A Survey has been developed by myself to document and compare GIS utilization in the workplace.   This is intended only for sharing at this blogsite (and Medical GIS conferences) –no gimmicks, no advertising.  Survey Monkey is used, which is a secured survey site that gathers no private information.

Why the survey?  There must be others like me trying to deal with the frustrations experienced due the slow progress made when it comes to incorporating high level GIS skills into the workplace. 

This survey assesses GIS availability and utilization in both academic and non-academic work settings.  The purpose is to document the need for GIS experience as an occupational skill.   GIS is currently being underutilized by most companies.  Spatial Technician and Analyst activities and a few managerial activities requiring GIS are reviewed. 

GIS students, technicians, data entry specialists, analysts and managers are asked to get involved.

  This survey, which takes about 20-25 mins to complete (’tis a bit long),  can be accessed at

 Survey Link



A biographical Essay interspersed with successful disease mapping projects

including links to 70 videos depicting rotating 3D images of US disease history


In February 2004, a lady on a plane bound from Africa to New Jersey to Toronto came down with the symptoms of the deadly disease Ebola virus.  This possible migration of the deadly virus Ebola into the United States (later proven not to involve ebola)  demonstrated the need for better monitoring of foreign deadly disease patterns.  The use of ebola as a bioterrorism device by a Japanese cult took place in 1992 (see  These events demonstrate an important use of GIS: monitoring the ecology and migration patterns of pathogenic organisms, vectors, and the related disease outbreaks.  [For more on this news story, see, and

Note: these sections bear links to rotating 3D images that are maps of the diseases or diagnoses discussed. The coding styles vary for section to section. Some sections use bold lettering, some use underlining, some use the disease name without any changes in lettering or color change.


My introduction to medical geography and spatial disease

In 1977, while a student at SUNY Stony Brook, I was enrolled in an Environmental Engineering course which focused on natural phenomena,  mechanics, forces and energy as they related to the behavior of pollutants that are release into the environment.  My term paper for this course was a paper on the ecology of the Wappingers Creek and Lake, with emphasis on the changes this part of the county went through over time due to human impacts.  This paper focused on the pollution of the Wappingers Creek Watersheds and aquifers, the impact of industrial and agricultural chemicals on the lake, the stream and their ecology, and anything else having to pertain to the stability of the lake’s ecology.  The primary concern at the time was the increased amounts of algal blooms impacting the lake ecology.  By late summer, these blooms pretty much converted the lake into a water body incapable of supporting the popular game fish like pickerel, perch, rock bass, and small mouth and large mouth bass.

Figures from 1976/7 term paper

This project resulted in the production of a food web and the discovery of several unique microecological settings in the late brought about by local land use and environmental changes.  The most influential factor impacting lake ecology was soil chemistry for places where runoff was taking place, and the release of agrichemicals into the Wappingers Creek.  Each of these features added organic and mineral materials to the creek water which ultimately was deposited in slow-flowing and still creek settings and stillwater lake settings.  Whereas at the time the most common articles on the impacts of pollution focused more on physical objects impacting the local ecology and survivability of wildlife.   According to soil mapping and land use features documented along the entire creek edge properties, it was quite apparent that agrichemicals were responsible for making the lake more accommodating to algal bloom development and growth.  To me the indicator that this type of change was happening was obvious.  Whenever the water became cloudy and filled with blooms and dead bloom materials, a moss colony known as pectinatella would tend to flourish on the branches of trees dipping into the waters.  In short time I finished my writing on pectinatella as an indicator of local chemical pollution induced ecological change, and that was that.

More Figures from 1976/7 term paper (Univax, pre-PC)

Much of my childhood was spent dealing with the land use water problems in the back wooded areas, in particular behind my house.  In part I was very much interested in the local pond ecology the creek behind my house offered, but I was also concerned with trying to prevent these water bodies from festering and giving way to large pools of mosquitoes.  At times, this led me to re-dig the stream beds travelling through the woods and downhill behind the house.  Most often, I tried to catch the local mosquito-spraying workers making their way through the local area in search of water bodies in which mosquito  larva could be found.  On several occasions, their efforts were pretty much absent for most of the season, which I reacted to by taking frog and salamander egg bunches from the other ponds and water bodies located throughout the local woodlands.  This worked to some extent, but the problem was I was never sure if this was actually resulted in much if any success for most of the spring and summer seasons.

Finally, in college, I learned to take a different point of view about all of these water-related health issues and focus on the body and its ability to manage and deal with exposure to these chemicals, disease-causing insects, etc.  Most importantly, it was quite evident to me that there were natural selection processes taking place that nature took in order to assist many of the local species from dying due to exposure to these stressors.  This view of the environment led me to research environmental chemistry and toxicology, and thus my interest in plant toxins (a study later turned to plant medicines) was born.

Veratrum and Cyclopia

My first interactions with this topic pertained to farm animals and disease.  The most memorable studies of this sort focused on the development of cyclopia in sheep due to Veratrum consumption and exposure, the impact of blood-thinning chemicals of livestock victimized by barbed wire fences, and the effects of certain legumes on livestock behavior and neurological functions, like the impact of Lupine on equine neural functionality.  This soon led me to review the toxicity of plants on insect and other herbivores, ultimately exposing me to the concepts of selective neurotoxicity, brought about by such phytochemical agents as nicotine, atropine, daturine, etc.  Then I landed my research position with the neurotoxicology lab focused on neurotoxicity and synapse and axon membrane protein toxins.  Now I was researching the medicinal values of these toxins, and was already pretty much an expert in the plant chemical content due to my evaluations of chemicals in plants by class and similar chemicals structures, instead of the typically taught plant-by-plant, chemical-by-chemical nature of presenting this topic.

The Dutch cattle industry brought several diseases into the Valley.  Historically, the most important disease introduced was Bovine Consumption or Tuberculosis produced by a relative of the mycobacterium responsible for human tuberculosis.  The first disease reviewed geographically by the medical field, in particular by Hudson Valley medical topographers, was anthrax, which may be natural to the region.  Anthrax has since become very important for mapping and studying disease patterns due to the bioterrorism forms of anthrax now available.   This map of anthrax I produced does not distinguish this bioterrorist form from other more natural forms of anthrax.

Several years later, I began applying this thinking to work related to disease ecology and livestock to people.  Over time, I have come to appreciate the overall ecological nature of disease and exposure risk, and use this to better understand the reasons why diseases behave the way they do ecologically and spatially.  The ecology of disease and disease studies is more than just a human-spatial study.  It is more a study of the environment first, the ecology second and the human ecology of a given setting third.  Only then is enough known for one to draw a complete picture of the nature and ecology of disease transmission inside and outside of the human population setting.  For the most part, the natural ecology of diseases is very much ignored by all but a few types of specialized epidemiologists.  Yet even with their input, we still tend to focus on man and disease, instead of disease and the environment, and disease, plants, and then animals and the environment, including man in this definition of animals only near the end of such spatial epidemiological reviews.

Photos of the talc industry in Rochester, Vermont.  Inorganic components of the environment are also possible causes for disease.  Occupations like agriculture, mining, and even factory or manufacturing work related to a crude natural resource can be related to certain disease states like pneumoconiosisalveolitis or allergic pneumonitis.  These too can be mapped.

Medical Geography in the Colonies 

The association of geography and disease focuses on the cause for the disease in relation to the various environmental features in close proximity for the disease.  There was also the common argument regarding whether disease was the result of individual lifestyle habits and practices and such things as temperament, upbringing, family heritage, history or, in the modern sense, genetics, and whether or not individuals were predetermined to be at risk for getting a particular disease due to their ability to adapt and adjust to changes in environment stressors, a behavior known as acclimation.  Since no cause was actually known for most diseases, physicians relied for the most part upon their philosophy of medicine and how and why diseases occurred.  This way of trying to define disease gave scientists and physicians many leads to follow-up on whenever trying to find a more accurate explanation for the causes and effects of illness, but it did little to send these philosophers along the right pathway towards finding the cause for disease.  It would take several centuries of colonization experiences and medical reckonings to teach scientists and physicians how to pay closer attention to disease and its natural behaviors.  The focus on disease and how it happens and spread had to be placed on the disease itself and its ecology, and not the human victims, before physicians and scientists could replace much of the claims about illness that for the most part were defined and published by the intelligentsia and philosophers of the science and political communities.

In early American history, one of the most common geographic interpretations of disease had mostly due to with the effects of latitude change.   It was commonly thought that diseases to the north were of one form and diseases to the south were another.  This was pretty much supported by the varying types of parasitic diseases explorers and travelers experienced, often as witnesses but sometimes as victims.  It is probably the 14th century travellers through parts of southern Africa for example that introduced to Europeans for the first time the intestinal problems brought on by large tapeworms.  Travels to distant parts of South America exposed them to a different sets of pathogens than their travels to North America.  Nevertheless, in spite of these equatorial differences, the equator itself and its accompany climate formed the main part of most arguments regarding how and why diseases develop and manifest themselves the way they do in local far away settings.  This led the explorers to determine that acclimation did indeed play the most important role in determining if migrating families would survive or die due to the decisions made to move to the New World.  If not for the threats brought about on occasion by Native American groups already established and settled in the newly claimed territories, than most surely deaths would ensue in these new Colonial settings due to the inability of its Old World settlers to adapt to the New World environment.  Throughout the 16th and 17th century periods of attempted claims and settlement, these were the causes usually attributed to why some populations would land in the New World and seem to successfully build a new community, only to be found deceased and their settlements completely abandoned just a few years later.

Yellow Fever is a disease introduced to North America most likely by Dutch Slave migration ships.  It began returning on irregular intervals in the mid to late 1700s and by 1790 had established its major routes and ports of entry into this country, becoming the first effective epidemic disease to be successfully mapped locally and globally for an epidemiological, surveillance-based purpose.   This map I produced demonstrates three dominant northern routes of entry.  Since yellow fever is a tropical disease that favors warm to hot climates, could this be due to reduced suspicion of yellow fever entering the U.S. from the northern route?

In North American, Mid-Atlantic-New York settlement history, the climate had everything to do with the choice of places to settle and how these settlements would be accomplished.  It was the nature of the local environment, its resemblances to settlers’ original homestead settings and climate, that often became the determining factor in helping them choose where to lay claim to the land and raise their first homesteads.  The history of New York/New Netherlands and the Hudson valley very much is defined by this particular part of the immigrants human behavior.  Whereas England first laid claim to the Hudson Valley, at least according to members of British Royalty, it was the Dutch who were brave enough to root themselves in the Hudson Valley soils and landscape.  It was pretty much the form and behavior of these settings that perhaps made New Amsterdam the rapidly growing city that it became in just a few years.  The ports of New Amsterdam had a surface topography and background geography that made it resemble the lowlands of the Dutch cities from which the settlers departed just a few years earlier.   The tendency for the ocean waters to perform their typical estuarine behaviors were very much like the waters filling the canals and inlets situated all along the shorelines and oceanside urban settings of Holland.   The Haarlem of the Old World was very much like what the Harlem of the New World would soon become assuming the entrepreneurs had their way with this newly established colony.

Along with this interpretation of place in some traditional cultural sense as a place to settle and stay, were the related thoughts about its possible similarities with Old World habitability features.  What made a place inhabitable, many felt, had to deal with its climate and the ability fo the human body to tolerate summers and winters, dryness and humidity, the ever-changing seasons and how they changed, the local storms and winds, the distant sun and moon-related environmental features (the tides), the availability and type of foods and luxuries of life, and the ability of the individual to perform and behave in his/her best possible manner when it came to day-to-day living practices.   To many Dutch, these features may have made the Hudson valley and Manahata area more befitting of Dutch residency than British.  Such is the reason why the Spaniards were settling to the far south, and the British just south of New Netherlands in the mid-Atlantic region.  The Swedes of New Sweden (Chesapeake Bay region) added further to this argument by selecting a region very much resembling their massive ocean inlets and fjords.  The Portuguese had their eyes of very warm temperate to subtropical-like settings in South America, in regions much warmer than much of the Northern half of North America.

So this association of climate, habitability, and acclimation pretty much defined the earliest interpretations of New World settlement in some sort of medical sense.  For this reason, the earliest writers emphasized these particular attributes about a potential new place for settlement, often doctoring up these descriptions with idealistic interpretations of their local environments, often following in the mode and thinking of the higher powers at hand, namely their religious leaders and their thought processes.  When we look at early interpretations of New Netherlands and New England settlement areas, we can quite easily find the recurring symbolism nature presented these writers with, or in their way of thinking, the symbolism that God set up for them to see and identify as messages that they were to reside in these newly found places.  The most explicit examples of this natural philosophical interpretation of the New World and the Hudson Valley are seen in the writings of Adrien Van der Donck, whose listing of the flora he saw as he made his way up the valley by boat  seemed to symbolized a combination of Garden of Eden symbols intertwines with Old World natural specimens that his readers would already be familiar with.  Many might even then go on to think: If the same herbs and plants that grew in the Old World gardens were capable of growing in this New World setting, then the climate must be the same and thus this place must be the place to settle.  The Dutch seemed to have these symbols sent to them in the books of their fellow explorers and travellers, not the British.  This was an important part of Dutch tradition and philosophy which the British had a different way of expressing and a different take upon, this view of the New World was not at all an important part of British intelligence.

There are numerous examples of diseases carried back and forth between the Americas and Europe.  We learn mostly of the infectious diseases transmitted through direct contact or very close proximity like mumps, measles, small pox and the variety of sexually transmitted diseases.  A number of other diseases rarely discussed that were introduced to the Americas from the world at large, such as European Cryptococcus, Australian Equine Encephalitis, Central European Encephalitis, Ethopian Leishmaniasis, Guinea Worm, Chinese Liver Fluke, Bancroft FilariaQueensland Tick Typhus, Korean Hemorrhagic Fever, and Guama Fever Venezuelan Encephalitis and Brazilian Blastomycosis are two such diseases directly from the south.  The immediately prior yellow fever map suggests its migration down from the south via the Canadian border, but this is just circumstantial evidence, not statistical evidence.  Some evidence suggests Vibrio cholera may have naturalized in the Gulf of Mexico, as early as the 1849 to 1853 epidemic (a very controversial claim I make however).

The 17th century medical philosophy of the New World as a region defined for settlement by its medical geography would be found mostly in the travelers books published at this time.  It was n’t until the 18th century that this type of thinking would become the premise of many essays written and published about why the New World was, medically speaking, the place to settle.  In Hudson valley history, an early example of this type of argument was penned by Cadwallader Colden in his essay on the local fevers striking the area.  In his surveys of the Valley setting, he penned a few lines about the healthiness of the local topography and climate and why this was a place fit for other European settlers as well, not just the Dutch, Bohemian, German and Moravian groups already staking claim to the region.

Colden’s words pretty much defined the Hudson Valley culture and interpretation for decades to come.   His most important  impacts on the culture and lifestyle for this region were produced just before he obtained his governorship position for the province.  His impacts dominated as much as the words about these areas penned by earlier Jesuit missionaries making their way through the Mauritius River, Manahata and “Longe Eylandt”.  Colden’s words about the local climate may have perhaps done little to directly impact English immigration in the years to come, but they did influence how and where people chose to build their home and make permanent their place of stay.

By the early 1700s, just what about the landscape appeared to be of Dutch origin to the next generations?  In some recollections it is told that the resemblances of the estuarine shorelines of the Hudson appeared to have some resemblances to the lowlands of Holland.  In places where returning tidal waters had the chances of flooding riverside farming settlements, large walls much like the dikes could be built to keep this water at bay.  Most certainly , the farming, livestock and food preparation habits of the Dutch very much resembled those of Old World settlements for generations to come in the Valley.  Whereas in the Old World,  the low-elevation settlements often had their growing fields suffer from salt water encroachment, the same types of problems prevailed along the edges of the Hudson River.  Whereas in the Old World, this forced Dutch farmers to rely heavily upon root crops and brassicas (cabbages, etc.) for their vegetable mainstay, in the Hudson valley these crop plants would be well adapted to growing in the mixtures of swampy, brackish and estuarine water impacted lands of the Hudson river shoreline.   The most important grain commodities still had their limitations to growth in the fresher, more stable highland regions of the area, but the continuous, ever-refreshed presence of winds making their way through many parts of these landforms  forming the valley, gave some parts of the Hudson Valley the perfect requirements needed to set up windmills.  If windmills were not practical, there was always the creeks and small rivers refilling the Hudson River with fresh mountain water.  These  natural forms made much of the valley perfect for setting up gristmills and lumber mills powered by these narrow waterways.   Whereas throughout the 1600s, much time and human energy was spent establishing the homesteads, barns, and millhouses, with any remaining energy spent building the dams needed by windmill and watermills, the development of this region during the 1700s would be more focused on converting the local farm settings into more industrious business operations.  With traditional Dutch  foodways now well established, and British culture on its way into the region, the 1700s became a period in which rapid settlement was the plan for the next few generations.  The medical geography of the valley had by now defined the Valley’s foodways and health and hygiene-required practices (bathing options, springs, waterbodies, etc.).  This made the 1700s the time that this knowledge-base for understanding the geography of Hudson Valley health to be improved.  Very few physicians were around to perform the observations needed to write about these improvements.  Aside from Colden, just one other physician provides enough insight for us to better understanding the medical geography philosophy then prevailing in the Hudson Valley–Dr. Cornelius Osborn (1722-1782).

Altitude sickness is a condition diagnosed that we would expect to demonstrate a topographic relationship.  Instead, what we see is a strong cultural component–people claiming they have this condition appear to be spatially related to major cities with airlines leading to places where one could acquire the condition.  This diagnosis may be a result of a high altitude vacation, but more than likely is linked to the flight itself.

Osborn’s Medical Topography

To best understand the philosophy of an 18th century colonial physician, it helps to review the writings of the time regarding medicine and their immediately preceding thoughts and practices.  In a manuscript penned by Osborn in 1768, he immediately refers his reader to (the manuscript was written for his son)  the most respected writers: Thomas Sydenham (1624-1689), Robert James (1705-1776)), and Peter Shaw (1694-1763).  In a later section of this manuscript on the Fevers, he refers the reader to several other highly respected writers, namely Daniel Turner and John Huxham (1692-1768).  Other immediate predecessors and rhetorical mentors of Osborn were Hermann Boerhaave (1668-1738), one of the most important and most influential physicians in Dutch 17th and 18th century history, Albrecht von Haller (1708-1777), who helped to define the chemistry of the apothecary trade that Osborn was trained in,  and Giovanni Battista Morgnani (1682-1771), who was professed in aatomy, the organs, and disease.

Much of the philosophy of medicine and disease onset for the time however focused on a more traditional philosophy penned centuries before.  According to Hippocrates, miasma was the cause for many diseases, a substance produced, released and spread throughout the natural world which when it came in contact with the right individual, in the right place and when the person is in the right personal state (physically or metaphysically, i.e. emotionally and mentally), disease and sickness erupt.  In some cases, the miasma forms in large amounts and is spread over large areas, impacting and killing many of its victims.  In such cases, the miasma is in its epidemic form,  with its effects and influences cascading down upon the people, seemingly all at once, causing numerous deaths and then subsiding.  In the worst possible times, this miasma is even capable of maintaining its severity and deadliness upon the masses of people, in which case a plague has begun, often interpreted as a symbolic activity engaged in by nature of God as a consequence of man’s changes in living style and practices.

Between the time that Hippocrates first emphasized the importance of understanding miasma, and the time Cornelius Osborn would come to learn about this philosophy about disease, much more detail had been added to the concept of miasma developing as a natural phenomenon.    The natural setting had to first be better understood, and with the dawn of science taking hold throughout the 17th century, much of what had been taught based on theory and speculation had turned into more physically interpretable descriptions of the natural world.    In due time, the miasma was attributed to certain regions due to land forms (topography), the presence of stinking swamps and highly humid marshlike settings.  This generation of the miasma (a symbolic parallel to swamp gas and fog), could soon be related to other natural conditions such as the weather and climate, the amount of natural rubbish or detritus left to rot in the local swamp setting, the misting of the water surface over a marsh due to sudden changes in temperature, humidity and even the sensible changes in atmospheric pressure.

Moya Moya is a culturally-defined disease pattern that has a mind component and body component to its cause and effect.  A theory for its cause states that stress induces a response in the blood vessels resulting in constriction and reduction of blood flow to the brain.  This in turn results in the Moya Moya symptoms (see

One particular type of illness that struck many people, and was often associated with many of these climatic, meteorologic and topography-related changes and conditions was fever.  With the four humours theory still being taught, and the understanding of human body features like hot and cold, wet and dry, it was easy for physicians trying to be philosophers  to surmise that the commonness of the condition such as fever has something to do with the these four essential elements and other related components considered important to the body and life.   One particular requirement for life had numerous terms and interpretations attached to it and its relationship with the human body.  This energy-component used to define the living body, its energy and maybe even its soul, was often somehow related to electrics or magnetism.  With the discovery of certain features of the nervous system by anatomists like Vesalius and Willis during up until 16th century, there was some speculation as to the reason a series of structures travel parallel to the spine, an obvious extension of the brain where much of the human spirit and even soul survives according to some.    This parallel nerve, termed the sympathetic nerve, was the source for much disease and was a part of the human body that helped to maintain its balance and natural state of stability.  Eliminate this stability and you have disease, and whenever nature does the same, disease is again the consequence.  Just like Nature can be the cause for disease, so too can nature help to cure the disease, or as stated in Daniel Turner’s rendering of this part of the Hippocratic teachings, penned for his book Discourse concerning Fevers . . . (1739),  Natura curat Acutos.

In any physician’s mind for the time, 17th or 18th century, Nature was the cause for illness, and nature is its possible means to a cure.  Merging this ideology with the notion that place and disease have a relationship, and we have the birth of medical topography thinking, beginning with a philosophy that was of one form during colonial and early post-colonial times, and then becoming one that was more naturalistic in nature during the mid to late 19th century, and finally to what we have today, a philosophy that is very much environmentally and scientifically based.  Once the germ theory began to take hold, the speculation about other causes for illness being mapped were almost suddenly eliminated.  To some scientists no doubt this was a hard strike against their profession and teachings.  Geologists believed in such things as  gas-releasing soils and caves and percolating rock layers as the cause for disease.  Naturalists focused on plant and animal life laid claim to the evaporating mists of smelly swamps and the aerial dissipation of fumes and smoke layers formed over towns and cities each time strong winds came in.   The current disease ecology philosophy provides potential for many of these past concepts in disease patterns to now return to the study of spatial disease patterns.   When Cornelius Osborn made claim to lands for his own homestead and farming and bear brewery practice to be developed, he used topography, climate and other natural phenomena to determine where to reside.  His training and experience told him to remain above the level of the misty surface of Green Vly (later called Green Fly swamp), within close proximity of the town of Fishkill, but well distanced from its epidemic prone “Vis Kyl” floodplains.

During the Colonial Period in North American history, Malaria was a topographic and climatic disease with influences heavily dependent on local terrain, hydrologic, meteorological and demographic features.  Its diffusion process then was dependent on human transportation behaviors followed by local ecological features as the vectors and pathologic organism took advantage of the natural settings.  Today, malaria’s diffusion process is mostly dependent on human behaviors related to travel. 


Disease Diffusion Patterns

The earliest use of a map detailing  the distribution of a disease in the United States was performed by Valentine Seaman, a physician working in and around New York city.  The yellow fever epidemic was the major reason Seaman took to mapping the disease pattern.  This map he produced in order to support his argument about the source for the several cases of yellow fever that erupted just a few blocks from the port.  At the time, there was considerable controversy as to how and why yellow fever often appeared soon after the ships were docked from other countries and port cities situated quite close to the tropical origins suspected for yellow fever.

This map detailed just the roadways, homes and avenues related to the yellow fever carriers, but did little to define either places of high risk for developing or catching yellow fever from carriers, since the actual source had yet to be determined.  It also did not provide enough information to establish how and why yellow fever struck a particular household.  Some attempts were made to map out the topography of the area, such as the location of water bodies and swamps in relation to yellow fever cases, but for the most part these maps did not produce much more evidence as to disease cause and diffusion behavior.

This mapping of disease cases was continued by Dr. Seaman in the year or two to come, and may have already been standard practice by Seaman according to reports of the minutes of his meetings with the officials in New York City whom Seaman typically presented these maps to.  According to the announcements made about presentations made at these meetings, published in the local trade journal Medical Repository, this use of maps by Seaman was not at all unique.  Still, any examples of earlier and subsequent maps about the city’s cases and potential epidemic/endemic rates have yet to be uncovered.


Coccidiomycosis also known as California rheumatism, California fever, Valley fever, and St. Joaquin Valley Fever, has  a strong ecological component to its distribution.  This limits its distribution pattern in the United States and the remaining portions of Middle and South America.  This may also exclude the possible impacts of population density on disease patterns.  People may just be another opportunity ecologically speaking for an organism already well distributed throughout its macroecological disease region (a Russian medical geography concept).


Interestingly, I was raised on much of the land that I am now writing about and performed much of my recent research on.   True, I was raised on just a small piece of yard somewhere near the Wappingers Fall-Fishkill border, but more importantly, I was raised on land in which the ecology and uses had changed several times in some fairly major ways.   Unlike the children of many modern-day families, I spend much of my childhood time in these woods, visiting the streams, ponds, lakes, wells, artesian springs, and waterfalls discussed by some of the writers I have to review.  My own childhood homestead it ends up is at or very close to the border of Osborn’s original property, and based upon his legal documents and such, he and his fellow family members also owned much of the property I grew up on between my home and the large town (now city) of Poughkeepsie located about 10 miles to the north.  In 1981/2, when I discovered Osborn’s manuscript on medicine as it was practiced in the 1760s, this was made clear to me by his Blood Root (Sanguinaria canadense) recipe, the herb of which grows prolifically in the woods just behind my back yard.  His uncle left a map which was copied for the New York Public Library which was a map of the place where I kept my canoe locked up during my high school years.  According to the map, this was a Mohegan settlement place.

Still, finding Osborn’s manuscript wasn’t enough to keep me interested in my hometown area.  For more than twenty years, I knew this area had some strange reason to its popularity, more than just a consequence of Washington Irving’s writings.  It seemed to me that there was some sort of different tradition or “magic” to this area that made it a haven for alternative thinkers during the early 19th century.  I was just never sure why this area was historically important, only that it just was.  Over the years this even led me to study the influence of Dutch culture on the Hudson Valley region, and as said by a traveller and writer (and paraphrased by me) after crossing the river down by Newburgh by ferry, ‘the colony may have been captured by the British, but its culture was still Dutch.’

The Plague“, as it is dispersed today Modern equivalents to the plague could be Hanta virus, and Ratbite fever.

When I figured the answer out for the question as to what made Poughkeepsie so great a refuge for people escaping the city due to its yellow fever and fears of an upcoming “plague”, it was again the same kind of synchronicity and happenstance that led me to find, draw up and finalize still more important historical conclusions about the Hudson Valley region.  The next step in this research of the valley was more than just “coincidental” any more it seemed.  I finally found some values to all of my explorations of the woods and such throughout the 1960s and early 1970s.  In 1994/5, I learned that the land on which I grew up and went through my childhood experiences on, touring much of the local woodlands during this time, took place on a piece of property owned by one of the first “alternative thinking” medical philosophy/metaphysical groups–the Fowlers.

In 1994, I found another manuscript to study and review; this physician was trained in Thomsonianism.  Poughkeepsie was an important focal point for the support of Thomsonianism as an alternative healing faith during the 1830s and 1840s.  But this physician was from Illinois, his wife from the Burned Over district in upstate New York.  It ended up, I had some books published by the Fowlers in New York City which included many of the same philosophies and principles this physician worked hard to abide by in his medical practice.  It also recurred to me again that the publisher’s name was much like that of the property I was raised.  Then I came upon a description of the house in which they preached their philosophy and allowed other preachers to do the same, many become famous for years to come.  The location for this house given in the writings was the main highway heading north to Albany and the Wappingers-Fishkill border, in the town of Fishkill.  It was there that famous writers and artists would travel to learn what the perfect earth closet looked like (the toilet used dirt instead of water and after a few weeks dumped this “compost” into the garden), undergo a seance with Andrew Jackson Davis, have the bumps read on their head by Orson Fowler, undergo electric psychology training by Reverend John Bovee Dods, etc, etc..

‘Well, they are wrong’ I was thinking. ‘That place, I know of is in Wappingers!  (‘So that is why the rattlebox tree was planted there!)’

Lyme Disease is one of the better examples of diseases demonstrating strong ecological correlations with the Hudson Valley.  On this map, we can see how the cases are distributed along the Hudson River.

Hudson Valley Disease Ecology

There are four diseases I engaged in an extensive amount of research for with regards to Hudson Valley medical history.  The first was the yellow fever epidemics that came to New York during the late 18th century and early to mid-18th century.  This fever had minimal impact on Dutchess County area in general, but pretty much related to the peaks and valleys in migration to and from Poughkeepsie during specific times in Valley history.  This was the first such project I decided to engage in and is the longest such study I have engaged in due to the limited amount of information and publications made on this aspect of New York medicine history in general.  The next study I performed of Hudson Valley medical geography pertained to the cholera epidemics of 1824, 1832 and 1849-1852.  The purpose of this study was to better understand a physician’s philosophy about such a global epidemic during this time, decades before the germ theory became popular.  In 1998, I engaged in a brief study on Lyme Disease geography due to the proximity of its focus to the valley by way of Westchester County and into Lyme, Connecticut, its place of origin.  This study was ceased a little more than year later due to the increasing numbers of deaths of crows and other raptors in lower New York, due to West Nile introduction into this country.  From that point on, my focus was on the applications of ecological thinking to this disease migration and ecological stabilization process.  Early on, this enabled me to devise a method for studying west nile ecology that was well above the standards for mapping west nile distribution spatially back in 2000 and 2001.   My studies have since taken the methods of mapping, studying and spatially analyzing west nile spatial behaviors in ways that are not practiced in other locations.  My small area analysis of west nile demonstrates the value and meaning of such knowledge at a microecological level, an application of medical geography thinking and GIS that has yet to be developed into a fairly well-recognized method for successfully mapping and then predicting (to some extent) west nile diffusion behaviors.




The West Nile Map

Disease Ecology Research Methodologies

The best way to go about detailing the history and ecology of a disease is to analyze all aspects of that disease, using the various methods of spatial analysis and statistical reviews already in place by spatial analysts. Of course, standard epidemiological equations are employed in this form of analysis, such as the use of risk analysis or the use of a variety of normalization techniques used to standardize the value of a risk assigned to a particular population. It also helps to employ standard ecological methods of research and statistical analysis to better understand west nile virus-vector-host ecology. But more important, since GIS is being employed to carry out much of this research, it is important that useful methods be developed to perform effective methods of spatial, temporal and spatio-temporal analysis.

Whereas much of the natural history analyzed regarding west nile behavior has focused on climate, weather, host-vector-human relationships, and topography to some extent, most if not all of this research has pretty much left out such things as pedology, geology, plant ecology, and the mathematical details related to topography such as slope and aspect measurements, or the use of data relating the physical relationships between different parts of land surfaces to the behavior of each of these creatures. In the more traditional sense, the studies of natural ecology and the related natural sciences are not typically related to epidemiology and public health study findings. Such is the manner in which I like to review such diseases like Asiatic cholera, Yellow Fever, giardia, Amoebic dysentery, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and now, west nile.

Some very American/U.S. diseases — Giardia, Mad Cow, or Elk Disease, and Chicago Illness

In 2003, after two years of studying west nile ecology in the field and another year teaching in the GIS-Remote Sensing lab and classroom, I made several attempts to get support and funding for a more formal kind of GIS work on this disease. Unable to find the resources and professional support needed for this work, I decided to take it on as a part of my responsibilities as a field technician working in a west nile monitoring program. During this time, I pulled together four years worth of ecological data generated by others also gathering much the same information in my neck of the woods. I had already gathered much of my own information during my first years of researching west nile ecology, research I began in Oregon soon after the first news of west nile was published in the New York Times.

Prior to this news about west nile striking the United States, I had already engaged myself quite a bit in other types of ecological research, especially those heavily covered by the nineteenth century medical journals, where epidemiologists often published their findings regarding the actual natural history, ecology and geologic relationships of a given disease to its environment. In 1975, while working with activists with the Clearwater Sloop, I reviewed and mapped the pollution of the Wappingers Creek, a tributary of the Hudson river polluted by local chemical industries and numerous agricultural settings. In 1976, I mapped the waterways and peririparian landuse history going back to its colonial history, documented the changes in land use and ecological stability taking place at the time, and in 1977, summarized my review of the lake ecology and its environmental history, including a unique interpretation of its food web, the impacts of pollution and land use history on the creek and lake, and the resulting rapid aging-process that resulted in the lake due to these impacts. As a part of my environmental engineering research at Stony Brook University,  I used this experience to produce a paper detailing the impacts of agrichemicals on local algal and microscopic organism ecology in the lake, leading me to suggest a way to watch and monitor the ecology of this setting through the use of the “local jellyfish” (as laypersons called it). Due to abundant nutrients in the water, and the right temperate and pH, pectinatella (a moss that produced a pectin gel in order to adhere to branches bowed down into the water) grows along the edge of the Wappingers creek and lake whenever this hydrologic system is undergoing ecological stress. It was my opinion that the growth of pectinatella colonies increased each time the creek waters slowed in the summers, polluted by natural fertilizers introduced into this waterway by local farms and industries.

I tell this story because much of my research and writing background before going to Stony Brook University in 1976 was in fact the reason I went for my second major in Earth and Space Sciences during my undergraduate years at Stony Brook University. Although my lab work at the time focused mostly on toxicology, neurochemistry and the ways in which toxins, carcinogens and teratogens worked, my interest was also in the local ecology.

There are numerous zoonotic diseases possible for the Hudson Valley area.  Zoonotic diseases and their related epizootic disease patterns were first well documented by Russian medical geographer Evgeni Pavlovsky around 1937, in his thesis about the epidemiology and ecology of Russia’s Scrub Typhus and Spring-Summer and Autumn  Taiga Fevers The study of Parasitology has since been reviewed more completely by a number of his successors along with the World Health Organization.  (This study of Parasitic Geography is reviewed elsewhere on my site (LINK).)  The Foreign Tick Born Diseases map is one of my first end products produced with this research that I initiated as a part of my thesis work on cholera history and diffusion, which I began on my own in 1993 and continued in academia beginning in 1996.

The Fieldwork Process  for Research

As many of my former classmates from college know, throughout my childhood years I frequented most of the riverways, lakes, ponds, swamps, wetlands, fields and forests of Dutchess County, New York, and did the same for most of my research on Long Island glacial and ecological history while a student at Stony Brook, Long Island, New York. So, when I began my research of mosquito-borne diseases in New York in the winter of 1999/2000, it seemed as though I was back to my freshman research years performed more than twenty years earlier.

By the time the local news of west nile reached the west coast, I was already focusing on a variety of livestock related human disease problems. Known as zoonotic diseases, I found that diseases which transmit from animal to human had an interesting ecology that for the most part was never given the appropriate attention as a geography and disease ecology topic. Epidemiologists engaged little in the natural ecology of diseases, focusing more on vector-host-human interactions. The study of disease ecology as a medical geography topic was beginning to show signs of taking off, but was offered mostly as a specialty in just a few university settings. For the most part, the field of medical geography was more a training in both the various sociological and scientific fields of study, topics which already had their own independent departments in most American university settings.

When I returned to the graduate school in 1996, the purpose was to pull these various fields together into a medical geography-epidemiology-sociology field of study. The one way researchers in the field accomplished this type of interdisciplinary work at the time was the use of GIS and remote sensing, combining the population and sociological data with the natural history and medical geography-epidemiological data in order to document new spatial relationships between health, disease and people as just a small part of their environment.

In the time that I began this work, GIS was still very much DOS-like on the computer and in the lab. Maps were still digitized by hand, and the GIS we used often seemed to produce coarse, fairly simple representations of what you were working on. Satellite imagery on the other hand was no longer in just a black and white. It was fairly detailed in nature, enough for surface features to be pretty much identifiable down to the bedrock, mineral, soil or plant species.

The utilization of GIS to map disease–physical or sociocultural–is a unique blending of field experience with lab or desk work.  In summer of 1996 I mapped the homeless campsites in Portland, Oregon, a seemingly endless period of walks and hikes through the best and worst of the urban setting, carrying an approx. 120 pp book of the Portland map enlarged and into which noted were kept.  Cluster areas were defined, along with long term encampment areas.  The most popular areas were found to be clsoe to major travel routes and within an hour or less walking distance from the Salvation Army and soup kitchens.  The diseases these groups have to deal with are very much based on food intake, physique and hygiene.  This led to a series of studies of the health of the poor.  Their conditions were noted to be more population based and primarily non-environmental in nature.  You don’t catch a disease by sleeping under  a bridge as much as by sleeping next to poorly kept people and their places.  There was some sort of sociological or social-darwinian level of knowledge generated by this work.  A study of these neodarwinian topics spatially often produce some of the most interesting results, results that tell a story and pose important questions about society in general.  Examples include Homelessness (counts)Homelessness (prevalence)Fetal Exposure to NarcoticsFetal Exposure to Tobacco Product Use, Crack Baby Syndrome, Desertion of a NewbornShaken Baby Syndrome, Children who are homeless, Children with Inadequate Income and Housing, Malnourished Children with a resulting Ocular Disorder, Children with in utero development of tuberculosis, Children abused by other children, Refused Child’s Care for Religious Reasons, and Refusal to Immunize your child (see peak in the Pacific NW). 

Documenting Your Discovery

On one occasion in one of my remote sensing labs, I remember being shown a reflection spectra pattern of some soil in a fairly cold and plant-less region of the world. The question the researcher posed to me and others pertained to the differences seen in this soil and other quite similar soils found elsewhere in the immediate research area. Reviewing this reflection spectral pattern, I immediately recognized the wavelengths of a reflection pattern similar to those produced in my lab years earlier. They represented the waveband of carotenoids or xanthophylls–the yellow pigments in plants. I suspected this probably due to algae found growing in the immediate region, which had somehow gotten into the soil, but because it was dead, left behind its carotenoids and no other signs of continued survival in the soil.

The professor was surprised when I visited him after class and told him I though it was algae pigment. Even though they found no algae in the neighboring water body, I explained to him that algae had to be living there somewhere, due to the one peak I noted in the results which closely correlated with a peak seen in mass spec work on chemical bonds, Soonafter, it appeared as though I was right; algal blooms apparently take place in this setting on a seasonal basis. A small area about 20′ by 20′, where no forms of life were thought to reside, demonstrated some soil and water growth of specimens that soon die out and only leave behind the pigments remaining once the cells left in the soil are broken down.

The same time, I had been researching zoonotic (animal-borne) diseases related to vegetation patterns. My interest in this study developed because I was drawing associations between plant chemicals and insecta ecology that typically were discussed mostly by secondary natural products chemists. I soon realized, this knowledge of chemistry in plant did indeed have a use in the disease ecology, GIS and remote sensing related fields of study.

In short time, this led me to discover several causes for epidemics on the Overland trails previously not considered by trail historians (the effects of Eupatorium as Livestock fodder on the oxen milk used to feed children after their mother died, and the resulting increase in toddler deaths in Nebraska west of this ecological setting in the same wagon trains). My interest in insect borne diseases in this region led me to research the ecology of Rocky Mountain Spotted fever and several other western ecologic diseases before delving into the other possible causes for illness of the trail, namely the variety of causes for diarrhea such as the “cholera” of the trail. In due time, this led me to write my thesis for my graduate degree in geography (known informally as “the geography of diarrhea”), in which I identified and gave reasons for my explanations of the various forms of “cholera” in the midwest and on the Oregon trail between 1845 and 1855.


To understand the disease introduction process, ports of entry and places where epidemics take hold have to be identified.  This map of the Crimean-Congo Viral Hemorrhagic Fever is used to exemplify this method of evaluation (Crimea is of Russia and the Congo of Africa).  (The “Chicago Illness” noted elsewhere on this page also serves as a helpful example.)

By 1997, following a review of Russian medical geographer Voronov’s writings, I began to focus on the various insect and animal borne diseases in the midwest, including the mosquito-borne St. Louis Encephalitis, Western Equine and LaCrosse Encephalitis, a local version of Mad Cow infecting Elk populations, and the western ecology of the Hanta Virus and Yersinia (the plague) residing in prairie dog populations.

In the late 1990s, this led me to begin the use GIS to document the ecologic behaviors of the growing lyme disease problem in Oregon. At the time, I was already engaged in a similar research on the ecology of lyme disease in New York, and the potential for employing a GIS and remote sensing based method for ecologically studying of the cause for lyme disease–borellia. At the time, my primary goal was simply to develop my own methodology for the use of GIS to explore disease mapping and to develop a way to engage in remote sensing as a part of this endeavor. My goal was to develop the means to predict high risk regions for lyme disease based on landsat imagery data and field investigations focused on animal and plant ecology.

Unlike the other projects on lyme disease being carried out at the time locally in New York at the time at one or more environmental research stations, my primary focus was on plant ecology and the roles of chemicals in plants in defining these ecological niches. I was trying to whether or not we could use the plants and their ecological behaviors in relation to land use, topography and vector-host behaviors to predict where the environmental factors needed for lyme disease could be found to exist. I based this hypothesis on the notion that many common weeds like various members of the Composite or Aster family produce a certain set of chemicals that are converted to growth and maturation hormone inhibitors in certain insects. In a preliminary review of the ecology of Oregon lyme disease I had completed, I found this to be the possible reason lyme disease travelled north along the Pacific Coast and inland, but stopped migrating along the coast in a specific ecological settings, only making its way in to Oregon via a more inland route lacking in specific plants and soil and geologic formations. At the time it was my goal to research these regions same areas with the use of remote sensing imagery, such as SPOT, LS, thermal imagery, SW UV, SLAR, and AVHRR, to explore whether or not my suppositions were correct.

‘Easier said then done’ one might say. Several attempts to receive funding for this research were unsuccessful.

What is the single most detectable disease or set of diseases using remote sensing?  Environmental change and cancer is always a popular topic.  In the RS project I did with changes in land use patterns in Mexico, over a 20+ year period, thermal pollution stood out as a major change based on the NDVI and thermal (NIR) images involving a major industrial site placed on a lake/reservoir.  This would be an example of how to study axenotic disease patterns (using the Russian nomenclature) with RS.  Xenotic (Biogeographic) patterns require a little more math and ecological background.  Back in the late 1990s, staff at the local Cornell Research Center near Millbrook used it to define areas where residents of  Westchester County were most at risk of getting lyme disease.  I applied the same remote sensing theory to identifying west nile sites in the Hudson valley, Dutchess County area, using vegetation cover and hydrological patterns in relation to land use and population features to identify vector flying habits and link these to their positive testing carcasses and trap test results.  But we can also identify floral types of land cover using RS in order to more accurately identify certain high risk sites for most if not all environmental and ecological diseases.  The most classic examples of these perhaps are the fauna-and flora- related medical conditions or diseases such as rabies, and problems or conditions developed due to toxic plants such as fungi (population dependent versus environmental) and the results of poisoning by various forms of toxic animal life.

When West Nile hit the news, the direction of my zoonotic research changed. I felt pretty certain this same skill set could be applied to predicting west nile behavior, making the west nile epidemic prime research material for any studies of GIS, remote sensing and disease ecology.

Growing up in Dutchess County, my understanding of the region and the behavior and habits of its mosquitoes told me that I had an opportunity to put my experience to good use. Unfortunately I was still residing in Oregon and in the middle of a grant-supported MPH program focusing on the applications of GIS to documenting lyme disease ecology in Oregon and California.

Following my graduation from my second masters program for an MPH, I left Oregon to return to my favorite fishing and camping places and now research settings in New York (as I tell some people). This is what led me to go to New York in 2002: the goal of becoming more engaged in the west nile disease ecology research projects using GIS, an important public health issue yet to receive its due attention in the public health arena.

Once in New York, I had no problem finding west nile field surveillance work and soon after obtained the assistance and permissions needed on the side to initiate my own field ecology studies of mosquitoes and west nile in Dutchess county, based on my intimate knowledge of the surrounding ecology and hydrogeography of the region. These projects were allowed so long as they weren’t popularized and didn’t interfere with my other professional obligations.

Such remained the case throughout my work history in the local settings for the next several years. In short time, I had pulled together and databased all of the data gathered to that point in time with west nile, and then began to evaluate it. By the end of my first winter in New York, I pretty much had a compete and detailed understanding of what we were dealing with regarding mosquito behavior and ecology and the ecology of west nile. So, by early spring, I commenced the first full-scale statistical analysis of this field data and began to document the relationships between weather, precipitation, temperatures and ecology on the potential for the various species of mosquitoes to develop their typical swarms. I then began relating what I observed about the animal host and carrier populations in relation to the disease, and soon had several working models detailing west nile ecology for use in predicting the disease behaviors.

Due to the overwhelming amounts of data collected, my reviews of this spatial data continue to this day. The following are examples of some of these reviews.


The following are examples of projects I have been involved with using GIS. My GIS experience began with work on ArcInfo and remote sensing (aerial photography and digital imagery including Landsat and SPOT satellite work and research methods). This work progressed into Spatial Analyst work using IDRISI32 and ArcView GIS 3.2 Spatial Analyst systems to carry out most of my research. This work progressed to include experience working with ERDAS and several satellite imagery tools and extensions for ArcView/ArcGIS. Throughout this time, my experience has also included experience in the develop of shapefiles using both classical digitizing and screen-based digitizing tools. Since the mid-1990s, I have worked on the development of both the datasets and shapefiles needed for digitizing plant ecology and chemical features, using standard basemaps presentations and my design of an information storage mapping technique use to demonstrate the unique relationships that exist between the different levels of plant taxonomy and the way they are distributed spatially in a global and environmental sense.

My other GIS projects engaged in simply for the experience include the mapping of historical information extracted from 19th and early 20th century medical journals, the mapping of colonial/cultural medical anthropology patterns, and the development of new methods applicable to the analysis of the spatial relationships that exist within my research findings.


West Nile Surveillance: identification of primary location for a positive testing vector species (Culex pipiens-restuans) infecting local Corvus (crow)animal host populations.

The simplest way to do this is to just focus on the suspected vectors, which in this case are Ochlerotatus japonicus and three Culex species. To do this however requires that all captured mosquitoes be identified and either included or ruled out from your study. For this reason, it is best to document all species captured. More importantly, as the results of a later study suggest, interactions between different vector species also play a role in determining whether a region is statistically more likely to infect a local human resident. For the most part, NIH/CDC specialists’ recommendations are that all species be recorded and monitored, so perhaps this is a moot point. However, it helps to note that by monitoring all competitive species, we also develop a much broader understanding of mosquito species as a whole, so be it.

Landuse patterns and west nile disease, vector and host distribution behavior.


During the decade prior to the introduction of west nile into New York and the Hudson Valley, the most published disease ecology studies focused on lyme disease.  These studies reviewed the ecology of the ticks as vectors, mice and other small mammals that serve as tick hosts as vehicles or carriers, and the relationship of these to landuse patterns.  This focus on landuse patterns was performed due to a theoretical relationship felt to exist between vegetation and wild animal feeding patterns in relation to landuse type and vegetation features.   The existence of small open spaces frequented by humans and domestic animals (yards, clear cut hiking trails, parks, etc.) were found to be an areal requirement for tick-related lyme disease point patterns to be distributed across larger area settings (a Cornell Extension Service, Millbrook, NY study).  This combined remote sensing, landuse methodology of analysis was in turn related to a study of west nile spatial  diffusion patterns, based on the National Landuse Classification Database (NLCD) maps and data, in combination with a number of raster type images that could be correlated and overlain with the grid NLCD dataset and the ArcView and local GIS agency provided basemaps and datasets.   NLCD cell datasets were reclassified manually for better color fit patterns, and then used to display the Arcview point, arc and polygon shapefiles for further spatial evaluation.  The most successful sites tended to demonstrate a variety of spatial features and landuse cell types, and were re-classified into subsets based upon these data findings.


The distribution of species along 60 miles of estuarine shoreline and floodplain in middle-lower NY state: from riveredge to 1/2 mile inland. Determining possible impacts of saltwater/estuarine/brackish water vector species on West Nile diffusion along the Hudson River in lower NY: linear transect analysis of a 60 mile river edge.

Description.  This study was initiated due to a conversation I had with a visitor from the West Nile mosquito control team working the Staten Island area.  He commented on the brackish water habitats and thought this could result in a higher presence of their positive testing vector than expected.  Since we had never really found that species locally, and due to the estuarine nature of the local setting, with his assistance a number of traps sites were identified along the Hudson River shoreline with brackish swamp and non-swamp or marsh like conditions.  This enabled a comparison to be made for marsh/swamp versus non-marsh/swamp and shoreline proximity (distance of trap from shore as <50 feet versus >>50 feet) to be tested.  All shoreline trap sites failed to demonstrate any brackish water species.  Two major species were captured at all of the shoreline trap sites, usually without any other species when the sites had a microecology impacted greatly by estuarine water and its impact on immediate air quality (Ochlerotatus triseriatus ~ TRI >> Ochlerotatus trivittatis ~ TRV).  One species (TRI) was always double the count or more of the second species (TRV).  Neither of these water edge species were west nile carriers.

Application of ArcView and Avenue Extension add-ins to perform analyses of dead crow areal rates and the human and natural ecology of positive test results.

High Risk site analysis was performed based on crow vector analysis.  Crow behavior was show to be primarily determined by human population density.  Crows have a well defined series of migration routes they tended to follow into and through urban (topgraphy and ecology were indeterminable for these routes), with point-defined breeding/mating, food foraging, and social gathering sites.   Most positive testing species are found in these human ecological sites, with positive testing directly related to these sites due to the association of potential west nile vectors with human ecological features, not natural ecological features.  Following Voronov’s method for modeling enzootic and epizootic disease patterns published during the late 1960s to early 1980s (with initial input from Pavlovsky), Voronov’s method for disease ecological modeling was proven to be effective: i.e. west nile vectors require combined animal and human interactions for human based diseases to develop and for risk areas to be defined.  The more natural an ecological siting is, the less likely it is for west nile to become a part of the local ecology.  The more human based an ecological setting is, the more likely a region is to capable of harboring and maintaining a stable disease ecological state, capable of renewing this ecology the following year due to effective overwintering of infected female vectors.  Spatial Analyst buffer analysis was performed for the upper right image; kriging tool and moving window extensions were used for the lower two examples in the above analyses.

The distribution of species along creek and stream shorelines and floodplains from wateredge to 1/2 to 1 mile inland, applying simple linear transect analysis techniques.

Several attempts were taken to perform linear transect studies of a given ecological-topographic setting.  This kind of study focused on two major types of expected topographic effect on species distribution–effects of distance from water edge on species capture (x-y axis studies), and effects of elevation above local water level on species capture (x-y-z-axis studies).  A study of the Fishkill Flood Plain revealed a definite impact on both species counts and densities relative to distance from water edge across a fairly flat floodplain (measuring 1+ mile long for each shore of the creek, with one side fairly well defined by a roadway already established).  Other reviews of the creek edge along sections located closer to the Hudson River did not reveal any accessible, broad flood plain areas for duplicating this study.  The Wappingers Creek also lacked any comparable ecological setting of this size to study. 

[Above image] One section of the lower Fishkill Creek had a very well define ravine with an immediately adjacent small mountain ascent, with slopes of approximately 12 to 15% and 15-22% (a very steep, shale-slate cliff/protusions face step-like setting, with exceptionally large talus debris (3′ to 10′ diameter rocks).  This section was heavily wooded, with tree species and tree canopy differences noted relative to elevation above the creek bed.  This site was chosen due to its rich productivity at the original site evaluated and the ease of evaluating z-axis relative to x-y features along the flood plain and away from the creek edge.

[Above images] The second most important elevation (x-y-z-axis) site evaluated (for which DEMs were applied using IDRISI) was along the Wappinger Creek, and had a road traversing the research area.  The ecological zones evaluated were immediate river edge/gravel bed settings, passing along a flood plain tree setting ca. 50-200 feet wide on one shoreside, then passing through a back yard 100′ long, up a steep slope and alongside a house and driveway for another 150′, then across an unstriped road (15′ width), and up a steep forested and shrubby open hillside with mostly sumacs (30-40′), and then into a typical oak-forested high elevation region, now about 150-175′ above the creek surface, 20% slope, with rock outcroppings and a peak about 150-200′ further across the land surface.    This site was studied due to two dead crows that tested positive for west nile along the creek edge (they were suspected and found to be fly-ins).

Mosquito Ecology in a Dutchess County Protected  Species Habitat.  Study of a complex ecosystem for mosquitoes located in the mid-Hudson valley region of New York. The development of a site survey tool used to document trapsite plant ecology features and applied to all other local trapsites used for west nile studies.

The impact of light penetration through tree canopies on the microecology of vector trapsites and the documentation of swarming, mating and disease transmission behaviors by mosquitoes.

Trap sites work best under the right lighting conditions.  Shaded conditions are more likely to result in mosquito capture than well lit to very sunny sites.  This relationship between trap site lighting, trapping and species capture for the study region is poorly understood.  A method of quantifying the natural lighting at a trap site was developed using a quantum meter, a device used by gardeners to measure the amount of natural lighting that a planted species is exposed to in a particular setting.    Since a single measure was not always found to be repetitive for a single visit, a technique for making multiple light measurements was developed using a 3×3 grid and 5 or 6 point plus centroid circle method.   These two methods also included a measurement in which the meter was placed with its sensor in a horizontal direction for sites with particular dark ground settings.  This light measurement is called the ambient light measurement.  Light measurements were evaluated relative numbers of species captures obtained.  Based on this methodology, certain light ranges were defined as being highly productive for mosquito capture.  Interstingly, some species demonstrated an inverse relationship with amount of lighting at a particular site.

Note:  As of May 2013, I have a sister site for the NATIONAL POPULATION HEALTH GRID MAPPING PROJECT.  Though not as detailed as these pages, it is standalone that reads a lot easier and is easier to navigate.  LINK

Other Notes/Links


Applications of Transect and Grid methodologies to disease ecology surveillance systems: the disadvantages of point by point location theory directed spatial analyses.

Design of an algorithm and program used to produce a hexagonal grid array for the analyis of spatial information patterns. A modification of Cristaller’s methods used to portray and analyze urban settings.  [with downloadable spreadsheet with formulas]

Surface modeling of large areas with significant changes in elevation above sea level. Utilization of DEMs and vector-raster conversion formulas to produce a landsurface with elevation change representing elevation changes relate to local water surface with constantly changing zero elevation above watersurface rather than theoretical flat ocean surface with an assumed elevation of zero above sea level. 1997.


Lyme Disease Incidence in Oregon.

The Ecology of Lyme Disease in Oregon. Landuse patterns in relation to disease distribution.

The spatial distribution of borellia-infected host populations in relation to disease ecology and disease free areas. Chrysolitic geological settings were found to be absent of lyme disease in an area otherwise ecologically sound for disease distribution both north and south of this chrysolitic setting. The impact of topography and soil chemistry on plant and animal host/carrier behaviors suggested that inadequate host-ecology was a primary reason for lack of borrelia and lyme disease cases in an otherwise highly active disease ecology setting. Further support for this natural preventive mechanism is the presence of animal hosts naturally adapted to borellia-containing settings, leading to the discovery of an antibody active against borellia.


The use of GIS in selecting the best release sites for Lynx.




Changes in landuse patterns, 1976 to 1993.

A chronological analysis of waterbody surface temperatures in Michoacan Landsat images, 1976 to 1993.  Evidence for the development of a large industry resulting in thermal pollution and algal blooms in a landlocked lacustrian system.  1997.


A SAS-generated non-GIS developed mapping of diseases, semi-animated:

A very old rotating map 

(for you old time ESRI GIS users, this is an equivalent of the original ArcInfo period of post-286, Windows 95/97 era, with the video too big to store on a disk, and so reassembled from parts)

A Rotating Asiatic Cholera Map

(my how technology has changed! – –  this is a more contemporary example)