Trisalyn Nelson

SPAR Lab Director & Dangermond Endowed Chair of Geography

Keynote: The Digital Twin: Untangling Spatial Pattern and Process

As spatial data have become more plentiful geographers can imagine recreating our world within a GIS as a digital twin.  While on the surface the digital twin is intuitive,the precise definition and use is harder to pin down. What decisions will a digital twin support? Who will benefit from digital twins? How will we know when we have succeeded in building a digital twin? In this talk I will explore opportunities and challenges of digital twins, highlighting research needed to advance towards implementation of digital worlds.


Trisalyn Nelson joined the Department of Geography at UC Santa Barbara as Jack and Laura Dangermond Endowed Chair of Geography in 2020. In 2022 she became the Chair of the Department of Geography. From 2016-2020 she was Director of the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at Arizona State University. Prior, she was the Lansdowne Research Professor and Director of the Spatial Pattern Analysis and Research Lab at the University of Victoria, Canada.

As a researcher, Dr. Nelson and her team develop and apply spatial and spatial-temporal analyses to address applied questions in a wide range of fields from ecology to health. She has studied mountain pine beetle infestations, grizzly bears, and environmental change. Currently, her research focuses on active transportation, and the use of big data and analytics to better plan cities. Nelson led the creation of, a web-map to gather volunteered geographic information on cycling collisions and near misses, as well as, a web-map to collect volunteered geographic information about barriers to pedestrian movement. With her team, she has developed new ways of using fitness app data (like Strava) to map bicycling volume useful for transportation planning. Nelson’s uses and other big data to quantify and monitor patterns of urban cycling safety and ridership.

Trisalyn is mom to Beatrice and Finn and married to Ian Walker. She loves bicycling and baking, especially with her family.

To receive any important announcements leading up to the conference, send an email to to be added to our mailing list.