Seto Receives National Honor for Outstanding Contributions to Remote Sensing Research

Karen Seto, a professor of geography and urbanization science at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES), this month received the Outstanding Contributions to Remote Sensing Research award from the American Association of Geographers (AAG).
Seto, the Frederick C. Hixon Professor of Geography and Urbanization Science at F&ES, was honored for advancing the understanding of how urbanization contributes to global environmental change and for bringing these insights to the attention of policymakers worldwide.
Karen Seto photo 2018
Photo by Peter Otis
She studies the human transformation of land and the links among urbanization, global change, and sustainability. Using remote sensing, field interviews, and modeling methods, her research includes characterizing urban land-use, understanding the drivers of urban land-use change, forecasting urban expansion, and assessing the large-scale environmental consequences of urban expansion.
“Her contributions to the field of remote sensing has been exceptionally influential, especially in the use of Earth observation data and remote sensing techniques to understand and document urbanization, urban land use, and spatial structure,” Qihao Weng, professor of geography and director of the Center for Urban and Environmental Change at Indiana State University, wrote in nominating Seto.
“By bridging the social and natural sciences, her research surrounding conceptual frameworks for urban teleconnections — zones of influence beyond the immediate urban surroundings — has brought international attention to the environmental consequences of urbanization.”
Seto was also cited for helping to modernize the study of land use transitions, including the application of remote sensing data and new methods to understand the global impacts of local urban processes.
“Her seminal works on urban remote sensing have illustrated the power of ‘remote sensing big data’ and ‘millions of pixels’ to elucidate urban processes on the ground,” Weng wrote.
In nominating Seto, Weng was joined by Chengbin Deng, associate professor of geography at SUNY-Binghamton, and Miguel Roman, founding director of the Earth to Space Institute at the Universities Space Research Association, and principal investigator of NASA’s VIIRS Day/Night Band onboard the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership platform, and NASA's Black Marble product suite.
The award was announced during the AAG Annual Meeting held in Washington, D.C. in April. Seto is the second female scientist to receive the award in its over 30-year history (View past awardees here).
DSC 6681 001 Seto Lab 2
Photo by Peter Otis
Seto is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
She is currently one of two Coordinating Lead Authors for the urban mitigation of climate change chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 6th Assessment Report to be published in 2021 and also co-lead the same chapter for the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report published in 2014. She served as a Coordinating Lead Author and on the Editorial Team for the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), “Cities and Biodiversity Outlook.”
In 2018, she co-authored the book, “City Unseen: New Visions of an Urban Planet,” with Meredith Reba (MESc ’14) which used satellite data to illustrate urban areas’ relationships with geography, agricultural systems, and society and provide stunning perspective on the changing shape of urban settlements across the world. (Images from the book are currently on display on the third floor of Kroon Hall, the home of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.)
The American Association of Geographers is a nonprofit scientific and educational society that advances the understanding, study, and importance of geography and related fields. The AAG’s more than 12,000 members from nearly 100 countries share interests in theory, methods and the practice of geography.
The Outstanding Contributions Award in Remote Sensing Award is sponsored by the AAG’s Remote Sensing Specialty Group, a sub-group of scholars within the organization.
– Kevin Dennehy    203 436-4842
PUBLISHED: April 24, 2019
Note: Yale School of the Environment (YSE) was formerly known as the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). News articles posted prior to July 1, 2020, refer to the School's name at that time.