Center for Spatial and Temporal Analysis of Environmental Data and Models


A proposal for the Information Sciences/Information Technology component of the ASU Proposition 301


Principal Investigators

Project Directors




Measures and models of the environment are located in space (3 dimensional).  We are often interested in their depiction of change and thus when we include time, they become 4 dimensional.  These data and models are also highly variable in type, quality, quantity, density, and reference frame.  We may have relatively uninterpreted synoptic data (such as satellite imagery or topography), focused measurements of parameters (traffic speed), or highly interpreted discipline-specific data (i.e., geologic map).  Furthermore, these data and models are often generated and maintained by diverse groups, ranging from government agencies (i.e., Arizona Department of Environmental Quality) to archival anecdotal information in libraries to academic researchers. 

            Progress in our understanding of the interaction between humans and their environment is critical and it requires the synthesis of these disparate datasets and models.  Using the tools of information technology applied to the collection, compilation, vetting, merging, analysis, and visualization of these data, we can attack significant problems of wide interest to the ASU academic community as well as the broader Arizona populace.  The demographic cauldron of Phoenix provides a unique opportunity to chronicle how rapid urbanization impacts the economy, ecology, and social fabric of a modern metropolitan area. But how can one characterize such a complex system in a meaningful way? What sorts of data can be used to document the roots of the current explosion, the path it is taking, and the likely outcomes? How can the lessons uncovered by scientists and engineers be translated into forms that can help political leaders craft public policy? And finally, what role can information technology play in unraveling this seemingly chaotic jumble of forces?  Numerous research groups on the ASU campus are addressing aspects of these questions; however, Information Technology has not yet been brought to bear in a coherent way amongst them on the research at hand.

            We propose to establish a Center for Spatial and Temporal Analysis of Environmental Data and Models in which the environment is broadly defined and the focus is the greater Phoenix region with obvious applicability to burgeoning urban growth worldwide.  We will bring together the diverse datasets and models into common spatial and temporal frameworks, develop and utilize tools to manage and measure their quality, and apply methods of data mining and knowledge discovery and visualization to learn from them to improve the quality of environmental understanding and enhance decision making in the region.  For the greater Phoenix region to be economically competitive and viable, we can work from a position of strength through integrated environmental knowledge.


“The Center for Spatial and Temporal Analysis of Environmental Data and Models brings information technology tools to the fusion, overlay, mining, and modeling of environmental characteristics, history, and simulations for the future.  A broad group of ASU researchers and local and regional agencies come together to solve common geospatial and geotemporal problems.  For the greater Phoenix region to be economically competitive, it must come from a position of strength through integrated environmental knowledge. “

Research Problems

Potential research projects


Mining and delineation of trends and inter-relationships between variables from large data bases obtained through LTER and EFD's atmospheric simulations efforts


Building a common platform among environmental models


Large spatial scale correlations between urban and natural patterns


High resolution depictions of natural processes and urban responses:  implications for real time monitoring of urban/natural systems


Location research:  How can high quality environmental data improve the business climate for the greater Phoenix area?


Geospatial and geotemporal (3D and 4D) Information Technology challenges and opportunities

Collaborative ties


Return on investment


Other measures of success/proposal criteria




How to manage this effort?  Who is really interested in driving it and not overly overcommitted?  Rotating directorship for the three years with a management committee? We can establish an advisory board with local and regional people.


Should this be a virtual center with the Ras out in the researchers’s labs, and then we get back together occasionally for meetings?  Or, shall we have a physical place where the people who are working work and where we meet regularly.  If it is the latter (probably more logical), then where?  One suggestion that came up would the expanding GIS lab in the Computing Commons (CC235; the Visualization Lab is being decommissioned and so they are in the early stages of reconfiguring this room - replete with high speed connections, reconfigured layout, and video-teleconference capabilities)—could save some initial costs; but would have to be negotiated.

Integrative efforts

An important role for the Center will be to catalyze on and off campus collaborations for student training and recruiting, project development, and research area focusing.  These will be accomplished with:

1)     Curriculum development in which courses and seminars will be proposed and developed by ASU faculty with potential off campus collaborators. 

2)     A visiting scholars program in which we will invite colleagues to campus for a month or so to interact with students and researchers and develop viable research proposals. We could invite researchers and thinkers to campus who might have some interest in or advice for us in our efforts.  These connections might help us to get to know what else is going on as well as to establish ties that would be strategic for future fundraising or intellectual development efforts.

3)     Additionally, we will invite colleagues to campus for shorter time periods (a couple of days as part of a seminar series open to all where we can explore the Information Technology and interdisciplinary issues that are our focus.

4)     Student travel awards will be available to current students to visit laboratories for advanced training and collaboration.  We will also use these funds as recruiting tools to bring in excellent students early (summer before admission to ASU) and get them hooked on our program.

5)     Outreach to decisionmakers in the state at which we could have an “Environmental Information summit” where we could give them views of our data and models and possibly interactively enhance decisionmaking.  In addition, they could give us some feedback on what could be useful data/models/projects on which we might focus.

Budgetary reality

Here is a schematic budget that includes modest faculty support for summer research/management and curriculum development fforts, for a single Post-Doc to help guide and enhance the impact of the work, a bit of technical support, and the main effort:  graduate research assistants.  In addition, the integrative efforts described above are largely manifest as travel funds in the budget.  We will require computing tools to proceed. The target funding level is starting at <$240k and ramping down at 2/3 and 1/3 of that over the next two years to emphasize the importance of raising external funds to keep the Center going.


Center for Spatial and Temporal Analysis of Environmental Data and Models

































Year 1

Year 2

Year 3











        PI Summer support







        Curriculum development support






        Post Doctoral Scholars


100% calendar year @$35k/yr





        Computer/technical support


100% calendar year @$55k/yr





        Graduate student RA 50% academic year + 66% summer






# yr 1

# yr 2

# yr 3
























        Total salaries








Permanent equipment








        GIS workstations (Win2000 P4) and lab set up














    Visting Fellows








     Seminar series








     Student travel








     Total Travel

















     Software licensing








     Computer and lab supplies







     Environmental Information summit






     Total Other