Colloquium Series

Cyberinfrastructure and Spatial Data Science:
Opportunities and Challenges

Dr. Wenwen Li
GeoDa Center for Geospatial Analysis and Computation
School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning
Arizona State University

Friday, January 26, 2018
3:30 pm to 4:30 pm
Storm Hall 316

This talk introduces the outcome of a NSF CAREER project that aims at establishing a knowledge-driven cyberinfrastructure for geospatial innovation. Different from traditional CyberGIS platforms, which are largely HPC centered, this new infrastructure intends to integrate machine intelligence into problem solving environment to further accelerate the knowledge discovery process. There are three essential components in such a knowledge infrastructure: a data discovery component which supports large-scale web crawling to identify geospatial datasets; a smart workflow chaining mechanism to support intelligent question answering related to space and time; and a cyber-visualization component to support on-the-fly rendering of big spatial data and online spatiotemporal analytics. These components are seamlessly integrated into a cyberinfrastructure platform using service-oriented approach to enable collaborative decision-making. We have successfully applied the solution framework into problem solving at the poles, since the polar regions are one of the Earth remaining grand frontiers, they are the key moderator of the global climate and currently at high risk of the global change. We expect this work to not only advance geospatial sciences but also improve our understanding of the polar system and its impact on the environment, people, and the society through geospatial innovation.

Dr. Wenwen Li is an Associate Professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at Arizona State University. Her research interest is cyberinfrastructure, space-time big data, machine learning, scientific visualization and their applications in multiple Earth science and social science disciplines, such as polar sciences, natural disaster, terrain analysis and modeling, urbanization etc. Over the years, she has served as the PI of multiple federal grants, from NSF and USGS. She was also the 2015 NSF CAREER award winner. For more information on Dr. Li.


Calibrating Agent-Based Models over Multiple Scales of Behavior

Dr. Sean C. Ahearn
Professor of Geography
Director, Center for Advanced Research of Spatial Information (CARSI)
Hunter College, City University of New York

Friday, February 2, 2018
3:30 pm to 4:30 pm
Storm Hall 316

Research group posing with tranquilized tigerAgent-based models (ABMs) of dynamic phenomena incorporate behavior, interaction and context to create simulations in the hope of achieving verisimilitude. Early ABMs made significant assumptions about the nature of movement upon which these models are based, which affected their ability to accurately predict outcomes given a set of conditions. With the advent of GPS, entities (animals, people, cars, etc.) fashioned with GPS receivers could be tracked at fixed temporal intervals. The resulting track, called a trajectory, can be analyzed to better understand the relationship between movement and behavior. The nature of movement is determined by local choices that are often based on context (e.g. terrain, vegetation density) and global objectives (e.g. mating, hunting, patrolling) which often occur over a range of spatial and temporal scales. How to understand and quantify these relationships and use them to calibrate ABMs is the subject of this presentation.

Dr. Ahearn is a noted expert in remote sensing and geographic information systems and has extensive research, teaching, and management experience in related subjects, with emergency response and urban GIS, digital image analysis, spatio-temporal models, agent-based models, and ecological models among his chief interests. As Director of the Center for Advanced Research of Spatial Information (CARSI) at Hunter College, City University of New York, he managed a series of large photogrammetric, remote sensing, and GIS projects. Among these, he played a major role in managing the design, development and implementation of NYCMap, the digital base map for the City of New York. Dr. Ahearn also managed a series of GIS and remote sensing applications in response and mitigation to the events of Sep 11, 2001. His work was feature in the History Channel program “The World Trade Center: Rise and Fall of an American Icon”. From aerotriangulation to aerial photography, LiDAR campaigns, and GIS applications, Dr. Ahearn combines extensive project management experience with a keen sense for technical excellence and quality assurance. He was the lead principal investigator of the National Science Foundation grant from which BigKnowledge LLC was spun off. In recognition for his contribution to the theory and practice of remote sensing and GIS, Dr. Ahearn has received numerous awards, including a 2013 IBM Faculty Award. He previously served as President of the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS) and was a founding member of the National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC), on appointment by the United States Secretary of Interior.


‘Child-friendly’ cities… What about this idea?

Adriana Tenorio Cordeiro
Assistant Professor and Doctoral Student
University of Pernambuco (UPE), Brazil
Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE), Brazil

Friday, February 23, 2018
3:30 pm to 4:30 pm
Storm Hall 316

The ideas we have about ‘child-friendly’ places have been clearly influenced by global frameworks, such as UNICEF’s strategies for promoting child-friendly cities, that suggest positive indicators and several plans to guide policy in different localities. We should be concerned about the ways frameworks of ‘child-friendly’ cities influence children’s impressions about urban spaces. Trying to explore some critical ideas related to global South realities, this talk will direct some attention towards the idea of urban ‘child-friendliness’ from children’s perspectives in Brazil. What is a city like which is ‘friendly’ to children? Who’s responsible for it? Whose welfare does the current production of urban space envision? 11-year-old children from three schools in Recife (Brazil) wrote letters on what they consider to be a ‘child-friendly city’, and this talk shares this research experience. If projects and actions focusing on ‘child-friendly’ environments are to be conveyed, children’s right to appropriate, that is, to access and use urban space should be foreseen.

Adriana currently studies public policies related to childhood and urban space in Brazil, within the Urban Studies and Politics of the Mobility Research Group (MOBIS/UFPE). She holds a Master’s Degree in Administration and a Diploma in Public Management. Prior to lecturing, Adriana worked at Recife’s City Hall in local community projects.


Connecting Neuroscience and Virtual Reality
to Understand Human Navigation

Dr. Elizabeth Chrastil
Assistant Professor of Geography
University of California, Santa Barbara

Friday, March 2, 2018
3:30 pm to 4:30 pm
Storm Hall 101

Navigation is a central part of daily life. For some, getting around is easy, while others struggle, and certain clinical populations display wandering behaviors and extensive disorientation. Working at the interface between immersive virtual reality and neuroimaging techniques, my research demonstrates how these complementary approaches can inform questions about how we acquire and use spatial knowledge. In this talk, I will discuss both some of my recent work and upcoming experiments that center on three main themes: 1) how we learn new environments, 2) the type of spatial information we learn from environments, and 3) how individuals differ in their spatial abilities. The behavioral and neuroimaging studies presented in this talk inform new frameworks for understanding spatial knowledge, which could lead to novel approaches to answering the next major questions in navigation.

Dr. Elizabeth Chrastil is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at UCSB and is a faculty member in the Interdisciplinary Dynamical Neuroscience Program. She studies human path integration, spatial memory, and large-scale navigation in complex environments. Her work examines both navigational behavior and how the human brain supports that behavior. She has conducted experiments using both fully immersive virtual reality and fMRI neuroimaging techniques to understand how humans process self-motion information when navigating without landmarks. Applying those same techniques to landmark-based navigation, she has investigated how active and passive navigation affect learning a new environment. In her work, Dr. Chrastil has also found large individual differences in navigational abilities. She works to uncover the source of these abilities and hopes to someday help the navigationally-challenged. Her research interests include spatial cognition, spatial neuroscience, navigation, cognition and behavior, and perception and action. Dr. Chrastil received her PhD from Brown University and did her postdoctoral work at Boston University. She also received an MS in biology from Tufts University and a BA from Washington University in St. Louis.


Geography at State: Geographic Perspectives on Global Issues

Dr. Debbie Fugate
Deputy Director
Office of the Geographer and Global Issues
U.S. Department of State

Friday, March 9, 2018
3:30 pm to 4:30 pm
Storm Hall 101

Debbie FugateThe State Department’s Office of The Geographer plays a leading role across the U.S. Government in promoting the value of geography and advancing its use as an approach for understanding and informing senior policymakers about real world challenges. Our expertise and analysis ranges from informing foreign policy decisions on global issues to engaging communities on geographic science. In this presentation I will highlight issues our analysts have tackled this past year from mapping famine to analyzing wildlife trafficking. I will then discuss the expansion of our Secondary Cities Initiative, a field based project working with communities that are poorly mapped and lack rigorous, publicly-available data sets to support sustainable planning and address urban challenges such as expanding informal settlements, public health emergencies, and natural disasters. Finally, I will explain why human geography is such a hot topic in Washington these days.

Dr. Debbie Fugate is the Deputy Director of the Office of The Geographer and Global Issues in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the U.S. Department of State. The office provides timely, independent analysis on a range of global issues to inform foreign policy decisions. She co-directs the research and analysis of the office, including work on civilian security, health and environment, human rights, migration and refugees, trafficking, and war crimes. She reports directly to The Geographer of the United States, a position that was established in 1921 and bears the statutory responsibility for providing guidance to all federal agencies on international boundaries and sovereignty.

Debbie oversees the Humanitarian Information Unit (HIU), an interagency unit that produces written and visual analytics on humanitarian challenges and complex emergencies worldwide. The HIU employs geographic methods and technologies, serves as an information-sharing node, and manages projects that facilitate the creation of geospatial data. She is also Director of the Secondary Cities Initiative, a field-based program that engages communities to build capacity in geospatial science and open data with partnerships addressing disaster preparedness and urban resiliency in secondary cities globally.

Debbie has a Ph.D. in Geography from San Diego State University and the University of California, Santa Barbara with a focus on population analysis and urban remote sensing. Prior to joining the Department of State she served for almost a decade as a demographer for the Central Intelligence Agency, analyzing demographic trends worldwide with a focus on humanitarian, health, and crisis contexts.


Youth, Waithood and the Future
in Post-Socialist Ethiopia

Dr. Tatek Abebe
Associate Professor and Program Convenor of Mphil in Childhood Studies
Norwegian University of Sciences and Technology

Wednesday, April 4, 2018
3:30 pm to 4:30 pm
Storm Hall 325

Youth, Environment, Society, and Space (YESS)
Special Colloquium

This seminar explores youth’s ideas of land, development and the future in Ethiopia, one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. Through analysis of youth’s stories on ‘waithood’, it discusses how forces of history and political economy heighten their experiences of uncertain futures in the context of Ethiopia’s ‘developmental state’. Waithood by youth entwines with uneven geographies of development that generates complex forms of dispossession and ‘intimate exclusions’ from access to cultivable land. It is linked to the gradual disappearance of rural land as the means of sustenance, but it also epitomizes anxiety around educated unemployment in which alternative futures of the urban imagery are either untenable or fading away. Analysis of a music video produced by youth will provide insights into what young people view as livelihoods displacement, a no return to past ways of life, as well as the experience of being disjointed from the future and from development itself.

Dr. Tatek Abebe holds MA in development studies and PhD in human geography from Norwegian University of Sciences and Technology where he is now associate professor and program convenor of MPhil in childhood studies. His research interests centers on the generational implications of development on young people’s lives, with an emphasis on labor, mobility and material realities youth in post-socialist Ethiopia. Over the past decade, he has undertaken research with children, families and communities found on the margins of society and political economy in Eastern Africa. Dr. Abebe is Director of Council for Development of Social Science Research in Africa’s (CODESRIA) Child and Youth Institute that engages with the theme of African futures and the futures of childhood in Africa. He also leads Nordic Network of African Childhood and Youth Research. He has published several articles and book chapters on children’s rights, child labor, migration, AIDS-affected children, youth, care and livelihoods; as well as child-focused methodologies and participatory ethics. His most recent co-edited book on geographies of Children and Young People: Laboring and Learning is published in 2017 by Springer.


Young People, Rights and Place

Dr. Stuart Aitken
Distinguished Professor of Geography
San Diego State University

Friday, April 6, 2018
3:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Storm Hall West 11

Stuart AitkenAlbert W. Johnson Research Lecture

Dr. Stuart Aitken has been selected to present the 2018 Albert W. Johnson Research Lecture for his outstanding contributions as a scientist, mentor, and campus leader. The University Research Lecture Series recognizes SDSU faculty making outstanding research contributions.

In many ways, Dr. Aitken exemplifies the teacher-scholar model that has been one of the hallmarks of SDSU. His scholarship is multi-disciplinary in nature, international in scope, and in the words of one of his nominators “helped to re-define an entire sub-discipline in geography”. Collaborating with colleagues in social sciences, arts, sciences, and the humanities, Dr. Aitken provided new insights into the geographical dimensions of our society, but more the relationships between children, young people, families and their communities. In addition, much of his work focused on the spaces of fathers and fatherhood as an emotional practice.

His interactions and leadership on campus have been exemplary with the formation of the cross disciplinary Center for Studies of Youth, Environments, Society and Space (YESS) that draws colleagues from multiple departments and colleges. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation as well as private foundations. His commitment to teaching is exemplified by the array of undergraduate and graduate students who have worked with Dr. Aitken over the years, including 11 PhD students and 22 MA students.

He has been a prolific author with 14 authored or co-authored books, 64 book chapter and 66 peer reviewed journal articles. He is a sought after speaker with 300 papers delivered at professional conferences including 18 lead keynote lectures. He has received numerous awards including honorary professorships at Simon Frasier in Canada and the University of Wales at Aberystewth as well as being an invited member of the Royal Norwegian Society for Sciences and Letters.

Dr. Aitken’s forthcoming book with Routledge, Young People, Rights, and Place (2018), is also to be published in Portuguese.


Timing and Scale Matters:
Unmanned Aircraft vs. Satellite Imagery in Plant Invasion Monitoring

Jana Müllerová

Institute of Botany, Czech Academy of Sciences
University of Colorado, Boulder

Friday, April 20, 2018
3:30 pm to 4:30 pm
Storm Hall 119

American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
SDSU Student Chapter


Child Protection and Care in Tijuana, Mexico

Dr. Sylvia Meichsner

El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, Mexico

Friday, April 27, 2018
3:30 pm to 4:30 pm
Storm Hall 316

In 2007-08 the highest density of residential childcare institutions all over Mexico was shown by the urban agglomeration of Tijuana. Ten years later this has changed considerably without evident, targeted policy intervention having taken place. This presentation will explain why these observations matter, discuss the wider context in which they occured and elaborate on routes for researching the phenomenon. In so doing particular attention shall be paid to the significance of the urban environment.

Trained in sociology and social research Sylvia has, over the years, been involved into a number of research projects in Latin America, West Africa and Europe. In addition, she has acted as international election observer in one of Mexico’s presidential elections and as an expert advisor to the Mexican ministry of education. The main focus of her current research interests is institutionalised childcare in its respective socio-cultural, historical, economic and political context.