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Geographer Sandra Baptista Joins CIESIN Staff

Tue Dec 27 00:00:00 EST 2011

Sandra Baptista, a geographer specializing in sustainability science and the human dimensions of global environmental change, has been appointed senior staff associate at CIESIN beginning December 20, 2011. She will contribute to projects addressing sustainability indicators, environment-security linkages, and climate change impacts, vulnerabilities, adaptation, and resilience.

Baptista was hosted by CIESIN for two years as an Earth Institute Fellow beginning in September 2008. In early 2011 she returned to CIESIN on a part-time basis to help organize a workshop on societal indicators for the National Climate Assessment and to research sustainability initiatives and standard systems for global supply chain management, benchmarking, and decision-making in the agriculture and food sector. Most recently, she has been working with the Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts, and Adaptation (PROVIA), a collaborative United Nations initiative to promote science-policy dialogue on climate issues. Baptista earned her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in geography from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and received an interdisciplinary B.A. in environmental studies and Portuguese and Brazilian studies from Brown University.

Spatial Demographers Convene to Discuss Future Directions

Wed Dec 21 00:00:00 EST 2011

CIESIN associate research scientist Susana Adamo participated in an invitation-only workshop, “Future Directions in Spatial Demography,” held at the University of California-Santa Barbara (UCSB) December 12–13. During the meeting, participants addressed the substance and methods of spatial demography as well as training needs for future professionals and data issues. Emerging developments in how geospatial data are collected (for example, through "crowd-sourcing"), the mining of traditional sources (e.g., censuses, administrative records), and the measurement of human migration were among the topics discussed at the workshop. The meeting was sponsored by UCSB's Center for Spatial Studies, the Population Research Institute at Pennsylvania State University, and the Advanced Spatial Analysis Training Program for Population Scientists of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

International Summit Focuses on Environmental Data for Decision Making

Tue Dec 20 00:00:00 EST 2011

CIESIN director Robert Chen and senior research associate Alexander de Sherbinin joined more than 1,000 other delegates in Abu Dhabi at the Eye on Earth Summit, held December 11–15. As part of the Summit's open sessions, Chen presented a case study on the successful development and use of integrated data on natural hazards, illustrating the potential value of expanding efforts to assess diverse natural hazards and the risks they pose to human activities and welfare. At another session organized by the Summit working group on Policy, Governance, and Institutional Networking, de Sherbinin discussed “The Case for Investing in Data.” Facilitated by the Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI) and hosted by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Summit addressed the vital importance of environmental and societal data and information in decision-making from local to global levels. The Summit declaration was developed as an input into Rio +20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012.

See: Eye on Earth Summit

Data Management, Land Use, and Natural Disaster Issues Discussed at Fall American Geophysical Union Meeting

Mon Dec 12 00:00:00 EST 2011

CIESIN staff members contributed actively to the largest worldwide conference of the geosciences, the Fall American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting held December 5-9 in San Francisco. The AGU this year attracted nearly 20,000 Earth and space scientists, experts in informatics, educators, students, and policy makers.

CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert Downs collaborated with Chris Mattmann of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory to convene oral and poster sessions on the topic of “Software Reuse and Open Source Software in Earth Science.” He presented and contributed to several oral and poster papers on software reuse and development of trusted digital repositories, including a paper co-authored with CIESIN director Robert Chen. Associate director for information technology Sri Vinay also addressed Earth science informatics issues in a poster on CIESIN’s efforts to implement content management system technologies.

EI Fellow/CIESIN postdoc Alexandra Morel presented a poster on trade as a driver of oil palm expansion. Senior research associate Valentina Mara was co-author of a paper on welfare effects of natural disaster impacts in developing countries presented by Prof. John Mutter of the Earth Institute.

Representing the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), senior information specialist Joe Schumacher participated in a “Meet and Greet” to share data news and outreach ideas with staff from other NASA data centers and the NASA Education and Public Outreach community. He helped staff the Earth science data section of the NASA exhibit, where Robert Downs gave a presentation on using the 2011 TerraViva! SEDAC Viewer. Downs also served as a judge for the AGU Outstanding Student Paper Awards and presented two units for a workshop, Data Management 101 for the Earth Scientist, sponsored by the Earth Science Information Partners Federation.

See: Selected presentations and poster papers/AGU Fall Meeting 2011

Haiti's New Prime Minister Meets with Earth Institute to Discuss Development Strategies

Mon Dec 05 00:00:00 EST 2011

Photo left to right of Glenn Denning, Jeffrey Sachs, and Haiti prime minister Gary Conille

On Friday, December 2, the Earth Institute (EI) welcomed Prime Minister Garry Conille of the Republic of Haiti to the Columbia University Morningside campus for a series of events highlighting and deepening the connections between the EI and the government of Haiti. EI Director Jeffrey Sachs hosted a high-level policy dialogue between Prime Minister Conille and representatives of the many EI centers and research groups involved in Haiti. Leading into an open dialogue among attendees, Vijay Modi presented the work of the Modi Research Group on innovative rapid assessment tools, and Marc Levy, deputy director of CIESIN, described the EI’s work in the south of Haiti. CIESIN has played a leadership role in coordinating the efforts of the Côte Sud Initiative, a regional development project of The Haiti Regeneration Initiative, which is a major collaboration between EI, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and various other organizations in Haiti. Later, Glenn Denning, director of the Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development (CGSD), and students in the Masters of Development Practice program at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) welcomed the prime minister as a guest speaker for the program’s weekly Development Practitioner’s seminar. The day’s activities were co-hosted by CIESIN and CSGD.

See: State of the Planet Blog: “From Development Practitioner to National Leader...”

New Staff Member Joins CIESIN's Geospatial Applications Division

Thu Dec 01 00:00:00 EST 2011

Former CIESIN intern Dara Mendeloff has returned as a geographic information specialist in CIESIN’s geospatial applications division, effective December 1. She will contribute to a number of CIESIN projects and activities, including interactive mapping for the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs (ICAP) and the development of other geospatial data and services. Mendeloff has an M.A. in geography/geographic information systems (GIS) from CUNY Hunter College, and a B.A. in math and computer science and a B.S. in environmental sciences, both from State University of New York (SUNY) Purchase College. Mendeloff formerly worked for the New York City Department of City Planning on zoning data, and at Panthera, where she used remote sensing and GIS in wildcat conservation efforts.

GIS Training Supports Digital Census Mapping for the Gambia

Mon Nov 28 00:00:00 EST 2011

CIESIN geographic information specialist Malanding Jaiteh travelled to Banjul, the capital city of the Gambia, to conduct training in the use of geographic information systems (GIS) for census and survey mapping November 14–18. The training course, held at the Gambia Bureau of Statistics (GBOS), was part of the preparations for the Gambia 2013 Population and Housing Census, the first national-level digitized census mapping of its kind to take place there. Participants received hands-on training in how to use ArcGIS software for census enumeration area mapping and how to integrate different data sources. This approach will replace earlier methods that relied on manual counting of households and paper records. The use of GIS will reduce costs and facilitate greater reporting accuracy. The course was organized by and for the GBOS in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) as part of national capacity building efforts in preparation for the upcoming census.

Resource Web Site Supports the Preservation of Geospatial Data

Fri Nov 18 00:00:00 EST 2011

Screenshot of the homepage of the Geospatial Data Preservation Resource Center

Users of geospatial data can now do more than ever, thanks to new instruments, applications, software, and online tools that enable the creation of digital maps and photos, satellite imagery, and geographic information system (GIS) data. But with these new capabilities come new challenges for preserving these digital assets in ways that ensure their availability for continued use in the future. A key risk is that rapid changes in hardware, operating systems, and software will make current storage media and data formats obsolete, leading to the potential loss of valuable and often irreplaceable geospatial data and information.

The Geospatial Data Preservation Resource Center addresses the emerging need for preserving geospatial data and related digital products as well as necessary documentation. The Resource Center provides access to a wide range of online resources useful for geospatial data management and long-term stewardship. The site provides quick links for data managers, system developers, and researchers and enables users to search by topic and for specific types of resources such as applications, reports, standards, and tutorials. New resources are added to the Web site regularly.

CIESIN has developed the Geospatial Data Preservation Resource Center as an element of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) of the Library of Congress.

See: Geospatial Data Preservation Resource Center

New Process for Developing Scenarios for Climate Change Research Described

Thu Nov 17 00:00:00 EST 2011

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Data Distribution Center (DDC) has released a series of Web pages describing the new process for developing scenarios in support of climate change research and the IPCC's Fifth Assessment. Scenarios describe plausible trajectories of different aspects of the future needed to investigate the potential consequences of anthropogenic climate change. The new scenario process allows for parallel rather than sequential development of different models, shortening the time required to develop scenarios and ensuring better integration between socioeconomic driving forces, changes in the climate system, and the vulnerability of natural and human systems.

The new DDC Web pages were developed and approved by the IPCC Task Group on Data and Scenario Support for Impacts and Climate Analysis (TGICA) and the IPCC Technical Support Units. The DDC is managed collaboratively by the British Atmospheric Data Centre (BADC), the Deutsches Klimarechenzentrum (DKRZ) in Germany, and the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN.

See: Socioeconomic Data and Scenarios
       Scenario Process for AR5

Tools for Integrating GIS into Teaching Demonstrated at User Conference

Mon Nov 14 00:00:00 EST 2011

CIESIN geographic information specialist Kytt MacManus participated in a panel at the 26th Annual Northeast Arc Users Group Conference (NEARC) held November 13–16 in Saratoga Springs, New York. The panel, “Demonstrating Tools for Teachers from T3G2011,” presented methods to integrate geographic information systems (GIS) into teaching. It was part of GIS Educators Day, a full-day conference on the use of GIS and other geospatial technologies by educators, held in conjunction with NEARC. MacManus discussed the use of Web mapping applications in education, using the Population Estimation Service as an example of a product to launch geographic discussions or to introduce a lecture topic. The Population Estimation Service, available through the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, enables users to estimate population totals and related statistics within a user-defined region. Formed in 1986, NEARC is an independent regional organization for users of Esri ArcGIS GIS software, including urban and regional planners, educators, natural resource and utility professionals, and government agencies.

See: 26th Annual Northeast Arc Users Group Conference (NEARC)

New Developments and Applications the Focus of Upcoming 'GIS Day' at Columbia

Fri Nov 11 00:00:00 EST 2011

Columbia University will mark GIS day this year with a special event held on the Morningside campus for students, academics, and staff to learn about the latest developments and applications in the field of geographic information systems. Celebrated nationally, the event this year will take place on Friday, November 18, from 1–4:30 pm at Butler Library, room 203, with the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) and the Columbia University Libraries (CUL) as sponsors. GIS professionals will come together to showcase their work and how GIS can be used to inform understanding of the world, with an emphasis on how GIS can be incorporated into a wide variety of disciplines. The agenda includes presentations by the Spatial Information Design Lab, CUL, CIESIN, and others; a map gallery; and a geocaching activity. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, contact CIESIN GIS specialist Tricia Chai-Onn at

Software Reuse a Topic at Annual NASA Earth Science Data Systems Conference

Fri Nov 04 00:00:00 EDT 2011

CIESIN staff members John Scialdone and Robert Downs participated in the 2011 NASA Earth Science Data Systems Annual Conference held November 1–3 in Newport News, Virginia. As co-chair of the NASA ESDS Software Reuse Working Group, Downs, who is senior digital archivist at CIESIN, helped lead the Software Reuse Working Group breakout sessions. He also co-authored the poster, “NASA’s Earth Science Data System Software Reuse WG: Year in Review 2011,” which was presented during the poster session November 2; co-authors were Chris Mattmann, Paul Ramirez, Cameron Goodale, and Andrew Hart, all of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Beijing Conference Explores Need for Integrated Disaster Research

Wed Nov 02 00:00:00 EDT 2011

Some 300 scientists and disaster management professionals from diverse backgrounds and countries gathered in Beijing, China, October 31–November 2 for the first conference of the Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR) program of the International Council for Science (ICSU). On November 1, CIESIN director Robert Chen moderated a session on integrated disaster data, and gave a presentation on CIESIN’s extensive experience in developing and integrating data on hazards with data on exposure and vulnerability to hazards. IRDR is a 10-year research initiative of ICSU, with an International Program Office hosted by the Center for Earth Observation and Digital Earth (CEODE) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

See: IRDR Conference 2011

Helping Define Priorities for Climate Change Research

Tue Nov 01 00:00:00 EDT 2011

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy and senior staff associate Sandra Baptista participated in a workshop for the Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts, and Adaptation (PROVIA) October 28, aimed at defining research priorities for policymakers. The workshop was held at the Keck Center of The National Academies in Washington, D.C. Radley Horton, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), and Sandra Baptista organized the workshop, which was led by Martin Parry of Imperial College, London; Cynthia Rosenzweig, GISS; Marc Levy; and Richard Moss, chair of the Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change of the National Academy of Sciences. About 20 participants from a variety of governmental institutions and nongovernmental organizations working at international, regional, national, and subnational levels attended. A second meeting for policymakers is scheduled for November 2 in London. PROVIA’s goal is to strengthen international-level direction and coherence in research on climate change vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation.


“Data-Intensive Science and Discovery ” Theme of CODATA Anniversary Event

Mon Oct 31 00:00:00 EDT 2011

photo of some of the participants in the CODATA annivesary October 30

To mark its 45th anniversary, the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) of the International Council for Science (ICSU) held a scientific symposium on October 30 in Beijing, China to discuss discovery and innovation in the age of data-intensive science. Keynote speakers were Sálvano Briceño, incoming chair of the Scientific Committee of the Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR) Program, and Zhang Xianen, director-general of the Department of Basic Research of the Ministry of Science and Technology of China (MOST). The symposium included remarks by Prof. Bai Chunli, president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences; Nobel Laureate Y. T. Lee, president of ICSU; Prof. Gordon McBean, president-elect of ICSU; Prof. Krishan Lal, president of the Indian National Science Academy and CODATA past president; and Prof. Huadong Guo, CODATA president and director-general of the Center for Earth Observation and Digital Earth (CEODE) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

New data-intensive scientific methods in the life and Earth sciences were presented by researchers from Microsoft, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Colorado State University, and the National Institute of Genetics in Japan. CODATA past presidents John Rumble and Shuichi Iwata, as well as recent CODATA Prize winner Paul Uhlir, provided their perspectives on CODATA accomplishments over the past 45 years. CIESIN director Robert Chen, in his capacity as CODATA secretary general, gave presentations on CODATA’s leadership role in the Group on Earth Observation (GEO) Data Sharing Task Force and its development of a new strategic plan for 2012-18. The symposium, which drew about 100 participants to the new headquarters of CEODE, included the signing of new collaborative agreements between CODATA and the IRDR program and between CODATA and the International Society for Digital Earth (ISDE). CIESIN alumna and former CODATA Prize winner Prof. Liu Chuang also participated in the launch of the Digital Lin Chao Geomuseum.

See: CODATA 45th Anniversary Program
       CODATA 45th Anniversary Summary

Study of Climate Change Displacement Should Include Adaptation Response, New Paper Says

Thu Oct 27 00:00:00 EDT 2011

Photo of woman in front of her mud home which is surrounded by floodwaters.

A new analysis published October 27 in the journal Science argues that while climate change will force more people to move, mitigation and adaptation actions themselves will also cause significant displacements and should be better studied. CIESIN senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin is lead author of the policy piece, “Preparing for Resettlement Associated with Climate Change,” which makes recommendations referring to two broad categories of displacement, that from climate change itself, and from climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts such as large dams for hydro-power and water storage, biofuel plantations, seawalls, coastal defense, and water allocation projects. Systematic study of past resettlement efforts is critical, the authors say, given the complex nature of resettlement, the similarities between displacement from climate change and past displacement owing to large infrastructure projects, and the likelihood that a much greater scale of displacement will occur soon. This paper is an output of a conference held in November 2010 at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center in Italy, and written by an international team of demographers, anthropologists, and researchers specializing in health assessments and resettlement.

See: "Preparing for Resettlement Associated with Climate Change"
       State of the Planet blog commentary

Mapping Service to Aid Identification of Populations Vulnerable to Superfund Sites

Thu Oct 27 00:00:00 EDT 2011

CIESIN senior research associate Meredith Golden participated in the 2011 SRP Annual Meeting held in Lexington, Kentucky, October 23–26. While there, she demonstrated an interactive mapping service being developed by CIESIN that identifies vulnerable populations in proximity of Superfund sites. Scheduled to be completed in spring 2012, the interactive map will be used by government regulators, academic researchers, and the general public to more effectively assess and remediate high priority sites and related issues. Golden is co-PI of the Research Translation Core for the Columbia University NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP). The SRP funds multiproject, interdisciplinary Centers at twenty universities throughout the United States that bring together researchers from different scientific disciplines to seek solutions to the complex health and environmental issues associated with the nation's hazardous waste sites.

See: NIEHS Superfund Research Program

Delegation from the Chinese Academy of Sciences Visits Lamont Campus

Wed Oct 26 00:00:00 EDT 2011

Photo of delegation from Chinese Academy of Sciences with

More than twenty directors and deputy directors of research institutes of the Chinese Academy of Sciences visited the Lamont campus of Columbia University in Palisades, New York, October 26 to learn more about the cutting edge research and research facilities at the Earth Institute. CIESIN director Robert Chen hosted the group and gave a presentation on CIESIN's interdisciplinary research and data activities. Peter deMenocal, professor and chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, provided a historical perspective on the many research and educational accomplishments of the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory. Kathleen Callahan, deputy director for research management at Lamont and an adjunct lecturer at the School for International and Public Affairs (SIPA), highlighted the research management challenges facing the Lamont campus in the context of overall trends in research funding. CIESIN information scientist Xiaoshi Xing also described CIESIN's work in support of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Luncheon Honors Ten-Year Anniversary at Columbia University

Tue Oct 25 00:00:00 EDT 2011

CIESIN senior systems administrator David Strom was among those honored at a special luncheon held October 24 for staff celebrating ten years of employment with Columbia University. Strom joined CIESIN’s Information Technology division as a systems administrator in 2001, responsible for servers, storage, networking, firewalls and backups. He was formerly a systems engineer in the computer re-selling industry in Cleveland, Ohio. The event was hosted by Lamont interim director Art Lerner-Lam.

Benchmark Report on Environmental Migration Unveiled

Fri Oct 21 00:00:00 EDT 2011

The United Kingdom’s Foresight Project on Environmental Migration released a major report this week. The report, “Migration and Global Environmental Change: Future Challenges and Opportunities,” delivers a new understanding of migration in the face of global environmental change. International in scope, it examines potential migration patterns and the possible challenges and opportunities this will present in the future. As a contribution to this report, CIESIN completed a modeling effort on net migration by ecosystem and by decade for the past 40 years. Because of the lack of globally consistent data on migration, indirect estimation methods were used. Results show that coastal and inland water ecosystems experienced the greatest levels of net in-migration, ranging from 23m to 82m net migrants per decade, whereas mountain, forest, cultivated, and dryland ecosystems had the highest levels of net outmigration, ranging from -12 to -43m across all decades.

See: Foresight
       “Migration and Global Environmental Change...” (PDF 4.93MB)

Climate Change Diplomacy Examined at UN Workshop

Thu Oct 20 00:00:00 EDT 2011

Senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin presented on climate change research from the IPCC and beyond, and the implications of future climate changes for migration, at a workshop, “Environmental Negotiations and Climate Change Diplomacy,” held October 20-21 at the Office of the Permanent Observer of the African Union to the United Nations in New York City. The workshop was sponsored by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). The presentation by de Sherbinin was part of a session, “The Facts and Repercussions of Climate Change,” which also featured speakers Friedrich Soltau of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) and Chris Perry of the International Peace Organization.

See: Workshop Agenda

Population Change Over Time Highlighted at Geostatistics Conference in Lisbon

Tue Oct 18 00:00:00 EDT 2011

Associate research scientist Susana Adamo was a keynote speaker for the European Forum for Geostatistics Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, October 12–14. She gave a presentation, “A Comparison of Vector and Raster Population Time Series: Population Change in Latin America and the Caribbean, 1990-2010,” which examined the use of both gridded and vector-based population data for analyzing population change at the subnational level. Senior staff associate Liana Razafindrazay assisted in preparing the presentation.

See: European Forum for Geostatistics

Project Studies Extreme Heat Events and Societal Vulnerability

Wed Oct 12 00:00:00 EDT 2011

In his role as a member of the Project Advisory Committee for the System for Integrated Modeling of Metropolitan Extreme Heat Risk (SIMMER) project, CIESIN senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin attended the project meeting at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, October 10–11. The NASA-funded project is modeling extreme heat events, both present and future (through the use of climate scenarios), and mapping societal vulnerability in two major cities: Houston, Texas, and Toronto, Canada. Stakeholders from health departments in both cities attended the meeting. Houston experienced a 1 in 10,000-year heat wave this past summer, and the health department is planning to use project outputs to better understand differential vulnerability to extreme heat and to plan heat mitigation and health interventions.

See: SIMMER project

CIESIN to Participate in New Northeast Climate Science Center

Tue Oct 11 00:00:00 EDT 2011

CIESIN and the Center for Climate Systems Research (CCSR) at Columbia University will be part of a new Northeast Climate Science Center (CSC) established by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). Led by the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the Center will provide land managers in federal, state, and local agencies with access to the best science available regarding climate change and other landscape-scale stressors. CIESIN associate director Mark Becker will work with Linda Sohl and Radley Horton of the CCSR in support of the center. Other center partners include the Marine Biological Laboratory, the University of Minnesota, the University of Missouri-Columbia, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Northeast CSC region spans 22 states and multiple ecoregions, covering 41 percent of the U.S. population.

See: Press release

CIESIN Deputy Director Appointed to NRC Committee Examining Climate-Security Linkages

Mon Oct 10 00:00:00 EDT 2011

Deputy director Marc Levy has been appointed to the National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Assessing the Impacts of Climate Change on Social and Political Stresses. The committee has been asked to “evaluate the evidence on possible connections between climate change and U.S. national security concerns and to identify ways to increase the ability of the intelligence community to take climate change into account in assessing political and social stresses with implications for U.S. national security.” The NRC Committee, chaired by Prof. John D. Steinbruner of the University of Maryland, held its first meeting October 6-7 in Washington, DC.

See: National Research Council Project Information

New Staff at CIESIN

Fri Oct 07 00:00:00 EDT 2011

Melika Edquist has rejoined the Haiti Regeneration Initiative (HRI) team as a Web specialist, working to address an array of communications needs including a new project Web site in both English and French. Edquist is a 2010 graduate of Barnard College with a degree in Urban Studies. She worked at CIESIN as a research assistant with the HRI team prior to a year-long contract teaching English with the French Ministry of Education.

Kevin Tschirhart is a research assistant on the HRI project, providing supervisory support for a household survey led by Earth Institute Fellow Alexandra Morel and HRI staff associate Paola Kim Blanco. Tschirhart is a native of France, with a B.A. and M.A. in Management from Euromed Business School in Marseilles. He is currently working toward a master's in Applied Social Research at City College of New York.

Jeremy Frisch is CIESIN’s new administrative assistant. Previously, he worked at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) as a lab assistant for the Surface Exposure Data Group in the Geochemistry Division. Frisch has a B.A. in Psychology from Rutgers University.

Project to Integrate Global Census and Environmental Data Launched

Thu Oct 06 00:00:00 EDT 2011

logo for TerraPop project

The National Science Foundation has made a major, $8 million, five-year award to a team led by the University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Population Center for a new project, Terra Populus: A Global Population / Environment Data Network (TerraPop). The goal of TerraPop is to integrate population census data from the past two centuries with global land cover, land use, and other environmental data, providing a unique data access and analysis system for improving understanding of the interactions between humans and the environment from local to global scales. CIESIN is a key partner in the project, contributing its expertise in integrating socioeconomic and environmental data. CIESIN director Robert Chen, associate research scientist Susana Adamo, and senior digital archivist Robert Downs participated in TerraPop’s kickoff meeting September 29-30 in Minneapolis.

As part of NSF’s Sustainable Digital Data Preservation and Access Network (DataNet), TerraPop will develop a sustainable digital archive for its data, accessible to researchers worldwide and building on the distributed capabilities of its partners. The Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan is also a key contributor to the project. Other participants from the University of Minnesota include the Institute on the Environment, the University of Minnesota Library, and faculty from the College of Liberal Arts and College of Science and Engineering.

See: TerraPop press release
       Minnesota Population Center

Visiting Scholar Joins CIESIN

Wed Oct 05 00:00:00 EDT 2011

photo of Ruishan Chen

CIESIN is hosting a new visiting scholar from Peking University, Ruishan Chen, for the next year. Chen is a graduate student in the College of Urban and Environmental Science and the Center for Land Study who will be conducting independent research on land system change and human-environment interaction at multi-scales in Guizhou Province of China. He received a B.S. in geography from Lanzhou University.

Annual Open House Reaches Broad Audience

Tue Oct 04 00:00:00 EDT 2011

More than 3,000 people from around the greater New York metropolitan area came to the Lamont campus of Columbia University on Saturday, October 2 for its annual Open House. Launched decades ago to educate the public about the unique research activities at Lamont, the Open House featured a variety of exhibits, hands-on demonstrations, lectures, and other activities organized by hundreds of Earth Institute scientists, staff, and students, including many from CIESIN. The CIESIN tent focused on the use of spatial data to address issues of local and regional concern, such as the impact of Hurricane Irene, the proximity of populations to nuclear power plants, land cover change in New York's Jamaica Bay, and climate risks in the urban northeast. Hands-on demonstrations of Change Viewer, a new mapping tool that visualizes climate change prediction data and population information, were also offered to science teachers and others. CIESIN has participated actively in the Open House since 1998.

See: LDEO Open House 2011

CIESIN Releases Major Spatial Population Data Collection

Fri Sep 30 00:00:00 EDT 2011

Map showing global urban extents

Urbanization poses both challenges and opportunities for sustainable development and environmental management. Improved data on patterns of human settlement and trends in population can help researchers and policy makers better understand differences between urban and rural areas in terms of their impacts on the environment and vulnerability to environmental variability and change. The newly released Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project, Version 1 (GRUMPv1) data collection is a valuable resource both for researchers studying human-environment interactions and for applied users working to address critical environmental and societal issues.

Developed by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, GRUMPv1 consists of eight global data sets: population count grids, population density grids, urban settlement points, urban-extents grids, land/geographic unit area grids, national boundaries, national identifier grids, and coastlines. All grids are provided at a resolution of 30 arc-seconds (~1km), with population estimates normalized to the years 2000, 1995, and 1990. All eight data sets are available for download as global products, and the first five data sets are also available as continental, regional, and national subsets.

The population density and population count grids build on SEDAC’s Gridded Population of the World, Version 3 data set (GPWv3), which does not distinguish between urban and rural areas. GRUMPv1 identifies urban areas based in part on observations of lights at night collected by a series of Department of Defense meteorological satellites over several decades. The night-light data were carefully processed by the U.S. National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) in Boulder, Colorado. CIESIN then used these and other supplementary data to develop an urban-rural “mask,” or urban extents grid, which identifies those areas of the Earth’s land surface that appear to be urbanized. GRUMPv1 also includes a geo-referenced database of urban settlements with populations greater than 5,000 persons, which may be downloaded in both tabular and shapefile formats.

See: Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project, Version 1 (GRUMPv1)

Researchers Visit CIESIN to Discuss Health, Roads, Conflict, and Soils Data

Fri Sep 23 00:00:00 EDT 2011

CIESIN recently hosted several researchers at its offices in Palisades, New York. Nicholas Preston, a postdoctoral scientist at the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, gave a presentation September 23 concerning the project, a suite of Web tools for finding, analyzing, and sharing global environmental health information. Preston has been project director of SAGE since 2009, where his research is currently being applied to infectious disease outbreaks and health monitoring during natural disasters.

A researcher with the Centre for the Study of Civil War at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), Andreas Forø Tollefsen, gave a talk September 21 to researchers at CIESIN and Lamont on a new integrated data base on conflict, the PRIO-GRID, scheduled for release by the end of this year. The data base is being developed using open source software and tools and will support interdisciplinary research on the patterns and causes of internal and international violent conflict.

Koki Iwao of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Japan met with CIESIN senior research associate Alexander de Sherbinin, director Robert Chen, and other CIESIN staff on September 19 to discuss collaboration on a number of different global data sets. Iwao is a member of the CODATA Global Roads Data Development Task Group, which de Sherbinin chairs, and recently completed a second term with the Secretariat of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) in Geneva, Switzerland.

On September 14, Tom Hengl of ISRIC - World Soil Information gave a seminar, “Global Soil Information Facilities: A Methodological Framework for Open Soil Information.” The seminar, which was sponsored by the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS), presented a case study of Malawi. Two follow-up laboratory sessions offered participants hands-on training in the use of open source tools for digital soil mapping. Examples of Hengl’s work may be found at

World Leaders Forum Features Address by Haiti's Foreign Minister-Elect

Thu Sep 22 00:00:00 EDT 2011

As part of the World Leaders Forum taking place September 22–26 at Columbia University, Daniel Supplice, selected to be foreign minister by the Republic of Haiti's new president Michel Martelly, gave an address, "Moving Beyond Crisis Recovery towards Lasting Development,” outlining the visions and plans of president Martelly. Minister-elect Supplice was accompanied by Haitian musician Wyclef Jean, the Goodwill Ambassador of Haiti, who spoke briefly about the need for investing in human capital in Haiti.

The event on September 22 was hosted by Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, and included introductory remarks by Earth Institute director Jeffrey Sachs and director of Haiti Programs, Tatiana Wah. The Earth Institute helped organize the event with co-sponsorship by CIESIN and the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict and Complexity. CIESIN plays a coordination role in the Haiti Regeneration Initiative, a major initiative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Earth Institute, and other partners to implement sustainable solutions in southwestern Haiti.

See: Columbia University World Leaders Forum

CIESIN Aids First-Ever Biological Snapshot of Sandy Hook, New Jersey

Mon Sep 19 00:00:00 EDT 2011

CIESIN provided information dissemination, online registration, and data collection support for the first ever “BioBlitz” of Sandy Hook, a 1,665-acre barrier peninsula on the north end of New Jersey's Atlantic shoreline. For 24 hours, teams of scientists, amateur naturalists, and volunteers observed and counted as many plants and animals as possible at the Gateway National Recreation Area’s Sandy Hook Unit. The event began at 3 pm September 16 and ended at 3 pm September 17.

Sponsored by the National Park Service, American Littoral Society, Rutgers University, and the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium, the Sandy Hook Bioblitz was modeled on previous Bioblitz events held in Jamaica Bay in 2010, 2009, and 2007 and supported by the Jamaica Bay Research and Management Information Network (JBRMIN), a Web site hosted by CIESIN’s NBII-NIN program.


See: 2011 Sandy Hook Bioblitz

'Eye on Earth' Summit Will Address Global Data Access Issues

Thu Sep 15 00:00:00 EDT 2011

CIESIN is playing a leading role in the organization of the Eye on Earth Summit, to be held December 12–15 in Abu Dhabi. At the Summit global leaders, innovators, and decision-makers will focus on how to ensure effective access to the world’s expanding pool of environmental and societal data by all who need it. Facilitated by the Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI) and hosted by Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD) in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Eye on Earth Summit will strengthen existing efforts and inspire a search for unified, global solutions to the issues that preclude access to data. Marc Levy, CIESIN deputy director, is co-chair of Working Group 2 on content and user needs, and Alex de Sherbinin, senior research associate, serves on Working Group 1 on policy and networking.

See: Eye on Earth Summit

New Observing System Explored at Oxford Meeting

Tue Sep 13 00:00:00 EDT 2011

CIESIN senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin participated in a meeting organized by the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) to design a new Global Integrated Observing Strategy. This meeting, held September 6–8 in Oxford, England, included many experts in Earth System Science modeling and ecological field research. As a representative of the social science data and observations community, de Sherbinin provided suggestions on how to design an observation system that will improve monitoring of coupled human-environment systems. The strategy will focus on under-observed regions in Africa and Asia.

See: International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme

SEDAC Encourages Responses to NASA User Satisfaction Survey

Fri Sep 09 00:00:00 EDT 2011

NASA conducts an annual survey of users of the Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) to assess their satisfaction with the data, tools, and support provided by EOSDIS data centers and services. The Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, which serves a wide range of basic and applied users interested in the integration of remote sensing and socioeconomic data, is one of the NASA EOSDIS centers evaluated by the survey.

During the week of September 12, users registered with SEDAC will receive an email invitation from the Claes Fornell International (CFI) Group on behalf of NASA, asking them to participate in an anonymous, Web-based survey about the quality and utility of SEDAC products and services, and the ease of access to SEDAC resources. The questionnaire takes approximately 10 minutes to complete, and optional comment fields are provided to address user concerns. Anyone who has used any SEDAC data or information resources, including online services available through the SEDAC website as well as offline tools like the TerraViva SEDAC viewer, may take the survey. Those who do not receive an invitation directly are welcome to contact the CFI Group at, providing an email address and self-identifying as a SEDAC data user. Invitations should not be forwarded to others, but others may be referred to the above email address.

SEDAC encourages all of its users to participate in the survey. Feedback affects future performance, identifies high priority user needs and concerns, and helps to justify NASA's continuing investment in EOSDIS data services and support. Past surveys have provided important inputs into the development of the redesigned SEDAC Web site, and user comments help to further improve SEDAC data and services.

Global Data for Global Science Focus of Conference in Kyoto

Wed Sep 07 00:00:00 EDT 2011

Participants at the first ICSU World Data System Conference held September 3-6, 2011 at Kyoto University in Kyoto, Japan.

Typhoon Talas provided a stormy backdrop for the first ICSU World Data System Conference in Kyoto, Japan, September 3–6, which drew more than 150 representatives of data centers and services and other interested organizations from around the world. CIESIN director Robert Chen participated in his capacity as secretary general of the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) of the International Council for Science (ICSU) and as manager of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC). He gave a plenary presentation on past, present, and future cooperation between the ICSU World Data System (WDS) and CODATA, which have complementary roles on scientific data issues under the ICSU umbrella. He also co-chaired an open forum for WDS members and partners with Ruth Neilan of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory to discuss organizational and strategic issues.

The ICSU World Data System is working to strengthen and expand the network of international scientific data centers and services originally formed after the International Geophysical Year of 1957–58. It will serve as a globally interoperable data system that incorporates emerging technologies and new scientific data activities in support of global science.

See: First ICSU World Data System Conference
       ICSU World Data System

Summer Interns and Research Assistants Contribute to Key Research Efforts at CIESIN

Fri Sep 02 00:00:00 EDT 2011

A group of Earth Institute interns and research assistants originating from such diverse locations as Venezuela, China, India, Hawaii, North Carolina, Maryland, and New York collaborated with CIESIN researchers on a variety of projects this summer. Earth Institute interns Sriram Jayaprakash and Jimeng Du both worked with information scientist Xiaoshi Xing developing and improving emissions data. Jayaprakash evaluated, mapped, and gridded global sulfur emissions from energy use, and Du analyzed and processed the data using ArcGIS and other tools. Jayaprakash has a B.A. in Technology from SASTRA University and is working on a M.A. in Public Administration from the School of International and Public Affairs. Du received a dual B.A. in Applied Mathematics and Economics from Wuhan University and is working toward an M.S. in Operations Research in December 2011.

Kimberly Peng, also an Earth Institute Intern, worked on the Haiti Regeneration Initiative (HRI), with staff associate Paola Kim Blanco, assisting with the planning and preparation of the socioeconomic household baseline study for the southwestern part of Haiti. She also helped with the multi-sector facilities inventory in Haiti and the coordination and preparation of training material and field-testing of tools. Peng has a B.A. in Economics from the University of Maryland and is enrolled in the Earth Institute's M.A. Program in Climate and Society.

Josef Bronfenmajer also worked on the HRI, working with program manager Alex Fischer and fellow research assistant Jihye Lee in creating audiovisual media, including a 5-minute project background video. Josef has a B.S. in Film Studies from Hofstra University, and anticipates an M.S. from Columbia University in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution in 2012. Jihye Lee was responsible for multi-media data visualization and 3-D landscape modeling. Lee has a B.S. in Architecture from Seoul National University, and graduated this past May with an M.S. in Architecture and Urban Design from the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

Yang Sui, a dual masters candidate in Computer Science and Journalism, performed Web site development and content management for both the Africa Soils Information Project (AfSIS) and the HRI, working with senior research associate Sonya Ahamed and Kim Blanco. Sui has a B.S. in Computer Science and B.A. in English from Tianjin University, China. Michelle DeCurtis, a rising junior majoring in architecture at Barnard College, worked with CIESIN associate director Mark Becker developing content for the Web site of the Consortium for Climate Risk in the Northeast (CCRUN), building a GIS database and creating climate change maps for the region. Arianna Feinberg, a rising senior majoring in sustainable development at Columbia College, also worked with Becker on the Global Climate Change Education Project, where she helped create a curriculum and interactive mapping tool about climate change and human health. Evan Drewry, a rising junior majoring in computer science at the Columbia School of Engineering and Applied Science, worked with senior geospatial developer Greg Yetman and associate research scientist Susana Adamo to obtain and organize census and boundary data for the next version of the Gridded Population of the World (GPW) data set.

New Web Site Supports Study of Climate Change Impacts on the Urban Northeast

Fri Aug 26 00:00:00 EDT 2011

Assessing and managing risks from climate variability and change in the urban areas of the Northeast U.S. is the focus of a new Web site for the Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast (CCRUN). The consortium includes researchers from the Earth Institute (including CIESIN), the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, City College/CUNY, Stevens Institute of Technology, and Drexel University. Using a stakeholder-driven approach to research, CCRUN researchers are examining the impacts of climate change, population growth, and urban and economic policies on communities in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and other urban areas in the region.

CCRUN's initial projects focus on three main topics: water, coasts, and health, with special emphasis on community vulnerability and environmental justice. The CCRUN Web site, developed and hosted by CIESIN, provides access to project materials and information resources provided by consortium members. The site also features a gallery of maps illustrating the location of populations and infrastructure potentially vulnerable to climate change.

CCRUN is operating under a five-year award from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) initiative.

See: Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast (CCRUN)

SEDAC Wears a New Hat

Mon Aug 22 00:00:00 EDT 2011

The NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) “Top Hat” has been added to the Web site of the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC). The Top Hat is a visual appliance located on the top of SEDAC Web pages that provides direct access to the broad EOSDIS network of data centers and services. It enables EOSDIS users to easily search and access the wide range of NASA Earth science data and information products and services from any EOSDIS data center.

The Top Hat, along with the newly redesigned EOSDIS Web site, is part of a NASA initiative to ensure a coherent EOSDIS Web presence. With more than a dozen data centers and important services like the Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) and the Land Atmosphere Near real-time Capability for EOS (LANCE), EOSDIS archives and distributes many petabytes of Earth science and related data from NASA satellites and other platforms, supporting tens of thousands of users each month. SEDAC’s primary role in EOSDIS is to facilitate interdisciplinary research and applications of remote sensing data with key socioeconomic data and information resources and services.


Areas of High Environmental Vulnerability Discussed at Chile Meeting

Fri Aug 19 00:00:00 EDT 2011

CIESIN associate research scientist Susana Adamo presented a paper at the ECLAC-CELADE (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean-Population Division) Expert Group Meeting on Population, Territory and Sustainable Development held in Santiago, Chile, August 16–17. The paper, “Areas of High Environmental Vulnerability,” was presented for discussion under the activities of the ECLAC Special Committee on Population and Development. It identifies areas of high environmental vulnerability in Latin America and the Caribbean using data from CIESIN’s Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by NASA, including the data sets Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project (GRUMP), version 1; Natural Disaster Hotspots; and Global Infant Mortality. In addition to the presentation of papers, the Expert Group revised and discussed the document, “Population, Territory and Sustainable Development,” to be presented at the next meeting of the Special Committee in early 2012.

See: ECLAC-CELADE Expert Group Meeting on Population, Territory and Sustainable Development

Recently Updated Map Viewer Highlighted for Educational, Research Uses

Fri Aug 12 00:00:00 EDT 2011

The recently updated TerraViva! SEDAC Viewer was featured at two venues recently. In Austin, Texas, at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America (ESA) held August 7–12, CIESIN geographic information specialist Malanding Jaiteh delivered an overview of SEDAC data products that included a tutorial on the use of TerraViva!, a map viewer and data analysis software application that enables the visualization and integration of hundreds of socioeconomic and environmental variables and layers. The presentation was part of the NASA EOSDIS pre-conference workshop, “Finding, Accessing and Using NASA Data and Tools for Ecology Research.”

At Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, CIESIN senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin provided hands-on training to educators from area community colleges in the use of TerraViva!. The training was part of a NASA Global Climate Change Education workshop held August 8–11, “Cooling the Curriculum: A Learning Community for Climate Change Education.” It was organized around data products developed by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN and climate scenarios data generated by the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and other groups, all of which are included in the 2011 release of the TerraViva! SEDAC Viewer.

See: 2011 TerraViva! SEDAC viewer
       Cooling the Curriculum: A Learning Community for Climate Change Education

SEDAC Web Site Receives Major Overhaul

Mon Aug 01 00:00:00 EDT 2011

Screenshot of home page of SEDAC Web site

A complete redesign of the Web site of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN has been released. The goal of the new SEDAC Web site is to facilitate the discovery and access of SEDAC data and information resources through improved search tools, a map gallery, thematic slices into SEDAC content, and Internet mapping tools. The site employs the latest information technologies, including a backend content management system based on Bluenog/Hippo, a map gallery using Flickr, Web mapping services supported by Geoserver/OpenLayers, and social networking tools. As part of SEDAC’s efforts to support its diverse community of users, the site encourages user comments via a tool that allows anonymous feedback.

See: SEDAC Web site

Innovative Approaches to Digital Stewardship Highlighted in D.C . Meeting

Fri Jul 22 00:00:00 EDT 2011

More than 200 experts in digital curation and stewardship met in Washington, D.C., July 19–21 for “Make It Work: Improvisations on the Stewardship of Digital Information,” held as part of a joint partners’ meeting of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) and the National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA). CIESIN director Robert Chen and senior digital archivist Robert Downs both attended the meeting, presenting a poster on a new NDIIPP resource developed by CIESIN with support from the Library of Congress, the Geospatial Data Preservation Resource Center. They also participated in several breakout groups and sessions on specific preservation issues such as digital resources at risk of loss and archiving of Web sites and complex databases.

CIESIN is a founding member of the National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA), which is a collaborative effort by government agencies, education institutions, non-profit organizations, and business entities to preserve a national collection of significant digital content.

See: Joint NDIIPP/NDSA Partners Meeting
       National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA)

New Book Examines Use of Natural Resources and Peacebuilding

Thu Jul 21 00:00:00 EDT 2011

CIESIN program manager Alex Fischer and deputy director Marc Levy contributed a chapter focusing on environmental restoration programs in Haiti to a book, Harnessing Natural Resources for Peacebuilding: Lessons from U.S. And Japanese Assistance, launched at an international symposium of the same title held July 20 at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. The Center was a sponsor, with the Environmental Law Institute, the Global Infrastructure Fund Japan, and the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership. The symposium was organized around chapter topics from the book, with chapter authors leading discussions related to their material. Fischer, who with Levy is part of the Haiti Regeneration Initiative project, presented their chapter, “Designing Environmental Restoration Programs in Politically Fragile States: Lessons from Haiti.” The Haiti Regeneration Initiative is a partnership between the the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Earth Institute, and various other organizations in Haiti that aims to provide sustainable solutions to some of the country's most pressing challenges: post-earthquake reconstruction, economic and social development, environmental stabilization and restoration, and disaster risk management.

See: International Symposium on Harnessing Natural Resources for Peacebuilding....

Annual User Conference Aims to Better 'Understand our World'

Tue Jul 19 00:00:00 EDT 2011

CIESIN geographic information specialist Tricia Chai-Onn attended the 2011 Esri International User Conference in San Diego, California July 11–15, which had as its theme this year “Understanding Our World.” Chai-Onn authored a poster showcased in the conference map gallery, “Global Reservoir and Dams (GRanD), v.1.01,” featuring 6,862 records of reservoirs and their associated dams. The poster was based on data recently released by the Socioeconomic Applications and Data Center (SEDAC). Another poster on display, “Haiti: Spatial Analysis of Vulnerability,” was co-authored by senior staff associate Liana Razafindrazay, CIESIN Earth Institute fellow Alexandra Morel, and senior staff associate Sandra Baptista. More than 13,000 geographic information system (GIS) professionals from more than 100 countries attended the conference.

See: ESRI User Conference

Marc Levy Appointed to NRC Committee on Issues in Himalayan Region

Thu Jul 14 00:00:00 EDT 2011

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy has been appointed to the National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Himalayan Glaciers, Climate Change, and Implications for Downstream Populations. The committee, which is chaired by Henry J. Vaux, Jr. of the University of California, Berkley, also includes former CIESIN research scientist Deborah Balk, currently of Baruch College of the City University of New York, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory scientist Ed Cook, and Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) scientist Drew Shindell. The committee will take stock of what is known regarding glacier melt in the Himalayas and the consequences for populations in the region, including possible security impacts. The committee’s first meeting was held July 11–12, at the Keck Center of the National Academies in Washington, D.C.

See: NRC Committee on Himalayan Glaciers, Climate Change, and Implications for Downstream Populations

Data and Information Quality the Focus of ESIP Summer Meeting

Wed Jul 13 00:00:00 EDT 2011

CIESIN staff travelled to Santa Fe, New Mexico to attend the 2011 Summer Meeting of the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) held July 12–15. The theme was “data and information quality.” On July 12, senior digital archivist Robert Downs presented a workshop for teachers, “Introduction to the 2011 TerraViva! SEDAC Viewer.” The workshop audience included middle- and high-school teachers as well as representatives from museums and educational programs. On July 13, Downs presented a poster authored with Robert Chen on “User-Centered Design of a Resource Center about Geospatial Data Preservation.” John Scialdone, manager of CIESIN’s data services group, also attended. Former CIESIN associate director W. Christopher Lenhardt, now at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is the current president of the ESIP Federation.

See: Federation of Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP)
       User-Centered Design...(Poster)
       Intro to 2011 Terra Viva SEDAC Viewer

User Working Group Reviews SEDAC Progress and Plans

Fri Jul 08 00:00:00 EDT 2011

The User Working Group (UWG) of SEDAC, the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center operated by CIESIN, met recently at Columbia's Lamont Campus in Palisades, New York and at the Morningside Campus in Manhattan. The UWG provides strategic guidance regarding the data and information needs of the users served by SEDAC as well as feedback on new and planned SEDAC data and services. Specific topics at the meeting on June 22–23 included SEDAC’s potential role in supporting new NASA satellite missions and strategies for reaching out to new and potential users of SEDAC's data and services using social media and other approaches. As part of the meeting, Kenneth Crews, director of Columbia's Copyright Advisory Office, met with the UWG to discuss intellectual property issues related to scientific data and the development of open access approaches to data and information.

Chaired by Molly Macauley of Resources for the Future, the UWG includes experts from the social, natural, health, and information sciences. Five new UWG members have recently begun four-year terms: Paul Bartel of the Humanitarian Information Unit at the U.S. Department of State; Linda Billings of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University; Erle Ellis of the Department of Geography and Environmental Systems at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County; Chandra Giri of the US Geological Survey (USGS) Earth Resources Observations and Science (EROS) Center; and Kyle McDonald of the Division of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the City College of New York (formerly with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory).

See: SEDAC User Working Group

New IUSSP Panel to Examine the Role of Population Dynamics in Climate Change

Wed Jul 06 00:00:00 EDT 2011

The International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP) has named CIESIN associate research scientist Susana Adamo to a new panel exploring the role of population dynamics in climate change. Adamo, a demographer originally from Argentina, will serve with population researchers Leiwen Jiang (China), Wolfgang Lutz (Austria), and panel chair Adrian Hayes (Australia). Through cross-disciplinary research, meetings, and other activities, the panel will aim to expand a network of population researchers working in the area of climate change, contribute to greater understanding of how population processes interact with climate change, and share findings with the research and policy making communities. In addition, panel members will examine conditions for such cross-disciplinary research and what this might mean for demographic training. The panel has been established through 2014.

See: IUSSP Panel on Climate Change 2011–2014

Users Invited to Test New SEDAC Web Site

Fri Jul 01 00:00:00 EDT 2011

The NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN is a unique source of interdisciplinary data and information and services related to the human dimensions of global environmental change. To help users more effectively find, access, and use these resources, SEDAC has redesigned its Web site with enhanced search tools, interactive mapping tools, a map gallery, topical views of SEDAC content, and examples of uses of SEDAC data in research, applications, and education. The new site builds on the latest Internet technologies, including a content management system, Flickr, open source Web mapping services, and social networking tools. During the user testing period in July, users are encouraged to provide feedback on the site’s organization and ease of use and suggestions about new features and content. Comments may be submitted anonymously through a tool available on the lower right corner of each Web page.

See: SEDAC Web site (beta)

Updated Map Viewer Enables Visualization of Socioeconomic and Earth Science Data

Thu Jun 23 00:00:00 EDT 2011

TerraViva! SEDAC Viewer, a map viewer and standalone software application, has been updated for 2011 with the addition of several new SEDAC data sets, including climate change scenario data and indicator collections with hundreds of variables. TerraViva! contains map data and GIS functions in one package, compatible with the Microsoft Windows operating system. An excellent tool for educators, as well as for researchers and analysts working in a variety of disciplines, TerraViva! has a library of maps organized by theme and a built-in gazetteer, and can create dynamic color-coded maps and customizable maps and charts, among other features. It was produced through a collaboration between ISciences and the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. For more information or to order a free DVD, go to

See: Terra Viva SEDAC Viewer 2011 Release

Improving Global Landcover Mapping: International Workshops Explore Approaches

Tue Jun 21 00:00:00 EDT 2011

Senior geographic information specialist Malanding Jaiteh participated recently in two international workshops at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria, that focused on methodologies for producing landcover maps and efforts to enhance the quality of such maps. The first, “Characterizing and Validating Global Agricultural Landcover,” took place June 13–15 and was co-hosted by IIASA and the Consortium for Spatial Information (CSI) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). The second, “CalVal Workshop: Global Land Cover Validation and Accuracy Assessment for Land Cover Change and Area Estimates: Updates, Progress, Next Steps,” was held June 16–17 and organized by the Global Observation of Forest and Land Cover Dynamics (GOFC-GOLD) panel of the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS) and the Working Group on Calibration and Validation (WGCV) of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS).

The invitation-only workshops addressed an identified need for consistent specifications for landcover maps, and ultimately, the development of a body of global reference maps. Jaiteh contributed insights into what users of the data need, not just in terms of land cover mapping but also applications of the data products, in particular, where helping identify limitations of the data set may guide accurate uses.

See: Global Application of Forest and Land Cover Dynamics (GOFC-GOLD)
       Characterizing and Validating Global Agricultural Landcover
       CalVal Workshop: Global Land Cover Validation and Accuracy Assessment for Land Cover Change and Area Estimates

SEDAC Data Featured via New Discovery Tool

Fri Jun 17 00:00:00 EDT 2011

Gridded Population of the World (GPW), the Environmental Performance Index (EPI), and the Last of the Wild/Human Footprint collection are just a few of the many SEDAC data holdings that can now be found through Reverb—NASA's Next Generation Earth Science Discovery Tool. Reverb is an improved search interface for accessing the EOS ClearingHouse (ECHO), a metadata catalog of NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS) data and a registry for related data services. It aims to make it easier for users to discover relevant Earth science data and online visualization and analysis tools, leveraging an improved technology platform and modernized interface. The dynamic filtering feature lets users quickly sort through more than 2,400 data sets and thousands of individual images and files by specifying time periods and areas of interest, as well as search terms, platforms, instruments, field campaigns, processing levels, and science keywords.

SEDAC, the NASA Socioeconomic Economic Data and Applications Center, is operated by CIESIN as one of 12 NASA Earth Science Data Centers (ESDCs) in the EOS Data and Information System (EOSDIS).

See: Reverb—The Next Generation Earth Science Discovery Tool

Disaster Research, Disease Surveillance Subject of Recent Meetings

Thu Jun 09 00:00:00 EDT 2011

CIESIN director Robert Chen traveled to Arlington, Virginia, and deputy director Marc Levy to Nanaimo, British Columbia, recently to participate in two expert meetings, both held June 1-2. Chen was one of more than 30 geoscientists, engineers, and social scientists invited to provide advice on a possible cross-disciplinary research program on disaster resilience, vulnerability, and risk reduction. The workshop was organized by the Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center of Texas A&M University and hosted by the National Science Foundation. Levy attended an information management meeting for the PREDICT project, an initiative funded by the US Agency for International Development to improve surveillance capabilities for zoonotic infectious diseases. At the meeting, project collaborators discussed innovative uses of information technology to improve surveillance and set priorities for new development.

Data Science Professionals Gather at 37th Annual IASSIST Conference

Sun Jun 05 00:00:00 EDT 2011

CIESIN is a sponsor of the 37th Annual Conference of the International Association for Social Science Information Services and Technology (IASSIST), held May 31–June 3 in Vancouver. The conference, hosted by the Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia, has as its theme this year, Data Science Professionals: A Global Community of Sharing. CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert Downs is co-chair of the IASSIST 2011 conference programming committee and served as chair of the session, “Challenges and Capabilities for Long-Term Preservation of Scientific Data,” during which he presented a paper authored with CIESIN director Robert Chen, “Developing an Online Resource Center about Geospatial Data Preservation.” Downs was also a panelist for the session, “Perspectives on Data Citation.”

See: 37th Annual IASSIST Conference

Improving Data on Earthquake Exposure Subject of Team Meeting at CIESIN

Fri Jun 03 00:00:00 EDT 2011

Team members meet in Palisades, New York

The extensive death and damage caused by major earthquakes in China, Haiti, Pakistan, Chile, New Zealand, Japan, and other countries in recent years suggest a pressing need for better data concerning not only the likelihood of future large seismic events, but also the exposure of people and structures to potential earthquakes. As a component of the international Global Earthquake Model (GEM) initiative, a team led by the University of Pavia in Italy met May 31–June 3 at CIESIN’s offices in Palisades, New York to continue its efforts to develop a global exposure database incorporating data both on population distribution and on building types and fragility. A key focus of the meeting was the development and implementation of a flexible and scalable data model that can support interactions with other GEM components characterizing earthquake hazards and vulnerability. CIESIN director Robert Chen, associate directors Mark Becker and Sri Vinay, and staff members Greg Yetman and Branko Djapic participated in the team meeting, along with several experts from around the world.

See: Global Exposure Database for the Global Earthquake Model (GED4GEM)

Educational Tools on Climate Change and Health Presented at D.C. Conference

Thu Jun 02 00:00:00 EDT 2011

CIESIN Geographic information specialist Sneha Rao attended the COM.Geo 2011–2nd International Conference on Computing for Geospatial Research & Application held May 23–25 in Washington, D.C. She gave a demo and presented a poster, “Global Climate Change and Human Health Impacts: Investigation and Analysis in the Classroom Using Innovative Technologies,” co-authored with CIESIN associate director Mark Becker and Amy Work of the Institute for Application of Geospatial Technology (IAGT), as part of their NASA Global Climate Change Education (GCCE) project. The project aims to provide elementary, secondary, and undergraduate school educators with tools and resources to access NASA climate information and related Earth system data, in order to engage students in critical thinking about global climate change and the potential impacts on human health around the world. COM.Geo provides a forum for researchers, decision-makers, developers, and application users to present and discuss the most recent innovations, trends, experiences and concerns in computing and geospatial areas.

See: COM.Geo 2011-2nd International Conference on Computing for Geospatial Research & Application
       “NASA Global Climate Change Education” (Poster)

Summer Institute 2011: Integrating Data to Improve Public Health Programs

Fri May 27 00:00:00 EDT 2011

CIESIN associate director of geospatial applications, Mark Becker, was one of the lecturers at the annual Climate Information for Public Health Summer Institute 2011, held May 16-27 at Columbia’s Lamont Campus in Palisades, New York. This year's hands-on workshop included 10 public health professionals and climate scientists from around the world interested in techniques for integrating meteorological and socioeconomic data with public health data to better understand public health issues and develop intervention programs. Becker’s lecture focused on the integration and use of spatial data in public health research. He assisted the students with individual projects that were presented at the culmination of the program. The Summer Institute is hosted by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), The Mailman School of Public Health, and CIESIN, and is an activity of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) related to capacity building in Earth observations. This is the fourth year the Summer Institute has been offered.

New Resource Center Supports Preservation of Geospatial Data

Thu May 26 00:00:00 EDT 2011

Geospatial data, including digital maps, imagery, and a variety of other digital files, are valuable resources for many different types of research, applications, and administrative functions. However, unlike physical maps and documents, digital data can be difficult to reuse and preserve in the long run, because of changing software and formats, inadequate documentation, loss of media, and other factors.

A new Web site, the Geospatial Data Preservation Resource Center, aims to help those responsible for producing and managing geospatial data learn about the latest approaches and tools available to facilitate long-term geospatial data preservation and access. The Web site provides descriptions and links for a variety of relevant resources, including education and training modules, useful tools and software, information on policies and standards for preserving geospatial data, and examples of successful preservation and associated benefits. This first release of the Web site, which CIESIN will be enhancing over the next year, was developed as an element of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) of the Library of Congress.

See: Geospatial Data Preservation Resource Center

International Relations Scholar Oran Young Celebrated at Colorado Conference

Fri May 20 00:00:00 EDT 2011

Deputy director Marc Levy participated in the 2011 Colorado Conference on Earth System Governance: Crossing Boundaries and Building Bridges, held May 17–20 in Fort Collins, Colorado. Levy gave a presentation, “Neither Fish nor Fowl: Oran Young as a Neoclassical International Relations Scholar,” as part of a day-long celebration of Young’s career. Prof. Young is a well-known expert on the Arctic and international governance and environmental institutions. He is on the faculty of the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

See: 2011 Colorado Conference on Earth System Governance

University of Texas Sponsors Workshop on Climate Security Vulnerability

Wed May 18 00:00:00 EDT 2011

A workshop, “Mapping and Modeling Climate Security Vulnerability,” was held in Austin, Texas, May 16–17. The workshop was sponsored by the Climate Change and African Political Stability project of the University of Texas. CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy gave a presentation summarizing the state of the art with respect to mapping climate-security vulnerability.

See: Climate Change and African Political Stability (CCAPS)

Interactive 3-D Globe Visualizes the Distribution of Global Population

Mon May 16 00:00:00 EDT 2011

Screenshot of World Population Globe

Differences in population density around the world are dramatically illustrated in a new interactive 3-D globe developed by the Google Data Arts Team and available on Google's Chrome Experiment site. Based on the Gridded Population of the World version 3 (GPWv3) data set available from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center at CIESIN, the World Population Globe illustrates population distribution and changes between 1990, 1995, and 2000 on a 1-degree latitude-longitude grid. The globe was developed using WebGL, the Web-based Graphics Library, which enables 3-D graphics without the use of a plug-in. Browsers that currently support WebGL include Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox 4, and development releases of Safari and Opera. A compatible graphics card may also be needed.

See: World Population Globe (requires a WebGL-enabled browser and graphics card)

Sustainable Development Challenges and Opportunities Explored at ISDRC 17

Wed May 11 00:00:00 EDT 2011

The 17th Annual International Sustainable Development Research Conference (ISDRC 17), held for the first time in the United States May 8–10, brought together more than 400 experts from some 60 countries to Columbia University’s Morningside Campus. The conference, Moving Toward a Sustainable Future: Opportunities and Challenges, was hosted by the Earth Institute, Columbia University, in partnership with the United Nations Division of Sustainable Development (UNDSD) and the Asian Development Bank Institute. CIESIN Director Robert Chen was a member of the conference scientific committee and co-chaired a paper session on Sustainable Development Reporting and Indices. On May 8, CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy gave a ″thematic“ plenary talk on the adequacy of existing local, regional, and global institutions and governing structures. Senior staff associate Liana Razafindrazay presented a poster, “Haiti: Spatial Analysis of Vulnerability,” co-authored with EI fellow Alexandra Morel and senior staff associate Sandra Baptista. Senior information specialist Joe Schumacher and information specialist Lisa Lukang distributed outreach materials and assisted participants at the conference.

See: 17th Annual International Sustainable Development Research Conference (ISDRC 17)
       “Haiti: Spatial Analysis of Vulnerability” (Poster)

Climate Adaptation Issues Examined at Ann Arbor Conference

Tue May 10 00:00:00 EDT 2011

The second annual conference of the Initiative on Climate Adaptation Research and Understanding through the Social Sciences (ICARUS II) was held May 5-8 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This year’s conference theme was “Climate Vulnerability and Adaptation: Marginal Peoples and Environments.” CIESIN senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin chaired a panel session, “Geospatial Analyses of Climate Vulnerability and Adaptation” and gave a paper in the session, “Spatial Data Integration and Data Gaps for Climate Impacts, Vulnerability, and Adaptation.” He also conducted a training session on the latest release of the TerraViva! SEDAC Viewer, the map viewer and analytical tool. Still in its formative stages, the Initiative was founded in 2009 with the aim to bring together scholars, researchers, students, decision makers, and activists to work on issues around adaptation to climate variability and change. “Writeshops” typically follow throughout the year—smaller meetings to work on papers addressing themes that emerged from the conference.

See: Initiative on Climate Adaptation Research and Understanding through the Social Sciences (ICARUS)
       "Geospatial Analyses of Climate Vulnerability and Adaptation" (presentations)

Development of Societal Indicators of Climate Change Considered at Washington, D.C. Workshop

Tue May 03 00:00:00 EDT 2011

Is the U.S. adapting effectively to climate variability and climate changes and associated impacts? How can we tell if climate risks are increasing, decreasing, or being shifted between regions, sectors, generations, or different parts of society? These were some of the questions considered at a workshop sponsored by the National Climate Assessment (NCA) and NASA, held at the Madison Hotel in Washington, D.C., April 28–29. The workshop, Climate Change Impacts and Responses: Societal Indicators for the National Climate Assessment, brought together a range of experts from the social and natural sciences to consider alternative approaches to the development of indicators of climate impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. CIESIN director Robert Chen served as co-chair of the steering committee and was lead author of the workshop's discussion paper with Melissa Kenney of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Johns Hopkins University. CIESIN senior staff associate Sandra Baptista prepared an extensive bibliography of relevant literature and reviewed relevant indicator approaches used to support research and decision making in climate and related fields.

The meeting was one of a series of workshops intended to inform the process of developing indicators for the NCA to support monitoring, assessment, prediction, and decision making for the United States. Workshop participants were charged with providing individual input to the Interagency National Climate Assessment Task Force and the NCA Development and Advisory Committee.

See: National Climate Assessment Web Site

Forced Displacement Examined at Commemorative NYC Event

Mon May 02 00:00:00 EDT 2011

CIESIN associate research scientist Susana Adamo was an invited guest speaker for an event held April 27 in New York City commemorating the establishment of international conventions on the status of refugees and the reduction of statelessness. The panel discussion, “Protection Gaps and Responses: Challenges and Opportunities,” took place at the John Jay College of Justice of the City University of New York in Manhattan. It was sponsored by the Center for International Human Rights at John Jay and the New York Liaison Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The panel also included representatives from Human Rights Watch, Seton University Law School, and UNHCR, with discussion centering around gaps in protection of stateless and displaced persons and the implementation of an international framework. Adamo gave a presentation, “Slow Onset Hazards and Population Displacement in the Context of Climate Change,” which focused on new and more complex forms of forced displacement.

See: “Slow Onset Hazards and Population Displacement ...” (presentation)
       “Protection Gaps and Responses: Challenges and Opportunities”

Brazil Seminar Aims for Better Understanding of Cities and Climate Change

Fri Apr 29 00:00:00 EDT 2011

Senior research associate Alexander de Sherbinin travelled to Campinas, Brazil recently to attend the International Seminar on Population and Space in Environmental Change: Cities, Scales and Climate Changes, held April 27–29. He gave a presentation entitled “Vulnerability & Adaptation at the Urban Scale: Spatial Knowledge, Data Gaps, and Policy Research.” The seminar was a joint effort of the Working Group on Population, Space, and Environment (WG-PopEA) the Brazilian Association for Population Studies (ABEP) and of the Brazilian Network for Climate Change Research (RedeCLIMA) within the Subnet and Towns Climate Change. It focused on exploring new paradigms to address the historical differences in approach to spatial and temporal scales on the part of researchers in the social and natural sciences and climate studies, in order to facilitate interdisciplinary study and further public policy development.


New Study Maps Reactor Safety Worldwide

Tue Apr 26 00:00:00 EDT 2011

Map of population density in reaction to nuclear reactors worldwide.

A new study in Nature News, “Residents, Reactors, and Risk,” finds that that many of the world’s nuclear power plants are surrounded by large numbers of people. The analysis, carried out by staff from Nature and from CIESIN, combined a database of nuclear reactors with population data from the Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project (GRUMP), developed by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center operated by the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN). The interactive maps accompanying the article permit more detailed exploration of population exposure to nuclear reactor accident risk.

Among other findings, the study shows that two-thirds of the world’s power plants have a higher population living within a 30-kilometer radius than the 0.17 million living within 30-kilometers of the site of the recent Fukushima nuclear accident; with some populations totaling as much as 3 million. The plant with the greatest population (8.2 million) within the 30 kilometer radius is in Karachi, Pakistan. Next greatest is in Taiwan, with one plant surrounded by 5.5 million people and another with 4.7 million; the capital city, Taipei, falls within the zones of both plants. Extending the radius to 75 kilometers, the study finds 152 nuclear power plants with more than one million people, including the Indian Point plant in upstate New York, with 17.3 million people.

See: Article: “Residents, Reactors, and Risk”

New Book on Computer Models, Climate Data, and Global Warming Politics

Thu Apr 21 00:00:00 EDT 2011

A new book by Paul N. Edwards, A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming, discusses how observations and models of Earth’s weather and climate have shaped the science behind weather prediction and climate change—and in turn, debates about global warming. In a review of the book appearing in the April 2011 issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, CIESIN director Robert Chen underscores Edwards’ argument that models and data form an inseparable basis for scientific understanding and prediction, in contrast to contemporary debates that attempt to characterize observational data as representing “truth” and computer models as uncertain and incomplete. The book provides an“unusually broad and long-term view of the development of climate science and associated climate data, models, and information infrastructure,” according to Chen. A Vast Machine was published in 2010 by The MIT Press. Edwards is an associate professor in the School of Information at the University of Michigan.

See: Book Review: A Vast Machine...

Alliance Program Students Join CIESIN Research Activities

Fri Apr 15 00:00:00 EDT 2011

Three student interns arrive at CIESIN April 18 from the École Polytechnique in Paris as part of the Alliance program, a unique joint venture between Columbia University, École Polytechnique, Sciences Po, and the Université de Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne. The students are fulfilling a three-month internship requirement in the third year of a four-year program equivalent to a U.S. masters degree. Casimir de Lavaissiere de Lavergne is majoring in mechanics and physics for the environment. At CIESIN he will focus on climate change population displacement linkages, working with senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin and associate research scientist Susana Adamo. Garance Denizot, majoring in technical innovations, will work with deputy director Marc Levy and program manager Alex Fischer on the Haiti Regeneration Initiative. David Pineau is majoring in energy sciences and will work with information scientist Xiaoshi Xing to characterize the subnational spatial distribution of carbon emissions. This is the fourth year of CIESIN participation in the Alliance internship program.

See: Alliance Program

Staff Changes at CIESIN

Thu Apr 14 00:00:00 EDT 2011

Several CIESIN staff have been promoted recently. Linda Pagliaroli has taken the position of grants coordinator for CIESIN. Jennifer Mulvey is now serving as program coordinator in support of the Haiti Regeneration Initiative (HRI) and the CIESIN component of the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS). Alex Fischer is now program manager for the HRI, and Joseph Muhlhausen has been promoted to staff associate. Jennifer, Alex, and Joseph are all members of the Science Applications Division of CIESIN.

Director’s Annual Message: Recurring Disasters Underscore Pressing Need for Long-term Data

Fri Apr 08 00:00:00 EDT 2011

Map showing population growth rate in Latin America and the Caribbean from 1990-2000

The year has started off with another mega disaster, this one even more complex and extended than those that have occurred since 2004, and not yet fully under control as I write this. The northern Japan earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster underscore just how interconnected environmental and human systems are, and the severity of the consequences when disruptions exceed our immediate capacity to cope. The added dimensions of radioactive contamination and potential reactor core meltdowns have dramatically increased the challenges and risks for those struggling to contain the damage and to deal with the severe consequences of the initial events. Our thoughts and sympathies go to the many victims of the northern Japan earthquake and tsunami and those working to end the nuclear crisis there.

This disaster illustrates again the vital importance of long-term data and information in disaster planning and risk management. The affected coastal regions in Japan had made substantial investments in coastal protection, and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility was designed to withstand an earthquake of magnitude 7.0 and an associated tsunami of up to about 6 meters (compared with an estimated magnitude of 9.0 and wave height of 14 meters at the plant, on March 11). This was apparently based on seismic data from the past four to five decades. However, at least four quakes of magnitude 8 or more occurred over the past 400 years—but were not taken into account when selecting the “worst case scenario” used in designing the nuclear power plant and coastal barriers. For irregular events like massive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, very long time series of relevant data are vital to improving assessments of the likelihood of future events, and in turn improving the planning and design of facilities and systems to reduce risks. Full Story

Demographic and Other Issues in Relation to Modelling Meningitis Occurrence

Mon Apr 04 00:00:00 EDT 2011

Associate research scientist Susana Adamo participated in the annual meeting of the Population Association of America in Washington, D.C., held March 30–April 1. She presented a poster, “Integration of Demographic, Climate, and Epidemiological Factors in the Modeling of Meningococcal Meningitis Epidemic Occurrence in Niger,” that examines preliminary results of an ongoing project quantifying the relative influence of these different factors in Niger, part of Africa’s Meningitis Belt. The authors include Gregory Yetman, senior geospatial developer at CIESIN; Sylwia Trzaska, John del Corral, and Madeleine Thomson of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI); and Carlos Perez of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). They integrated climate, demographic and epidemiological data in a single, district-level database, and analyzed these data using exploratory data analysis and regression techniques. Adamo was also a discussant in a session, “Environmental Influence on Population Dynamics.”

See: “Integration of Demographic, Climate, and Epidemiological Factors....” (presentation)

Geographers Gather for Annual Meeting in Seattle April 12−16

Sat Apr 02 00:00:00 EDT 2011

Several CIESIN staff are participating this year in the 2011 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers (AAG) held in Seattle, Washington, April 12−16. Deputy director Marc Levy will be part of a panel held Friday, April 15 from 12:40 PM−2:20 PM, Disasters in Review: Reflections on Lessons Learned for Disaster Loss Reduction (Part 1). At a paper session April 16 at 12 noon focusing on Mobilities, Population, and Climate Change, senior staff associate Sandra Baptista will present a paper, “Mobility and Vulnerability to Multi-hazard Risks in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Region,” which she wrote with CIESIN colleagues Marc Levy, Susana Adamo, Maria Muñiz, Maria Elisa Lukang, Tricia Chai-Onn, Gregory Yetman, and Robert Chen; T. Mitchell Aide, and María José Andrade Núñez from University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras; and Matthew L. Clark of Sonoma State University. Baptista will also participate in a panel session, Water, Climate & Development: Strengthening the Links Between the Sectors, held Friday, April 15 from 4:40 PM−6:20 PM. Senior information specialist Joe Schumacher will be staffing an exhibit booth on behalf of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. He will demonstrate the newly updated version of TerraViva! SEDAC Viewer, the map viewer and global data analysis tool, and will distribute copies of the DVD, which is free. The booth will be shared with the Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center from the EROS Data Center.

See: “Disasters in Review” (panel session)
       “Mobility and Vulnerability to Multi-Hazard Risks...” (abstract)

SIPA Students Travel to Haiti to Study Potential for Sustainable Development

Fri Mar 25 00:00:00 EDT 2011

Students review questionaire.

Graduate students from the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University travelled to Haiti March 10–17 as part of a SIPA Capstone workshop to explore payment for ecosystem services, a new approach to making sustainable development activities in rural areas financially viable. Using the Capstone model of applying analysis to a real-world issue on behalf of a client, the United Nations Environment Programme and the Cote Sud Initiative, the student team travelled throughout areas of the Port-à-Piment watershed to learn about the charcoal production process and its supply chain. They obtained quantitative data on pricing; interviewed charcoal producers, transporters, and traders; visited charcoal production and tree grafting sites; and conducted a community focus group.

Student travel to Haiti was made possible by a grant from the Earth Institute, which is a partner of the Haiti Regeneration initiative, along with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and local Haitian organizations. CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy, who is faculty advisor for the workshop, accompanied the group. Earth Institute researchers, including Paola Kim-Blanco, and Haitian agroforestry students from the American University of the Caribbean participated in the design and data collection with the support of two UNEP experts who were closely consulted throughout the workshop and the trip as part of UNEP’s role as client. Students will present preliminary findings at SIPA on Tuesday, March 29, and deliver a final report in May.

See: Cote Sud Initiative
       State of the Planet blog: “Haiti’s Charcoal Challenge”

Geospatial Data in Support of Humanitarian Aid Focus of UN Geneva Meeting

Thu Mar 17 00:00:00 EDT 2011

The associate director of CIESIN’s Geospatial Applications Division, Mark Becker, attended the 11th Annual United Nations Geographic Information Working Group (UNGIWG) meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, March 14–16. On the agenda were presentations and discussions on the development of a UN Spatial Data Infrastructure and the use of geospatial data and information to support UN humanitarian and emergency assistance operations. Becker gave a presentation on CIESIN’s newly developing partnership with the UN Cartographic Division, which involves working together on the development and dissemination of global geospatial data collections and improving data validation and analysis methods, among other areas of cooperation.

JBRMIN Web Site Included in Jamaica Bay Educational Resource Directory

Wed Mar 16 00:00:00 EDT 2011

The Jamaica Bay Research and Management Information Network (JBRMIN), a featured project of CIESIN’s National Biological Information Infrastructure Northeast Information Node (NBII-NIN), has been listed in the new Jamaica Bay Education Resource Directory: A Teacher’s Guide to Education Opportunities in the Jamaica Bay Watershed. Developed in partnership with the Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan Education Coordinating Committee, the directory provides a comprehensive list of the education programs offered by more than two dozen organizations in and around Jamaica Bay, a protected area. These resources may support classroom lessons, field explorations, independent research and community service activities. CIESIN Data Center Services manager John Scialdone is a member of the Coordinating Committee.

See: Jamaica Bay Education Resource Directory

UN GEO-5 Authors Gather to Prepare Global Assessment

Mon Mar 07 00:00:00 EST 2011

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy and Earth Institute fellow Alexandra Morel hosted a meeting of authors preparing an assessment of drivers of global environmental change. The meeting took place March 3–5 at the Columbia University Morningside Heights campus. The assessment will appear as a chapter in the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Fifth Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-5), for which Levy is coordinating lead author, to be published in 2012. Five authors participated in the meeting in addition to Levy and Morel.

International Data Issues Addressed at CODATA Meeting

Mon Feb 28 00:00:00 EST 2011

CIESIN director Robert Chen participated in the 56th meeting of the Executive Committee of CODATA, the Committee on Data for Science and Technology of the International Council for Science (ICSU), at CODATA's offices in Paris on February 25–27. As CODATA's Secretary-General since 2004, Chen oversees the selection of CODATA Task Groups and the activities of the CODATA Secretariat. He is leading the update and implementation of CODATA's Strategic Plan, working closely with CODATA’s new President, Prof. Huadong Guo of the Center for Earth Observation and Digital Earth (CEODE) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. At the meeting, CIESIN staff member Alex de Sherbinin was approved as chair of the CODATA Global Roads Data Development Task Group, an international initiative to improve intercity road network data. Other CODATA task groups address issues such as data at risk, data citation standards and practices, fundamental physical and chemical constants, polar data management, anthropometry data, and data needs in developing countries. New members of the CODATA Executive Committee include representatives from many different CODATA member countries and scientific unions, including Brazil, Israel, South Africa, and the International Astronomical Union.

See: CODATA Web site

Sustainability Indicators the Focus of D.C. Session

Mon Feb 21 00:00:00 EST 2011

In response to the need to measure sustainability with reliable long-term indicators, a growing body of scientific literature has emerged addressing the issue from multiple perspectives. A panel presentation, “The Challenge of Measuring Sustainability,” at the Annual Meeting of the AAAS February 17–20 in Washington, D.C., addressed recent developments in measuring sustainability, best practices, and policy implications. The panel took a comparative look at a number of high-profile indicator initiatives, including The Ecological Footprint, Genuine Savings, The Happy Planet Index and the Environmental Performance Index (EPI). Among the speakers were CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy and Jay Emerson of Yale University, who lead development of the EPI, which ranks countries’ environmental performance. Released every two years, the EPI is based on twenty-five indicators grouped within ten core policy categories—including environmental health, air quality, water resource management, biodiversity and habitat, forestry, fisheries, agriculture, and climate change—in the context of two objectives: environmental health and ecosystem vitality.

See: AAAS Annual Meeting

Collaboration initiated between CIESIN and the United Nations Cartographic Division

Mon Feb 14 00:00:00 EST 2011

Representatives from the Cartographic Division of the United Nations met February 11 with CIESIN director Robert Chen, associate director for Geospatial Applications Mark Becker, and other CIESIN staff to plan a range of new collaborative activities. The Cartographic Division and CIESIN have recently signed a letter of intent to work together on the development and dissemination of global geospatial data collections and to improve data validation and analysis methods. Other planned areas of cooperation include long-term archiving and preservation of geospatial data and maps and the development of UN internship opportunities for Columbia students.

Panel Examines Environmental and Political Challenges in China, Mongolia, and Russia

Tue Feb 08 00:00:00 EST 2011

Elizabeth Wishnick points to map of Amur River in Mongolia, February 7, 2011

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy chaired a panel at Columbia University’s Weatherhead East Asian Institute on Monday, February 7, entitled “Upstream and Downstream on the Mighty Amur: Environmental and Political Challenges for China, Mongolia and Russia.” Darron Collins of the World Wildlife Fund discussed efforts to manage the taimen, an endangered culturally important fish found in the headwaters of the Amur River in Mongolia, and management of the Siberian tiger along the river’s border between China and Russia. Elizabeth Wishnick of Montclair State University discussed industrial pollution problems on the river, including transboundary problems stemming from accidents in China resulting in discharges flowing into Russia. The panel was part of an ongoing series organized by Levy and Wishnick, “Environmental Flashpoints on China’s Frontiers,” which is sponsored by the Weatherhead Institute and the Earth Institute. Future panels in the series will focus on the role of non-governmental organizations and on governance issues.

Global Environmental Migration Issues Examined at Dhaka Workshop

Mon Feb 07 00:00:00 EST 2011

CIESIN associate research scientist Susana Adamo was part of a group of around 25 senior policy-makers, leading academics, and experts who travelled to Dhaka, Bangladesh recently to participate in a workshop on global environmental migration. Focusing especially on Bangladesh, low elevation coastal zones, and islands, the workshop, held February 3-4, was an outgrowth of the Foresight “Global Environmental Migration” project, which considers the future impacts of environmental change on global human migration. The workshop and workshop report are meant to provide input to the Foresight project findings due to be published later in 2011, as well as provide policy implications.

See: Foresight Global Environmental Migration project

“Working with Citizen Scientists” to Take Place February 9

Fri Feb 04 00:00:00 EST 2011

“Working with Citizen Scientists,” a panel discussion examining the potential for incorporating amateur scientists into research projects, will take place February 9 from 12 noon to 2 pm at Alfred Lerner Hall, Room 555, on the Morningside Campus. The panel will explore issues about data collection and analysis, and data integrity and sustainability, and will discuss citizen science initiatives such as, CoralWatch, and EBird. The three panelists are astrophysicist David Hogg of New York University; Jane Hunter, leader of the University of Queensland's eResearch Lab; and Rick Bonney, director of Program Development and Evaluation at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. The event is part of the Columbia Libraries' series, Research Without Borders, on pivotal issues in scholarly communication. The Department of Astronomy and CIESIN are co-sponsors. Attendees who do not have a Columbia University ID must make a reservation by contacting kp2002 [at] by Monday, February 7.

See: "Working with Citizen Scientists" Event

Earth Observation and Climate Change Data Experts Meet in Geneva

Fri Feb 04 00:00:00 EST 2011

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in Geneva, Switzerland was host for a joint workshop of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), held February 1–3, addressing the data needs for climate change assessments. CIESIN director Robert Chen chaired a session on managing data to support the assessment process, and also gave a presentation on implementation of the GEO Data Sharing Principles. The workshop, organized by the IPCC and GEO with inputs from the Global Climate Observing System, the World Climate Research Program, and the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program, drew more than 50 experts from around the world involved in the fifth IPCC assessment, now under way, or in the development of the Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS). The workshop will provide inputs to the next five-year work plan for GEO and to the three IPCC working groups, as well as the IPCC Task Group on Data and Scenario Support for Impacts and Climate Analysis (TGICA). Chen is one of the co-chairs of the GEO Data Sharing Task Force and is also an ex officio member of the TGICA and co-manager of the IPCC Data Distribution Center.

See: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
       Group on Earth Observations

Malaysia Aims to Develop Index of Environmental Performance

Tue Jan 25 00:00:00 EST 2011

Senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin is serving as a short-term visiting scholar at the Technological University of Malaysia (UTM) January 25–28, supporting the Malaysian government efforts to employ the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) methodology for tracking environmental performance. The EPI, produced every two years by CIESIN and the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, uses a proximity-to-target approach, in which each country’s performance is measured against clearly defined targets, enabling comparisons among countries with very different characteristics. While at UTM, de Sherbinin will also lecture on climate change impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation in the South East Asia region.

Sharing of Earth Observation Data the Focus of D.C. Meeting

Mon Jan 24 00:00:00 EST 2011

In November 2010, the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), an international, intergovernmental organization established in 2005, adopted an action plan to promote expanded sharing of Earth observation data by GEO members and participating organizations through the Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS). A working meeting to develop specific implementation activities and schedules was held in Washington, DC January 19–21 by the GEO Data Sharing Task Force, charged with coordinating the activities in the Plan. A major initiative of the plan is the establishment of the GEOSS Data Collection of Open Resources for Everyone (Data-CORE). The GEOSS Data-CORE will incorporate a wide range of key data sets made available to all interested users on the basis of full and open unrestricted access. CIESIN director Robert Chen helped lead the meeting in his capacity as one of the co-chairs of the Task Force, representing the International Council for Science (ICSU) and its Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA).

See: Group on Earth Observations Data Sharing Principles Implementation

Meeting Explores the Use of Remote Sensing Data in Indicator Development

Wed Jan 19 00:00:00 EST 2011

Several CIESIN staff participated in the final advisory group meeting of a NASA Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) feasibility project to investigate using satellite remote sensing data in constructing indicators. The meeting was held January 18 at the offices of Resources for the Future in Washington, D.C. The project, led by CIESIN deputy director and principal investigator Marc Levy and senior research associate and co-principal investigator Alex de Sherbinin, focused on three application areas: air quality (using MODIS aerosol optical depth and MISR data), coastal water quality (using SeaWiFS data), and emissions from biomass burning (using MODIS active fire and burn scar data). Selected results will likely be released in the coming year via the NASA-funded Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) managed by CIESIN.

Human Security Among New Topics for Next IPCC Assessment Report

Tue Jan 18 00:00:00 EST 2011

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy participated in the First Lead Authors Meeting for Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, in Tsukuba, Japan January 11–14. Levy is helping to write the chapter on human health, well-being, and security, a new topic for the IPCC.

New Research on Links between Migration and the Environment

Thu Jan 13 00:00:00 EST 2011

CIESIN associate research scientist Susana Adamo is guest editor with Haydea Izazola of the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Xochimilco, Mexico, of a special issue of the journal Population and Environment on the theme of “Human Migration and the Environment.” The special issue (Volume 32, Nos. 2-3) presents new research on the complex links between migration and the environment, including both the effects of environmental change on human migration patterns and the impacts of migration dynamics on environmental conditions in sending and receiving regions. The seven original research papers and the guest editorial by Adamo and Izazola are available through SpringerLink.

See: “Human Migration and the Environment” Special Issue

Climate Change and Population Displacement Issues Presented at D.C. Meeting

Wed Jan 12 00:00:00 EST 2011

CIESIN senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin gave a presentation at a meeting of the Committee on Climate, Energy, and National Security (CENS) of the National Academies held in Washington, D.C., January 10-11. The presentation, “Preparing for Population Displacement and Resettlement Associated with Large Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Projects,” was part of several presentations of a January 10 session focusing on the question of a relationship between climate and population movements. The meeting was held to discuss a possible study by CENS on environmental migration, and committee activities around climate, energy and national security.

Long-term Recovery and Sustainable Development Plan for Southwestern Haiti Announced

Tue Jan 04 00:00:00 EST 2011

A map of southwestern Haiti showing the area of intervention of the Côte du Sud Initiative, Haiti. Source: CIESIN, 2010

The Côte du Sud Initiative (CSI), which focuses on the southwestern coastal region of Haiti, launched the first stage of a multi-year program on January 4. The CSI is being implemented through detailed planning processes and sustained investment targeted over twenty years. The initiative is structured along four main thematic lines: natural resource management, social services, economic development and infrastructure, and governance and disaster preparedness. Technical teams have been designed to enable participation among community members, local actors, and research institutions. The CSI was created by a group of Haitian and international organizations, including the Earth Institute, with a strong focus on coordination, national ownership, and building the institutional capacity of the government and local partners. CIESIN is leading the Earth Institute’s work during the planning and coordination phases, and is supporting data collection, mentoring, capacity building and management, and spatial analysis and data integration.

Activities during the first year which CIESIN will support include comprehensive baseline studies by themes; development of a consistent monitoring system throughout the southwestern region for agriculture, land use, livelihoods and child and maternal health care; and preparation of five-year planning and visioning programs at both local and regional scales. Climate and hydrology data will be collected in real time. Incentives to restore ecosystem services and simultaneously reduce poverty will be tested. Integrated development projects will be implemented in targeted areas such as the Port-à-Piment watershed, where previous research has been conducted.

See: Haiti Regeneration Initiative