Our lab groups seek to understand the extent and historical patterns of urban growth at local, regional, and global scales.
Our work relies primarily on satellite remote sensing. Images are processed using computer algorithms to yield information about land cover, surface temperature, and other indicators of the built environment. Change detection analysis and geographic information science are used to uncover spatial and temporal patterns in urban growth. Case studies, especially in rapidly urbanizing areas of China and India, continue to improve our methodologies, allowing us to relate satellite imagery, land-use maps, and official datasets to ground-level sources of information such as stakeholder interviews, archival material, and in situ measurement and observation.
Our work has revealed that nearly all urban areas are growing, having added 58,000 square kilometers in built-up land since 1970, an area equivalent to the size of Lake Michigan. While we find some global trends of rapid development near coastal and ecologically sensitive areas, urban areas also vary widely in their spatial patterns, rates, and types of growth (Seto et al., 2011).