People and Pixels Revisited: 20 years of progress and new tools for population-environment research
19 February 2018 to 26 February 2018
Background Papers
No Forum archive available
Invited Experts

Emilio Moran (Michigan State University, USA)

Jamon Van Den Hoek (Oregon State University, USA)

Susana Adamo and Alex de Sherbinin (PERN, and CIESIN, Columbia University)

Tracy Kugler (IPUMS Terra, University of Minnesota, USA)

Guido Cervone and Carolynne Hulquist (Pennsylvania State University, USA)

Beth Tellman (Arizona State University, USA)

Kathryn Grace (University of Minnesota, USA)


Moderator: David J. Wrathall (Oregon State University)

Webinar: Future Earth kick-off webinar on 19 February, 12 pm EST.


Twenty years ago the National Research Council published the ground-breaking People and Pixels: Linking Remote Sensing and Social Science (NRC, 1998).  The volume focused on emerging research findings that linked population dynamics and human activities to changes in land use and land cover, revealing the many ways that human activities affect landscapes from the Latin America to Southeast Asia. Separate chapters also addressed health- and famine-related applications of remote sensing. Since that time, new research opportunities are opening because of the increasing array of social science data from both traditional (e.g. censuses, surveys) and new sources (e.g., mobile phone and social media data), the growing variety of satellite and aerial data sources (e.g., high resolution, VIIRS nightlights, radar, UAVs), and the access to computation cyberinfrastructure for the analysis of massive spatiotemporal datasets.

This cyberseminar aims to identify and review the primary research breakthroughs and future directions opened by this digital revolution. The “people and pixels” move in geography shed light on the concerns of sustainability, human livelihoods, land use planning, resource use, and conservation, and led to practical innovations in agricultural planning, hazard impact analysis, and drought monitoring. What will the next 20 years bring?

Key future directions for human-environment interactions that build on original People and Pixels research priorities include:

1) Integration of RS and survey data: combining spatially expansive satellite imagery with nationally or regionally representative household surveys, and with censuses;

2) Integration of RS and big data: use of data from portable digital devices to achieve new research objectives, such as population downscaling, and “poverty mapping.”

3) Breakthroughs in RS-based product development: global analysis of co-located landscape processes over long periods of time using recently developed satellite-derived data products (e.g. global human settlements, forest change, and surface water data sets).

4) Computational advances: advances in computation and GUI platforms for implementing machine learning, deep learning, pattern recognition, anomaly detection, large-scale unsupervised mapping/clustering, etc.

5) Remote sensing as validation technique: confirming high impact hypotheses around disaster impacts, land grabbing, violent conflict, famine, and illicit economies through their interaction with landscapes.

 In this Cyberseminar, we will assess where we’ve come since 1998, identify key extensions of the People and Pixels foundation, and their significance for the demographic aspects of local to global sustainability problems: disasters, famine, drought, war, poverty, climate change, and migration.