Spatial Lightning Talks: Call for Presenters

Now recruiting presenters

for the 11th annual

Spatial Lightning Talks

to be held online via Airmeet on February 28, 2022 at 10:00 am PT

Submit your presentation idea here by February 11

Inspired by the Ignite Talks, the Spatial Lightning Talks feature intrepid presenters who have three minutes to deliver their idea, story, or argument. Topics may be wide-ranging, as long as they somehow relate to spatial thinking and/or analysis. Both serious and lighthearted presentations are  welcomed, as long as they stick to the mantra, “Enlighten us, but make it quick.”

Affiliates and non-affiliates of UCSB are invited to present and attend. With the online format, we hope to attract participants from around the globe.

2021 Lightning Talks screenshotExamples of past years’ titles:

  • “You Are Here” (Michael Goodchild, 2021; video)
  • “Human [reference] map” (Katy Börner, 2021; video)
  • “Your Smartphone, Organize It” (Thomas Crimmel, 2017; video)
  • “The Un-Spatial Talk” (Dan Montello, 2017; video)
  • “A Lovely Mess–A Brief History of UCSB Campus Plans” (Dennis Whelan, 2017; video)
  • “Acoustic Spatialization” (Elizabeth J. Hambleton, 2017; video)
  • “Why isn’t the US metric?” (Keith C. Clarke, 2015; video)
  • “Go West, Young Man: Consistency and Inconsistency in Cognitive Representations of Cardinal Directions” (Bernard Comrie,  2015; video)
  • “Polar Bears and Great Pyrenees Dogs: A Matter of Scale!” (Tommy Dickey and Hot Rod Linkin, 2015; video)
  • “Navigating Narratives as Networks” (Jeremy Douglass,  2014; video)
  • “Airports: The Good, the Bad, and the WTF” (Grant McKenzie,  2013; video)
  • “Marine Transportation: OOPS” (Rick Church, 2010; video)
  • and many more

We will try to accommodate all submissions, but if interest exceeds the available time slots, we will select talks based on their title and a brief description of the concept (1-3 sentences). Please submit your idea through this Google Form no later than February 11. Confirmation of presenters will be emailed by February 15.

Questions? Contact Kitty Currier, We look forward to your submission!


ThinkSpatial: Amanda Cravens

ThinkSpatial logo

The UCSB forum on spatial technologies presents

Effective decision support tools:
The importance of understanding user experiences and institutional barriers to doing so

Dr. Amanda Cravens

Social and Economic Analysis Branch, US Geological Survey

11:00 am (PT), Thursday, February 3, 2022 (online)

Please register here and confirm by clicking the link emailed to you upon registering.

Abstract: Adapting to climate change and variability, and their associated impacts, requires integrating scientific information into complex decision-making processes. Recognizing this challenge, there have been widespread calls for information providers and scientists to work closely with decision makers to ensure they produce datasets and tools that meet real-world needs. Despite the emphasis on integrating user needs into the design of resources, tool developers often do not understand the range of ways their tools are actually incorporated into the decisions of potential users nor the reasons why someone might opt not to use a seemingly-relevant tool. Therefore, there is a need to better understand the specific social and institutional factors that influence why users use (or do not use) particular resources as well as the strategies that tool developers use to engage with users. Using the Upper Colorado River Drought Early Warning System as a case study, this study explored both the process of tool development and the process by which tool users find relevant information for drought decision making. Understanding these two groups’ experiences suggests ways to more effectively design and implement decision support tools in the future.

Amanda CravensBio: Amanda Cravens is a Research Social Scientist with the US Geological Survey’s Social and Economic Analysis Branch in Fort Collins, CO. Amanda’s interdisciplinary research interests include the translation of scientific information into decision making, policies and institutions that influence environmental management, and understanding the cognitive and social processes that make decision support tools work effectively. She is also very interested in the practice of interdisciplinary science and has served as a member of multiple working groups as well as published on the role of creativity in science. She earned her PhD from Stanford University’s Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources and her MA in Geography from the University of Canterbury (New Zealand).

The objectives of the ThinkSpatial Forum are to exchange ideas about spatial perspectives in research and teaching, to broaden communication and cooperation across disciplines among faculty and graduate students, and to encourage the sharing of tools and concepts.

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ThinkSpatial: Janet Nackoney

ThinkSpatial logo

The UCSB forum on spatial technologies presents

Geospatial information informs conservation and community forest management in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Dr. Janet Nackoney

United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
& Department of Geographical Sciences at the University of Maryland

11:00 am (PT), Thursday, January 13, 2022 (online)

See presentation slides, below.

Abstract: Geospatial tools and data are increasingly applied to help conservation managers develop more effective strategies for the protection and long-term conservation of species and the habitats they rely on. These data can help inform the quality or condition of habitats, locate areas most important for conservation prioritization, and systematically monitor areas that are vulnerable to land cover and land use change. Recent advances in satellite-based forest monitoring have significantly increased awareness about the geographic extent of the world’s tropical forests; decision-makers now have much greater access to valuable data and tools to detect forest loss and change over time. Here, geospatial data and tools were utilized to assist habitat monitoring and conservation prioritization for the bonobo (Pan paniscus), an endangered great ape that is endemic to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Community mapping, geospatial analysis and modeling have helped identify conservation priorities for bonobos and other terrestrial species, monitor forest loss and habitat destruction, and promote community-based forest management with local communities.

Janet NackoneyBio: Dr. Janet Nackoney is jointly affiliated with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Land and Resource Governance Division and the University of Maryland’s Department of Geographical Sciences. Janet is a trained geographer who uses geospatial data and technology to monitor tropical forests, conserve wildlife, manage land more sustainably, and promote food security. She is passionate about exploring the intersections and tensions between human and environment systems and helping to promote more inclusive and equitable access to land and property in the developing world. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Society for Conservation GIS (SCGIS) and for Congo Education Partners, which assists a small rural college in northern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).



The objectives of the ThinkSpatial Forum are to exchange ideas about spatial perspectives in research and teaching, to broaden communication and cooperation across disciplines among faculty and graduate students, and to encourage the sharing of tools and concepts.

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ThinkSpatial: Chris S. Renschler

ThinkSpatial logo

The UCSB forum on spatial technologies presents

Building Interdisciplinary Teams for Environmental Management and Conservation Across Scales

Collaborative modeling exercise

Chris S. Renschler, Ph.D.

Dept. of Geography, University at Buffalo (SUNY), Buffalo, NY, USA

11:00 am (PT), Thursday, December 9, 2021 (online)

Time-lapse video of participatory mapping exercise pictured above

Abstract: Over the past two years, the National Science Foundation funded the initiation of a regional research network on sustainable development and community resilience in the Lower Great Lakes. utilizes a novel approach to engage scientists, stakeholders, and Indigenous Rightsholders to look at natural and social processes from a new perspective when addressing regional climate change and land use changes in coastal watersheds. The approach creates interdisciplinary teams to investigate spatial and temporal patterns around conservation and development challenges under climate change. Team individuals identify their expertise and interest in the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the seven PEOPLES Resilience Framework Dimensions. This approach allows participants to converge as matching research partners creating interconnected teams working collaboratively on innovative research questions hypotheses at the regional scale. Several projects at the local scale feature a focus on assessing more detailed process patterns in environmental management and conservation. Among them are process-based modeling of runoff and soil redistribution, bioacoustics and bat habitat assessment, and a discussion to integrate social-cultural aspects in climate change impact and adaption assessment at the local scales.

Bio: Chris S. Renschler is a Professor in Geography and Director of the Geographic Information and Analysis Lab (GIAL) at the University at Buffalo (SUNY), Buffalo, NY. He is also the Director of the Landscape-based Environmental System Analysis & Modeling (LESAM) Lab. Renschler is recognized internationally as an expert and scholar in soil and water conservation, integrated watershed, natural resources, and hazards management. His research, teaching, and outreach activities include the development, validation, and application of integrated hydrology and sediment modeling tools developed collaboratively by scientists, engineers, and practitioners to support effective decision- and policy-making under global climate and land use/land cover change.

The objectives of the ThinkSpatial Forum are to exchange ideas about spatial perspectives in research and teaching, to broaden communication and cooperation across disciplines among faculty and graduate students, and to encourage the sharing of tools and concepts.

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ThinkSpatial: John Gallo

ThinkSpatial logoThe UCSB forum on spatial technologies presents

A Spatial Decision Support System and Open Knowledge Network for Fire-Risk Reduction in Santa Barbara County

John Gallo, Ph.D.

Conservation Biology Institute

11:00 am (PT), Thursday, December 2, 2021

View a PDF of the presentation’s slides.

Abstract. Extreme wildfire events are an increasing threat to both human and natural communities in the Western United States. Efforts to mitigate this threat are extremely complex and involve a bevy of jurisdictions and competing interests. Spatial Decision Support Systems (SDSS) can help these socio-political processes come to consensus on where people should do what treatments. Open Knowledge Networks (OKN), in addition, can help with the aspatial aspects of decision-making and action. Through this “Regional Priority Planning” project, funded by the California Coastal Conservancy and in part by the National Science Foundation, we pilot an SDSS and an OKN for Wildfire Risk Reduction in Santa Barbara County. The SDSS uses the Environmental Evaluation Modeling System (EEMS), a multicriteria combination software with a graphical user interface in and SDSS development continues as part of the Regional Wildfire Mitigation Program funded by the National Wildlife Foundation. I will detail the SDSS and give a demonstration of its use. The OKN, which is in a more preliminary phase, will be described in terms of its underlying science, path and process.

John GalloBio. John Gallo is a geographer and landscape ecologist performing “action research” for the past 20 years in conservation planning, spatial decision support systems, citizen science, habitat connectivity software development, and community knowledge sharing. Action research uses best practices and explores scientific frontiers while performing applied projects. He received a Ph.D. in Geography at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), under the direction of Professor Michael Goodchild, with several fellowships including the Jack and Laura Dangermond award for exceptional “promise in Geographic Information Science.” He received his B.A. in Environmental Studies and his B.S. in Ecology and Evolution, also at UCSB, with top honors. He is Senior Scientist at the Conservation Biology Institute, a non-profit organization that bridges science and practice, and that has built many spatial applications such as, a participatory GIS platform with 40,000 users and 30,000 datasets. Gallo’s favorite hobbies are birdwatching, ultimate frisbee, surfing, and hiking.

The objectives of the ThinkSpatial Forum are to exchange ideas about spatial perspectives in research and teaching, to broaden communication and cooperation across disciplines among faculty and graduate students, and to encourage the sharing of tools and concepts.

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Spatial discovery and the research library

A paper co-authored by spatial@ucsb’s Sara Lafia and Werner Kuhn, along with the Map and Imagery Laboratory’s Jon Jablonski and Spatial affiliates Antonio Medrano and Savannah Cooley was published in Transactions in GIS:

Lafia, S., Jablonski, J., Kuhn, W., Cooley, S., & Medrano, F. A. (2016). Spatial discovery and the research library. Transactions in GIS 20(3): 399–412.

Abstract: Academic libraries have always supported research across disciplines by integrating access to diverse contents and resources. They now have the opportunity to reinvent their role in facilitating interdisciplinary work by offering researchers new ways of sharing, curating, discovering, and linking research data. Spatial data and metadata support this process because location often integrates disciplinary perspectives, enabling researchers to make their own research data more discoverable, to discover data of other researchers, and to integrate data from multiple sources. The Center for Spatial Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and the UCSB Library have undertaken joint research to better enable the discovery of research data and publications. The research addresses the question of how to spatially enable data discovery in a setting that allows for mapping and analysis in a GIS while connecting the data to publications about them. It suggests a framework for an integrated data discovery mechanism and shows how publications may be linked to associated data sets exposed either directly or through metadata on Esri’s Open Data platform. The results demonstrate a simple form of linking data to publications through spatially referenced metadata and persistent identifiers. This linking adds value to research products and increases their discoverability across disciplinary boundaries.

ThinkSpatial: Werner Kuhn

On Tuesday, June 6, 2017 The UCSB brown-bag forum on spatial thinking presents

Place-based GIS: What’s the big deal?

Werner Kuhn

Center for Spatial Studies
Department of Geography
University of California, Santa Barbara

12:00 p.m. Tuesday, June 6, 2017 | 3512 Phelps Hall (map)


Modeling “place” remains a conundrum for spatial computing. Geographic Information Science has discussed requirements and possible approaches for many years, but has not yet produced a convincing solution. In this brief talk, I will present my recent work, together with colleagues at Melbourne University, that sheds new light on the topic. We took the current state of my Core Concepts of Spatial Information (Location, Field, Object, Network, Event) and asked what the simplest possible account for place would be in them that still satisfies the known requirements. The proposed solution (places are a special kind of objects) is now being tested against the requirements stated in the literature. Your feedback and questions will help in this process.


Werner Kuhn holds the Jack and Laura Dangermond Endowed Chair in Geography at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he is professor of Geographic Information Science. He is also the director of the Center for Spatial Studies at UCSB. His main research and teaching goal is to make spatial information and computing accessible across domains and disciplines. Before joining UCSB in late 2013, Kuhn was a professor of Geoinformatics at the University of Munster, Germany, where he led MUSIL, an interdisciplinary semantic interoperability research lab. Kuhn is described as a leading expert in the area of geospatial semantics and especially known for his work on Semantic Reference Systems as well as his work on interaction metaphors for Geographic Information Systems. Recent research projects include the Linked Open Data University of Muenster (together with the university library), and a series of EU projects on geospatial services in the semantic web.

The objectives of the ThinkSpatial brown-bag presentations are to exchange ideas about spatial perspectives in research and teaching, to broaden communication and cooperation across disciplines among faculty and graduate students, and to encourage the sharing of tools and concepts.

Please contact Kitty Currier ( to review and schedule possible discussion topics or presentations that share your disciplinary interest in spatial thinking.

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spatial@ucsb Retreat

mealStudents, interns, ​and the center director of spatial@​ucsb enjoyed a weekend ​retreat with great weather, beautiful nature, and spatial thinking at La Casa de Maria in Montecito. The group​ built camaraderie over meals​, hikes,​ and ​other activities. Several work sessions were spent discussing how to improve specifications for core computations of spatial information. Students enjoyed learning more about the functional language​,​ Haskell​,​ and were eager to implement core computations using other languages like Python. A particular highlight ​of the retreat ​was a beautiful afternoon hike on the San Ysidro trail,​ which was lined with running creeks and wildflowers, and ended with a humble waterfall.

working hike