Jonathan Nelson is an assistant research professor of geography and associate director of the Center for Environmental Informatics at Penn State. Jonathan is a researcher and educator in geographic information science, specializing in cartography, geovisual analytics, and user-centered design with applications in environmental science, fitness and health, politics, socioeconomics, transportation, and urban planning. His work emphasizes the significant role of visual communication in making spatial data more accessible, legible, and valuable.
Jonathan holds a Ph.D. in geography with a minor in social data analytics from the Penn State. During his doctoral studies, he was awarded an NSF traineeship in Big Data Social Science where he both gained experience with, and brought a geographic perspective to, data privacy, human-computer interaction, machine learning, and social networks. His dissertation explored how to design maps and other visualizations constructed from personal movement data and intended to benefit the data creator be it directly or through the use of one's data for public planning or service provision. The body of work illuminated the ability of personal visualizations to facilitate improved memory and self-awareness, as well as help make our interactions in places better and more meaningful. However, the findings also reinforced the need for developing design guidelines for personal movement data interaction and visualization.
Just prior to re-joining Penn State as a faculty member, Jonathan served as a geographic information scientist at the Vermont Agency of Transportation’s Asset Management Bureau, where he led the data & information management unit and was responsible for researching, implementing, and evaluating novel approaches to making transportation asset data more accessible and actionable to internal stakeholders and the public. He served as a member of the technical advisory committee for state-funded transportation projects and as the state liaison for a collaborative project with the University of Vermont’s Artificial Intelligence Lab that employs computer vision and machine learning techniques to detect, classify, and geolocate roadside assets from right-of-way imagery. Jonathan has also been employed as cartographer for National Geographic Society and as a UX designer for Strava Metro, where he gained practical experience in effective map design, as well as in the implementation and evaluation of visually-based analysis tools that support practitioners and scientists in making sense of large amounts of movement data.