Karen Seto studies the human transformation of land and the links between urbanization, global change, and sustainability. A geographer by training, her research focuses on four themes: 1) Characterizing urban land-use dynamics; 2) Understanding the process of urbanization; 3) Examining the environmental consequences of land-use change and urban expansion; and 4) Forecasting urban growth. She is an expert in remote sensing analysis and integrating satellite data with social science research methods. Her research uses a combination of satellite remote sensing, socioeconomic and biophysical data, in-person field interviews, and a range of statistical and computational models to examine the patterns and processes of urban land-use change. She has pioneered methods to reconstruct historical land-use and to develop empirical models to explain and forecast urban expansion. Professor Seto is an established leader in the area of urbanization and global environmental change. Her geographic expertise is in Asia, especially China and India. She has also worked in Vietnam, Qatar, and the U.S.
Professor Seto is Co-Chair of the Urbanization and Global Environmental Change Project (UGEC) of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP), and a Coordinating Lead Author for Working Group III of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. She also serves on the National Research Council Committee to the Advise the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), the National Research Council Geographical Sciences Committee, the National Research Council Committee on Needs and Research Requirements for Land-Change Modeling, and the U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Steering Group. From 2002 to 2008, she was the Global Thematic Leader for Ecosystem Management Tools for the Commission on Ecosystem Management of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). She is the Executive Producer of “10,000 Shovels: Rapid Urban Growth in China,” a documentary film that integrates satellite imagery, historical photographs, and contemporary film footage to highlight the urban changes occurring in China. Professor Seto is an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow and recipient of a NASA New Investigator Program Award, a NSF Career Award, and a National Geographic Research Grant.