Steven M Manson

Steven Manson is a professor in the Department of Geography, Environment, and Society at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Programs for the College of Liberal Arts. He also directs the Human-Environment Geographic Information Science lab. Dr. Manson combines environmental research, social science, and geographic information science to understand complex human-environment systems. He teaches in the areas of geographic information science and spatial analysis of human-environment systems. He is a Resident Fellow at the Institute on the Environment and Scholar of the College for the university's College of Liberal Arts. He is a past NASA New Investigator in Earth-Sun System Science and NASA Earth System Science Fellow. He received the Young Scholar Award from the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science, the Sustainability Science Award from the Ecological Society of America, and a University of Minnesota McKnight Land Grant Professorship.

Educational Background & Specialties

Educational Background

  • Ph.D.: Geography, Clark University, Worcester, MA, 2002.
  • B.A. Honours: Geography, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, 1995.

Curriculum Vitae


  • geographic information science
  • spatial analysis
  • biocomplexity
  • environmental science
  • global change
  • land use/cover change
Courses Taught
  • Geog 1502: Mapping Our World
  • Geog 3561/5561: Principles of Geographic Information Systems
  • Geog 5563: Advanced GIS
  • Geog 5565: Geographical Analysis of Human-Environment Systems
  • Geog 8292: Spatial Analysis and Modeling
Research & Professional Activities

Professional Activities

  • Association of American Geographers:
  • American Society for Photogrammetry & Remote Sensing:


  • Cyberinfrastructure and Big Data: Scholars interested in a wide array of social, natural, and human-environment questions face a dearth of detailed, multidecadal, global-scale data. In response to these data needs, colleagues and I have conduct cyberinfrastructure for ‘gold standard’ research data on population, socioeconomics, health, and environment. Scientists increasingly use 'big data', or very large data sets and attendant analysis approaches, to understand an enormous array of phenomena, ranging from social networks on the internet to large scale deforestation. I help direct several large projects, including the National Historical Geographic Information System (NHGIS), the largest publicly-accessible population database in the world; Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) the world's largest individual-level population database; and IPUMS Terra, which is among the largest curated and integrated global data sets for combined human-environment data.
  • Complex human-environment systems: ransformation of the earth's social and ecological systems is occurring at a rate and magnitude unparalleled in human experience. Many attendant challenges, such as feeding growing populations or dealing with global environmental change, are manifestations of complex human-environment systems. Complex systems theory argues that some complicated systems like economies are best understood as emerging ‘bottom up’ from local interactions among constituent entities such as firms or households. I advance knowledge in a variety of research areas, including interactions among agriculture, population, and institutions; and urban issues including disease, environmental, and residential mobility. The Ecological Society of America recognized this cholarship with the Sustainability Science Award for 'outstanding contributions to sustainability science.
  • Spatial Science: Spatial science examines spatial phenomena, processes, and patterns through technologies such as computer mapping and mathematical modeling. Spatial computing brings together data from an array of sensors, ranging from GPS units in mobile phones to satellite-based cameras, on a range of human and environmental systems. I have published extensively in this area and have a particular interest in spatial big data and in methods arising from the complexity sciences, such as agent-based models and cellular automata. IonE has an overview on spatial thinking and environmental challenges.
  • Manson S.M., and M. Kernik (2018). Human–Environment Interactions and Scalable Remote Sensing. In S. Liang (ed), Comprehensive Remote Sensing, vol. 9, pp.4–16. Oxford: Elsevier. DOI: 0.1016/B978-0-12-409548-9.10413.
  • Manson, S. M. (ed.) (2017). Mapping, Society, and Technology. Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing. URL:
  • Manson, S. M., T. A. Kugler, and D. A. Haynes II (2017). Deserts in the Deluge: IPUMS-Terra and the Spatial Demography of Big Data. European Regional Science Association Congress 2017
  • Manson, S. M., M. Kernik, D. Bonsal, L. Matson, E. Deluca, A. Srinivasamohan, and S. Strosberg (2017). Web Mapping Tools and Pedagogical Material to Support Spatial Thinking. In Innovative Learning and Teaching: Experiments Across the Disciplines. I. D. Alexander and R. K. Poch (eds). Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing, pp. 124-136.
  • Manson S.M., and M. Kernik (2018). Human–Environment Interactions and Scalable Remote Sensing. In S. Liang (ed), Comprehensive Remote Sensing, vol. 9, pp.4–16. Oxford: Elsevier.
  • Manson, S. M., Nelson, K. C., N. Jordan, R. F. Brummel* (2016). Effect of social networks on adoption of multifunctional agriculture. Environmental Modeling and Software 75: 388-401.
  • O'Sullivan, D. and S. M. Manson (2015). Do Physicists Have ‘Geography Envy’? And What Can Geographers Learn From It? Annals of the Association of American Geographers 105 (4): 704-722.
  • Kugler, T. A., D. Van Riper, S. M. Manson, D. A. Haynes II, J. Donato, and K. Stinebaugh (2015). Terra Populus: Workflows for Integrating and Harmonizing Geospatial Population and Environmental Data. Journal of Map and Geography Libraries 11(2): 180-206.
  • Manson, S. M., J. Shannon, S. Eria, L. Kne, K. R. Dyke, S. Nelson, L. Batra, D. Bonsal, M. Kernik, J. L. Immich, and L. Matson (2014). Resource needs and pedagogical value of web mapping for spatial thinking. Journal of Geography 113 (3): 107-117.
  • Berland, A. and S. M. Manson (2013). Patterns in residential urban forest structure along a synthetic urbanization gradient. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 103 (4): 749-763.
  • Manson, S. M. (2013). Public Cyber-Infrastructure for Spatial Analysis. Latin American Studies Association Forum 44 (1): 6-8.
  • Manson, S. M., L. Kne, K. Dyke, J. Shannon, and S. Eria (2012). Using eye tracking and mouse metrics to test usability of web mapping navigation. Cartography and Geographic Information Science 39 (1): 48-60.
  • Sun, S. and S. M. Manson (2012). Intraurban Migration, Neighborhoods and City Structure. Urban Geography 33 (7):1008-1029.
  • Nelson, E., H. Sander, P. Hawthorne, M. Conte, S. M. Manson, S. Polasky (2010). Projecting global land use change and its effect on ecosystem service provision and biodiversity with simple techniques. PLOS ONE 5 (12) e14327.
  • Manson, S. M., H.A. Sander, D. Ghosh, J. M. Oakes, M. W. Orfield, W. J. Craig, T. F. Luce, E. Myott, S. Sun (2009). Parcel data for research and policy. Geography Compass 3 (2): 698-726.
  • Manson, S. M. (2008). Does scale exist? An epistemological scale continuum for complex human-environment systems. Geoforum 39 (2): 776-788.
  • Manson, S. M. and T. Evans (2007). Agent-based modeling of deforestation in southern Yucatán, Mexico, and reforestation in the Midwest United States. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104 (52): 20678-20683.
  • Manson, S. M. (2007). Challenges in evaluating models of geographic complexity. Environment and Planning B 34(2): 245-260.
  • Manson, S. M. (2007). Challenges in evaluating models of geographic complexity. Environment and Planning B 34(2): 245-260.
  • Manson, S. M. (2006). Land use in the Southern Yucatan Peninsular Region of Mexico: scenarios of population and institutional change. Computers, Environment, and Urban Systems 30(3): 230-253.
  • Manson, S. M. (2006). Bounded rationality in agent-based models: experiments with evolutionary programs. International Journal of Geographic Information Science 20 (9): 991-1012.
  • Manson, S.M. (2005). Agent-based modeling and genetic programming for modeling land change in the Southern Yucatan Peninsular Region of Mexico. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 111 (1): 47-62.
  • Manson, S. M., S. J. Ratick and A. R. Solow (2002). Decision making and uncertainty: Bayesian analysis of potential flood heights. Geographical Analysis 34 (2): 112-129.
  • Manson, S. M. (2001). Simplifying complexity: a review of complexity theory. Geoforum 32 (3): 405-414. DOI:
  • Scholar of the College, College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota, 2016 - 2019
  • Gustafson Award, Census State Data Center Network, 2017
  • Resident Fellow, Institute on the Environment , 2009 - 2012
  • Sustainability Science Award, Ecological Society of America , 2009
  • New Investigator in Earth-Sun System Science, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 2006 - 2009
  • McKnight Land-Grant Professor, University of Minnesota, 2006 - 2008
  • Young Scholar Award, University Consortium for Geographic Information Science, 2005