Conrad Blucher Institute Tackles Global Issues with United Nations

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – It’s not uncommon to see sorrowful TV advertisements showing glimpses of children from developing countries suffering from malnutrition and food insecurity. But all over the world, hunger is just one of many major issues affecting children and adults – even in our own neighborhoods.

“A couple of years ago, the United Nations (U.N.) came up with 17 sustainable development goals such as no poverty, zero hunger, quality education, and gender equality,” explained Dr. Gary Jeffress, professor of geographic information science and director of the Conrad Blucher Institute for Surveying and Science at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. “They are all very noble goals, many of which affect us right here in the Coastal Bend. For example, not everyone in South Texas has access to clean water and sanitation, affordable energy, or access to education.”

To help find resolutions, Jeffress, along with Dr. Michael Starek, associate professor of geospatial systems engineering and the director of the Measurement Analytics Lab (MANTIS), attended a forum hosted by the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) Academic Network from July 30 to Aug. 3.

The international partnership aims to merge every country’s census data with mapping technology in a Geographic Information System (GIS) environment. With this map, international experts and experts from CBI can pinpoint precise areas in need of economic, social, and environmental aid.

“We’re collecting data for a purpose,” said Jeffress. “We can take existing knowledge, like census data, and apply it in a practical sense to impact the lives of many. It’s an opportunity to expand projects we’ve done locally, such as locating medically underserved areas or identifying crop diseases, on a global scale.”

While every country collects census data that is vital to addressing the U.N.’s key global issues, this data is not easily accessible for world leaders to use.

That’s where CBI experts come in.

Starek uses drones to revolutionize geospatial-aided decision making for addressing pressing problems of global concern in areas of coastal resiliency, sustainable resource development, and crop management to promote food equality and world-wide "zero-hunger." Additionally, Dr. Lucy Huang, associate professor of geographic information science, uses GIS techniques to analyze health issues, such as health care access, that can be used to meet the United Nations’ goal of “good health and well-being” for all.

Last year, the CBI was one of three of the nation’s universities, including Harvard University and the University of Maine, to join the UN-GGIM Academic Network to strategically create solutions for 17 sustainable goals using GIS systems by 2030. The CBI was chosen to join the worldwide network of academics and scientists based on their established track record in GIS and their ability to positively impact the UN-GGIM Academic Network. Future goals include acquiring grants to attract incoming graduate and doctoral students to develop new GIS programs to help solve the world’s issues while working on their dissertations.