UB Regional Institute's RKN Adds Major Features, Plus Data and Maps for Environment

By Rachel M. Teaman

Release Date: January 14, 2008

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo Regional Institute has unveiled a major expansion of online features and completed development of the Environment section of its Regional Knowledge Network, a central online resource for information on the binational region of Buffalo Niagara.

Visitors to the network now can view Community Quick Reports, or data snapshots of the region's more than 300 municipalities, school districts and counties. The Compare Communities tool allows the user to tailor data reports on one or more communities in the binational region encompassing Western New York and Southern Ontario.

These features build on RKN's repository of regional data, maps and resources on topics ranging from Government and Economy to Health and Human Services and Public Safety. With 57 data variables added to the environment section on issues such as environmental policy, energy, and air and water quality, the institute has fully developed eight of RKN's nine topic areas.

"Since its pilot-phase launch in April 2006, RKN has grown exponentially in its depth of regional information and the sophistication of its user tools," said Kathryn A. Foster, institute director. "By giving users access to 'Knowledge by Place,' we have added a powerful new dimension to RKN that offers on-demand insights across municipalities, school districts and counties," she added.

Among the highlights from the expanded Environment topic area are data showing that more than 90 percent of New York State's oil production comes from Western New York, especially Cattaraugus County. Erie County consumed 5.3 percent fewer gallons of gasoline in 2005 than it did in 2000. Also, there were 14 wetland permit applications in the Town of Hamburg in 2006, the highest for all Western New York municipalities.

Also previewed in RKN's Environment section are two additional features that will soon be expanded across all topic areas. Knowledge Now reports, produced by the institute, offer brief analyses of select RKN data. An analysis of the region's energy dependency is featured in the Data section of the Environment topic area. Topic Trivia, accessible through a topic's Resources area, include rankings, lists and quick facts. Now available in Environment are Toxic Releases and Spills, the Most Common Trees and Weather Records for the region. RKN also continues to produce Knowledge Maps to show particularly interesting data patterns in the region.

"As RKN advances, we continue to both enhance the scope of information on the site and add user-friendly tools and analysis that highlight the stories behind the numbers," said Subbiah Mantharam, RKN project director and the institute's director of information systems and initiatives.

RKN will reach full build out by May 2008 with support from The John R. Oishei Foundation. Data and mapping tools are currently under development for RKN's last topic area -- Civic Infrastructure.

A major research and public policy unit of the University at Buffalo, the Regional Institute plays a vital role in addressing key policy and governance issues for regions, with focused analysis of the Buffalo Niagara region. A unit of the UB Law School, the institute leverages the resources of the university and binational community to pursue a wide range of scholarship, projects and initiatives that frame issues, inform decisions and guide change.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.