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Capstone Project: Results

For those following my blog on my Data Analysis and Interpretation Specialization by Wesleyan University through Coursera, this is the final course and the Capstone project. Unlike previous courses, I will move away from urbanization data and try to tackle one of the problems provided by the course’s industry partner.

This is my introduction.

Below is our third assignment – the preliminary results.


Only the results for Burundi, Ethiopia, and Liberia will be reported, as the other countries demonstrated no change or very slight change in the ensure environmental sustainability index.

Descriptive Statistics:

The following table shows the descriptive statistics for the Ensure Environmental Sustainability Index for each of the selected countries, starting from the lowest GDP per capita group to the highest.

The standard deviations are much greater for the lowest GDP per capita group compared to the others. In three countries, Seychelles, Canada, and Ireland, no change in the value of the index was observed. It would appear that countries that reach a certain GDP per capita will have achieved a mean Ensure Environmental Sustainability Index value above 0.9 and demonstrate little change.


The following graphs are the Ensure Sustainability Index for Burundi, Ethiopia, and Liberia:







Bivariate and Lasso Regression Analysis:

Lasso Regression was performed on each of the country’s ensure environmental sustainability index and their predictors. As Seychelles, Canada, and Ireland had index values that did not change, there were no observed correlations.

Each country demonstrated a different set of predictors that correlated with the ensure environmental sustainability index. However, in the low GDP per capita group, all three countries showed very strong correlations between fertility rate and the ensure environmental sustainability index (as demonstrated by the following graphs). The fertility rate predictor all had correlation coefficients on twice the order of magnitude compared to the other predictors.


The follow table shows the correlation coefficients for the fertility rate predictor along with the mean squared errors for both the training and test data sets.


In all three countries, as the fertility rate lowered, the ensure environmental sustainability index value rose. This main predictor accounts for above 90% of the variance observed in the ensure environmental sustainability index. However, the mean squared errors differed between the test and training data sets. This suggests that the predicative accuracy of the model lowered when applied to the test data set.


GIS Specialization – GIS Data Formats, Design and Quality

On February 22, 2016, I started the GIS Specialization Course with UC Davis through Coursera. Today, I completed the second course, GIS Data Formats, Design and Quality, in the series.

For my second assignment, I was given parcel data and a raster containing elevation information on the town of Valmeyer. The entire town was moved to a location on a higher elevation in order to minimize flood risks. From the data, I calculated average distance from the new parcels to the old town. I also calculated slope and elevation for each of the new parcels (min, max, and mean values). This required the use of Spatial Analyst, which is a package that is new to me. Prior to this, I had not worked with raster data so it was a great learning experience.

After completing the calculations and adding them to the attribute data, I created and uploaded the features as shapefiles to create a publicly accessible web map on ArcGIS Online.

This is my map:


Honestly, I love cartography and spatial analysis. I look forward to continuing the specialization in May.

Capstone Project: Methods

For those following my blog on my Data Analysis and Interpretation Specialization by Wesleyan University through Coursera, this is the final course and the Capstone project. Unlike previous courses, I will move away from urbanization data and try to tackle one of the problems provided by the course’s industry partner.

This is my introduction.

Below is our second assignment – the data management and analysis methods.



Out of the 211 World Bank recognized sovereignties, 8 (N=8) were chosen for this study. Countries that has the Ensure Environmental Sustainability goal were selected: three countries with the lowest GDP per capita (Burundi, Ethiopia, Liberia), three countries with the highest GDP per capita (Canada, Ireland, United States), and two from the median (Estonia, Seychelles). In addition to identifying associations between variables and the four sustainability indicators, this selection was used to also investigate how variable relationships differ in countries with varying degrees of economic development.

Each country, depending on available data, has between 26 to 43 indicators for analysis with 36 years of data from 1972 to 2007. If a variable has missing data, the most recently recorded data is used. For example, for Burundi, the Achieve Universal Primary Education indicator has missing data for the years 1994 to 1999. The most recently recorded data from 2000 was used to fill in the missing records. In the case that an indicator is missing more than half its data, the indicator will not be used for analysis. This management of missing data can result in over-simplification of the trends and fluctuations of the indicator over the years, but this method is simple and effective without having to create a model to extrapolate for missing data.


The response variables in question are the Ensure Environmental Sustainability indicator (as an overall measure), Forest Area (% of total land area), Terrestrial and Marine Protect Areas (% of total territorial area), Terrestrial Protected Areas (% of total land area), Improved Sanitation Facilities (% of population with access), and Improved Water Source (% of rural and % of urban population with access). These are the indicators as defined by the Ensure Environmental Sustainability Goal.

The main predicators included Agricultural Land (% of land area), Fertility Rate (births per woman), Foreign Direct Investment (% of GDP), Household Final Consumption Expenditure per capita (constant 2005 US$), Population Growth (annual %), GDP per capita (constant 2005 US$), GDP per capita Growth (annual %), Industry Value Added (% of GDP), Urban Population (% of total population), and Adjust Savings: Net Forest Depletion (% of GNI). Due to the differences in data availability for each country, additional predicators may be included. All of these variables are quantitative.


For each predicator, their scatter plots were examined for trends over the years from 1972 to 2007. The Pearson correlation test was used for bivariate associations between the predictors and the response variables.

With such a large number of predictor variables, lasso regression with least angle regression algorithm was used to identify the subset of variables most correlated with each response variable. This analysis allows for the exclusion of variables that have regression variables reduced to zero at each step of the selection process and allows the identification of the predictors most strongly associated with the response variable. Each of the predictors were standardized to have a mean of zero (AVG = 0) and a standard deviation of one (SD = 1) prior to running the analysis. The lasso regression model was tested on a training set of a random sample of 70% of the total data and a test data set of the remaining 30%. The k-fold cross validation, specifying 10 folds, was performed. The regression coefficients identified the predictors used in the final model and how strongly each predictor associated with the response variables.

Multiple regression analysis was used to for an independent analysis of the predictor variables that were selected by the lasso regression analysis.

Bakersfield Site Analysis


In January 2016, I was given the opportunity by Mr. Frank Tripicchio to work on a site analysis project on a property in Bakersfield, CA. The objective was to create recommendations on best uses for the property through demographic and economic analysis. To help me with this report, I brought on Oliver Yang, who worked with PKF Hospitality Consulting.

The Project

The site is located on the Southwestern corner of the intersection between Highway 178 and Comanche Dr., about 5 miles away from downtown Bakersfield. It is an undeveloped, five-acre parcel with two residential communities in the immediate area. I conducted spatial analysis with data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the City of Bakersfield to visualize the current building and zoning conditions in the area as well as the demographic distributions. We assessed community needs by looking at current services, businesses, and retail in the area and found a gap in the supply. As the site is fairly remote, there is a lack of businesses servicing the area.

There are around 3000 residential rooftops in the surrounding 2 mile zone but a lack of strip malls or neighborhood services in the vicinity. Though there are more residential zones in the area, currently there is not much development occurring in the area.

The majority of the land, vacant or developed, within the vicinity is zoning for residential. This means that the project site is valuable, once developed, for providing general services to the communities in the area. Though there are other commercial lands available, they are mostly undeveloped. This provides the project site with a unique opportunity to seize the current market and develop as a community anchor.

To identify possible competition from other developments, we obtained information from LoopNet and the City of Bakersfield. We were able to located commercial properties in the area and the area’s future economic development projections. With this information we developed several recommendations on possible developments for the current property owner.


The Notes of My Life

Over and over I say to myself, I remind myself, I write myself. Into curves and straights, corners and turns without coming to an end because the past is never in sight and the present lingers for only a second. The future demands to be known with each stroke of the pen, it becomes present and is written into the past. The eternal struggle. Memories selected for harvest until a later date confirmed only when they are opened once again. That is not all, that is not all. There are those that remain in your mind but blanked out, slowly again by time.

I feel the need to explore the depths of the lost chambers that echo within dreams. I feel the need of a flashlight into the wells of dark water long bathed in the moonlight. A moonlight that shone since the morning I opened my eyes. 7:45 AM the clock once read and will read again. This is a cycle, unending till you realize you have gone away from something at the same time towards something. Can you open doors, can you close doors; Do you have that courage? I know not because I fear I know.

What you forget is what remains in plain sight. What you remember is what you hide. Perhaps. I leave through words and phrases, floating through long indecipherable because I no longer possession the dictionary to me, myself, and I. Until I stop and reach into my pocket and find a compass and some letters in disguise. I am surprised at their insignificance and the significance all at once, of what I kept or discarded. Those choices remain as a relic, etched in the fabric of a soul hidden in plain sight. Have you realized the folly of the world as you grasp its sands that slips through your fingers because you do not have water?

We all belong or un-belong to a kindness that only we can supply. We are all stars within our moonlight or another’s. Then again, what can I know for sure because I am not you or anyone. “We all belong to the same remainder” – how have I forgotten a gift. Words beautifully written, not by you, me, or anyone but inspired by the Mother of us. Move beyond the restrictions, oh I find this language so inadequate to convey or to capture the colors that I see.

I hear your cry, your tears, your smile, your laughter. I hear them all echoing in sync but I was unable to act. Paralysis by a malaise only I could have concocted with spells of unknowing. Unknowing because I have hidden. Unknowing because I left it in the open. Who is to say, what is granted now. A sudden thought, I again remember that night in a faraway land or was it nearby?

Capstone: Variables Associated With Environmental Sustainability – A United Nations Millennium Development Goal

For those following my blog since the start of my Data Analysis and Interpretation Specialization by Wesleyan University through Coursera, this is the final course and the Capstone project. Unlike previous courses, I will move away from urbanization data and try to tackle one of the problems provided by the course’s industry partner.

Below is our first assignment – the introduction to my final report.

Variables Associated with Environmental Sustainability

Using data provided by the World Bank, through DrivenData, this study looks to identify factors associated with the Environmental Sustainability Indicator defined as an United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG). Preliminary explanatory variables are Gross National Income, Forest Area, CO2 Emissions, Employment, Foreign Direct Investments, Household Final Consumption Expenditure, Adult Literacy Rate, Urban Population, Investments in Energy, and Energy Use. This mix of both economic and social factors will be examined for associations with the UN-MDG indicator of environmental sustainability. After the associated variables are identified, they will be used to create a model to predict data for the years 2008 and 2012.

As a social/urban scientist interested in analyzing and planning for better urban environments, I am always looking for data and analysis that can influence the development of urban environments that limit environmental impacts and maximize livability. I hope that through the understanding of the relationships between various social and economic variables and their effects on the environment, policy makers can create better policies and make informed decisions to positively benefit development and to improve the environmental conditions in countries around the world.

With better predicative models and better understanding of the relationships between the society, the economy, and the environment, organizations such as the World Bank and the United Nations can then target specific areas, for example investments in energy, to alleviate poverty and improve environmental conditions around the world.

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GIS Specialization – Fundamentals of GIS

On February 22, 2016, I started the GIS Specialization Course with UC Davis through Coursera. Today, I completed the first course in the series.

As I already have a couple years of GIS experience, the first course Fundamentals of GIS was more like a review of the basics. At the same time, I definitely learned new skills such as map package sharing and creating bookmarks.

To complete the first course, I needed to create a map for the final assignment. The original data is at the precinct level. I had to aggregate the voting data for Proposition 37 and total votes to the county level.

This is the map I created:


I must say, this process took longer than I expected. I am definitely a bit rusty with the map-making. My spatial analysis skills are also rusty. At first, I used a different geoprocessing tool. Instead of directly using a spatial join with the intersect method, I took the long way around using Intersect, Merge, and then Dissolve. However, this presented issues because the data became more duplicated than usual. Certain precincts were crossed by two or more counties, which creates duplicate data.

For my next skill, I need to learn how to avoid duplicating data and assigning/dividing the intersect data more appropriately. Hopefully, I will get to learn it in the next GIS course.

Short Post: Biology and Life

I have been looking for a steady job now for almost a year now and one of the questions I get asked the most is why? Why am I pursuing or want to pursue a career in such and such? People really want to know where you are coming from and what your vision of the future is.

Honestly, even though I know my answers, sometimes I have to look back to the beginning and ask myself why? Why am I now fascinated by the use of space in cities and urban environments? Why am I pursuing a career in understanding the urban?

Like most stories, there is a beginning. As a young child, I was always chasing after butterflies, digging up earthworms, and collecting fish. Their movements and their features fascinated me. Metamorphosis, the transformation from an ugly caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly, captivated my imagination and in many ways it is a metaphor for life.


Butterfly in the Amazon

I never though much of it until high school, where I met a wonderful biology teacher by the name of Mr. Adrian Price. Though we got off to a rocky start (I got thrown out of class on the first day), I ended up loving his class. His lectures were pinpoint and clear. His knowledge was extensive and his class notes were meticulous. I have yet to encounter another teacher with his degree of preparation. His biology classes rekindled my love for wildlife and its myriad forms. It was in this class where I learned just how much variety there is to life on Earth. This led to my Biology degree from Washington University in St. Louis and eventually a research assistant position in the Amazon Rainforest.


Just another day at the research station

Even though it was a short two months, it was a life-changing experience for me. Being able to see the sheer amount of diversity, the incredible forms of life changed me. Like most millennials, I always cared about the environment, but I don’t think people really understand what life on Earth means. Most of us never had the chance to experience the wonders of life besides in zoos. Yet, zoos are incredibly sterile and are such poor representations. Life, true life, is not clean or tidy. Life is extremely dirty and extremely messy. That’s what gives rise to its diversity and its beauty.


My encounter with a wild Jaguar

It was also there, in the Amazon Rainforest, that I realized this: in order to preserve the environment, urban life as we know it needs to somehow change fundamentally. How we build, how we consume, how we live in cities have far reaching consequences. It is our supposed material needs, created by the economy, by society, and by the urban environments we live in that drives environmental change on Earth.

From the field research experience, I know that I do not have the personality or the character to be a field biologist but I still want to contribute to the many efforts in trying to preserve our planet and our wonderful wildlife. This is why I am pursuing a career in urban planning and development.

What are you pursuing and why?



Short Post: Mindfulness

Mindfulness, it is a quality that is hardly seen in people today.

We are all consumed by instant gratification, the so-called freedom as we are liberated to chase whatever our short attention spans dictate. We are influenced by the idea of “personal brands”; we are dominated by a desire to foster a certain type of “public image”. We become more concerned about what others think of us instead of just being who we are. We lost that ability to be happy for ourselves and to bring happiness to others.

Mindfulness runs against all of that. It is a compassionate and empathetic act that comes through self-less giving. When we are mindful, we are not taking from others. We are making the world around us the subject matter. It is when we are able to see the world from another person’s eyes. It is when we try to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. We too often judge others quickly without truly understanding who they are and where they come from. We forget that everyone has a story. It would be too much for anyone to try to know that whole story and that is not what being mindful is about. Being mindful is about acknowledging that existence.

I have worked with orphans and done community service with children from disadvantaged families. A lot of times, we see the ugly side of humanity in children, yet it is often in children that we see the innocence and the beauty of humanity. They are the ones most willing to help animals. They are the ones trusting enough to help a stranger in need. They are the ones who empathize with others the easiest. Do we forget that as children, we often lend a helping hand to those in need? Do we forget that as children we play together and band together with no intentions other than just to be with another human being?

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I think it is because as children, we do not have these social shackles of “image”. We are not concerned so much about our own selves, but rather others in our bid to play. I remember the strongest desire I had as a child was the need to be with other children, to play with them and to share in silly little adventures.

Being mindful is about putting yourself away. As children, we are quick to do so because we do not have egos. We love easy, we hate easy but the most important thing for us was others – to be able to be with and share with others. You don’t see that until you go to an orphanage. To the children, we are all part of a big story that we weave together.

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As an adult, it is much harder to be mindful. The source of mindfulness is actually different. To be able to love someone else, to put yourself in someone else’s position requires you to be sure of who you are. It requires you to be confident in who you are. Once we are able to love and to be ourselves, our love can then overflow to others. We become mindful through our own positive energies – energies that overcome the baggage that we all carry but should let go of.

Let’s all be a little more mindful this year. Let’s all find a little bit more of our true selves this year. Let’s all listen to the soul of others, just a little bit more.

Though the world face overwhelming odds (climate change, political polarization, terrorism, poverty, etc.), I believe in hope and the innocence that remain in each of our hearts. I believe in the power of love, which in turn births and gives power to mindfulness.