Geospatial Fellows Webinar Series

Geospatial Fellows Webinar Series Spring-Summer 2021

The Geospatial Software Institute conceptualization project will hold a monthly webinar series to showcase the findings and outcomes of the projects of the Geospatial Fellows for advancing COVID-19 research and education. These webinars will be scheduled for the fourth Monday of every Month between 4-5 pm Central Time. For more information about the webinar series, refer to

Geospatial Fellows Webinar Series: Monday, 6/29

Monday, June 28, 2021

Towards Transparent and Ethical Human Mobility Data

Ningchuan Xiao, The Ohio State University

The surge of human mobility data in the past two decades has led to much progress in research and applications that involve human locations and movements. The emergence of such data has also led to serious questions about their ethical underpinnings because they often lack transparency in data acquisition, processing, transfer, and use, and are often not reproducible. In this webinar, we examine the theoretical concerns of human mobility data and the algorithms behind their production and applications. We focus on transparency from a microethics perspective and discuss transparency issues in some major mobility big data sets. We then present a case study leveraging a new source of publicly available geospatial big data, the traffic camera feeds, to illustrate a transparent and ethical framework for mobility data production. By making the source data, models, algorithms, code, quality measures, derived data products, and expected consequences transparent and accessible to the public, we propose a promising framework to promote the openness, accountability, and trust in the lifecycle of mobility data.

Dr. Ningchuan Xiao is Professor of Geography at The Ohio State University. His research in geographic information science and spatial analysis is founded on the premise that spatial and temporal data is ubiquitous, and the design and implementation of computational methods will not only enable us to efficiently produce and process such data but also help us understand the social and ethical nuances of such data. In this broad context, he directs his enthusiasm to continuously developing an extensive research, teaching, and service portfolio to embrace topics in mapping and data visualization, spatial optimization and spatial decision support systems, spatial and temporal modeling, and environmental modeling.


Douglas RichardsonAs the Executive Director of the American Association of Geographers (AAG) from 2003-2019, Dr. Douglas Richardson led a highly successful renewal of the organization. He greatly expanded its membership and international footprint, developed dynamic and wide-ranging new research initiatives, and built strong academic, publishing, and financial foundations for the AAG, and for geography’s future. Prior to joining the AAG, Dr. Richardson founded and was the president of GeoResearch, Inc., a scientific research firm that developed and patented the world’s first real-time space-time interactive GPS/GIS functionality, which has transformed the ways in which geospatial data and geographic information is now collected, experienced, mapped, and used within geography and other disciplines, and in society at large. The concepts, technologies and innovations pioneered by Richardson and GeoResearch are now ubiquitous and at the heart of a wide array of real-time interactive mapping, navigation, mobile computing and consumer devices such as cell phones, and location-based business applications. They also have become central to the real-time management of day-to-day core operations of large-scale governmental entities, corporations, and international NGOs. Richardson sold his company and its core patents in 1998, and has since continued to develop the field of real-time space-time integration in geography and GIScience through international and interdisciplinary geospatial research in areas such as health, sustainable environmental and economic development, human rights, coupled human-natural systems, and more recently the integration of spatial concepts, data, and analysis in the humanities and social sciences.

Geospatial Fellows Webinar Series: Monday, 6/14

Monday, June 14, 2021

Vulnerability to COVID-19 for People with Disabilities: Spatial and Social Inequalities in the U.S.

Jayajit Chakraborty, The University of Texas at El Paso

Although people with disabilities (PwDs) are more likely to be adversely impacted by COVID-19 than non-disabled individuals and face additional challenges, research on the spatial distribution of COVID-19 burdens has paid limited attention to PwDs. My project addresses this gap by conducting a comprehensive national-scale study of the relationship between COVID-19 vulnerability and disability status, using several spatial analytic and statistical modeling techniques. The main research objectives are to: (1) examine whether PwDs and those with specific types of difficulties are significantly overrepresented in areas more vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic; and (2) determine whether socially disadvantaged PwDs (based on their race, ethnicity, age, sex, poverty, and employment status) are significantly overrepresented in areas more vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. The project provides new insights on the association between COVID-19 vulnerability and disability characteristics, and builds a foundation for more detailed analyses of the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic on PwDs—a topic that has significant implications for health equity, social justice, and related public policies. The findings also emphasize the necessity to expand notions of vulnerability associated with COVID-19, and the urgent need for COVID-19 data collection systems to incorporate disability information. In addition, I am developing an interactive geospatial dashboard that will serve as an educational tool for understanding the spatial variability, diversity, and vulnerability of PwDs, as well as provide an online resource that can be used to identify, map, and plan support for socially vulnerable PwDs during public health emergencies and disaster events.


Dr. Jayajit Chakraborty is a Professor of Geography in the Department of Sociology & Anthropology at the University of Texas at El Paso, and the Founding Director of the Socio-Environmental & Geospatial Analysis (SEGA) Lab which conducts multidisciplinary and community-engaged research on topics at the intersection of social and environmental sciences. He has a PhD in Geography and MS in Urban and Regional Planning, both from the University of Iowa. Dr. Chakraborty’s research activities encompass a wide range of environmental health and environmental justice issues, and he is particularly interested in applying GIScience and spatial statistical techniques for analyzing environmental and social injustices. His funded and published research has examined various hazards, risks, and disasters in multiple US urban areas, the US-Mexico border, Australia, and India. Dr. Chakraborty has authored more than 100 publications and recently coedited The Routledge Handbook of Environmental Justice. His research has been supported by grants from the US National Science Foundation (NSF), US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), US Department of Transportation, US Department of Treasury, Australian Research Council, and many other agencies. Dr. Chakraborty has served on advisory committees and review panels for the EPA, NSF, National Institutes of Health, and National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

A Transmutation of Food Access During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Daoqin Tong, Arizona State University

The COVID-19 pandemic has fueled a range of devastating consequences to the U.S. economy. Soaring unemployment rates have pushed millions of families into food insecurity. Meanwhile, the social distancing requirement has also changed the way that people access food with many people replacing in-store visits with online food shopping and pickup. This study combines a large food access spatial dataset and relevant socioeconomic and demographic data to examine how economic stress and the new rules for obtaining food impact food access during COVID-19. We map food access patterns before and during COVID-19 and examine the factors associated with the food access pattern change. We examine such changes in several large metropolitan areas including Phoenix and Los Angeles. The study provides important insights into efforts aimed at enhancing food security and policies to help prepare for future shocks. Research findings concerning food access challenges of vulnerable population groups including low-income and minority will help food assistance programs, non-profit organizations and government agencies in these regions (and beyond) to plan food service provision and formulate effective interventions.


Dr. Daoqin Tong is an Associate Professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at Arizona State University. Her research interests include spatial data analysis, spatial optimization, and geographic information science to improve spatial decision-making. She developed models and solution algorithms to solve real-world problems spanning location analysis, food access, transportation, and public health. Recently, she has examined issues related to urban sustainability. She developed analytical approaches to examine the potential of sustainable urban agriculture through the integration of renewable water resources. She has also worked on the optimal placement and design of green infrastructures to mitigate the impacts of urban flooding. Another ongoing project explores how pollen can be used for tracking the movement of objects and people through space and time. Her work has been funded by multiple government agencies (e.g., NSF, DOD, and DOT) and local organizations.


Geospatial Fellows Webinar Series: Monday, 5/24

Monday, May 24, 2021

Examining the Causal Effects of Age and Underlying Conditions on COVID-19 Incidence and Mortality

Naomi Lazarus, California State University, Chico

A county-level assessment of COVID-19 in relation to age demographics and comorbidities is carried out to provide context to the emerging hotspots of the virus during the early stages of the pandemic. The causal relationship between coronavirus, age, and comorbidities is examined using geographically weighted regression (GWR). COVID-19 incidence rate and death-case ratio function as the dependent variables. The independent variables include percent population in age cohorts 50 – 74 and above 75, heart disease mortality, diabetes, and obesity. The presentation will focus on data and methodological considerations in defining the GWR model and examine the outputs generated from the preliminary analysis. Preliminary results reveal that statistically significant hot spots emerge in the Southwest, Pacific Northwest, and sporadically across the interior of the country. Persistent cold spots are found in locations across the South and Northeast. Marginal changes were observed in these trends as the virus transitioned from the first peak period between March-April 2020 to the second peak period in June-July 2020. The presentation will also point to resources such as data files and notebook templates that have been put together for the project to address the Geospatial Software Institute’s goal of reproducibility and transparency.


Dr. Naomi W. Lazarus is an Assistant Professor of Geosciences in the Department of Geography and Planning at California State University, Chico. Dr. Lazarus’ research examines the demographic, social, and economic impacts of natural and anthropogenic hazards. She incorporates spatial statistics and geographical information systems to assess vulnerability and risk associated with environmental hazards and disease epidemics. Her current research examines spatial and temporal trends in the dengue virus in South Asia. Dr. Lazarus is the coordinator of the geospatial technology certificate program in her department and is faculty advisor to GeoPlace, the student-run mapping lab at the university.


Social determinants of human mobility change patterns and their impacts on mortality and food insecurity

Kenan Li, University of Southern California

A growing number of initiatives seek to document health inequalities and to propose policies that would help to support those most in need. Our research team initiated a series of efforts to study how these inequalities evolved throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Our work followed two threads. The first examined the demographic characteristics of those who succumbed to COVID-19 in California, which as of now is among the hardest hit states in terms of numbers of cases and deaths. The second examined spatiotemporal patterns of food insecurity in Los Angeles County throughout the COVID-19 pandemic using data from the Understanding America Study and datasets provided by Aunt Bertha and Yelp. Human mobility, which changed with the spread of COVID-19, is highly correlated with the variations in mortality and food insecurity. Although the high spatiotemporal granularity of location services supported by most smart devices provide us with great opportunities to delineate these relationships, we found complex spatiotemporal variations in the human mobility variables. We developed a framework to extract representative patterns of human mobility changes at local scales, and used the results to help identify some of the drivers for COVID-19 related deaths across California and food insecurity across Los Angeles County. The human mobility aspects of our work will be migrated to the CyberGISX platform in hopes others can adapt and use our methods to model the disproportionate impacts of events like the COVID-19 pandemic at fine spatiotemporal scales in more reproducible and transparent ways.


Dr. Kenan Li is a research scientist in the Spatial Sciences Institute of University of Southern California. He achieved his Ph.D. degree at Louisiana State University, and his postdoctoral training at University of Southern California. His research interests focus on spatial computation and modeling of community resilience/sustainability, data science and statistics in environmental health, and geo-simulation of human and environmental systems. His works incorporate big data, deep learning, and GIS, and he seeks to develop geo-AI (artificial intelligence) frameworks, integrated geo-cyberinfrastructures, new approaches for analyzing integrated sensor data, and novel biostatistics algorithms. He has led various research projects funded by the National Science Foundation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Defense Imagery Management Operations Center, Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center, Los Angeles County, and Accenture plc. Most recently, he served as a committee member of the USC center for global chain management Covid-19 Healthcare Initiative Consortium.

Geospatial Fellows Webinar Series: Monday, 5/10

Monday, May 10, 2021

Mapping Human Mobility Changes and Geospatial Modeling of COVID-19 Spread

Song Gao, University of Wisconsin-Madison

To contain the COVID-19 spread, one of the nonpharmaceutical interventions is physical (social) distancing. An interactive web-based mapping platform, which provides up-to-date mobility and close contact information using large-scale anonymized mobile phone location data in the US, was developed and maintained by the GeoDS Lab at UW-Madison. Using the multiscale human mobility origin-to-destination (OD) flow data, a novel mobility-augmented epidemic model was further developed to help analyze the COVID-19 spread dynamics at multiple geographical scales (e.g., state, county, and neighborhood), inform public health policy, and deepen our understanding of human behavior under the unprecedented public health crisis.

Dr. Song Gao is an Assistant Professor in Geographic Information Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he leads the GeoDS Lab. He holds a Ph.D. degree from the University of California Santa Barbara. His main research interests include Place-Based GIS, Human Mobility, and GeoAI for Social Sensing. He is the author of 50+ publications with 3500+ Google Scholar citations in prominent journals and conferences. He is the principal investigator of multiple research grants from NSF, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, Microsoft, and geospatial industry partners. He currently serves as the Associate Editor of Annals of GIS, Editorial Board Member of Scientific Reports, PLOS ONE, Cartography and Geographic Information Science, the Academic Director of AAG Geographic Information Science and Systems Specialty Group, and the President-Elect of CPGIS. He was the recipient of the ‘Waldo Tobler Young Researcher Award in GIScience, among other awards.



Dr. Kathleen StewartDr. Kathleen Stewart is a Professor in the Department of Geographical Sciences and Director of the Center for Geospatial Information Science at the University of Maryland. She works in the area of geographic information science where she is interested in mobility and spatial access, often in a big geospatial data context and using approaches that lie in the expanding field of spatial data science. She investigates movement and mobility for a number of different application domains, for example, health, and transportation where movement patterns and geospatial dynamics are key topics. She is also interested in modeling geospatial semantics including geospatial ontologies and their role for location-based applications. She serves as a member of the Mapping Science Committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and is a member of the editorial board of The International Journal of Geographical Information Science, Transactions in GIS, Geographical Analysis, the Journal of Spatial Information Science, the International Journal of Geo-Information, and Geomatics.



Geospatial Fellows Webinar Series: Monday, 4/26

Monday, April 26, 2021 


A Bottom-up Approach to Epidemic Modeling: Conceptual Framework, Implementation, and Case Study

Xun Shi, Dartmouth College

Most current modeling works of COVID-19 are based on the classic SIR model, typically at the population level and adopting top-down strategies. They are sensitive to modeling setting and parameter values that feature subjectivity. Their aggregate data also mask variation across people and space. An alternative approach is to model at the individual level and to resort to a bottom-up strategy, which takes advantage of increasingly available big data of individuals’ mobilities and high-performance computing capabilities. It anticipates general and high-resolution spatiotemporal patterns of the epidemic to emerge from the modeling process. We have been developing a bottom-up approach to epidemic modeling for years. The components of the approach include 1) disaggregating available human mobility data to obtain individual-level trajectory data, using a Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) process; 2) tracing contacts among individuals based on their daily activity trajectories; 3) building an Epidemic Forest model that represents transmission relationships among actual disease cases; and 4) predicting future epidemics based on the epidemic characteristics derived from the Epidemic Forest model, as well as data depicting intervention scenarios through agent-based modeling. The process has been preliminarily implemented within an ArcGIS environment and is being migrated to the CyberGISX platform. It has been applied to case studies of COVID-19 in China. 


Xun Shi is a Professor of Geography at Dartmouth College. He has been highly active in the area of health-related geospatial research. His research covers disease mapping, disease-environment association detection, communicable disease modeling, healthcare accessibility assessment, and data infrastructure for health-GIS. He received funding support from NIH, NSF, CDC, and other sources. He published more than 70 research papers in international journals and developed ArcHealth, a software package serving spatial analytical functions particularly requested by health-related studies and practices. He served as the Chair of the Health and Medical Geography Specialty Group of the American Association of Geographers (AAG) during 2015-2016, and as an editor of AAG Annals during 2008-2018. 




Sara L. McLafferty is a Professor at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her current research investigates place-based inequalities in health and well-being and access to health services for women, immigrants, and racial/ethnic minorities in the United States. Her ongoing work examines the impacts of increasing economic inequality and residential segregation on women's commuting times and modes and on maternal and infant health outcomes. She also uses and develops GIS and spatial analysis methods for examining health and social issues in cities and planning public health interventions. She is currently an Associate Editor of Health and Place and serves on the editorial boards of Geographical Analysis, and Spatial and Spatiotemporal Epidemiology.





Geospatial Fellows Webinar - Series Kick-off

Mon, March 15, 2021, 4:00 - 5:00 pm U.S. Central Time


Gary Langham Welcome Remarks
Shaowen Wang Geospatial Fellows Introduction
Xiang Chen Presentation
Mike Goodchild Discussant

Webinar details and registration:

Introduction to the Geospatial Fellows Webinar Series – Advancing COVID-19 Research and Education through Reproducible Geospatial Science

Shaowen Wang

Abstract: The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has put the US and the world into an extremely difficult situation. Complex and massive geospatial data has been rapidly collected for the fight against the COVID-19 grand challenge across the globe. Harnessing such geospatial data requires developing and integrating cutting-edge geospatial software capabilities, building interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaborations, and ensuring that research findings are readily accessible and reproducible. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has funded a project to conceptualize a Geospatial Software Institute (GSI; for establishing a long-term hub of excellence in geospatial software infrastructure that can serve diverse research and education communities. The GSI conceptualization project has selected sixteen Geospatial Fellows to collaboratively advance COVID-19 research and education through reproducible geospatial science. This webinar series will feature the work of the Geospatial Fellows focused on the following four themes: (1) making geospatial research computationally reproducible; (2) developing novel geospatial analysis and modeling capabilities; (3) assessing health disparities; and (4) understanding COVID-19 impacts. This talk will briefly introduce the GSI conceptualization project and the Geospatial Fellows program for launching the webinar series.


Shaowen Wang


Shaowen Wang is a Professor and Head of the Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science; Richard and Margaret Romano Professorial Scholar; and an Affiliate Professor of the Department of Computer Science, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, and School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). He has served as Founding Director of the CyberGIS Center for Advanced Digital and Spatial Studies at UIUC since 2013. He served as Associate Director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) for CyberGIS from 2010 to 2017 and Lead of NCSA’s Earth and Environment Theme from 2014 to 2017. His research has been actively supported by a number of U.S. government agencies (e.g., CDC, DOE, EPA, NASA, NIH, NSF, USDA, and USGS) and industry. He has served as the principal investigator of several multi-institution projects sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) for establishing the interdisciplinary field of cyberGIS and advancing related scientific problem solving in various domains (e.g., agriculture, bioenergy, emergency management, geography and spatial sciences, geosciences, and public health).



Modeling COVID-19 Infections across Townships with Social Distancing Metrics

Xiang Chen

Abstract: In the early development of COVID-19, large-scale preventive measures, such as border control and air travel restrictions, were implemented to slow international and domestic transmissions. When these measures were in full effect, new cases of infection would be primarily induced by community spread, such as human interactions within and between neighboring cities and towns, which is generally known as the meso-scale. Existing studies of COVID-19 using mathematical models are unable to accommodate the need for meso-scale modeling, because of the unavailability of COVID-19 data at this scale and the different timings of local intervention policies. In this respect, we propose a meso-scale mathematical model of COVID-19, named the meso-scale Susceptible, Exposed, Infectious, Recovered (MSEIR) model, using town-level infection data in the state of Connecticut. We consider the spatial interaction in terms of the inter-town travel in the model. Based on the developed model, we evaluated how different strengths of social distancing policy enforcement may impact future epidemic curves based on two evaluative metrics: compliance and containment. The developed model and the simulation results have contributed to community-level assessment and better preparedness for COVID-19.

Fig7 V4 Model7 Infection and Increase


Xiang Chen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Connecticut, USA. He earned a Ph.D. in geography at The Ohio State University. His research interests are focused on GIScience and community health (e.g., obesity, COVID-19, and dengue fever). He employs GIS approaches (e.g., big data analytics, geovisualization, deep learning) and accessibility theories to unveil the socioeconomic and health inequalities within urban communities.





Michael F. Goodchild is Emeritus Professor of Geography at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he also holds the title of Research Professor. He is also Distinguished Chair Professor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Research Professor at Arizona State University, and holds many other affiliate, adjunct, and honorary positions at universities around the world. Until his retirement in June 2012 he was Jack and Laura Dangermond Professor of Geography, and Director of UCSB’s Center for Spatial Studies. He received his BA degree from Cambridge University in Physics in 1965 and his PhD in geography from McMaster University in 1969, and has received five honorary doctorates. He was elected member of the National Academy of Sciences and Foreign Member of the Royal Society of Canada in 2002, member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2006, and Foreign Member of the Royal Society and Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy in 2010; and in 2007 he received the Prix Vautrin Lud. He was editor of Geographical Analysis between 1987 and 1990 and editor of the Methods, Models, and Geographic Information Sciences section of the Annals of the Association of American Geographers from 2000 to 2006. He serves on the editorial boards of ten other journals and book series, and has published over 15 books and 500 articles. He was Chair of the National Research Council’s Mapping Science Committee from 1997 to 1999, and of the Advisory Committee on Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences of the National Science Foundation from 2008 to 2010. His research interests center on geographic information science, spatial analysis, and uncertainty in geographic data.