A little about me…
Hi, and welcome to my page. My name is Jake Nelson. I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado and currently residing in Scottsdale, Arizona. In May of 2019 I received my Ph. D. from Arizona State University in Public Affairs and Policy. My M.S. is in Geography (emphasis on GIS) and my B.S. is in Environmental Science (Minor in Fisheries and Wildlife Management). This diverse academic background is in part a reflection of my varied research interests and also an example of my ability to work across multiple subject areas. I find many things interesting and the skills I have acquired over the course of my academic training provide me with a unique set of tools that enable my exploration of ostensibly disparate subject areas. My current research projects include the application of emerging technology (drones) to urban environments and the development of novel approaches to detect and estimate the severity of destabilizing events in dense coastal cities. Past projects have included modeling species abundance off the U.S. west coast, designing python-based user interfaces, oil spill modeling, and measuring neighborhood disorder. Broadly, my research interests include GIS, risk analysis, impact assessment, urban planning and analysis, and unmanned aerial vehicles.
Drones in the urban environment
What are the implications of increased urban drone use from an academic, professional, and social standpoint?
For the past four years I have been investigating, from multiple viewpoints, the implications of using drones in the urban environment. Along with my advisor, Dr. Tony Grubesic and other collaborators, we have approached this project from several vantage points. In order to fully understand the future of drone use we must first have a good understanding of the benefits, risks, and points of contention. To that extent, this project has explored ways to improve on methods for urban observation, explored the relationship between drone characteristics and privacy perceptions, and documented the ethical dimensions of drone governance. My dissertation continued this line of research by determining how local drone use policy moves from one municipality to another.
Detecting the severity of destabilizing coastal events
Urban areas, particularly those in coastal locations, are facing increased threats. How do we detect and minimize their negative impacts?
As a result of the changing climate, coastal areas are having to increasingly contend with threats from sea-level rise, coastal erosion, severe weather, as well as things like pollution. With a predominant focus on anthropogenic disasters and forcings, this project is aimed at enhancing methods to not only detect the severity of destabilizing events but also develop ways to reduce the severity of these events. In other words, this research project investigates how the severity of destabilizing events can be reduced by enhancing resilience. I approach this work through geographically based frameworks that are informed by social theories, namely social capital. Studies have shown that heightened social capital plays an important role in resilience. The problem, however, is that data representing social capital is not readily available in many areas of the world. Thus, a portion of this work investigates how we can mine/create/establish disparate data sources as proxies for social capital.
offshore oil spill Risk assessment, preparedness, and impact mitigation
Offshore oil production remains a critical economic engine. How do we enhance safety and preparedness?
My longest running project (began as my masters thesis) has been focused on many different aspects of oil spill response and preparedness. Initially funded by the National Energy Technology Laboratory and in direct response to the Deepwater Horizon the main focus has been on the development of methods and approaches for modeling risk, impact, and vulnerability to coastal systems. This necessarily includes the sensitive environmental and social assets that are particularly susceptible to the effects of oil. In 2016, I began work on a grant from the National Academies of Science - Gulf Research Program to build a spatial decision support system to aid in oil spill response. Using advanced spatial optimization methods we developed three response models for 1) allocating response equipment to a spill under time and monetary constraints, 2) determined how to allocate sparse exclusion booms to sensitive resources to minimize damage, and 3) allocate equipment prior to a spill occurring that uses the sensitive resources rather than the spill trajectory to determine optimal allocations. I continue to work in this area, working to improve oil spill preparedness through spatio-temporal models and methods. I have recently began another project focused on way to identify “at-risk” infrastructure that could be on the brink of failure.
A varied set of research interests leads to a varied set of research projects
My varied interests in research have spurred my involvement in several other research streams. I was involved with the environmental justice and policy initiative at ASU. I have been interested in working in the environmental/social justice space for some time and found this group to be an excellent way to develop that interest. I recently submitted a paper on “sense of place” with two colleagues from ASU. What drives someone to attach themselves to a place has important implications for pro-social behavior as well as understanding the difficulties in relocating individuals that live in particularly at-risk coastal communities. I also published a scientometric analysis of the environmental justice literature last year. Having lived in Arizona for the past several years I became interested in how access to environmental amenities, such as trees and greenspace, varies across a region. In a recent conference paper I found that the percent tree cover across the Phoenix metro area has a negative relationship with Hispanic population. I would like to continue working in this space while also incorporating the advanced geospatial intelligence offered by drones and other high resolution data sets.