Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) Columbia University
Home PageContact Info

About Us
Programs and Projects
Data & Information Resources
Education & Outreach
News and Events

News & Events

Current News | 2007 | 2006 |  2005 | 200420032002 | 2001 | 2000

CIESIN Poverty Mapping Workshop Offers Exploration of Spatial Aspects of Well-Being

December 20, 2007

graph of infant mortality indicatorsA hands-on workshop on poverty mapping offered by CIESIN headlined a conference to advance the debate about the implications of globalization for poverty and inequality. The conference, Mapping Global Inequality: Beyond Income Inequality, was held December 13–14 at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Multidisciplinary experts gathered to discuss different dimensions of poverty and inequality at various geographic scales of analysis. Conference papers and presentations examined the newest trends in health inequalities and social outcomes; migration and inequality; wealth and other material inequalities; gender inequalities; and aspects of globalization and culture.

CIESIN research associate Maria Muñiz led the two-hour mapping workshop, which provided hands-on instruction in integrating spatial poverty data with earth science data to explore connections. Using data from CIESIN’s Global Poverty Mapping Project and Columbia’s Center for Hazards and Risk Research, participants examined the poor’s exposure and vulnerability to multiple hazards, and utilized GIS software in exercises to determine whether there was a relationship between the distribution of poor populations and areas of high hazard impacts.

The poverty mapping workshops were requested by Brian Fulfrost, GIS coordinator and lecturer at UCSC and project manager for the UC Atlas of Global Inequality. “The workshop was accessible but also technologically sophisticated enough to effectively communicate how to use common GIS-based tools (map algebra, zonal analysis) to understand the spatial relationships between poverty and other environmental indicators,” Fulfrost said.

Marc Levy, CIESIN deputy director, also spoke at the Conference on recent progress in poverty mapping and future challenges, including examples of using poverty maps to better understand patterns of vulnerability to climate change and other global risks. Online maps, figures, and interactive utilities are available now on the Conference Web site; online presentations and a print atlas based on the conference will be published.

See: Mapping Global Inequality: Beyond Income Inequality

CIESIN Staff Active at 2007 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting
December 14, 2007

CIESIN was well-represented at the 2007 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco, which took place December 10–14. Staff participated in a NASA exhibit and led or contributed to six papers. CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy presented a paper on the use of remote sensing to support international environmental treaties related to international conservation. Two presentations by geographic information specialist Greg Yetman were on the agenda, one on CIESIN’s collaborative work on polar data access and visualization and a second on its progress in providing integration of socioeconomic and Earth science data through open Web mapping services. A poster paper on the use of citation metrics to assess the scientific impact of socioeconomic and earth science data was presented by SEDAC’s User Services manager, Joe Schumacher. He also helped train users on data access and use at the NASA exhibit. In addition, CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert Downs contributed to a paper on measurement of the reusability of software led by staff from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Kerstin Lehnert of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory presented a paper on community-based development of standards for geochemical and geochronological data, to which CIESIN Information Technology staff members Sri Vinay, Branko Djapic, and Brian Falk contributed as co-authors.

See: AGU Fall Meeting

Interactive Mapping Tool to Support HIV/AIDS Programs
December 10, 2007

Integration of an online interactive mapping tool into information management systems is the aim of a new partnership between CIESIN and the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs (ICAP) at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. The online tool will locate more than 200 clinics within a map containing a rich set of environmental and socioeconomic data layers. The tool will also tap into a database of quarterly clinic reports, enabling users to visualize the clinics by age, gender profiles, or any one of nearly one hundred different variables tracked in the reports.

ICAP works with host countries and other organizations, principally in sub-Saharan Africa, to build capacity for family-focused HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment programs. CIESIN has also been instrumental in developing an atlas of ICAP clinics showing in fine detail all current ICAP clinics by country.

See:  ICAP

New Spatial Data Catalog is Launched
December 7, 2007

CU Spatial data catalogCIESIN is providing server space and software support for the Columbia University (CU) Spatial Data Catalog, a new resource for identifying and locating Geographic Information Systems (GIS)-compatible data sets from Columbia’s spatial data collections.

The CU Spatial Data Catalog is the primary access point to Columbia University’s growing electronic spatial data collection. The Catalog allows users in the University community easier access to geospatial data, bringing together data from many sources and supporting remote access from home or in the field.

The CU Spatial Data Catalog, launched by the University’s Electronic Data Services (EDS), was developed by partners from the University's GIS working group: Columbia University Libraries (CUL), Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP), Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP), and Columbia University Information Technology (CUIT).

Currently, the Catalog contains detailed records describing more than 1000 individual layers, including information from throughout the globe and ready for use in GIS. Full record keyword searches are possible, with additional advanced searching options. Thumbnail images for each layer visually summarize each data set.

See: CU Spatial Data Catalog

Personnel Changes at CIESIN

November 30, 2007

CIESIN associate director for Information Services, W. Christopher Lenhardt, has taken a position with the Environmental Sciences Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, effective December 3. Lenhardt has worked at CIESIN for more than ten years. Most recently, he managed the Information Services Division, which encompasses data archiving, metadata, and user services activities. He also served as the deputy manager of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. SEDAC’s new deputy manager is Alex de Sherbinin, senior staff associate in the Science Division. CIESIN will be conducting a search for a new associate director in the near future.

See: CIESIN Information Services

Analysis of Natural and Conflict-Related Hazards in Asia Launched
November 27, 2007

A new project on Risk Assessment and Mitigation Measures for Natural and Conflict-Related Hazards in the Asian Region has been initiated by the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI) with active participation by CIESIN and the Center for Hazards and  Risk Research (CHRR). Supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the project involves working with the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to address information needs related to the risks of different natural hazards and civil conflict in the Asian region. Other participants in the project include the Peace Research Institute of Oslo (PRIO) and the University of Geneva.

See: Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI)

Millennium Challenge Corporation Adds CIESIN-Produced Index to 2008 ‘Scorecard’

November 26, 2007

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) has released its 2008 Country Scorecards and Selection Criteria. For the first time, the 2008 scorecards include a Natural Resource Management Index (NRMI), produced by CIESIN. The NRMI was approved by the MCC board following a review of proposals submitted in response to an open call by the MCC for natural resource indicators. The NRMI is based on measures of access to sanitation and water, child mortality, and ecoregion protection. 

See: 2008 Scorecards and Selection Criteria
       About the NRMI

Sustainability Science, Hazards Issues Explored in Context of Global Change
November 14, 2007

Recent presentations by CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy examined different issues against a backdrop of global change. His lecture, “Assessing Threats from Natural Disasters and Climate Change,” focused on the security implications of hazards in the context of global change, and the role of the military sector in responding to such challenges. The lecture was given as part of an Executive Seminar at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies in Washington DC on November 13. Seminar participants were military and civilian officials from 20 countries in the Middle East and south Asia. Levy also participated in an International Workshop on Designing Global Information Commons for Innovation in Frontier Sciences, co-organized by the Science Council of Japan and the US National Academy of Sciences. His presentation at the workshop, held November 8–10 in Tokyo, explored the role of an information commons for sustainability science.

See: Assessing Threats from Natural Disasters (5.96 MB PDF)
       Designing an Information Commons (2.50 MB PDF)

ENTRI Releases Conference of Party Decision Search Tool
November 8, 2007
8th Conference of the Parties (COP)-8 to the Convention on Biological Diversity (DBD).

In response to the need to keep track of the many decision documents approved by the Parties to multilateral environmental agreements, the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) has produced a Conference of Party (COP) Decision Search Tool as an add-on to its Environmental Treaties and Resource Indicators (ENTRI) project. Powered by a Google Search Appliance, the tool includes controlled “metadata” (coding of each decision document) to enable powerful advanced searches by date, COP number, or title of document. All decision documents are harvested and converted to portable document format (PDF) for consistency, but for reference purposes the original universal resource locator (URL) is listed.

The collection includes more than 2,100 decision documents for the following agreements: Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (Basel), Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar), UN Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD), UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Kyoto, 1997), Vienna Convention to Protect the Ozone Layer (Vienna), and the Montreal Protocol of the Vienna Convention (Montreal). Users may search across all ten agreements or limit the search to selected subsets.

See: ENTRI COP Search Tool

Advisory Group Meets at the World Bank
October 30, 2007

The User Working Group (UWG) of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) held its second meeting of the year at the headquarters of the World Bank in Washington DC on October 29–30. Speakers from NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Open Geospatial Consortium, the National Research Council, and the World Bank briefed UWG members on a range of issues important to SEDAC’s development and ability to address key interdisciplinary data needs. CIESIN director and SEDAC manager, Robert Chen, reported on recent SEDAC accomplishments, including SEDAC'’s latest contributions to activities of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its ongoing efforts to support the development of the Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS).

Chaired by Prof. Harlan Onsrud of the University of Maine, the UWG includes members from a wide range of scientific disciplines, academic and government institutions, and user communities. The UWG advises SEDAC on user needs and priorities, strategic directions, and data acquisition and dissemination.


CIESIN Contributes to Global Environmental Outlook
October 26, 2007

UNEP Video Introducing GEO4
CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy participated in the launch of the fourth Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-4) by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) at UN headquarters in New York on October 25. The GEO-4 report highlights the world’s growing vulnerability to changes in its atmosphere, land, water, and biodiversity, and identifies policy choices that need to be made to avoid future environmental crises. Levy was one of three Coordinating Lead Authors of Chapter 10, “Options for Action,” which emphasizes the need to experiment with new policy approaches in light of the unprecedented magnitude and complexity of contemporary environmental challenges.

See: UNEP GEO-4 Press Release
       UNEP GEO Web site

Transatlantic Cooperation the Focus of DC Symposium
October 25, 2007

CIESIN director Robert Chen and deputy director Marc Levy participated in Transatlantic Science Week 2007: Climate Action, an annual symposium organized by the Norwegian Embassy, the Research Council of Norway, and the Carnegie Institution in Washington DC October 22–24. Levy co-chaired a session on Climate Change and Conflict with Halvard Buhaug of the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO) and presented a paper on “Drought as a Contributor to Political Conflict: Empirical Evidence.”  For a session on Natural Hazards in a Changing Climate, Chen and Levy presented papers on “Risk Identification and the Spatial Distribution of Natural Disaster Hotspots in a Changing Climate” and “Estimating Exposure to Future Sea-Level Rise Risks Worldwide,” respectively. The session was organized and chaired by Oddvar Kjekstad of the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI), which is actively collaborating with CIESIN and the Center for Hazards and Risk Research on research on disaster risk management.

See: Transatlantic Science Week

CIESIN Leads Mapping Workshop in China
October 19, 2007

Ms. Jiang Yonghau, Deputy Director China Fiscal Association, with workshop participants

At the invitation of the China Fiscal Association, P.R. China, CIESIN organized a workshop October 8–12 on mapping and visualization of financial data. Held in Beijing and Shanghai, the interdisciplinary workshop was led by CIESIN staff members Mark Becker, associate director of the Geospatial Applications division; Xiaoshi Xing, information scientist in the Information Sciences division; and Maria Muñiz, research associate in the Science Applications division. The workshop included members of the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research (IGSNRR) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), and the National Bureau of Statistics of China (NBS). Topics also included a presentation on CIESIN’s poverty mapping work and Internet mapping tools; and an exploration of new opportunities for data sharing.

Digital Preservation Issues Discussed
October 12, 2007

Munich and Beijing were the venues recently for discussion of digital preservation issues. A poster paper, “Cooperative Management of a Long-Term Archive of Heterogeneous Scientific Data,” was presented at the PV2007 Conference, “Ensuring the Long-Term Preservation and Value Adding to Scientific and Technical Data,” held October 9–11 in Munich, Germany. CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert R. Downs authored the paper with CIESIN director Robert Chen; associate director of Information Sciences W. Christopher Lenhardt; Walter Bourne, Director of Technology Initiatives at the Columbia University Libraries; and David Millman, Senior Director of Systems Integration at Columbia University Information Technology (CUIT). John Moses of the Earth Science Data & Information System Project (ESDIS) at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center presented the poster on behalf of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) hosted by CIESIN.

In Beijing, former CIESIN Visiting Scholar Zhu Zhongming of the Lanzhou Branch of the National Science Library of the Chinese Academy of Sciences presented a joint paper in a parallel session on institutional repositories at the International Conference on Digital Preservation (iPRES 2007) October 11. The paper, “New Partnerships for Scientific Data Preservation and Publication Systems,”  was co-authored with Chen, Downs, Lenhardt, and CIESIN information scientist Xiaoshi Xing.

See: PV2007 Conference
       iPRES 2007

New Population and Land Area Data Set Released
October 12, 2007

Version two of the Population, Landscape, and Climate Estimates data set, PLACE II, has been released as part of SEDAC’s National Aggregates of Geospatial Data Collection. The aim is to provide country-level measures of spatial characteristics of 228 nations to researchers for whom national aggregates are more useful than GIS data. PLACE II estimates the number of people (head counts and percentages) and the land area (square kilometers and percentages) represented within each class of a number of demographic, physical, biological, and climatic variables for each country around the world, for the years 1990 and 2000. These variables include biomes, climate zones, coastal proximity zones, elevation zones, and population density zones. The full data array of nearly 300 variables, tabulated by country, is available for download in Excel spreadsheet format, together with supporting documentation. The PLACE II map collection displays examples of input variables and country dynamics via more than 40 maps at global, continental, and detailed scales.


Sustainable Development and Leadership Challenges Discussed in Berlin
October 10, 2007

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy gave a keynote talk at a symposium held in Berlin October 8–9 to honor Martin Jänicke, retired director of the Environmental Policy Research Unit of the Free University of Berlin. The conference, "Smart Regulation for Global Competition—is Europe’s Competitive Edge Green?" brought together a number of scholars to address to address questions inspired by Jänicke's work on ecological modernization. Levy's talk, “Sustainable Development and Challenges of Leadership,” presented evidence showing that leadership on global environmental policy matters has shifted markedly from the United States to Europe, and argued that differences in political structures account for the change. He noted, however, that the deepening of the sustainable development agenda, including the entry of climate change as a mainstream security issue, creates leadership challenges for which current capabilities are not yet adequate either in the U.S. or in Europe.

See: Smart Regulation Symposium (80.45 KB PDF)

Need for New Global Roads Data Examined

October 3, 2007

A workshop to explore the potential development of a new global roads data set with a consortium of partners was held October 1–2, 2007 at the Lamont Campus of Columbia University in Palisades, New York. Organized by CIESIN’s SEDAC (Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center), the workshop focused on the need for well-documented, freely distributable geospatial data on inter-city roads for use in both research and applications related to sustainable development, disaster response and recovery, transportation, and biodiversity conservation. The workshop was co-sponsored by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research-Consortium for Spatial Information (CGIAR-CSI), the International Council for Science Committee on Data for Science and Technology (ICSU-CODATA), and the World Resources Institute (WRI). Participants included individuals from United Nations and international agencies, nongovernmental organizations, private industry, government agencies, and universities.

See: Global Roads Data

Visiting Scholar to Research Land Use/Land Cover Change

October 2, 2007

Huang Quiuhao, visiting scholar

CIESIN is pleased to welcome a new visiting research scholar, Huang Qiuhao, of Peking University, P.R. China, who will be in residence for one year with support from the Chinese government. His research interests include land use/land cover change; land degradation; and applications of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing (RS) techniques in land resources management. Huang’s dissertation research, endorsed by Global Land Project, is focused on land use and land cover change in the Karst mountain region of southwestern China. He is being hosted by CIESIN's Geospatial Applications Division.

CIESIN to Showcase Sea-Level Rise Exhibit, Poverty Maps at Lamont Annual Open House

October 1, 2007

CIESIN will participate again in the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Open House. Held annually, the event this year will take place on Saturday, October 6 from 10 am to 4 pm. Nearly 4,000 people from the greater New York metropolitan area, including many earth science teachers and students, are expected to attend. CIESIN staff will lead interactive mapping demonstrations and hands-on activities, including a polar map-based quiz for children. Some of the CIESIN projects to be showcased include sea level rise and coastal vulnerability; carbon dioxide emissions across the United States; the geographic distribution of poverty; and the impacts of human activities on Jamaica Bay. 

See: Open House 2007

Meeting Explores Developments Related to Marine Geological Samples

September 27, 2007

CIESIN associate director for Information Technology, Sri Vinayagamoorthy, was a guest speaker at the Thirtieth Anniversary Meeting of Curators of Marine & Lacustrine Geological Samples. Representing the SESAR project, which is part of the Geoinformatics for Geochemistry Program (GfG), he gave a presentation, “Application of IGSNs to Sample Collections.” The meeting, hosted by the National Geophysical Data Center, was held in Estes Park, Colorado September 24–26.

See: Meeting Info

Ozone Depletion Symposium Held in Athens
September 27, 2007

Robert Worrest, CIESIN associate director for Washington Operations, was an invited speaker at the Scientific Symposium on the 20th Anniversary of the Montreal Protocol. Held in Athens, Greece September 23–26, the symposium, “Ozone Depletion: From its Discovery to Envisat and Aura,” brought together distinguished scientists, policy makers, industry people, and non-governmental organizations who have contributed to the protection of the ozone layer. Worrest is a winner of the UNEP Global Ozone Award and is on detail with the U.S. Geological Survey as chief scientist for the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII), which oversees CIESIN’s Northeast Information Node (NBII-NIN).

See: Scientific Symposium on the 20th Anniversary of the Montreal Protocol

CIESIN Participates in Climate Change Workshop at OGC Meeting
September 22, 2007

CIESIN Geographic information specialist Greg Yetman attended a meeting, “The User and the GEOSS Architecture XVI,” in Boulder, Colorado September 17–21. Yetman demonstrated interoperable CIESIN data and services in a GEOSS workshop addressing the workshop's theme, “Regional Decisions for Climate Change.” The meeting, which was sponsored by the OGC Network, was also attended by CIESIN programmer Brian Falk.

See: GEOSS Architecture XVI meeting

Expert Group Develops Plans for New Climate Change Scenarios
September 22, 2007

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) held a meeting, “New Scenarios for Analysis of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Climate Change, Impacts, and Response Strategies,” in Noordwijkerhout, the Netherlands September 19–21. The IPCC hopes to catalyze the development of new scenarios of future socioeconomic development and associated greenhouse gas emissions and land use change that in turn drive studies of climate change and associated impacts, adaptation, and mitigation. Richard Moss of the UN Foundation and a member of SEDAC’s User Working Group co-chaired the Steering Committee for the meeting. CIESIN director Robert Chen was one of the invited participants, addressing the need for better integration of mitigation and adaptation studies and better accessibility and management of scenario data.

See: IPCC Working Group III

Russian Center Celebrates 50th Anniversary of International Geophysical Year

September 18, 2007

Photo, left to right: Academician Mikhail Zgurovsky, Rector, National Technical University of Ukraine, Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, and member of CODATA Executive Committee; Academician Alexander Gliko, Director of the Schmidt Institute of Physics of the Earth, Russian Academy of Sciences; Prof. Alexei Gvishiani, Director of the Geophysical Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences and former CODATA Vice President; Robert Chen, Director of CIESIN and CODATA Secretary General. CIESIN director Robert Chen attended an International Symposium in Suzdal, Russia September 16–18 in honor of the 50th anniversary of the International Geophysical Year (IGY) and the launch of the electronic Geophysical Year (eGY). The Symposium was organized by the Geophysical Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences (GC-RAS), which was originally established as a Geophysical Committee to coordinate Soviet participation in the IGY in 1957–58. Chen gave a presentation on CIESIN’s long-term digital data archiving efforts at Columbia University and also represented the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) at the Symposium.

Photo, left to right: Academician Mikhail Zgurovsky, Rector, National Technical University of Ukraine, Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, and member of CODATA Executive Committee; Academician Alexander Gliko, Director of the Schmidt Institute of Physics of the Earth, Russian Academy of Sciences; Prof. Alexei Gvishiani, Director of the Geophysical Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences and former CODATA Vice President; Robert Chen, Director of CIESIN and CODATA Secretary General.

Land Use/Land Cover Change Issues Explored at Meeting

September 14, 2007

LAC meeting

CIESIN was host September 13 to the first meeting of a newly awarded project, Land Use/Land Cover Change Issues in Latin America and the Caribbean. Funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), the project takes a multi-disciplinary/multi-scale approach to evaluating how economic and demographic change is affecting land use and land cover change in Latin America and the Caribbean; and the implications of these changing patterns for socio-economic development and biodiversity conservation. CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy and research associate Maria Muniz participated in the all-day meeting, joined by Mitch Aide (Co-PI), University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras; David Carr (Co-PI), University of California, Santa Barbara; Matthew Clark (Co-PI), Sonoma State University; and Ricardo Grau, Universidad Nacional de Tucumán.

See: Abstract

NASA Surveys Its Earth Science Data Centers Users

September 6, 2007

For the last several years, NASA has sponsored an independent customer satisfaction survey to assess the performance of its Earth science data centers. Conducted by the CFI Group, this survey helps NASA identify problem areas and keep up on trends in user needs and expectations. This year, the survey will run until September 25. The Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) hosted by CIESIN is one of the data centers whose users are included in the survey. An e-mail invitation to participate in the survey was sent to users between September 4-6, 2007. If you are a user of SEDAC data, but did not receive an invitation and would like to participate, please contact or +1(734) 623-1349 and ask for the SEDAC version of the survey. Please allow two business days for a response.

See: Poster presentation on past survey results

PERN Cyberseminar: Focus on Sudano-Sahelian Zone
September 3, 2007

Following droughts in the Sahel during the early 1970s and 1980s, a raft of reports predicted a Malthusian collapse. Have these dire predictions been borne out, or have agricultural systems coped and adapted to growing population numbers despite climate variations? A cyberseminar, “Population-Development-Environment Linkages in the Sudano-Sahelian Zone of West Africa,” addresses these questions and more. Taking place September 3-14, the online seminar is co-sponsored by CIESIN’s Population-Environment Research Network (PERN) and the Programme for Interactions between Population, Development, and Environment (PRIPODE). The PERN cyberseminars are meant to provide a forum for scientists from the social and natural sciences to debate and discuss the most current population-environment research topics. Past topics have included population and deforestation, international migration and the environment, population-consumption-environment linkages, and urban spatial expansion. CIESIN hosts PERN; its international sponsors are the International Human Dimensions Programme and the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population.

See: Population-Environment Research Network

CIESIN Aids in First-Ever Biological Snapshot of Jamaica Bay

August 31, 2007

The Web site of the Jamaica Bay Research and Management Information Network (JBRMIN), operated by CIESIN’s National Biological Information Infrastructure–Northeast Information Node program (NBII-NIN), has been chosen as the official Web site for the Jamaica Bay BioBlitz. The “BioBlitz,” an intensive 24-hour cataloging of the diversity of organisms present in the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, bordering Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island, New York, will be held from 3 p.m. September 7 through 3 p.m. September 8, 2007. The event, which is taking place for the first time, is sponsored by Queens College, the City University of New York (CUNY), the National Park Service, and the Jamaica Bay Institute. The JBRMIN Web site will handle online registration, as well as disseminate permissions forms, agendas, schedules, data sheets, programs, and press releases to participants and the public.

JBRMIN is also playing a major role in tracking the progress of the Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan. Local legislation passed in 2005 requires the New York City Department of Environmental Protection to generate a comprehensive plan to restore and maintain Jamaica Bay’s water quality and ecological integrity. These ongoing activities of JBRMIN, along with the Jamaica Bay BioBlitz, are part of an attempt to advance awareness of the rich variety of life forms in an urban park setting and the role human development plays in their existence.

See: Jamaica Bay BioBlitz 2007

GEF Land Degradation Workshop Attended by CIESIN
August 30, 2007

Senior staff associate Alex de Sherbinin participated in the First Expert Workshop for the KM: Land Initiative (on Knowledge Management for the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) Land Degradation Focal Area), held in Iceland August 28–30. His presentation was on the use of aggregate sustainability indicators. The KM: Land Initiative is intended to lay the foundations for a comprehensive system to track progress across the Land Degradation Focal Area and its portfolio of projects. Participants in the workshop included representatives of the GEF Secretariat, United Nations Development Program, World Bank, and other international organizations.

See: First Expert Workshop (231 KB PDF)

Fulbright Scholar to Study Human-Environment Interactions while at CIESIN

August 21, 2007

Diana Dogaru, visiting Fulbright scholar
Diana Dogaru, a Fullbright Scholar from Romania, has begun a ten-month visit at CIESIN as of August 20. Dogaru is a geographer with the Institute of Geography of the Romanian Academy in Bucharest. Her research interests are in the area of human-environment interactions, sustainable development, and the application of remote sensing and GIS. While at CIESIN she will be working on her dissertation, which is focused on an evaluation of human-environment interactions in different ecosystems in the Dobrogea Plateau and its coastal hinterland in Eastern Romania. She is being hosted by CIESIN’s Geospatial Application Division.

SEDAC Mapping Client Demo at IPY GeoNorth

August 20, 2007

Yellowknife, NT, Canada was the site of a demonstration of the SEDAC Mapping Client given by CIESIN’s Geographic Information Specialist Greg Yetman as part of the GEOSS workshop at the First International Circumpolar Conference on Geospatial Sciences and Applications (IPY GeoNorth) on August 20. The demonstration showed interoperability between Compusult’s International Polar Year portal and the SEDAC Mapping Client, a tool which lets users interact flexibly with spatial data from CIESIN’s Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) and other sources. Climate change, wildlife, and oil and gas exploration data were shared between the portal and the client and displayed using a polar map projection.

See: SEDAC Mapping Services

Has Climate Change Contributed to the Darfur Conflict?

August 15, 2007

Marc Levy, CIESIN deputy director, was quoted recently in the Spanish language newspaper El Correro and six other daily newspapers of Vocento, a parent media holder in Spain. Levy was asked about the Darfur conflict and a possible relationship to climate change. He noted that because in general drought tends to raise the likelihood of political conflict, there was the possibility of a connection between the drought in Darfur and the conflict there. However, Levy underscored the difficulty of assigning a precise causal connection, stating, “We have no empirical basis for concluding that in the absence of climate change the Darfur crisis would not have emerged.”  What is important to study, Levy emphasized, is “the conditions under which climate shocks elevate political risks.”

Levy co-leads a project,“Hydrology and Social Interactions: A Focus on Conflict in Africa,” with the University of New Hampshire, supported by the Human and Social Dynamics Program of the National Science Foundation.

See: Article
       Research abstract

Hydrology at a Crossroads: New Project To Synthesize Research

August 9, 2007

An initiative to synthesize interdisciplinary hydrology research, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), is now under way. CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy is participating in the project, “Humans Transforming the Water Cycle: Community-Based Activities in Hydrologic Synthesis,” which is led by Charles Vörösmarty of the University of New Hampshire. The context for the project is the emerging view that humans are rapidly embedding themselves into the basic character of the water cycle, through a myriad of processes. Understanding how these changes manifest themselves and assessing possible synergistic impacts across different scales is the underlying challenge. The research aims to quantify the widespread alteration of hydrologic systems over the regional-to-continental United States, to identify natural and anthropogenic sources of such change, and to assess their systemic impacts. Central to the project are two synthesis working groups, one focused on regional watersheds and the other on continental and global dynamics. Levy is one of 11 members of the continental/global working group. 

See: Humans Transforming the Water Cycle

Earth’s Plant Productivity, Measured and Mapped

August 1, 2007

How might global population and rising incomes affect food security for people of all nations?

To explore these concerns about food security, NASA biophysical scientist Marc Imhoff and colleagues from the University of Maryland’s Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, the World Wildlife Fund, and the International Food Policy Research Institute mapped the global distribution of the Human Appropriation of Net Primary Productivity (HANPP). Their research is featured in an article, “Can Earth’s Plants Keep Up with Us?”, on NASA’s Distributed Active Archive Center (DAAC) Alliance Web site.

The article describes how researchers measured global plant productivity (“net primary production”) and calculated human consumption levels. Incorporating gridded population data (GPW version 3) from CIESIN’s Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), a map was created to compare (plant) production supply with human demand.

Among the findings are that urban areas, with dense populations, consume far more primary production than local ecosystems can produce. Another, more surprising, finding is that technology improvements can greatly reduce the amount of waste in agricultural production.

See: Article

NASA Workshop Explores Google Earth Capability
August 1, 2007

CIESIN geographic information systems specialist Greg Yetman participated in a workshop, “NASA Applications for Google Earth,” held July 30–31 at NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California. Yetman gave an overview of the global environmental and socioeconomic data from CIESIN's Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) that are now accessible to users of Google Earth, the geographic information visualization software developed by Google, Inc. The two-day workshop included presentations from scientists, engineers, and managers engaged in exploring the potential of Google Earth as an outreach and data visualization tool, as well as related technical and policy discussions.

See: Workshop

Implications of Climate Change for Hazards Community
July 16, 2007

Senior staff associate Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN director Robert Chen, and deputy director Marc Levy are co-authors of the July 2007 “On the Line” column in the Natural Hazards Observer. The column, “What Does Climate Change Mean for the Hazards Community?,” looks at the hazards implications of the most recent IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Working Group report on climate change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. The Natural Hazards Observer is the bimonthly periodical of the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

See: Natural Hazards Observer

New World Data Center Portal Released

July 12, 2007

A new state-of-the-art Web portal for the development, dissemination, and application of high-quality global environmental and socioeconomic data sets has now been released under the auspices of the CIESIN World Data Center (WDC) for Human Interactions in the Environment. Supported by SEDAC (Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center), the WDC portal provides leading-edge tools and easy access to global-scale data and associated information on key topics related to human-environment interactions, including population, climate, conservation, poverty, hazards, health, and sustainability. The site incorporates a new mapping tool that allows users to customize, save, and share maps based on distributed data sources for the user’s region and theme of interest. The portal also enables users to search for global data sets on particular topics more easily and to obtain detailed information about the advantages, disadvantages, and past uses of global data sets available from different sources. Also available through the portal are a map gallery, customized links to data visualization tools such as Google Earth and NASA’s World Wind, and other resources useful to global data users.

The World Data Center system of the International Council for Science (ICSU) was established after the International Geophysical year in 1957–58 to guarantee access to solar, geophysical, and related environmental data. The system currently encompasses 51 data centers in twelve countries. The CIESIN WDC, established in 1995, was the first WDC to focus on data at the intersection of the natural and social sciences.

See: CIESIN World Data Center for Human Interactions in the Environment
       ICSU World Data Center System

CIESIN Welcomes Visiting Scientist in Geoinformatics

July 6, 2007

CIESIN’s Information Services Division is hosting Rajendra (Raj) Bose as a visiting scientist for the next three months. Bose, who is concluding a three-year postdoctoral position at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, is researching topics in geoinformatics, an evolving discipline that encompasses aspects of computer science, geographic information science, and the geosciences. Bose completed his PhD in environmental informatics at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His current interests include applying advances in geographic information science to better communicate and share modeling results; exploiting virtual globe visualization (via Google Earth, NASA Worldwind, and other geobrowsers) to communicate the contents of geospatial data collections; and investigating methods to maintain the long-term accessibility of such collections. The latter has been the focus of his recent postdoctoral work at the new UK Digital Curation Centre in Edinburgh.

See: Personal homepage

Human Vulnerability to Global Change Explored in GIS Context

June 29, 2007

The UCGIS Summer Assembly (University Consortium for Geographic Information Science) was held June 27–28 in Yellowstone, Wyoming. The Assembly featured a plenary talk given by CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy, “Identifying Patterns of Human Vulnerability to Global Change through Integration of Geographic Databases.” The UCGIS is a consortium of three institutions, the University of California at Santa Barbara; the State University of New York at Buffalo; and the University of Maine. It aims, among other goals, to serve as an effective, unified voice for the geographic information science (GIS) research community.

See: UCGIS 2007 Summer Assembly

DC Workshop Aims Towards Greater Understanding of Multi-Hazard Strategies

June 28, 2007

CIESIN director Robert Chen was part of a disasters roundtable workshop held by the National Research Council (NRC) June 28. The workshop, “Creating and Using Multi-Hazards Knowledge and Strategies,” took place in Washington, DC. Chen gave a presentation, “Analysis of Global Natural Disaster Hotspots,” in a session on science, technology, and decision support tools.

The Disasters Roundtable has conducted workshops since January 2001 on various topics related to disaster management, under the auspices of the Division of Earth & Life Studies. The National Research Council is part of the National Academies, which includes the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine.

See: Disasters Roundtable 20

CIESIN Part of UN Showcase at Annual ESRI User Conference
June 22, 2007

Members of CIESIN’s Geospatial Applications Division gave two presentations and participated in the showcase of United Nations projects at the 27th ESRI User Conference held in San Diego, CA June 18-22. Geographic information specialists Malanding Jaiteh and Greg Yetman staffed a booth during the opening reception that highlighted CIESIN’s Global Poverty Mapping Project and Millennium Development Project activities. Greg Yetman gave two presentations, the first on U.S. Census Grids data, as part of a session on raster-based methods in geodemographic analysis. The second presentation, given at a session on developing Web services with ESRI technologies, focused on combining poverty and precipitation data. CIESIN’s Gridded Population of the World (GPW) data were featured prominently at the conference: in the form of a large global map as part of ESRI president Jack Dangermond’s opening talk, and displayed in the exhibit hall as a fifteen-foot poster of the Millennium Development goals published by National Geographic. The ESRI User Conference is one of the largest GIS conferences in the world; attendance this year was estimated at more than 12,000.

See: ESRI User Conference

Regional Climate Change Impacts and Response Discussed in Fiji
June 22, 2007

Welcoming Ceremony by the Votualevu Catholic Youth Group
CIESIN director Robert Chen participated in two meetings in Nadi, Fiji June 17-22 organized by the Task Group on Data and Scenario Support for Impact and Climate Analysis (TGICA) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The first meeting was a working session of the TGICA, which among other roles serves as the oversight body for the IPCC Data Distribution Centre (operated jointly by the British Atmospheric Data Center, CIESIN, and the World Data Center-Climate in Germany). The second meeting, the IPCC TGICA Expert Meeting on Integrating Analysis of Regional Climate Change and Response Options, brought together more than 70 experts from around the world concerned with regional assessment and policy approaches for addressing both climate adaptation and mitigation. Chen serves as an ex officio member of the TGICA, helping to meet the cross-disciplinary data management needs of the international climate impacts and assessment community.

See: TGICA Regional Meeting Web site
        IPCC Data Distribution Centre

Invasives Response Training Offered at Lamont June 23

June 18, 2007

A hands-on training session using Geographic Information System (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies for early detection and rapid response to the invasive vine “mile-a-minute” will be held on Saturday, June 23, 2007 from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm at the Lamont campus of Columbia University in Palisades, New York. The free-of-charge training is open to the public and is sponsored by the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve (HRNERR), the Hudson River Watershed Alliance (HRWA), and CIESIN’s National Biological Information Infrastructure Northeast Information Node (NBII-NIN). NBII-NIN is a collaborative program that aims to facilitate sharing biological information across the region.

Mile-a-minute (Polygonum perfoliatum) is an annual vine that may grow up to six inches a day, disrupting native vegetation. It has been identified in the Lower Hudson estuary watershed. Areas of special concern include the Moodna and Quassic Creeks in Orange County and all of Rockland, Putnam, and Westchester Counties.

To register or for more information, contact Laura Weyeneth or call 845-889-4745 x115.


  CIESIN Co-sponsors PDE Dynamics Workshop Held in Nairobi

June 14, 2007

A workshop focusing on urban population, development, and environment (PDE) dynamics in developing countries was held in Nairobi, Kenya June 11–13. The workshop was co-organized by CIESIN, together with the African Population & Health Research Centre (APHRC) and the Committee for International Cooperation in National Research in Demography (CICRED). Workshop participants addressed various aspect of the current PDE dynamics in urban agglomerations and discussed approaches to solving problems associated with rapid urbanization in contexts of high poverty and growing strains on the environment and natural resources. This workshop is part of the Programme on the Interactions between Population, Development, and Environment (PRIPODE), coordinated by CICRED and sponsored by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

See: PRIPODE Workshop

GIS and Metadata Issues Explored at NEMO Meeting

June 8, 2007

CIESIN staff gave presentations at the Annual Meeting of the North East Map Organization (NEMO), held this year in New York City June 7–8. Mark Becker, who is associate director of CIESIN’s Geospatial Applications Division, was a member of a panel on issues related to GIS portals versus GIS clearinghouses. Senior metadata specialist John Scialdone gave a presentation on ISO metadata, as part of a series of presentations on metadata creation and import. Other participants included Eric Glass and Jeremiah Trinidad-Christensen of Columbia University and Matthew Ericson of The New York Times.

See: North East Map Organization

SEDAC User Working Group Welcomes New Members

June 1, 2007

Five new members have joined the User Working Group (UWG) of SEDAC (Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center). They are:

• Kelley Crews-Meyer, Department of Geography & the Environment, The University of Texas-Austin
• Richard Moss, United Nations Foundation and Joint Global Change Research Institute, University of Maryland
• Son Nghiem, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
• Dale Quattrochi, Global Hydrology Resource Center, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
• Paul Voss, Department of Rural Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Chaired by Prof. Harlan Onsrud of the University of Maine, the SEDAC UWG advises SEDAC on its strategic planning, data acquisitions, and development activities. The group is meeting May 31 at the Lamont Campus in Palisades and June 1 at the Morningside Campus of Columbia University.


Authors Meet to Finalize Work on UNEP GEO-4

May 25, 2007

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy was one of several Convening Lead Authors (CLAs) of the UNEP Fourth Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-4) who met in Copenhagen May 23–25. Authors reviewed final editorial revisions to their chapters, discussed a draft Summary for Decision Makers, prepared a consolidated set of main messages, and planned outreach activities related to the assessment, which is scheduled for release in fall 2007. Levy is a CLA of GEO-4’s chapter 10, which focuses on policy options.


Areas of Collaboration between Columbia and Chinese Academy of Sciences Explored
May 22, 2007

Chinese Academy of Sciences visitors with Robert Chen
The president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Professor Lu Yongxiang, visited the main campus of Columbia University May 22. CAS advances innovative research in science and technology that may also contribute to China’s development, as well as to its international presence as a leader in science and technology. Professor Lu discussed potential areas of collaboration with university representatives and toured various campus laboratories. Several senior CAS administrators accompanied him, including vice secretary-general Guo Huadong and staff from the Chinese Consulate in New York City. A luncheon for the delegation hosted by Columbia provost Alan Brinkley was attended by Lamont-Doherty associate director Art Lerner-Lam and by CIESIN director Robert Chen, who serves on the Executive Committee of CODATA with Professor Guo.

See: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Interactive Map Tool Offers Emissions Picture for the U.S.

May 18, 2007

Industrial and Residential CO<sub>2</sub> Emissions per CapitaA new interactive map tool lets users visualize CO2 emissions data for the entire United States. Produced by CIESIN, the map is part of NextGenerationEarth, a recently-released Web site from the Earth Institute at Columbia University that offers a range of information climate change by state. CIESIN’s interactive map is a custom application that builds on Google Map technology, generating maps that depict the most recent year’s CO2 emissions (2003), or change since 1990. Users may map total CO2 emissions, or emissions by sector; and may choose to show emissions on a per-capita or per-GDP basis. 

The mapping tool was designed to flexibly interact with the underlying data, which come from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Census Bureau, and U.S. Department of Commerce. For example, it can generate comparative views of residential and industrial emissions data. This demonstrates that industrial emissions per capita are highest in the Northeast, where heating costs are high, but that industrial emissions per capita are highest in states with large petrochemical and mining operations. The Web site provides other map services as well, including CIESIN maps delineating low-lying coastal zones, and maps from the Pew Center on Climate Change that track state-level climate change policy initiatives.

See: NextGenerationEarth

Social Science Data Management Experts Gather in Montreal
May 17, 2007

CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert R. Downs presented two CIESIN papers at the 2007 IASSIST (International Association for Social Science Information Service and Technology) Conference, held this year at McGill University in Montreal May 15–18. As one of the social science data management experts participating in the annual meeting, Downs presented  “Appraisal and Selection of Scientific Data for the Long-Term Archive: A Case Study,” co-authored with Robert S. Chen and W. Christopher Lenhardt, and “Creative Commons and Data Dissemination at an Academic Data Center: Issues and Potential Benefits,” by W. Christopher Lenhardt, Downs, and Robert S. Chen. CIESIN is a “gold” sponsor of this year’s IASSIST, the theme of which is “Building Global Knowledge Communities with Open Data.”

See: 2007 IASSIST

Role of GIS in Environmental Health Discussed
May 16, 2007

The spring meeting of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Geospatial Working Group May 15–18 in Boston was the venue for a presentation by Mark Becker, associate director of geospatial applications at CIESIN. The presentation was entitled “GIS as a Tool for Collaboration, Data Sharing, and Decision Support: Investigating Arsenic Contamination of Groundwater in the Lower Hudson Valley.” Becker highlighted CIESIN’s work for the Earth Institute’s cross-disciplinary project, “Health Effects and Geochemistry of Arsenic and Manganese,” which is supported by the Superfund Basic Research Program of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

See: Health Effects....

Kiel, Germany Site of International Data Exchange Activities

May 11, 2007

Suzanne Carbotte and Kerstin Lehnert of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) are co-conveners of an international data exchange workshop, “Building a Global Data Network for Studies of Earth Processes at the World's Plate Boundaries,” held on May 9–11, 2007 in Kiel, Germany. As part of this workshop, CIESIN director Bob Chen gave two presentations, one on behalf of the Secretariat for the Group on Earth Observation (GEO) and a second on behalf of CODATA. Kerstin Lehnert demonstrated two data services, EarthChem and SESAR, developed by LDEO and CIESIN as part of the Geoinformatics for Geochemistry (GfG) program.

See: Data Exchange Workshop

World Data Centers Plan Future Directions
May 9, 2007

The directors of the World Data Centers (WDCs) of the International Council for Science (ICSU) met in Bremen, Germany on May 7–9, 2007 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the WDC system and plan for its future evolution. CIESIN director Bob Chen and associate director for information services Chris Lenhardt participated in the meeting, representing the CIESIN WDC on Human Interactions in the Environment. Established following the International Geophysical Year (IGY) in 1957–58, the WDCs manage and disseminate a variety of high quality data in support of the environmental and social sciences. Bob Chen gave a presentation on the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA), which is another interdisciplinary committee of ICSU, and chaired a splinter group on the role of the WDCs in the Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS).

See: WDC_Conference_2007 

Government-University Collaboration Highlighted at NASA Science Archives Workshop
April 26, 2007

CIESIN director Bob Chen presented a paper, “Government-University Collaboration in Long-Term Archiving of Scientific Data,” in a workshop, “Science Archives in the 21st Century,” at the University of Maryland on April 25–26, 2007. Co-authored with CIESIN archivist Bob Downs and CIESIN associate director for information services Chris Lenhardt, the paper emphasizes the benefits of collaboration between government agencies and universities in providing long-term stewardship for science data. The paper, one of 15 selected for oral presentation at the workshop, describes recent experience establishing a long-term archive for the NASA-supported Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), working with the Columbia University Library system.

See: Workshop information
       SEDAC Long-Term Archive

CIESIN Participates in Annual AAG Meeting in San Francisco
April 20, 2007

Two CIESIN staff members participated in the 2007 Meeting of the AAG (Association of American Geographers) in San Francisco April 17–21. CIESIN director Bob Chen gave an invited paper, “Can Interdisciplinary Research Improve Natural Hazard Risk Management? The Case of the Global Natural Disaster Risk Hotspots Study,” as part of a special two-part session held April 18, “Boundary Science and the Challenges of Working in Pasteur’s Quadrant.” (The term “Pasteur’s Quadrant” was coined in 1997 by Don Stokes of Princeton University to refer to research activities that both advance scientific understanding and have real-world utility.) CIESIN User Services manager Joe Schumacher helped staff the NASA Earth Science booth at the meeting, distributing outreach materials and interacting with meeting participants on behalf of the NASA Distributed Active Archive Centers, including CIESIN’s Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC).

See: AAG Annual Meeting 2007
Climate and Conflict Discussed by Marc Levy in The New York Times
April 16, 2007

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy is quoted in an article, “Global Warming Called Security Threat,” appearing in The New York Times on April 15, 2007. The article, written by Andrew Revkin and Timothy Williams, summarizes a report by the Center for Naval Analyses, “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change,” which highlights the potential for greater unrest and violence as the result of a changing climate. Marc comments on the link between drought and violent conflict, based on his ongoing research with the University of New Hampshire supported by the Human and Social Dynamics Program of the National Science Foundation.

See: Times article
       research abstract
       Preliminary research results

CIESIN Hosts Invasives Information-Sharing Meeting
April 12, 2007

As part of its National Biological Information Infrastructure–Northeast Information Node program (NBII-NIN), CIESIN hosted a meeting for groups working on the early detection, mapping, and response to invasive species throughout New York, New Jersey, and the New England states. The meeting, held April 9 on the Lamont Campus of Columbia University, gave these groups an opportunity to share information on their programs and to work together on standardizing methodologies and database structures. A representative from the NBII Invasive Species Program gave a presentation on how the regional efforts to control invasive species fit into a nationwide program. The group will meet again in the fall to discuss progress and next steps.
“How-to” Poverty Mapping Seminar Offered by CIESIN

April 6, 2007

A two-part, hands-on seminar on poverty mapping is being sponsored by CIESIN on Wednesday, April 11. “Poverty Mapping Workshop: Understanding the Spatial Dimensions of Poverty in the Developing World” will be led by Robert Chen, director, Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN); Marc Levy, associate director, Science Applications, CIESIN; Maria Muñiz, research associate, CIESIN; and Bridget Anderson, staff associate, CIESIN. The event will take place on the Columbia University Morningside Campus, at the Mathematics Building, Room 410, from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Part one of the seminar, “Mapping Poverty and Well-being in Small Areas,” will run from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. It will cover the topics of deconstructing poverty and other measures of well-being, and geographic perspectives on population and poverty data. Part two, “Data Acquisition, Integration, and Map Making,” will run from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and will cover where to find georeferenced poverty datasets, and interpretation of maps using alternate data classification schemes. Attendees will work through an exercise creating and interpreting poverty maps to inform policy on poverty alleviation resource allocation.

To register and for further information on the seminar, please contact Elyse at

See: Information on poverty mapping

Urban Dynamics Explored at Recent Population and Environment Workshop

March 30, 2007

At a recent PRIPODE workshop, “Population and Environment Development in the South,” CIESIN senior staff associate Alex de Sherbinin was a member of the scientific committee and presented “Urban Population, Development, and Environment Dynamics: Situating PRIPODE Research in the Larger Picture.” The conference, which took place in Paris March 21–23, represented the presentation of research results from 20 teams. Alex will chair the scientific committee at an upcoming PRIPODE workshop to take place June in Nairobi.

See: PRIPODE Workshop March 21–23
       Conference Presentation

New Data Reveal Links between Urbanization and Coastal Risks

March 28, 2007
LECZData developed by CIESIN researchers have been used in a significant new study of coastal zones risk and are now available for download. Produced by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, these Low Elevation Coastal Zone (LECZ) data form the basis for the first global study to identify populations,  particularly urban ones, at risk from rising sea levels and more intense cyclones linked to changing climate. Among other key findings, the study shows that nearly two-thirds of the world's largest urban settlements—cities with more than five million inhabitants—are at least partially within the low-elevation coastal zone.

The study drew on SEDAC’s GRUMP (Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project) databases of fine-scale information on population and urban extent, along with NASA remotely-sensed elevation data and World Bank data on national income. By carefully combining spatial data layers, it was possible to calculate the distribution of each country’s population and urban settlements by elevation along a narrow coastal strip of land in most places, estimates which had been impossible to derive from national-level data. These new developments imply significant possibilities for assessing global environmental challenges such as climate change and heightened awareness of the relationship between urbanization and climate change.

See: Low Elevation Coastal Zone (LECZ) data and maps
       NPR interview: “LECZ Risk and Implications

New Deputy Director for CIESIN: Marc Levy
March 23, 2007

CIESIN Deputy Director Marc LevyMarc Levy has been appointed CIESIN’s new deputy director efffective February 19, 2007. For the time being he will also retain his duties as the associate director for Science Applications.

Marc has led the development of many key CIESIN areas of work, including environmental sustainability indicators, “Human Footprint/Last of the Wild” data, environment and conflict research, and international environmental governance. Under his guidance, CIESIN has received funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and other sources, and he has coordinated CIESIN activities with the Millennium Villages project and other initiatives of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

Marc was a convening lead author for the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and is now a convening lead author for the UNEP GEO-4 report. He has continued as a member of the Political Instability Task Force and is actively advising government agencies on sustainability indicators, environmental security, and climate change impacts. He also served on one of the “decadal” study panels of the National Academy of Sciences, which is providing critical advice to NASA on future Earth science missions.

See: bio

GEOSS Data Policy Briefing Takes Place in Washington, DC

March 23, 2007

The National Research Council in Washington, DC was the site of a lunchtime briefing by CIESIN director Bob Chen for The Alliance for Earth Observations. Hosted by the U.S. National Committee for CODATA on March 19, the briefing on “The GEO Data Sharing Challenge: Putting Principles into Practice” provided an update on Task DA-06-01, a key element of the 2007–2009 GEOSS work plan for the Group on Earth Observations (GEO). (GEOSS is the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, an international system being designed to ensure comprehensive and sustained Earth observations.)

CODATA has taken the lead on this task, which will provide recommendations for the next GEO plenary in South Africa in November 2007. Dr. Chen, in his capacity as CODATA Secretary-General and the task lead, summarized past and planned task activities and solicited inputs from the participants, which included both industry representatives from members of The Alliance for Earth Observations and government staff involved with the U.S. Interagency Working Group for GEO.

See: CODATA site for GEOSS
       The Alliance for Earth Observations

Water and Conflict Issues Examined at Recent Presentation

March 12, 2007

CIESIN’s Marc Levy and Charles Vörösmarty of the University of Hampshire presented “Climate-Security Connections: An Empirical Approach to Risk Assessment,” a report on their continuing work on water and conflict, along with Nils Petter Gleditsch of the Peace Research Institute of Oslo (PRIO). The presentation took place at the Wilson Center Environmental Change and Security Program, Washington, DC, on March 6. Marc and Charles attended a reception at the Norwegian Embassy the night before honoring PRIO.

Marc is principal investigator of “Hydrology and Social Interactions: A Focus on Conflict in Africa,” funded by the National Science Foundation under its 2006 Human and Social Dynamics Program. The project is an interdisciplinary exploration of the impact of hydrologic anomalies on the incidence of civil war in Africa over the past three decades. The methodology utilizes integrated spatial time series data sets on both water resources and internal war. CIESIN co-leads the study with the Water Systems Analysis Group at the University of New Hampshire and is also collaborating with PRIO.

See: presentation video
       “Hydrology and Social Interactions” Abstract

Unique Study Contributes to Understanding of Consumption Issues

March 9, 2007

A unique study led by Marc Imhoff and Lahouari Bounoua of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) compares the spatial distribution of human consumption of carbon (as embodied in food, fiber, and wood products) with the ability of land-based ecosystems to produce it. The Human Appropriation of Primary Net Productivity (HANPP) study spatially allocates the amount of carbon required to derive food and fiber products consumed by humans. Using United Nations data on food and fiber consumption, the scientists allocated it on a per capita basis to SEDAC’s Gridded Population of the World data set. Scientists compared this to a remotely-sensed map of global net primary productivity (NPP)—the net amount of solar energy converted to plant organic matter through photosynthesis—in order to identify parts of the world where local NPP is oversubscribed. In some urban areas, they found, the excess of consumption over local NPP production is more than 1,000%. For spatial data products plus the tabular data, please visit the HANPP Web site, which is part of the SEDAC Environmental Sustainability mission area.


Visiting Scientist and CIESIN To Explore Digital Archiving Issues

March 1, 2007

Mr. Zhongming ZhuCIESIN is pleased to welcome Zhu Zhongming of the Scientific Information Center for Resources and Environment (SICRE) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences as a visiting scientist for three months. Mr. Zhu will be working with CIESIN’s Information Services division on new digital archiving technologies and their application to interdisciplinary socioeconomic and environmental data. This collaboration stems from a previous visit in 2005 by a delegation from SICRE, which is located in Lanzhou, People’s Republic of China. Mr. Zhu is completing his PhD in Environmental and Ecological Research Informatics, with a focus on applying innovative theories and methods of informatics to data and information discovery and integration in the environmental sciences.

CIESIN Begins Collaboration on an Integrated Approach to Disaster Assessment

February 26, 2007

CIESIN has begun a two-year collaboration with the Center for Refugee and Disaster Response at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health on an integrated approach to disaster assessment. The project, Social and Environmental Vulnerability in Disasters: Spatial Analysis and Information Management for Humanitarian Decision Making, aims to enhance the understanding of vulnerability and provide information for decision making post-disaster. Dr. Yuri Gorokhovich of CIESIN’s Science Applications division is leading CIESIN’s contribution to the project, which is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (Award #0624106).

The collaborative project brings together the fields of physical science, demography, public health, and informatics to study vulnerability and disaster assessment. The core, innovative element of the research is that it enables the combining of spatially distributed demographic data with data from field surveys of disaster-affected populations.

New Cyberinfrastructure Project, Web Site Announced
February 16, 2007

As part of the Earth Institute’s Cross-Cutting Initiative (CCI) program, CIESIN is leading a new project, Cyberinfrastructure for the Earth Institute (CI4EI). A Web site for this effort has now been established, and a series of kick-off meetings are being held. The project aims to identify cyberinfrastructure needs across the scientific and engineering communities of the EI and other interested Columbia units; and to identify and evaluate opportunities for addressing these needs.

See: Cyberinfrastructure for the Earth Institute (CI4EI)

Dr. Robert S. Chen Appointed as New CIESIN Director
February 1, 2007

After an extensive international search by an interdisciplinary committee, the Earth Institute at Columbia University has announced the appointment of Dr. Robert S. Chen as director of CIESIN, effective February 1, 2007. Dr. Chen, a geographer and senior research scientist with CIESIN, has served as interim director since May 2006. He had been deputy director since mid–1998, when CIESIN became a center within the Earth Institute.

Dr. Chen brings to bear more than 30 years of experience in research and policy analysis concerning human-environment interactions. At CIESIN, he has managed the NASA-funded Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) for more than a decade and has led many other projects on spatial data management, global natural disaster risks, environment and security, poverty mapping, and environmental sustainability. He helped to launch many of CIESIN’s flagship data and information products and services and is playing a leadership role in a number of national and international data activities and networks.

As CIESIN’s director, Dr. Chen leads an organization of more than 40 professional staff, including active research scientists, experienced data analysts, and experts in data management and information systems. CIESIN also regularly hosts postdoctoral fellows, visiting scientists, and students from around the world.

See: bio
       An Open Message from the Director

SEDAC Enhances Information Gateway

February 1, 2007

The Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN has expanded the capabilities of its Information Gateway to strengthen the communication and exchange of data between the Earth and socioeconomic science communities. The Gateway’s search interface has been enhanced with a browsable version of the catalog, providing a more flexible means of finding data and information resources of interest. Sorting of catalog entries can be accomplished in several ways. The Gateway now provides direct links to comprehensive data set guide pages containing abstracts and links to associated resources such as dataset and project Web sites, additional documentation and citations, and full metadata records. In addition, the Gateway now links to a variety of data discovery tools and to portals, gateways, and archives spanning the social, environmental, and Earth sciences.

See: SEDAC Information Gateway

Earth Institute Director Jeffrey Sachs named 2007 AAG Honorary Geographer

January 19, 2007

Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, has been named the 2007 AAG Honorary Geographer by the Association of American Geographers (AAG). Sachs has served as director of the UN Millennium Project and is president and co-founder of the Millennium Promise Alliance. An internationally recognized expert in international economics, he has been Special Advisor to former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals, the internationally agreed goals to reduce extreme poverty, disease, and hunger by the year 2015. He has been a longtime user of CIESIN's spatial data and helped to initiate CIESIN’s global poverty mapping project with the World Bank.

Government-Sponsored Climate and Security Linkages Workshop Attended by CIESIN
January 10, 2007

CIESIN's Marc Levy, associate director of Science Applications, participated as an invited expert in a workshop on climate-security linkages sponsored by the National Intelligence Council (NIC) on January 10. The workshop, which was designed to give advice on how best to incorporate climate change and other environmental threats into NIC reports, took place at Tuft University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Medford, Massachusetts.

CIESIN to Offer ArcGIS  Training Workshops
January 5, 2007

Two ESRI-authorized training workshops in ArcGIS 9.1 will be offered by CIESIN’s GIS Service Center later this month. The first session, “Introduction to ArcGIS 9.1, part 1,” is a two-day workshop to be held January 11–12, 2007. It introduces the fundamental concepts of GIS and uses hands-on exercises to familiarize users with the ArcGIS 9 program.

The second class, “Introduction to ArcGIS 9.1, part 2,” is a three-day workshop to be held January 17–19, 2007. This course builds upon the concepts taught in the first session and expands student understanding of ArcMap, ArcCatalog, and ArcToolbox.

All classes are held at CIESIN on the Lamont Campus of Columbia University in Palisades, New York. Pre-registration is required and seating is limited. Please contact Mark Becker at or +1(845)365-8980 for more information or to register.


Remote Sensing Brings New Understanding of Urban Environments
January 5, 2007

Urban Landsat:Cities from Space is a newly released Web site that provides access to data and maps developed from satellite-based remote sensing of urban areas around the world. The site is intended to support research and applications concerning the physical properties and processes of urban environments and the mapping and monitoring of urban land cover and spatial extent.

The data and maps available from the Web site are based on the research of Dr. Christopher Small, Doherty Research Scientist with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. The maps provide static snapshots of the urban mosaic, whereas monitoring allows the quantification of spatiotemporal dynamics. The addition of a nighttime lights layer to the urban extent complements the information derived from optical reflectance.

Urban Landsat:Cities from Space currently provides direct access to remotely-sensed data images for 78 urban areas and to processed data for 28 sites. The data and Web site are hosted by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), operated by CIESIN.



This page last modified: Feb 22, 2019