Public Release: 

CIESIN receives grant to establish government biological information site

Availability of New York metropolitan area information to increase

The Earth Institute at Columbia University

The Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), a center within the Earth Institute at Columbia University, has once again been awarded a large grant to make essential data and information available for science-based policy and decision-making. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has awarded CIESIN two contracts totaling $876,000, one for three years ($476,000) and one for one year ($400,000), to develop the Northeast Information Node of the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII).

The NBII's Northeast Information Node will be a user-friendly website providing access to biodiversity, natural resources, and ecosystem information on New York and New England. Roberta Balstad Miller, Director of CIESIN, said that the project will initially focus on the Hudson River Corridor, Northeastern States Sustainable Forest Management, the New York City Metropolitan Area (urban ecology), the Hackensack River Watershed, Invasive Species, and Wildlife Disease and Human Health.

CIESIN is uniquely positioned to implement this project for the government because of its experience integrating natural resources data, information products, and analytical tools that support science-based decision-making.

In addition to this award from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), CIESIN recently received a five-year, $20 million contract from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to operate NASA's Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) in support of the application of socioeconomic and remote sensing data in research and decision-making. CIESIN has also worked with the Wildlife Conservation Society to publish an inventory of the world's wild places called Last of the Wild, and with Yale University to issue an annual Environmental Sustainability Index measuring countries' performance as it relates to the Earth's resources. The International Council of Science (ICSU) in Paris has designated CIESIN the World Data Center on Human Interactions in the Environment.

The Director of the NBII Northeast Information Node is Columbia University Senior Research Scientist Robert Worrest of CIESIN, who has more than 25 years of ecological research and assessment experience related to environmental change and variability. Dr. Worrest is a member of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Assessment Panel on Environmental Effects of Ozone Depletion and a recipient of the UNEP Global Ozone Award for outstanding service for the protection of the ozone layer. Before joining CIESIN, Dr. Worrest served as Program Manager for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Global Change Research Program and for the U.S. EPA Stratospheric Ozone Research Program. He has served on many EPA task forces relating to climate assessment.

"The increasing accessibility of new data for local governments and agencies is proving critical in day-to-day decision-making processes," says Worrest. "In particular, remotely sensed data and data from Geographic Information Systems have been increasingly used together, for applications ranging from mapping land use and land cover to emergency management to characterization and monitoring of environmental and human health conditions." Worrest noted with gratitude that Senators Chuck Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, Representative Eliot Engel, as well as others, helped CIESIN to obtain the grant.

The mission of the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) is to improve the data and information base for understanding interactions between humans and the environment. This mission places CIESIN at the intersection of the social, natural, and information sciences. To accomplish its mission, CIESIN creates distributed data and information resources, provides users with new types of interactive analysis and visualization capabilities, and conducts research about human interactions with the environment as well as about the management of data and information. By combining these activities in a single institution, CIESIN redefines what it means to be a data center in the information age.


The Earth Institute at Columbia University is the world's leading academic center for the integrated study of Earth, its environment, and society. The Earth Institute builds upon excellence in the core disciplines-earth sciences, biological sciences, engineering sciences, social sciences and health sciences-and stresses cross-disciplinary approaches to complex problems. Through its research training and global partnerships, it mobilizes science and technology to advance sustainable development, while placing special emphasis on the needs of the world's poor.

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