Population and Environment

, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 209–234 | Cite as

People and Pixels 20 years later: the current data landscape and research trends blending population and environmental data

  • Tracy A. KuglerEmail author
  • Kathryn Grace
  • David J. Wrathall
  • Alex de Sherbinin
  • David Van Riper
  • Christoph Aubrecht
  • Douglas Comer
  • Susana B. Adamo
  • Guido Cervone
  • Ryan Engstrom
  • Carolynne Hultquist
  • Andrea E. Gaughan
  • Catherine Linard
  • Emilio Moran
  • Forrest Stevens
  • Andrew J. Tatem
  • Beth Tellman
  • Jamon Van Den Hoek
Original paper


In 1998, the National Research Council published People and Pixels: Linking Remote Sensing and Social Science. The volume focused on emerging research linking changes in human populations and land use/land cover to shed light on issues of sustainability, human livelihoods, and conservation, and led to practical innovations in agricultural planning, hazard impact analysis, and drought monitoring. Since then, new research opportunities have emerged thanks to the growing variety of remotely sensed data sources, an increasing array of georeferenced social science data, including data from mobile devices, and access to powerful computation cyberinfrastructure. In this article, we outline the key extensions of the People and Pixels foundation since 1998 and highlight several breakthroughs in research on human–environment interactions. We also identify pressing research problems—disaster, famine, drought, war, poverty, climate change—and explore how interdisciplinary approaches integrating people and pixels are being used to address them.


Remote sensing Population data Human dimensions of global change Data integration Mobile device data 



This paper is the result of a 2018 Population-Environment Research Network (PERN) cyberseminar for which the co-authors served as organizers and invited experts.

Funding information

The authors would like to acknowledge the support under NASA contract NNG13HQ04C for the continued operation of the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), which underwrites PERN; the Minnesota Population Center (P2C HD041023), funded through a grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD); and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) award no. N00014-16-1-2543 (PSU no. 171570) and US Army Corps of Engineers ERDC-GRL award no. W9126G-18-2-0037 (PSU no. 209549).

Compliance with ethical standards

No experiments were performed in the preparation of this work, other than those performed for previously published work.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tracy A. Kugler
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kathryn Grace
    • 2
  • David J. Wrathall
    • 3
  • Alex de Sherbinin
    • 4
  • David Van Riper
    • 1
  • Christoph Aubrecht
    • 5
  • Douglas Comer
    • 6
  • Susana B. Adamo
    • 4
  • Guido Cervone
    • 7
  • Ryan Engstrom
    • 8
  • Carolynne Hultquist
    • 7
  • Andrea E. Gaughan
    • 9
  • Catherine Linard
    • 10
  • Emilio Moran
    • 11
  • Forrest Stevens
    • 9
  • Andrew J. Tatem
    • 12
  • Beth Tellman
    • 13
  • Jamon Van Den Hoek
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute for Social Research and Data InnovationUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Geography, Environment and SocietyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  3. 3.Department of Geography, Environmental Sciences, and Marine Resource ManagementOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  4. 4.Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN)Columbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  5. 5.European Space Agency (ESA) and World Bank WashingtonUSA
  6. 6.Cultural Site Research and ManagementBaltimoreUSA
  7. 7.Geoinformatics and Earth Observation LaboratoryDepartment of Geography and Institute for CyberScience The Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  8. 8.Department of GeographyGeorge Washington UniversityWashingtonUSA
  9. 9.Department of Geography and GeosciencesUniversity of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA
  10. 10.Department of GeographyUniversity of NamurNamurBelgium
  11. 11.Center for Systems Integration and SustainabilityMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  12. 12.WorldPop, School of Geography and Environmental ScienceUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  13. 13.The Earth InstituteColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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