Quantifying the exposome: challenges and solutions in geocomputation
The exposome is the totality of environmental exposures of an individual person, from conception onwards. It complements the genome, which is the genetic material. Identifying the impact of the exposome on human health and disease is a key challenge in health research. Examples include the effect of personal air pollution exposure on cardiovascular disease, the effect of surface water and temperature on malaria, and the impact of fast food restaurant exposure on obesity. To disentangle the effects of the exposome and genome, it is crucial to quantify the totality of all human exposures, for each individual person in the studied population. This poses a massive challenge to geocomputation requiring space-time models and data to map environmental variables, simulation models to represent space-time paths of individuals, and exposure assessment techniques to integrate personal environmental exposure along these space-time paths. In addition to this methodological challenge, back end software is required to handle these big data sets on supercomputers. In this presentation, I will provide an overview of these challenges and possible solutions, including a formal framework for exposure assessment methodologies, the LUE database for storing continuous field data and object data, and the PCRaster software stack used by the Global Geo Health Data Center at Utrecht University.
Derek Karssenberg is Associate Professor in Geocomputation at the Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University. His research interests are geocomputation and the study of environmental systems. Regarding geocomputation, he designs concepts for spatio-temporal modelling and, together with his PCRaster team at Utrecht University, develops the PCRaster software which is a software framework for model construction. With respect to environmental system modelling, he focuses on the integration of observational data and simulation models, and the analysis of complex systems, in the fields of hydrology, natural hazards, and health geography. Derek is project leader geocomputation at the Global Geo Health Data Center.