People and Pixels Revisited: 20 years of progress and new tools for population-environment research
20 February 2018 to 27 February 2018
Cyberseminar outcomes

There are two articles published based on this cyberseminar: 

Kugler, T.A., Grace, K., Wrathall, D.J. et al. 2019. People and Pixels 20 years later: the current data landscape and research trends blending population and environmental data. Population and Environment 41(2): 209-234. DOI:

Tellman, B., Magliocca, N.R., Turner, B.L. et al. 2020. Understanding the role of illicit transactions in land-change dynamics. Nature Sustainability. DOI:

Background Papers
Invited Experts

Emilio Moran (Michigan State University, USA)

Andrea Gaughan (University of Louisville, USA) and Catherine Linard (Université de Namur, Belgium)

Douglas Comer (Cultural Site Research and Mgt)

Susana Adamo and Alex de Sherbinin (PERN, and CIESIN, Columbia University)

Tracy Kugler (IPUMS Terra, University of Minnesota, USA)

Guido Cervone and Carolynne Hultquist (Pennsylvania State University, USA)

Jamon Van Den Hoek (Oregon State University, USA)

Ryan Engstrom (George Washington University, USA)

Kathryn Grace (University of Minnesota, USA)

Beth Tellman (Arizona State University, USA)

Christoph Aubrecht (European Space Agency representative at the World Bank, Italy/USA)


Moderator: David J. Wrathall (Oregon State University)

Webinar: Recording of Earth kick-off webinar on 20 February, 12 pm EST.


Twenty years ago the National Research Council published the ground-breaking People and Pixels: Linking Remote Sensing and Social Science (NRC, 1998).  The volume focused on emerging research findings that linked population dynamics and human activities to changes in land use and land cover, revealing the many ways that human activities affect landscapes from the Latin America to Southeast Asia. Separate chapters also addressed health- and famine-related applications of remote sensing. Since that time, new research opportunities are opening because of the increasing array of social science data from both traditional (e.g. censuses, surveys) and new sources (e.g., mobile phone and social media data), the growing variety of satellite and aerial data sources (e.g., high resolution, VIIRS nightlights, radar, UAVs), and the access to computation cyberinfrastructure for the analysis of massive spatiotemporal datasets.

This cyberseminar aims to identify and review the primary research breakthroughs and future directions opened by this digital revolution. The “people and pixels” move in geography shed light on the concerns of sustainability, human livelihoods, land use planning, resource use, and conservation, and led to practical innovations in agricultural planning, hazard impact analysis, and drought monitoring. What will the next 20 years bring?

Key future directions for human-environment interactions that build on original People and Pixels research priorities include:

1) Integration of RS and survey data: combining spatially expansive satellite imagery with nationally or regionally representative household surveys, and with censuses;

2) Integration of RS and big data: use of data from portable digital devices to achieve new research objectives, such as population downscaling, and “poverty mapping.”

3) Breakthroughs in RS-based product development: global analysis of co-located landscape processes over long periods of time using recently developed satellite-derived data products (e.g. global human settlements, forest change, and surface water data sets).

4) Computational advances: advances in computation and GUI platforms for implementing machine learning, deep learning, pattern recognition, anomaly detection, large-scale unsupervised mapping/clustering, etc.

5) Remote sensing as validation technique: confirming high impact hypotheses around disaster impacts, land grabbing, violent conflict, famine, and illicit economies through their interaction with landscapes.

 In this Cyberseminar, we will assess where we’ve come since 1998, identify key extensions of the People and Pixels foundation, and their significance for the demographic aspects of local to global sustainability problems: disasters, famine, drought, war, poverty, climate change, and migration.