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Trisalyn Nelson

Director and Foundation Professor
Faculty w/Admin Appointment, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 5302
School Dir & Professor
Faculty w/Admin Appointment, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 5302
School Dir & Professor
Faculty w/Admin Appointment, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 5302
School Dir & Professor
Faculty w/Admin Appointment, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 5302
Biography: 

From 2005-2016, Dr. Nelson was faculty at the University of Victoria (UVic) in Canada and Director of the Spatial Pattern Analysis and Research (SPAR) Lab. From 2010-2016, she was the first female scholar to hold the Lansdowne Research Chair in Spatial Sciences at UVic, she was also the first woman to become a Full Professor in the Department of Geography at UVic. . In 2016, Trisalyn became Director of the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning (SGSUP) at Arizona State University. In the roll of director she co-founded the Spatial Analysis Research Center (SPARC). These experiences provided skills in running a large, productive research group, mentoring students, securing diverse funding, and working with numerous agency, industry, and community partners.

Trisalyn Nelson’s research program in spatial analysis and GIScience is impactful, collaborative, and interdisciplinary. To date, her research has generated >145 peer-reviewed papers, >140 conference presentations, and >40 reports. Her research program has been supported by >$13 million, including funding from all Canadian federal funding agencies (NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR), and involves collaborations with colleagues from a broad range of disciplines including public health, ecology, chemistry, humanities, computer science, urban planning, and engineering.

Dr. Nelson is committed to knowledge mobilization and research with broader societal impacts. The best example of this commitment is her work with BikeMaps.org, which she founded in 2014. BikeMaps.org is a global crowdsourced tool for citizen mapping of bicycle crashes and near misses. Since then, her team has promoted BikeMaps.org as a planning and public health tool. A direct result of knowledge mobilization efforts, BikeMaps.org has been used in over 40 countries, and 8 cities in North America are actively using BikeMaps.org to monitor bicycling safety and to support decisions on targeted investments in bicycling infrastructure. Through BikeMaps.org she have gained broad media and communication experience, including dealing with politically charged media, and communicating with politicians, decision makers, and the public. A second project that highlights her interest in knowledge mobilization is the podcast “Earth+Humans” that I developed and host for sharing SGSUP research with a broad audience. Available on all major podcast platforms, Earth+Humans has over 3000 listens in four months, and is a way of making geography relevant and visible.

Education: 
2001–2005 Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada Ph.D. in Geography and Environmental Studies 999–2001 University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada M.Sc. in Geography

1993–1998 University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada B.Sc. in Geography (with Distinction, Honours, Co-op) 

Research Interests: 

Wildlife Movement and Habitat Use

Dr. Nelson am a leader in spatial analysis of wildlife data, specifically understanding habitat selection and wildlife movement. My team developed spatial analysis approaches for analyzing wildlife GPS collar data and demonstrated how spatial-temporal methods can be used to quantify change in species ranges and wildlife habitat use. Overcoming analytical challenges, such as differences in spatial data representations and limited methods for quantifying change in spatial patterns, our work showed that presence and age of cubs impacts female grizzly bear mobility. For example, spatial patterns of movement are consistent with those expected if female movement is limited by cub mobility or if restricted to avoid male bears and potential infanticide when cubs are young.

 

Active Transportation and Public Health

Sustainable transportation has been a research focus for Dr. Nelson following the development and successful launch of BikeMaps.org in 2014. This website and app uses crowdsourced data on bicycling crashes, near misses, hazards, and thefts. As only 20-30% of cycling incidents are recorded in insurance and police reports, BikeMaps.org is using Volunteer Geographic Information (VGI) to fill a gap in cycling safety data globally. Her team’s goal is to help planners and public health professionals make better decisions on how to develop transportation solutions that lead to better health outcomes, from physical activity, while also reducing real and perceived concerns about safety. They are undertaking a wide range of projects on VGI data uncertainty and information content, data conflation, spatial analysis of cycling safety and risk, and surveillance of change in safety over time and with changes in policy. Through this work, they are developing GIScience tools that describe how infrastructure investments can impact safety and increase physical activity. While they are using BikeMaps.org data, they are also leveraging Open Street Maps (OSM), Twitter, and fitness app data. By enabling cities to use spatial methods to monitor the impact of infrastructure investments, they are creating best practices on how to get cities more active. In the next phase of this research, we will move to prediction. From their new understanding of how the built environment can support physical activity, through transportation, they will build models that allow decision-makers to compare the impact of investments of transportation safety and public health outcomes.

 

Bias Correction in Big Data

Information needs, associated with active transportation research, have led Dr. Nelson to a new line of research on big data and bias correction. All safety analysis needs exposure data, which is difficult to get for bicycling. Traditional sources of bicycling data only measure exposure at a few locations in a city and often only for a few hours at a time. In contrast, fitness apps, such as Strava, create spatially and temporally continuous data on ridership. Her work in Phoenix provides a great example of the differences between traditional data and fitness app data. In 2017, the region collected bicycling data at 40 locations for one week, while Strava recorded 40 million samples of app ridership on more than 80% of streets over the same time interval. The challenge with using Strava data for ridership exposure and planning is that it is generated by app users, who tend to be higher-income, white, and male.  As such, using Strava data for planning raises concerns about bias in data and equity in decision making.  Using machine learning, we are developing tools to correct bias in Strava data. By integrated fitness app, official counts, and GIS covariates in statistical models her team can predict and map all bicycling. Now that they have built successful tools for bias correction, we are working on generalizing our modelling framework. As well, they are leveraging spatial tools to establish a broad range of uses for big transportation data. Some examples include building transportation ecoregions from continuous fitness data, monitoring change in patterns and ridership through time and resulting from interventions, and predicting future changes in ridership.

           

Movement and Tools for Smart Cities

Leveraging her experience working with telemetry data, she am now part of a team of researchers, funded by the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR), that is working to develop spatially explicit public health tools. A major aspect of this research uses GPS and accelerometer data and apps to understand travel behavior and relationships to physical activity. While the teams is exploring how to improve travel mode detection using geographic contexts, and how to detect new micromobility modes like e-scootering, most of the work is really about understanding how patterns of a mobility change with major investments and interventions in transportation facilities including transit investments and bicycling infrastructure. In addition, they are developing tools that can incorporate urban equity, which is intricately connected to the built environment, into decision making to ensure more accessible and equitable urban futures.

 

Research Activity: 

Dr. Nelson's ability to work collaboratively is one of her greatest contributions and strengths. To date, she has published papers with nearly 100 co-authors (reported by Scopus). Through a survey of experts she conducted in 2012, the uptake of spatial methods by non-geographers was identified as a major advance of spatial sciences. She has contributed to the dissemination of spatial analysis by working closely with applied researchers to demonstrate benefits of spatial analysis for addressing research questions in epidemiology, food security, coastal monitoring, wildlife ecology, and wildlife health. She has also written a series of papers to demonstrate how spatial analysis can be applied to spatial ecological data. For instance, Nelson and Boots (2008) demonstrated how geographical methods, local measures of spatial autocorrelation, and kernel density estimation can be used to identify hot spots. The impact of papers that disseminate spatial analysis techniques will continue to have substantial impacts as geographic technologies increase the number and variety of spatially referenced datasets available for science.

Summer 2020
Course NumberCourse Title
GPH 595Continuing Registration
GIS 684Internship
GPH 795Continuing Registration
GCU 795Continuing Registration
Spring 2020
Course NumberCourse Title
GCU 599Thesis
GIS 692Research
GPH 695Continuing Registration
GIS 695Continuing Registration
GCU 695Continuing Registration
PUP 795Continuing Registration
GPH 795Continuing Registration
Fall 2019
Course NumberCourse Title
GPH 591Seminar
GCU 599Thesis
GIS 692Research
GCU 692Research
GPH 695Continuing Registration
GIS 695Continuing Registration
PUP 795Continuing Registration
GPH 795Continuing Registration
GCU 795Continuing Registration
Summer 2019
Course NumberCourse Title
GPH 595Continuing Registration
GIS 684Internship
GPH 795Continuing Registration
GCU 795Continuing Registration
Spring 2019
Course NumberCourse Title
GIS 692Research
GPH 695Continuing Registration
GIS 695Continuing Registration
GCU 695Continuing Registration
PUP 795Continuing Registration
GPH 795Continuing Registration
Summer 2018
Course NumberCourse Title
GPH 595Continuing Registration
GIS 684Internship
GPH 795Continuing Registration
Spring 2018
Course NumberCourse Title
GPH 591Seminar
GCU 591Seminar
GIS 591Seminar
PUP 591Seminar
GPH 595Continuing Registration
GIS 595Continuing Registration
GIS 692Research
GCU 795Continuing Registration
GPH 795Continuing Registration
Fall 2017
Course NumberCourse Title
GPH 595Continuing Registration
GPH 695Continuing Registration
GPH 795Continuing Registration
GCU 795Continuing Registration
Summer 2017
Course NumberCourse Title
GPH 595Continuing Registration
GPH 795Continuing Registration
Spring 2017
Course NumberCourse Title
GCU 591Seminar
PUP 591Seminar
GPH 591Seminar
GIS 591Seminar
PUP 595Continuing Registration
GPH 595Continuing Registration
GPH 795Continuing Registration
Fall 2016
Course NumberCourse Title
PUP 595Continuing Registration
GPH 795Continuing Registration
GCU 795Continuing Registration