Geography professor Daniel A. Griffith receives 2001 Guggenheim Fellowship
Geography professor Daniel A. Griffith receives 2001 Guggenheim FellowshipApril 28, 2001Cynthia J. Moritzcjmoritz@syr.edu
When Syracuse University geography professor Daniel A. Griffith decided, as a graduate student, to specialize in spatial statistics, only about half a dozen people in the world were doing that type of research. A few people tried to talk him out of focusing on such an obscure field. But he didn’t listen, and he’s glad. Griffith’s work in spatial statistics has won him many awards and citations–and most recently a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for 2001. “Scientific Visualization of Spatial Autocorrelation” is the name of Griffith’s Guggenheim project. Spatial autocorrelation looks at how similar items tend to cluster on a map, rather than being randomly distributed. For example, if there are 300 elm trees in a forest, they will tend to be clustered in a few areas rather than occurring at regular intervals throughout the forest. Griffith’s work develops ways to visually portray this clustering, especially on maps. Griffith was involved in a study of pediatric lead poisoning in Syracuse, in which his analysis of lead poisoning occurrences helped researchers to isolate possible environmental causes. It has also been used in studies of disease clusters, in which researchers want to know whether an environmental contaminant could be the cause. “One of the great things about Dan’s visual statistics research is how what seems at first sight to be pretty abstruse stuff turns out to really help in unraveling serious problems, for example exposure to lead poisoning in Syracuse,” says geography department chair John Western. “Dan’s been working on this for years, and may well be about to land a very big grant to continue for another five years. If he helps us pinpoint where the problems are, we can more efficiently pinpoint where to apply the remedies, thus improving the health of countless people.” Griffith says the Guggenheim is awarded most often to mid-career professionals who have some accomplishments to show. Applicants must propose a project and obtain four endorsements from well-respected people. Two geographers, a biologist and an economist endorsed Griffith. “I was quite pleased about the people who agreed to write on my behalf,” he says. He is the fourth member of SU’s geography department to win a Guggenheim. The others were Donald Meinig, Mark Monmonier and David Robinson. The income from the award will allow Griffith to take some time off from teaching to research the project and write a book, for which he already has a contract.
Griffith has taught in The Maxwell School since 1988. He also teaches in the University’s interdisciplinary statistics program. He was chair of the geography department from 1995 to 1997 and has been director of the statistics program twice, in 1991-92 and 1993-95. He is also an adjunct instructor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Before coming to SU, Griffith was a faculty member at SUNY Buffalo from 1978 to 1988 and at Ryerson Polytechnical University in Toronto from 1975 to 1978. Griffith received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a master’s degree in geography from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1970 and 1972, respectively. He earned a master’s degree in statistics from Pennsylvania State University in 1985 and a doctorate in geography from the University of Toronto in 1978. The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation was established in 1925 by U.S. Sen. Simon Guggenheim and his wife as a memorial to a son who died in 1922. The foundation awards fellowships to further the development of scholars and artists (except those in the visual arts) by assisting them to engage in research or creation. In 2001, the Foundation awarded 183 U.S. and Canadian fellowships for a total of $6,588,000 (an average grant of $36,000). There were 2,728 applicants.