Justine Blanford


It is an exciting time to be in the field of GIS! Technologies have evolved making the collection and analysis of spatial data much easier. Although there has been an explosion in the availability of geospatial data, asking pertinent questions and sifting through streams of data making sense of the world in which we live remains a challenge.

I use GIS and spatial analysis methods to address applied research questions to a wide variety of topics that take into consideration social/behavioural and environmental factors and range from host-parasite interactions, vector-borne diseases, animal/human mobility, food, to sports analysis.  

Much of my work concerns issues related to human health either indirectly through examining threats to food supply (via crop pests and crop diseases) or more directly via disease, mobility and health care accessibility. I use GIS to understand the ecology of disease and connectivity between locations using novel data sources and technologies. These have included looking at movement patterns in data-poor regions, in relation to vaccination needs, by identifying key travel routes; accessibility to healthcare; identifying disease epicenters and mapping people’s activity space at a national and international level.

The fun part of using GIS is that it can be used in all disciplines to view where something is, explore patterns and relationships, model different outcomes and develop hypothesis. To do so may require the use of large datasets, data-driven and/or theoretical approaches.

In my research I use GIS (and spatial analysis) to better understand

  • The mechanisms influencing patterns across space and time.
  • At what scale should we map and model different phenomena.
  • What new data sources and technologies are useful and
  • How can we effectively integrate these into the decision-making processes?

Some current projects I am involved in are:

Twitter data: Using Twitter data to understand mobility, perception and cyberbullying

Food Environments: understanding food environments and the role of availability vs accessibility of different food store types.

Vector-borne diseases: these include vectors that transmit malaria, dengue, zika, WNV and Lyme disease.

Research Interests

  • GIS
  • mobility
  • novel data source
  • novel technologies
  • spatial analysis
  • spatial and temporal ecology
  • health & disease
  • on-line education


  • Ph.D., Imperial College, UK


In progress

Mapuana O'Sullivan (MGIS in progress) Optimizing management practices in Kauai’s natural area reserve systems: development of a database and offline system.

Thomas Whitfield (MGIS in progress) Food Deserts in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota: Refining Healthy Food Access through Demographic Analysis and Spatial Weighting of Food Store Locations.

Steve Gilbert (MGIS in progress) Analyzing the impact of climate change on drought in Jordan.

David Siders (MGIS in progress) Profiling Zika impact on urban communities in the Caribbean U.S. Territories to identify risk and impact to U.S. Cities

Angela Chang (MGIS in progress) Using GIS to Measure the Impact of Development on Urban Green Spaces in DC.  

Nouman Hussain (MGIS in progress) Where to place refugee camps? Suitable sites in Turkey for Syrian Refugees.


Patrick Didier (MGIS '16) Analysis of Airborne Snow Survey Sample Size: An investigation of sampling efficiency using historical data.

Mark Brady (MGIS '16) Identifying spatially dynamic variables affecting the distribution of West Nile Virus in Pennsylvania.

Sherry Roth (MGIS '16) Geovisualizing Collections of Penn State University Libraries:a geographical and statistical perspective of use, age, and relevancy.

Nathan Teigland (MGIS '15) Finding Balance: Estimating rebalancing events using bikeshare trip data.

Melody Ovard (MGIS '15) Oyster habitat mapping in the Chesapeake Bay with hydrographic acoustic data.   

Kimberly Struthers (MGIS '15) Conservation Strategy: Where it matters most. Integrating demographics, socio-economic lifestyles  and biodiversity.

Teri Vlasak (MGIS '15) Spatial and temporal analysis of rabid wild terrestrial animals along the Colorado Front Range.

Rosemary Alles (MGIS '15) Exploring Open Source Geospatial technologies in the context of monitoring and analyzing the behavior of highly vulnerable migratory species: Boundless Geo and African elephants as a case study.

Ryan Warne (MGIS '15) Spatial analysis of pertussis outbreaks and herd immunity in the USA.

John Cirucci (MGIS '15) Retrospective GIS-based multiple criteria decision analysis: A case study of California waste transfer station siting decisions.

Lori Weingartner (MGIS '15) Rapid assessment of invasive plant species for establishing management priorities: progressive, strategic invasive plant management for resource managers.

Stephen Perrine (MGIS ‘14) International Food Imports: Identification of Vulnerabilities and Risks.

Kristina Kwiatkowski (MGIS ‘14) GIS analysis of commercial trucking movements from a Canadian perspective. 

Susan Swinson-Williams (MGIS ‘14) Lyme disease in Texas? Enhancing prevention through the identification of areas of risk. 

Jay Tompkins (MGIS ‘14) Social and spatial clustering of personal relationships: Understanding the impact of behavioural risks on sexually transmitted disease transmission.

Loren Pfau (MGIS '13). Sources and Uses of Geospatial Information in Wilderness Search and Rescue.

Mark Aurit (MGIS '12). Winter Strawberry Production in West Central Florida, at what cost?  A GIS Analysis of the relationship between groundwater pumping for frost-freeze protection and sinkhole development.

Linda Foster (MGIS '11). Improving Cadastre:  Development of a Workflow Prototype Utilizing ESRI’s Parcel Fabric.

Courses Taught

  • GEOG 586 (Geographic Information Analysis)
  • GEOG 583 (Geospatial Systems Design and Analysis)
  • GEOG 364 (Spatial Analysis)
  • GEOG 596A,B,C (Individual Studies)
  • GEOG 591 (GIS for Health Analysis)


  • Taber, E.D., Hutchinson, M.L., Smithwick, E.A.H. & Blanford, J.I. (in press) A Decade of Colonization: The spread of the Asian Tiger Mosquito in Pennsylvania and implications for disease risk. Journal of Vector Ecology.
  • Logan, J.J., Jolly, A.M., Blanford, J.I. (2016) The Sociospatial Network: Risk and the role of place in the transmission of infectious diseases. PlosOne 
  • Blanford, J.I., Huang, Z., Savelyev, A. and MacEachren, A.M. (2015) Geo-located tweets. Enhancing mobility maps and capturing cross-border movement. PlosOne  
  • Blanford, J.I., Bernhardt, J., Savelyev, A., Wong-Parodi, G., Carleton, A.M., Titley, D.W. and MacEachren, A.M. (2014) Tweeting and Tornadoes. Presented at 11th International ISCRAM Conference Proceedings, May 19-21.
  • Glunt, K., Blanford, J.I., Paaijmans, K. (2013) Chemicals, climate and control: Increasing the effectiveness of malaria vector control tools by considering relevant temperatures. PloS Pathogens
  • Chen, S., Blanford, J.I., Hutchinson, M., Fleischer, S., Saunders, M., Thomas, M.B. (2013) Estimating West Nile Virus transmission potential in Pennsylvania using an optimized degree-day model. Vector-borne and Zoonotic Disease.
  • Paaijmans, K.P., Heinig, R.L., Seliga, R.A., Blanford, J.I., Blanford, S., Murdock, C.C. & Thomas, M.B. (2013).  Temperature variation makes ectotherms more sensitive to climate change.  Global Change Biology.
  • Blanford, J.I., Blanford, S., Paaijmans, K., Schreiber, K., Crane, R., Mann, M., Thomas, M.B.  (2013) Implications of temperature variation for malaria parasite development across Africa.  Scientific Reports.  
  • Blanford, J.I., Kumar, S., Wei, L. and MacEachren, A.M. (2012) It’s a long, long walk: accessibility to hospitals, maternity and integrated health centers in Niger. International Journal of Health Geographics
  • Tomaszewski, B., Blanford, J.I., Ross, K., Pezanowski, S. & MacEachren A.M. (2011) Supporting Geographically-aware Web Document Foraging and Sensemaking. Computers, Environment and Urban Systems.35:192-207.
  • Paaijmans, K.P., Blanford, S., Bell, A.S., Blanford, J.I., Read, A.F. & Thomas, M.B. (2010). Influence of climate on malaria transmission depends on daily temperature variation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107,15135–15139.
  • Klass, J.I.,  Blanford S., & Thomas M.B. (2007) Development of a model for evaluating the effects of environmental temperature and thermal behaviour on biological control of locusts and grasshoppers using pathogens Agricultural and Forest Entomology 9(3): 189-199. 
  • Klass, J.I., Blanford S., & Thomas M.B. (2007) Use of a geographic information system to explore spatial variation in pathogen virulence and the implications for biological control of locusts and grasshoppers. Agricultural and Forest Entomology 9(3): 201-208.