I am a graduate student in the Department of Geography at the University of California, Santa Barbara. My research focuses on advancing the spatial discovery of research data. I work with the Center for Spatial Studies and UCSB Library to develop a UCSB Open Data site, which is a nexus for spatially integrated interdisciplinary data.

My research interests include geographic information retrieval, data management, semantic web technologies, and education. My previous experience in Urban and Regional Planning and GIS motivates my goal of developing techniques that increase access to spatial analysis tools. See my vitae for more detail.


Trajectories of Research


This project exploits the semantics of graduate student research by classifying publications into research topics based on their free-text descriptions. This visualization provides a view of research trajectories at UCSB. Rather than siloing graduate research by department, a treemap visualization of topics is employed, showing thematic groupings over time.

Self-Organizing Map of Research


This interactive map shows UCSB research publications available through eScholarship and the Alexandria Digital Research Library. Publications are spatially organized according to their text descriptions taken from their titles and abstracts. Publications that are closer together are more topically similar, while those that are dissimilar are further apart.

California Map of Research


This interactive map shows UCSB research publications with titles or abstracts that mention places in California. A Python gazetteer library, Geotext, was used to extract place names of major cities in California. This view of research anchors publications geographically, allowing exploration by places. Trends like frequently mentioned cities emerge in this view.

Spatial Resource Discovery


This project developed an open data site that increases users' ability to discover researcher datasets and associated publications. The site leverages ArcGIS Online and a linked data model connecting publications to referenced data using OpenRefine. A geographic view of data allows for the overlap and spatial discovery of objects from separate repositories.

Core Spatial Concepts


This project implemented core concepts of spatial information by refining and simplifying the use of existing spatial libraries through abstraction. I analyzed current practices and toolkits that domain scientists use to develop spatial analysis workflows and then reframed their procedures in terms of core concepts. This work was presented at the 2015 Spatial Local.

Damage Proxy Mapping


This project validated radar imagery through a web-based GIS interface in support of disaster response for a team of research scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. Damage proxy maps visualized areas where changes in surface conditions reflected the impacts of disasters. The maps were used to identify damaged structures and to assess the extent of regional damage in remote areas.


    Lafia, S. and Kuhn, W. (2018). Spatial Discovery of Linked Research Datasets and Documents at a Spatially Enabled Research Library. Journal of Map and Geography Libraries, 1-19. doi:10.1080/15420353.2018.1478923

    Lafia, S. Turner, A., and Kuhn, W. (2018). Improving Discovery of Open Civic Data. In 10th International Conference on Geographic Information Science (GIScience 2018). Schloss Dagstuhl-Leibniz-Zentrum fuer Informatik. doi:10.4230/LIPIcs.GISCIENCE.2018.9

    Lafia, S., Jablonski, J., Kuhn, W., Cooley, S. and Medrano, F. A. (2016). Spatial discovery and the research library. Transactions in GIS, 20: 399–412. doi:10.1111/tgis.12235