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

Tracy A. Kugler, 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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)209-234
Number of pages26
JournalPopulation and Environment
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

Bibliographical note

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).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Springer Nature B.V.


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


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