Geospatial expertise has change into an integral a part of our on a regular basis lives. It helps us map our route, warns us when the air high quality in our space is unhealthy, and even tracks our location once we are taking part in on our good telephones. However scientists consider that geographic info methods can do rather more, notably when expanded from the private to the inhabitants degree.
“We hope to discover how geospatial applied sciences may be added to the toolbox of methodologies used to gather environmental exposures, and in the end how that information may very well be seamlessly built-in into giant human inhabitants research,” stated NIEHS and Nationwide Toxicology Program Director Rick Woychik, Ph.D., at the beginning of the institute-sponsored workshop June 15-16.
The 2-day digital occasion drew greater than 400 members from across the globe and quite a lot of backgrounds, together with epidemiology, publicity science, geospatial evaluation, genetics and genomics, and information science.
“That variety aligns very nicely with the objectives of the workshop, that are to foster interdisciplinary interactions and collaborations, promote the mixing of geospatial applied sciences in public well being research, and advance our understanding of human well being and illness,” stated Yuxia Cui, Ph.D., NIEHS program officer and co-chair of the workshop planning committee.
Eyes within the sky
In recent times, satellite tv for pc distant sensing information has change into a robust instrument to measure the publicity of whole populations to varied environmental danger elements resembling air air pollution. NIEHS grantee Yang Liu, Ph.D., from Emory College, supplied an summary of rising satellite tv for pc devices, their information merchandise, and potential purposes in environmental well being analysis.
“These satellite tv for pc devices generate terabytes of knowledge every single day that can be utilized for inhabitants well being research,” stated Liu.
Different audio system defined how they’re gathering information nearer to earth on environmental exposures. Alison Motsinger-Reif, Ph.D., chief of the NIEHS Biostatistics and Computational Biology Department, described early outcomes from the Personalised Setting and Genes Research (PEGS), which has collected well being, household historical past, environmental exposures, and way of life information on greater than 19,000 members (see sidebar for different giant inhabitants well being research).
Motsinger-Reif defined how one of many first research to come back out of PEGS confirmed that the danger of immune-mediated ailments resembling seasonal allergic reactions elevated with proximity to caged animal feeding operations (CAFOs), an necessary environmental publicity in North Carolina.
“The CAFOS instance is the tip of the iceberg of the kinds of information that we’re integrating,” she stated. Motsinger-Reif added that such integration requires an open dialogue between information scientists and human geneticists resembling herself.
“There are roadmaps of how we’re going to fight most cancers, neurodegeneration, Alzheimer’s, and so forth, however do now we have a roadmap for atmosphere and the adjustments we want [to improve human health]?” requested Roel Vermeulen, Ph.D., of Utrecht College in The Netherlands at a panel session on subsequent steps.
David Balshaw, Ph.D., chief of the NIEHS Publicity, Response, and Expertise Department, emphasised the worth of bringing folks collectively and figuring out a standard aim to work towards.
“Generally it is sufficient simply to listen to one another converse and find out how one another thinks; that course of itself strikes science ahead,” he stated. “At that degree, the workshop has been vastly profitable. However I additionally assume that there have been numerous very tangible issues that now we have heard that we as a group can take into consideration.”
These points embrace the necessity for worldwide collaboration among the many publicity science group and efforts to prioritize options to longstanding issues within the subject.
(Marla Broadfoot, Ph.D., is a contract author for the NIEHS Workplace of Communications and Public Liaison.)