Mapping Community: GIS Workshop a Resounding Success!

The annual GIS Workshop course (GEOG 469) partners undergraduate students with community organizations to provide mapping services to those least likely to afford its cost. They work with a variety of partners.  This year included partnerships with MEDRIX, and NGO working in Vietnam to provide clean drinking water;  South King County Food Alliance and its food bank system; Solid Ground’s Penny Harvest, a collection of public elementary schools that collect funds and distribute them to the needy; the UW Center for Human Rights, and Columbia Legal Services, providing pro bono legal assistance to people finding themselves homeless in Seattle.

This year’s GIS Workshop held its community open house on Tuesday, June 7.  Partners eagerly conferred with students sharing hard won results.  Two groups successfully took home prizes in the undergraduate research symposium. Alan Lo, Eli Egbert, and Derek Huling took home the grand prize for their work with MEDRIX in developing GIS curricula for Vietnam.  Catherine Dupre, Aaron Gordon, Chuong Vo, Anna Whang earned an honorable mention for their detailed analysis of the point at which it begins to be less expensive to provide housing for homeless students rather than provide them with transportation.

Congratulations to all for such stunning partnerships!

‘Seattle Geographies’ aims to decode the city’s many contradictions

Professor Emeritus Richard Morrill and Professor Michael Brown

The Seattle Times has profiled the Geography Department’s new anthology, Seattle Geographies, edited by professor Michael Brown and Emeritus Professor Dick Morrill. The book, which is being unveiled this week at the AAG Conference in Seattle,  emphasizes Geography’s unique spatial perspective on the Seattle region’s many “paradoxes”, including:

• Seattle may have a reputation as liberal and tolerant, “but it can also be quite controlling,” Brown says. For example, it has adopted stringent rules about social behavior that give police the authority to exclude people from parks if they violate rules or laws.

• The area has a long-standing fear of big government, but voters seem willing to tax themselves significantly, Morrill says.

• Though Seattle has a reputation as a high-tech mecca, one-third of the local economy is still fueled by manufacturing, notes Professor Emeritus William Beyers.

The book includes article by faculty, graduate students and undergraduates, and addresses such diverse cultural, social and ecnomic isues as voting patterns in presidential elections across the region, to relatively small, such as the politics of locating and building a skateboard park, and what that issue says about social and generational tensions.

The Seattle Times article also talks about the UW Geography Department, pointing to a “renaissance” in the discipline, and emphasizing our  accountability to place, field-based research, and community engagement.

Cholera in Haiti: 800,000 cases?

An article that is forthcoming in The Lancet concludes that there will have been a prevalence of nearly 800,000 cases of cholera in Haiti by the end of November, 2011–nearly double the number projected by WHO. WHO’s estimates have themselves been increasing dynamically and are not based on any knowledge of transmission dynamics–in short, they are educated guesses. The reference paper, posted online on March 16, 2011 ( is based upon a detailed knowledge of transmission dynamics and interventions, and is a recursive mathematical model by two well known disease modelers (Andrews JR and Basu S. Transmission dynamics and control of cholera in Haiti: an epidemic model. Lancet DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60273-0) Geographers and spatial epidemiologists will recognize that the model is a multiregional form of disease model that is based on the number of susceptible people, infected individuals, and recovered individuals (“SIR” models) that have been the basis for growth models for decades. Moreover, and perhaps *most importantly*, anticipated early declines in cholera incidence in the coming months are predicted to be part of the natural course of the epidemic, and not the result of any specific public health interventions.

Cholera is a waterborne bacterial disease, transmitted via the fecal-oral route, that can progress from asymptomatic stages to death within a period of less than 18-24 hours. The only effective treatment is oral or intravenous rehydration using physiologically balanced water/electrolyte solutions–with the electrolytes in clean water only. When available, this can be combined with oral or IV doxycycline, ciprofloxacin, or other appropriate antibiotics. Oral rehydration in this form–a fundamentally simple and low-tech treatment–was devised by Dr. Richard Cash of the Harvard School of Public Health, credited with saving millions of lives.

Association of American Geographers, Jonathan Mayer, in Discussions with National Institutes of Health

Several prominent geographers who do research on health and disease, led by the AAG, are working collaboratively with several institutes at NIH to explore establishing a spatial analysis and GIS infrastructure that would be cross-institute and cross-center at NIH. UW Professor of Geography and Epidemiology Jonathan Mayer is one of the 5 leaders of this group. NIH provides most of the funding for biomedical research in the US. The first conference of NIH officers, extramural researchers, and intramural researchers from NIH was held on Feb. 22-23 in Rockville, MD. The AAG has submitted a grant to NIH to continue these discussions with 3 further conferences around specific themes.