I am a geographer researching how data and technology inform conservation. I draw on and contribute to the fields of political ecology, science and technology studies (STS), and digital geographies. My most recent project followed the US state of Louisiana’s efforts to simulate future wetlands loss along the Gulf Coast. Based on interviews, document surveys, and attendance at public meetings, I explain how bureaucrats and ecosystem scientists develop an infrastructure for modeling, build an institution and lean on technologies to learn from their simulations, and apply their findings to planning large-scale coastal restoration. The project characterizes the winners and losers that result and speaks to the opportunities and limits of applications of “big data” in (environmental) governance. Some of my previous research examined the contested role of software in ecosystem services markets in Oregon, while new projects explore digital agriculture, especially the design, maintenance, and use of decision-support tools and the governance of ag data infrastructure.
I teach classes in nature-society geography and (web) mapping, using maps to publicize hidden dimensions of environmental policy. I also participate in the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, tracking how the US federal government portrays climate change and other issues on the web. For the past several years, I have collaborated in an effort to visualize US EPA data on the North American hazardous waste trade. View our work here.
Digital governance and infrastructure
Environmental governance actors - states, corporations, conservationist groups, farmers, and so on - struggle to get the data they want. There’s a lot out of it there - and more every day - but not all of it is relevant nor is there the time or money to make sense of it. In other words, governing nature means governing data, raising questions of who collects data, who manages it, who contributes to databases and who has access, and who pays. These questions often crystallize in attempts to “infrastructure” data. What are the platforms - environmental information systems, models, webmaps, databases, etc. - enabling environmental governance? What are the controversies around these platforms? Who wins and who loses?
- 2015 Nost, E. Performing nature’s value: software and the making of Oregon’s ecosystem services markets. Environment and Planning: A 47 (12): 2573-2590. PDF.
Digital practice and praxis
Policy-makers and other (environmental) governance actors increasingly aim for what they call “data-driven management.” But if data is to “drive” governance, it must be learned from, through social institutions for accessing expertise, communicating expectations, and legitimating “good modelers,” as well as through technical affordances. Who are the users of digital tools? What can actors learn and do with these tools? How can data serve public ends, in and beyond the classroom?
- 2018 Vincent, K., R. E. Roth, S. A. Moore, Q. Huang, N. Lally, C. M. Sack, E. Nost, and H. Rosenfeld. Improving spatial decision making using interactive maps: An empirical study on interface complexity and decision complexity in the North American hazardous waste trade. Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science. Link (in-press).
- 2018 Rosenfeld, H., S. Moore, E. Nost, R. E. Roth, and K. Vincent. Hazardous Aesthetics: A “Merely Interesting” Toxic Tour of Waste Management Data. GeoHumanities. Link (in-press).
- 2017 Nost, E., H. Rosenfeld, K. Vincent, S. Moore, and R.E. Roth. HazMatMapper: An online and interactive geographic visualization tool for exploring transnational flows of hazardous waste and environmental justice. Journal of Maps 13(1): 14-23. PDF. Map . Shortlisted for Journal of Maps’s 2017 “Best Map” award.
- 2013 Crampton, J. W., J. Bowen, D. Cockayne, B. Cook, E. Nost, L. Shade, L. Sharp, and M. Jacobsen. 2013. “Commentary: Whose geography? Which publics?” Dialogues in Human Geography 3: 73-76. PDF.
Methods for environmental governance and political ecology
How can political ecologists scholars sharpen or build new methods and concepts for understanding environmental governance issues?
- 2017 Moore, S., R. Roth, H. Rosenfeld, E. Nost, K. Vincent, T. Buckingham, M.R. Arefin. Undisciplining Environmental Justice Research with Visual Storytelling. Geoforum. Link (in-press).
- 2014 Nost, E. Scaling-up local foods: commodity practice in community supported agriculture (CSA). Journal of Rural Studies 34: 152-160. PDF.
- 2013 Nost, E. The Power of Place: Tourism and Development in Costa Rica. Tourism Geographies 15(1): 88-106. PDF. Also in Understanding Tropical Coastal and Island Tourism Development, eds. Klaus Meyer-Arendt and Alan Lew. 2016. Winner, 2011 AAG Tourism and Recreation Speciality Group Best Student Paper Award.
Webmapping and other programming projects
- armchairgeographer - pulls random Flickr images from a specified set of coordinates, maps the area, and displays text randomly selected from a set of social theorists.
- election 2016 - a map of the presidential election results
- cookbook - draws from a Google Sheet of recipes and uses Angular.js for displaying them
- Louisiana Land Loss - D3.js visualizations of coastal erosion
- New Orleans Census Viewer - Angular-based view of US Census information about the city
- New Orleans STR Viewer - Angular-based view of short-term rental licenses in the city
- Exploring ES - an experiment in mapping difference and change in ecosystem services
- Angular - a demonstration of using Angular.js for mapping applications
- zipcode - Using Turf.js and Leaflet to map zipcodes
- HazMatMapper - Collaborative D3.js project for telling stories about the North American gazardous waste trade
- waste processing scripts - Mostly Python scripts for integrating CSVs related to hazardous waste data
- CTRL-F - A set of Python add-ons to the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative’s web monitoring project - specifically, their API for accessing Wayback Machine snapshots.