New obelisk app | AAG presenters | Peirce Lewis


obelisk app

Pictured above, a screen shot of the Obelisk Experience Obelisk augmented-reality app from a demo video. Read the news story below. Last week’s mystery photo from Rob Brooks was out-of-focus air bubbles in a running stream, with sunlight reflecting through them from a mirror placed underwater.


Alex Klippel is co-PI on a seed grant funded by the Center for Security Research and Education. The project is titled, “The Extinction of Dominion,” and is an interdisciplinary project that combines deep anthropological scholarship on Colombia’s armed conflict and state of the art geospatial and data visualization techniques to analyze the legal category of the “extinction of dominion.” PI is Alex Fattal from the Bellisario College of Communications.

Nari Senanayake has accepted a tenure-track assistant professor position in the Department of Geography at the University of Kentucky.

Joshua Inwood participated in the first-ever “Rock the News” podcast about everyday ethics.

Rob Brooks and 3 geography graduate students, Bill Limpisathian, Tara Mazurczyk, and Elena Sava, plus Tim Gould from Ecology, and colleague Bill Mitsch published a paper in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association, “Does the Ohio River Flow All the Way to New Orleans?” – a humorous look at naming rivers.


Coffee Hour schedule
Coffee Hour takes a brief hiatus this week and next due to spring break, March 4–10. When we return, the schedule includes the following:

  • March 16: Grad Lightening Talks
  • March 23: Kendra McSweeney
  • March 30: UROC talks
  • April 6: Randall F. Mason
  • April 20: The Miller Lecture: Ariel Anbar


Student Scholarship Opportunity for Esri-MUG Spring Meeting
The Esri Mid-Atlantic User Group (Esri-MUG) is looking for enthusiastic students or recent graduates who are seeking GIS employment to attend and present at the Esri-MUG Spring Meeting. This year, the Esri-MUG Spring Meeting will be held at The Universities at Shady Grove in Shady Grove, MD, on April 20, 2018. The general format of the meeting will include a plenary presentation in the morning with updates from Esri on the latest technology followed by breakout sessions with user presentations. We hope that representatives from your institution will participate! Registration page:

We are asking professors and department chairs of geography, GIS, and other related disciplines from various Mid-Atlantic colleges and universities to distribute the forms (MUG Scholarship Letter and Student Scholarship Application) to their colleagues and students within the applicable GIS program area to help generate awareness of this opportunity. Up to four (4) student scholarships will be awarded based on the responses on this form. The chosen students will be awarded a $100 scholarship to cover travel, lodging and food expenses! We are asking that these forms be completed and submitted no later than March 16, 2018. Students will be notified of their selection by March 30, 2018.

Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact Sue Hoegberg at 703-849-0419 or

Many geographers presenting at AAG 2017
More than 70 Penn Staters, including students (graduate and undergraduate), faculty, and staff are participating in the AAG annual meeting in New Orleans.
Among the highlights:
• Several online geospatial program MGIS students will be giving their capstone presentations during the meeting.
• The Penn State Geography Alumni and Friends reception is planned for Thursday, April 12, at 7:00 p.m. at Napolean House, New Orleans

Spreadsheet on Box with all Penn Staters and their sessions
Please let us know if we missed you!

More AAG program information

Augmented reality app reveals campus monument’s history as teaching tool
Augmented reality is reviving the educational focus of the oldest monument on Penn State’s University Park campus. Known as the Obelisk, the nearly 33-foot-tall, 53.4-ton stone structure was originally constructed in 1896 to showcase regional rocks and minerals. Its 281 stones, procured from sites around Pennsylvania and neighboring states, are stacked by geologic time period, from youngest at the top to oldest at the base.

Now, anyone with a new Obelisk augmented-reality app, developed by researchers in the Department of Geography, can home in on details about each stone in the historic structure.

Excerpted from the Centre Daily Times Obituary
Geography professor emeritus Peirce F. Lewis has died
Peirce F. Lewis, 90, died at Mount Nittany Medical Center, State College, on February 18, 2018. He was born on October 26, 1927, in Detroit, Mich., and is the son of the late Peirce and Amy Fee Lewis, of Pleasant Ridge. Mich. He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Felicia L. Lewis, of State College; his son, Hugh G. Lewis and his wife, Joselyn, of Gettysburg; his three granddaughters, Gillian Desonier-Lewis and Isla and Raquel Lewis; his sister, Frances Lewis Stevenson, and her husband, John, of St. Augustine, Fla.; and his beloved nephews and niece….

… Peirce joined the faculty of Penn State University’s Geography Department where he taught from 1958 until his retirement in 1995. Peirce loved everything about geography and revelled in any opportunity to share his enthusiasm for the subject with others. His acclaim as a lecturer and essayist is widely acknowledged by students and colleagues alike. His writings have received awards from the Association of American Geographers and the International Geographical Union. In 2004, he won the J. B. Jackson Award for his book, New Orleans: The Making of an Urban Landscape. He gave invited lectures for more than 100 audiences around the country, both academic and public. He was a visiting professor at University of California, Berkeley, and at Michigan State University. He received several awards for his vibrant and engaging approaches to teaching geography, including the Lindback Foundation Award, Penn State’s highest award for distinguished teaching, the first Penn State Provost’s award for distinguished multidisciplinary teaching, and a national award as a distinguished teacher at the college level by the National Council for Geographic Education.


U.S. highways speak: How roadside development provides a biography
Wayne Brew (’81)
in the Handbook of the Changing World Language Map edited by Stanley Brunn and Roland Kehrein and published by Springer
Not to get mixed up with the cliché, “the road is calling,” the title of this chapter is designed to declare that the highway does speak to us if you know the language. Once you know this visual language, the roadside can provide a biography. Domestic and commercial architecture are to the cultural landscape what fossils are to the geologist, namely of way of dating when structures were built. This becomes a powerful tool that allows the reader to peel back the layers and gain an understanding of sequence. When buildings are updated or repurposed it also tells a story, providing a glimpse to see the evolution of the roadside. The generally accepted term for this, adaptive reuse, documents how humans adapt their buildings to the constantly changing economic and cultural environments the road finds itself in, sometimes leaving behind ruins implying a force that biologists once referred to as survival of the fittest. In this chapter, the author will discuss how to interpret the language spoken by the cultural landscape as it relates to the first generation of interstate highways that were built from the 1920s to the early 1950s. The first-generation interstates implemented existing local (county and state) roads to create a numbered system of through roads across state lines. The advent of limited access interstate highways then relegated the first-generation interstate highways back to local roads with a new purpose. Images of domestic and commercial architecture will be the main tools used to interpret the language of the highway. Signage, adaptive reuse, along with regional and local names of the highways will also be discussed to flesh out the biography.

Visually-Enabled Active Deep Learning for (Geo) Text and Image Classification: A Review
Liping Yang, Alan M. MacEachren, Prasenjit Mitra and Teresa Onorati
International Journal of Geo-Information
This paper investigates recent research on active learning for (geo) text and image classification, with an emphasis on methods that combine visual analytics and/or deep learning. Deep learning has attracted substantial attention across many domains of science and practice, because it can find intricate patterns in big data; but successful application of the methods requires a big set of labeled data. Active learning, which has the potential to address the data labeling challenge, has already had success in geospatial applications such as trajectory classification from movement data and (geo) text and image classification. This review is intended to be particularly relevant for extension of these methods to GISience, to support work in domains such as geographic information retrieval from text and image repositories, interpretation of spatial language, and related geo-semantics challenges. Specifically, to provide a structure for leveraging recent advances, we group the relevant work into five categories: active learning, visual analytics, active learning with visual analytics, active deep learning, plus GIScience and Remote Sensing (RS) using active learning and active deep learning. Each category is exemplified by recent influential work. Based on this framing and our systematic review of key research, we then discuss some of the main challenges of integrating active learning with visual analytics and deep learning, and point out research opportunities from technical and application perspectives—for application-based opportunities, with emphasis on those that address big data with geospatial components.


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