Karen C. Seto

Associate Dean of Research; Director of Doctoral Studies; Professor of Geography and Urbanization Science

Photo of Karen C. Seto



Tel: 203 432-9784
Fax: 203-432-5556

Faculty Support
Timothy De Cerbo, 203 436-4421

Mailing Address
Yale School of Forestry &
Environmental Studies
195 Prospect Street
New Haven, CT 06511



B.A. University of California, Santa Barbara
M.A., Ph.D. Boston University

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Professor Seto’s research is on the human transformation of land and the links between urbanization, global change, and sustainability. A geographer by training, her research 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. She is a specialist in contemporary urbanization in China and India, where she has conducted research for over twenty and ten years, respectively.

Professor Seto is an established leader in the area of urbanization and global change. She co-founded and co-chaired the global research project, Urbanization and Global Environmental Change (UGEC), formerly of the International Human Dimensions Programme (IHDP) and now a part of Future Earth, from 2006 to 2016. She was a Coordinating Lead Author for Working Group III of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report and lead the chapter on urban mitigation of climate change. She has served on numerous U.S. National Research Council (NRC) Committees, including the NRC Committee to the Advise the U.S. Global Change Research Program and the NRC Committee on Pathways to Urban Sustainability. From 2002 to 2008, she was the Global Thematic Leader for Ecosystem Management Tools for the Commission on Ecosystem Management of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). She was 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. Professor Seto is the recipient of a NASA New Investigator Program Award, a NSF Career Award, and a National Geographic Research Grant. She was named an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow in 2009.