Faculty Biography

Dr. Pontius

Robert Gilmore Pontius Jr, Ph.D.

Graduate School of Geography
Clark University
Worcester, MA 01610-1477

Email: rpontius@clarku.edu
Phone: (508) 793-7761
Office: Room 209, Jefferson Academic Center

Professional Website
Human-Environment Regional Observatory
Member, George Perkins Marsh Institute

I am an environmental statistician who creates new quantitative methods for Land Change Science and Geographic Information Science (GIS), thus I incorporate my methods into Clark’s GIS software Idrisi. These methods help investigators to analyze Coupled Human and Natural Systems. For example, in the Plum Island Ecosystems of Massachusetts, I examine why humans fertilize & water their lawns, and how this influences watering bans and river pollution. In Puerto Rico, I examine why humans transform the surface of the land, and how this influences flooding and biodiversity in San Juan. Many investigators use my methods for carbon offset projects to manage greenhouse gas emissions from tropical forests. The National Science Foundation (NSF) funds most of my research, through the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program, the Urban Long Term Research Areas (ULTRA) program, and the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. I incorporate my Doctoral, Masters, and Bachelors students into my research, especially through Clark’s Human-Environment Research Observatory (HERO). Graduate students are the engines of these activities, and the Graduate School of Geography is constantly seeking applications from potential doctoral students, especially in the area of Geographic Information Science.

My specific scholarly products are widely applicable mathematical methods to compare maps. Practitioners have adopted these methods for a variety of applications, many of which concern accuracy assessment. For example, in remote sensing, scientists use my methods to compare a map of ground information versus a map derived from an airborne sensor. In simulation modeling, scientists use my methods to compare a "truth" map versus simulation maps. In land change science, scientists use my methods to compare maps of land cover categories over time in order to characterize processes of land transformation. These methods of map comparison are crucial because such maps form the foundation of multimillion-dollar decisions. As one example, maps of simulated deforestation are the basis for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) projects, which aim to manage the global carbon cycle while protecting ecosystems.

My experience as chair of Clark’s Task Force on Undergraduate Education has served to inspire several aspects of my teaching pedagogy. I design all of my classes: 1) to engage in meaningful real-world activities that produce tangible products, 2) to link the concepts in class to experiences outside of class, 3) to encourage students to learn from each other, 4) to inspire ambition by beginning projects that students can continue beyond the duration of the course, and 5) to develop practical professional skills such as public speaking and expressing quantitative information graphically.

Courses Offered

GEOG 110/311: Intro to Quantitative Methods
GEOG 247/347: Intermediate Quantitative Methods
GEOG 260/360: GIS & Land Change Models
GEOG 279/379: GIS & Map Comparison

Selected Publications

Pontius, R. G.,Jr. (2022). Categorical variable versus categorical variable doi:10.1007/978-3-030-70765-1_4 Retrieved from www.scopus.com

Pontius, R. G.,Jr. (2022). Binary variable versus binary variable doi:10.1007/978-3-030-70765-1_1 Retrieved from www.scopus.com

Pontius, R. G.,Jr. (2022). Interval variable versus interval variable doi:10.1007/978-3-030-70765-1_8 Retrieved from www.scopus.com