Hybrid Format

Mapping and analyzing the built environment and its evolution over long time periods: Lessons learned

Guest: Stefan Leyk from the University of Colorado Boulder (USA)
Department of Digital and Computational Demography, October 04, 2023

Hybrid Seminar Talk, October 4 from 11am to 12pm (CEST)

Dr. Stefan Leyk  from the University of Colorado Boulder (USA) will talk about learned lessons in the field of mapping and analyzing the built environment and its evolution over long time periods.


The collection, processing, and analysis of remote sensing data since the early 1970s has rapidly improved our understanding of change on the Earth's surface. While satellite-based Earth observation has proven to be of vast scientific value, these data are typically confined to recent decades of observation and often lack important thematic detail. This talk summarizes recent efforts on the advancement in this arena and describes the construction and evaluation of new spatially explicit settlement data for the United States and Spain that are consistently enumerated at fine spatial and temporal granularity and extend over a period of more than 120 years. These unique data layers are created through extensive data integration and scraping processes using input sources such as building-stock, real estate as well as building footprint data and enable us to extract different key attributes as series of gridded geospatial datasets. These datasets are parts of the Historical Settlement Data Compilation for the United States (HISDAC-US) and Spain (HISDAC-ES). This talk will also showcase early applications of these datasets in analyzing urban change over long time periods and assessing the trends of exposure of the built environment to natural hazards such as wildfire and sea level rise. It will conclude with outlooks on ongoing research related to the creation of historical population data through spatial re-allocation techniques and first attempts to project future distributions of the built environment and populations.


Dr. Leyk is a Professor of Geography and Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Geography at the University of Colorado Boulder, USA. He served as the Director of the CU Boulder Population Center and is the Interim Director of the Population Program at the Institute of Behavioral Science. He is a Geographical Information Scientist specializing in uncertainty analysis, demographic small area estimation and spatio-temporal modeling, with extensive collaborative research in spatial epidemiology, spatial demography and coupled socio-environmental systems. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the European Commission, The Fogarty International Center, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Current research efforts include the analysis of multi-scale mortality and morbidity patterns, demographic small area estimation techniques such as dasymetric modeling as well as the production and analysis of historical settlement data in the study of urban change, and the vulnerability and exposure of the built environment to natural hazards such as sea level rise or wildfire. This research is of methodological and applied nature offering analytical innovations to improve substantive research efforts in interdisciplinary settings and our understanding of the interactions between social and environmental systems.

CU website 

Registration for participation

You would like to attend the Online Seminar Talk? You are very welcome. Please register by writing an e-mail to office-zagheni@demogr.mpg.de.

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.