Since my time of scrambling over mountains and through bat guano, I have accumulated considerable and varied research experiences as an active researcher and educator. I use GIS, big datasets, and a variety of geospatial computational and analysis methods to address applied research questions across a range of topics from sinkholes to sky islands, tornadoes, malaria and migration, among others. At its core, my research has focused on broad issues related to human health, particularly in relation to climate and climate change, examining causes and consequences from local to global spatial and temporal scales, and anywhere in between that is relevant to the system of study.
As the quantity and availability of geospatially enabled data continue to increase, so do the concomitant challenges and opportunities associated with the appropriate gathering, analyzing and dissemination of the findings from these data. Spatial Data and GIScience clearly play a central role in addressing the health of our planet and, from an educational perspective, I am interested in expanding and strengthening Spatial Data and GIScience education, as well as building scholarly communities and networks to foster multi-disciplinary research and education.
Areas of Expertise: GIS, Spatial Data Science, geohealth, planetary health, spatial analysis, education
It is an exciting time to be in the field of GIS/ Geospatial (Data) Sciences! Technologies have evolved making the collection and communication of spatial data much easier. Although there has been an explosion in the availability of geospatial data, asking pertinent questions and sifting through streams of data to make sense of the world in which we live, remains a challenge.
The fun part of using GIS/Geospatial (Data) Science and Spatial Analysis is that it can be applied to all disciplines to view where something is, explore patterns, relationships and interactions, model different outcomes and develop hypotheses whether this ranges from sports analysis to disease risk. In general, I am interested in using Geospatial technologies and GIS/Spatial Data Science:
- to better understand mechanisms influencing health and well-being at different scales across space and time
- to leverage diverse data sources to understand changing risks;
- to determine how we can effectively integrate these into a framework that enhances decision-making processes and provides sustainable solutions.
GeoHealth, Planetary Health, Public Health, One Health?
Sixty percent of all human infectious diseases are transmitted from animals and microbes of animal origin. These ‘spill over’ due to increasing contact among wildlife-livestock-humans often driven by exponentially growing anthropogenic changes caused by human activities (e.g. changes in land use, changes in climate, changes in food security, changes in politics and changes in infrastructures (e.g. digitalisation, transportation networks, water & sanitation, etc.)) and the impacts of these activities on the environment.
Over the past ten years, many outbreaks and pandemics have occurred with varying duration and intensity. Between 2012 and 2017, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recorded more than 1,200 outbreaks in 168 countries, with a further 352 infectious disease events in 2018. Some of these have been localized, while others have spread globally in a short period as recently witnessed with COVID-19. The risk of pandemics continues to increase rapidly, with more than five new diseases emerging in humans every year, any one of which has the potential to spread and become a pandemic. The circulation, transmission and evolution of diseases are driven by a range of factors (environmental factors, host-related factors and the pathogen itself) and how they interact in space and time.
We integrate a variety of data (some novel, some volunteered, some authoritative, some big and messy) in a GIS and use a mix of spatial analysis, data science, machine learning methods and mathematical and geocomputational models to address applied research questions across a wide range of topics that include different aspects of health. Our work centers around three main facets:
- understanding the ecology of disease/health across space and time (host-pathogen-environment interactions in dynamically changing environments) and what this means for health and disease outcomes;
- how to respond, and;
- what to communicate how.
We examine how changes in environments such as climate drive health and disease dynamics as it relates to
- vector-borne diseases (e.g. mosquito-vectored diseases such as dengue and malaria; tick-vectored diseases);
- disaster epidemiology (risks pre, during and post weather risk events);
- extreme weather (e.g. heat, floods);
- food security (e.g. effect of frost-freeze events on the environment in intense agricultural cropping systems; when and where biopesticides can be used for controling agricultural pests)
- accessibility (e.g. seasonal effects of access to healthcare and the use of different modes of transport to access healthcare)
- mobility (e.g. climate-drivers and how they contribute to mobility and disease circulation and transmission)
- communication (e.g. data structuring for effective communication; what is being communicated)
The COVID-19 pandemic forced educational institutes to pivot their F2F learning environments to online learning environments and has subsequently transformed societal expectations about education. Although there are many benefits associated with these changes in education (e.g. multi-dimensional interactions, flexibility and richer/deeper learning) there are still many challenges that can result in poor and often inadequate educational experiences (e.g., lack of real student-student and student-teacher interaction, and effective discussions).
Alongside this we have seen a rise in AI technologies and methodologies being used to answer questions via chat bots, create images, enhance our computing capabilities and drive many common household items such as the vacuum cleaner, much of which are using technologies and methods being developed in the geospatial field. These technologies and methods are already very much part of our daily lives.
How do we ensure we, as educators are at the forefront of these developments and are incorporating these into our curriculums? How do we maintain the geospatial aspects of our curriculums? What resources, skills and communities are needed?
For education and in particular geospatial education, I am interested in:
- expanding and strengthening Geographic Information Science education;
- improving the uptake and use of GIScience methods in the health science;
- building scholarly communities and networks to foster multi-disciplinary GIScience education & research;
- promoting education that balances interactions in both a face-to-face and online learning environment.
As an academic who has taught in a program geared towards working professionals, and who has also worked outside of academia, I appreciate the many levels of education needed to help students and professionals develop skill sets that enable them to excel within the realm of GIS, GIScience and the Spatial Data Sciences across a wide range of disciplines and industries. As a result, I am interested in enhancing online/blended learning experiences for students (and staff) by promoting student scholarship that enables the exchange of knowledge, enhances collaborations between students, and builds professional social networks.
- Blanford, J.I. and Verplanke, J. (accepted) Transforming curriculums for an age of multi-modal education: a 5-phase approach. SEFI conference, Dublin September 2023
- Green, B. and Blanford, J.I. (2020) Estimating populations in refugee camps: a toolkit using remotely sensed data. Proceedings of the 53rd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. Pp 2197- 2206.
- Blanford, J.I.,Kennelly, P., King, B., Miller, D., Bracken, T. (2020) Merits of capstone projects in an online graduate program for working professionals.Journal of Geography in Higher Education. DOI: 10.1080/03098265.2019.1694874
- Taber, E., Hutchinson, M.L., Smithwick, E.A., Blanford, J.I. (2017) A decade of colonization: the spread of the Asian Tiger Mosquito in Pennsylvania and implications for disease risk. Journal of Vector Ecology. 42(1):3-12
- Logan, J., Jolly, A., and Blanford, J.I. (2016) The Sociospatial Network: Risk and the role of place in the transmission of infectious diseases. PLoS One 11(2):e0146915
- Blanford, J.I., Huang, Z., Savelyev, A. and MacEachren, A.M. (2015) Geo-located tweets. Enhancing mobility maps and capturing cross-border movement. PLos ONE 10(6): e0129202DataLink
- Blanford, J.I., Bernhardt, J., Savelyev, A., Wong-Parodi, G., Carleton, A.M., Titley, D.W. and MacEachren, A.M. (2014) Tweeting and Tornadoes. 11th International ISCRAM Conference. State College, Pennsylvania, USA.
- Blanford, J.I., Blanford, S., Paaijmans, K., Schreiber, K., Crane, R., Mann, M., Thomas, M.B. (2013) Implications of temperature variation for malaria parasite development across Africa. Scientific Reports
- Aurit, M., Peterson, R.O., Blanford J.I. (2013) A GIS analysis of the relationship between sinkholes, dry-well complaints and groundwater pumping for frost-freeze protection of winter strawberry production in Florida. PLoS One. 8(1).
- Blanford, J.I., Kumar, S., Luo, W. and MacEachren, A.M. (2012) It’s a long, long walk: accessibility to hospitals, maternity and integrated health centers in Niger. International Journal of Health Geographics.
- MacEachren A. M., Jaiswal, A., Robinson, A.C., Pezanowski, S., Savelyev, A., Mitra, P., Zhangi, X. & Blanford, J. (2011) SensePlace2: GeoTwitter Analytics Support for Situational Awareness. Visual Analytics Science and Technology (VAST), IEEE Conference. 181-190.
- Tomaszewski, B., Blanford, J.I., Ross, K., Pezanowski, S. & MacEachren A.M. (2011) Supporting Geographically-aware WebDocument Foraging and Sensemaking. Computers, Environment and Urban Systems.35:192-207
- Paaijmans, K.P., Blanford, S., Bell, A.S., Blanford, J.I., Read, A.F. & Thomas, M.B. (2010). Influence of climate on malaria transmission depends on daily temperature variation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 107: 15135–15139.
- Klass, J.I., Blanford S., & Thomas M.B. (2007) Development of a model for evaluating the effects of environmental temperature and thermal behaviour on biological control of locusts and grasshoppers using pathogens. Agricultural and Forest Entomology. 9(3): 189-199.
- Klass, J.I., Blanford S., & Thomas M.B. (2007) Use of a geographic information system to explore spatial variation in pathogen virulence and the implications for biological control of locusts and grasshoppers. Agricultural and Forest Entomology. 9(3): 201-208.
UT Research Information System
Google Scholar Link
I am involved in a number of educational activities
Education: building community
e!geoCommunity@ITC - join our geospatial education community to learn more about important topics concerning education.
GeoHealth: Interested in learning how to make planetary health a reality and help create a sustainable, healthy liveable world? Are you interested in assessing health risks due to changes in the environment (e.g. climate, landuse) or evaluating who is at risk and how to respond, or just want to make a map from known cases to understand where something is taking place and identify disease or transmission hotspots?
Take our 10-week online geohealth course to learn how to integrate geographic information, use different geospatial technologies and apply spatial data science methods to better understand different aspects of health.
Master's Programme (MGEO)
I am the Programme Director for our Master's in Geo-Information and Earth Observation Sciences. We offer a wide range of courses that enable you to build your geospatial/ giscience competencies as well as learn how to apply these skills to tackle real-world challenges and find or create sustainable solutions.
Other educational activities
- Geospatial Education: fit for the future. AGILE Funding initiative
- Becoming fit for the future: Facilitating transformational change in a Master’s program. Smarter Academic Year.
- Digital education: resilient blended learning environments. ERASMUS+ blended intensive programme
- GI Science education in an AI world: educating scientists and practitioners. GIScience, Leeds, September 2023
- Geospatial Education - Geospatial Education 5.0: New Paradigms for Geospatial Training and Education. AGILE, Delft, June 2023
- Geospatial Education – Transitioning from emergency online to a new normal. AGILE, Lithuania, 2022
- Geospatial Education – Teaching through a pandemic and beyond. AGILE, Greece. 2021
- Global Conversations on GIScience Education: Global. Panel 3: Convergence, 2021
- Global Conversations on GIScience Education: EU Region. Panel 2: Implementation Pedagogies for Resilient GIScience Education, 2020
- Global Conversations on GIScience Education: EU Region. Panel 1: Pedagogies for Resilient GIScience Education, 2020
- Online Symposium: Advancing geospatial education for working professionals on campus and online. UCGIS, 2020
Ifejube, J. (MSE 2022-2023) Assessing the risk of leptospirosis in relation to flooding in Kerala, India. Selected for the Research Honours Programme at University Twente.
Pereira, C. (MSE 2021-2022) Addressing the rising risk of extreme heat events: a case-study of Maputo and Matola City, Mozambique.
Al-Huraibi, A. (MSE 2021-2022) Accessibility of COVID-19 Vaccination Sites and Testing Centers in the Netherlands by bicycle.
Mishra, A. (MGEO 2021-2022) A forsenic analysis of post-flood 2018 solid waste management and investigation on health risk impacts on sanitation workers
Liu, M-H. (MGEO 2021-2022) Knowledge, Attitude and Practices towards COVID-19 among College Students in Enschede, Netherlands: A Cross Sectional Study
Affiliated Study Programmes
Courses Academic Year 2022/2023
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