I use GIS to
map and model different phenomena in data-rich and data-poor environments across space and time.
(human/animal-environment interactions and how places are connected)
As a Geographer I have used GIS to map and model many different phenomena as
you can see when you look through my publications and the variety of topics
covered by the students that I have advised. GIS can be applied
to all disciplines in one form or another. The fun part of GIS is being able to learn
about new things through maps and data analysis as well as use it to explore relationships, test models and new hypotheses. Analyses can be as simple as overlaying different types of information or as complex
as the development and simulation of models to produce dynamic outputs
that capture different processes over space and time.
Now is an exciting time to be in the field of GIS
as technologies have changed making it easier to collect spatial data. Although there has been an explosion of geospatial data,
that can easily be collected through an endless supply of apps on our smartphones
and other mobile devices, asking pertinent questions remain a challenge as we
try to sift through the streams of data and make sense of the world in which we live.
my research I use GIS to better understand
- The mechanisms influencing patterns
across space and time?
- At what scale should we map and model different phenomena?
- What new data sources and technologies are useful? How can we effectively integrate these into our analyses?
NOVEL DATA SOURCES
and micro-blogging is increasingly being used during crisis events to provide
live up-to date information as events evolve with information being
disseminated using novel data streams by both citizens and public
officials. I use these types of data in two ways:
MOBILITY: The emergence of new diseases and the re-emergence of old
diseases are an increasing challenge. Recent years have seen the swift movement
of West Nile virus (WNV) across the continental US; resurgence of dengue in the
Americas; outbreaks of malaria in Europe as well as chikungunya in Europe, the
Caribbean with local transmission reported in Florida. An integral part of defining how diseases are spread comes
from understanding human movement and connectivity between landscapes. However, collecting
human movement data is inherently difficult. I use novel data sources to
- look at activity space, movement patterns and connectivity between places at a local, regional and international scales and at different time intervals (hourly, daily, monthly, seasonal, etc).
- Twitter data (see publications Blanford et al., 2015 and Where are they going? Using social media to understand human movement and disease transmission)
- News sources (see publications Tomaszewski, et al., 2011)
- Open data sources such as Bike Share Data as a proxy for understanding movement patterns within urban areas.
PERCEPTION OF RISK: Of particular
interest is whether a person’s geographical location and the relevant content
of their message can be mined to answer critically important questions about
how a person perceives the risk associated with an
event. The data collected may include an individual’s reaction to a threat,
their spatial displacement from the threat and their general perception of the
level of danger the threat poses. So, how can we leverage social
media as a vehicle to understand perceptions of risk and to possibly to stimulate appropriate citizen response to
official advisories and warnings associated an event such as a natural disaster. As a step
towards addressing this question, we have been using social media data,
specifically Twitter, to
people’s reactions leading up to, during and after an event and
how effectively information is disseminated during an event by analyzing the
public’s response to official NWS messages sent via Twitter (see publications Blanford et al, 2014
and Fall 2014 Geography Newsletter).
- SensePlace3: forages place-time-attribute information
from the Twitterverse to support crisis management (see publications).
To better understand the ecology of health/disease
By integrating biology, behaviour and environment
so that we can respond (target interventions)
and recover (improve availability and access to treatment).
Factors influencing health and disease in the environment are
complex and require an understanding of the
(i) ecology of the disease: Drawing from epidemiological theories where it is important to understand the the role of the agent, host and environment and how these interact in the environment across
space and move through the landscape (mobility, connectivity
and dispersion pathways);
(ii) the ability to respond: prevention of disease through the control or alteration of specific factors and
(iii) the ability to recover: provision of timely diagnosis and treatment through the availability and accessibility to health care and healthy
environments (nutrition and food).
Mosquito-vectored diseases - Working
with the DEP PA to investigate the spatial and
temporal distribution of important mosquito vectors of disease. These include
vectors related to the transmission of West Nile Virus (WNV); dengue and
chikungunya and malaria.
the spatial and temporal patterns of host-pathogen-environmental
interactions across Pennsylvania and what this means in terms of disease
new ways of visualizing this large dataset and examine how environmental
factors such as climate and habitat affects changes in transmission
of the virus.
interactive map showing WNV in Pennsylvania during 2003 Pennsylvania WNV visualize
- Risk analysis of mosquito-vectored diseases. Assessing risk with
imported cases to determine potential transmission zones. See Taber et al., 2017.
- how disease (through host-pathogen-environment interactions) is affected with changes in temperature. See
Blanford et al., 2013.
- what temporal
scale is necessary to model vector-borne diseases now and in the future using
downscaled data. See
Blanford et al., 2013.
Access to health facilities
and healthy food environments - Accessibility to health
care can be complex and hinder the ability of populations to recover from
disease in a timely manner. One way of examining accessibility is through
the examination of physical accessibility based on realistic walking and
vehicular speeds and distances as examined in Niger in the following paper. See
Blanford et al., 2012.
This work is being extended to examine accessibility to nutritious and
healthy food environments in urban and rural environments.
Food Deserts - Access to healthy foods (e.g. fresh fruit and vegetables; diverse food choices) are important for maintaining healthy diets that include 5 A DAY portions of fruit and vegetables. Disparities in access to diverse and healthy foods have been identified. Reasons for this can be based on physical access (e.g. accessibility), economics (e.g. affordability) and availability (e.g. distribution of diverse food stores).