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Concept: Geographic information system


How were cities distributed globally in the past? How many people lived in these cities? How did cities influence their local and regional environments? In order to understand the current era of urbanization, we must understand long-term historical urbanization trends and patterns. However, to date there is no comprehensive record of spatially explicit, historic, city-level population data at the global scale. Here, we developed the first spatially explicit dataset of urban settlements from 3700 BC to AD 2000, by digitizing, transcribing, and geocoding historical, archaeological, and census-based urban population data previously published in tabular form by Chandler and Modelski. The dataset creation process also required data cleaning and harmonization procedures to make the data internally consistent. Additionally, we created a reliability ranking for each geocoded location to assess the geographic uncertainty of each data point. The dataset provides the first spatially explicit archive of the location and size of urban populations over the last 6,000 years and can contribute to an improved understanding of contemporary and historical urbanization trends.

Concepts: Statistics, Chronology, Demography, Geographic information system, City, Urban area, Urbanization, Anno Domini


Potential risks of supply shortages for critical metals including rare-earth elements and yttrium (REY) have spurred great interest in commercial mining of deep-sea mineral resources. Deep-sea mud containing over 5,000 ppm total REY content was discovered in the western North Pacific Ocean near Minamitorishima Island, Japan, in 2013. This REY-rich mud has great potential as a rare-earth metal resource because of the enormous amount available and its advantageous mineralogical features. Here, we estimated the resource amount in REY-rich mud with Geographical Information System software and established a mineral processing procedure to greatly enhance its economic value. The resource amount was estimated to be 1.2 Mt of rare-earth oxide for the most promising area (105 km2 × 0-10 mbsf), which accounts for 62, 47, 32, and 56 years of annual global demand for Y, Eu, Tb, and Dy, respectively. Moreover, using a hydrocyclone separator enabled us to recover selectively biogenic calcium phosphate grains, which have high REY content (up to 22,000 ppm) and constitute the coarser domain in the grain-size distribution. The enormous resource amount and the effectiveness of the mineral processing are strong indicators that this new REY resource could be exploited in the near future.

Concepts: Geographic information system, Japan, Pacific Ocean, Ocean, Rare earth element, Yttrium, Terbium, Dysprosium


In this paper, we combine the most complete record of daily mobility, based on large-scale mobile phone data, with detailed Geographic Information System (GIS) data, uncovering previously hidden patterns in urban road usage. We find that the major usage of each road segment can be traced to its own - surprisingly few - driver sources. Based on this finding we propose a network of road usage by defining a bipartite network framework, demonstrating that in contrast to traditional approaches, which define road importance solely by topological measures, the role of a road segment depends on both: its betweeness and its degree in the road usage network. Moreover, our ability to pinpoint the few driver sources contributing to the major traffic flow allows us to create a strategy that achieves a significant reduction of the travel time across the entire road system, compared to a benchmark approach.

Concepts: Geography, Geographic information system, Robert Duvall, Mobile phone, Road, Traffic, Cartography, Geographic information science


The abundant dinosaurian tracksites of the Lower Cretaceous (Valanginian-Barremian) Broome Sandstone of the Dampier Peninsula, Western Australia, form an important part of the West Kimberley National Heritage Place. Previous attempts to document these tracksites using traditional mapping techniques (e.g., surface overlays, transects and gridlines combined with conventional photography) have been hindered by the non-trivial challenges associated with working in this area, including, but not limited to: (1) the remoteness of many of the tracksites; (2) the occurrence of the majority of the tracksites in the intertidal zone; (3) the size and complexity of many of the tracksites, with some extending over several square kilometres. Using the historically significant and well-known dinosaurian tracksites at Minyirr (Gantheaume Point), we show how these issues can be overcome through the use of an integrated array of remote sensing tools. A combination of high-resolution aerial photography with both manned and unmanned aircraft, airborne and handheld high-resolution lidar imaging and handheld photography enabled the collection of large amounts of digital data from which 3D models of the tracksites at varying resolutions were constructed. The acquired data encompasses a very broad scale, from the sub-millimetre level that details individual tracks, to the multiple-kilometre level, which encompasses discontinuous tracksite exposures and large swathes of coastline. The former are useful for detailed ichnological work, while the latter are being employed to better understand the stratigraphic and temporal relationship between tracksites in a broader geological and palaeoecological context. These approaches and the data they can generate now provide a means through which digital conservation and temporal monitoring of the Dampier Peninsula’s dinosaurian tracksites can occur. As plans for the on-going management of the tracks in this area progress, analysis of the 3D data and 3D visualization will also likely provide an important means through which the broader public can experience these spectacular National Heritage listed landscapes.

Concepts: Geographic information system, Computer graphics, Cretaceous, Remote sensing, Intertidal zone, Cartography, Aerial photography, TopoFlight


BACKGROUND: A remote sensing technique was developed which combines a Geographic Information System (GIS); Google Earth, and Microsoft Excel to identify home locations for a random sample of households in rural Haiti. The method was used to select homes for ethnographic and water quality research in a region of rural Haiti located within 9 km of a local hospital and source of health education in Deschapelles, Haiti. The technique does not require access to governmental records or ground based surveys to collect household location data and can be performed in a rapid, cost effective manner. METHODS: The random selection of households and the location of these households during field surveys were accomplished using GIS, Google Earth, Microsoft Excel, and handheld Garmin GPSmap 76CSx GPS units. Homes were identified and mapped in Google Earth, exported to ArcMap 10.0, and a random list of homes was generated using Microsoft Excel which was then loaded onto handheld GPS units for field location. The development and use of a remote sensing method was essential to the selection and location of random households. RESULTS: A total of 537 homes initially were mapped and a randomized subset of 96 was identified as potential survey locations. Over 96% of the homes mapped using Google Earth imagery were correctly identified as occupied dwellings. Only 3.6% of the occupants of mapped homes visited declined to be interviewed. 16.4% of the homes visited were not occupied at the time of the visit due to work away from the home or market days. A total of 55 households were located using this method during the 10 days of fieldwork in May and June of 2012. CONCLUSIONS: The method used to generate and field locate random homes for surveys and water sampling was an effective means of selecting random households in a rural environment lacking geolocation infrastructure. The success rate for locating households using a handheld GPS was excellent and only rarely was local knowledge required to identify and locate households. This method provides an important technique that can be applied to other developing countries where a randomized study design is needed but infrastructure is lacking to implement more traditional participant selection methods.

Concepts: Geographic information system, Randomness, Map, Global Positioning System, Remote sensing, Surveying, Geodesy, Google Earth


As the deadline for the millennium development goals approaches, it has become clear that the goals linked to maternal and newborn health are the least likely to be achieved by 2015. It is therefore critical to ensure that all possible data, tools and methods are fully exploited to help address this gap. Among the methods that are under-used, mapping has always represented a powerful way to ‘tell the story’ of a health problem in an easily understood way. In addition to this, the advanced analytical methods and models now being embedded into Geographic Information Systems allow a more in-depth analysis of the causes behind adverse maternal and newborn health (MNH) outcomes. This paper examines the current state of the art in mapping the geography of MNH as a starting point to unleashing the potential of these under-used approaches. Using a rapid literature review and the description of the work currently in progress, this paper allows the identification of methods in use and describes a framework for methodological approaches to inform improved decision-making. The paper is aimed at health metrics and geography of health specialists, the MNH community, as well as policy-makers in developing countries and international donor agencies.

Concepts: Geographic information system, Map, World Bank, Maternal death, United Nations, Millennium Development Goals, Maternal health, Poverty reduction


In the past decade, large scale mobile phone data have become available for the study of human movement patterns. These data hold an immense promise for understanding human behavior on a vast scale, and with a precision and accuracy never before possible with censuses, surveys or other existing data collection techniques. There is already a significant body of literature that has made key inroads into understanding human mobility using this exciting new data source, and there have been several different measures of mobility used. However, existing mobile phone based mobility measures are inconsistent, inaccurate, and confounded with social characteristics of local context. New measures would best be developed immediately as they will influence future studies of mobility using mobile phone data. In this article, we do exactly this. We discuss problems with existing mobile phone based measures of mobility and describe new methods for measuring mobility that address these concerns. Our measures of mobility, which incorporate both mobile phone records and detailed GIS data, are designed to address the spatial nature of human mobility, to remain independent of social characteristics of context, and to be comparable across geographic regions and time. We also contribute a discussion of the variety of uses for these new measures in developing a better understanding of how human mobility influences micro-level human behaviors and well-being, and macro-level social organization and change.

Concepts: Psychology, Geography, Geographic information system, Accuracy and precision, Behavior, Human behavior, Mobile phone, Cartography


There is a paucity of robust epidemiological data on snakebite, and data available from hospitals and localized or time-limited surveys have major limitations. No study has investigated the incidence of snakebite across a whole country. We undertook a community-based national survey and model based geostatistics to determine incidence, envenoming, mortality and geographical pattern of snakebite in Sri Lanka.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Geographic information system, Map, Sri Lanka, Mihintale, Cartography, Sri, Geospatial


Traditional methods for monitoring influenza are haphazard and lack fine-grained details regarding the spatial and temporal dynamics of outbreaks. Twitter gives researchers and public health officials an opportunity to examine the spread of influenza in real-time and at multiple geographical scales. In this paper, we introduce an improved framework for monitoring influenza outbreaks using the social media platform Twitter. Relying upon techniques from geographic information science (GIS) and data mining, Twitter messages were collected, filtered, and analyzed for the thirty most populated cities in the United States during the 2013-2014 flu season. The results of this procedure are compared with national, regional, and local flu outbreak reports, revealing a statistically significant correlation between the two data sources. The main contribution of this paper is to introduce a comprehensive data mining process that enhances previous attempts to accurately identify tweets related to influenza. Additionally, geographical information systems allow us to target, filter, and normalize Twitter messages.

Concepts: Spatial analysis, Geography, Geographic information system, Influenza, Learning, Data mining, Cartography, Geographic information science


To estimate the areas of greatest density of road traffic accidents with fatalities at 24hours per km(2)/year in Spain from 2008 to 2011, using a geographic information system.

Concepts: Geography, Geographic information system, Tram accident, Road transport, Accidents, Traffic collision, Geographic information science, Geostatistics