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New Faces at CIESIN

April 17, 2019

CIESIN has hired several staff and interns for different projects, and a new scholar is visiting from China. 

Joining the Geo-referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) project are Justine Dowden, Chisimdi Onwuteaka, Matthew Heaton, and Eniko Kelly. Justine Dowden comes to CIESIN from the Earth Institute, now project manager responsible for coordination, reporting, and managing support of activities planned for countries under GRID3. She is also providing technical support during the design and implementation phases of data collection for developing health infrastructure data systems in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Dowden has worked with international aid organizations and non-profits that advance women’s rights globally and domestically, and she has co-led related research. She has a BA in sociology, French, and art history, from Brandeis University, and an MPH from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

Chisimidi Onwuteaka brings communications expertise from her work in Peace Corps South Africa and Americorps to her new role as communications officer for GRID3. She is helping develop materials to inform and support project stakeholders, as part of a comprehensive GRID3 communications strategy between partners. She has a BA from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with a double major in global studies and public policy, and a minor in public health entrepreneurship.

Former interns Matthew Heaton and Eniko Kelly are now senior research staff assistants. Matthew Heaton has a dual degree in geography and psychology from the State University of New York at Geneseo. Eniko Kelly recently received her MS in geoinformatics from Hunter College, City University of New York, and has a combined BS and MS in geological engineering and applied geo-sciences from the University of Bucharest, Romania, and the University of Leoben, Austria. 

Several interns have also joined GRID3, assisting with data downloading, documentation, and exploratory data analyses. Jiayi Fan has a BS in managerial economics and a BA in statistics, from the University of California, Davis; and an MA in quantitative methods in social science from Columbia University. Erin Gregoire is a senior at Columbia College, majoring in sustainable development.  

Edna Egal and Mairead Milán are Earth Institute interns for the spring 2019 semester. Egal is supporting the HRSL project, a collaboration with Facebook’s Internet.org, working with geographic information specialist Linda Pistolesi. Egal is a first year student in the Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) program, majoring in computer science. Milán is a senior at Columbia College, majoring in sustainable development, and is working on the fifth version of CIESIN’s flagship data product, the Gridded Population of the World (GPW).

Nanshan Li is working with GIS programmer Kytt MacManus and associate director for geospatial applications Greg Yetman on a new project on population modeling using wireless data and nighttime lights data, supported by the Schmidt Futures Foundation. Li is a master’s student in the Data Science Program of the Columbia University Data Science Institute, and has a BS in civil engineering from University of California, Los Angeles.

Visiting from Hohai University in Nanjing, China, for one year is Prof. Yan Sun. She is vice director of the Land Resource Management Institute of Hohai University and consults for the World Bank as a resettlement specialist. While at CIESIN she is working with Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications, focused on her research on the social impact of involuntary resettlement.


Environmental Migration Panels Held at Annual Geography Conference

April 9, 2019

Geographers and other experts from around the world met in Washington DC April 3–7 for the annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers (AAG). Three panels, organized by the AAG Specialty Groups on Population and Human Dimensions of Global Change, focused on the topic, ″environmental migration, current realities, and future prospects.″ Associate director for Science Applications Alex de Sherbinin gave one of 12 presented papers, summarizing efforts to model climate change-induced migration based on the World Bank′s 2018 Groundswell report. The project continues to examine climate impacts on crop and water resources and the ways in which they may influence internal migration in the future. Sophie Vanwambeke, a geographer visiting CIESIN for one year from Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium, and Sheng Miao, visiting for one year from East China Normal University in Shanghai, also participated in the conference.

See: American Association of Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting


Modeling Population Change in Mexico Described in Columbia Data Science Poster

April 8, 2019

Nanshan Li standing in front of the poster she authored on modeling population change in Mexico using wireless device location and nighttime lights data

As part of Columbia University′s Data Science Day held April 3 at Lerner Hall in Manhattan, CIESIN intern Nanshan Li presented a poster on a project that aims to model population change using new sources of data such as wireless device location and night-time lights data. The poster was one of 36 selected for presentation at the event, which featured keynote speaker Brad Smith, president of Microsoft. The poster described initial analysis of test data available for Mexico, to see if such new data sources could help detect or monitor population change on short to medium time scales. Li is working towards her Master of Science degree in Data Science at Columbia. The poster was co-authored with Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications; Kytt MacManus, CIESIN Senior Systems Programmer; Greg Yetman, associate director for geospatial applications; and Robert Chen, CIESIN director. The project is supported by a grant to the Data Science Institute from the Schmidt Futures Foundation.

See: Population Modeling in Mexico with Wireless Device Location and Nighttime Lights Data (Poster)
       Data Science Day 2019


GRID3 Project Partners Gather in Morocco for Strategy Workshop

April 7, 2019

The Geo-Referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) project held a strategy and planning workshop in El Jadida, Morocco, March 19–22, aimed at reaching a collective understanding of program goals and progress. Representatives from project partners—the United Nations Population Fund and WorldPop/Flowminder—and from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), joined Marc Levy, CIESIN deputy director, and other CIESIN and Earth Institute staff members at the workshop to discuss opportunities for increasing collaboration among GRID3 partners, donors, and national organizations, and ensuring efficient coordination and implementation.


Responsible Management and Use of Research Data Addressed in Philadelphia Meetings

April 5, 2019

The semi-annual plenary of the Research Data Alliance (RDA) drew nearly 500 research data experts to Philadelphia for a series of workshops and sessions under the theme, “With Data Comes Responsibility.” March 31–April 1 and April 4, CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert Downs participated in the RDA workshop, “International Network-of-Networks: Data Experts Workshop (iN2N),” aimed at producing a scientific white paper articulating the complexities of conducting research across international borders with a focus on data use and interoperability. The workshop was organized by Leslie McIntosh-Borrelli of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, with support from the U.S. National Science Foundation. CIESIN director Robert Chen also participated in a parallel workshop, “FAIR and Responsible Research Data Management.” Led by Jane Greenberg of Drexel University and Simon Hodson of the Committee on Data (CODATA) of the International Science Council (ISC), the workshop examined how the research data community could expand implementation of the FAIR principles—guidelines for making data findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable. Chen gave a presentation, “Addressing FAIR through Legal Interoperability: Principles and Practice,” co-authored with Downs, reviewing the legal basis for developing open access data resources through the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN.

Both Downs and Chen then participated in the 13th RDA Plenary April 2–4 at the Loews Hotel in Philadelphia. Chen led a discussion on the proposed revised charter for the RDA-CODATA Legal Interoperability Group, which he co-chairs. He also gave the presentation, “Global Fundamental Geospatial Data for Sustainable Development,” in a session on data for sustainable development goals and RDA connections. Downs summarized the work of the Data Granularity Task Force during the Data Discovery Paradigms Interest Group meeting, and co-led sessions on data versioning and on bringing data and computational infrastructures together to support open, reproducible research. Downs and Chen also presented the poster, “Exceeding Legacy Requirements to Meet New Requirements for Trustworthy Data Repositories,” co-authored with Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for Science Applications. SEDAC has undergone certification by the ISC World Data System as a trustworthy data repository, to become one of more than 110 member organizations, in the category of Regular Member.


New York City Panel on Climate Change Releases Third Report at Tenth Anniversary Summit

March 18, 2019

The New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC) held a half-day summit, “Science for Decision-Making in a Warmer World: 10 Years of the NPCC,″ at the New York Academy of Sciences March 15 in Manhattan. The summit marked the tenth anniversary since the founding of the NPCC in 2008 as a partnership with New York City and the Academy. It featured the launch of the third NPCC report, a special issue of The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, “Advancing Tools and Methods for Flexible Adaptation Pathways and Science Policy Integration.″ At the event, New York City officials, private sector representatives, and leading climate experts reflected on the importance of independent scientific assessment of climate change impacts affecting the City. Cynthia Rosenzweig of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and the Earth Institute, and William Solecki of Hunter College serve as co-chairs of the NPCC. CIESIN associate director Alex de Sherbinin, who was a contributor to the second NPCC report published in 2015, was one of more than 100 participants at the summit.

See: Summit Announcement
       NPCC 2019 Report (Special Issue)
       Earth Institute Press Release


Latest Update to Global Gridded Population Data Available Via Web Map Service

March 12, 2019

Comparison map of basic demographics, young populations on top and aging populations on bottom

The latest update to the Gridded Population of the World data collection, GPW version 4.11, provides access to more than 100 interactive map layers through a Web Map Service (WMS), facilitating visualization through map tools such as the SEDAC Map Viewer. The WMS now includes 78 map layers for population estimates by age and sex categories for the year 2010, enabling users to explore potential differences in the spatial distribution of specific population subgroups. Version 4.11, available from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, also corrects several technical issues from the previous version, most notably re-coding missing data values.

First developed in 1994, GPW has been used widely to support research, planning, and applications on diverse topics, including energy and water management, disaster and humanitarian response, agriculture and food security, public health, transportation and communications, and urban and coastal zone planning. The recently released age and sex data expand GPW’s usefulness for mapping differential vulnerability and risk, studying urbanization and migration, assessing emergency response and public health needs, and other sustainable development applications. The data are free and downloadable from SEDAC, which also provides detailed documentation, premade maps, and interactive mapping tools. Free registration with NASA's Earthdata system is required to download data and maps.

See: Gridded Population of the World (GPWv4.11) data collection
       What's New in Revision 11


New Project To Develop Tools for Assessing Security Implications of Environmental Stressors

March 8, 2019

CIESIN is partnering with ISciences and Case Consulting International on a new two-year project, Data ANalytics and Tools for Ecosecurity (DANTE), which is developing an open source software toolkit for systematic monitoring, forecasting, and analysis of environmental stressors and their impacts on security. Supported by the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), DANTE is focusing on the role of environmental stressors in three key areas: international migration and refugee flows; internal migration and isolated populations; and conflict and political instability. The tools are being designed to accelerate quantitative interdisciplinary analysis of environmental stressors, taking into account demographics, economics, health, conflict, hazards, and other factors. The project aims to create a shared resource for analysts from academic, intelligence, business, and nongovernmental communities to better and more rapidly anticipate conditions that may require humanitarian assistance, efforts to reduce conflict potential, or other measures. The project represents the second phase of a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) award from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), led by CIESIN alumnus Tom Parris of ISciences. CIESIN is developing analytic use cases, providing expertise on demographic, conflict, and other data, and supporting tool development. A project kickoff meeting was held at the Lamont campus in mid January, and the project web site was launched in early March.

See: Data ANalytics and Tools for Ecosecurity (DANTE)


Population and Infrastructure Data Needs Discussed at United Nations Side Event

March 7, 2019

Robert Chen

The United Nations Statistical Commission held its 50th Session at UN headquarters in New York City March 5-8, bringing together representatives of National Statistical Offices from around the world. On March 6, the side event, "Where We Live and Work: The POPGRID Data Collective," drew more than 70 participants to discuss recent progress and unfilled needs for consistent, high resolution population and infrastructure data. CIESIN director Robert Chen opened the session with a brief overview about POPGRID. This was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Claire Melamed, Executive Director of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data. Panelists included Lisa Bersales, National Statistician from the Philippine Statistics Authority; Homère Ngoma Ngoma from the Central Bureau of Census at the National Institute of Statistics of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and Pablo Salazar Canelos, Regional Population and Development Advisor from the Regional Office in Panama of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The morning event was organized by CIESIN, the Global Partnership, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UNSDSN) Thematic Research Network on Data and Statistics (TReNDS), and UNFPA. A blog post summarizing the event is available from TReNDS. The POPGRID initiative is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

See: Side Event Invitation
       United Nations Statistical Commission 50th Session


Recent Milestones and Transitions at CIESIN

February 28, 2019

CIESIN Deputy Director Marc Levy, left and senior research associate Sandra Baptista, right

Senior research associate Sandra Baptista was among 11 employees at the Lamont Campus of Columbia University who were celebrated for a 10 year anniversary of service to Columbia, at a special luncheon held February 21 at the restaurant Madeleine’s Petit Paris in Northvale, New Jersey. The occasion was hosted by Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory director Sean Solomon and CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy. Baptista is co-investigator with Levy of the project, Geo-referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID³), and co-principal investigator of the Research Translation Core of Columbia University′s Superfund Research Program on Health Effects and Geochemistry of Arsenic, which is supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). She began her tenure at CIESIN as an Earth Institute postdoctoral researcher, expanding on her doctoral research on demographic change, urbanization, vegetation dynamics, and environmental governance in southern Brazil, including the examination of vulnerabilities and adaptation to climate change in Brazil’s coastal city-regions. Her master’s and PhD degrees are in geography from Rutgers University, and she has a BA in environmental studies and Portuguese and Brazilian studies from Brown University.

Intern Matthew Heaton has been promoted to senior research staff assistant in CIESIN′s Geospatial Applications Division. As part of the GRID³ team, Heaton has been focused on integration and validation of health facility and settlement data in provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has also helped develop validation protocols, and a technical manual to guide upcoming field work. Heaton has a dual degree in geography and psychology from the State University of New York at Geneseo, with a background in multimedia and community mapping initiatives.

A new visitor from East China Normal University, Siduo Wu, will spend six months at CIESIN conducting research on scenarios for developing a world-class eco-island in a major coast urban setting, with an emphasis on waterfront resilience issues. She will be working with CIESIN director Robert Chen and associate director for science applications, Alex de Sherbinin. Wu has a bachelor’s degree from Fujian Normal University and an anticipated master’s degree from East China Normal University, both in physical geography.


Technical Workshops Focus on Improving Information Architecture for Sahel Data Collection

February 20, 2019

Greg Yetman, CIESIN associate director Geospatial Applications, participated recently in a series of technical workshops addressing data infrastructure issues, held in Niamey, Niger, under the aegis of SERVIR. SERVIR is a joint venture between NASA and the U.S. Agency for International Development to provide satellite-based earth monitoring data, geospatial information, and tools to help improve environmental decision-making in developing nations. For SERVIR, CIESIN is helping develop applications of data products and conducting technical training in data management. At the first workshop, held February 13, Yetman gave a presentation, “Information for Infrastructure: Lessons Learned.” The audience was comprised of representatives from the Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), in this case, Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Mali; CILSS is an organization which addresses desertification in the Sahel. Yetman also participated in a hands-on workshop February 18 by making technical recommendations for improving information architecture, based on workshop presentations. Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for Science Applications, presented remotely on February 13 on data repository certification processes and the ISC World Data System.


Updated Infant Mortality Rates Data Set Released

February 12, 2019

Comparison map of global subnational infant mortality rates, shows version 1 with data from the year 2000 postioned on top and version 2 with data from circa 2015 positioned on the bottom

An updated version of the Global Subnational Infant Mortality Rates (IMRv2) data set has been released by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, with more recent (circa 2015) and higher resolution input data. IMR data have been collected for 234 countries and territories, of which 143 include subnational units and 91, mostly smaller nations, include only national units. Compared to version one of the Global IMR data set, which was benchmarked to the year 2000, version two has 78 more countries with subnational data, and the average input unit size has declined. As a georeferenced global subnational dataset of infant mortality rates, IMRv2 has many potential applications that may be of interest to a wide user community in interdisciplinary studies of health, development, sustainability, and the environment, as well as policy making. The IMRv2 data set is part of the SEDAC Poverty Mapping collection, an extensive group of data sets related to various aspects of the geographic distribution of people living in poverty.

See: Global Subnational Infant Mortality Rates, v2 (2015)


Advisory Committee Convenes in Switzerland to Address Next Steps for Platform on Disaster Displacement

February 11, 2019

Photo of participants in the workshop of the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD) Advisory Committee Workshop held February 4–5

Susana Adamo, CIESIN research scientist, participated in the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD) Advisory Committee Workshop held February 4–5 in Bogis Bossey, Switzerland, near Geneva. This third meeting of the committee was focused on defining the next phase of the PDD, and involved participants sharing their latest work on disaster displacement. Adamo also took part in a meeting of the PDD′s Data and Knowledge Working Group (DKWG), where the work plan for the next three years was discussed.

Adamo has served on the PDD Advisory Committee with Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications, since 2016. The PDD continues the work of the Nansen Initiative, providing strategic guidance to the PDD chair and steering group, and helping implement PDD activities. Based in Geneva, the PDD is supported by the governments of France, Germany, and Switzerland; and by the MacArthur Foundation.

See: Advisory Committee Workshop
       Platform on Disaster Displacement/Follow-up to Nansen Initiative


CIESIN IT Staff Learn About New Technologies to Enhance Geospatial Data Development

February 1, 2019

CIESIN information technology staff travelled to Washington DC recently to learn about the latest geographic information system (GIS) technologies and trends showcased by the software giant Esri at its annual gathering for developers, the 2019 Esri Developers Summit DC, held January 31 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. CIESIN associate director for information technology Sri Vinay, senior systems analyst and programmer Frank Pascuzzi, and senior media designer Al Pinto focused on innovative technologies and best practices for improving the organization’s capabilities for Esri’s ArcGIS, the GIS software used widely by today’s geospatial community. The overall goal is to improve the infrastructure that supports geospatial data development, mapping, and the implementation of geoprocessing services at CIESIN and its main program, the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center, including the development of web and mobile mapping applications.

See: The 2019 Esri Developer Summit


Barbara Ryan Assumes Chair of SEDAC User Working Group; New Members Added

February 1, 2019

Barbara Ryan, former secretariat director of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and a Geospatial Hall of Fame awardee, is the new chair of the User Working Group (UWG) of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. With a multi-disciplinary academic background in geology, geography, and civil engineering, Ryan’s illustrious career spanned oversight of all US Geological Survey programs and policies associated with national mapping and remote sensing, including Landsat satellites; assignments in the U.S. Department of the Interior; and directing the space program at the World Meterological Organization, prior to her tenure at GEO, from which she is retired. She replaces Myron Gutmann, of the Institute of Behavioral Science at the University of Colorado. Two new members have also joined the UWG: Brian O'Neill, University of Denver; and Navin Ramankutty, University of British Columbia. O’Neill is a professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver and director of research at the School’s Pardee Center for International Futures. His research interests are in human-environment interactions, in particular the relationship between future societal development, greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change impacts. Ramankutty is an agricultural geographer and professor of global food security and sustainability at the University of British Columbia, studying changes in land use and agricultural practices, and the effect on global food production. Ramankutty has contributed multiple data sets to SEDAC, including the cropland and pastureland data sets of the Global Agricultural Lands data collection, and he was co-author with Erle Ellis of the Anthropogenic Biomes of the World data collection.

The UWG provides guidance to SEDAC on user needs and priorities, drawing on the diverse expertise and experience of its members.

See: SEDAC User Working Group


Earth Science Data Community Focuses on Value of Data and Information

January 18, 2019

Earth science data creators, system developers, stewards, disseminators, and users met in Bethesda, Maryland, for the Winter Meeting of the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) January 14–17. Beginning in 2019, the theme of the ESIP meetings, held twice a year, is “Increasing the Use and Value of Earth Science Data and Information.” Robert Downs, CIESIN senior digital archivist, participated in the meeting, representing the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Application Center (SEDAC), one of the original ESIP members. During the business meeting of the ESIP Assembly on January 16, Downs was re-elected as the Type 1 Representative on the ESIP Governance Committee. At the meeting, he presented the poster, “Assessing Data Curation at a Scientific Data Center,″ authored with Robert Chen, CIESIN director and SEDAC manager, and Alexander de Sherbinin, CIESIN associate director for Science Applications and SEDAC deputy manager. 


Project to Build Capacity in Population Mapping in Africa Expands Staff

January 7, 2019

The Geo-referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID³) project has recently brought on several new staff members at CIESIN. Jolynn Schmidt is a new data and program analyst who is helping to develop methodologies for the production and implementation of GRID3 core data layers and providing technical support to in-country implementing partners. With a background in Linux systems engineering, she has a masters in geographic information systems (GIS) from Pennsylvania State University and a BS in environmental studies from Western Michigan University. Anela Layugan is a senior research staff assistant supporting the quality control processes, data explorations, and data visualization tasks of GRID³ data collected and/or consolidated by in-country implementing partners. She earned a BA in environmental science (Earth Systems Science) and an MS in GIS under Clark University′s Accelerated Degree Program.

New interns include Matthew Heaton, who is full-time, and Eniko Kelly, Marchelle Lundquist, and Haokai Zhao, who are part-time. Heaton has a dual degree in geography and psychology from the State University of New York at Geneseo, with a background in multimedia and community mapping initiatives. Kelly is an MS student in the geoinformatics program at Hunter College, City University of New York, where she completed advanced training in the GIS Certificate Program. She has a combined BS and MS in geological engineering and applied geo-sciences from the University of Bucharest, Romania, and the University of Leoben, Austria. Lundquist is a senior at Columbia College, majoring in sustainable development. Zhao is an MS student at Columbia's Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering. He has a BS in electrical engineering and automation from Tongji University and a minor certificate in law from Fudan University, both located in Shanghai, China. The interns are focused on data collection and cleaning, data quality assessment, and creating and curating maps.

The GRID³ project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID), aims to increase developing country capability for mapping population distribution as a way of ensuring that everyone, especially the most vulnerable, are counted. Key partners are Flowminder/WorldPop and UNFPA-United Nations Population Fund.