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

More Resources


Research

CIESIN is actively engaged in a number of research areas that address the impacts of human activities and institutional arrangements on the environment, and in turn, the ways in which environmental change affects human health and welfare. The following hyperlinked project titles link to research project categories below:

Climate

Consortium on Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast (CCRUN)
Researchers
: The Earth Institute at Columbia University, University of Massachusetts Amherst, City College/CUNY, Stevens Institute of Technology, Drexel University
Abstract
: As part of a multi-university consortium established to address climate changes risks in the urban U.S. corridor from Philadelphia to Boston, CIESIN is helping to gather and integrate diverse data on the region in the initial focus areas of water, health, and coastal zone management. CIESIN is also supporting outreach and training activities and the project’s Web site, and is playing an active role in the overall National Climate Assessment led by the US Global Change Research Program.
Funder
: NOAA Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) initiative

Completed Research

Assessment of Select Climate Change Impacts on U.S. National Security
Researchers: Marc Levy (PI), Bridget Anderson, Melanie Brickman, Chris Cromer, Brian Falk, Malanding Jaiteh, Kytt MacManus, Valentina Mara, Maria Muñiz, Randolph Pullen, Catherine Thorkelson, Greg Yetman, Xiaoshi Xing, CIESIN; Balazs Fekete, Pamela Green, Richard Lammers, Charles Vorosmarty (co-PI), Wil Wollheim, University of New Hampshire; Steve Metzler, Thomas Parris (co-PI), ISciences
Abstract: A series of studies carried out in support of the National Intelligence Council’s 2008 National Intelligence Assessment on the security implications of climate change. These studies developed quantitative indicators of aggregate vulnerability to climate change, of exposure to potential sea-level rise, and of water scarcity. A working paper examines climate change impacts to U.S. national security by quantifying select impacts globally at the national level and identifying countries that are both at high risk from projected climate change and possess risk factors associated with political instability.
Funder: U.S. National Intelligence Council


Climate Change Information Resource for the New York Metropolitan Area (CCIR-NY)
Researchers: Roberta Balstad Miller (PI), W. Christopher Lenhardt and Robert Downs (Co-PI’s), CIESIN; Cynthia Rosenzweig (Co-PI), GISS; William Solecki (Co-PI), Geography Department, Hunter College
Abstract: The purpose of this project is to advance scientific research and public policy by improving the communication of climate change data and information to urban policy- and decision-makers and, by so doing, to improve their capacity to respond to the impacts of climate change. The research focuses on the climate change information needs and information-seeking behavior of urban policy- and decision-makers, with the aim of using this research to construct a prototype Urban Climate Change Information System focusing on the New York metropolitan area.
Funder: U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration

Climate, Health and Land Cover/Land Use Interactions in Kenya
Researchers: Deborah Balk, CIESIN; Chris Small, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory; Dan Kammen, UC-Berkeley; Majid Ezzati, WHO
Abstract: This study addresses the following questions: (1) To what extent are the transmissions of various diseases in Kenya subject to climate variations? (2) To which climate or land cover parameter is each disease most responsive? (3) How much of the variability in each disease’s response to climate or land cover change is related to the interactions between the diseases? This study includes multiple methodologies from the earth and social sciences appropriate for the analysis of remotely-sensed, climate, clinic, and population data. The research team has assembled an integrated, georeferenced database comprised of a ten-year record for multiple diseases (e.g., malaria, acute respiratory infection, anemia, diarrheal diseases, intestinal parasites, malnutrition, schistosomiasis, urinary tract infections) from clinic records, for multiple clinics in Laikipia District, Kenya. These are linked with (daily and) monthly rainfall data from meteorological stations, and with Landsat imagery (from 1987).
Funder: The Earth Institute at Columbia University

Mapping the Effects of Climate Change on Human Migration and Displacement
Researchers: Susana Adamo (PI), Alex de Sherbinin, Tricia Chai-On, and Andres Gonzalez, CIESIN; Koko Warner, UN University; Charles Ehrhardt, CARE
Abstract: A combination of field-based research from the EACH-FOR project of UN University (Environmental Change and Forced Migration Scenarios, www.each-for.eu) and maps produced by CIESIN, showing locations where migration might be one response to climate change, focusing on multiple data layers such as population density, agricultural lands, cyclone tracks, and likely changes in rainfall runoff or sea-level.  A major report was produced, “In Search of Shelter: Mapping the Effects of Climate Change on Human Migration and Displacement,” presenting evidence from the first multi-continent survey of environmental change and human mobility along with original maps of climate change impacts and population distributions. Building on this work, CIESIN co-organized a Bellagio Conference on climate-related displacement and resettlement in November 2010.
Funder: CARE (Cooperative for American Relief Everywhere)

Methodology for Applying IRI Climate Forecasts for Local Public Health Interventions: A Pilot Study of Climate-Health-Population Mobility Interactions in Mali
Researchers: Sally E. Findley (PI), Center for Population and Family Health, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health Deborah Balk (Co-PI), CIESIN; Christopher Small, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory; Matt Barlow, International Research Institute for Climate Prediction (IRI); Yeya Toure, U-Mali
Abstract: A pilot study which developed methods to link local and IRI climate data and downscale IRI climate forecasts to local levels suitable for program planning. A field study methodology was devised, appropriate for sampling in micro-climate zones where variation in anomaly patterns will call for different public health interventions. The project focused on the types of behaviors and decisions people confront in the event of a climate event (both excesses and deficits of rainfall and temperature) in the selected study zone of Niono, Mali.
Funder: International Research Institute for Climate Prediction

Where the Rain Falls: Climate Change, Hunger, and Human Mobility
Researchers
: Alex de Sherbinin (PI), Susana Adamo, Cody Aichele, Sneha Rao, Annie Gerard, Mark Becker, and Sri Vinay, CIESIN; John Del Corral and Michael Bell, IRI; Koko Warner, UN University; Kevin Henry, CARE
Abstract: A combination of field-based research on the part of UN University, compilation and analysis of historical climate data by IRI and CIESIN, and development of a Web mapping client to present the research results from eight locations around the world in the context of climate, socioeconomic and environmental data.
Funder: CARE (Cooperative for American Relief Everywhere) France

Conservation

No active research at this time.


Completed Research

GIS-based Assessment of Undeveloped Parcels in New York Coastal Counties
Researchers: Yuri Gorokhovich (PI)
Abstract: Existing parcel data from coastal counties of New York State was assembled to be used by LISS and NYSDEC officials in conservation of the most significant remaining unprotected and undeveloped parcels. The developed methodology evaluated undeveloped coastal parcel data in numerical ways to identify a score that will be used in the final analysis of categorizing undeveloped coastal parcels according to their conservation values. Part of the data set related to Westchester County is hosted on an Internet mapping server together with similar data from the project Hudson River Communities Vacant Property Inventory, thus increasing the value and outcome of the project.The developed methodology of the GIS-based assessment and compiled database was meant to help NYSDEC improve their coastal management and assessment practices. Preservation of undeveloped parcels within New York’s watershed area of Long Island Sound promotes conservation of open space, landscapes and ecosystems; improves access to the Sound; prioritizes property types for natural resources conservation and reduces the amount of non-point source pollution reaching Long Island Sound.
Funder: New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission

Cyberinfrastructure

Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS)
Researchers: Pedro Sanchez, Tropical Agriculture and Rural Environment Program (Project Director); Markus Walsh, Tropical Agriculture and Rural Environment Program (Project Leader); Jeroen Huising, International Center for Tropical Agriculture-Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Institute (CIAT-TSBF); Sonya Ahamed, CIESIN; and Gerard Heuvelink, ISRIC  - World Soil Information
Abstract: The development of detailed digital maps of soils in 42 countries of sub-Saharan Africa in support of sustainable agriculture has been undertaken by an international team led by CIAT-TSBF. CIESIN is helping build information systems for collecting, analyzing, and disseminating the data to a wide range of users. The project includes scientists from national agricultural centers and universities throughout Africa, including Tanzania, Malawi, and Mali, where regional laboratories to conduct soil sampling and spectral analysis and train local partners, have been established. Collaboration extends to national agricultural research stations in Kenya, Nigeria, and many other countries in Africa, which are working on soil sampling, setting up field trials, conducting laboratory analysis, and producing soil property maps. GlobalSoilMap.net collaborators are from national environmental and agricultural research centers and academic institutions around the world.
Funder: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa


Completed Research

Geoinformatics for Geochemistry (GfG)
Researchers: CIESIN; Harvard University; University of Kansas; Oregon State University; Boston University; Boise State University
Abstract: A program of integrated data management projects intended to develop, maintain, and operate digital geochemical data collections, so as to maximize their application in research and education. The GFG system has been incorporated into the Integrated Earth Data Applications (IEDA) facility at the Lamont Doherty Earth observatory.
Funder: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Ecology

No active research at this time.

Environment and Health

Emerging Infectious Disease Modeling
Researchers: Marc Levy (co-PI), CIESIN
Abstract: CIESIN is working with the Consortium for Conservation Medicine on a project aimed at developing spatial models capable of explaining and predicting patterns of emerging infectious disease outbreaks. This project constitutes a follow-up to earlier work that culminated in a 2008 publication in the journal Nature explaining how hotspots of emerging infectious disease risk could be identified and mapped. The work is based on the premise that new disease patterns may not resemble those of the past, and that only by explicitly modeling the interaction of multiple drivers and human-environment systems can we understand how patterns are likely to change.
Funder: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Health Effects and Geochemistry of Arsenic and Manganese, Research Translation Core
Researchers: Joseph Graziano, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health (PI); Meredith Golden (Co-PI), Tricia Chai-Onn, Greg Yetman, and Annie Gerard, CIESIN; Steven Chillrud (Co-PI) and Stuart Braman, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)
Abstract: CIESIN and scientists from Columbia University Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Mailman School of Public Health, develop and apply tools and techniques to ensure that the Superfund Research Program (SRP) scientific findings address the needs of and are effectively communicated to policymakers, government and academic researchers, and the public who are concerned with health effects from hazardous exposures near Superfund sites. Research translation includes online interactive mapping, informational Webinar series, and innovative field sampling and analysis. The Columbia SRP focuses groundwater contamination issues in general and arsenic and manganese exposures in particular.
Funder: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Superfund Research Program


Completed Research

A Multidisciplinary Approach to Evaluating Missing Data When Relying on Participatory Reports of Unusual Events
Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN)

Researchers: Ilana Brito, Earth Institute Fellow (PI); Susana Adamo (co-PI); Tiffany Bogich, EcoHealth Alliance (formerly Wildlife Trust)
Abstract: The project, applicable across many topics and disciplines, addresses the fundamental importance of distinguishing between true differences in occurrence and differences resulting from possible biases in reporting of events. The research will focus on four areas where case reporting is important for policy development: invasive species outbreaks, crimes and accidents, forest fires and small-scale natural disasters, and emerging infectious disease events. A key objective is to create a general framework for identifying and quantifying bias in participatory reporting. This research has obvious implications for other topics which include developing “true” maps of the spatial distribution of product recalls, conservation successes, energy usage, impacts of climate change, car accidents, drug trafficking and patterns of migration.
Funder: EI Cross Cutting Initiative (seed grant)

Meningitis Risk Modeling
Researchers: Sylvia Traska (PI), IRI; Susana Adamo (co-PI), Marc Levy, and Greg Yetman, CIESIN
Abstract: With IRI, CIESIN jointly explored climatic, epidemiological, and demographic and socioeconomic risk factors as predictors for epidemic outbreaks at national and district levels, towards building a statistical predictive model. In addition, the project considered the potential of satellite observations and model outputs combined with available epidemiological and demographic information as inputs to a meningitis risk map. The study was focused on Niger, where 20 years of weekly epidemiological data at the district level were available, along with various sources of environmental information, e.g., in situ data, model outputs, and satellite observations.
Funder: NASA Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Science

Prevention of Health Effects in Children from Energy-Related Air Pollution: An International Collaborative Project
Researchers: Frederica Perera and Dialang Tang, Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) ; Mark Becker, CIESIN
Abstract: This research used a novel biomedical approach—molecular epidemiology—to determine the health risks to children from environmental pollutants generated by burning of coal and other fossil fuels. CCCEH collaborated with CIESIN, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and representatives of the Chongqing Municipal Government to launch a new project in People’s Republic of China. The China project determined the health benefits to newborns of reducing in utero exposure to toxic air pollutants generated by coal burning. Through this collaboration, the research in China was closely linked with ongoing projects in the United States and Poland.
Funder: The Rasmussen Foundation

A Spatial Analysis of Childhood Mortality in West Africa
Researchers: Deborah Balk, Adam Storeygard, and Melissa Newman, CIESIN; Tom Pullum, University of Texas; Fern Greenwell, ORC-Macro
Abstract: It has been suggested that environmental or geographic factors—e.g., population density, climate, and disease environment—play an important role in determining infant and child survival above and beyond that played by individual and household level factors. Only recently, however, have relevant spatial data become available and have demographic survey data systematically recorded geographical location of surveyed households, while at the same time the technology to integrate these data has become accessible. This study estimated the risk of infant and child death attributable to individual, household, and spatially explicit geographic factors, in ten West African countries; 120,000 births occurring in the ten years prior to 1997–2001 Demographic and Health Survey dates are evaluated. Results from a generalized linear model showed that spatial variables explain away a good deal of the country-specific variation in mortality and that they are associated with (and may be mediated by) the household characteristics. Implications for research and policy have also been addressed.
Funder: Financial support for this project was provided by ORC Macro under the USAID-funded MEASURE DHS+ program. The research was also facilitated by complementary activities underway at CIESIN funded by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Application Center (Contract NAS 5-98162) and the UN Millennium Development Project.

Urbanization and Cardiovascular Disease in China
Researchers: Andrew Moran (co-PI), Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons; Susana Adamo, CIESIN
Abstract: A computer model simulating rural to urban migration was developed, in order to assess the national-scale health consequences among permanent urban migrants of changing to higher calorie-, higher fat-diet, and to lower physical activity. CIESIN provided data and methodological expertise on the spatial distribution of populations, and thus changes in the population CVD risk, in light of North-South, rural-urban, and urban-urban migration trends.
Funder:Earth Institute Cross-Cutting Initiative

Environment and Social Dynamics

No active research at this time.


Completed Research

Estimation of Migration Flows By Ecosystem
Researchers: Alex de Sherbinin (PI), Marc Levy (co-PI), Susana Adama, Greg Yetman, Liana Razafindrazay, Cody Aichele, Linda Pistolesi, CIESIN; Ben Goodrich, ISERP at Columbia University
Using the best available information, CIESIN is estimating net migration by ecosystem over the forty year period from 1970 to 1980. The ecosystem boundaries are from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the population data are from a combination of sources, including spatial distributions from the Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project, rates from the History Database of the Global Environment (HYDE), national level rates of natural increase from the UN World Population Prospects, and urban and rural rates of natural increase from the UN Demographic Yearbook and Demographic and Health Surveys.
Funder: Foresight Project on Global Environmental Migration

Haiti Regeneration Initiative
Researchers: Marc Levy (PI), Alex Fischer
Abstract: The Haiti Regeneration Initiative is a major collaboration between the the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Earth Institute, and various other organizations in Haiti that aims to provide sustainable solutions to some of the country’s most pressing challenges: post-earthquake reconstruction, economic and social development, environmental stabilization and restoration, and disaster risk management. CIESIN teams are support various research and planning activities. This includes construction of geo-spatial databases to support community mapping exercises, technical support for socio-economic household surveys, market assessments, soil and land degradation mapping, and broad coordination for the multi-sector research teams.
Funder: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Hydrology and Social Interactions: A Focus on Conflict in Africa
Researchers: Marc Levy (PI) and Christian Webersik, CIESIN
Abstract: Does climatic and hydrologic variability influence patterns of civil war outbreak? Using data for Africa, and controlling for social, economic, and political factors, this project (1) tested hypotheses linking water scarcity and variability to civil war outbreak, ceteris paribus, (2) in order to develop and test a methodology for combining gridded environmental time series data with spatial time series conflict data, (3) to communicate the findings and implications to decision-makers, and (4) to produce a data collection useful to a wide range of scholars of civil war, human security, and other fields who are interested in the impacts of water scarcity on human wellbeing and behavior. The uniquely interdisciplinary research team was composed of hydrologists, political scientists and geographers, aiming to generate a set of country-level and subnational-level water indicators useful to a range of social science research needs, including public health, economic development, demography, and land use/land cover change. The project aimed for broader impact as well, with vital policy implications in fields such as early warning, humanitarian assistance, and development planning.
Funder: NSF

Gridding of Demographic and Socioeconomic Data

Revitalizing Urban Population Projections: New Data, New Methods
Researchers: Deborah L. Balk (PI), Baruch College-City University (formerly of CIESIN); Christopher Small, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory; Mark Montgomery, Population Council; Thomas Buettner, UN Population Division
Abstract: As the developing world continues to urbanize, and Africa and Asia approach the point at which they will become more urban than rural, new investments in demographic data and research methods will be required to understand and address the needs of urban residents. At a minimum, policy makers will need defensible estimates of city population sizes, rates of growth, and geographic extents if they are to formulate effective development strategies. At present the demographic research community cannot supply such estimates. The goal of the proposed research team is to produce and evaluate new spatially-explicit demographic methods for estimating and projecting city populations in the developing world. The essence of our approach is to merge several important sources of information that have yet to figure into city estimates and projections for developing countries: spatially-coded information (such as urban spatial extents, derived from satellite data [CIESIN et al., 2005] and administrative areas); and survey data on urban fertility, child mortality, migration, and age structure (as provided by the World Fertility Surveys (WFS), the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), and the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS)), along with the census data that are the basis of current estimates.
Funder: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development


The Development of Spatial Data Databases of Human Settlements and of Population Distribution by Urban and Rural Population for the Developing World
Researchers: Deborah Balk, Baruch College-City University (formerly of CIESIN); Uwe Deichmann, the World Bank; Stanley Wood, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
Abstract: There are increasing demands for greater specificity in defining the impacts of agricultural research and development, particularly with regard to the likely impacts on poverty of policy, technology, and institutional changes. The development of spatially disaggregated global population databases represents a significant contribution to meeting those demands. However, most means of assessing the economic consequences of change in the agricultural sector involve the identification of impacts on producers, predominantly located in rural areas, and consumers, increasingly represented by urban populations in many countries. Notwithstanding the important challenge of properly characterizing combined production and consumption patterns in rural households, a major step forward in impact assessment would be the spatial delineation of human settlements and rural and urban populations. The purpose of this research is to produce a gridded urban-rural data set, with each pixel representing not only population size and density, but also urban or rural character.
Funder: International Food Policy Research Institute


Completed Research

New Methods for Understanding Intra-Urban Contours at a Global Scale
Researchers: Deborah Balk (PI), Baruch College-City University (formerly of CIESIN); Ernesto Rodriguez and Son V. Nghiem, California Institute of Technology; Christopher Small, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory
Abstract: A global and consistent characterization of land use and land change in urban and suburban environments is crucial for many fundamental social and economic science studies and applications. Here, a dense sampling method (DSM) using satellite scatterometer data at a coarse resolution (~12 km) to delineate urban and intra-urban areas at a much higher resolution (~1 km) was presented for the first time. The tradeoff is that the daily or near daily temporal resolution is reduced to yearly or multi-year time scale, which is still appropriate to map urban areas and to identify interannual changes in most cases. The DSM results were analyzed together with information on population and housing censuses, with Spectral Mixture Analysis (SMA) of moderate and high spatial resolution optical satellite imagery, and with both DMSP night lights.
Funder: NASA Jet Propulsion Lab

Human Impacts on Biodiversity

No active research at this time.


Completed Research

Biological Assessment of the Central Truong Son Mountain Range

Researchers: Melina Laverty (PI), Center for Biodiversity and Conservation (CBC) at the American Museum for Natural History (AMNH); John Mickelson (Co-PI), CIESIN
Abstract: Current and historical land use/land cover, habitat and vegetation patterns for the Central Truong Son Mountain Range (CTS) are being mapped and analyzed with the aid of remotely sensed satellite data. The analysis will provide a baseline spatial framework for biodiversity assessment and conservation planning in the region, in support of research underway with the World Wildlife Federation-Indochina Programme (WWF). The Truong Son Mountain Range located along the border of Laos and Vietnam harbors an incredibly diverse flora and fauna and a high level of endemism of both global and regional significance. It has received international attention for several recent discoveries of large mammal species. Biological, geophysical, and ethnological data will be combined with field data collected by CBC over the past three years, enabling the examination of patterns of biodiversity distribution relative to human resource use.
Funder: Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC) at Columbia University

Last of the Wild and Human Footprint Project
Researchers: Malanding Jaiteh, Marc Levy, and Antoinette Wannebo, CIESIN; Kent H. Redford, Eric W. Sanderson and Gillian Woolmer, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
Abstract: To inform the priority setting discussion of where to focus limited conservation resources, WCS and CIESIN conducted a globally extensive GIS analysis of the most recent appropriate publicly available global digital datasets to locate the remaining wild areas in the world. Previous attempts to map wilderness areas used older data or data covering a lesser extent. Our analysis first defined what is “not wild” using information on land cover, population density, stable lights and human infrastructure, thus creating an inverse map of the potential wild areas. Second, these wild areas are placed in a relative context by normalizing them with respect to different biomes on each continent. Finally, results are checked with conservation biologists from the WCS international conservation programs and other data to verify our mapping. The resulting map can be used as a conservation reconnaissance tool, for strategic planning of conservation investments, and for other global analyses.
Funder: Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC) at Columbia University

Information Management

No active research at this time.

Completed Research

Discovery, Access, and Delivery of Data for the International Polar Year
Researchers: A collaboration between NSIDC, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Distributed Active Archive Center for Biogeochemical Dynamics (ORNL DAAC), the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) at Columbia University, and the Canadian Cryospheric Information Network (CCIN), and International Permafrost Association’s Arctic Coastal Dynamics (ACD) project and the interagency Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH)
Abstract: This two-phase project aimed to improve the availability of Arctic coastal data. The first phase focused on identification, acquisition, and description of data to facilitate discovery, builing on ORNL’s Mercury tool set for metadata harvesting, indexing, and searching. The second phase focused on the advertisement, visualization, and delivery of the data in a manner that facilitates analysis. A small user workshop was conducted in November 2006 to develop the specific requirements for the system.
Funder: NASA

Managing and Preserving Geospatial Electronic Records (MAPGER)
Researchers: Robert S. Chen, (Director), Robert R. Downs, (Co-Director), Mark Becker, John Mickelson, and John Scialdone, CIESIN
Abstract: This project investigated the requirements for state and local government archivists, records managers, and other institutional recordkeepers for managing and preserving electronic records with significant geospatial components, especially those records generated by Geographic Information System (GIS) software. The project sought to identify and recommend practical and appropriate policies, techniques, standards, and practices to manage geospatial electronic records (GERs) to support their long-term retention and dissemination and to facilitate their usability and utility as important information resources of significant historical interest.
Funder: National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

Land Use

No active research at this time.


Completed Research


Land Use/Land Cover Change Issues in Latin America and the Caribbean
Researchers: Marc Levy (Co-PI), Maria Muniz, CIESIN; 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; Deborah Balk (Co-PI), Baruch School of Public Affairs, City University of NY (formerly of CIESIN); Ricardo Grau, Universidad Nacional de Tucumán; Carlos Zambrana Torrelio
Abstract: A multi-disciplinary/multi-scale approach to evaluating how changes in demography and land use are affecting natural and human systems at the continental, country, and municipality scales in Latin America and the Caribbean. We will explore how land use patterns are affected by demographic, economic, and ecological factors. We expect to identify two major patterns: 1) extensive conversion of natural ecosystems to modern agriculture, particularly in areas with little topographic relief, and 2) abandonment of marginal agricultural and grazing lands, particularly in mountainous and remote regions, permitting ecosystem recovery. We anticipate that this dual trend will be most evident in countries and regions further along the demographic and economic transition axes, while developing nations and regions lagging in these transitions will experience relatively less intensification of lands through modern farming techniques and relatively more continued conversion of mountainous regions and remote frontiers.
Funder: NSF

Natural Hazards

Developing Global Building Exposure for Disaster Forecasting, Mitigation, and Response
Researchers: Ron Eguchi, ImageCat (PI) ; Charles Huyck, ImageCat; David Tralli, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and CIESIN director Robert Chen (co-PIs)
Abstract :CIESIN has begun collaborating with ImageCat Inc. USA, an international risk management innovation company with offices in Long Beach, California, on a new NASA-funded project to develop and test methods of assessing global building exposure for disaster forecasting, mitigation, and response. Building on ongoing work with the Global Earthquake Model (GEM) initiative, this one-year project awarded in October 2012 will explore the feasibility of combining remote sensing data from various sources with population data from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), to better characterize the built environment in ways useful for catastrophe (CAT) modeling and loss estimation. The grant is one of 17 recent awards by the NASA Applied Sciences Program.

Global Exposure Database for Global Earthquake Model (GED4GEM)

Researchers: University of Pavia (Italy); Mark Becker, CIESIN
Abstract: Earthquakes pose the greatest risks where people live and work in poorly constructed buildings. Unfortunately, data on buildings and other structures, and especially their vulnerability to earthquake damage, are incomplete and variable in quality. As an element of the Global Earthquake Model (GEM), an international initiative to improve assessment and decision making regarding earthquake risk, CIESIN is participating in a new three-year project to develop a comprehensive Global Exposure Database, led by the University of Pavia in Italy. CIESIN is leading the design of the underlying database and supporting the interoperability of the database with other GEM components. Another CIESIN role is to help populate the database, drawing on its extensive population and other spatial data resources and longstanding expertise in this area.

Interdiscliplinary Data Needs for Data Risk Management
CIESIN, in collaboration with researchers from across the Earth Institute and from around the world, is leading a range of efforts to improve data and information on natural hazards and conflicts while developing new methods for combining these data in useful ways for research and disaster management. In 2005 CIESIN co-led an international study of Global Natural Disaster Risk Hotspots (see Completed Projects below) that received a Good Practice Award from the Independent Evaluation Group of the World Bank for an “initiative with demonstrated impact/results.” Researchers from CIESIN and IRI also contributed to an international project led by the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute to assess the risks of natural hazards and civil conflict in Asia in support of the humanitarian response needs of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. CIESIN continues to support other national and international activities and initiatives concerned with disaster data and risks, working with such groups as the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, the UN Geographic Information Support Team, the Integrated Research on Disaster Risk initiative of the International Council for Science, and the Group on Earth Observations.


Completed Research

Global Natural Disaster Hotspots
Researchers: Maxx Dilley and Bradfield Lyon, International Research Institute for Climate Prediction; Robert S. Chen and Gregory Yetman, CIESIN; Uwe Deichmann and Piet Buys, Development Economics Research Group, the World Bank; Arthur Lerner-Lam, Center for Hazards and Risk Research and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory; Margaret Arnold and Jonathan Agwe, Hazard Management Unit, the World Bank; Oddvar Kjekstad, International Centre for Geohazards, Norwegian Geotechnical Institute
Abstract: This project assessed the global risks of two disaster-related outcomes: mortality and economic losses. We estimated risk levels by combining hazard exposure with historical vulnerability for two indicators of elements at risk—gridded population and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per unit area—for six major natural hazards: earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, floods, drought, and cyclones. By calculating relative risks for each grid cell rather than for countries as a whole, we estimated risk levels at subnational scales. Such information can inform a range of disaster prevention and preparedness measures, including prioritization of resources, targeting of more localized and detailed risk assessments, implementation of risk-based disaster management and emergency response strategies, and development of long-term land-use plans and multihazard risk management strategies. A set of accompanying case studies, available separately, explored in more detail risks from particular hazards or for localized areas using the same theoretical framework as the global analysis.
Funder: ProVention Consortium from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID)

Social and Environmental Vulnerability Disasters
Researchers: Gilbert Burnham (PI), John Hopkins School of Public Health; Yuri Gorokhovich (Co-PI), CIESIN; Courtland Robinson (Co-PI), Shannon Doocy (Co-PI)
Abstract: There is a growing awareness of the need for better measurements and models of vulnerability to natural disasters and for improved management of information that guides the humanitarian response. A collaboration between the Center for Refugee and Disaster Response at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and CIESIN will bring together the fields of physical science, demography, public health, and informatics in order to develop an integrated approach to disaster assessment that will enhance the understanding of vulnerability and provide information for decision making in the post-disaster context. The research will develop the means by which spatial dependencies and interactions between population and environmental variables can be described and studied using GIS models, available socio-demographic information, and data from field surveys of disaster-affected areas with the dual objectives of assessing the risk of populations to natural disasters, and providing information on affected populations to decision makers in the post-disaster relief and rehabilitation environment. In terms of the broader results of the research—modeling population vulnerability and risk in natural disasters—it is intended that those models will be used to inform post-disaster assessments of surviving populations by presenting clear visual representations of disaster risk and impact on populations, enabling governments and humanitarian organizations to better locate need and allocate resources in the aftermath of disasters.
Funding: NSF

Population

South Asia Urbanization
Researchers: Marc Levy (PI); Susana Adamo, Erin Doxsey-Whitfield, Valentina Mara, Kytt MacManus, Linda Pistolesi, and Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN
Abstract: CIESIN is using night-time lights data to analyze growth patterns of South Asian cities over time. For phase one of the project, cities in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives with populations greater than 100,000 in the year 2000 have been mapped at two points in time, 1999 and 2010, and patterns of change in urban extent over the decade are being analyzed. Funded by the World Bank.
Funder: The World Bank

Poverty

No active research at this time.


Completed Research

Circular Migration and Its Long-Term Consequences
Researchers: Ronald Rindfuss (PI), University of North Carolina; Susana Adamo (co-PI), CIESIN
Abstract:
Migration is an important coping strategy for poor populations faced with uncertain incomes based on agriculture. Building upon theoretical and empirical advances in migration research, CIESIN collaborated with scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a research project on migration patterns in the Nang Rong district of northeast Thailand. This rural area is marginal in terms of poor quality soils, inadequate rainfall, and few non-agricultural jobs. Bangkok, the capital city, and the eastern seaboard, a government-supported development zone, are the principal urban destinations. The project used life-history data to examine the likelihood of migrating away from rural villages and other migration patterns. It attempted to assess what determines different migration strategies and how early migration experience may affect an adult’s place of residence at age 30.
Funder:
National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Child Health and Development

Global Poverty Mapping Project
Researchers: Marc Levy, Deborah Balk, Adam Storeygard, Maria Muņiz, and Bridget Anderson, CIESIN
Abstract: The Global Poverty Mapping Project characterized the global distribution of poverty and tested the proposition that the world’s poor live under geographic and biophysical conditions significantly different from those experienced by other populations. The project used GIS analysis to characterize the nature of those conditions. Spatial statistical methods were also tested for their effectiveness in analyzing global spatial poverty data. The project resulted in a global spatial database of poverty variables with high resolution data for approximately 26 countries. Web site ongoing.
Funder: The World Bank

Remote Sensing Applications for Multilateral Environmental Agreements

Urban Remote Sensing and Slum Mapping
Researchers: UN-HABITAT, the International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) in the Netherlands, and CIESIN
Abstract: An exploration of methods to produce and evaluate new spatially explicit demographic methods for estimating and projecting city populations in the developing world to fill the current gap in the demographic research community. To understand and address the needs of urban residents, and to formulate effective development strategies, policymakers will need defensible estimates of city population sizes, rates of growth and geographic extents. Remote sensing imagery for mapping of urban slums, as part of ongoing slum mapping efforts l is one specific initiative to estimate population in regions where data are difficult to gather.
Funder: Not yet determined


Completed Research


Remote Sensing Technologies for Ecosystem Management Treaties

Researchers: Alex de Sherbinin (PI) and John Mickelson, CIESIN; Alicia Torres, Gonzalo Picasso, Ignacio Porzecanski and Carlos Prigioni, PROBIDES (Uruguay); Valdir Steinke, Sergio Arraes Monteiro and Amauri de Sena Motta, IBAMA (Brazil); Frank Rivera, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and Richard Podolsky, Consultant
Abstract: This project focused on the utilization of satellite remote sensing data to improve the effectiveness of ecosystem-oriented multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs). These agreements include, among others, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the World Heritage Convention, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, and UNESCO Biosphere Reserves. These conventions and site designations serve to protect natural resources and biodiversity of international importance, yet they are often constrained by lack of data and information to support implementation. The project tested applications of remote sensing at a Ramsar and Biosphere Reserve site in northeastern Uruguay (Banados del Este), and in the adjacent transboundary freshwater lake (Laguna Merin, shared by Uruguay and Brazil) that is threatened by land use practices, agrochemical pollution, and over-fishing.
Funder: U.S. State Department, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs

Roads Data Development

CODATA Global Roads Task Force
Under the auspices of the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) of the International Council for Science (ICSU), CIESIN is co-leading an international group of experts to develop a global, publicly available database on intercity roads. Recent projects include a Gates Foundation AGCommons grant to map Ethiopian roads using a customized Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) interface (in collaboration with World Food Program field staff), and a NASA-SERVIR funded project to develop roads data from ASTER satellite imagery. The first phase product, the Global Roads Open Access Data Set (gROADS), were released in 2011. A new version, Global Roads Open Access Data Set, Version 1 (gROADSv1), was released May 2013.


Completed Research

Roads Data Development for Ethiopia
Researchers: Alex de Sherbinin (PI) and Greg Yetman, CIESIN; Olivier Cottray, IMMAP; Tesfaye Korme and Erick Khamala, Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD)
Abstract: CIESIN together with IMMAP and RCMRD used GPS-enabled PDA technology to collect data compliant with a United Nations spatial data model (the UNSDI-Transport model). The tool was employed along all-weather roads in Ethiopia as well as along major dry-season link roads to collect road location and attribute information. Location information was also collected for the following infrastructure of importance to small holder farmers: irrigation equipment, water reservoirs, markets, community grain storage or fertilizer warehouses, and agricultural extension offices.
Funder: The Gates Foundation AGCommons initiative

Sustainability Indicators

Environmental Performance Index
Researchers: Marc Levy, Alex de Sherbinin, and Valentina Mara, CIESIN; Daniel Esty, Tanja Srebotnjak, and Christine Kim, Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy; Fiona Paual, World Economic Forum; Andrea Saltelli and Michaela Saisana, Joint Research Centre, European Commission
Abstract: The Environmental Performance Index measures environmental performance at the country level for issue areas using a proximity-to-target methodology. Targets for each issue area such as urban particulate matter concentrations, access to water and sanitation, nitrogen concentrations in water, and timber harvest rates were identified in international consensus documents or by consulting the scientific literature. Country performance is measured as a proximity to the internationally recognized targets.
Funder: The Samuel Family Foundation, The Coca Cola Foundation, and the Betsy and Jesse Fink Foundation

Using Satellite Data to Develop Environmental Indicators: An Application of NASA Data Products to Support High Level Decisions for National and International Environmental Protection
Researchers: Marc Levy (PI), Alex de Sherbinin (co-PI), CIESIN; Erica Zell and Stephanie Weber, Batelle Memorial Institute
Abstract: This project involves testing the use of NASA satellite data to develop environmental indicators with improved spatial and temporal coverage, to be used in decision-making by U.S. and foreign governments and international agencies such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the World Bank. The project will focus on two areas with significant in situ data gaps: air quality and coastal water quality. Project partners include scientists from Battelle Memorial Institute, NASA, NOAA, EPA, and the European Union. 
Funder: NASA Applied Science Program


Completed Research

China Environmental Performance Index (EPI)
Researchers: Marc Levy, Alex de Sherbinin, Valentina Mara, and Xiaoshi Xing, CIESIN; Daniel Esty, Christine Kim, Han Shi and Jessica Jiang, Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy; Jinan Wang, Cao Dong, Cao Guozhi, and Cao Ying, China Academy of Environmental Planning
Abstract: The China EPI  project sought to develop environmental performance indicators for China’s provinces. The project tested the hypothesis that it is possible to develop meaningful environmental performance metrics that cover a wide range of environmental issue areas at the provincial level.
Funder: Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy

Environmental Sustainability Index
Researchers: Marc A. Levy, Alex de Sherbinin, and Bridget Anderson, CIESIN; Daniel Esty, Tanja Srebatnjak, and Christine Kim, Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy; Kim Samuel-Johnson, World Economic Forum Global Leaders for Tomorrow Environment Task Force
Abstract: The Environmental Sustainability Index provides an aggregate measure of national progress towards sustainability. It is comprised of five components, which in turn are composed of between two and six indicators each. The indicators are averages of variable-level scores. In total, sixty-seven variables went into the index. Current research is focused on methodological improvements and statistical analysis of the ESI and its constituent parts.
Funder: Samuel Foundation (1999-2002); Coca-Cola Corporation

This page last modified: May 31, 2013