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Special Collection: Case Studies from the Spatial Sciences

Jennifer M. Bernstein and Karen Kemp, USC Dornsife Spatial Sciences Institute, USA

Spatial analysis has contributed to addressing environmental problems in a myriad of ways. Defining the spatial scope of an issue is a critical first step in most environmental research projects. Analyzing trends in how a phenomenon moves or changes through and across space makes every unit of analysis a case study. Findings from the field have helped decisionmakers prioritize funding, develop appropriate policy solutions, and demonstrate to the general public how humans impact the non-human world. Environmental problems inherently have spatial boundaries.

The case studies featured in this issue are connected in their use of spatial analysis techniques, awareness of pedagogical best practices, and commitment to spatial science as a tool for environmental problem solving. In selecting from the wide variety of contributions made by faculty and students within the Spatial Sciences Institute at USC, this issue emphasizes manuscripts that employed a case study to illustrate a wider phenomenon or principle rather than provide a technical template for mimicking an analysis technique. Each of these pieces demonstrates one method within the spatial sciences through which a researcher might approach a larger environmental issue.

Given the pressing nature of environmental problems and the need for interdisciplinary approaches, environmental problem-solving depends on the creative and exploratory combination of multiple methodologies. After delving into these case studies, readers will understand that spatial analysis is not necessarily a superior technique to qualitative approaches, but rather one tool in a wider toolkit enabling environmental problem solving.

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