Grant funds student’s research eyeing effect
of landscape patterns on children ’s activities


Jun-Hyun Kim, a Ph.D. candidate in the Urban and Regional Science program at Texas A&M’s College of Architecture, is studying the effects of landscape spatial patterns on the physical activities of Hispanic children in Houston’s East End through a $20,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Kim’s one-year study, “The Role of Landscape Spatial Patterns on Physical Activity: Does the Landscape Structure of Urban Forests Promote Physical Activity, Walking, and the Quality of Life of Hispanic Children?” will focus on research subjects living in an area bordered by Interstate 45 on the west, Highway 59 on the south, Loop 610 on the east, and an east-west line south of Interstate 10.

He’s also examining the influence of landscape patterns by gender, and aims to identify specific landscape indices as a measure to quantify landscape structures most relevant to physical activity and quality of life.

“Evidence suggests that landscape patterns and green spaces influence human psychology, behaviors, and health,” said Kim. “Although the landscape spatial pattern is one of the most significant elements shaping the built environment, its role has not been fully researched in regard to physical activity and quality of life.”

Kim added that urban trees and forests must be considered as important parts of the physical environment, because they are one of the most significant units for shaping landscape spatial patterns.

“They can help deal with problems of sedentary lifestyles by encouraging outdoor activities,” he said.

Kim will determine subjects’ perceptions of their surrounding landscape through a survey, and objectively measure it through geographic information systems (GIS) technology and FRAGSTATS, a software program that provides spatial pattern analysis for remotely sensed data such as aerial photo imagery.

In his study, Kim will use aerial photo imagery with 1-meter resolution. He’ll be analyzing three different land cover types, forests/trees, grass, and developed area, by categorizing different color bands. Those three land cover types, he said, will be used to analyze the quality of landscape spatial patterns in the community.

To measure children’s health-related quality of life, Kim will use the Pediatric Quality of Live Inventory, developed by James Varni, professor of urban planning at Texas A&M.

Douglas Wunneburger, professor of urban planning at Texas A&M, is serving as an advisor on the project, as is Norma Olvera, associate professor at the University of Houston’s College of Education. Olvera will also be contributing data Kim’s research, from another study sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Chanam Lee, assistant professor of urban planning at Texas A&M, and Chris Ellis, associate professor at the University of Michigan, are co-chairing Kim’s research committee. Lee said the grant from the foundation is a special honor, since only a few doctoral students receive funding from the foundation each year.

The mission of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is to contribute to the improvement of health and health care of Americans. For more information about the foundation, visit


- Posted: March 4, 2009 -

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