizona State University. Twenty researchers from a variety of academic and government institutions in the United States and abroad were invited to participate. Funded by a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation, SESYNC facilitates interdisciplinary collaborations to develop data-driven solutions to socio-environmental issues.

See: SESYNC Project Description: "A forecast of the timing, locations, sequence and likeliest destinations of populations displaced by sea level rise and coastal extremes"


Socioeconomic Data for India and New Global Air Pollution Grids Released

Tue Apr 03 00:00:00 EDT 2018

Two new data sets have been released by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. The India Village-Level Geospatial Socio-Economic Data Set: 1991, 2001, provides detailed administrative boundary data for India (village/town-level) together with more than 200 socioeconomic variables from the 1991 and 2001 censuses. The data are available for the 28 states and combined Union Territories in existence in 1991 and 2001. The data set was developed as part of a research project on the dynamics and determinants of land change in India by Prasanth Meiyappan of the University of Illinois and colleagues from India and from Columbia University. This is the second data set in the India Data Collection, which also includes the data set, India Annual Winter Cropped Area, v1 (2001–2016).

SEDAC has also released a new data set on global patterns of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) over nearly two decades: the Global PM2.5 Grids from MODIS, MISR and SeaWiFS Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) with Geographically Weighted Regression (GWR), 1998–2016. The data set consists of estimated annual concentrations (micrograms per cubic meter) of PM2.5, with dust and sea salt removed, on a grid of 0.01 degree resolution, or about 1 km at the equator. This version supersedes a previous data set with coarser resolution (0.1 degree, or about 10 km) and data only through 2012. The new data set combines AOD measurements from the NASA Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR), and the Sea-Viewing Wide Field-of-View Sensor (SeaWiFS) with a chemical transport model. GWR is used to adjust estimates drawing on available ground-based measurements. The data set was developed by a team led by Aaron van Donkelaar at Dalhousie University in Canada.

See: The India Village-Level Geospatial Socio-Economic Data Set: 1991, 2001
       Global Annual PM2.5 Grids from MODIS, MISR and SeaWiFS Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) with GWR, v1 (1998 – 2016)


Review Paper Recognized by Environmental Research Letters

Mon Apr 02 00:00:00 EDT 2018

The paper, “Is Voluntary Certification of Tropical Agricultural Commodities Achieving Sustainability Goals for Small-Scale Producers?: A Review of the Evidence,” has been selected by the editors of the journal Environmental Research Letters for inclusion in its exclusive ‟Highlights of 2017” collection. University Professor Ruth DeFries of the Columbia University Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology (E3B) authored the paper together with CIESIN research associate Pinki Mondal and colleagues from Johns Hopkins University, Yale University, and Biodiversity International. Papers were selected on the basis of referee endorsement, originality, scientific impact, and breadth of appeal. The paper evaluates whether  voluntary certification (for example, Fair Trade International, Organic, Utz) of bananas, cocoa, coffee, oil palm, and tea has achieved environmental benefits and improved economic and social outcomes for small-scale farmers. The authors conclude that while not a panacea, such certification programs can sometimes play a role in meeting sustainable development goals. Environmental Research Letters is a high-impact, open-access journal covering all environmental science published by IOPscience (impact factor of 4.404 in 2016).

See: Environmental Research Letters Highlights of 2017


Diverse Data Experts Convene in California, England, and Germany

Wed Mar 28 00:00:00 EDT 2018

Attendees at the workshop, “Linkages between Earth Observations and Ecosystem Services,” March 21‒22 in Palo Alto, California

Potsdam and Berlin in Germany, Palo Alto in California, and Bristol in the United Kingdom were the venues for meetings of three different communities concerned with digital data for different applications. Robert Downs, CIESIN senior digital archivist, traveled to Potsdam March 18 for the FAIR Data Workshop organized by the American Geophysical Union and then to Berlin March 20 for a meeting of the Research Data Alliance (RDA) Technical Advisory Board and Chairs. He then participated in the 11th RDA Plenary March 21–23, where he gave presentations about the World Data System of the International Council for Science (ICSU-WDS), principles and practices for enabling open data use, and characterizing data quality. He also co-convened a session of the RDA interest group on Repository Platforms for Research Data, which he co-chairs.

CIESIN research scientist Susana Adamo joined researchers from academia, government, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector for a March 21–22 workshop in Palo Alto, “Linkages between Earth Observations and Ecosystem Services,” as part of the Natural Capital Symposium. This was the second workshop in a series of three exploring the use of Earth observations in ecosystem services research and applications, organized by the Institute on the Environment-University of Minnesota, Stanford Woods Institute-Stanford University, and the Gund Institute for Environment-The University of Vermont, and funded by NASA.

The emerging community of organizations and individuals involved in data for international development gathered in Bristol March 21–23 for the first Data for Development Festival organized by the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD). CIESIN director Robert Chen and deputy director Marc Levy both attended, giving presentations on two initiatives addressing foundational geospatial data needs for sustainable development. Chen described efforts to coordinate global-scale data on human settlements, infrastructure, and population through POPGRID, a project supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). Levy participated in a special session on the new Geo-referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) initiative, supported by BMGF and the UK Department for International Development (DFID). GRID3 aims to build national capacity to collect, analyze, integrate, disseminate, and utilize high-resolution population, infrastructure, and other reference data in support of national sectoral development priorities, humanitarian efforts, public health, and sustainable development goals (SDGs). Chen remained in Bristol March 24–25 to co-chair a meeting of the Thematic Research Network on Data and Statistics (TReNDS) of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. CIESIN is an anchor partner of the GPSDD and coordinating partner of GRID3.


CIESIN Staff Contribute to Key Research Publications

Fri Mar 23 00:00:00 EDT 2018

Several CIESIN staff members have contributed to a range of publications in prominent journals and books and to a major new World Bank report. Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for Science Applications, is lead author of the chapter, “Geospatial Modeling and Mapping,” in the Routledge Handbook of Environmental Displacement and Migration. Edited by Robert McLeman of Wilfrid Laurier University and François Gemenne of the Hugo Observatory at the University of Liège, Belgium, the Handbook constitutes a major review of research on how environmental variability and change influence current and future global migration patterns and may trigger large-scale population movement. The chapter′s co-author is Ling Bai, a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Southern California.

The World Bank report, Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration, was released March 19 through the Bank's Open Knowledge Repository. Alex de Sherbinin and research scientist Susana Adamo are among the co-authors of the report, which examines the potential impacts of climate change on population movement within countries in Latin America, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa in future decades. CIESIN coordinated the study with the Institute for Demographic Research at the City University of New York and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Kytt MacManus, CIESIN GIS programmer, is a co-author of the paper, “Flood Hazard Assessment from Storm Tides, Rain and Sea Level Rise for a Tidal River Estuary,” appearing in the journal, Natural Hazards. The research team led by Philip Orton of Stevens Institute of Technology found that areas along the Hudson River south of Poughkeepsie are dominated by storm surge-induced flooding, whereas areas north of Poughkeepsie to Albany are impacted more by precipitation-based flooding. The research included further development of the Hudson River Flood Impact Decision Support System, and was supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

MacManus also contributed to a second paper, “NASA’s Black Marble Nighttime Lights Product Suite,” published in the journal, Remote Sensing of Environment. A companion to the well-known “Blue Marble” image of the Earth, the Black Marble provides insight into distributions and changes in visible lights at night. The lead author of the paper, Miguel Román of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, is collaborating with CIESIN on two new projects funded by NASA in support of the Human Planet initiative of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO).

See: “Flood Hazard Assessment from Storm Tides, Rain and Sea Level Rise for a Tidal River Estuary”
       “NASA’s Black Marble Nighttime Lights Product Suite”
       "Geospatial modeling and mapping” book chapter


Seminar Showcases New World Bank Report on Climate Change and Migration

Thu Mar 22 00:00:00 EDT 2018

Members of a panel on climate change and migration at a March 20 seminar at Columbia University as part of launch activities for the World Bank report, Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Migration. Left to right: Craig Spencer, Amali Tower, Sarah Rosengaertner, and Richard Balme.

The World Bank recently published a new report, Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration, which was co-authored by scientists from CIESIN, the City University of New York Institute for Demographic Research (CIDR), and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. The report projects that, without concrete climate and development action, more than 143 million people—or around 2.8 percent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America—could be forced to move within their own countries by 2050 to escape the slow-onset impacts of climate change. In conjunction with the report launch, Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for Science Applications and one of the report′s main authors, organized a seminar at Columbia University March 20. The seminar featured preliminary remarks by Stephen Hammer, head of climate policy for the World Bank, followed by a presentation on modeling methods and results, and an expert panel moderated by CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy. The panel featured faculty and other experts from across Columbia, including Richard Seager from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Craig Spencer from the Mailman School of Public Health, and Sarah Rosengaertner from Columbia's Global Policy Initiative. Amali Tower, executive director of Climate Refugees, and Richard Balme, a visiting scholar from SciencesPo in France, also participated. The seminar was the second in a new seminar series on Population Dynamics and Environmental Change organized by CIESIN, the Population Council, CIDR, and the UN Population Division. More than 60 researchers and interested individuals from the region attended.

See: Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration (Report)
       Seminar on Climate Change and Migration (video)


Available for the First Time: Global Gridded Data Set on Population Distribution by Age and Sex

Wed Mar 14 00:00:00 EDT 2018

Map of Basic Demographic Characteristics: The proportion of males to females in the Global Population

The most recent update to the fourth version of the Gridded Population of the World data collection, GPW version 4.10, contains the first global data set on the spatial distribution of population broken down into different age groups by sex (male and female). The data were developed by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN.

Prior versions of GPW  provided estimates of the total population in each latitude-longitude grid cell. Now with the inclusion of age and sex information drawn from the 2010 round of national population censuses, it is possible to map specific demographic subgroups such as elderly populations, school-aged children, young adults, and women of childbearing age. This enables users to better understand spatial variations in age structure and sex ratios within countries for specific regions of interest. The age and sex data expand GPW’s usefulness in many research and application areas, including vulnerability and risk mapping, urbanization and migration studies, and emergency response and public health applications. In addition, gridded age and sex data can help in monitoring and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially with respect to efforts to disaggregate data to support the objective to “leave no one behind,” e.g., the elderly, the young, and other subgroups who may be geographically isolated.

The new downloadable data consist of population counts and density rasters for 5-year age groups and for selected age categories (0–14, 15–64, 65 and older), as totals and by sex. A raster data set of women of childbearing age (15–49) is also available. All of the GPWv4.10 raster data sets are now available in ASCII and netCDF formats as well as GeoTiff. Files with coarser resolution (2.5, 15, 30, and 60 arc minutes) may be selected to enable faster raster processing and compatibility with data sets from other scientific domains. A vector data set, “Administrative Unit Center Points,” has been updated to include age and sex attributes.

First developed in 1994, GPW provides population estimates on a latitude-longitude grid for all land on the planet except Antarctica, created through analysis of census and administrative boundary data from every country in the world. The gridded format permits easy integration with a wide range of data, supporting research, planning, and applications in energy and water management, disaster and humanitarian response, agriculture and food security planning, public health interventions, transportation and communications development, urban and coastal zone planning, and many other aspects of sustainable development.

The free, downloadable data and descriptions, including documentation and maps, are available at http://sedac.ciesin.columbia.edu/data/collection/gpw-v4/whatsnewrev10. The data are disseminated using the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC-BY-4.0) license, which permits free sharing, adaptation, and use of the data for both commercial and noncommercial purposes, so long as appropriate credit is given.


New Project Supports Developing Countries in Using Geo-referenced Data to Advance Development Goals

Mon Mar 12 00:00:00 EDT 2018

Participants in the launch of a new project, “Geo-referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3), at at a side event of the 49th session of the United Nations Statistical Commission held March 7 in New York City.

A new project, “Geo-referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3),” was launched at a side event of the 49th session of the United Nations Statistical Commission held March 7 in New York City. The side event featured a panel presentation on project objectives and applications by representatives of core GRID3 partners, including Marc Levy, CIESIN deputy director; Linus Bengtsson, executive director and co-founder of Flowminder; Rachel Snow, chief, Population and Development Branch, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); and Tapiwa Jhamba, technical advisor, also of UNFPA. Joining the core partners as a panelist was Homere Ngoma Ngoma, census coordinator at the Central Bureau of the Census, National Statistics Institute, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), who made a presentation on the 2019 DRC census and the potential impact of GRID3 involvement. Also attending were CIESIN senior research staff assistants Olena Borkovska and Kira Topik, and project coordinator Kevin Tschirhart. A lively question-and- answer session followed the presentations.

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


Mapping of Afghanistan's Population Described at March 8 Seminar

Fri Mar 09 00:00:00 EST 2018

Heather Chamberlain of WorldPop and Flowminder visited CIESIN March 8 in Palisades, New York to give an informal talk on high-resolution population mapping in Afghanistan.  Chamberlin is a geographer based at Southampton University in the UK working on humanitarian applications of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing. She discussed methods used to create population estimates for Afghanistan using statistical models, geographic correlates, and survey data. CIESIN is a partner with WorldPop and the University of Louisville on the project, “Global High Resolution Population Denominators,″ supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. WorldPop is also participating in the POPGRID initiative, which seeks to expand and coordinate the international community of data providers, users, and sponsors of georeferenced data on population, human settlements, and infrastructure.


Online Presentations Demonstrate Hazard and Health Applications

Thu Mar 08 00:00:00 EST 2018

A talk given by CIESIN director Robert Chen, “Who’s at Risk? Rapid Mapping of Potential Hazard Exposure,” has been released online by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as part of its inaugural PrepTalks series. PrepTalks seek to promote conversation and innovation on issues facing emergency managers through a video presentation, discussion guide, and other information resources. Chen’s presentation features a range of hazard mapping tools and data developed by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) and other groups useful for assessing exposure and vulnerability to a variety of natural hazards. Eight PrepTalks were recorded at George Washington University in Washington DC in January 2018, including presentations by Dennis Mileti of the University of Colorado, Francis Ghesquiere of the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, and Amanda Ripley of the Emerson Collective.

Chen also presented “Mapping the Human Planet: Integrating Settlement, Infrastructure and Population Data to Leave No One Behind” in a panel on geospatial information for addressing inequalities and safeguarding public health, organized by the World Health Organization (WHO). The panel was part of the Statistical-Geospatial Integration Forum side event held March 5 in conjunction with the 49th session of the United Nations Statistical Commission at United Nations headquarters in New York City. Marie Haldorson of Statistics Sweden, who co-chairs the Working Group on Geospatial Information of the Inter-agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs), moderated the panel, which also included Lisa Bersales of the Philippines Statistical Agency, Rifat Hossain of WHO, and Lawrence Friedl of NASA. The Forum was broadcast live on UN WebTV and is available on demand.

See: FEMA PrepTalk: “Who’s at Risk? Rapid Mapping of Potential Hazard Exposure”
       UN Web TV video (Chen presentation starting at about 54:30)
      


Population and Settlement Data and Tools Examined at Second POPGRID Meeting

Mon Mar 05 00:00:00 EST 2018

More than 40 experts on mapping of human settlements, infrastructure, and population from a range of organizations participated in the second “POPGRID″ working meeting, held at the Lamont campus February 28–March 1 and at the Population Council in New York City March 2. Organized by CIESIN with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the Earth Institute, the meeting focused on the rapidly growing number and variety of georeferenced data products aimed at improving understanding of human settlement patterns, population distribution, and associated built infrastructure. New mapping approaches are being developed that take advantage of new sources of data such as radar, night-time lights, and high-resolution remote sensing. More information about these data and how they compare is needed to support not only scientific research, but also a variety of critical applications in sustainable development, disaster risk management and response, public health planning, and resource management.

Participants in the meeting came from organizations in both the United States and Europe, including the European Commission′s Joint Research Centre, the German Aerospace Center, the Group on Earth Observations, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Bureau of the Census. Private companies such as Esri, Facebook, and Google were also represented. Increased collaboration among these groups, and between both producers and users of these data, will improve data quality and usability, reduce duplication, facilitate data access and sharing of resources, and improve the impact and effectiveness of the data for both research and applications.

A new POPGRID web site has been released that brings together information about the different data products currently available and that will serve as an access point for the growing number of tools that provide visualization and analysis tools for the different data sets. Three POPGRID scientific sessions were held at the fall American Geophysical Union meeting in New Orleans in December 2017, and several additional sessions are scheduled April 14 at the annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers, also in New Orleans.

See: POPGRID Web site


New Projects Seek to Improve Population and Environmental Mapping

Thu Mar 01 00:00:00 EST 2018

CIESIN is leading or participating in several new projects aimed at improving integration of human settlement, population, and environmental data in sustainable development efforts. CIESIN director Robert Chen is the principal investigator for the three-year project, “Population and Infrastructure on Our Human Planet: Supporting Sustainable Development through Improved Spatial Data and Models for Human Settlements, Infrastructure and Population Distribution Based on Earth Observations.” The project team will work with national statistical offices and other agencies in several developing countries to better utilize population and related data in sustainable development monitoring and decision making. Partners include experts from the University of Louisville, ImageCat, Inc., NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), Baruch College, and Yale University. Funding is being provided by the NASA Applied Sciences program, as part of its support of the Human Planet Initiative of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO). 

Senior research associate Xue Liu has also received NASA funding as part of a three-year effort to estimate total carbon in coastal and freshwater peatland forests. The project is led by Lola Fatoyinbo, research scientist with the Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at GSFC, and includes collaborators from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the University of Maryland, and the U.S. Forest Service.

Kytt MacManus, GIS programmer, is co-investigator of a third project, led by Miguel Román of GSFC, which is focusing on validation of global night-time environmental products, commonly known as night-time lights data. MacManus is leading the evaluation of daily night-time light data for developing near real-time population estimates as well as for improving existing population data products. The project will carry out validation activities in areas such as Puerto Rico, South Dakota, and Bangladesh.

NASA has also funded the project, “Mapping the Missing Millions,” led by Jamon Van Den Hoek of Oregon State University. Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for Science Applications, is a collaborator on the project, together with experts from DevSeed and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. The project aims to improve mapping of approximately 250 million refugees, displaced persons, and other people living in informal settlements, using crowdsourced data, machine learning, and multi-sensor satellite imagery.


Creator of First Global Gridded Population Data Set Passes Away

Wed Feb 28 00:00:00 EST 2018

Waldo Tobler

Waldo Tobler, world-renowned geographer and cartographer and Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Santa Barbara, passed away February 20 at the age of eighty-eight. Among his many accomplishments, Tobler created the first global gridded population data set, working with colleagues, Uwe Deichmann, Jan Gottsegen, and Kelley Maloy. Tobler also formulated the so-called first law of geography: “Everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things.” He was an early pioneer in applying digital technologies and mathematical methods to geographic research and visualization, inventing new map projections, reallocation methods, and spatial analysis techniques.

In 1994, Tobler was a key participant in the Global Demography workshop held in Saginaw, Michigan, organized by the Science division of what was then the Consortium for International Earth Science Information Network. CIESIN supported Tobler′s development of the initial version of the Gridded Population of the World (GPW) data set, which was based on population and administrative boundary data for about 19,000 administrative units. CIESIN has continued to refine and improve GPW for more than two decades, recently releasing version 4.10 through the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC).

Tobler was a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, recipient of the O.M. Miller Cartographic Medal of the American Geographical Society (AGS), and winner of Esri's Lifetime Achievement in GIS Award, among other honors. For more information about Tobler's work and the planned memorial service, see his department′s Web site.

See: “World Population in a Grid of Spherical Quadrilaterals" by Tobler et al. (1997)


Seminar Series on Population Dynamics and Environmental Change Launched in New York

Wed Feb 28 00:00:00 EST 2018

The first in a series of monthly seminars on population dynamics and environmental change took place at the Population Council in New York City February 23, organized by CIESIN, the Population Council, the Institute for Demographic Research of the City University of New York (CUNY), and the UN Population Division. The inaugural seminar featured a presentation by Mark Montgomery and Samir Souidi, ‟Lessons from DesInventar: A Critical Look at the Performance of Disaster Databases.” Montgomery, a senior associate with the Population Council and professor in the Economics Department at Stony Brook University, examined the performance of the DesInventar databases for selected countries and hazard types: floods, landslides, drought, and earthquakes.

CIESIN associate director for Science Applications, Alex de Sherbinin, is organizing the second seminar in the series, “Modeling the Potential Impacts of Climate Change on Population Distribution and Migration,” to be held March 20, 3‒5 pm, at the Satow Room in Lerner Hall, Columbia University. Advance registration is required.

Additional seminars are planned for spring and fall 2018, featuring experts in demography, climate, environmental risk, and public health. The seminars aim to promote exchange and dialogue among those in the New York metropolitan region interested in interdisciplinary research on key issues surrounding population dynamics on a rapidly changing planet.


Project on Mapping Populations in Remote Areas is Selected

Tue Feb 27 00:00:00 EST 2018

Fishing village within mangrove forest in the Sherbro region of Sierra Leone

The World Bank and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data have recently announced twelve new Development Data Innovation Projects, part of a $2.5 million investment in collaborative data innovations for sustainable development. One of the projects, “Estimating and Mapping Populations in Off-Grid and Hard-to-Reach Places,” is led by CIESIN in partnership with the Connectivity Lab at Facebook and Wetlands International Africa. Associate research scientist Sylwia Trzaska is the principal investigator of the project, which 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. The project will leverage high-resolution satellite imagery, volunteered geographic information (VGI), and modeling, with a focus on small settlements within mangrove areas of six data-poor countries in West Africa. These areas share similar landscape and livelihood characteristics and an urgent need for locating and estimating coastal population in areas prone to sea-level rise. The twelve new projects are supported by the World Bank’s Trust Fund for Statistical Capacity Building with financing from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Government of Korea, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland.″

See: Announcing Funding for 12 Development Data Innovation Projects


Publications by CIESIN Staff and Visitors Released

Sat Feb 24 00:00:00 EST 2018

Several new publications have recently been released by CIESIN staff members and by former and current visitors. The report, ”Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment in Mangrove Regions of Sierra Leone,” addresses the social and ecosystem vulnerability of the coastal (mangrove) communities of Sierra Leone. This full-length version is an output of activities under a five-year project led by Tetra Tech and funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). An abridged version was released in May 2017. The report′s authors include the lead field researcher, Sylwia Trzaska, associate research scientist; Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for Science Applications; Paola Kim-Blanco, senior research associate; Valentina Mara, senior research associate; Emilie Schnarr, staff associate; Malanding Jaiteh, retired geospatial applications specialist; and Pinki Mondal, senior research associate.

Dongyong Zhang, who visited CIESIN in 2014, is first author of the book, Sustainable Development and Corporate Social Responsibility, published by Routledge. Zhang is a researcher and associate professor with the School of Management Science at Henan Agriculture University in China, where she focuses on quantitative and qualitative social research and econometrics. Her co-authors are Stephen Morse of the University of Surrey and Uma Kambhampati of the University of Reading in the UK.

JiaoJiao Luo, a graduate student with the Department of Land Management at Zhejiang University's School of Public Affairs, is lead author of a paper on urban land expansion and the floating population in China, in press in the journal Cities. CIESIN information scientist Xiaoshi Xing is a co-author of the paper. Luo arrived at CIESIN in November 2017 for a one-year stay to conduct research on urbanization and sustainable development.

See: Report: Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment in Mangrove Regions of Sierra Leone/West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WA BiCC) Project Page
       Book: Sustainable Development and Corporate Social Responsibility
       Paper: Urban Land Expansion and the Floating Population in China: For Production or for Living?


Recent Transitions at CIESIN

Fri Feb 23 00:00:00 EST 2018

CIESIN is pleased to welcome Kira Topik as a senior research staff assistant in the Science Applications division, where she is helping manage a new initiative on geospatial data infrastructure in Africa. Topik worked as a casual employee at CIESIN the previous fall and summer, assisting with a major World Bank report and with mapping activities for a project with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). She has an MA in climate and society from Columbia University and a BA in international and intercultural studies, and Spanish, from Pitzer College.

Zhen Wu, a graduate student with the School of Geographic Sciences at East China Normal University (ECNU) in Shanghai, has begun a six-month visit focused on geospatial analysis and methods related to coastal environmental change. Wu has a master’s degree in physical geography from ECNU, and a BS in geography science from Hunan University of Science and Technology in Xiangtan, China. Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for Science Applications, and Xiaoshi Xing, information scientist, are serving as Wu′s hosts during her visit.

CIESIN bid farewell to Haibin Xia in late December after his one-year research visit. An engineer with the ECNU School of Geographic Sciences, Xia conducted research on the biophysical and climatic correlates of population distribution in China and worked with Alex de Sherbinin on climate change migration modeling. Xia received his PhD, master′s, and bachelor′s degrees from the ECNU College of Resources and Environment Science.


Population Data, Hazard Exposure, and Sustainable Repositories Addressed in Three DC Area Talks

Tue Jan 30 00:00:00 EST 2018

Greg Yetman, CIESIN associate director for Geospatial Applications, and Robert Chen, CIESIN director, gave three talks in the Washington DC area January 25–29 as part of events organized for three different U.S. government agencies. On January 25, Yetman gave an invited presentation at the MapTech GEO seminar at the U.S. Bureau of the Census in Suitland, Maryland. His presentation, “Integration and Transformation of Census Data: Modeling Population on Raster Surfaces,″ described a range of approaches to modeling population distribution utilized in different data products, including CIESIN's new Gridded Population of the World version 4.10 (GPWv4.10) data set, the High Resolution Settlement Layer (HRSL) data developed in collaboration with Facebook, and other datasets produced through collaborations with the WorldPop project and the European Commission's Joint Research Center (JRC).

On January 25-26, Chen attended a two-day workshop, “Creating and Implementing Sustainability Plans for Data Repositories,” organized by the Ecological Society of America on behalf of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). The workshop, held in Alexandria, Virginia, near NSF′s new headquarters, brought together more than 30 managers of digital data repositories, data science experts, and NSF staff members to explore challenges and opportunities in increasing the long-term sustainability of valuable scientific data archives and services given changing technology, user needs, funding environments, and business models. Chen gave a plenary talk about the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), which he has managed for more than two decades. The chair of the SEDAC User Working Group, Myron Gutmann of the University of Colorado, was a member of the workshop's organizing committee.

Chen returned to the Washington DC area January 29 to give a presentation as part of the PrepTalks Symposium organized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The Symposium, held at George Washington University, featured eight speakers showcasing cutting-edge research and relevant experience of value to emergency managers. Chen gave the presentation, “Who's at Risk: Rapid Mapping of Potential Hazard Exposure,″ featuring a range of data and tools from SEDAC and other NASA data sources useful in emergency planning and response. The PrepTalks are recorded on video and subsequently posted to YouTube as an online resource for the emergency management community.


New Report Ranks Nations’ Environmental Performance, Reveals Trends

Tue Jan 23 00:00:00 EST 2018

screenshot of global map on Environmental Performance Index 2018 report

Air quality is the leading environmental threat to public health, according to the 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) released January 23 at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The biennial report, which ranks 180 countries on 24 performance indicators across 10 issue categories covering environmental health and ecosystem vitality, was produced by the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy (YCELP) and CIESIN. Switzerland is ranked first in environmental performance, followed by France, Denmark, Malta, and Sweden. In 2016, France and Sweden also made the top five.

In spite of strong scores on sanitation and air quality, the United States places only 27th in the 2018 EPI, thanks to weak performance on deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions, among other issues. This puts the United States near the back of the industrialized nations, behind France (2nd), the United Kingdom (6th), Germany (13th), Japan (20th), and Canada (25th).

Of the large emerging economies, China and India rank 120th and 177th respectively, due to pressures on the environment from high population densities and rapid economic expansion. “The strain on resources from past and current population growth, and the challenges of raising two billion people out of poverty, has meant that these countries face particular challenges,” according to co-author Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications at CIESIN. “From nitrogen pollution, inadequate waste water treatment, air pollutant emissions and concentrations, China and India face severe environmental challenges.” 

In addition to rankings, the EPI identifies important environmental trends. For example, the report finds that fisheries continue to deteriorate in most countries, and air pollution—a problem largely “solved” in advanced developed countries—is still a critical problem in many developing countries, especially in India, China, and Pakistan. And some countries are failing to address critical problems. Deforestation, for example, has been a significant issue for Indonesia, Malaysia, and Cambodia for the past five years, reflecting broad policy failures, according to the report.

See: 2018 Environmental Performance Index
       State of the Planet blog: “Global Environment Report Card Sees Dirty Air, Failing Fisheries”


CIESIN Staff Honored for Ten Years of Service

Fri Jan 19 00:00:00 EST 2018

Five staff members who joined CIESIN a decade ago were among those honored at a luncheon January 18 recognizing employees for ten years of service at Columbia University. The event at the Confetti Restaurant in Piermont, New York was hosted by Sean Solomon, director of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory; Lisa Goddard, director of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society; and Robert Chen, director of CIESIN.

Susana Adamo began at CIESIN as an associate research scientist in the Science Applications division, and was promoted to research scientist in July 2015. A demographer, she focuses on georeferenced population data; migration, environment, and climate change; and livelihoods and social vulnerability. Adamo also serves as an adjunct assistant professor in Columbia's Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology (E3B), teaching “Human Populations and Sustainable Development.”

Kytt MacManus started at CIESIN as a research assistant in the Geospatial Applications division, where he attained the positions of staff associate and later senior staff associate. In 2014 he transferred to the Information Technology division as a geographic information systems programmer. MacManus has been an adjunct lecturer at Columbia's School of international and Public Affairs (SIPA) since 2010 and has taught in E3B since 2014. 

After working as a part time research assistant at CIESIN beginning in 2005, Valentina Mara joined the Science Applications division as a staff associate in 2007. She was promoted in 2010 to senior staff associate, focusing on urbanization, climate vulnerability, and environmental performance metrics. Mara also serves as adjunct faculty in SIPA and the School of Professional Studies, co-teaching courses in data analysis and visualization.

James Carcone and Frank Pascuzzi joined CIESIN as senior system analysts and programmers in CIESIN's Information Technology division. They have developed and implemented a wide range of server-side and web-client applications to support the dissemination, visualization, and analysis of scientific data and information. A key focus of their work has been the use of open, standards-based technologies to facilitate interdisciplinary integration and delivery of geospatial data to diverse users, e.g., through interactive web mapping tools and mobile applications.


Earth Science Data Experts Hold Joint Meetings in Maryland

Tue Jan 16 00:00:00 EST 2018

The 2018 winter meeting of the Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) was the focal point for a set of co-located meetings in Bethesda and Gaithersburg, Maryland, January 8–12 to which several CIESIN staff members contributed. Senior digital archivist Robert Downs participated in the Enabling FAIR Data Project: Targeted Adoption Group Workshop January 8, part of a new initiative recently launched by the American Geophysical Union to develop standards to connect researchers, publishers, and data repositories in support of the Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR) data principles. At the ESIP winter meeting, Downs served on the plenary panel, ‟Wildfires, Hurricanes, and Drought, Oh My!,” describing hazard-related data and tools available from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. He also gave presentations on data management training, information quality, and data risk factors in a number of other sessions. Downs was re-elected as the Type 1 Representative to the ESIP Governance Committee during the business meeting.

Two other joint meetings were held January 11. Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for Science Applications, participated in the General Assembly of the EarthCube Council of Data Facilities, a federation of existing and emerging geoscience data facilities supporting the National Science Foundation′s EarthCube community. He represented the International Council for Science (ICSU) World Data System (WDS) in his capacity as a member of the WDS Scientific Committee, and gave a presentation, “Certification for Open and Trustworthy Data Repositories.″ CIESIN director Robert Chen also attended the ESIP winter meeting, participating in an all-day joint meeting with the All Hazards Consortium (AHC) focused on operational readiness of data and data services for emergency response to disasters. The AHC supports industry, government, and other stakeholders in their efforts to coordinate restoration of power and other utilities after hurricanes and other major disruptions. Chen gave a short presentation, “Operational Readiness of SEDAC Data and Services,″ at the  session, “Operational Readiness Levels: Measuring the Benefit of Trusted Data for End Users,″ organized by the ESIP Disaster Cluster. The SEDAC Population Estimation Service is an element of the AHC Multi-State Fleet Response Working Group GeoCollaborate service.

Downs also attended the 8th Working Group/Interest Group Collaboration meeting of the Research Data Alliance (RDA) January 11–12 at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He represented the Repository Platforms for Research Data Interest Group, which he co-chairs.

See: Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) Winter Meeting 2018


NASA Showcases Research Using Earth Science Data

Fri Jan 05 00:00:00 EST 2018

NASA has recently released the 2017 edition of Sensing Our Planet, free in print or for download at the Earthdata Web site. The publication highlights the use of earth science data in a range of scientific research areas, from hazard prediction to public health to water resource management. One of this year′s articles, “Zika Zone,” focuses on mapping the spread of the Zika virus. Researchers Moritz Kramer from the Harvard Medical School and Janey Messina from the University of Oxford combined environmental data about the Zika virus—for example, preferred habitat, temperature and rainfall requirements, and need for stagnant water to lay eggs in and heavily populated urban environments—with population data to create maps showing environmental suitability for the transmission of the virus. Data sources included the Gridded Population of the World (GPW) data collection from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN and a vegetation index based on Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data from the Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC). Mapping the transmission in this way let the scientists estimate the number of people globally at risk—more than two billion—and anticipate areas of potential Zika outbreaks, helping to inform public health decisions. GPW data were also used together with gravity and radar data and land surface models from several other DAACs to assess groundwater resources in Mexico, as described in the article, “Closed Season.″

Sensing Our Planet highlights data from the twelve DAACs of the NASA Earth Observing Data and Information System (EOSDIS). The publication has been produced since 1994 by the Snow and Ice DAAC at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado Boulder.

See: Sensing Our Planet 2017


Changing Mangroves, Future Heat Stress, and Data Stewardship Addressed in New Publications

Thu Jan 04 00:00:00 EST 2018

CIESIN staff and colleagues have capped the end of 2017 and launched 2018 with several new publications on a range of topics. Senior research associate Pinki Mondal is a lead author of a study on long-term changes in mangrove extent in Sierra Leone. The West African country lost 25% of its mangroves between 1990 and 2016, the span of the analysis. Using remote sensing data, the study focuses on four estuaries—Scarcies, Sierra Leone, Yawri Bay, and Sherbro—to provide insight into mangrove management strategies that can support local livelihoods. Sylwia Trzaska, associate research scientist, and Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for Science Applications, are co-authors. The work was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and conducted in collaboration with Tetra Tech. The paper appears in the journal Sensors, as part of a special issue, “Remote Sensing of Mangrove Ecosystems,” edited by Chandra Giri, an alumnus of CIESIN now with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Alex de Sherbinin is also co-author of a new global study of heat waves appearing in Environmental Research Letters, among the first research to include humidity as a critical factor in assessing heat stress impacts. The lead authors are Ethan Coffel and Radley Horton of Columbia University and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). The study utilizes data available from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN—Global Population Projection Grids Based on SSPs, v1 (2010 – 2100)—to quantify the number of people who may be exposed to extreme heat stress in the latter half of this century under different scenarios of development (Shared Socioeconomic Pathways, or SSPs).

Senior digital archivist Robert Downs has three new publications on various data management topics. He authored the chapter, “Enabling the Reuse of Geospatial Information,” in the book, GeoValue: The Socioeconomic Value of Geospatial Information, edited by Jamie B. Kruse, Joep Crompvoets, and Francoise Pearlman and published in November 2017 by CRC Press. He is also a co-author, with Devan Ray Donaldson, Ingrid Dillo, and Sarah Ramdeen, of a peer-reviewed article in the International Journal of Digital Curation on the perceived value of acquiring “data seals of approval,” an international standard for trusted digital repositories. Finally, he has authored the conference paper, “Implementing the Group on Earth Observations Data Management Principles: Lessons from a Scientific Data Center,” in The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences. This was based on his presentation at the 37th International Symposium on Remote Sensing of Environment in Tshwane, South Africa in May 2017 about how the emerging set of data management principles developed by GEO applies to interdisciplinary data management at SEDAC.

See: “Landsat-Derived Estimates of Mangrove Extents in the Sierra Leone Coastal Landscape Complex during 1990–2016”
       “Temperature and Humidity Based Projections of a Rapid Rise in Global Heat Stress Exposure During the 21st Century”
       “Humidity May Prove Breaking Point for Some Areas as Temperatures Rise, Says Study” (Press release)
       “Enabling the Use of Geospatial Information”
       “The Perceived Value of Acquiring Data Seals of Approval”
       “Implementing the Group on Earth Observations Data Management Principles: Observations of a Scientific Data Center”