Google+  Facebook  Twitter  Instagram  LinkedIn

UC Santa Barbara
Department of Geography
UC Santa Barbara
Department of Geography
News & Events Department News Events Calendar Event Photos News Favorites News Archive Colloquia Archive
If you would like to be on our mailing list of latest news postings which goes out about every two weeks, or if you have anything relating to the Department that you consider noteworthy, interesting, or just plain fun that you would like to share, please contact the news editor at

UC Santa Barbara Geography / News & Events / Department News

January 29, 2015 -

The following article with the title above is by alumnus Kirk Goldsberry who wrote it for, an award winning website launched by ESPN:

In late October, The Washington Post published a provocative op-ed about the rapidly changing demographics of U.S. cities. An influx of college graduates, it argued, is displacing lower-income African-Americans. Despite rapid overall growth in places such as Austin, Texas, some of America’s “most progressive” cities, according to the Post, are struggling to maintain racial diversity. Here’s a key passage suggesting Austin is Exhibit A: “A recent study we conducted at the University of Texas at Austin reveals that Austin is the only major growth city (a city with over half a million people that saw at least 10 percent growth between 2000 and 2010) that experienced an absolute loss in its African-American population.”

That’s fascinating, and the kind of thing census data should be able to show. Here’s what that “absolute loss” looks like [See Figure 1]. But wait. That can’t be right. These maps leave little doubt that there are more African-Americans in this region than there were 10 years ago. Yet the Post piece is claiming the opposite is true. What’s happening here? How could the Post publish a claim that seems to be flatly incorrect?

Because what we think of as Austin isn’t what it used to be. The place is exploding, and depending on how we define Austin’s city limits, a simple demographic query can have many “correct” answers. Do we include suburbs or surrounding communities? Do we rely solely on the official municipal boundaries? These questions may seem wonky, but their answers often help define our conception of urban space.

Cities grow in two key ways, and when we talk about how “big” a “city” has become, or how fast it has grown, we often conflate two forms of expansion: spatial and demographic. On the one hand, the footprint of a city changes shape; year to year and decade to decade, growing municipalities annex more and more land. On the other hand, urban growth also involves a bigger and bigger batch of humanity living in and around that bulging municipality. But the one hand does not always know what the other is doing, and when population growth outpaces geographic growth — like it has in Austin — things get messy. It becomes foolish to rely on municipal definitions of the city’s boundaries to characterize the overall urban space.

In turn, any analysis or characterization of how a place like Austin is changing is tricky. The findings in the Post present a perfect case. The analysis focuses on the technical municipality, which overlooks hundreds of thousands of residents who self-identify as Austinites. While Austin the municipality may have a clear spatial definition, Austin the “place” is a much murkier thing. [In Figure 2], you see two “official” delineations of Austin. The place called “Austin” is not so simple to define. The city’s definition looks more like a Rorschach plot than it does a city, which is not unusual. But when you plot the city’s population alongside these boundaries, it’s obvious that the official Austin border cuts and weaves through growing settlements.

Unsurprisingly, much of Austin’s population explosion has occurred outside of its famous city limits. Consider the two definitions of Austin in the map [Figure 3] while asking the question the Post did: Were there more or fewer African-Americans in Austin in 2010 than there were in 2000? Simple demographic analyses of population changes in and around “Austin” yield different results, depending on the shape and size of our study area. Through one lens — the one with that wacky Rorschach shape — it looks like there’s a decrease in African-Americans; through another, it looks like there’s a big increase. Although there’s no doubt that Austin’s population has exploded across the board, its black population growth is less clear. This is what geographers call the “modifiable areal unit problem” (MAUP) at its most annoying; two logical delineations of a place produce disparate answers to a simple question.

Still, while that disharmony may be annoying, it also presents important evidence of a curious trend here: A higher share of greater Austin’s black population has recently begun living outside of the city’s formal limits. In 2000, 65 percent of the area’s African-Americans lived within the formal boundary; by 2010, that number was down to 48 percent.

So, it’s incorrect to say greater Austin is experiencing a net loss in its black population, but it’s accurate to suggest some important changes are happening. Those changes have names: gentrification and suburbanization. The map [Figure 4] shows two clear things: 1.) By any definition, there are more black residents in and around Austin than there were in 2000. The five counties that combine to create the census statistical area added 27,965 African-Americans between 2000 and 2010. 2.) There is a curious counter-trend within Austin’s urban core, particularly its historically black East side, which is experiencing a marked decline in its African-American population.

While both the Post piece and the study it’s based on harp on the second point, they neglect to mention the first one. The original study is called “Outlier: The Case of Austin’s Declining African-American Population,” and nowhere in the work do the authors mention that the African-American population has substantially increased in greater Austin. Although they acknowledge they are conducting analyses at the “city” level, it seems strange that they overlook these relevant trends in the metro area.

As Austin, or any city, explodes in size, the city itself changes shape. Its ballooning citizenry begins to bleed into other nearby cities and towns, and at some point the unruly spread of humanity overflows the tidy, arbitrary nature of municipal boundaries. That’s when cities become “metro areas” and when the word “greater” — greater Austin, greater Boston, etc. — starts to creep in front of the city’s name. That’s what led our federal government to concoct “metropolitan statistical areas”; in many cases, they make for better study areas than those antiquated Rorschach town limits.

In Austin, those metropolitan statistical areas are filling up with people of all races. The Post author exploited a common narrative: the new guys (college graduates) pushed the victims (African-Americans) out. But that’s overly simplified: As Austin’s population has exploded in the city, many people of all backgrounds are simply choosing to move to the suburbs [see Figure 5].

It’s undeniable that East Austin has experienced rapid gentrification, but that’s not the only force at work here. Yes, the aimless yearnings of capitalism has brought condominium complexes, craft cocktails, yoga studios and yogurt shops to East Austin. But the suburbs can be appealing, too. An explosion of new suburban housing options and better school districts have enticed black Austinites to move away from the urban core.

Not everyone defecting from East Austin is a victim here. To assume that “college graduates” have “pushed” people away from the urban core is not only incorrect, it’s irresponsible. That’s a lesson that goes for nearly any city — check the narrative before you set your own.

Image 1 for article titled ""
Figure 1
Image 2 for article titled ""
Figure 2
Image 3 for article titled ""
Figure 3
Image 4 for article titled ""
Figure 4
Image 5 for article titled ""
Figure 5
Image 6 for article titled ""
Alumnus Kirk Goldsberry (PhD 2007) is a staff writer at Grantland and a visiting scholar at Harvard University. "My research focuses on the visual dimensions of scientific communication. I’m particularly interested in the links between visual form, graphic design, and spatial reasoning. This avenue of research is significantly influenced by the principles of cartography, visualization, cognitive psychology, vision science, spatial analysis, and human computer interaction. The tie that binds all of my research together is the unmatched ability of graphics to simplify and summarize complex spatial narratives."

January 29, 2015 - Posting about Research into the Demise of Easter Islanders Goes Viral on Facebook

A posting on UCSB’s Geography Facebook page that linked to an article which summarized how Oliver Chadwick teamed up with archaeologists to clarify factors that contributed to the demise of early Rapa Nui society on Easter Island went viral. The posting was made on January 28, 2015, at 1:50 p.m., and it had only reached 12 people an hour later. Then things went crazy.

At that point in time, the Geography Facebook page had accumulated 460 “likes” since its inception on January 24, 2014, and only a smattering of postings had been reached by more than 500 people (8, to be exact). And then along came the Facebook posting titled “Easter Island Mystery.” By 6:00 p.m. on the 28th, about 500 people had been reached by the posting; by 6:00 a.m. on the 29th, the figure was up to 2,500 or so; and by 9:00 a.m. that day, it was up to 3,540 – and Geography’s Facebook page had gained 18 new likes, for a total of 478. Go figure.

Is the Easter Island Facebook posting mystery due to Oliver’s huge fan base? Is it because the Easter Island statues are so intriguing? Who knows? As media cynics say, any publicity is good publicity.

The Geography Department’s venture into social media was finally precipitated by our 40th Anniversary activities and a need for a signup system in January of last year. We began by posting a notice about a Gaucho GeoHunt, and that first posting reached 3,559 people, our largest number reached to date – but give the posting about Oliver another few hours! Either way, check out the UCSB Geography Department on Facebook and don’t be shy about giving the our page lots of “likes”!

Editor's note: 45 minutes after posting this article, the Facebook posting about Oliver had reached 3,764 people, it broke 4,000 by noon, and it was over 4,500 by 6:00 p.m. Stay tuned.

Article by Bill Norrington


Image 1 for article titled "Posting about Research into the Demise of Easter Islanders Goes Viral on Facebook"
Screen shot of the Geography Facebook posting about Oliver's research on Easter Island
Image 2 for article titled "Posting about Research into the Demise of Easter Islanders Goes Viral on Facebook"
Oliver was given a "gold plated" shovel when he handed the job of Chair of the Geography Department over to Dar Roberts (yellow shirt) in September 2009
Image 3 for article titled "Posting about Research into the Demise of Easter Islanders Goes Viral on Facebook"
Oliver taking soil samples on Easter Island – from the January 28, 2015 article titled “Easter Island Mystery”

January 28, 2015 - Maps & Web Mapping: An Electronic Introduction to Cartography by Keith Clarke

Maps & Web Mapping establishes an innovative, eText-only introduction to the history, principles, and current technologies used in mapping and cartography in a way that’s never been done before. Created to work with resources in, this solution engages students with interactive tools, including MapMaster™ interactive maps, Google Earth™ exercises, lecture videos, Map Projection animations, and more. This affordable online-only solution seamlessly integrates narrative text with a dynamic, interactive media experience, creating a rich learning environment and working together to help students develop spatial reasoning skills and practice observation, experimentation, and critical thinking (source).

Maps & Web Mapping and work together to provide dynamic media and learning tools to engage students in the study of maps and web mapping. Current tools, technologies, and applications of cartography are integrated throughout the book, covering both commercial and open source, including desktop and mobile applications.


  • Integrated videos allow students to extend their learning through video overviews of key topics and applications of cartography. Videos linked directly from the book provide context and insight into critical topics, experiments, and applications of cartography.
  • Learning Objectives presented on chapter-opening pages help students prioritize key knowledge and skills as they study.
  • Checkpoint questions integrated throughout the chapters give students opportunities to check their understanding of the material as they read, for a more active learning approach.
  • Coordinate Links to Online Maps are included with many images and locations in the book, enabling students to directly link to online digital maps connected to places presented in the book, for additional exploration and enrichment. This place-based learning enhances learning and recall.

Use this link to purchase access to the eText:

Image 1 for article titled "Maps & Web Mapping: An Electronic Introduction to Cartography by Keith Clarke"
The cover of Professor Clarke’s new eText
Image 2 for article titled "Maps & Web Mapping: An Electronic Introduction to Cartography by Keith Clarke"
Integrated videos are linked directly from the book
Image 3 for article titled "Maps & Web Mapping: An Electronic Introduction to Cartography by Keith Clarke"
Learning Objectives are presented on chapter-opening pages
Image 4 for article titled "Maps & Web Mapping: An Electronic Introduction to Cartography by Keith Clarke"
Checkpoint questions are integrated throughout the chapters
Image 5 for article titled "Maps & Web Mapping: An Electronic Introduction to Cartography by Keith Clarke"
Coordinate Links to Online Maps are included

January 28, 2015 - Easter Island Mystery

“A UCSB geographer teams up with archaeologists to clarify factors that contributed to the demise of early Rapa Nui society.” Julie Cohen, in a January 27 news article for the UCSB Current with the title above, goes on to state:

Long before the Europeans arrived on Easter Island in 1722, the native Polynesian culture known as Rapa Nui showed signs of demographic decline. However, the catalyst has long been debated in the scientific community. Was environmental degradation the cause, or could a political revolution or an epidemic of disease be to blame?

A new study by a group of international researchers, including UC Santa Barbara’s Oliver Chadwick, offers a different explanation and helps to clarify the chronological framework. The investigators expected to find that changes coincided with the arrival of the Europeans, but their work shows instead that the demise of the Rapa Nui culture began prior to that. Their findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“In the current Easter Island debate, one side says the Rapa Nui decimated their environment and killed themselves off,” said Chadwick, a professor in UC Santa Barbara’s Department of Geography and the Environmental Studies Program. “The other side says it had nothing to do with cultural behavior, that it was the Europeans who brought disease that killed the Rapa Nui. Our results show that there is some of both going on, but the important point is that we show evidence of some communities being abandoned prior to European contact.”

Chadwick joined archaeologists Christopher Stevenson of Virginia Commonwealth University, Cedric Puleston of UC Davis and Thegn Ladefoged of the University of Auckland in examining six agriculture sites used by the island’s statue-building inhabitants. Their research focused mainly on the three sites for which they had information on climate, soil chemistry and land use trends as determined by an analysis of obsidian spear points.

The team used flakes of obsidian, a natural glass, as a dating tool. Measuring the amount of water that had penetrated the obsidian’s surface allowed them to gauge how long it had been exposed and to determine its age.

The study sites reflected the environmental diversity of the 63-square-mile island situated nearly 2,300 miles off the west coast of Chile. The soil nutrient supply on Easter Island is less than that of the younger Hawaiian Islands, which were also settled by the Polynesians around the same time, 1200 A.D.

The first site the researchers analyzed was near the northwest coast. Lying in the rain shadow of a volcano, it had low rainfall and relatively high soil nutrient availability. The second study site, on the interior side of the volcanic mountain, experienced high rainfall but had a low nutrient supply; the third, another near-coastal area in the northeast, was characterized by intermediate amounts of rainfall and relatively high soil nutrients.

“When we evaluate the length of time that the land was used based on the age distribution of each site’s obsidian flakes, which we used as an index of human habitation, we find that the very dry area and the very wet area were abandoned before European contact,” Chadwick said. “The area that had relatively high nutrients and intermediate rainfall maintained a robust population well after European contact.”

These results suggest that the Rapa Nui reacted to regional variations and natural environmental barriers to producing sufficient crops rather than degrading the environment themselves. In the nutrient-rich center where they could produce food well, they were able to maintain a viable culture even under the threat of external factors, including European diseases such as smallpox, syphilis, and tuberculosis.

“The pullback from the marginal areas suggests that the Rapa Nui couldn’t continue to maintain the food resources necessary to keep the statue builders in business,” Chadwick concluded. “So we see the story as one of pushing against constraints and having to pull back rather than one of violent collapse.”

Image 1 for article titled "Easter Island Mystery"
Monolithic human figures called moai were carved from rock between 1250 and 1500 by the inhabitants of Easter Island, which lies more than two thousand miles off the coast of Chile. From the Current article.
Image 2 for article titled "Easter Island Mystery"
This rainfall map of Easter Island also shows the three main study areas (pink squares) as well field weather stations (purple dots) and the weather station at Mataveri Airport (red dot). Ibid.
Image 3 for article titled "Easter Island Mystery"
Oliver Chadwick, a professor in UCSB's Department of Geography and Environmental Studies Program, takes soil samples from one of three study sites on Easter Island. Ibid.
Image 4 for article titled "Easter Island Mystery"
Though moai are whole-body statues, they are commonly referred to as "Easter Island heads." This is partly because of the disproportionate size of most moai heads and partly because, from the invention of photography until the 1950s, the only moai standing on the island were the statues on the slopes of Rano Raraku, many of which are buried to their shoulders. Some of the "heads" at Rano Raraku have been excavated and their bodies seen and observed to have markings that had been protected from erosion by their burial (Wikipedia: Moai)
Image 5 for article titled "Easter Island Mystery"
Dr. Chadwick is a joint professor in the Geography Department and Environmental Studies Program at UCSB. His work for the Department of Geography is in the areas of soil sciences, soil genesis and classification, advanced pedology, and soil geomorphology. Dr. Chadwick's research interests include pedology, soil geomorphology, soil geochemistry, quaternary geology, and organic and mineral fluxes during soil, atmoshpere, water and vegetation interaction.

January 27, 2015 - Katie Maynard Appointed As Goleta Planning Commissioner

“Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte appointed Katie Maynard to serve as her Planning Commission representative. The position became available when Perotte’s former Planning Commissioner, Meg West, resigned to serve on the Board of Directors for the Goleta Water District.

‘Ms. Maynard’s experience will be very beneficial as proposed projects come before the Commission,’ said Mayor Perotte. ‘It’s wonderful to have someone with her background working in this role, and I am grateful she is willing to serve our community in this way.’

Maynard is a Sustainability Coordinator at UCSB in the Geography Department. Her responsibility is to identify ways that the campus can reduce [its] environmental impact and collaborate with the community to ensure a healthy environment. She has lived in Santa Barbara County for the last 13 years and in Goleta for the last two” (source).

The Planning Commission consists of a five member advisory body which is responsible for implementing the general plan and administering zoning ordinances and subdivision regulations, as well as promoting public interest in the planning process. Planning Commission terms coincide with the terms of the appointing Council member.

Kudos to Katie, in terms of being chosen for such an important job, in terms of her exemplary qualifications, and in terms of her empowerment to forge closer sustainability ties and commitments between UCSB and our local community.

Image 1 for article titled "Katie Maynard Appointed As Goleta Planning Commissioner"
Geography staff member Katie Maynard, the UCSB Sustainability Coordinator and Event Manager of several UC, CSU, and CCC Sustainability Conferences, including the recent Third Annual Central Coast Sustainability Summit. Katie attended UCSB as a student and started a sustainability organization on campus. The current UCSB faculty at the time liked her organization’s mission so much that they let her write her own job description, and she began working in the Geography Department as a Sustainability Adviser.

January 26, 2015 - Tales of Ancient Sea Rise Told for 10,000 Years

The following Climate Central article by John Upton was published January 25th, 2015 with the title above:

Melbourne, the southernmost state capital of the Australian mainland, was established by Europeans a couple hundred years ago at the juncture of a great river and a wind-whipped bay. Port Phillip Bay sprawls over 750 square miles, providing feeding grounds for whales and sheltering coastlines for brine-scented beach towns. But it’s an exceptionally shallow waterway, less than 30 feet in most places. It’s so shallow that 10,000 years ago, when ice sheets and glaciers held far more of the planet’s water than is the case today, most of the bay floor was high and dry and grazed upon by kangaroos.

To most of us, the rush of the oceans that followed the last ice age seems like a prehistoric epoch. But the historic occasion was dutifully recorded — coast to coast — by the original inhabitants of the land Down Under. Without using written languages, Australian tribes passed memories of life before, and during, post-glacial shoreline inundations through hundreds of generations as high-fidelity oral history. Some tribes can still point to islands that no longer exist — and provide their original names.

That’s the conclusion of linguists and a geographer, who have together identified 18 Aboriginal stories — many of which were transcribed by early settlers before the tribes that told them succumbed to murderous and disease-spreading immigrants from afar — that they say accurately described geographical features that predated the last post-ice age rising of the seas. “It’s quite gobsmacking to think that a story could be told for 10,000 years,” Nicholas Reid, a linguist at Australia’s University of New England specializing in Aboriginal Australian languages, said. “It’s almost unimaginable that people would transmit stories about things like islands that are currently underwater accurately across 400 generations.”

How could such tales survive hundreds of generations without being written down? “There are aspects of storytelling in Australia that involved kin-based responsibilities to tell the stories accurately,” Reid said. That rigor provided “cross-generational scaffolding” that “can keep a story true.”

Reid and a fellow linguist teamed up with Patrick Nunn, a geography professor at the University of the Sunshine Coast. They combed through documented Aboriginal Australian stories for tales describing times when sea levels were lower than today. The team analyzed the contours of the land where the stories were told and used scientific reconstructions of prehistoric sea levels to date the origins of each of the stories — back to times when fewer than 10 million people were thought to have inhabited the planet.

Nunn has drafted a paper describing sea level rise history in the 18 identified Aboriginal Australian stories, which he plans to publish in a peer-reviewed journal. He’s also scouring the globe for similar examples of stories that describe ancient environmental change. “There's a comparably old tradition among the Klamath of Oregon that must be at least 7,700 years old – it refers to the last eruption of Mount Mazama, which formed Crater Lake,” Nunn said. “I’m also working on ancient inundation stories and myths from India, and I’ve been trying to stimulate some interest among Asian scholars.”

The highlights of the results of the trio’s preliminary analysis of six of the ancient Australian tales was presented during an indigenous language conference in Japan. The stories describe permanent coastal flooding. In some cases, they describe times when dry land occupied space now submerged by water. In others, they tell of wading out to islands that can now only be reached by boat. “This paper makes the case that endangered Indigenous languages can be repositories for factual knowledge across time depths far greater than previously imagined,” the researchers wrote in their paper, “forcing a rethink of the ways in which such traditions have been dismissed.”

Port Phillip Bay: Numerous tribes described a time when the bay was mostly dry land. An 1859 report produced for the state government described tribal descendants recalling when the bay “was a kangaroo ground.” The author of that report wrote that the descendents would tell him, “Plenty catch kangaroo and plenty catch opossum there.” The researchers determined that these stories recount a time when seas were about 30 feet higher than today, suggesting that the stories are 7,800 to 9,350 years old.

Kangaroo Island: The Ngarrindjeri people tell stories of Ngurunderi, an ancestral character steeped in mythology. In one of their stories, Ngurunderi chased his wives until they sought refuge by fleeing to Kangaroo Island — which they could do mostly by foot. Ngurunderi angrily rose the seas, turning the women into rocks that now jut out of the water between the island and the mainland. Assuming this dark tale is based on true geographical changes, it originated at a time when seas were about 100 feet lower than they are today, which would date the story at 9,800 to 10,650 years ago.

Tiwi Islands: A story told by the Tiwi people describes the mythological creation of Bathurst and Melville islands off Australia’s northern coastline, where they live. An old woman is said to have crawled between the islands, followed by a flow of water. The story is interpreted as the settling of what now are islands, followed by subsequent flooding around them, which the researchers calculate would have occurred 8,200 to 9,650 years ago.

Rottnest, Carnac and Garden Islands: An early European settler described Aboriginal stories telling how these islands, which can still be viewed from the shores of Perth or Fremantle, “once formed part of the mainland, and that the intervening ground was thickly covered with trees.” According to at least one story, the trees caught fire, burning “with such intensity that the ground split asunder with a great noise, and the sea rushed in between, cutting off these islands from the mainland.” Based on the region’s bathymetry, the researchers dated the story back 7,500 to 8,900 years ago.

Fitzroy Island: Stories by the original residents of Australia’s northeastern coastline tell of a time when the shoreline stretched so far out that it abbuted the Great Barrier Reef. The stories tell of a river that entered the sea at what is now Fitzroy Island. The great gulf between today’s shoreline and the reef suggests that the stories tell of a time when seas were more than 200 feet lower than they are today, placing the story’s roots at as many as 12,600 years ago.

Spencer Gulf: Spencer Gulf was once a floodplain lined with freshwater lagoons, according to the stories told by the Narrangga people. Depending on which parts of the large inlet near Adelaide that are referred to by the stories, they could be between 9,550 and 12,450 years old.

Image 1 for article titled "Tales of Ancient Sea Rise Told for 10,000 Years"
The Yarra River passes through Melbourne, then empties into Port Phillip Bay — which didn't exist during the last ice age (from the Climate Central article; photo credit: Credit: Tim Keegan/Flickr)
Image 2 for article titled "Tales of Ancient Sea Rise Told for 10,000 Years"
The Australian National University led research, published in September in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that tracked prehistoric changes in sea levels. The study included this figure, showing the oceans rising more than 100 meters (330 feet) during the past 20,000 years (Ibid.; graphic credit: Credit: PNAS)
Image 3 for article titled "Tales of Ancient Sea Rise Told for 10,000 Years"
Map showing locations of Aboriginal stories dealing with rising seas (Ibid.; graphic source: University of the Sunshine Coast)
Image 4 for article titled "Tales of Ancient Sea Rise Told for 10,000 Years"
A young Tiwi islander (Ibid.; photo source: Source: Celine Massa/Flickr)

January 26, 2015 - Government Intervention Needed for Relocation in Response to Climate Threats

UCSB Geography Professor David López-Carr and graduate student Jessica Marter-Kenyon have just had an article published in Nature (Nature, 517, 265–267 [15 January 2015]; doi:10.1038/517265a), titled “Human adaption: Manage climate-induced resettlement.” The authors argue that governments need research and guidelines to help them to move towns and villages threatened by global warming. Excerpts:

Inupiaq people are watching in horror as climate change claims their homes. Having endured repeated flooding and erosion from sea-ice melting and permafrost thaw, the 400 residents of Kivalina, an Alaskan village on a low barrier island in the Chukchi Sea, voted in 1998 and in 2000 to relocate — together — to coastal sites on higher ground. More than a decade and a half later, Kivalina remains in limbo, its move stymied by institutional, financial, and physical barriers.

No US federal or state agency has a mandate to undertake such mass resettlement, even though the government spent more than US$15 million on erosion control between 2006 and 2009. Kivalina has failed to raise funds through climate lawsuits against oil and gas companies. And it has yet to identify suitable relocation sites. Meanwhile, the village's water-supply and waste-storage systems have been damaged, and it could become uninhabitable within a decade. Tens of thousands of people in more than 85% of Alaska's 213 native villages face similar threats.

Papua New Guinea, China, and Vietnam have already relocated communities that were vulnerable to flooding. More than a dozen developing countries, including Uganda and Bhutan, have submitted national adaptation plans to the United Nations that involve population resettlement. Sea-level rise this century threatens the cultural and national survival of several low-lying island nations in the Pacific and Indian oceans. By 2050, climate-related hazards such as flooding, soil salinization, coastal erosion and droughts could displace hundreds of millions of people around the world from their homes, either temporarily or permanently.

In many cases, the best way to protect cultures, livelihoods and social links will be to move as a group. Yet population relocation is practically off the climate-policy radar. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) did not officially recognize the need for such resettlement until 2010. And science has barely begun to examine the human and environmental drivers, costs and consequences. How severe must a threat — real or perceived — be for people to feel compelled to move? What determines whether they relocate as individuals or together? And how can the social, economic, and psychological downsides of population resettlement be minimized?

Social and environmental scientists and policy-makers need to invest in research to better understand and manage such resettlement. Relocation must be incorporated into climate-adaptation policy discussions and funding initiatives in the run-up to the next UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP) in Paris in December.

Institutional and legal systems remain ill prepared for managing relocation in response to climate threats. For example, the US Federal Emergency Management Agency, which provides federal aid for preparing for disasters and for relief and recovery after them, has little power to manage pre-emptive resettlement. It can support community relocation only once disaster strikes, and only in response to a handful of hazards — including drought and hurricanes, but not the severe erosion that threatens Arctic settlements.

Several international policy initiatives have formed recently to develop resettlement guidelines. For example, the Nansen Initiative led by the Norwegian and Swiss governments is planning a global meeting this year to agree to a set of best practices for dealing with cross-border climate displacement. The Peninsula Principles on Climate Displacement within States, developed in 2013 by a group of scientific and legal experts, provides a similar framework for assisting affected people within national borders.

These efforts are a start, but they remain scant and underfunded and are years from application.

Image 1 for article titled "Government Intervention Needed for Relocation in Response to Climate Threats"
Flood victims wait to be airlifted from a home near the mouth of the Limpopo River in Mozambique last year (from the Nature article; photo credit: Reuters)
Image 2 for article titled "Government Intervention Needed for Relocation in Response to Climate Threats"
When a landslide in Bududa, Uganda, in 2010 wiped out homes and families, the Ugandan government advised people to evacuate (Ibid.; photo credit Reuters/James Akena)
Image 3 for article titled "Government Intervention Needed for Relocation in Response to Climate Threats"
Place and timing matter. Although some communities will stay until the water laps at their doors, others seem poised to proactively relocate. For example, the Pacific island nation of Kiribati and the city of Miami in Florida are both threatened by sea-level rise. But whereas Kiribati is considering permanent relocation, possibly to Fiji, the people of Miami intend to stay put and are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in shoring up sea walls and drainage systems. Such disparities need to be understood if the global community is to manage relocation equitably (Ibid.)
Image 4 for article titled "Government Intervention Needed for Relocation in Response to Climate Threats"
Jessica Marter-Kenyon: "The work is based off of my Master's thesis work at the London School of Economics in 2010, and I'm building on it for my PhD at UCSB- specifically, I'm studying a nationwide villagization program in Rwanda."

January 21, 2015 - GeoTrans at the TRB Annual Meeting in Washington DC

The Transportation Research Board’s 94th Annual Meeting, January 11-15, moved to a new venue this year, the Washington Convention Center which has greater capacity. It attracted more than 12,000 registered participants, and over 5400 papers were presented. Paper presentation acceptance is now at about 65% (requires a 7500 word paper by August 1st; each paper is reviewed by three to six reviewers and is re-submitted in November before the Annual meeting). Geography’s GeoTrans Laboratory was well represented with work by current UCSB students and alumni/ae in joint research projects, including:

  • A Sunday Workshop titled “Emerging Data Technology and Analytic Frontiers in Integrated Land-Use and Transport Modeling”; talk title: “A Note on Experimentation and Evaluation of Online Real Estate Databases of Residential Prices in Land-use Models” by Srinath Ravulaparthy, Nate Isbell, and Konstadinos G. Goulias (Kostas).
  • A chaired session titled “New Year--New Issues, Methods, and Applications in Travel Modeling: Lightning Session,” Konstadinos G. Goulias presiding.
  • Two Podium Presentations: 1) “Measuring Heterogeneity in Spatial Perception for Activity and Travel Behavior Modeling” by Kathleen Elizabeth Deutsch-Burgner, Data Perspectives Consulting, Santa Barbara, and Konstadinos G. Goulias (Kate Deutsch-Burgner gave the talk) and 2) “Examining Differences and Commonalities of Life Cycle Stages in Daily Contacts and Activity-Travel Time Allocation” by Jae Hyun Lee and Konstadinos G. Goulias (Jay Lee gave the talk).
  • Four Interactive Presentations of papers with the following titles and authors: 1) “Exploring Locational Influences on Technical Efficiency of Business Establishments in Santa Barbara County Using Stochastic Frontier Modeling Framework” by Srinath Ravulaparthy and Konstadinos G. Goulias; 2) “Longitudinal Mixed Markov Latent Class Analysis of the 1989 to 2002 Puget Sound Transportation Panel” by Konstadinos G.Goulias, Jae Lee, and Adam Wilkinson Davis; 3) “Exploratory Analysis of Relationships Among Long-Distance Travel, Sense of Place, and Subjective Well-being of College Students” by Jae Hyun Lee, Adam Wilkinson Davis, and Konstadinos G. Goulias; and 4) “Analyzing Bay Area Bikeshare Usage in Space and Time” by Adam Wilkinson Davis, Jae Hyun Lee, and Konstadinos G. Goulias.
Image 1 for article titled "GeoTrans at the TRB Annual Meeting in Washington DC"
Kostas in front; L to R in back: Adam Davis, Mathew Conway, Seo Youn Yoon, Srinath Ravulaparthy, Shauna Burbridge, Jae Lee, and Kate Deutsch-Burgner
Image 2 for article titled "GeoTrans at the TRB Annual Meeting in Washington DC"
L to R: Shauna Burbridge, Nate Isbell, and Srinath Ravulaparthy
Image 3 for article titled "GeoTrans at the TRB Annual Meeting in Washington DC"
L to R: Kate, Shauna Burbridge, Kostas, Srinath, and Nate Isbell

January 20, 2015 - Alumni Mei-Po Kwan and Sergio Rey Receive Outstanding Service Awards

UCSB Geography alumna Mei-Po Kwan (PhD 1994; Golledge, Committee Chair) and alumnus Sergio Rey (PhD 1994; Anselin, Committee Chair) each received the 2015 Outstanding Service Award from the Association of American Geographers (AAG) Spatial Analysis and Modeling (SAM) Specialty Group. Li An, the SAM Chair and a professor at San Diego State University congratulated them as follows:

“Congratulations to Drs. Mei-Po Kwan from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Dr. Sergio Rey from Arizona State University, who have been selected to be recipients of the 2015 Outstanding Service Award! This very prestigious award is annually given to individuals who have substantially contributed to the SAM group through outstanding service, including excellence in promoting the awareness and reputation of the SAM group as well as exceptional research and outreach activities that render the general public or researchers from other disciplines to accept / use spatial analysis and modeling theories or techniques” (source: email from Li An, forwarded by Mei-Po Kwan). The AAG Honors will be presented at the upcoming AAG Annual Meeting in Chicago, IL, during a special awards luncheon on Saturday, April 25, 2015.

The mission of the SAM specialty group is “to foster and maintain interaction, cooperation, and community among individuals interested in the analysis of geo-referenced data, modeling of spatio-temporal processes and the use of analytical and computational techniques in solving geographic problems. The specialty group promotes the scientific study of physical, environmental and socioeconomic geography and the development, use and teaching of analytical cartography, geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, and spatial, statistical, mathematical, and computational techniques for spatial analysis” (source).

Image 1 for article titled "Alumni Mei-Po Kwan and Sergio Rey Receive Outstanding Service Awards"
Dr. Kwan: “My research addresses health, social, transport, economic, and environmental issues in urban areas through the application of innovative geographic information system (GIS) methods. I am interested in understanding how social differences (e.g., gender, race, ethnicity, and religion) shape urban residents' everyday experiences and perceptions/use of the built environment. I am also interested in studying how specific characteristics of the social and physical environment affect the well-being and behavior of different social groups (e.g., health behaviors and outcomes, access to jobs, social isolation, residential segregation, and spatial mobility).”
Image 2 for article titled "Alumni Mei-Po Kwan and Sergio Rey Receive Outstanding Service Awards"
Dr. Rey’s research interests include open source and open science, exploratory spatio-temporal data analysis, spatial econometrics, economic geography, integrated multiregional modeling, and regional science

January 15, 2015 - Valarm Continues To Expand

Alumnus Edward Pultar (PhD 2011) recently announced his company’s latest developments, using the brainchild he and his brother created, Valarm (“Versatile Asset Locator And Remote Monitor”), a powerful software platform for collecting geo-located sensor data:

Editor’s note: For more about Valarm, see the January 16, 2013 article “Alumnus Develops Mobile App to Monitor Anything, Anywhere” and the May 20, 2014 article “Valarmy at Esri PUG 2014."

Image 1 for article titled "Valarm Continues To Expand"
Edward and his brother Lorenzo. Lorenzo (right) has been developing software since 1995 and has built major systems for Ford Motor Company, DaimlerChrysler, R.L. Polk, ADP, IBM, Qualcomm, Movielink/Blockbuster, ESPN, and Yokohama Tire, to name a few. Valarm was born when Lorenzo woke up one morning to discover his motorcycle had been stolen by professional thieves. Originally, Valarm was conceived as an affordable and accessible theft-prevention and vehicle tracking device which Lorenzo would use himself to protect his replacement bike. Today, Valarm has evolved into a general purpose platform for asset tracking, data acquisition, and remote monitoring.
For more news see the News Archive
Copyright © 2015 University of California, Santa Barbara | The Regents of the University of California | Terms of Use
ADA accessibility reviewed March 2014. If any of this material is not accessible to you, please contact our department at (805)893-3663 or contact
and we will provide alternatives.

Google+  Facebook  Twitter  Instagram  LinkedIn