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SEDAC User Working Group Welcomes Five New Members

February 9, 2021

Five experts from academia, government, and the private sector have joined the User Working Group (UWG) of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) for four-year terms. The new members are Nita Bharti, assistant professor of biology at the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics of Penn State University; Mariel Borowitz, associate professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology; Lola Fatoyinbo, research physical scientist in the Biospheric Sciences Lab at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC); Charlie Frye, chief cartographer at Esri; and David Van Riper, director of spatial analysis for the Minnesota Population Center at the University of Minnesota. The UWG is chaired by Barbara Ryan, former executive director of the Group on Earth Observations who is now serving as executive director of the World Geospatial Industry Council. Ryan chaired a virtual briefing for the new members February 5, with participation by Nancy Searby, SEDAC program scientist from NASA Applied Sciences, and Francis Lindsay, SEDAC Distributed Active Archive Center (DAAC) engineer from NASA GSFC. Updates on SEDAC activities and plans were provided by SEDAC manager Robert Chen, deputy manager Alex de Sherbinin, and project scientist Susana Adamo. The UWG provides guidance to SEDAC and NASA on user needs and priorities related to the human dimensions data, and associated tools and services, developed and managed by SEDAC, one of 12 DAACs in NASA′s Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS).

See: SEDAC User Working Group

Guggenheim Exhibit Highlights Human Transformation of the Countryside

February 5, 2021

This photo from January 2021 shows a wall-size display of an interactive map from an exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum called “Countryside, The Future,” that visualize how humans have transformed the countryside−the surface of Earth not occupied by urban growth. The map is based on data from the NASA Socieoeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN.

“Countryside, The Future,” an exhibit at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum for innovative art and architecture in New York City, features a prominent wall-size display of interactive maps that visualize how humans have transformed the countryside−the surface of Earth not occupied by urban growth. Many of the maps are based on data from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, as well as other remote-sensing data sets from NASA and other sources. The installation was created by urban architect Rem Koolhaas and Samir Bantal, director of AMO, the think tank of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). Also contributing were students from the Harvard Graduate School of Design; the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing; Wageningen University, Netherlands; and the University of Nairobi. The exhibit originally opened in February 2020 for three weeks, but closed due to the pandemic along with the Museum, until its reopening in October 2020. The exhibit has been extended through February 15, 2021.

See: “Countryside, The Future” Exhibit

Virtual Winter Meeting Tackles Innovation in Earth Science Data Frontiers

February 1, 2021

The 2021 winter meeting of the Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP), held online January 26–29, addressed the theme, “leading innovation in earth science data frontiers.″ CIESIN senior digital archivist Robert Downs co-chaired the January 28 session, “Toward Improving Representation of Data Quality Information,” and gave the presentation, “International Collaboration on Data Quality” during the session. During the Research Showcase on January 27, he presented the poster, “Adopting the TRUST Principles for Digital Repositories with the GEOSS Data Management Principles and the GEOSS Data Sharing Principles.” Downs also presented the ESIP Martha Maiden Lifetime Achievement Award for Service to the Earth Science Information Community to Hampapuram Ramapriyan, research scientist at Science Systems and Applications, Inc., who has made significant contributions to data management and stewardship at NASA and in national and international networks over multiple decades. Robert Chen, CIESIN director and manager of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), also participated in the meeting, which included diverse sessions on such topics as managing model-related data, air quality data user needs, development of analysis-ready data, implementation of Google′s data search tool, and use of data during response to California wild fires. SEDAC has been a Type 1 ESIP partner since 1999.

See: 2021 ESIP Winter meeting

Knowledge Sharing around Eco-Security Issues Addressed in Wilson Center Blog

January 28, 2021

The Wilson Center′s New Security Beat recently posted a blog summarizing a panel discussion on enhancing researcher-practitioner partnerships to more effectively address eco-security challenges held during the virtual American Geophysical Union (AGU) 2020 Fall Meeting in December 2020. The panel highlighted the importance of including scientists in the eco-security policymaking process and allowing researchers more latitude in expressing scientific uncertainty in their findings, among other topics. Panel participants discussed the example of the MEDEA program, a collaboration between the U.S. intelligence and scientific communities that explored applying classified satellite imagery to the analysis of environmental issues, leading to declassification of vast amounts of Earth observations for scientific purposes. Panelists included D. James Baker, former administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and a member of MEDEA; Annalise Blum, currently a Policy Fellow at the Department of Defense; Geoffrey Dabelko, senior advisor with the Wilson Center′s Environmental Change and Security Program; Mike Farrar, new director of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) of the National Weather Service; and Cullen Hendrix, director of the Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy at the University of Denver.

The blog was authored by Tom Parris, president of ISciences, LLC, and Eileen Shea of Case Consultants International; CIESIN director Robert Chen also helped organize the original panel. ISciences, Case, and CIESIN have been collaborating for several years on the Data ANalytics and Tools for Ecosecurity (DANTE) project, which aims to facilitate the quantitative, interdisciplinary study of issues related to environment and security. An updated DANTE Web site, which facilitates access to a range of open source tools and data, has recently been released. The DANTE project is supported by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

See: New Security Beat blog
       Data ANalytics and Tools for Ecosecurity (DANTE)

New Pubs From CIESIN

January 26, 2021

New publications from CIESIN include an article authored by senior digital archivist Robert Downs and the latest newsletter in a series by the Geo-referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) program. The paper by Downs, ″Improving Opportunities for New Value of Open Data: Assessing and Certifying Research Data Repositories,″ was published in the Data Science Journal.  It describes how meeting data repository certification standards, such as CoreTrustSeal, contributes to new value that can be attained for society through the use of open data products and services. The GRID3 newsletter features progress in the organization's partnership with Nigeria, including management of the data and portal and population data modelling to support the COVID-19 response there; use of GRID3 data to help the government of Liberia save more than one million dollars in its recent purchase of high-resolution satellite imagery; and in-country training to increase geospatial capacity in African countries.

See: ″Improving Opportunities for New Value of Open Data: Assessing and Certifying Research Data Repositories″
       GRID3 Newsletter

New Year Brings New Staff and Interns to CIESIN

January 22, 2021

CIESIN is pleased to start the new year with several new staff members and interns. Hasim Engin has joined the Geospatial Applications Division as a geographic information specialist. He is supporting the Geo-referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) program, assisting with data development, analysis, services, and programming. Previously he worked at the Institute for Demographic Research of the City University of New York with former CIESIN research scientist Deborah Balk. He also interned with GRID3. Engin has an MS in geographic information systems from Lehman College, as well as an MA and a BA in geography education from Marmara University in Istanbul.

Nick Mehmel has joined the Science Applications Division as a data analyst. He is supporting the GRID3 data team in data processing and visualization and development of Web mapping services. Nick recently received an MS in geology from Oregon State University with a graduate certificate in information systems. He has a BS in earth science from Columbia University.

New GRID3 interns include Priska Marianne and Lily Li, who will be performing a range of data-related tasks under the supervision of GRID3 program manager-data lead Jolynn Schmidt. Both are current graduate students majoring in urban planning at Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. Marianne is helping with data visualization and the production of an atlas of cholera risk in Zambia. She received a BA in fine art from Academy of Art University. Li, who has a BE in landscape architecture from Tongji University in China, is supporting data processing for the Democratic Republic of Congo.

2020 Human Planet Atlas Showcases Diverse Applications of Global Human Settlement and Population Data

January 22, 2021

The Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission has released the 2020 edition of the Atlas of the Human Planet, focused on open geoinformation for research, policy, and action, under the auspices of the Human Planet Initiative of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO). This year′s Atlas features more than 30 applications of the georeferenced human settlement and population data in four thematic areas: disaster risk management, urbanization, development, and environment and sustainability. Two of the applications showcased were developed by CIESIN: the Global COVID-19 Viewer operated by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), in “Mapping the COVID-19 Pandemic and Potential Risk Factors,″ and a summary of an update to a 2007 data set available from SEDAC, in “New Estimates of Global Population and Land in the Low Elevation Coastal Zone Using GHSL-based Data Sets.″ The first showcase was prepared by CIESIN director Robert Chen, GIS programmer Kytt MacManus, and associate director for Science Applications Alex de Sherbinin. The second was authored by MacManus, former SEDAC project scientist Deborah Balk of Baruch College, staff associate Hasim Engin, UK demographer Gordon McGranahan, former research staff assistant Rya Inman, and intern Alexandra Hayes.

The JRC organized a virtual launch event January 21 that drew more than 90 participants. The event included 4 short presentations on selected applications, including the Global COVID-19 Viewer example, described by Chen. The Viewer, developed and enhanced in 2020, helps users visualize a range of data on COVID-19 cases and mortality in relationship to spatial data on demographic and environmental factors that may affect exposure and vulnerability, such as age structure, degree of urbanization, air quality, and elevation. Chen and Martino Pesaresi of the JRC are co-leaders of the GEO Human Planet Initiative.

See: Atlas of the Human Planet 2020

New Earth Network Established on Climate Mobility

January 21, 2021

In late 2020, the Earth Institute selected four new “Earth Networks” to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration across Columbia University and develop fresh approaches to research, education and impact on themes related to climate, sustainability and the future of the planet. The Climate Mobility Network, co-led by Ama Francis, climate law fellow with the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law and Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN's associate director for Science Applications, seeks to catalyze research insights and data in order to guide the development of program and policy responses to climate mobility. The Network will build capacity to teach, think, and develop policy about climate mobility, which encompasses both voluntary and forced migration influenced by climate variability and change and challenging issues surrounding internal displacement, refugee flows, managed retreat, and planned relocation. The Network will build on ongoing work with the World Bank, United Nations Development Programme, the Platform for Disaster Displacement, The UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization of Migration, as well as the Columbia Global Centers Committee on Forced Migration. During its initial three-year phase, the Climate Mobility Network plans to develop a trans-disciplinary course, teaching aids and tools to help build curriculum and pedagogy on climate mobility. It will sponsor an interdisciplinary reading group, facilitate working groups on specific topics, support blog posts and opinion pieces in major media outlets, and engage with relevant national, regional and international organizations. It is anticipated that the Network will serve as an exemplar for interdisciplinary research and practice in the new Columbia Climate School being established in 2021.

See: Climate Mobility Network

International Forum and Online Educational Video Provide Opportunities for CIESIN Participation

January 20, 2021

CIESIN senior geographic information specialist Dara Mendeloff was an invited rapporteur for select sessions of the OGC Location Powers Urban Digital Twins virtual summit held January 12–14. The focus of the conference was how “digital twins” at the urban scale use location and geospatial technology to transform how cities are planned, built, and managed to better deliver services in order to create more livable, inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable urban environments. Mendeloff represented both OGC members CIESIN and the NYC Geographic Information System and Mapping Organization (GISMO), where she is a member of the Board of Directors. In consideration of the international audience of the virtual summit, the OGC aimed to make presentations available in both east and west time zones and to build on each other, so she also presented her summary report of the 1W session to sessions 1E and 2W. Her report will be included in a final document that summarizes discussion on the status of Digital Twins and recommends future technology innovations, best practices, and standards development. The OGC is the Open Geospatial Consortium, an international organization committed to improving access to geospatial and location information, including the development of free, publicly available geospatial standards that enable new technologies.

On January 21, Mendeloff reprised her role as an instructor for the Earth Institute (EI) Live K–12 science education video series, when she offered a session aimed at grades 9–12, “Climate Data—The Numbers Behind the Numbers.” The 45-minute video, available on the EI Live channel, explains the data science tools used in climate research by scientists to understand geographic data, perform spatial analysis, and visualize data while communicating a story. 

See: OGC Location Powers Urban Digital Twins virtual summit
       EI Live--“Climate Data—The Numbers Behind the Numbers”