Barbara Buttenfield

Babs Buttenfield

Dr. Barbara P. Buttenfield (babs), Professor, Department of Geography, University of Colorado-Boulder and Director, Meridian Research Laboratory, has made many important and seminal contributions to research and education in Geographic Information Science (GIScience) and to UCGIS. Her most important contributions are in the area of map generalization and multiple representations, a term first used at a National Science Foundation-funded specialist meeting she organized in 1989. Her papers from the 1980s on the structure and scaling properties of cartographic lines, were truly seminal and helped others to develop procedures for automated segmentation and structure recognition in line data, as well as automated parameter setting of generalization algorithms. Perhaps equally influential within the GIScience research community was her role as a facilitator of the birth and development of the map generalization community. The multiple representations workshop and a second workshop she organized with Bob McMaster on automated map generalization that yielded a landmark 1991 book on this topic, helped to lay a foundation that led to the formation of the Commission on Generalization of the International Cartographic Association. Her work has been highly cited and her influence on other researchers is testimonial.
Another example of Dr. Buttenfield’s impact on the evolution of GIScience is her influence on the development of spatialization as a core technique of modern geovisualization. She had already experimented with multi-dimensional scaling in the 1980s and later inspird her students to explore spatializations leading to research on spatialization of non spatial data, such as news archives and digital library catalogs. Additional great contributions and services to the GIScience community in the United States and worldwide from Dr. Buttenfield include her work on the visualization of data quality, where she co-initiated the first long-term research initiative on this topic in the 1990s, her work on geographic information design, map animation, and on user evaluation of map designs and user interfaces.
Dr. Buttenfield has deep links within government communities that handle geospatial data, working at the Defense Mapping Agency and the U.S. Geological Survey and maintaining these relationships of guidance and inspiration for 30 years. She led the American Cartography Association in the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM) as it shifted from cartography to geographic information systems (GIS) to GIScience, fielding member surveys, a strategic planning exercise, and negotiating ACSM buy-in on progress toward a scientific stance and integration of cartography with GIS. She has been a regular participant in National Science Foundation proposal review committees and National Research Council (NRC) committees, including multiple terms on the NRC Mapping Science Committee.
Dr. Buttenfield has also made exemplary contributions to GIScience education and was awarded the inaugural UCGIS Education Award in 2001. She has advised outstanding graduate students who are now professors and expanding the domains of research and education she pioneered. Many academics only have one significant advisee that carries their ethos to the next generation of academics; Dr. Buttenfield has many.
Dr. Buttenfield received a BA from Clark University, an MA from the University of Kansas, and her Ph.D. from the University of Washington, all in geography.  She has held academic positions at University of California – Santa Barbara, University of Wisconsin-Madison, State University of New York at Buffalo, and her current position at University of Colorado. She has received awards for her work in research, best paper awards, and is a lifetime Fellow of the ACSM. She served UCGIS as a delegate and in its early years developed the strategic plan that led the organization.
For her outstanding contributions to GIScience research and education and to UCGIS, Dr. Barbara P. Buttenfield is awarded the status of UCGIS Fellow, 2013.

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