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Karen Seto

Karen SetoYale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Associate Professor of the Urban Environment


Project Role: Time Series Remote Sensing to Evaluate Conditions and Spatial Variation in Salt Marshes

Professor Seto studies the human transformation of land and the links between urbanization, global change, and sustainability. A geographer by training, her research focuses on four themes:  1) Characterizing urban land-use dynamics; 2) Understanding the drivers of urban expansion; 3) Examining the environmental consequences of land-use change and urban expansion; and 4) Forecasting urban growth.  She is an expert in remote sensing analysis and integrating satellite data with social science research methods. Her research uses a combination of satellite remote sensing, socioeconomic and biophysical data, in-person field interviews, and a range of statistical and computational models to gain insight on the patterns and processes of urban land-use change. She has pioneered methods to reconstruct historical land-use and to develop empirical models to explain and forecast urban expansion.

Professor Seto’s geographic region of specialization is China, where she has worked on urbanization issues for more than fifteen years. She has also had research projects in India, Vietnam, Qatar, and the US.  Since 2005, Professor Seto has been Co-Chair of the Urbanization and Global Environmental Change Project of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP). From 2002 to 2008, she was the Global Thematic Leader for Ecosystem Management Tools for the Commission on Ecosystem Management of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). She is the Executive Producer of “10,000 Shovels: Rapid Urban Growth in China,” a documentary film that integrates satellite imagery, historical photographs, and contemporary film footage to highlight the urban changes occurring in China. Professor Seto is an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow and recipient of a NASA New Investigator Program Award, a NSF Career Award, and a National Geographic Research Grant.

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