The Spatial Lab at Wilfrid Laurier University is a centre for applied and theoretical study of spatial analysis. We are focused on both developing new approaches to handling, integrating, and analyzing geographical information and applying these methods to complex social-ecological problems. The lab has regular computing capacity, servers for web-hosting and GPU computing, and meeting space (the whiteboard!) to facilitate collaborative problem solving. We are largely tackling problems in animal and human health and understanding how the environment structures interactions that contribute to changing disease risks. A second focus of the lab is developing tools and methods for handling new forms of participant-generated data, including citizen science, VGI, harvesting web-based data, sensor data, and other forms.

Research Focus

Spatial Analysis

The major focus of our work is to develop new ways to exploit abundant sources of spatial data. Data is being created at unprecedented rates, from spaceborne satellite data to geo-tagged photographs – there are huge opportunities to understand complex processes via the modelling of spatially detailed datasets.

Some recent  and ongoing projects include:

  • spatial-temporal analysis of moving polygons
  • determining accuracy of volunteered geographic information (VGI)
  • ordinal-regression for risk rating models
  • hidden Markov modelling for disease surveillance

Ultimately, we hope to expand the appropriate use of maps and spatial data in many disciplines through the development and application of new spatial models.

Spatial Ecology

Spatial relationships are critically important in understanding the natural world. Our work in spatial ecology has been centered on space-time analysis of large scale ecological processes.

Some recent  and ongoing projects include:

  • risk rating models for mountain pine beetle spread
  • landscape – dispersal associations of mountain pine beetles
  • foraging-ranges of gray whales
  • Bayesian modelling of spread of mountain pine beetle populations during climate-driven range expansion

Spatial Epidemiology

The geographical distribution of infectious disease places disproportionate burden on the populations of the developing world. Global Health research is concerned with developing novel solutions to promote health and reduce disease in the areas least equipped to do so.

By incorporating new methods and sources of data, a better understanding of disease emergence and amplification risks can be attained and used to develop disease control and health promotion policies.

Some recent  and ongoing projects include:

  • building mobile phone-based zoonotic disease surveillance capacity in Sri Lanka
  • GIS and spatial analysis capacity building in Sri Lanka and Nepal
  • spatial epidemiology of leptospirosis in Sri Lanka