Sep 17

Coffee Hour with Don McCandless | EcoChallenge | Geospatial advisory board



The Sustainability Institute at Penn State is piloting a new program called EcoChallenge to choose actions to reduce your impact. You pick your own challenge and set a goal that stretches your comfort zone and makes a difference for you, your community, and the planet. Challenges encompass a variety of eco-issues such as waste, food, health, transportation, energy, water, and nature, and range in difficulty. For example, one challenge could be using a reusable water bottle each day, while another challenge could be carrying your trash that you accumulate throughout the duration of the challenge.


Azita Ranjbar successfully defended her dissertation on August 11, and has started a new faculty position as assistant professor of women gender and sexuality studies at Ohio State University

Lorraine Dowler and Azita Ranjbar just had an article accepted to the Annals of the Association of American Geographers titled, “Just Praxis in the City: Positive Security in Belfast and Orumiyeh.”

Kelsey Brain has been awarded a Fulbright-Hayes Fellowship for her dissertation research in Costa Rica.

Mikael Hiestand and Andrew Yoder passed their FAA Section 107 Pilots exam this week and are now able to legally fly small unmanned systems under Section 107 rules.

The Penn State Critical Geographies Conference abstract deadline has been extended to Monday, September 25.


September 22 Coffee Hour with Don McCandless: Research to Start-Up: Initial steps to technology commercialization for Penn Staters
The thought of translating fundamental research into a commercial product can appear mysterious and daunting to many in the research and academic community. However, there is a process, with multiple pathways, that can be followed to increase the chances of success. These paths are lumpy, not linear. But by creating and investigating “Business Models” (not a “Business Plan”), researchers can get a better idea on whether there is actually a commercial need for their proposed product/service. This process is currently being implemented at the national level thru I-Corps programming at NSF and NIH, as well as by the 68 teams in the past five years in our TechCelerator@StateCollege Entrepreneurial boot camps. Today’s talk will outline several ways to get started, including an overview of licensing, funding options, prototyping, team formation, and customer discovery techniques.

  • 3:30 to 5:00 p.m.: Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m.; the lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.
  • Watch the webcast on Mediasite

GEOGRAPH SU17: From the Department Head
(Your name here): Building community, supporting international travel, and celebrating excellence
A few times during the year, our college development folks email me about upcoming visits with alumni, and they ask me what our department funding priorities are. They might also ask what specific opportunities exist for someone with a special focus on x-y-z. So, as head, I need to think about our development priorities from two different points of view; first, what will strengthen and position the department overall for success, and second, what unique projects will appeal most to particular donors. I currently have four things on my general department funding wish list:

Penn State Online Geospatial Education advisory board meets
On Monday, August 28, the advisory board for the Penn State Online Geospatial Education program held its annual meeting. Each year, the board evaluates the MGIS degree and GIS, GEOINT, and Remote Sensing certificate programs. Members provide advice and insight on how we can continually refine our classes and programs to anticipate the needs of geospatial professionals and society. Members of the Advisory Board include senior leaders from Esri, CARTO, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, eMap International, 18F, and Azavea, as well as from academic units within and outside of Penn State. Several board members are alumni of the Department of Geography and our online programs, ensuring that we have the voices of our students as well as their potential employers in mind.

At the 2017 meeting, board members reviewed course content with faculty and made suggestions on how to build upon the program’s strengths. Engagement with the board enhances our ability to respond to continuing changes in the geospatial professional landscape. In the year ahead we will be redesigning our core GIS Certificate courses based in part on Advisory Board recommendations.


SensePlace3: a geovisual framework to analyze place–time–attribute information in social media
By Scott Pezanowski, Alan M MacEachren, Alexander Savelyev & Anthony C Robinson
In Cartography and Geographic Information Science
Access http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15230406.2017.1370391
SensePlace3 (SP3) is a geovisual analytics framework and web application that supports overview + detail analysis of social media, focusing on extracting meaningful information from the Twitterverse. SP3 leverages social media related to crisis events. It differs from most existing systems by enabling an analyst to obtain place-relevant information from tweets that have implicit as well as explicit geography. Specifically, SP3 includes not just the ability to utilize the explicit geography of geolocated tweets but also analyze implicit geography by recognizing and geolocating references in both tweet text, which indicates locations tweeted about, and in Twitter profiles, which indicates locations affiliated with users. Key features of SP3 reported here include flexible search and filtering capabilities to support information foraging; an ingest, processing, and indexing pipeline that produces near real-time access for big streaming data; and a novel strategy for implementing a web-based multi-view visual interface with dynamic linking of entities across views. The SP3 system architecture was designed to support crisis management applications, but its design flexibility makes it easily adaptable to other domains. We also report on a user study that provided input to SP3 interface design and suggests next steps for effective spatiotemporal analytics using social media sources.

GeoCorpora: building a corpus to test and train microblog geoparsers
By Jan Oliver Wallgrün, Morteza Karimzadeh, Alan M. MacEachren & Scott Pezanowski
In International Journal of Geographical Information Science
Access http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13658816.2017.1368523
In this article, we present the GeoCorpora corpus building framework and software tools as well as a geo-annotated Twitter corpus built with these tools to foster research and development in the areas of microblog/Twitter geoparsing and geographic information retrieval. The developed framework employs crowdsourcing and geovisual analytics to support the construction of large corpora of text in which the mentioned location entities are identified and geolocated to toponyms in existing geographical gazetteers. We describe how the approach has been applied to build a corpus of geo-annotated tweets that will be made freely available to the research community alongside this article to support the evaluation, comparison and training of geoparsers. Additionally, we report lessons learned related to corpus construction for geoparsing as well as insights about the notions of place and natural spatial language that we derive from application of the framework to building this corpus.

ChoroPhronesis papers accepted to the Immersive Analytics 2017 workshop at IEEE VIS conference

Two ChoroPhronesis papers have been accepted to the Immersive Analytics 2017 workshop at IEEE VIS conference in Phoenix, Arizona on October 1st! These are peer-reviewed conference papers, and we will update with the DOI’s once they are assigned.

The first paper is “Take a Walk: Evaluating Movement Types for Data Visualization in Immersive Virtual Reality” by Mark Simpson, Jiayan Zhao, and Alexander Klippel, which concerns a pilot experiment testing the effect different types of movement in virtual environments on interpreting 3D data visualizations. Mark will be presenting the paper at the workshop in person.

The second paper, “Immersive Applications for Informal and Interactive Learning
for Earth Sciences” by Arif Marsur, Jiayan Zhao, Jan Oliver Wallgrün, Peter LaFemina, and Alexander Klippel discusses their work on an iVR tool which lets users explore databases by interacting with 3D models and 360 images in a virtual or augmented reality environment. They were accepted into the poster presentation track

Sep 17

Coffee Hour with Hari Osofsky | Geospatial student profile | Using VR to explore favela solutions


Online Geospatial Program advisory board

Penn State’s Online Geospatial Education Advisory Board met at The Nittany Lion Inn on August 28. The board provides an annual evaluation of the MGIS degree and our geospatial education certificate programs. The Advisory Board also provides strategic advice on how the programs can best respond to the needs of geospatial professionals and society.


 Theodore Henry Baka Lewellen

  • Jennifer Baka’s son, Theodore Henry Baka Lewellen, pictured at right, was born on September 7.
  • Sam Stehle successfully defended his dissertation on August 17. He started his post-doc at Maynooth University near Dublin, Ireland.
  • Alumnus Mark Read assumed duties as the Head of the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, one of the 13 academic departments here at the U.S. Military Academy.
  • Cindy Zook will be at Pop Up Ave on Saturday, September 23, selling her handmade Goat’s Milk Soap, Super Concentrated Body Butter, and a few Fair Trade African Baskets.
  • DigitalGlobe, is providing free before/after satellite imagery of areas affected by Hurricane Irma/Jose, from the eastern Caribbean through South Carolina. They have posted the before imagery already, and you can get updates here: https://www.digitalglobe.com/opendata/hurricane-irma/pre-event. Digital Globe is also sponsoring a crowdsourcing imagery analysis and mapping effort to support recovery from Hurricane Harvey. You can access that program here: http://www.tomnod.com/


September 8 Coffee Hour with Hari Osofsky, Dean, Penn State Law and School of International Affairs, Distinguished Professor of Law, Professor of International Affairs, and Professor of Geography

  • 3:30 to 5:00 p.m.: Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m.; the lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.
  • Next week: Don McCandless, Director, Business Development, Ben Franklin Transformation Services

Online Geospatial Education Student Focus: Augustus Wright
We enjoy hearing from our talented students in the Penn State Online Geospatial Program, especially about what they have learned from our classes and how they plan to apply their certificate/degree.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Augustus Wright, from Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, entered our program in 2015 and just earned his MGIS degree this past Spring. For his capstone project, he studied machine learning algorithms and their applications to geospatial technology (a more detailed summary of his project is at the end of this note).
Chief Wright has served three combat deployments to Iraq and earned two Bronze Star Medals, among several other awards. We are proud of him and all of the veteran and current military students in our program.

Flying down to Rio
Students use digital technology to explore design solutions for Brazilian favela
As the world’s population grows, so does the problem of affordable housing. In some rapidly growing urban areas, particularly in developing countries, the only recourse is to build your own.

The informal settlements that pop up on the edges of many modern cities are often derided as problem areas or slums, ramshackle neighborhoods beset with sanitation issues and crime. To Jose Duarte, however, they are “not a problem to be solved, but a solution that has some problems.”

Brooks elected Fellow of the Society of Wetland Scientists
Robert Brooks, Ruby S. and E. Willard Miller Professor of Geography and Ecology and director of Riparia, was elected a Fellow of the Society of Wetland Scientists, the society’s highest honor, during a ceremony in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in June.

Brooks is a nationally recognized leader in wetland science and policy with more than 35 years of experience in education and research related to inland freshwater wetlands and riverine ecosystems.


A regional assessment of white-tailed deer effects on plant invasion
By KM Averill, DA Mortensen, EAH Smithwick, S Kalisz, and others
In Annals of Botany Plants, 2017
Access: doi.org/10.1093/aobpla/plx047
Herbivores can profoundly influence plant species assembly, including plant invasion, and resulting community composition. Population increases of native herbivores, e.g., white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), combined with burgeoning plant invasions raise concerns for native plant diversity and forest regeneration. While individual researchers typically test for the impact of deer on plant invasion at a few sites, the overarching influence of deer on plant invasion across regional scales is unclear. We tested the effects of deer on the abundance and diversity of introduced and native herbaceous and woody plants across 23 white-tailed deer research sites distributed across the east central and northeastern United States and representing a wide range of deer densities and invasive plant abundance and identity.

Sep 17

Coffee Hour with Erica Smithwick | Urbanization search | Rec Rec recap

Martina Calovi

Martina Calovi, who is a visiting scholar with the Geoinformatics and Earth Observation (GEO) Laboratory, won the gold prize paper award in the Young Scientists Session at the Conference of the International Society for Integrated Disaster Risk Management, Reykjavik, Iceland, in August.



September 8 Coffee Hour with Erica Smithwick
Transformative Learning Spaces for an Uncertain World
Resilience is about complexity, change, and coping with uncertainty. It depends on a deep understanding of intertwined socio-ecological systems. However, uncertainty and complexity in both socio-ecological systems increasingly hinders decision-making. New knowledges and ontologies are needed to transform society for a mature Anthropocene. Using case studies from Ghana, South Africa, and the Menominee Nation (Wisconsin), Erica Smithwick will explore how biosphere stewardship can be enhanced through transformative research and education approaches that embrace interdisciplinary and cross-cultural ways of knowing.

  • 3:30 to 5:00 p.m.: Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m.; the lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.
  • Next week: Hari Osofsky, Penn State Law and School of International Affairs, Distinguished Professor of Law, Professor of International Affairs, and Professor of Geography

Department search for assistant professor in urbanization
The Department of Geography at The Pennsylvania State University invites applicants for a tenure track human geography faculty position in Urbanization at the assistant professor level. We seek a candidate whose research analyzes and addresses the global challenges of urbanization, including topics such as urban social inequality, urban political mobilization and conflict, urban planning in the 21st century, or the challenges of urban sustainability. We encourage applicants who use a range of methodological approaches and scales of analysis, and who have the potential and desire to collaborate with colleagues across disciplines engaged in understanding the fundamental reshaping of physical and human environments brought by urbanization.

From the Summer 2017 GEOGRAPH newsletter
Recognition Reception celebrates new spaces, contributions, accomplishments
Students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of the Department of Geography gathered on Friday, April 28, 2017 in Walker Building for the annual Recognition Reception. The purpose of the event was to recognize the accomplishments and contributions made throughout the year by Penn State geographers. This year, the event also celebrated lab renovations in the department.


Investigating Interactive Video Assessment Tools for Online and Blended Learning
By D Blackstock, S Edel-Malizia, K Bittner, E Smithwick
In ICEL 2017-Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on e-learning
Using digital video as a learning tool is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways for instructors to convey content to students. With instructors assigning online videos from sources like Khan Academy, YouTube, TeacherTube, TEDx, PBS Learning Media, and others …

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