Pre-2020 Events Archive

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  • Speaker Series
  • Annual Events | spatial@ucsb.local
  • Annual Events | Spatial Lightning Talks
  • Annual Events | Specialist Meetings
  • Occasional Events

Annual Events | spatial@ucsb.local

spatial@ucsb.local2019: Spatial Data for Smarter Cities

The theme for the 2019 event was Spatial Data for Smarter Cities.

Keynotes were delivered by:

  • Mahnoosh Alizadeh (Electrical and Computer Engineering, UC Santa Barbara)
  • Konstadinos (Kostas) Goulias (Dept. of Geography, UC Santa Barbara)
  • Kurt Shellhause (Water Resources Engineer, Kasraie Consulting)

Representatives from the private sector and industry and campus-wide academics in the humanities, sciences, social sciences, and engineering programs had the opportunity to showcase how spatial thinking facilitates research and creativity. A total of 38 posters were submitted for viewing. A sample can be viewed here.

spatial@ucsb.local2018: Improving Information Accuracy for Extreme Events

The theme for 2018 was Improving Information Accuracy for Extreme Events.

Keynotes were delivered by:

  • Jessica White (Direct Relief International)
  • Chris Renschler (Dept. of Geography, University at Buffalo)
  • Brian Heath (Ventura County Fire Department)

Representatives from the private sector and industry and campus-wide academics in the humanities, sciences, social sciences, and engineering programs were invited to showcase how spatial thinking facilitates research and creativity. A total of 53 posters were submitted for viewing. A sample can be viewed here.

spatial@ucsb.local2017: Environmental Conflict Resolution in the Santa Barbara Channel

The annual spatial@ucsb.local17 Poster and Plenary Session that showcases how spatial thinking facilitates research and creativity was held on Thursday, June 8, 2017 at Corwin Pavilion. With Rockney Rudolph presiding, the Channel Islands Regional GIS Collaborative (CIRGIS) held its annual meeting; Grace Goldberg moderated the Plenary Session on Environmental Conflict Resolution in the Santa Barbara Channel, and 38 posters were submitted for viewing and discussion after the meeting.

Representatives from the private sector and industry and campus-wide academics in the humanities, sciences, social sciences, and engineering programs participated in this event.


  • Carrie Kappel, Associate Research Scientist, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Morgan Visalli, MESM, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
  • Moderator: Grace Goldberg, Director of Operations SeaSketch & McClintock Lab, University of California, Santa Barbara
spatial@ucsb.local2016: Spatial Information for Human Health

In addition to a poster exhibit, the event featured the Channel Islands Regional GIS (CIRGIS) presentation of their 2016 high-resolution LiDAR elevation data program and the 2015 aerial imagery acquisition project.

The theme of the Plenary Session was Spatial Information for Human Health, featuring presentations by:

  • David Kerr (Sansum Diabetes Center)
  • Aaron Blackwell (UCSB, Dept.of Anthropology)
  • moderated by Susan Cassels (UCSB, Dept. of Geography)

Presenters discussed their research and gave their perspectives on how spatial information technologies can be applied to the study and enhancement of human health.

spatial@ucsb.local2015: Spatial Search

There is a spatial component at the core of all search. On one hand, search technologies rely on a spatial metaphor: We talk about going to our favorite websites, searching for fragments in an overwhelmingly large space of documents, images, and videos. On the other hand, geographic space is essential to index information, relying on the location of entities.

Extending our 2014 Specialist Meeting on Spatial Search, open to the local community and campus wide, this event featured research posters from the local community. The agenda included the Channel Islands Regional GIS Panel Discussion and a plenary discussion.

Keynote Speakers:

  • Pete Pirolli (Palo Alto Research Center)
  • Krzysztof Janowicz (Geography, UCSB)
spatial@ucsb.local2014: Spatially Enabled Smart Places

spatial@ucsb.local2014 focused on the creation of smart places through spatially enabled technologies. In this context, smart is interpreted as digital, informed, adaptive, efficient, cost effective, sustainable, and green; and place refers to a behavioral space, such as a home, vehicle, building, neighborhood, campus, city, or region.

The Spatially Enabled Smart Places Plenary Session featured a presentation by Alexander Stepanov (University of Massachusetts Amherst) who demonstrated how GIS technologies can tie diverse systems together for decision support to enable a smart campus. Following, Jon Jablonski (Director of the Map and Imagery Laboratory, UCSB)  explained how geo-spatial technologies can be linked to other information and communication systems to provide a primary platform for searching and integrating data to support research and education. The session was chaired by Werner Kuhn, newly appointed Director of the Center for Spatial Studies.

spatial@ucsb.local2013: Visualization of Spatial Data

Visualization of spatial data comes in many forms—from geo-referenced coordinates and areal units on a map to diagrams and the coding of sound with musical notation. The sources of such data include, among many others, human creativity, the Census, trajectories of movements from GPS, and the social networks represented by online contacts. Problem solving in the science, business, and design disciplines, and aesthetic renderings in the arts increasingly make use of spatial visualization technologies to represent and interpret the patterns and processes that define natural and human worlds at scales ranging from the molecular to the astronomical.

spatial@ucsb.local2013 brought together leading contributors to the art and science of visualization for demonstrations of applications and discussion.

Keynote speakers:

  • Jason Dykes (School of Informatics, City University London)
  • JoAnn Kuchera-Morin (Media Arts and Technology Program, UCSB)
  • Ross Whitaker (Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute (SCI, University of Utah)
spatial@ucsb.local2012: Thinking Spatially

With the theme of Thinking Spatially, the annual poster display and plenary session in 2012 highlighted the important contributions of spatial reasoning in the arts, humanities, and social and natural sciences, and in applications that serve societal needs.

The event brought together educators and researchers from academia and practitioners from industry and government to share insights and experiences on the promotion of spatial literacy and its value to society.

Plenary presentations and poster displays illustrated how spatial technologies and spatial reasoning facilitate learning and discovery in the natural, social, and behavioral sciences; promote excellence in applied science; enhance creativity in the arts and humanities; and contribute to the informed appreciation of space and place in everyday life.

spatial@ucsb.local2011: Marine GIS

The annual poster display and plenary session in 2011 invited the campus community, urban and regional planners, local, state, and national agencies, consultants, and researchers, to view displays highlighting how GIS and spatial technologies contribute to understanding our region and solving its problems.

The theme for presentations was Marine GIS. Tours and a plenary session highlighted the important contributions of geographic information systems (GIS) to the basic science of land-ocean environments, to the documentation of human impacts and ecological changes, and to the assessment of conflicting demands for habitat maintenance and restoration and human desires for recreation and economic opportunities. 

spatial@ucsb.local11 brought together marine and geographic information scientists, GIS users from public agencies and private firms, and students to share information about the use of spatial technologies to help study, understand, and make responsible decisions about central California’s marine environment.

spatial@ucsb.local2010: GIS for Disaster Planning and Response

The theme for presentations in 2010, was GIS for Disaster Planning and Response, featuring an introduction by Michael Goodchild (Department of Geography and spatial@ucsb) and presentations by Alan Glennon (spatial@ucsbGrass Roots Crisis Mapping), Andrew Schroeder (Direct Relief International, the SB County SoVI Project), and Michael Harris (SB County Office of Emergency Services, GIS in Emergency Management in SB County).

The general public was also invited to the Channel Islands Regional GIS (CIRGIS) annual meeting of the Ventura/Santa Barbara ESRI ArcGIS Users Group. The day’s event and activities wrapped up at 4:00 p.m. by Keith Clarke (Department of Geography).

spatial@ucsb.local2009: Use of GIS & Spatial Technologies

Urban and regional planners, local, state, and national agencies, consultants, researchers, were invited to prepare displays at Corwin Pavilion to highlight how GIS and spatial technologies contribute to understanding our region and solving its problems.

Tours of the AlloSphere were arranged in conjunction with this poster display, and the Channel Islands Regional GIS (CIRGIS) held its meeting of the Ventura/Santa Barbara ESRI ArcGIS Users Group. 

spatial@ucsb.local2008: Connecting our Region through GIS and Geospatial Technologies

With the theme of Connecting our Region through GIS and Geospatial Technologies, the 2008 inauguration of spatial@ucsb featured 59 posters from the Departments of Media Arts and Technology, Computer Science, Environmental Science, Geography, and Psychology on campus, and from various government agencies and consultants in the private sector displayed the use of spatial technologies to solve problems in their respective fields.

Channel Islands Regional GIS (CIRGIS) took advantage of this opportunity to convene its quarterly meeting of the Ventura/Santa Barbara ESRI ArcGIS Users Group at UCSB and then attend the inaugural ceremony. CIRGIS is a support group of GIS that consists of planning professionals that meet regularly to share insights on geospatial solutions to local problems.

Annual Events | Spatial Lightning Talks

2019 Lightning Talks

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New space, same (but never old!) event, 2019’s Spatial Lightning Talks were memorable. As they munched on sandwiches and pizza, our listeners from across campus were regaled with three-minute talks that ran the gamut, and that captured our attention for over an hour. Speakers had the challenge to present a new topic to the audience in only three minutes, after which a loud (electronic) bell would stop their thought in its tracks—because it was question time! 

  • John Lee: Race and Space on an American College Campus, 1886–1888
  • Thomas Hervey: Travel Spaces and their Stories
  • Skona Brittain: Space-Filling Curves
  • Mike Johnson: An R-based Ecosystem for Earth System Data
  • George Legrady: 3D Data Visualization Fundamentals from MAT 259 Course
  • Keith Clarke: Where is Nowhere?
  • Ethan Turpin & David Gordon: An Interactive Fire, Water and Climate Model
  • Dan Montello: Fifty-Four Forty or Fight!
  • Greg Hillis: Mandalas: Buddhist Maps of Perfection
  • Aaron Bagnell: Fuzzy Oceans: Clustering Water Masses to Overcome Local Sampling Bias
  • Ken Dunkley: COOL Terroir: Place and the Character and Quality of Food and Beverages
  • Tom Ekman: Exploring a Watershed with Mexican Youth
2018 Lightning Talks

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The UCSB Center for Spatial Studies hosted another great round of Spatial Lightning Talks on February 9, with a whole new batch of spatially-relevant topics. Eight speakers took the challenge to “enlighten us, but make it quick!” Many new and returning faces in the crowd had the opportunity to hear a lively group of speakers and make new connections across campus. This year, there was a 2-minute question and answer period after each 3-minute presentation, allowing the audience to participate more in the program. 

  • Keith Clarke: The Honda Point Disaster
  • Jeremy Douglass: Panelcode
  • Paul Wilson: Mapping Thomas
  • Joshua Kuntzman: UCSB Crossroads
  • Lily Cheng: Left Hand, Right Hand
  • James Caesar: Thomas Fire: Don’t Fight the Scenario
  • Thomas Crimmel: The Abridged History of the Digital Desktop
  • William Yim: Focus
2017 Lightning Talks

View videos on YouTube | program

The sixth annual Lightning Talks event was held on February 28 at the Mosher Alumni House. In this fast-paced, hour-long event 16 speakers from across and beyond campus presented three-minute talks falling under the broad theme of “space/spatial,” ranging in scope from drone mapping to smartphone organization, offshore wind energy planning, and a history of UCSB campus planning.

The event, organized by Kitty Currier, was standing-room only, with about 80 attendees from diverse departments campus-wide, as well as from the local community.

  • Dan Montello: The Un-Spatial Talk
  • Thomas Crimmel: Your Smartphone, Organize It
  • Elizabeth J. Hambleton: Acoustic Spatialization
  • Rui Zhu: IChing and Geography
  • Paul Wilson: The Geography in Cancer
  • James Caesar: UCSB Emergency Preparedness Programs
  • Dennis Whelan: A Lovely Mess—A Brief History of UCSB Campus Plans
  • John Loman: UCSB Communications Network Mapping and Documentation
  • Marc Mayes: Mysteries of a Breathing Biosphere
  • Frank Pendleton: Offshore Wind Energy Planning
  • Waldo Tobler: A New Companion for Mercator
  • Skona Brittain: Time for Space
  • Karly Marie Miller: Using Space As a Proxy for Time to Study Tourism and Fisheries
  • Daniel Phillips: Defining the Community of Interest as a Cognitive Region
  • William F. Yim: A Day in Ventura
  • Eduardo Romero: Drone Mapping
2016 Lightning Talks

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Fifteen speakers presented their work and perspectives in a three-minute format, making the fifth annual Lightning Talks a great success. Crystal Bae organized this event, which took place on February 29 in the Student Resources Building Multipurpose Room at UCSB.

  • Alexander Boone: Navigation and the Human Stress Response
  • Susan Cassels: Syphilis, Circuit Parties, and Circular Migration
  • James Caesar: Emergency Management and the Use of Information and Maps
  • Keith Clarke: How to Prove the Earth is Round
  • Tommie Dickie: The Iditarod: 1000 Mile Alaskan Test of Courageous Dogs and Mushers
  • Jeremy Douglass: Page Spaces, Remixed: 500+ Excursions through House of Leaves Pages
  • Song Gao: Earth’s Biggest Seasonal Human Migration on a Map
  • Adam Grosshans: Navigating a Volume: The Seattle Public Library
  • Jordan Hastings: What’s in a Gazeteer?
  • Donald Janelle: UCSB Spatial Archives@eScholarship
  • Sara Lafia: Degrees of Separation: Measuring Musicians and Places
  • Sijie Loo: Space Traveling in Paintings
  • Kevin Mwenda: How High can Mosquitoes Get?
  • Celeste Pilegard: Training Spatial Skills with Video Games
  • William F. Yim: Coast Redwoods in California
2015 Lightning Talks

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Fourteen new and returning speakers made the fourth annual Lightning Talks on February 25 a success. Kitty Currier organized the event, which took place at Mosher Alumni House.

  • Tommy Dickey and Hot Rod Linkin: Polar Bears and Great Pyrenees Dogs: A Matter of Scale!
  • David Gordon: Linking Sound, Image and Place
  • Skona Brittain: More Than Four Colors
  • Yingjie Hu: Metadata harmonization in spatial data infrastructures
  • Todd Bryan: Wedding Cake Geoprocessing for Web GIS
  • Amy Shadkamyan-Talamantes: UCSB Business Continuity
  • Selena Daly: Mapping the Italian Avant-Garde: Futurism in Space and Time (1909-1944)
  • Bernard Comrie: Go West, Young Man: Consistency and Inconsistency in Cognitive Representations of Cardinal Directions
  • Keith C. Clarke: Why isn’t the US metric?
  • Jeremy Douglass: Experimental Game Spaces: virtual visions, architectures, and dimensions
  • William F. Yim: Chinese Calligraphy
  • David A. Hallowell: First-Grade Students and Geometric Diagrams: What do they notice?
  • Kim Yasuda: Light Works: Isla Vista
  • Steve Miley: Beyond the Locked Gate
2014 Lightning Talks

View videos on YouTube | program

The third annual Lightning Talks featured a lineup of 11 new and returning speakers, presenting to a full room at Mosher Alumni House on February 25. Kitty Currier organized the event.

  • Keith C. Clarke: The Four Washington Meridians
  • Tommy Dickey, Teddy, and Linkin: Brave Arctic Gold Rush Dogs
  • Song Gao: Spatial Questions Collected from GIS HelpDesk
  • Margaret R. Tarampi: A Little Pictorial Space Can Change Your Perception of Art
  • William Yim: Airport Terminal Designs
  • Crystal Bae: Lessons from the Road: Cross-Country by Bicycle
  • Paul Wilson: Whale Traffic Control
  • Heather Burte: Individual Differences and the Neural Bases of Allocentric-Headings
  • Andrea Ballatore: Computing the Spirit of Place
  • George Legrady: Image, Interaction and Representation: Some Artistic Projects that Address Space
  • Jeremy Douglass: Navigating Narratives as Networks
2013 Lightning Talks

View videos on YouTube | program

Kitty Currier organized this edition of Lightning Talks, held at the Mosher Alumni House over the lunch hour on Wednesday, February 27. The brave cast of inspirational speakers included:

  • Tommy Dickey: Chasing Ocean Eddies and Pyrenean Sheep!
  • Mary Hegarty: How I Became a Spatial Thinker
  • Song Gao: Spatio-Temporal Patterns from Mobile Phone Data
  • Jim Caesar: Emergency Preparedness
  • Don Janelle: Convergent Places—Warped Spaces
  • Rodrigo Bombardi: Relationships Between Precipitation over Eastern South America and the South Atlantic Sea Surface Temperature
  • Skona Brittain: Where in the World is Hunter San Cazador?
  • Chuck Champlin: Twinkle: A Geometry of Meaning
  • Grant McKenzie, Airports: The Good, the Bad, and the WTF
  • Emily Ellis: Can We use Terrestrial Biogeography to Inform Placement of MPA’s?
  • Jon Jablonski: New in MIL: The Fairchild Aerial Surveys Collection
  • William Yim: Airfield Design and Capacity
  • Yingjie Hu: Citation Map: Visualizing the Spread of Scientific Ideas through Space and Time
  • Kitty Currier: Shipshaping and Fiafia (or How I Became a Geographer)
2010 Lightning Talks

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Organized by Alan Glennon, the brave cast of inspirational speakers presenting to a standing room–only crowd on March 10 included:

  • Rick Church: Marine Transportation: OOPS 
  • Helen Couclelis: Why Sketching Works (or, Why GIS Needs Design) 
  • Kitty Currier: Beyond Street View: Documenting Coral Reefs with “Immersive” Video 
  • Alan Glennon: How to Map a Cave 
  • Rhonda Glennon: How to become a Private Pilot
  • Michael F. Goodchild: Spatio-temporal Constraints on Social Networks 
  • Dan Montello: Baldknobbers of the Ozarks
  • Hugo Repolho: Optimum Location of Motorway Interchanges: Concessionaires’ Perspective 
  • Waldo Tobler: Ravenstein Revisited

Annual Events | Specialist Meetings

2019: Spatial Data Science Symposium, “Setting the Spatial Data Science Agenda”


Space and time matter not only for the obvious reason that everything happens somewhere and at some time, but because knowing where and when things happen is critical to understanding why and how they happened or will happen. Spatial data science is concerned with the representation, modeling, and simulation of spatial processes, as well as with the publication, retrieval, reuse, integration, and analysis of spatial data. It generalizes and unifies research from fields such as geographic information science, geoinformatics, geo/spatial statistics, remote sensing, and transportation studies, and fosters the application of methods developed in these fields to outside disciplines ranging from the social to the physical sciences. In doing so, research on spatial data science must address a variety of new challenges that relate to the diversity of the utilized data and the underlying conceptual models from various domains, the opportunistic reuse of existing data, the scalability of its methods, the support of users not familiar with the language and methods of traditional geographic information systems, the reproducibility of its results that are often generated by complex chains of methods, the uncertainty arising from the use of its methods and data, the visualization of complex spatiotemporal processes and data about them, and, finally, the data collection, analysis, and visualization playing out in near real-time. Spatial data science does not only utilize advanced techniques from fields such as machine learning or big data storage and retrieval, but it also contributes back to them. Recent work, for instance, has shown that spatially-explicit machine learning methods substantially outperform more general data when applied to spatial data even though this spatial component may seem of secondary importance at first glance.


Instead of being restricted by a historically grown partition into small and overlapping communities that deal with spatial data in one way or the other, the overarching goal of this symposium is to put spatial data science at the forefront of a unified field that explores the current research and application landscape to define an agenda for spatial data science for the next 10 years.


Forty-three experts from academia and industry convened to share and develop visions, insights, and best practices. Plenary presentations and intense exchanges in small breakout discussion groups offered opportunities for knowledge transfer.

2019: Spatial Discovery III


The Center for Spatial Studies received a private grant to study and address the challenges that libraries and researchers face in making research data discoverable via spatial metadata on diverse platforms and in a variety of environments. The goal of this project is an expanded awareness and adoption of spatial discovery and analysis in research and teaching, supported by novel library services. Partnering in this project with the Center for Spatial Studies, the UCSB Library convened a third expert meeting, “Spatial Discovery III,” which was held at the Upham Hotel and the UCSB campus on May 1–3, 2019 in Santa Barbara.

Discovery III, the third and final specialist meeting on the topic of spatial discovery, marked the culmination of research and prototyping efforts to make research data discoverable by location. The meeting was designed to expand discussions from the prior meeting held in May 2017, with the substantial new turn toward discovery in topic spaces.

Recent developments at UCSB include experimentation with the expansion of visualization in ArcGIS Online to topic spaces and the propelling of research data curation efforts on campus through an NSF-supported pilot project. In addition to sharing and discussing research and development, the meeting seeks to discuss future prospects for enabling spatial discovery in a university library setting. Building on the productive disciplinary mixes of the 2015 and 2017 meetings, librarians again met with GIS and information retrieval experts.

2018: Location Analytics in Business

Location Analytics is the subset of Business Analytics that is concerned with gaining insights by analyzing the spatial component of business data. Leading retail, real estate, finance, manufacturing, and logistics firms, among others, implement location strategies to gain competitive advantage. Furthermore, a new generation of business researchers and educators is beginning to recognize location analytics as a distinctive professional specialty. The role of academics in this field can be to simplify location analysis, propose innovative new theories and methodologies, and educate business and technology leaders.

This 3-day workshop prepared selected early-career researchers to do just that. Participants interacted with leading scholars in geographic information science and other related fields, and led breakout discussions on relevant subtopics. Benefits to participants included understanding the current capabilities of a modern location analytics platform, gaining ideas and advice for implementing location analytics in next-generation business school curricula, and crossing disciplinary boundaries to network and collaborate with kindred scholars. Results may include a jointly-authored review and/or manifesto article for a peer-reviewed journal.

2017: Spatial Discovery II

Built on the discussions at the first Spatial Discovery meeting in June 2015, Spatial Discovery focused on a discussion of challenges, practices, and potential strategies associated with cross-platform content discovery.

The fundamental questions discussed were:

  • How can spatially mediated discovery provide single-point access to research data, across distributed repositories and catalogs?
  • How can the discovery of research objects in general be spatially supported? and
  • How can spatial discovery be applied to topic spaces, not just geographic ones?

Participants, typically involved in research on data-seeking and its requirements, contributed expertise in Library Science, as well as in Geography and Computer science, pertaining to spatial information.

2016: Universals and Variation in Spatial Referencing across Cultures and Languages

Universals and Variation in Spatial Referencing across Cultures and Languages, sponsored by the Center for Spatial Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara with a contribution from Esri, was held December 7–9, 2016, at the Upham Hotel in Santa Barbara.

By “spatial referencing” we mean the function with which a natural language expression locates something in the world. What do we know (and what would we like to know) about how such expressions and their referring function stay the same or vary across languages and cultures? Are there universals and systematic variations?

Forty-two researchers were hosted for an open discussion of research results and needs addressing these and related questions. Participants represented the broadest possible range of disciplines and professions offering insights on the topic.

Organizing Committee:

  • Werner Kuhn, (Chair), Director of the Center for Spatial Studies and Jack and Laura Dangermond Professor of Geography, UCSB
  • Niclas Burenhult, Associate Professor of General Linguistics, Centre for Languages and Literature, Lund University; and Research Associate, Language and Cognition Group at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen
  • Bernard Comrie, Distinguished Faculty Professor, Department of Linguistics, UCSB
  • James Pustejovsky, Chair, Language and Linguistics and Computational Linguistics Programs and Director, Lab of Linguistics and Computation, Brandeis University
  • Thora Tenbrink, Director of Research, College of Arts and Humanities and Reader in Cognitive Linguistics, Bangor University.

Invited Speaker:

  • Stephen C. Levinson, Director, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
2015: Spatial Discovery

A private grant to study the challenges and strategies that libraries and researchers face in trying to discover linked spatial data via metadata on diverse platforms and in a variety of environments has enabled the Library in collaboration with the Center for Spatial Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) to convene experts for a discussion of “Spatial Discovery.” The meeting included on- and off-campus experts, primarily with expertise in Library Science, as well as specialists with knowledge pertaining to spatial information with relevant research on data-seeking behavior and requirements.

Challenges, practices, and potential strategies associated with the cross-platform discovery of spatial data in the context of the library was discussed at this meeting. The question is how can the Interdisciplinary Research Collaboratory at UCSB (and similar efforts elsewhere) provide a single point of access to spatial data, discovering them across distributed repositories, search catalogs and databases? A longer term perspective will be how the discovery of library contents in general can be spatially supported.

The results included a white paper on organizing library contents and services around “spatial,” with a focus on the Alexandria Digital Research Library (ADRL) together with ArcGIS Online and library search tools as enabling technologies.

Invited Speakers

  • James Boxall (GISciences Centre, Dahlhousie University)
  • Anabel Ford (Mesoamerican Research Center, UCSB)
  • Marcel Fortin (University of Toronto Libraries)
  • Christopher Gist (Scholars’ Lab, University of Virginia)
  • Alan Liu (Department of English, UCSB)

Organizing Committee

  • Denise Stephens, University Librarian
  • Werner Kuhn, Director, Center for Spatial Studies, Geography Department
  • Antonio Medrano, Post Doctoral Research Fellow, Center for Spatial Studies
  • Karen Doehner, Administrative Coordinator, Center for Spatial Studies
  • Isabella Madarang, Executive Assistant, University Librarian, Library
2014: Spatial Search

Information search has become an enabler across the spectrum of human activity. Search engines process billions of queries each day and influence the visibility and accessibility of online content. Scientists search for meaningful patterns in massive data sets, while consumers search for products and services in a growing pool of options.

Operating at two levels, there is a spatial component at the core of search. On one hand, search technologies rely on a spatial metaphor: We talk about going to our favorite websites to help search for fragments in an overwhelmingly large space of documents, images, and videos. On the other hand, geographic space will index information and refine search strategies, relying on the geo-location of entities to assess their relevance. While the spatial dimension of search is pervasive and foundational to many disciplines, it has not been adequately analyzed.

The overarching goal of this specialist meeting were to discuss spatial search along three complementary strands:

Computational strand: What are the current computing challenges in spatial search? What are the limits of spatial indexing? Where are the bottlenecks? What techniques and algorithms have substantially changed the way we design search functionality in large information systems? Are reference systems and meta-data helpful? What is the future of spatial search models?

Geospatial strand: What kinds of spatial search are utilized in the geo-spatial domain? What search functionality is missing in current Geographic Information Systems? How can Geographic Information Science interact with other domains to promote spatial thinking and education in the context of spatial search?

Cognitive strand: What do we know about how humans conceptualize and perform information searches and how space helps? How do search technologies impact human cognition of geographic and information spaces? How do humans search memory and visual or aural stimuli? Can hypotheses and insights from the cognitive and neurosciences inform computational and geospatial search techniques?

Intense and focused discussion among specialist meeting participants helped illuminate these matters and contributed toward the development of an interdisciplinary research agenda to advance spatial search from scientific as well as engineering viewpoints.

Invited Speakers

Organizing Committee

2013: Advancing the Spatially Enabled Smart Campus

Making our daily environments smart through technologies has been on research and political agendas for more than three decades, with a primary interest in the outdoor environments of cities. Smart city projects are now found worldwide, focusing on sustainability, e-governance, transportation, health, etc. by deploying innovative technologies for sensing, social networking, and knowledge integration. To some extent, campuses can be seen as “small cities,” raising similar concerns for a particular kind of population. Additionally, smart campuses have their own challenges and opportunities, e.g., the support of creativity and interdisciplinary collaboration in science or the involvement of technologically savvy students. Spatial thinking and computing are thought to be key enablers for all these aspects of smart campuses, but this case needs to be made more effectively with university administrators and domain scientists.

Participants  addressed three general categories of questions:

I. General Perspectives on Smart Campuses:

  • What services should a smart campus provide?
  • How do smart campuses contribute to sustainability?
  • Are there best-practice examples of smart campuses?

II. Geospatial and Technological Pre-requisites for Smart Campus Implementations:

  • What sensor and other networks are needed to enable smart campus services?
  • How are mobile information and communication technologies (ICT) best integrated into the implementation of the smart campus?
  • What are the design features of a dashboard for organizing and displaying the availability and results of smart campus implementations?
  • How might volunteered geographic information (VGI) inform the design and evaluation of smart campus services?
  • How can geospatially enabled ICT/VGI contribute an understanding of diurnal and seasonal demographics of campus buildings and spaces?

III. Integrating Smart Campuses into the Intellectual Mission of Educational Institutions

  • How do smart campus implementations contribute to the intellectual development of educational institutions?
  • How might smart campus databases and resources contribute to teaching and research opportunities for students/faculty?
  • What strategies are most successful for engaging students in the implementation and assessment of smart campuses?
  • How are the possibilities and accomplishments of smart campuses transferred to broader communities (cities, states, nations, industries, etc.)?

This meeting outlined new frontiers for smart campus research and deployment. It formulated scenarios of future campuses, defined a prioritized list of services, and identified research needs to realize them. Experiences with smart cities and scenarios from that area will serve as inspiration and reality check. The unique challenges resulting from academic environments were identified and related to the radical transformation of how universities enable learning, discovery, and invention. A particular focus combined state-of-the-art smart campuses with spatially enabled knowledge infrastructures and sensor networks.

2012: Spatial Thinking Across the College Curriculum

This two-day specialist meeting included invited plenary presentations by experts on challenges of spatial thinking in different disciplines, cognitive analyses of spatial thinking processes, and current best practices in educating spatial thinking. In smaller breakout sessions, disciplinary experts, cognitive scientists, and college administrators worked together to identify the current state of our understanding of spatial thinking, identify gaps in our knowledge, and identify priorities for both research and practice in educating spatial thinkers at the college level.

There is now convincing evidence that spatial abilities are related to both success and participation in STEM disciplines. More generally, there is an increasing recognition of the importance of spatiality as a unifier of academic disciplines, including the social sciences, arts, and humanities, sometimes referred to as a “spatial turn.” But it is also widely acknowledged that spatial thinking is not fostered in our educational system and that current practice depends more on selection of the most able students for spatially demanding disciplines than on fostering the spatial intelligence of all students. This meeting brought together cognitive scientists, disciplinary experts, and college administrators to examine how to best educate spatial thinking at the college level. A research agenda was prioritized with the goal of evaluating current approaches to spatial education, filling in gaps in our knowledge, and considering how a curriculum in spatial thinking can best be implemented at the college level.

Specific questions that were addressed:

  • What are best current practices in spatial education at the college level?
  • What is the role of technologies, such as geographic information systems and virtual environment technologies, in developing spatial thinking skills?
  • Can we identify a set of general spatial skills that are relevant to spatial thinking across several disciplines?
  • Are spatial skills best trained in the context of a discipline or in a domain of general knowledge?
  • For example, if a student is taught to imagine cross-sections in the context of a geology course, does this skill transfer to imagining sections in engineering or biology?
  • What are the connections between “spatial thinking” courses and curricula organized for disciplines?
  • For example, do all geography or geometry courses naturally or automatically support spatial thinking processes?
  • What are learning outcomes for spatial thinking curricula, and what form should assessment take?
  • What are the administrative challenges and opportunities for implementing spatial thinking courses and programs at the college level?

Organizing Committee

2011: Future Directions in Spatial Demography

A two-day workshop for the presentation, discussion, and summarization of current challenges and opportunities for spatial demography.

Specialists reviewed challenges and new directions for spatial demography, identifying gaps in current knowledge regarding innovations in geospatial data, spatial statistical methods, and the integration of data and models to enhance the science of spatial demography in population and health research.

Specific questions that were addressed include:
  • How are demographers measuring place and the interrelationships among places?
  • How can demographers harness emerging developments in the generation of geospatial data (e.g., volunteered geographic information and crowd-sourced data)?
  • How can new measures be validated for use in neighborhood and contextual research?
  • What visualization and spatial analytical methods make up the current tool kit of the spatial demographer?
  • What new methodological developments in spatial analysis are possible in the next five years and how might these be integrated into mainstream demographic research?
  • What are the training challenges to the enhancement of future research in spatial demography?
  • What research priorities will best advance the applicability of spatial demography to address issues in reproductive health, population health, and other areas of societal need?

Organizing Committee

2010: Spatio-Temporal Constraints on Social Networks

A two-day workshop for the presentation, discussion, and summarization of current issues and opportunities on the topic of Spatio-Temporal Constraints on Social Networks was convened at the Upham Hotel in Santa Barbara.

The primary presentations were as follows:

  • The social networking perspective (Kathleen Carley) 
  • The geospatial perspective (Mike Goodchild) 
  • The computational perspective (James Caverlee) 
  • The visualization perspective (Shih-Lung Shaw) 
  • The social perspective (Matt Zook) 
2008: Spatial Thinking in Science and Design

Discussions of the potential of integrating design more fully into GIS, and over the development of curriculum in spatial thinking were the objectives of the two-day specialist meeting.

The central questions posed were:

  • “To what extent are the fundamental spatial concepts that lie behind GIS relevant in design?”
  • “To what extent can the fundamental spatial concepts of design be addressed with GIS?”
  • “Is it possible to devise a curriculum designed to develop spatial thinking in both GIS and design?”

The meeting was attended by 38 GIS and design specialists from the U.S. and Europe, and included a number of context-setting presentations and ample time for discussion in small groups. The group adjourned, agreeing to hold a follow-up discussion in January 2010, in Redlands, CA.

2008: International Symposium on Geographic Information Science, 20th Anniversary

December 1, 2008, marked the twentieth anniversary of the start of National Science Foundation funding for the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA) at its three sites, UC Santa Barbara, the University at Buffalo, and the University of Maine. In honor of this occasion, a symposium was held at which retrospective and prospective analyses of the work of NCGIA, were reviewed.

2007: Workshop on Volunteered Geographic Information

A specialist meeting was held at the Upham Hotel in Santa Barbara, CA on December 13-14, 2007, organized under the auspices of NCGIA, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Army Research Office and The Vespucci Initiative. 44 participants from the academic, industrial, and governmental sectors attended.  A number of fundamental questions were examined at this meeting, including: 

  • What motivates citizens to provide such information in the public domain, and what factors govern/predict its validity?
  • What methods might be used to validate such information, and to attach appropriate metadata to it?
  • Can VGI be framed within the larger domain of sensor networks, in which inert and static sensors are replaced by, or combined with, intelligent and mobile humans?
  • What limitations are imposed on VGI by differential access to broadband Internet, mobile phones, and other communication technologies, and by concerns over privacy?

Occasional Events

Spatial Data Science Hangouts 2019

For a variety of (often historic) reasons, our research community has split itself into subfields such as geographic information science, geo-informatics, spatial cognition, transportation studies, spatial statistics, remote sensing, cartography, and so forth. Each of these sub-communities comes with its own journals, conferences, writing styles, accepted terminology, funding agencies, datasets, and core topics.

Unfortunately, the interaction across these communities is spotty at best. A few years ago, we showed[1] that even within the geographic information science and geo-informatics communities, the fragmentation is so high that only four authors in total had full papers at all four main conferences. The risk of such fragmentation is that each of these sub-communities may be too small to survive as an academic discipline in the long term.

Leaving the data science hype aside, spatial data science may be an important chance to establish an overarching, unifying community of researchers interested in scientific aspects of representing, publishing, retrieving, and integrating spatial data that is strong enough to make a long-term impact.

To explore this idea, the spatial center invites all students interested in spatial data science to casual hangouts.

[1] Table 1:

Workshop: COSIT 2019—Beyond Place Names: Current Capabilities, Limitations, and Future Directions in Place-Based Search

This full-day workshop on September 10, 2019 at COSIT 2019 was meant to attract participants with a research interest in place-based search. Its goal was to advance the discussion of two main topics:

  • The current theoretical and technical limitations of place-based search
  • The limitations that can be addressed in the next few years.

The morning session focused on participant presentations and cataloging current limitations of place-based search through a hands-on activity. The afternoon session was dedicated to general and breakout group discussions on if and how individual limitations can be addressed in the future. 


Currently, many search tools allow users to tailor results to a locality by specifying a place name or exploring a map. But how exactly do these tools interpret a place name, and do these interpretations capture an adequate representation of places? How valuable are these tools in their present form for place-based search? This workshop will investigate these questions and advance discussion on two topics: the current theoretical and technical limitations of place-based search and the limitations that can be addressed in the next few years. Place is a much-discussed topic in the spatial information theory community, so emphasis at this workshop will be on how search tools in particular can, should, and do handle place references.

Place-based search plateaued with the maturation of web mapping and location- based services and has since remained relatively undeveloped. In most text-based search tools, place names are handled, at best, as links to some geometric footprint stored in a gazetteer, which can then be used to query nearby, contained, or overlapping results. Other aspects of place, such as their enabling of events, people’s sense of place, and even variable interpretations of where places are remain outside current capacities of place-based search tools.

Relevant work on place-based search can be found in contexts such as Digital Earths (e.g., Gore 1998), Digital Libraries (e.g., Lafia et al. 2016), Qualitative Spatial Reasoning, and Geographic Information Retrieval (GIR, e.g., the SPIRIT project (Jones et al. 2002)). However, place-based search is more specific than GIR, focusing on how place name interpretations influence search results. Many search tools in these and other contexts provide some form of geobrowsing, i.e., map-based search.


Gore, A. “The digital earth: understanding our planet in the 21st century.” Australian surveyor 43.2 (1998): 89–91.

Jones, Christopher B., et al. Spatial information retrieval and geographical ontologies an overview of the SPIRIT project. Proceedings of the 25th annual international ACM SIGIR conference on Research and development in information retrieval. ACM, 2002.

Lafia, S., et al. Spatial discovery and the research library. Transactions in GIS 20.3 (2016): 399–412.

Organizer Affiliation
Thomas Hervey Graduate Student of GIScience, Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA
Werner Kuhn Professor, Department of Geography, and Director, Center for Spatial Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA
Stephan Winter Professor, Department of Infrastructure Engineering, University of Melbourne, Australia
Ross Purves Professor, Department of Geography, University of Zürich, Switzerland