Peer-reviewed articles
    2019
    Automated extraction of built-up areas by fusing VIIRS nighttime lights and Landsat-8 dataRemote Sensing 11(13), 1571 [lead author: Chang Liu, with Kang Yang, Ziyan Guo, Liang Chang, and Manchun Li].
    Abstract
      As the world urbanizes and builds more infrastructure, the extraction of built-up areas using remote sensing is crucial for monitoring land cover changes and understanding urban environments. Previous studies have proposed a variety of methods for mapping regional and global built-up areas. However, most of these methods rely on manual selection of training samples and classification thresholds, leading to low extraction efficiency. Furthermore, thematic accuracy is limited by interference from other land cover types like bare land, which hinder accurate and timely extraction and monitoring of dynamic changes in built-up areas. This study proposes a new method to map built-up areas by combining VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite) nighttime lights (NTL) data and Landsat-8 multispectral imagery. First, an adaptive NTL threshold was established, vegetation and water masks were superimposed, and built-up training samples were automatically acquired. Second, the training samples were employed to perform supervised classification of Landsat-8 data before deriving the preliminary built-up areas. Third, VIIRS NTL data were used to obtain the built-up target areas, which were superimposed onto the built-up preliminary classification results to obtain the built-up area fine classification results. Four major metropolitan areas in Eurasia formed the study areas, and the high spatial resolution (20 m) built-up area product High Resolution Layer Imperviousness Degree (HRL IMD) 2015 served as the reference data. The results indicate that our method can accurately and automatically acquire built-up training samples and adaptive thresholds, allowing for accurate estimates of the spatial distribution of built-up areas. With an overall accuracy exceeding 94.7%, our method exceeded accuracy levels of the FROM-GLC and GUL built-up area products and the PII built-up index. The accuracy and efficiency of our proposed method have significant potential for global built-up area mapping and dynamic change monitoring.
     
    2019
    Indigenous perceptions of climate anomalies in Malaysian Borneo. Global Environmental Change 58(3-4), 340-377 [lead author: Terry van Gevelt, with H. Abok, S.D. Fam, F. George, N. Kulathuramaiyer, C.T. Low and T. Zaman].
    Abstract
      Local perceptions of climate anomalies influence adaptation behaviour. Specifically, perceptions that are more accurate and homogenous at the community-level are more likely to facilitate the collective action required to adapt to the local effects of climate anomalies experienced by many indigenous communities. We combine primary data on perceptions of climate anomalies from 200 individuals in six Penan villages in Sarawak, Malaysia with instrumental climate data. We find that perceptions of climate anomalies vary substantially in terms of occurrence and magnitude, and do not generally correlate with instrumental climate data. We operationalise the Penan forest sign language (Oroo’) as a measure of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and find only weak evidence of a systematic statistical association with perceptions of climate anomalies among our sampled respondents. Our findings suggest caution in advancing adaptation strategies in indigenous communities that are predominantly premised on TEK. Instead, our findings suggest that in designing adaptation measures, indigenous communities may benefit by engaging in forums where community members and external stakeholders can come together, share their perceptions and observations of climate change, and reach a collective consensus on the community-level effects of climate change and pathways towards adaptation.
     
    2019
    Chinese infrastructure diplomacy in Russia: The geopolitics of project type, location, and scale. Eurasian Geography and Economics 59(3-4), 340-377 [with Fanqi Jia].
    Abstract
      The Chinese government actively engages in infrastructure diplomacy, with the state financing and constructing capital goods multilaterally under the Belt and Road Initiative and bilaterally in countries like Russia. There, Chinese infrastructure diplomacy is making inroads, especially in Russia’s transportation and energy sectors. New bridges and pipelines will soon link the two countries across the Amur River border. While some scholars see infrastructure diplomacy as dependent on bilateral relations, we argue that the type, location and scale of a project also affect its implementation. By analyzing government documents and media reports, we consider Chinese infrastructure projects in Russia across two categories – energy and transportation – and two locations – cross-border and interior – to answer three questions. First, what distinguishes bilateral cooperation in transportation infrastructure from bilateral cooperation in energy infrastructure? Second, how does cooperation on cross-border projects differ from projects located wholly within the recipient country’s territory? Third, what is the significance of the imagined scale of a project for its realization? We conclude that energy projects in a country’s interior are more likely to succeed than cross-border transportation projects. This finding suggests Chinese efforts to enhance infrastructural and “people-to-people” ties in cross-border locations may prove problematic.
     
    2018
    From state-initiated to indigenous-driven infrastructure: The Inuvialuit and Canada’s first highway to the Arctic Ocean. World Development 109 (134-148).
    Abstract
      Between 2010 and 2050, the world’s combined road and rail network will grow an estimated 60%. National governments are building many of these roads, which are often perceived as disenfranchising Indigenous communities. Yet in the Canadian Arctic’s Mackenzie Delta, a joint venture between two Indigenous-owned construction and transportation companies built the first public highway in North America to the Arctic Ocean, which opened in November 2017. This research, based on qualitative fieldwork in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region where the highway was constructed, challenges ideas that roads are invariably top-down initiatives which negatively impact Indigenous peoples and their lands. Inuvialuit community leaders lobbied for this road project and succeeded in winning CAD $299 million in government funding to construct the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway. They leveraged opportunities afforded by land claims treaties and shifting geopolitics in the warming Arctic, which turned their region into a frontier of renewed national and global interest, to accumulate funding. Strategically, they discursively rescaled a road they sought to promote economic development and improve local mobility between two communities into a highway of national importance. This study thus extends work on tribal capitalism to explore the place-based dynamics of Indigenous political economies. It unpacks the scale-oriented strategies Indigenous peoples use to advocate for new roads and increased connectivity, finding that these discourses and practices can complement the state’s promotion of nation-building and market capitalism in frontier spaces. This research also suggests that more attention is required to the circumstances in which Indigenous peoples initiate or become partners in infrastructure development rather than examining only instances of resistance.
     
    2018
    Singapore: The ‘global city’ in a globalizing Arctic. Journal of Borderlands Studies 33(2), 289-310.
    Abstract
      Singapore’s Arctic interests are typically explained by its limited regional market and the government’s stakes in shipping, maritime infrastructure, and global governance. Yet the city-state’s polar pursuits also reflect the government’s strategy of crafting a global national identity in step with its expansion of overseas economic activities. In this article, based on reviews of government speeches, documents, and press releases, observations at Arctic development conferences, and expert interviews, I first describe three regional shifts in the Arctic that have made Singapore’s involvement possible: the globalization of the Arctic economy, a transition from national government to global governance, and the production of the Arctic region as an investment frontier. Second, I elucidate the export-oriented industrial drivers of Singapore’s Arctic interests. These have led to the economy’s deterritorialization, which state discourses projecting Singapore as a “Global City” support. Third, I analyze how these two transformations—the Arctic’s globalization and Singapore’s deterritorialization—have together created an opportunity for the Singaporean government to “jump scale” in Arctic cooperation, specifically by shedding light on its partnerships with indigenous peoples’ organizations. As climate change accelerates, the Singaporean government’s Arctic efforts suggest that it sees the increasingly maritime region as a new scalar fix for overseas investment that it is securing through unconventional partnerships while living up to its quest to view the world as its hinterland. Singapore’s involvement in the Arctic may globalize the region’s economy, but it may also deepen northern dependence on place-based sectors like natural resources and shipping.
     
    2017
    Using multitemporal night-time lights data to compare regional development in Russia and China, 1992–2012.International Journal of Remote Sensing 38(21), 5962-5991 (issue cover image) [with Laurence C. Smith].
    Abstract
      Multitemporal remotely sensed night-time lights data are often used as a proxy for population and economic growth, with China the most commonly researched area. Less is known about how lights respond to socioeconomic decline. Russia, a depopulating neighbour of China that experienced severe economic turmoil following the Soviet Union’s disintegration in 1991, provides a useful case study to investigate the relationships between lights, depopulation, and economic contraction at national and provincial scales. We use the U.S. Air Force Defence Meteorological Satellite Program-Operational Linescan System (DMSP-OLS) V4 annual stable lights composites to compare changes in lights in Russia and China from 1992 to 2012. These two countries share a history of communist planning but have experienced divergent development patterns since the collapse of communism in the early 1990s. At the national scale, the total amount of lights in Russia declined between 1992 and 2012, while China’s lights more than doubled. At the provincial scale, Russia exhibited an increase in inequality of lights per federal subject, while China’s provinces became more equal to one another, particularly as Western China caught up to the more developed East Coast. To understand what may have driven these changes in lights, relationships with population and gross domestic product (GDP) are examined from 2000 to 2012 using panel regression models. While changes in population and GDP explain 81% of change over time in lights within China’s provinces, they explain only 6% of change within Russia’s provinces. The strong relationships found between changes in lights, population, and GDP in rapidly growing, urbanizing China appear to break down in areas undergoing depopulation and economic contraction.
     
    2017
    Advances in using multitemporal night-time lights satellite imagery to detect, estimate, and monitor socioeconomic dynamics. Remote Sensing of Environment 192, 176-197 [with Laurence C. Smith].
    Abstract
      Since the late 1990s, remotely sensed night-time lights (NTL) satellite imagery has been shown to correlate with socioeconomic parameters including urbanization, economic activity, and population. More recent research demonstrates that multitemporal NTL data can serve as a reliable proxy for change over time in these variables whether they are increasing or decreasing. Time series analysis of NTL data is especially valuable for detecting, estimating, and monitoring socioeconomic dynamics in countries and subnational regions where reliable official statistics may be lacking. Until 2012, multitemporal NTL imagery came primarily from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program – Operational Linescan System (DMSP-OLS), for which digital imagery is available from 1992 to 2013. In October 2011, the launch of NASA/NOAA’s Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite, whose Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) sensor has a Day/Night Band (DNB) specifically designed for capturing radiance from the Earth at night, marked the start of a new era in NTL data collection and applications. In light of these advances, this paper reviews progress in using multitemporal DMSP-OLS and VIIRS imagery to analyze urbanization, economic, and population dynamics across a range of geographic scales. An overview of data corrections and processing for comparison of multitemporal NTL imagery is provided, followed by a meta-analysis and integrative synthesis of these studies. Figures are included that visualize the capabilities of DMSP-OLS and VIIRS to capture socioeconomic change in the post-Soviet Russian Far East and war-torn Syria, respectively. Finally, future directions for NTL research are suggested, particularly in the areas of determining the fundamental causes of observed light and in leveraging VIIRS’ superior sensitivity and spatial and radiometric resolution.
     
    2017
    The Silk Road goes north: Russia’s role within China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Area Development and Policy 1(3), 341-351. 
    Abstract
      Russia, the world’s largest country, forms a key part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Underfunded infrastructure and vast energy resources into which Western investment is now largely prohibited by US and European Union sanctions also make Russia a logical site for BRI projects. Two are currently under way: the Moscow–Kazan high-speed railway and the Yamal liquefied natural gas plant. These BRI endeavours build on recent Sino-Russia energy cooperation and a longer history of transportation infrastructure partnership in which China is now the investor. However, longstanding mutual suspicions that peaked during the Cold War may challenge implementation.
     
    2016
    Discursive, material, vertical, and extensive dimensions of post-Cold War Arctic resource extraction. Polar Geography 39(4), 258-283.
    Abstract
      This paper proposes an integrated framework for rethinking the Arctic resource frontier that involves consideration of its discursive, material, vertical, and extensive dimensions. Such a model enables more rigorous analysis of the drivers of Arctic natural resource extraction in the post-Cold War era than contemporary pronouncements about the region as pristine, unexploited, and newly opened by climate change. Indeed, despite five centuries of extraction, state and corporate discourses position the Arctic as on the brink of unprecedented development. Yet in fact, the development of the Arctic resource frontier represents a place-based, cumulative process that builds on previous rounds of degradation, extraction, and export of commodities ranging from furs to oil. The post-Cold War Arctic resource frontier is a globally networked space of extraction that exemplifies three characteristics of resource frontiers worldwide: existing histories of environmental degradation that legitimize further extraction, vertical intensification fueled by technological and spatio-legal innovations, and a growing array of lateral, fixed connections like pipelines and roads with cities that are increasingly concentrating capital and commodities. I argue that the Arctic’s concretizing links with the world’s urban core are possibly peripheralizing the region within the global economy by creating a path dependency towards deepened resource extraction.
     
    2016
    Torched earth: Dimensions of extraterritorial nationalism in the Chinese and Russian Olympic torch relays. Geoforum 74, 171-181.
    Abstract
      Spanning tens of thousands of kilometers around the world, the torch relays for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics and the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics were the two longest in history and arguably some of the most provocative. As spectacles designed by committees with close affiliations to the state in both China and Russia, the relays also constituted state-orchestrated extraterritorial displays of nationalism. This paper uses these events as case studies to theorize the role of spaces beyond a country’s borders in state performances and mobilization of nationalism. I first sketch out the evolving relationships between the state, space, and nationalism in Russia and China while paying close attention to how longstanding narratives of universal and civilizational nationalism in each country are unfolding in a globalizing, deterritorializing world. Then, I examine how the international legs of the Olympic torch relays provided opportunities for the Chinese and Russian states to expand the national geo-body significantly outside state borders in a variety of dimensions. The Beijing relay passed through cities important for the Chinese diaspora and trade routes while the Sochi relay traveled to the global commons of the North Pole and outer space. Both of these state displays of nationalism supported the extraterritorial expansion of a nation’s geo-body and socio-spatial consciousness, suggesting the creation of a more spatially unbounded national identity not necessarily linked to the contained territory over which the state exercises sovereignty. Graphical abstract
     
    2016
    Articulating the Arctic: Contrasting state and Inuit maps of the Canadian North. Polar Record 52(6): 630-644 [with Wilfred Greaves, Rudy Riedlsperger, and Alberic Botella].
    Abstract
      This paper compares four maps produced by the Canadian government and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the indigenous peoples’ organisation representing Inuit living in the four recognised Inuit regions (Inuit Nunangat) of Canada. Our analysis is based on publicly available maps, documents, and records and extends the rich existing literature examining the history of definitions of the Canadian north. Distinctly, our research aims to understand the different ways in which the Arctic has been articulated as a geographic, political, and social region during the Harper government (2006–2015) and the effects these articulations have had on northern policy and people. We find that the federal government maintained a flexible definition of the Canadian Arctic as a region when in pursuit of its own policy objectives. However, when it comes to incorporating areas outside the boundaries of Canada’s three federal territories, particularly communities along their southern fringes, those boundaries are inflexible. The people who live in these areas, which the state considers to be outside the Canadian Arctic, are marginalised within Arctic public policy in terms of access to federal funds, determination of land use, and a sense of social belonging to the Canadian Arctic. Our goal in this paper is to demonstrate that national-level disputes over what constitutes ‘the Arctic’ can significantly impact the day-to-day lives of people who live within and just outside the region, however it is conceived.
     
    2015
    How China sees the Arctic: Reading between extraregional and intraregional narratives. Geopolitics 20(3), 645-668.
    Abstract
      In May 2013, China gained observer status in the Arctic Council, exemplifying its growing legitimacy as a regional actor in the eyes of the eight countries with territory north of the Arctic Circle. Yet since China remains an extraregional state without territory in the Arctic, Chinese officials continue to bolster their state’s legitimacy as an Arctic stakeholder through two spatially inconsistent but mutually reinforcing grand regional narratives. On the one hand, Chinese officials recognize the salience of territory and presence in the Arctic, underscoring their country’s “near-Arctic” location and polar scientific expeditions. On the other hand, officials depict the Arctic as a maritime, global space where climate change has potential ramifications for the entire planet. Significantly, these reframings are affecting intraregional states’ perceptions of the Arctic, demonstrating how a region’s territorial extent, symbolic meaning, and institutional form emerge through the ongoing conversation between extraregional and intraregional narratives.
     
    2015
    The maritime tiger: Exploring South Korea’s interests and role in the Arctic. Strategic Analysis 38, 886-903.
    Abstract
      South Korea is not a traditional Arctic state, but it has several key interests in the region. This article explores the sources of those interests and the country’s commercial activities in the Arctic in the areas of shipping, shipbuilding and hydrocarbons. Since the country’s polar interests transcend commerce, however, attention is also paid to the importance of science and research and development in Korean culture. The article examines South Korea’s regional role in the Arctic, arguing that the country fits into an expanded area of Arctic destinational shipping centred on the Northern Sea Route. Arctic states have generally welcomed the country as a partner in the region, and South Korea’s rise in the north appears likely to continue as part of its broader effort to transform into a globally important political and economic actor.
     
    2014
    North by northeast: Towards an Asian-Arctic region. Eurasian Geography and Economics 55(1), 71-93.
    Abstract
      Though the Arctic Council accepted China, Japan, and South Korea as observers in May 2013, the multilateral organization’s permanent member states continue to treat them as non-Arctic outsiders due to their lack of territory north of the Arctic Circle. Applying geographic perspectives that consider the importance of territory and proximity on the one hand and relations and networks on the other, the author argues for a reconceptualization of the Arctic region extending beyond the Arctic Circle. After presenting an overview of the Arctic’s long-standing economic integration with disparate parts of the globe, the author examines the bilateral economic cooperation occurring between countries in Northeast Asia and the eight countries with territory north of the Arctic Circle. Special attention is paid to the ports, or gateways and pivots, linking resources in the North Pacific and wider Arctic region to destinations in Northeast Asia. Importantly, the shipping lanes of the Northern Sea Route and the North Pacific Great Circle Route are facilitating these commercial ties, especially as northern countries seek to export their liquefied natural gas to expanding markets in Northeast Asia. Finally, as political cooperation has not grown to match the intensifying economic cooperation between Northeast Asian and Arctic countries, the author considers present and future directions of regional governance within the Asian-Arctic region. Possibilities examined include more focused regional and mini-lateral structures along with mechanisms based less on territory and more on networks and relations, especially those concentrated in the North Pacific – Northeast Asia’s maritime entryway to the Arctic.
     
    2014
    Bounding nature in the Canadian and Russian Arctic. Arctic Yearbook 2013, 85-106.
    Abstract
      Today, conservation efforts of Arctic states reflect a state-based approach. This contrasts with international conservation efforts in the post-Cold War period, which were grounded in perceiving the region as a global commons. In this article, I examine the ways in which Canada and Russia use natural conservation areas as instruments to express sovereign rights. I compare Canada’s proposed Lancaster Sound National Marine Conservation Area at the eastern mouth of the Northwest Passage and Russia’s recently expanded Natural System (zapovednik) of Wrangel Island Reserve at the eastern entrance to the Northern Sea Route. These two case studies allow for an examination of the domestic politics of zoning, exclusion, and access alongside Arctic geopolitics and foreign policy discourse. Both parks are complex products of domestic and foreign policy, making them densely layered spaces of contested and contingent sovereignty. Moreover, Canada and Russia draw on regimes such as UNCLOS and UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee to defend their sovereignty in contested waterways. Whereas around the world, states have historically created national parks in areas without significant economic value, the conservation areas in and around Lancaster Sound and Wrangel Island lie in waters valuable for their geostrategic position and shipping potential. Yet importantly, the conservation areas are situated so as not to coincide with hydrocarbon interests. Ultimately, Russia and Canada’s establishment of these two conservation areas suggests ulterior motives of sovereignty and economic interests at work, suggesting that we should be carefully attuned to scrutinizing the intentions behind environmental measures taken in the Arctic.
     
Book chapters