Research

HyperspectralComplex human-environment systems. Transformation of the earth's social and ecological systems is occurring at a rate and magnitude unparalleled in human experience. Many attendant challenges, such as feeding growing populations or dealing with global environmental change, are manifestations of complex human-environment systems. I advance knowledge in a variety of research areas, including interactions among agriculture, population, and institutions; and urban issues including disease, environmental, and residential mobility. The Ecological Society of America recognized this cholarship with the Sustainability Science Award for 'outstanding contributions to sustainability science.

Complex Systems. Complex systems theory argues that some complicated systems like economies are best understood as emerging ‘bottom up’ from local interactions among constituent entities such as firms or households. I work on topics including the evaluation of complex models, integration of complexity and geography, and epistemological dimensions of scale in complex systems. I also advance the use of use complexity methods such as agent based modeling and cellular automata to environmental systems, forest dynamics, networks, and urbanization.

TrackingSpatial Science. Spatial science examines spatial phenomena, processes, and patterns through technologies such as computer mapping and mathematical modeling. Spatial computing brings together data from an array of sensors, ranging from GPS units in mobile phones to satellite-based cameras, on a range of human and environmental systems. I have published extensively in this area and have a particular interest in spatial big data and in methods arising from the complexity sciences, such as agent-based models and cellular automata. IonE has an overview on spatial thinking and environmental challenges.

Cyberinfrastructure and Big Data. Scholars interested in a wide array of social, natural, and human-environment questions face a dearth of detailed, multidecadal, global-scale data. In response to these data needs, colleagues and I have conduct cyberinfrastructure for ‘gold standard’ research data on population, socioeconomics, health, and environment. Scientists increasingly use 'big data', or very large data sets and attendant analysis approaches, to understand an enormous array of phenomena, ranging from social networks on the internet to large scale deforestation. I help direct several large projects, including the National Historical Geographic Information System (NHGIS), the largest publicly-accessible population database in the world; Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) the world's largest individual-level population database; and Terra Populus, which will be among the largest curated and integrated global data sets for combined human-environment data. The MGIS site has a short piece on Terra Pop.

See the Human-Environment GIS site for more detail on research projects.

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