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Extensive Guide to Night-time Light Data Now Available

Fri Dec 19 00:00:00 EST 2008

Map showing night-time light throughout the world.

Night-time light imagery from remote sensing data sources offers a uniquely “human” view of the Earth’s surface, as it is due almost entirely to some form of human activity. This illustrated guide introduces users to the types of night-time light data available, the characteristics, and the limitations. The second part of the guide examines how the data source has been and may be used to derive useful information about human presence and activities on Earth. Topics range from population and light pollution to economic activity, greenhouse gas emissions, and using night-time lights to help with disaster management. The ecological ramifications of night-time lighting are also considered. The final section of the guide explores other potential sources of night-time light data and how future systems may enhance existing capabilities for understanding the human environment through the observation of lights at night. The Guide was developed by former Earth Institute Fellow Christopher Doll, with support from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN.

See: Night-time Light Remote Sensing and Its Applications Web site

Geoscience Data Interoperability and Stewardship Discussed at Annual AGU Meeting

Thu Dec 18 00:00:00 EST 2008

The annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco held December 15–19 was the venue for high-level discussion of collaboration between libraries and data centers on digital data preservation, and of recent institutional and technical improvements in interoperability between different types and sources of geoscience data. In a prominent Union Session on the Library-Data Center Alliance in Earth and Space Sciences held December 15, Columbia University vice president for Information Services and University Librarian James Neal gave an invited presentation on the central role of libraries in long-term stewardship of digital scientific data, information, and ultimately, knowledge. In a follow-up session December 16, a poster on CIESIN´s collaboration with the Columbia Libraries developing a long-term digital data archive was presented, authored by CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert Downs, CIESIN director Robert Chen, and library staff members Robert Cartolano and Rajendra Bose. On December 17, Chen gave an oral presentation on proposed implementation guidelines for the data sharing principles of the Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS), focusing on how the geoscience community can promote institutional cooperation in data sharing. Downs was co-convener of the poster session, Challenges for Earth Science Software Reuse, offered December 15, and was a co-author, with James J. Marshall, Lawrence J. Gilliam, and Robert E. Wolfe, of another poster presented during the session on reuse.

See: “Collaborative Establishment of a Long-Term Archive...”
       “Progress in the Development of a Prototype Reuse Enablement System”
       CU Press Release

Interactive Mapper Will Aid Student Exploration of Hudson River Watershed

Sun Dec 14 00:00:00 EST 2008

CIESIN associate director for Geospatial Applications, Mark Becker, and geographic information specialist, Kytt MacManus, presented a preview of the forthcoming Hudson River Watershed Mapping Application at the grand opening of the Beacon Institute Center for Environmental Innovation and Education (CEIE). The event took place December 12 in Denning’s Point State Park in Beacon, New York. The application, a project of the National Biological Information Infrastructure Northeast Information Node (NBII-NIN), is being developed as part of a school curriculum focused on the Hudson River Watershed. The Mapper will display many of the social, physical, regulatory, and environmental features of the area in order to engage school-age children to interactively explore both the watershed itself and the communities that depend on it.

Future iterations of the application will make use of data from the River and Estuary Observation Network (REON), a joint effort between the Beacon Institute and IBM. Currently in the process of being deployed, REON is a first-of-its-kind sensor network able to capture physical, chemical, and biological information in real time. It can then sort that information and visualize the resulting data. The Hudson River Watershed Mapping Application will act as a central forum for the presentation of REON data in education, and to the general public.

See: Beacon Institute/CEIE Web site

The Role of Spatial Data in Addressing Meningitis Outbreaks

Sun Dec 07 00:00:00 EST 2008

Associate director for Geospatial Applications, Mark Becker, represented CIESIN at the Meningitis Environmental Risk Information Technologies (MERIT) meeting held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia December 1–3. The meeting featured representatives from the IRI, the World Health Organization, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, and health ministries from countries throughout Africa. The meeting’s purpose was to look at ways to use information from climate forecast models to better understand onset of meningitis outbreaks, and to use this knowledge to design better vaccination programs. Becker demonstrated how CIESIN data products might play a role in the process, using as examples CIESIN’s poverty mapping studies and its Global Rural Urban Mapping Project (GRUMP), which gives insights into urban population distribution and the global extents of human settlements.

Remote Sensing and the Law at UK Workshop

Sat Dec 06 00:00:00 EST 2008

The use of remote sensing in the context of environmental policy and law enforcement was examined at a University College London (UCL) workshop at which CIESIN senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin presented a paper, “Remote Sensing in Support of Multilateral Environmental Agreements.” The workshop, held December 5, brought together remote sensing researchers, policy experts, and judges from Europe and the United States, including CIESIN fellow and former director, Roberta Balstad, who also chaired a session of the workshop.

See: UCL Centre for Law & the Environment Web site

“Radical Sharing” of Digital Data the Focus of Edinburgh Conference

Thu Dec 04 00:00:00 EST 2008

“Radical Sharing: Transforming Science” was the theme of the 4th International Digital Curation Conference held December 1–3 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The term “radical sharing” refers to possible new ways of doing science using such approaches as large-scale research networks, mass collaboration, dynamic publishing tools, wikis, blogs, social networks, and visualizations and immersive environments. CIESIN director Robert Chen helped kick off the discussion as moderator of the opening plenary session on the conference theme, which included papers on new e-Science approaches in ecology, neuroscience, and biomolecular sciences.

The UK Digital Curation Centre (DCC) supports UK institutions that store, manage, and preserve scientific data, helping to ensure their enhancement and their continuing long-term use. The DCC has recently become the UK member organization of CODATA, the ICSU Committee on Data for Science and Technology.

See: 4th International Digital Curation Conference

How Climate Change May Affect World Security Discussed at SUNY-New Paltz

Wed Dec 03 00:00:00 EST 2008

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy at the podium, points to maps demonstrating his talk

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy was at the State University of New York, New Paltz, the evening of December 2 to speak about climate change and world security. The event was sponsored by the Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach; the World Affairs Council of the Mid-Hudson Valley; and the Gillespie Forum. Pointing to CIESIN-made maps of socioeconomic and environmental data to visualize his subject, Levy noted that the erratic nature of climate change made it easy to disrupt the delicate balance for populations already living in vulnerable situations, and possibly give rise to conflict. He said that Sudan’s Darfur conflict coincided with the nation’s most serious drought in centuries. He also discussed security pressures arising from water scarcity and the emergence of new infectious diseases, both of which can be exacerbated by climate change. An organization similar to the International Monetary Fund should be set up, Levy said, in order to monitor and respond to the environmental impacts on human security.

See: Full Story
       SUNY-New Paltz Article

Potential Links Between Cardiovascular Disease and Urbanization Examined

Mon Nov 24 00:00:00 EST 2008

CIESIN hosted a two-day workshop for the Earth Institute Cross-Cutting Initiative on Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) and Urbanization in Modern China, November 20–21. This study is led by Andrew Moran, assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Susana Adamo, associate research scientist with the Science Applications Division at CIESIN. The project involves the development of a computer model that simulates rural to urban migration, and the national-scale health consequences among permanent urban migrants of changing to higher calorie-, higher fat-diet, and to lower physical activity. CIESIN is providing data and methodological expertise on the spatial distribution of populations, and thus changes in the population CVD risk, in light of North-South, rural-urban, and urban-urban migration trends.

IPCC Task Group Addresses Observed Climate Impact Studies

Fri Nov 21 00:00:00 EST 2008

The headquarters of the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva, Switzerland was the venue for the 15th meeting of the Task Group on Data and Scenario Support for Impact and Climate Analysis (TGICA) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on November 19-21. CIESIN director Robert Chen attended the meeting in his capacity as co-manager of the IPCC Data Distribution Center (DDC). CIESIN senior staff associate Xiaoshi Xing also participated. Chen and Xing reported on recent work to make available a database on observed climate change impacts, developed by an international team co-led by Cynthia Rosenzweig of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), and to develop a new system to encourage submission of new observed impact studies in support of the fifth IPCC assessment. They also contributed to a set of recommendations about the next phase of the TGICA’s work, which will be reconstituted by the new IPCC Bureau in 2009.

See: IPCC Socioeconomic Data Distribution Centre Web site

Group on Earth Observations Reviews Data Sharing Approaches in Bucharest

Wed Nov 19 00:00:00 EST 2008

At the fifth plenary meeting of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO-V) in Bucharest, Romania, a proposed set of data sharing guidelines were reviewed and discussed in a special side event held November 18 co-chaired by CIESIN director Robert Chen and prof. Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz of the University of Mississippi and the International Institute for Space Law (IISL). GEO, a major international initiative to develop and implement a Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS), adopted a strong set of data sharing principles in 2005. CODATA, the Committee on Data for Science and Technology of the International Council for Science (ICSU), accepted lead responsibility for developing a white paper and proposed guidelines for implementing these principles.

The side event, held in the Romanian Parliament building, drew more than 30 representatives of GEO members and participating organizations. Chen provided an overview of the current status of the data sharing guidelines and a tentative timeline for potential acceptance of the guidelines at the next GEO Ministerial meeting in 2010. Gabrynowicz moderated a panel of experts drawn from several of the GEO cross-cutting committees. She also presented a progress report on data sharing in the Plenary session on November 19.

See: GEO Data Sharing Principles Implementation
       GEO-V plenary

Simulation Exercise for NDU Workshop Addresses New Environment-Security Linkages

Fri Nov 14 00:00:00 EST 2008

Photo of flooding in Lahore, Pakistan. It was used in one of several simulation scenarios created by CIESIN as part of a day-long exercise for a workshop in Prague October 11-14 on new environment-security linkages.

Governments are increasingly concerned about non-traditional security threats such as climate change, water scarcity, population movement, and emerging infectious disease epidemics. These threats were the focus of the National Defense University's (NDU) Near East and South Asia Center for Strategic Studies Senior Executive Alumni Symposium held in Prague from October 11 through October 14. The symposium was attended by twenty-five high ranking diplomats and military officials from eleven countries.

CIESIN designed and facilitated a one-day simulation exercise in order to expose symposium participants to the complex set of security challenges such events might pose. A series of mock news broadcasts confronted participants with a range of cascading emergencies including a sharp spike in food prices, severe flooding, and the outbreak of a highly contagious new disease. Drawing on its core competence in environmental data integration and visualization, CIESIN developed several regional maps highlighting possible migration routes, disaster vulnerability, and potential spread of the disease outbreak. The simulation allowed participants to reflect on their countries’ preparedness levels and to share management techniques learned from previous emergencies.

The mock news broadcast was produced by CIESIN in collaboration with Columbia University School of Journalism and Modern Metro Studios. This simulation can be run in multiple workshop formats and for longer durations, and is one of a number of educational and training exercises on environment and security linkages currently under development at CIESIN.

User Working Group Assesses Data Needs

Thu Nov 13 00:00:00 EST 2008

CIESIN convened members of the User Working Group (UWG) for the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) for a meeting in New York November 13-14 to advise SEDAC on the most pressing needs for new integrated data products, improved data tools and services, and user training and capacity building. Key areas of discussion included the need for more detailed demographic data in gridded forms to support interdisciplinary research and applications and for expanded data and services useful for assessing vulnerability and adaptation to climate change.

On November 13, the UWG discussed African data needs with Pedro Sanchez, head of the Earth Institute's Tropical Agriculture and Rural Environment Program, and reviewed SEDAC's efforts in support of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Data Distribution Center (DDC) and the planned Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS). UWG members Chris Elvidge of NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center and Dale Quattrochi of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center gave updates on two proposed satellite missions that could significantly improve observations of human-environment interactions. On November 14, the UWG met with James Neal, Columbia’s vice president for Information Services and university librarian, to discuss SEDAC's interactions with the Libraries on long-term digital data stewardship.

The UWG is led by Prof. Harlan Onsrud of the University of Maine and includes leading experts from the social, natural, health, and information sciences. Several representatives from NASA also participated in the meeting.

See: SEDAC User Working Group

Weather, Climate, and Impacts Workshop Focuses on Integration of Socioeconomic Data

Thu Oct 30 00:00:00 EDT 2008

The use of socioeconomic data for research into climate change impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation assessment was the subject of a presentation given by CIESIN senior staff Associate Alex de Sherbinin at the 3rd NCAR Community Workshop on GIS in Weather, Climate, and Impacts. The workshop, held October 27-29 in Boulder, Colorado, focused on the integration of socioeconomic data with weather and climate data via GIS applications. It brought together 65 experts from the climate, meteorological, GIS, and social science communities.

See: NCAR Weather, Climate, and Impacts Workshop
       Socioeconomic Data for Climate Change Impacts Presentation

CIESIN Digital Archivist Honored for Software Re-Use Efforts

Thu Oct 23 00:00:00 EDT 2008

CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert R. Downs has received the 2008 Peer-Recognition Software Reuse award, given by the NASA ESDS Software Reuse Working Group during the 7th Joint Earth Science Data Systems Working Group Meeting held October 21–23 in Philadelphia. The award was made in the category of Peer-Education, in recognition of Downs’ contributions to education and public outreach on the reuse of software by the Earth science data community. Downs has co-authored numerous papers on the subject; contributed to studies, documentation, and development of protocols; and participated actively in all stages of development of the working group’s Web site.

See: 2008 Peer Recognition Award Recipients

NSF Awards Research into Human Factors Affecting Emerging Infectious Diseases

Mon Oct 20 00:00:00 EDT 2008

Research into the human factors that affect emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) will continue as part of a new four-year award to CIESIN and the Consortium for Conservation Medicine (CCM), from the National Science Foundation’s Human and Social Dynamics program (award 0826840). This interdisciplinary study will integrate global-scale socioeconomic and environmental data sets with biogeographic data on wildlife, human and livestock populations, and pathogen distributions. The integrated data collection will be used as a basis for developing spatial mathematical models to identify and predict areas with high potential for disease emergence at local scales and for pandemic (global) spread. CIESIN’s project will be led by deputy director Marc Levy and associate research scientist Susana Adamo. This project represents a deepening of the collaboration with CCM, where the team is led by Peter Daszak, building on an exploratory NSF grant (award 0525130) to the two organizations. The first study established that EIDs are on the rise and that zoonoses—diseases from wildlife—are the prime threat; the February 2008 publication in Nature summarized those results.

See: Human-Related Factors Affecting Emerging Infectious Diseases (Abstract)

CIESIN Director Re-elected as CODATA Secretary-General

Mon Oct 13 00:00:00 EDT 2008

Photo of CODATA’s newly re-elected secretary general, Robert Chen (right), with Gordon Wood, CODATA vice president.

CIESIN director Robert Chen was re-elected to a second four-year term as secretary general of CODATA, the Committee on Data for Science and Technology of the International Council for Science (ICSU), at the organization’s 26th General Assembly in Kyiv, Ukraine October 9–10. A major role of the CODATA secretary general is oversight of the activities of CODATA’s Secretariat, which is based at the ICSU offices in Paris. The secretary general also helps to manage CODATA task groups and working groups, which tap experts from around the world to tackle pressing scientific data issues across a wide range of disciplines. During his initial term, Chen led the development of a strategic plan for CODATA and coordinated its efforts to develop implementation guidelines for the Data Sharing Principles of the planned Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS).

In conjunction with the General Assembly, Chen also participated actively in the 21st CODATA Conference, which drew some 500 scientists and students to the campus of Kyiv Polytechnic Institute for more than five days of workshops and symposia. He presented papers on CIESIN’s recent work on the International Polar Year (IPY) and GEOSS and on a long-term data archive, and reported on the GEOSS data policy task and the CODATA Global Roads Data Working Group. He also chaired a session on natural disaster data and a round-table discussion on CODATA’s collaboration with other ICSU bodies concerned with Earth and environmental data.

See: CODATA Web site
       CODATA GEOSS paper (PDF 388 KB)
       CODATA2008 WDC paper (PDF 2.51 MB)
       Creating A Trustworthy Digital Repository paper (PDF 838 KB)
       Global Roads Data presentation (PDF 486 KB)

Observed Climate Change Impacts Discussed at Beijing Colloquium

Wed Oct 08 00:00:00 EDT 2008

Photo of Xiaoshi Xing, with Chunzhen Liu, conducting a colloquium on observed climate change impacts.

Xiaoshi Xing, information scientist at CIESIN, together with Chunzhen Liu, a lead author of the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), conducted a colloquium in Beijing October 8 on the IPCC Data Distribution Centre (DDC). The colloquium, which took place at the Water Resource Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), focused on observed climate change impacts. Xing described the development of the IPCC observed impacts database and plans for its expansion. Also discussed was a possible workshop on observed impacts at a global or regional level in 2009. About 60 scientists, researchers, and students from diverse backgrounds attended the meeting and engaged in a question-and-answer period with the presenters.

The IPCC DDC is a shared data management operation between the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN; the UK’s British Atmospheric Data Centre; and the World Data Center Climate at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany. SEDAC’s section of the DDC provides online access to observed impacts and baseline and scenario data on population, economic development, technology, and natural resources for climate impact assessments.

       IPC DDC

2008 CODATA Prize Awarded to CIESIN Alumna

Wed Oct 08 00:00:00 EDT 2008

Photo of Dr. Liu Chuang receiving the 2008 CODATA Prize, symbolized by a reproduction of the Louvre's Winged Victory of Samothrace.

The 2008 CODATA Prize was awarded to Dr. Liu Chuang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences at the 21st CODATA Conference in Kyiv, Ukraine. The CODATA Prize is given out every other year in recognition of outstanding achievements in the development of data science.

Dr. Liu was recognized for her significant efforts over two decades to open up data access in China, promote data access and capacity building in developing countries, and develop new scientific data products on land use and land cover change. She led the development of the Global Alliance for Enhancing Access to and Application of Scientific Data in Developing Countries (e-SDDC) under the umbrella of the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID). She played a lead role in the expansion of the World Data Center System in China and was instrumental in the adoption of open data access policies by the Ministry of Science and Technology of China (MOST). She continues to serve as user co-chair of the Working Group on Information Systems and Services (WGISS) of the Committee on Earth Observing Systems (CEOS) and to contribute to other international data initiatives, including CODATA’s Task Group on Preservation and Access to Scientific and Technological Data in Developing Countries, which she co-chaired for the past six years.

Dr. Liu was a staff scientist with CIESIN from 1994 to 1998, where she had lead responsibility for developing CIESIN’s widely-used China Dimensions data collection. When CIESIN relocated to Columbia University in 1998, she returned to China to join the Institute of Geography and Natural Resources Research of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

Previous winners of the CODATA Prize include Dr. John Rumble, former CODATA President and former director of the Standard Reference Data Program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Prof. Jean Bonnin of the Institute of Physics of the Earth in Strasbourg, France. CODATA is an interdisciplinary committee of the ICSU, with the mission to strengthen international science for the benefit of society by promoting improved scientific and technical data management and use.

Land Use Change and Changing Climate the Topic at Berlin Conference

Sat Oct 04 00:00:00 EDT 2008

Deputy director Marc Levy and postdoctoral fellow Sandra Baptista participated in a conference, Tough Choices: Land Use Change Under a Changing Climate, held October 2–3 in Berlin and sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation, German Research Foundation, and German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Levy gave a keynote address, “Ecosystem Service Tradeoffs: Global Examples Involving Biodiversity Conservation, Poverty Reduction and Disease Prevention,” which presented the results of two recent research projects that shed light on the nature of difficult tradeoffs among competing ecosystem services. He summarized the findings of a study looking at the relationship between the distribution of human poverty and biodiversity, and of a study identifying driving forces (one of which is biodiversity) of emerging infectious diseases. Both studies illustrated the need for more sophisticated approaches to understanding and managing tradeoffs.

Baptista presented a poster, “Climate Hazards and Adaptation to Climate Change in Metropolitan Florianópolis.” The poster details a case study of land use decision making and institutional adaptation to climate variability and change at the local/regional scale in metropolitan Florianópolis, which is situated in the low elevation coastal zone of Santa Catarina State. The study explores how knowledge of local institutions (and their multiscale social and land use contexts) can support cross-site comparisons and can contribute to analyses at broader spatial and organizational scales.

See: Climate Hazards Poster

CIESIN Participates in ’Sustainable Science’ Open House

Fri Oct 03 00:00:00 EDT 2008

CIESIN will highlight its work on the impacts of climate change, vulnerability to natural disasters, and the sustainability of the Hudson River Watershed, as part of the theme, “Science to Sustain the Planet,” at the annual Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Open House, Saturday, October 4 from 10am to 4pm. The entire Lamont campus will be host to a projected turnout of more than 4,000 teachers, students, parents, and members of the general public from the greater New York metropolitan area. The Open House was started soon after Lamont’s inception in 1949 to communicate current developments in the Earth sciences to the public, and how increased understanding of the Earth helps preserve its future. CIESIN has participated in the Open House annually since 1998. This year CIESIN will feature a new Web portal and interactive mapping tool for the Hudson River watershed, as well as a quiz for students.

See: Open House at LDEO

Visiting Scholar Will Focus on Remote Sensing and Image Technologies in Roads and Related Research

Wed Oct 01 00:00:00 EDT 2008

Tan Kun, a graduate student in the School of Environmental Science and Spatial Informatics from the China University of Mining and Technology, will spend about a year in residence as a visiting scholar at CIESIN. Mr. Tan will be working with CIESIN staff to use remote sensing data and image processing techniques to identify and characterize intercity roads and related infrastructure. Accurate data on roads are especially poor in developing countries, but important for both research and applications in a variety of fields such as disaster management, conservation, public health, and development.

Environmental Performance Assessment Development Meetings in Beijing

Mon Sep 29 00:00:00 EDT 2008

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy and senior staff associate Alex de Sherbinin traveled to Beijing for meetings to develop a provincial-level Environmental Performance Index (EPI). The meetings, held September 27 and 28, included an international workshop on environmental performance assessment and side meetings with colleagues from Yale University, with whom CIESIN developed the global EPI; and counterparts at the Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning, a division of the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

CIESIN Staff Address Drought-Health Links, Digital Preservation, and Data Interoperability

Fri Sep 26 00:00:00 EDT 2008

Recent activities by CIESIN staff include participation by senior staff associate Meredith Golden in a consultancy forum,“The Public Health Impacts of Drought: Guidance for State, Local, and Tribal Health Departments,” that was held in Atlanta September 17–19. Sponsored by the NCEH at the CDC in partnership with the EPA, the AWWA, and the NOAA, the forum gathered together more than 30 national experts from a wide range of organizations. Participants offered information and best practices for the development of a guidance document to address the public health impacts of drought.

CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert R. Downs presented a paper co-authored with CIESIN director Robert Chen, “Exploring Collaborative Models for Sustainable Governance of Digital Collections of Scientific Data,” at DAPS ‘08 workshop held September 22 in Baltimore, Maryland. The workshop was given in conjunction with the MSST2008 and supported by the NSF. Later in the week, Chen and geographic information specialist Greg Yetman participated in two meetings concerned with international sharing of remote sensing and other spatial data, held in Boulder September 22–26. In his capacity as secretary-general of the CODATA, Chen presented an update on the development of implementation guidelines for the Data Sharing Principles to the GEO Architecture and Data Committee. Yetman then participated in the kickoff workshop for the second phase of the GEOSS Architecture Implementation Pilot (AIP-2), which will demonstrate interoperability between different data systems, analytic services, map clients, and portals. CIESIN plans to provide both data and client services to the pilot effort.

See: GEOSS Workshop Information

The Role of Natural Resource Management in Peacebuilding Discussed at NYC Forum

Fri Sep 19 00:00:00 EDT 2008

Deputy director Marc Levy participated in a joint forum, “Managing Natural Resources in Post-Conflict Societies: Lessons in Making the Transition to Peace.” The two-day forum, held at Columbia University on September 17-18, was part of a research project involving the Environmental Law Institute, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the University of Tokyo, and the World Conservation Union. The project seeks to understand how effective natural resource management can assist in peacebuilding. Levy is a member of the project advisory committee and is writing a paper with former CIESIN post-doctoral scholar Christian Webersik, now at the United Nations University in Yokohama, Japan. CIESIN researchers Sandra Baptista, Lauren Berry, and Alex Fischer also participated in the forum. CIESIN served as local host for the forum as part of a broader partnership between UNEP’s Post-Conflict and Natural Disaster Management Branch and the Earth Institute. Within that partnership CIESIN is working with UNEP on graduate training curriculum development, student internships, and other initiatives.

See: Meeting report

Integrating Spatial Data: Hands-on Workshop Offered in Brazil

Thu Sep 18 00:00:00 EDT 2008

Participants in the spatial data integration workshop offered by CIESIN staff at the University of Campinas in Sao Paulo state, Brazil, September 15-17.

CIESIN senior staff associate Alex de Sherbinin and associate research scientist Susana Adamo travelled to the University of Campinas (Unicamp) in São Paulo state, Brazil to lead a workshop on spatial data integration September 15-17. The workshop was offered to a group of staff members and graduate students at the university’s Population Studies Unit (NEPO). A variety of data integration methods developed by CIESIN were presented, accompanied by hands-on training exercises using ArcMap and Geoda software packages.

Unicamp is one of the public universities of São Paulo. Created in 1962, its original aim was to promote science education. Unicamp is now responsible for about 15% of all Brazilian research.

See: University of Campinas

Species Data Reveal Areas of High Biodiversity in the Americas, the World

Fri Sep 12 00:00:00 EDT 2008

image of amphibian from new species distribution library

Human activities have contributed to habitat loss for a large number of species worldwide. In response, species mapping has become an increasingly important tool for conservation priority-setting and ecological modeling. Now a consortium of conservation organizations—NatureServe, IUCN, Conservation International, and World Wildlife Fund-USA—has developed a vast digital library of the distribution of birds and mammals of the Americas and amphibians of the world. To make these data more useful for a wide range of applications, CIESIN’s NASA-funded Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) converted the entire collection of shapefiles to raster format at 1-km grid-cell resolution. Basic or advanced searches may be undertaken for species in each of the three classes—amphibia, aves, and mammalia—using any number of criteria including class, family, genus, and endangerment status according to the IUCN Red List. Users may download the search results as zip files, with a readme file explaining how to use the data and a full metadata record of each of the data sets bundled in the file. The Web site provides the original vector data (in ESRI shape file format), the original grids (a raster version of the vector data), and presence grids (raster data depicting the presence or absence for each species). The grids are distributed in GeoTIFF format. In addition, SEDAC has created “richness grids” that describe the number of species by class and family found in each grid cell. Data sets include:

  • 5,810 species of amphibia
  • 4,166 species of aves
  • 1,716 species of mammalia

Users may download maps showing species richness at continental and global scales for each of the three classes.

See: Species Distribution Grids Web site

New Post-Doc Joins CIESIN, To Study Social and Environmental Change

Wed Sep 10 00:00:00 EDT 2008

Sandra Baptista, Earth Institute post-doctoral fellow currently hosted by CIESIN

Sandra Baptista, a new Earth Institute postdoctoral fellow, has begun a two-year appointment at CIESIN. Baptista plans to expand on her doctoral research on demographic change, urbanization, vegetation dynamics, and environmental governance in southern Brazil, including the examination of vulnerabilities and adaptation to climate change in Brazil’s coastal city-regions. She will also provide scientific expertise on the integration of social science, ecological, and remote sensing data to the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) hosted by CIESIN. Her master’s and PhD degrees are in geography from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; and she received an interdisciplinary bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and Portuguese and Brazilian studies from Brown University.

Designing a 'Data Commons' for Sustainability Science Discussed at Havana Workshop

Thu Sep 04 00:00:00 EDT 2008

CIESIN senior staff associate Alex de Sherbinin gave a presentation, “Designing A Data Commons for Sustainability Science: Lessons Learned from a World Data Center,” at the InterAcademy Panel Workshop on Open Access to Scientific Literature and Other Digital Scientific Information Resources in Central America and the Caribbean offered September 3–4 in Havana, Cuba. The workshop focused on providing greater access to scientific information and data over the Internet in ways that benefit sustainable development. Representatives from the Cuban Academy of Sciences and other academies in the region were present, together with representatives of the Science Commons and other international participants in the growing area of the “information commons.”

See: Presentation
       Workshop Program

Meeting Assesses Asia-Pacific Hazards and Conflict Risk

August 27, 2008

The new Comer building at the Lamont campus was the site for a working meeting on natural hazards and civil conflict in the Asia-Pacific region, held August 25–26 and hosted by CIESIN. Colleagues from the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI), the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO), the Pacific Disaster Center (PDC), and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) came together for the meeting, along with scientists from the IRI and the LDEO. The main meeting objective was to coordinate efforts to assess risks from eight major natural hazards — earthquakes, floods, cyclones, landslides, tsunamis, drought, volcanoes, and wildfires — and from civil conflict. The project, supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will provide the OCHA Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (ROAP) with better data and specific recommendations regarding future needs for humanitarian assistance. A public talk held on August 25 provided an opportunity for interactions with the broader Earth Institute community interested in disaster management issues.     

SEDAC Long-Term Archive Board Meets

August 21, 2008

The long-term archive (LTA) board of the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) met August 20 in Palisades, New York to review progress implementing the LTA and to consider the addition of new data. Established by SEDAC in collaboration with the Columbia University Libraries, the LTA is meant to ensure the long-term preservation and accessibility of SEDAC data and information resources. As part of the meeting, Robert Cartolano, director of the Library Information Technology Office, gave an overview of Columbia’s efforts to establish a long-term digital archive to serve the broader needs of the University. As described in the Library’s Strategic Plan for 2006–2009, SEDAC’s LTA is serving as a testbed for integrating existing scientific data collections with this planned campus resource. The LTA Board is chaired by Robert Downs, CIESIN senior digital archivist, and includes representatives from the Libraries, Columbia University Information Technology, and the Earth Institute.

       Columbia University Libraries Strategic Plan

Recent SEDAC Data Developments Presented to Ecologists at ESA Meeting

August 11, 2008

As a representative of the NASA Distributed Active Archive Centers, CIESIN user services manager Joe Schumacher helped staff the NASA Earth Science booth at the 2008 Ecological Society of America meeting held this year in Milwaukee August 4–7. Schumacher demonstrated some of the data products of special interest to the ecological community, produced by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. Demonstrations included the Human Footprint data and the Terra Viva SEDAC Viewer (both updated in 2008), and the new Global Species Grids data set of birds and mammals of the Americas and amphibians of the world. The Global Species Grids Web site, which provides access to vector and raster representation of the distribution of nearly 12,000 species, is currently in its beta version and due to be released next month.The Ecological Society of America (ESA) aims to improve communication among ecologists, increase available resources for ecological science, and promote its effective use in environmental decision making.

See: 2008 Ecological Society of America Meeting

CIESIN’s Maps and Data Featured in ESRI Conference Showcase

August 7, 2008

associate director Mark Becker and geographic information specialists Greg Yetman and Tricia Chai-Onn in front of CIESIN's exhibit at the 28th Annual ESRI International User Conference.

Staff from CIESIN’s geospatial applications division, including associate director Mark Becker and geographic information specialists Greg Yetman and Tricia Chai-Onn, attended the 28th Annual ESRI International User Conference held August 4–8 in San Diego, California. This year CIESIN was invited to participate in a special Maps, Charts and Data Production/Spatial Data Infrastructure Showcase to highlight its work developing and distributing global data sets. The Human Footprint, Global Poverty Mapping Project and Gridded Population of the World (GPW) were among the featured data sets. The conference, which offered a variety of workshops on the latest technology from ESRI, expects more than 14,000 attendees over the course of the week.

See: 2008 ESRI Conference
       ESRI Showcase


New Aspects of Emerging Infectious Diseases Explored

August 5, 2008

Ariel Zucker discusses her poster with Ousmane Ndiaye, a doctoral student in  Columbia's department of earth and environmental sciences.

The relationship between antibiotic consumption and human emerging infectious diseases  (EIDs) was the subject of research presented by CIESIN summer research assistant Ariel Zucker under the auspices of the Earth Intern program at Columbia University’s Lamont Campus. Although the relationship between antimicrobial consumption and antimicrobial resistance has been established, Zucker’s study, undertaken with deputy director Marc Levy and research associate Valentina Mara, is the first to use information on cross-national variation in antibiotic use to help explain differences in the rate of emerging infectious disease outbreak globally. A particularly challenging aspect of the study was assembling comparable antiobiotic use data on a large number of countries. Using analysis of emerging diseases from 1940 to 2004 that was the basis of the landmark study of which Levy was a co-author, “Global Trends in Emerging Infectious Diseases,” Zucker’s research suggests that national data on antibiotic consumption is a useful predictor of the risk of EID outbreak. For this reason, it would be beneficial to quantify antibiotic use more effectively than is done at present.  Zucker will begin her senior year as an economics major at Columbia College.

See: Poster (PDF 109 KB)

NASA Awards Five-Year Contract to CIESIN

July 31, 2008

CIESIN has been awarded a five-year contract for more than $20 million from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center to continue operating the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC). Established in 1994, SEDAC is one of the Earth Science Data Centers in NASA’s Earth Observing System. SEDAC plays a unique role in integrating social science data and information with remote sensing data and in supporting diverse communities of researchers and applied users working at the intersection of the social and earth sciences. SEDAC will continue to develop and maintain interdisciplinary data products and interactive applications such as its gridded population data products, environmental sustainability indicator collection, natural hazards data sets, climate change vulnerability data, and online and standalone mapping tools. SEDAC will also continue to host the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Socioeconomic Data Distribution Centre (DDC), the World Data Center for Human Interactions in the Environment of the International Council for Science (ICSU), and the Population-Environment Research Network (PERN).

The new NASA contract will enable CIESIN to enhance SEDAC’s standards-compliant Web mapping services and other interactive tools to support a range of research and operational systems dealing with disaster mitigation and response, conservation and land use, poverty and food security, and climate change vulnerability, impacts, adaptation, and mitigation. CIESIN will build on its partnerships with scientists at the Earth Institute and with the Columbia University Libraries to increase the longevity and depth of SEDAC’s data holdings and ensure their long-term preservation and accessibility. A key focus over the next five years will be to make SEDAC data and services accessible through the planned Global Earth Observing System of Systems, an international initiative of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO).

SEDAC will continue to provide direct support to users through its User Services office. The SEDAC User Working Group, chaired by Prof. Harlan Onsrud of the University of Maine, provides ongoing strategic advice and guidance to SEDAC activities. The contract performance period will extend through July 2013.


Digital Archiving Issues Examined at Conference

July 14, 2008

Improving systems for submitting data to a digital repository for preservation is the focus of a paper presented by CIESIN senior digital archivist, Robert R. Downs, at the 2008 Mid-Atlantic Digital Library Conference, which took place July 9 at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Co-authored with CIESIN director Robert S. Chen, the paper, “Balancing the Need for the Efficient Submission of Scientific Data with the Need to Collect Metadata,” was written in response to issues that arise when attempting to meet requirements for a trustworthy digital repository. The authors outline a system for Web-based submission of data to a digital repository, focusing on self-submission as well as work flow for data review and preparation. Downs also served as a panelist for a session (“Using Open Source Software:What it Means for Your Institution”) that explored various approaches to adopting the use of open-source software in digital libraries. Downs argued against an “either/or” approach (open-source vs. commercial  off-the-shelf software) and called for consideration of a “hybrid” model, in which users work with commercial vendors to develop products and services based on open-source software. 

See: Mid-Atlantic Digital Library Conference

United Arab Emirates Advised on Environmental Performance Index

July 11, 2008

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy travelled to Al Ain, United Arab Emirates, for a meeting late June organized by the League of Arab States to evaluate approaches to constructing aggregate environmental performance indexes in the region. At the meeting, Levy described the strengths and weaknesses of the Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI), which was produced from 2000 through 2005, and the Environmental Performance Index (EPI), produced since 2006. (The most recent version of the EPI, released in early 2008, is featured in the July 7–14 issue of Newsweek magazine’s special report, “Green Countries.”) Levy has led CIESIN's collaborative efforts with Yale University on all of the Index activities. Later in the trip Levy met with officials from the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to provide advice on a planned EPI for the Emirate. The Abu Dhabi index will show how the Emirate is doing in key areas, such as air, water, waste, biodiversity, and environmental health and safety. At the end of July Levy will return to Abu Dhabi with CIESIN researcher Alex de Sherbinin to participate in a follow-up meeting. 

See:  Environmental Sustainability Index
        Environmental Performance Index


CIESIN Bids Goodbye to Visiting Scholar, Students
July 3, 2008

CIESIN research associate Maria Muniz (left) and visiting Fullbright Scholar Diana Dogaru.
Fullbright scholar Diana Dogaru from Institute of Geography of the Romanian Academy in Bucharest has completed her 10-month appointment as a visiting scholar with CIESIN. While at CIESIN, Dogaru examined human-environment interactions in various ecosystems in Dobrogea Plateau, eastern Romania using Geographic Information System (GIS) and remote sensing techniques. She will be presenting the results of her work at the next International Science Conference of the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change, recently postponed to 2009. Dogaru will also participate in a Summer Institute on Spatial Econometrics and Spatial Computable General Equilibrium Modeling in Hungary later this month, returning afterwards to Romania to complete her PhD dissertation.

CIESIN research associate Maria Muniz (left), associate research scientist Susana Adamo, intern Joseph Lunet. deputy director Marc Levy, and intern Romain Tribalat, at the presentation of the interns' research.
Two students from École Polytechnique in France, Romain Tribalat and Joseph Lunet, recently wrapped up their three-month internships with CIESIN with formal presentations of their research projects. Tribalat examined land cover and land use change in Argentina over the past two decades, utilizing available agricultural census data (1988 and 2002) and remote sensing imagery (NDVI). Lunet conducted an econometric analysis of the impact of natural hazards and political crises on national GDP per capita growth rates, utilizing global hazards (EM-DAT) and State Failure/Political Instability (PITF) data sets. These internships were arranged and coordinated by the Alliance program, a unique joint venture between Columbia University, École Polytechnique, Sciences Po, and the Université de Paris I Panthéon Sorbonne.


CIESIN Analysis Helps Reveal Possible Security Risks Due to Climate Change
June 27, 2008

A new assessment projecting the impact of climate change on U.S. and global security issues over the course of the next two decades, based in part on analysis prepared by CIESIN for the National Intelligence Council (NIC), was delivered to the U.S. House Intelligence Committee for a briefing June 25. The assessment itself is classified but CIESIN’s report and data are publicly available here. CIESIN’s analysis ranked countries by looking at three climate risks: sea-level rise, increased water scarcity, and vulnerability based on projected temperature change in relation to capacity to a nation’s ability to adapt. Countries with the most people exposed to sea-level rise were China, the Philippines, Egypt and Indonesia. Although most countries with high exposure to sea-level rise had low levels of exposure to historical risks of political instability, the study found a number of countries where the opposite was true (where high vulnerability based on projected temperature change and levels of adaptive capacity accompanied historically high risks of political instability): South Africa, Nepal, Morocco, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Paraguay, Yemen, Sudan and Côte d’Ivoire. “The science of climate impacts does not give us definitive answers to certain questions about the impact of climate change—for example, how climate change might worsen conflicts in Darfur,” said Marc Levy, CIESIN deputy director and a co-author of the studies. “However, we can pinpoint areas of high projected climate change that are also in historically politically unstable regions; this suggests that climate change is likely to heighten political risks.” Along with CIESIN, other open sources used in the assessment included the U.S. Climate Change Program; the Center for Naval Analyses; the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; the RAND Corporation; and Arizona State University.

See: Assessment of Select Climate Change Impacts on U.S. National Security
       More information  

CIESIN Celebrates 10 Years at Lamont

June 20, 2008

Robert Worrest, retiring CIESIN employee, is honored at CIESIN's Tenth Anniversary Party June 20.

An outdoor afternoon party attended by CIESIN staff, alumni, and many Columbia University colleagues and friends was held at the Lamont campus in Palisades, June 20 to celebrate CIESIN’s 10-year anniversary as part of the Earth Institute (EI). The event also marked the upcoming retirement of associate director Robert Worrest and former CIESIN director Roberta Balstad. The gathering of more than 150 people took place under sunny skies and a sprawling white tent on the grounds of the former Lamont family estate along the Hudson River. A live calypso band, a timeline showcasing CIESIN’s 10 years at Columbia, and remarks by Mike Purdy, director of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and Steve Zebiak, director general of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, were among the highlights of the event. CIESIN director Robert Chen and deputy director Marc Levy also reflected on the many collaborative activities that have developed with colleagues at the EI and the University more broadly.

Originally founded in 1989 as a non-profit organization based in Michigan, CIESIN moved to the Lamont campus in 1998 to become a center within the newly formed EI. As CIESIN’s longest-standing employee, Worrest has worked in Washington DC since 1992, supporting a number of US government activities including the US Global Change Research Program. Most recently, he served as chief scientist for the National Biological Information Infrastructure program of the US Geological Survey. Dr. Balstad became CIESIN’s second president in 1993 and served as CIESIN’s director at Columbia from 1998 to 2006. She is currently a Senior Fellow with CIESIN and co-principal investigator on two EI research projects.

See: Robert Worrest Bio
       Roberta Balstad Bio
       online guestbook

NASA Earth Science Data Centers Hold Technical Meeting in Minneapolis
June 19, 2008

Managers and system engineers from the NASA Earth Science Data Centers met June 17-18 in Minneapolis to discuss common issues and promote coordination and collaboration in data access, management, visualization, and services. CIESIN director Robert Chen, who serves as manager of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), participated in the meeting along with Information Technology Division associate director Sri Vinay, SEDAC’s system engineer, and geographic information specialist Greg Yetman. Chen organized a series of sessions on the first day focused on how to implement and coordinate geospatial technologies and standards to improve data accessibility, quality, and use. Yetman demonstrated SEDAC’s Internet mapping technologies, which have been integrated with services available from other data centers in support of the International Polar Year (IPY). The Earth Science Data Centers are part of the overall NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) which manages and distributes the vast amounts of remote sensing data collected by NASA’s Earth observing satellites.

See: NASA Data Centers
       NASA Earth Observing System

Use of CIESIN’s Data Following Recent Disasters Featured by NASA
June 13, 2008

A NASA Web feature, “NASA Data Helps Pinpoint Impacted Populations in Disaster Aftermath,” showcases the use of CIESIN’s population data and hazards data, as well as other data holdings, following the recent earthquake in China and cyclone Nargis in Burma (Myanmar). CIESIN director Robert Chen and deputy director Marc Levy were interviewed for this feature.

Reporting on the cyclone, CNN televised May 7 a map of population density in Burma supplied by CIESIN to visualize the unusual route the cyclone took through the low-lying, densely populated Irawaddy delta. CIESIN also provided district-level population data for Burma to the World Health Organization. A map of China based on CIESINs population data accompanied an article in the May 13 Wall Street Journal (WSJ Online), comparing the location of the Sichuan province earthquakes and population centers in China. For a map illustrating an article on the vulnerability of children in both developing and developed countries, published May 27 in the Science Times section of The New York Times, CIESIN provided estimates of school-age populations around the world living in high-risk earthquake zones. These maps and analyses were produced by the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), which CIESIN operates with funding from NASA.

CIESIN and SEDAC work to make data accessible to a wide community of users. Data may be downloaded and visualized via a variety of map services, including Google Earth and NASA World Wind, and a custom map client.

See: NASA Web Feature
       Population density in region of Cyclone Nargis   
SEDAC User Working Group Welcomes New Members

June 11, 2008

The User Working Group (UWG) of SEDAC, the NASA-supported Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center, welcomes four new members with expertise in fields of atmospheric chemistry, demography, economics, political science, and public health:

  • Marcia Castro, Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard University
  • Geoffrey Dabelko, Environmental Change and Security Program, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
  • Denise Mauzerall, Science, Technology and Environmental Policy Program, Princeton University
  • Dean Yang, Department of Economics, University of Michigan

These individuals join a distinguished group of social and natural scientists and applied users from academic, governmental, and nongovernmental organizations. Chaired by Prof. Harlan Onsrud of the University of Maine, the UWG advises SEDAC on user needs for data and services, and strategic priorities.


Research Assistants Join CIESIN Team for the Summer

June 10, 2008

Interests in the areas of natural hazards, emerging diseases, spatial data on roads, climate change, and sustainable development in China have led ten students and recent graduates to join CIESIN for the summer. This international group brings expertise in geospatial analysis, public health, hazards, and data management to a variety of CIESIN and Earth Institute (EI) research and data development activities.

Steffen Foerster, a Phd candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology at Columbia University, is working on an international collaborative project to develop a new and improved global roads data set. Helping to document the wide range of research and educational activities dealing with China at the EI is Yun Zheng, a junior at Columbia majoring in earth and environmental engineering. Soh Young In, who recently graduated from Columbia with a B.A. in economics and statistics, is assisting in making more accessible new data on observed climate data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Faye Bi, who will graduate in 2010 with a major in anthropology, is participating in the development and updating of CIESIN’s poverty and population data.    

Contributing to various CIESIN projects in collaboration with the CHRR (Center for Hazards and Risk Research) are Miranda Mockrin, Chikara Onda, and Liana Razafindrazay. Mockrin, who recently earned her Phd in ecology and evolutionary biology from Columbia, is helping to model tsunami impacts in Asia in conjunction with the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute. Onda, a rising junior at Columbia majoring in environmental sciences and economics who was hosted by CIESIN last summer as part of the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) Summer Intern Program, returns this summer to help analyze global-scale drought impacts, working with Brad Lyon of IRI. Razafindrazay, who has a masters in geography from the Pantheon-Sorbonne University and a masters in sustainable development from Centre d’Etude et de Recherche en Développement International (CERDI) in Clermont-Ferrand, is helping to update global earthquake risk data, working with LDEO’s Art Lerner-Lam.

CIESIN is again hosting an intern from the LDEO Intern program, Ariel Zucker, a rising senior studying economics at Columbia. Zucker, who previously worked for CIESIN on the development of an online mapping tool for ICAP (International Center for Aids Care and Treatment Programs), is researching antibiotic consumption for the global emerging diseases (EIDs) study under deputy director and associate director of the science division, Marc Levy. Another EI-supported intern, Greer Raggio, entering the second year of her masters in environmental health sciences at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, is also contributing to this study, focusing on the relationship of climate change to EIDs.


Integrating Spatial Data with Climate Information to Improve Public Health Systems

June 6, 2008

The Summer Institute 2008: Climate Information for Public Health is being hosted by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) in partnership with CIESIN and the Mailman School of Public Health June 2-14, 2008 at Columbia’s Lamont campus. Twelve representatives from institutions involved in health care in developing countries, primarily in Africa, are participating in the hands-on training course, which teaches how to integrate local and regional climate information with population data to improve decision-making and enhance public health outcomes. “Developing a capacity for integrating climate information with socioeconomic data is vital,” notes CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy, “because climate’s impact on health is always mediated by social structures and human behavior.” Summer Institute participants are being taught to develop improved surveillance systems that make fuller use of climate information and geospatial analysis for epidemiological monitoring and risk assessment. Mark Becker, CIESIN associate director for Geospatial Applications, and Greg Yetman, geographic information specialist, number among the Institute instructors.

See:  Summer Institute 2008: Climate Information for Public Health

Technology’s Impact on Data Stewardship at 2008 IASSIST Conference

June 2, 2008

Technology and its effect on data stewardship throughout the data life cycle were the theme of the 2008 IASSIST (International Association for Social Science Information Service and Technology) conference, for which CIESIN was again a gold sponsor. The conference, which took place at Stanford University May 27-30, was attended by CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert R. Downs. Downs was among a wide audience of professionals who work in and with information technology and data services to support research and teaching in the social sciences. He presented two papers. The first, “Assessing the Scientific Benefits of Interdisciplinary Use of Social Science Data through Citation Analysis,” was co-authored with CIESIN director Robert Chen, senior staff associate Joe Schumacher, and former CIESIN associate director W.Christopher Lenhardt. The second paper, co-authored by Chen and Downs, was “Implementing a Digital Repository for the Preservation of Interdisciplinary Data.”

See: 2008 IASSIST Conference

Map Reveals Numbers of School-Age Children in High-Earthquake Zones

May 27, 2008

estimates of schhol age populations around the wolrd

A major concern highlighted in the recent earthquake in China is the poor construction of school buildings, leading to high mortality among school-age children. An article by Andrew Revkin published on May 27 in the Science Times section of The New York Times, “Turning Schools from Death Traps into Havens,” focused on the vulnerability of children in both developing and developed countries and on how relatively modest improvements in design and construction can mitigate this problem. Art Lerner-Lam, director of the Center for Hazards and Risk Research (CHRR) at Columbia and an associate director with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), discussed the potential for an urban megadisaster in Eurasia. CIESIN provided estimates of school-age populations around the world living in high-risk earthquake zones. These estimates, developed by associate research scientist Susana Adamo and staff associate Maria Muniz based on CIESIN’s spatial population and hazards data, were presented in a map accompanying the article.

See: Online News Article

New Approaches to Slum Mapping Explored at Workshop
May 24, 2008

participants in the expert group meeting on slum mapping using very high resolution satellite imagery at the Interntional Institute for Geo-Information Science adn Earth Obseration (ITC)
Slum mapping workshop participants, l-r: Maharufa Hossain (UN-HABITAT), Richard Sliuzas (ITC), Gora Mboup (UN-HABITAT), and Alex de Sherbinin (CIESIN).
An expert group meeting on slum mapping using very high resolution satellite imagery was co-organized May 21–23 by CIESIN, together with UN-HABITAT and the International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) in the Netherlands, at ITC headquarters in Enschede, The Netherlands. CIESIN senior staff associate Alex de Sherbinin and Doherty research scientist Christopher Small presented papers on the integration of poverty and remote sensing data at the urban scale and strengths and limitations of remote sensing for slum mapping, respectively. Workshop participants agreed to work on a short list of 8–10 test case cities to apply consistent methodologies for automated slum identification using a variety of image processing techniques, both to identify the spatial extent and distribution of slums, and in conjunction with survey data, to develop population estimates. The latter is important for monitoring Millennium Development Goal 7, Target 11, which states: “By 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.”

See: Global Slum Mapping Workshop


CIESIN Data and Maps Show Population in Recent Disaster Areas

May 14, 2008

CNN’s Bonnie Schneider uses CIESIN's population data and map to help describe Cyclone Nargis's effect on population, May 7, 2008.

A map of population density in Myanmar based on CIESIN’s Gridded Population of the World (GPW) data set was featured prominently in a CNN newscast May 7 describing the path of Cyclone Nargis through the Irrawaddy Delta and the populations affected. Developed by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, the population density data were also provided directly to staff at the World Health Organization for use in planning humanitarian assistance. The data were shown again May 13 in a map of China in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ Online) that compared the location of the Sichuan province earthquakes and population centers in China. Both maps were accessed from the SEDAC Gridded Population of the World (GPW) Web site.

See: CNN Video Newscast (requires Flash)
       WSJ Online News Article/China Map
       GPW Web site     

 New Uses for Online Mapping Tools, Cyberinfrastructure Explored in Boulder
May 8, 2008

Mark Becker, CIESIN associate director for Geospatial Applications, and Robert R. Downs, CIESIN senior digital archivist, participated in two workshops in Boulder, Colorado May 5–7. Becker attended “Geosciences and Beyond: A Workshop Exploring the Next Generation Applications of Google Earth” co-sponsored by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) and the Electronic Geophysical Year (eGY). As part of a panel on current and potential uses of Google Earth, he demonstrated CIESIN’s online data and tools for both educational and public health applications. Downs participated in “Cyberinfrastructure for Environmental Observations, Analysis, and Forecasting: A Cyberinformatics Forum,” held at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Kerstin Lehnert of LDEO was one of the Forum's organizers; Lehnert collaborates with CIESIN on a number of Earth Science cyberinfrastructure projects.

See: Cyberinfrastructure...Cyberinformatics Forum

CIESIN Returns to China to Hold Additional GIS Training
May 5, 2008

GIS training class comprised of graduate students from Research Group on Fiscal Reform, CFA,  with instructor Xiaoshi Xing.
On April 28–29 and May 2, CIESIN information scientist Xiaoshi Xing conducted a GIS training course in both Chinese-language and English operating systems at the Research Group on Fiscal Reform, China Fiscal Association (CFA) in Beijing. The training covered basic use of ArcGIS 9.2, display and process of multi-languages (traditional and simplified Chinese languages, and English) in vector and raster (gridded) maps, and data transfer across both operating systems. Training materials utilized products developed under the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, including the Gridded Population of the World (GPW) version three population density data and  maps for 1990, 1995, 2000 and 2005; and the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) data and maps from 2006 and 2008, produced with Yale University. CFA intends to use the maps produced as part of the training for publication of articles and a book. Xing’s visit follows up on a workshop on mapping and visualization of financial data led by CIESIN at CFA in October 2007.

Updated for 2008: TerraViva! SEDAC Viewer

May 2, 2008

Four views of data visualized via TerraViva! SEDAC viewer.

The 2008 TerraViva! SEDAC Viewer has been updated with a wide range of new SEDAC data. This map viewer and standalone software application (Microsoft Windows-based) uses a powerful data-viewing engine and tools to enable the visualization and integration of hundreds of socioeconomic and environmental variables and layers, including a range of satellite-based data.

The update encompasses 51 ready-made maps, ten GeoData indicator collections with hundreds of variables, and other features—scatter plots, tabular data display, map image production, and Web-based download of additional data layers—that make the 2008 TerraViva! SEDAC Viewer such a valuable data exploration tool.

Produced in collaboration between ISciences and the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, these data sets build on a collection that includes the flagship SEDAC data set, Gridded Population of the World (GPW), and others. The 2008 version adds the following SEDAC data collections:

•  The Human Appropriation of Net Primary Productivity (HANPP)
•  Natural Disaster Hotspots: A Global Risk Analysis
•  Global Poverty Mapping
•  The Human Footprint and Last of the Wild, version two
•  The Population, Landscape, and Climate Estimates (PLACE II)
•  The Compendium of Environmental Sustainability Indicators

The software is free of charge.

See: TerraViva! SEDAC Viewer Order Form and Details

Scientists from Japan and China Visit CIESIN

April 23, 2008

Mr. Takayuki Kawai (left), Robert Chen (center), and Dr. Yasurshi Horikawa, following Dr. Horikawa's presentation April 21, Lamont Campus.

Delegations from Japan and China were hosted recently by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. On April 21 two visitors from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) met with CIESIN staff and toured the Lamont Campus: Dr. Yasushi Horikawa, executive director, Office of Space Applications and Mr. Takayuki Kawai, deputy manager, SAPC. Dr. Horikawa made a presentation to CIESIN and Lamont researchers on the contribution of space-based Earth observations to the study of climate change. Discussions focused on Japan’s involvement in the planned Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS), and on SEDAC’s progress in the areas of data interoperability and indicator development.

Delegation from China with CIESIN staff.
Delegation from China with CIESIN staff.

The following day, April 22, Cai Yunlong of Peking University and seven other geographers and social scientists from around China visited CIESIN. Prof. Cai, a vice president of the Geographical Society of China, gave an overview of the state of geographical research in China, including development of China’s spatial data infrastructure. Prof. Cai is also the dissertation advisor for visiting scientist Huang Qiuhao, and conducts research on land cover and land use change.

       Geographical Society of China

Geography’s Importance Headlined at 2008 AAG Meeting

April 20, 2008

Earth Institute director Jeffrey Sachs opened the 2008 Meeting of the AAG (Association of American Geographers) in Boston, April 15-19 with a stirring plenary speech to more than one thousand AAG participants on the importance of geographic perspectives and analysis in meeting the pressing problems of sustainable development. Named as an Honorary Geographer by the AAG in 2007, Prof. Sachs has championed the use of spatial data and analysis, including a variety of data from CIESIN, for more than a decade.

Another featured session at the AAG meeting was a panel on “Developing GIScience and Geographic Analysis Programs at Universities Which Do Not Have Geography Departments,” in which CIESIN director Robert Chen described CIESIN’s role in interdisciplinary geospatial research and data development at Columbia University. Columbia, which terminated its Geography Department in 1986, is one of several U.S. universities such as Harvard, Brown, Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Michigan that now have active research and education activities in GIScience and spatial analysis without formal Geography departments.

Elsewhere at the AAG meeting, CIESIN research associate Valentina Mara gave a paper on “Global Patterns of Urbanization vis-à-vis Ecosystems,” co-authored with former CIESIN research scientist Deborah Balk, in a session on Worldwide Urban Population Change. In addition, CIESIN user services manager Joe Schumacher helped staff the NASA Earth Science booth at the meeting, distributing outreach materials and interacting with meeting participants on behalf of the NASA Distributed Active Archive Centers. Attendance at the AAG meeting exceeded 7,000, a new record.

See: 2008 AAG

Statistics and Climate Change at UN Oslo Conference
April 17, 2008

CIESIN research associate Sonya Ahamed participated in a UN Conference on Climate Change and Official Statistics, held in Oslo, Norway April 14–16, and attended by approximately one hundred representatives of statistical agencies from around the world. She gave two presentations: “Why Demographic Data Are Not Up to the Challenge of Measuring Climate Risks, and What to Do about It” and “The Role of Spatial Data Infrastructure in Integrating Climate Change Information with a Focus on Monitoring Observed Climate Impacts.” Conference participants discussed how official statistics can contribute to the measurement and monitoring of the different aspects of climate change, and developed a proposed agenda for action to be submitted to the 40th session of the UN Statistical Commission for discussion and endorsement in 2009.

See: UN Conference on Climate Change and Official Statistics

Security-Environment Linkages Explored in Europe Talks

April 12, 2008

The intersection of security and environment issues was the focus of two talks given in Europe recently by CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy. In Athens April 9 Levy addressed an audience of forty military and diplomatic officials from the Middle East, South Asia, and neighboring countries on “Assessing Security Threats from Natural Disasters and Climate Change.” The presentation was part of a conference of the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies. In Geneva April 11 he gave a talk, “Measuring Environment-Security Linkages: The Evolution of the State of the Art,” held at the UN’s International Environment House (IEH). Levy was also part of extensive meetings with the UN Environment Programme Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch (PCDMB) to explore options for implementing a new collaborative arrangement with the Earth Institute at Columbia university.

See: Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies

First Steps Taken to Implement GEO Biodiversity Observation Network

April 10, 2008

A workshop to further plan the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Biodiversity Observation Network (BON) was held in Berlin/Potsdam April 8–10 and attended by Alex de Sherbinin, deputy manager of SEDAC. GEO-BON is envisioned as an open-access data resource for the best available global biodiversity data, with accompanying tools and resources. Organized by DIVERSITAS, NASA, and the GEO Secretariat, the workshop was hosted and co-sponsored locally by BMBF (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, Federal Ministry of Education and Research of Germany).The meeting included a mix of plenary sessions and working groups aimed at soliciting inputs from the wider biodiversity community and identifying the first action items of a plan.

It is anticipated that GEO-BON will be one element of GEOSS, the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, which aims to work with, and build upon, existing national, regional, and international systems to provide Earth observations as a resource for vital information for society. CIESIN is contributing actively to the development of GEOSS, in collaboration with NASA, the Open Geospatial Consortium, the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) and the World Data Center (WDC) Panel of the International Council for Science, and other groups.


International Studies Scholars Gather at San Francisco Conference
March 29, 2008

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy participated in a number of panels at the 2008 International Studies Association (ISA) meeting in San Francisco March 25-28. He chaired a panel on multilateral governance in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region, gave a presentation at a National Intelligence Council-sponsored panel on the challenges of policy-relevant interdisciplinary research, and participated in a roundtable discussion on new directions in water/conflict research. Prior to the ISA meeting, he attended a brainstorming session at the Pacific Institute in Oakland involving a number of groups working on water/conflict issues. 

See: 2008 ISA Convention

New Article Highlights Value of Subnational-Level Data in Measuring Poverty

March 25, 2008

The creation and significance of subnational infant mortality data developed by CIESIN are the focus of a new article published in the journal Population, Space, and Place. Authored by former CIESIN staff Adam Storeygard and Deborah Balk, with CIESIN deputy director, Marc Levy, and Glenn Deane, “The Global Distribution of Infant Mortality: A Subnational Spatial View,” explains how subnational measures of infant mortality can serve as a useful, spatially-precise indicator of poverty. Prior to the production of this data set, global poverty measures had been available only at the national level; increased spatial precision at the subnational level is especially helpful when examining interactions between poverty and factors that do not conform to national borders, such as climate zones, eco-regions, and natural hazard exposure. The article describes how the data set was produced, delineates its known strengths and weaknesses, and reports some spatial patterns that emerge, such as the relationship between coastal proximity and poverty rates. The subnational poverty data set was produced in 2004-2005 as a part of The Global Distribution of Poverty project, a joint effort of the World Bank, the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. The data set has been used in a number of global assessment exercises, including the UN Millennium Development Project and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

See: The Global Distribution of Infant Mortality (subscription only)
       The Global Distribution of Poverty Web site

Emerging Science and Technology Discussed at Cape Town Conference
March 22, 2008

Malanding Jaiteh teaching technical workshop on developing the Natural Resource management Indicator at GDEST conference
CIESIN staff travelled to Cape Town, South Africa to participate in the 2008 Global Dialogues on Emerging Science and Technology (GDEST) conference, held March 14-21. Malanding Jaiteh, geographic information specialist at CIESIN, conducted a technical workshop on developing the Natural Resource Management Indicator (NRMI). First created in 2006, the most recent (2007) NRMI is a composite index for 159 countries derived from the average of four proximity-to-target scores from eco-region protection, access to improved sanitation, access to improved water and child mortality indicators. Mark Becker, associate director of CIESIN’s Geospatial Applications Division, gave a presentation on featured data products produced by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. He also demonstrated work from CIESIN’s partnership with the International Center for Aids Care and Treatment Programs (ICAP) integrating online mapping tools with information systems for the management of AIDS clinics throughout Africa.

CIESIN to Help Create Transnational Climate Change Governance Network

March 20, 2008

Marc Levy, CIESIN deputy director, is part of a 15-member consortium that was recently awarded a grant from the United Kingdom-based Leverhulme Trust to create an international network on Transnational Climate Change Governance. The network will spend the next two and a-half years identifying patterns of transnational governance arrangements for climate change, developing a methodology for evaluating their significance, and conducting empirical research to explain variation in functions and effectiveness. The network will promote the creation of a research community built around a common database of transnational governance arrangements; technologies for sharing ideas, papers and information; and a series of workshops and conferences. The work will be integrated into ongoing debates on post-2012 climate change policy. The lead investigator for the consortium is Harriet Bulkeley, lecturer in the Durham University (UK) Department of Geography.

CIESIN Attends UN Climate Change Expert Meeting
March 18, 2008

CIESIN senior staff associate Alex de Sherbinin participated in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Expert Group Meeting on socioeconomic information under the Nairobi Work Programme on Impacts, Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change (NWP), held March 10-12 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. He gave presentations on global and regional scale socioeconomic data and information and on information accessibility and availability, highlighting the various sustainability measures available through the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. 

See: UNFCCC Workshop Web site
       Meeting Report

New Human Footprint Data Now Available
March 17, 2008

CIESIN has released an updated version of The Human Footprint, a data set that aims to measure the extent of human influence on the Earth's surface. First produced in 2002 by CIESIN with the Wildlife Conservation Society, this new version of The Human Footprint uses updated data on human population density, land transformation, human access, electrical power infrastructure, and settlements. Urban boundaries are drawn from CIESIN’s urban population data (Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project (GRUMP)), which is more recent (circa 2000) and is also a better representation of urban boundaries than what was used in the first version. The population density data (Global Population of the World (GPWv3)), produced by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, also have a number of improvements over the data used in the earlier version. The roads data are more complete, particularly concerning roads in Africa and Latin America; a greater number of navigable rivers is included; and more extensive land cover data are used.

Data available for download include the Human Influence Index, the Human Footprint, and the Last of the Wild data sets.

See: Last of the Wild/Human Footprint

Cross-Disciplinary Delegation from P.R. China Visits CIESIN, Columbia

March 3, 2008

Chinese delegation from Northwest University meeting with CIESIN staff

A delegation of nine Chinese academics from the Northwest University for Nationalities in Lanzhou, People’s Republic of China, visited CIESIN on Friday, February 29. The group, headed by Zhao De’an, vice president of the university, included faculty from computer and information sciences, chemical engineering, biotechnology, geology, Islamic culture, fine arts, and gesarology (the study of the oral epic of the first Tibetan king, Gesar.) In his overview of the university activities, Prof. Zhao highlighted research on landslides and earthquakes, air pollution due to dust and industrial contaminants, respiratory diseases, hazard and risk modeling, and innovative information technology. The group discussed potential areas of collaboration with researchers from CIESIN, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI). Later in the day on the Morningside campus, Prof. Lan Quejia, a well-known Tibetan scholar and member of the Northwest faculty, presented a seminar on the King Gesar epic.

As a minority institution of higher learning—one of six  in China—Northwest University was established in 1950 as part of a nationwide move to encourage minority participation in the university system. Recently, the university established the West China Institute of Environment and Health to serve as a focal point for research and education on environment and health issues in western China.


Metadata Training for Decision- and Policy-Making
February 29, 2008

CIESIN senior metadata specialist John Scialdone is giving several presentations this week in Panama City, Panama at the “Training Institute on Information Management: Free and Open Access to and Use of Data and Information.” The Training Institute, held February 25–March 1, is sponsored by the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) and is focused on creating, managing, and sharing high-quality data and information for access across multiple communities, for use in decision making and policy. Scialdone’s presentations, co-authored with senior digital archivist Robert Downs, involve how CIESIN uses metadata and data interoperability standards to manage its data archive and provide access to data, applications, and information resources. CIESIN contributed to early versions of the IAI Data and Information System (IAI-DIS), which has since evolved into the IAI-DIS Portal.

See: IAI-DIS Portal

Climate Change Impacts and Data Discussed in Trinidad

February 28, 2008

The University of the West Indies in St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, was the site of two international meetings held this week, in which CIESIN director Robert Chen and geographic information specialist Greg Yetman participated actively.

The Tenth International Conference for Spatial Data Infrastructure (GSDI-10) attracted experts on geospatial data, tools, and systems from around the world. Yetman, who is a member of the GSDI Association Board, led a workshop on the assessment of infrastructure and population in the low-elevation coastal zone and later gave a talk on CIESIN’s work on coastal vulnerability to sea level rise. As co-chair of the GSDI technical committee, he ran a session with Doug Nebert of the Federal Geographic Data Committee on updates to the Spatial Data Infrastructure Cookbook. He also attended the GSDI Association pre-conference board and council meetings, where activities for the coming year were planned and a new president and board members were elected. Chen presented a paper co-authored with Paul Uhlir of the U.S. National Research Council on development of proposed guidelines for implementing the data sharing principles of the Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS). A workshop on poverty mapping featuring poverty data from CIESIN’s Global Poverty Mapping Project was also presented by researchers from the University of the West Indies.

In conjunction with GSDI-10, the Task Group on Data and Scenario Support for Impact and Climate Analysis (TGICA) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) held its 14th meeting February 26–28. The meeting focused on interdisciplinary data integration and access needs for the broad scientific and policy communities concerned with climate change. The Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), operated by CIESIN under contract to NASA, works with groups in the United Kingdom and Germany to provide access to data and scenarios used in the IPCC assessments. On February 28, Chen co-chaired a joint GSDI-TGICA session that addressed the spatial aspects of climate change vulnerability, impacts, adaptation, and mitigation.

       IPCC Data Distribution Centre

Resolving Data Integration Issues to Better Address Global Concerns
February 24, 2008

Merging population characteristics with characteristics of climate, ecology, and place is one of the most challenging aspects of the integration of census and non-census data, according to CIESIN associate research scientist and demographer Susana Adamo. Issues related to this challenge were the basis for a presentation Adamo gave to the IPUMS International Workshop, “Global Integration of Population Microdata: Challenge for the 2010 Round,” held February 23 at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University. The presentation, “Synergies of a Global Microdata Collaboratory: Climate and Ecology,” examined these issues in the context of the evolution of several of CIESIN’s major global population data products—Gridded Population of the World (GPW v3), GRUMP, and the Low-Elevation Coastal Zone (LECZ) data based on GRUMP. Adamo focused on how to use this kind of data integration to address significant global issues, in particular, climate change.

See: Climate and Ecology Presentation


New Study in Nature Maps Global Hotspots of Emerging Diseases
February 21, 2008

map of zoonotic pathogens passed from wildlife to human
Zoonotic pathogens passed from wildlife to humans, showing lowest occurrence (green) to highest (red). Credit: Nature.

A new study appearing in the Feb. 21 issue of Nature presents the first scientific evidence that emerging diseases are on the rise and that zoonoses—diseases from wildlife—are the prime threat, due to encroachment of wild areas by human population growth and related impacts. CIESIN’s deputy director Marc Levy is a co-author of the study, “Global Trends in Emerging Infectious Diseases,” which built a predictive model by correlating population data from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN with analysis of emerging diseases from 1940 to 2004. “Overlaying maps of where the zoonotic diseases have occurred, with population maps, allows a pattern of relationships to emerge,” says Levy, “and is a first step in prediction.” The result is a global map of emerging disease “hotspots” that shows a pattern of growing vulnerability to new diseases in rich as well as poor nations, with implications for further prediction and prevention. The study also offers insights into the role of conservation in preventing new diseases and the importance of reviewing approaches to allocation of public health resources in order to reduce risk.

In addition to Levy and former CIESIN colleagues Deborah Balk and Adam Storeygard, now at Baruch College, CUNY and Brown University, respectively, the international research team included scientists from the Consortium Conservation Medicine (CCM) Wildlife Trust New York; The University of Georgia Odum School of Ecology; and The Institute of Zoology at The Zoological Society of London, where lead author of the study and former Earth Institute fellow Kate Jones is now senior fellow. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation.

See: Nature article (subscription-only)
       NPR Interview:“Study Finds Emerging Diseases on Rise”
       Press release

CIESIN Participates in UN Advisory Group on Environment, Conflict, and Peacebuilding
February 12, 2008

Deputy Director Marc Levy attended the initial meeting of the UN Environment Program’s Environment, Conflict, and Peacebuilding Expert Advisory Group in New York City February 11–12. The Advisory Group is a body of the UNEP Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch. Levy assisted in the review of draft documents aimed at improving consideration of environment and natural resources in UN peacebuilding activities, and participated in discussions with representatives of UN offices active in peacebuilding.

See: UNEP Post-Conflict & Disaster Management Branch

Conflict and Drought Relationships Explored in New Paper
February 11, 2008

Chikara Onda, a sophomore at Columbia University, has published a research paper in the inaugural issue of the online journal of Columbia University, Consilience: The Journal of Sustainable Development, based on his summer internship at CIESIN in 2007. The paper, “The Effect of the Spatial Resolution of Conflict Data on the Analysis of Drought As a Local Determinant of Civil War Onset: Africa, 1980–2001,” analyzes the effects of improved spatial data on conflicts on understanding relationships between drought and civil war outbreak. Onda was a participant in the Earth Intern program for Columbia and Barnard undergraduates hosted by the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in June-August 2007, under the supervision of CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy. Consilience is a global, online publication dedicated to promoting interdisciplinary dialogue on sustainable development among students, professors, and practitioners.

See: Paper: “The Effect of the Spatial Resolution of Conflict Data...
       Press Release
       Summer Internship Programs
CODATA Global Roads Data Development Working Group Established
February 6, 2008

A Working Group on Global Roads Data Development has been established under the auspices of the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA), with CIESIN senior staff associate Alex de Sherbinin named co-chair with Olivier Cottray of the United Nations World Food Programme in Rome. They will lead an international group in the development of a freely accessible spatial data set on inter-urban transport networks around the world, focused on developing countries. Members include representatives from China, Colombia, Italy, Japan, South Africa, the UK, and the US.

The new working group stems from an October 2007 user workshop organized by CIESIN’s Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) in response to a perceived need for a global roads data set. Openly accessible spatial data on roads are becoming increasingly important for research and applications dealing with such issues as disaster response, land use, conservation, agricultural planning, and assessments of climate change impacts.

See: CODATA Global Roads Data Development Working Group
       Global Roads Workshop

Accra Meeting Looks at the Role of Spatial Data Analysis in Conflict Early Warning
January 30, 2008

Attendees of seminar on the role of spatial data analysis in conflict early warning, organized by ECOWAS. Accra, Ghana.
The potential for spatial data analysis to to enhance the effectiveness of conflict early warning mechanisms was the subject of a seminar held recently in Accra, Ghana, at which CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy gave two presentations. The seminar, held January 29, was organized by the Economic Commission for West African States (ECOWAS) Division of Early Warning System Management. The first presentation surveyed recent advances in the use of spatial data for conflict early warning, and the second outlined suggestions for incorporating such techniques into ECOWAS early warning efforts.

CIESIN’s Poverty Mapping Web Site Rated Valuable Online Resource

January 30, 2008

CIESIN’s Global Poverty Mapping Project received high praise in the January 11 online issue of the Internet Scout Report. “A well-designed site…which can be used in a variety of settings,” the Global Distribution of Poverty Web site is noted for its collection of more than 300 maps documenting the geographic and biophysical conditions facing the poor. Users are encouraged to download the subnational and national poverty data sets available on the site and to explore Where the Poor Are: An Atlas of Poverty, an accessible publication of poverty maps and case histories that shows how poverty mapping data can be used to guide poverty interventions.

The Internet Scout Report is a weekly Web service which identifies valuable online resources, according to criteria developed by a team of professional librarians. It was established in 1994 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

See: Internet Scout Report   

Land Degradation Indicators and Sustainability Issues Discussed in Bonn and Frankfurt

January 28, 2008

CIESIN senior staff associate Alex de Sherbinin attended a meeting of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) Knowledge Management: Land Initiative from January 21–23 in Bonn, Germany and made a presentation on land degradation indicators. CIESIN is working with the GEF to develop global spatial indicators that will help to better allocate GEF resources in the land degradation portfolio; and to assess where land degradation processes are improving or worsening. While in Germany, he made a second presentation to the Institute for Social-Ecological Research (ISOE) in Frankfurt, describing the methods and results of the recently-released 2008 Environmental Performance Index (EPI). De Sherbinin is a co-author of the EPI along with Marc Levy and Valentina Mara of CIESIN and colleagues at Yale University.

See: KM: Land Initiative

2008 Environmental Performance Index Released

January 23, 2008

The Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland was the venue for the release today of the 2008 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), co-authored by CIESIN and Yale University’s Center for Environmental Law and Policy. Last released in 2006, the EPI ranks 149 countries on 25 indicators across six policy categories: Environmental Health, Air Pollution, Water Resources, Biodiversity and Habitat, Productive Natural Resources, and Climate Change. Each indicator in the EPI measures how close each country comes to broadly-accepted targets, on a 0–100 scale. As a quantitative gauge of environmental outcomes, the Index is meant to provide a powerful tool for improving policymaking by shifting environmental decisionmaking onto firmer analytic foundations.

The 2008 EPI ranks Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Costa Rica as the top five overall countries. Mali, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Angola, and Niger occupy the bottom five positions. The U.S. is ranked 39th, lower than most industrial countries.

The Index also provides “peer group” rankings for each country, comparing performance of countries facing similar environmental challenges. These benchmarks allow easy tracking of leaders and laggards on an issue-by-issue and aggregate basis. The data also support efforts to identify “best practices” in the environmental realm.

See: 2008 Environmental Performance Index Web site

NGI Project Team Meets in Bangkok

January 16, 2008

CIESIN director Robert Chen joined a meeting led by the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI) at the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA-ROAP) in Bangkok on January 14–15. The focus of the meeting was to refine plans and outcomes for the Asian risk assessment study recently launched by NGI with support from the Norwegian Foreign Ministry. The team meeting included staff from OCHA and other UN offices in Bangkok and researchers from the Peace Research Institute of Oslo (PRIO), the University of Geneva, and the Pacific Disaster Center. Columbia University scientists are providing expertise and assistance on seismic and drought hazards, population exposure, vulnerability assessment, conflict mapping, and data integration.

Research Translation Workshop Planned for Fall 2008
January 15, 2008

A workshop, Understanding and Implementing Effective Research Translation, is planned for fall 2008. As part of the Columbia University Superfund Basic Research Program (SBRP) Research Translation Core (RTC), CIESIN will help organize and host the workshop for RTC program staff and scientists from 15 universities. The purpose is to strengthen collaboration among the RTCs and their partners in order to maximize the impact of SBRP research on public health. The workshop, which will take place on the Lamont Campus of Columbia University in Palisades, New York, is made possible through a supplemental grant award by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

See: Columbia SBRP

Demographer Joins CIESIN
January 4, 2008

Susana Adamo, geographerSusana Adamo has joined CIESIN as an associate research scientist, effective December 2007. A demographer, she received her PhD from the University of Texas and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Carolina Population Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Her dissertation was on migration and desertification in Argentine drylands. Originally from Argentina, she did fieldwork there recently on migration dynamics. Her undergraduate degree is in geography, with a masters in population studies. While at CIESIN, Adamo’s area of concentration will include the impacts of climate change on population distribution and migration; and the mapping of poverty and urbanization.