Graduate Student Profiles
Adrienne Gruver graduated in August 2009 with a Master's Degree in Geography, having worked under Dr. Cynthia Brewer. Adrienne is now the lead instructor for Geography 486, Cartography and Visualization at the Dutton e-Education Institute. Her thesis looked at the use of geovisualization tools in epidemiology and public health. Through in-depth case studies with epidemiological researchers using a geovisualization application for data exploration and analysis, Adrienne's research provides examples of the utility of geovisualization for health-related research, and contributes evidence toward ways geovisualization can improve to meet epidemiological users' needs.
More about Adrienne's Thesis Research
In recent years the process of visually interacting with data has become increasingly important as a method for understanding the rich amounts of data collected. The geography of health and disease is a domain that has great potential to benefit from such interactive visualization. Geographical information systems (GIS) have already become a substantial visual tool to assist medical geographers, public health planners, epidemiologists, and others working with spatial distribution of health related data. Geovisualization builds on the utility of traditional GIS through a design meant to elicit data exploration from the user. Users can observe relationships not only across space but also examine relationships between multiple variables and over time. Geovisualization has proven to be useful for exploratory data analysis in epidemiology and public health, but it has yet to be adopted by epidemiologists and public health practitioners as a widely accepted method to explore or analyze epidemiological data. Facilitating adoption requires fitting the tool to the user and their tasks. This research is part of that larger goal to fit geovisualization tools to the needs of epidemiological analysts.
The primary goal of this thesis is to understand epidemiological data analysts with regard to their work processes, the exploratory spatial data analysis (ESDA) tasks they would employ in a geovisualization application, specifically the Exploratory Spatio-Temporal Analysis Toolkit (ESTAT), to aid their work processes, and the tools they would use to accomplish those tasks. Understanding this will support the creation of geovisualization tools for this domain that fit with user interest. It will also provide specific evidence for enhancements for the ESTAT application. Creating geovisualization applications that fit the user's interests will allow for the easier adoption of geovisualization as a method for exploring data. With this goal in mind, three research questions are addressed in this thesis:
- What tasks do experts in the domain of epidemiological research engage in when using a geovisualization tool?
- How do users approach accomplishing their tasks in a geovisualization environment?
- What additional tools, features or statistics would be useful to support deeper data exploration?