Jonathan K. Nelson, Ph.D.
Assistant Research Professor / Director of the Center for Environmental Informatics

I am an educator and researcher in Geographic Information Science, passionate about leveraging maps and human-centered design to make spatial data more accessible, legible, and valuable.

Jonathan Nelson

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Jonathan Nelson is an assistant research professor of Geography and Director of the Center for Environmental Informatics at Penn State. Jonathan is an educator and researcher in geographic information science, specializing in cartography, geovisual analytics, and user-centered design with applications in environmental science, fitness and health, politics, socioeconomics, transportation, and urban planning. His work emphasizes the significant role of visual communication in making spatial data more accessible, legible, and valuable. Jonathan is the author and instructor of GEOG 580: Geovisual Analytics and instructor of GEOG 486: Cartography and Visualization.

Jonathan holds a PhD in geography from Penn State. During his doctoral studies, he was awarded an NSF traineeship in Big Data Social Science, where he both gained experience with, and brought a geographic perspective to, data privacy, human-computer interaction, machine learning, and social networks. Just prior to re-joining Penn State as a faculty member, Jonathan served as a geographic information scientist at the Vermont Agency of Transportation’s Asset Management Bureau, where he led the data & information management unit in developing novel approaches to making transportation asset data more accessible and actionable to internal stakeholders and the public. Jonathan has also been employed as a cartographer for National Geographic Society and UX designer for Strava Metro, where he gained practical experience in effective map design and in the implementation and evaluation of interactive, visually-based analysis tools that support practitioners and scientists in making sense of large amounts of movement data.