Karen C. Seto, newly appointed as the Frederick C. Hixon Professor of Geography and Urbanization Science, focuses her research on the human transformation of land and the links between urbanization, global change, and sustainability.
Seto’s central research focus is how urbanization will affect the planet. A geographer by training, she integrates remote sensing, field interviews, and modeling methods to study urbanization and land change, forecast urban growth, and examine the environmental consequences of urban expansion. She is an expert in satellite remote sensing analysis and has pioneered methods to reconstruct historical land-use and to develop empirical models to explain and forecast the expansion of urban areas. Seto is a specialist in contemporary urbanization in China and India, where she has conducted research for over 20 and 10 years, respectively.
A graduate of the University of California-Santa Barbara, Seto earned an M.A. and Ph.D. from Boston University. She served as assistant professor of earth sciences at Stanford University before joining the Yale faculty in 2008 as an associate professor at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. In 2013, she was named a full professor of geography and urbanization science.
Seto co-founded and co-chaired the global research project Urbanization and Global Environmental Change from 2006 to 2016. She was a coordinating lead author for Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report and led the chapter on urban mitigation of climate change. She has served on numerous U.S. National Research Council committees, including the Committee to Advise the U.S. Global Change Research Program and the recent Committee on Pathways to Urban Sustainability.
The Yale professor is the executive producer of “10,000 Shovels: Rapid Urban Growth in China,” a documentary film that integrates satellite imagery, historical photographs, and contemporary film footage to highlight the urban changes occurring in China.
Seto is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences. She has received a NASA New Investigator Program Award, a National Science Foundation Career Award, and a National Geographic Research grant.