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Thinking Globally at Harvard

This news story is about a visiting scholar at M.I.T. who has developed Geographic Information System software to map out effects of climate change, land use, and other factors in Cambodia affect water flow. This shows how researchers at schools such as M.I.T truly are ‘thinking globally’ and applying their research to many different places in the world. GIS sytems are an emerging technology and will be very useful in future years in order to create maps showing effects of climate change and other environmental and socioeconomic factors. 

Akiyuki Kawasaki maps water flow in the developing world

DECEMBER 5, 2008


Akiyuki Kawasaki thinks globally and maps locally.

To do that, the Japanese researcher, who is spending the academic year as a visiting scholar at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, has developed software that allows researchers to predict how changes in population, land use, climate, urbanization, agriculture and other variables will affect water flow in a given area.

Speaking recently to an audience at Harvard’s Center for Geographic Analysis (CGA), Kawasaki said, “We need to address climate change. To do that it’s necessary to make changes at a local level. This software lets us analyze local water systems and make predictions about them so we can plan wisely.” For his project at Harvard, Kawasaki chose to study the Sre Pok River Basin, a watershed that overlaps Vietnam and Cambodia.

In November 2007, Kawasaki and a Vietnamese student from the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand traveled to Vietnam to get a firsthand look at the rivers, streams, and canals that flow into the basin and to gather the data he would need to create his maps. Kawasaki told the group that getting information from this part of the world can be challenging. Records are not easily available because officials are often reluctant to provide access.  And, he said, compared to data available in developed countries, the data in this part of the world is incomplete and of lower quality.

Luckily a local organization, the Mekong River Commission, had goodgeographic information systems (GIS) data of the area including Cambodia, which he was able to use. Kawasaki and his student tracked down enough usable information about population growth, soil, agriculture, forestry, rainfall, and climate change to make his model work.

Read the full story here. 


December 9, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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