Carlos David Rivera, a current IHS student of the Infrastructure and Smart Cities Master track, shares his experience of the "GIS (Geographic Information System) Methods for Urban Research" course, and his research on socio-spatial segregation in San Francisco, California.
In January, the students had a 2-week course on GIS Methods for Urban Research. During this period, they learned how to conduct a spatial analysis using GIS tools, specifically QGIS.
"From this experience and previous experiences using GIS tools, I realised the importance of data for the urban practice to take evidence-based decisions that contribute to sustainable development in cities."
As part of the course, Carlos conducted a spatial analysis that explored the socio-spatial segregation of San Francisco, California, from the perspective of the three components of sustainability: Social, Environmental and Economic. For this, 18 indicators for each of the three components of sustainability were selected for analysis through data obtained from different open data portals and reports from institutions. The environmental component was divided into two sets of indicators to be analyzed: the natural environment and the built environment.
"The main goal was to see how the socio-spatial segregation in San Francisco is determined by these different factors and its impacts on the dynamics of the territory."
Different thematic maps and database fields were created using different tools such as geoprocessing tools (i.e., dissolve, intersection, union, buffer, etc.) and the field calculator in QGIS to calculate areas, densities, and populations. In addition, a literature review was conducted on the concepts of sustainability, resilience, and socio-spatial segregation to see how these applied to the city of San Francisco.
As a result, a comprehensive yet relatively brief diagnosis to understand the spatial dynamics of San Francisco and their impact on vulnerable groups was obtained. Carlos believes that one of the most interesting aspects from the final report is that the most vulnerable groups in San Francisco, especially those from racial minorities and a lower income are at higher risk of floods and other hazards that come from climate change. In addition, these populations have been segregated mostly to the edges of the city, leaving central and better-connected areas to groups with higher incomes.
"After this experience, I am motivated to learn about GIS tools and use them in my professional and academic practice after finishing my master's in IHS."