Darren M. Ruddell, Ph.D., is Professor (Teaching) and Director of Graduate Studies at the Spatial Sciences Institute of the University of Southern California Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

The overarching focus of Ruddell’s research is climate and society, an expanding area in global change studies, that incorporates socio-ecological interactions across multiple scales of analysis. Ruddell is particularly interested in the dynamic relationship between human development and the modification of native landscapes which are altering physical processes, as witnessed in rising global temperatures and urban heat islands (UHI), and the subsequent impacts that changing environmental systems pose on human health, well-being, and safety and security. Climate and society serves as the point of convergence between Ruddell’s interests and experiences as a scholar and educator in Human Security and Geospatial Intelligence (HSGI) and Geodesign. While HSGI leverages geospatial technologies to monitor and assess when, where, and to what extent a threat (i.e., heat wave, hurricane) is likely to emerge, Geodesign provides the framework to develop and advance alternative design scenarios and/or remediation strategies through discussion and negotiation with relevant stakeholder groups.

Ruddell teaches and develops curricula in the USC Dornsife Spatial Sciences Institute’s HSGI academic programs offered at the undergraduate and graduate level. He has developed expertise in geographic information science and associated technologies to acquire, organize, analyze, model, and visualize spatial data. As an educator, Ruddell seeks to help students develop the critical and spatial thinking skills required to effectively manage and deploy these technologies in diverse scenarios to produce spatially-informed and scientifically sound results. He has been a leader in both developing and applying innovative pedagogical approaches in the fields of HSGI and Geodesign while implementing and advancing the delivery of course content in mixed modalities to increase access and user experience in synchronous and asynchronous settings.

Ruddell has performed extensive service to USC where he served as the Chair of the USC Academic Senate Sustainability Committee which advanced sustainability initiatives across the university in addition to serving as President of the Dornsife College Faculty Council. He currently serves on the UNIGIS International Association Board of Directors.

Ruddell is certified as a Geographic Information Science Professional (GISP) by the Geographic Information Science Certification Institute (GISCI).


Ph.D., Geography, Arizona State University
M.S., Global Technology & Development, Arizona State University
B.A., Political Science, San Diego State University

Selected works

Ruddell, D. (2023). What is Geospatial Intelligence? A Geographer Explains the Powerful Melding of Maps and Data. The Conversation.

Ruddell, D., & K. Foster (2018). GIS&T and GeodesignThe Geographic Information Science & Technology Body of Knowledge (3rd Quarter 2018 Edition), John P. Wilson (Ed).

VoPham, T., Wilson, J.P., Ruddell, D., Rashed., T., Brooks, M., Yuan, J., Talbott, E., Chang, C. & Weissfeld, J.L., Linking pesticides and human health: a geographic information system (GIS) and Landsat remote sensing method to estimate agricultural pesticide exposureApplied Geography, 62, 171-181, 2015, doi:10.1016.j.apgeog.2015.04.009.

Harlan, S.L., Chowell, G., Yang., S., Petitti, D.B., Morales Butler, E.J., Ruddell, B.L., Ruddell, D.M.Heat-Related Deaths in Hot Cities: Estimates of Human Tolerance to High Temperature ThresholdsInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 11(30), 3304-3326, 2014.

Ruddell, D. & Dixon, P.G., The energy-water nexus: Are there tradeoffs between residential energy and water consumption in arid cities? International Journal of Biometeorology, 58(7), 1421-1431, 2013, doi:10:1007/s00484-013-0743-y.

Harlan, S. L., & D. Ruddell (2011). Climate Change and Health in Cities: Impacts of Heat and Air Pollution and Potential Co-Benefits from Mitigation and AdaptationCurrent Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 3:126-134.

Ruddell, D., S. L. Harlan, S. Grossman-Clarke, & A. Buyantuyev (2010). Risk and Exposure to Extreme Heat in Microclimates of Phoenix, AZ. In P. Showalter and Y. Lu (Eds.), Geospatial techniques in urban hazard and disaster analysis. Springer, pp. 179-202.