Jan 19

Coffee Hour with Lilian Pintea | Dowler to get AAG award | SWIG contest


hot spring

Jiayan Zhao shares this photo of the Travertine Hot Springs in Bridgeport, Ca., One of the places he visited over the holiday break.


It’s not too late to apply for UROC positions this semester—several still have openings. For details, visit the UROC site.

A forum focused on the University’s Strategic Plan and one of its thematic priorities, Stewarding Our Planet’s Resources, will be held at 9 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 21, in Heritage Hall, HUB-Robeson Center. The purpose of the forum is to provide updates on Stewarding Our Planet’s Resources as well as seek input on the direction and focus of the priority. For more information or to register, visit http://www.iee.psu.edu/content/register-stewarding-our-planets-resources-forum

On January 21, 2019, MLK Day, World in Conversation will expand its regular programming by partnering with the Office of the President and the Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity to offer 60 facilitated dialogues for 600 faculty, staff, administrators, and students. For more information or to register, visit https://worldinconversation.org/mlk/

Gamma Theta Upsilon Geography Honors Society is holding their first general meeting of the semester on Tuesday, January 22 in 110 Walker Building at 7:00 pm.

The 13th International Conference on Military Geosciences will be held in Padova, Italy, June 24–28, 2019. Abstract submission deadline is February 15, 2019. For more information, visit http://militarygeoscience.org/conference-2019/

New grad reps elected: Saumya Vaishnava and Jamie Peeler will join Mark Simpson, Peter Backhaus, and Jiawei (jade) Huang to continue all the work and services for graduate students in the department.


Lilian Pintea, the Jane Goodall Institute
Mapping Forests and Spirits to Secure a Future for People and Chimpanzees

There is a growing torrent of geospatial data on ecosystems, species and threats from a variety of remote sensing, GIS, mobile and cloud platforms. However, we need a standard framework for converting these big data into meaningful, useful and actionable information for decision makers. In this presentation I will use more than twenty years of conservation action planning, village land use planning and participatory action research efforts by the Jane Goodall Institute in Tanzania and Uganda, to discuss how geospatial technologies interact with traditional knowledge and local decision making processes to support people livelihoods and protect chimpanzees.

  • Friday, Jan. 18
  • 3:30 p.m. in 319 Walker Building, Coffee and refreshments
  • 4:00 in 112 Walker Building, Lecture
  • Coffee Hour To Go Webcast


Lorraine Dowler to receive AAG 2019 Susan Hardwick Excellence in Mentoring Award

The AAG bestows an annual award recognizing an individual geographer, group, or department, who demonstrates extraordinary leadership in building supportive academic and professional environments and in guiding the academic or professional growth of their students and junior colleagues. The late Susan Hardwick was the inaugural Excellence in Mentoring awardee. The Award was renamed in her honor and memory, soon after her passing.

Dr. Lorraine Dowler not only mentors at all levels (early career faculty, her own students, and students that were/are not her own-outside her university), but is a strong advocate for her advisees, the greater student body (undergraduate and graduate), and the AAG community. As mentioned in one of her letters of support, she is committed to the holistic development of her advisees, while another notes that she pays particular attention to the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of those with whom she interacts, especially new faculty learning to balance the demands of academia. Outside of her tireless advocacy for students and colleagues, she continues to advise, research, publish, and contribute to the field of geography. She continues to go over and beyond what is expected.

SWIG Essay Contest call for submissions

The Jennifer Fluri and Amy Trauger 2019 Student Essay and Creative Works Competition is now open! This is the fifth annual competition run by Penn State’s SWIG. We invite undergraduate and graduate students from all institutions and disciplines to contribute using any of a variety of potential formats. Submissions are due March 23, 2019. For more information and to submit your work, visit: sites.psu.edu/swig/the-jennifer-fluri-and-amy-trauger-student-essay-and-creative-works-competition/


Human interpretation of trade-off diagrams in multi-objective problems: Implications for developing interactive decision support systems

Oprean, D., Spence, C., Simpson, M., Miller, R., Bansal, S., Keller, K., Klippel, A. Proceedings of the 52nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences
The growing need for efficient and effective human decision-makers warrants a better understanding of how decision support systems (DSS) guide users to improved decisions. Decision support approaches utilize visual aids to assist decision-making, including trade-off diagrams. These visualizations help comprehension of key trade-offs among decision alternatives. However, little is known about the role of trade-off diagrams in human decision-making and the best way to present them. Here, we discuss an empirical study with two goals: 1) evaluating DSS interactivity and 2) identifying decision-making strategies with trade-off diagrams. We specifically investigate the value of interface interactivity and problem context as users make nine increasingly complex decisions. Our results suggest that problem context and interactivity separately influence ability to navigate trade-off diagrams.


Jan 19

Food-Energy-Water | Paris to Pittsburgh | Research round-up


Jiayan Zhao VR demo at AGU

Jiayan Zhao (right) demonstrates the use of VR technology and the Thrihnukagigur Volcano geology lesson at the Penn State reception during the American Geophysical Union fall 2018 meeting in December.


SWIG will be hosting a workshop from 10:30-11:30 a.m. at the Eberly College of Science annual STEM Career Day for Young Women, “ENVISION: STEM Career Day for Young Women” on Sat., January 26, in the Huck Life Sciences Building. For more information see: https://science.psu.edu/outreach/special-programs/ENVISION/

Zachary Goldberg has reviewed the book, One Straw Revolution, in the Graduate Journal of Food Studies.

SWIG would like to extend a huge thank you to all who contributed to the Centre Safe Holiday Sponsorship Program this year. We raised a total of $300 (far exceeding our goal of $250!) to support the family we were paired with for the program.


Please join us on January 18 for the spring semester opening Coffee Hour featuring Lilian Pintea, PhD, Vice President of conservation science at the Jane Goodall Institute. For genreal information on Coffee Hour, see:


Interdisciplinary research proves essential when working on Food-Energy-Water

Erica Smithwick’s National Science Foundation-funded training grant, Landscape-U, is a component

Penn State researchers from all disciplines are getting involved in the Food-Energy-Water (FEW) nexus. Considering the intricate nature of FEW, many researchers believe that an interdisciplinary approach is critical.

FEW is complex because each facet is critical and is tightly linked to the others. A change in one facet will likely trigger a change in one or both of the others, making solutions more difficult to determine.

Paris to Pittsburgh documentary film by National Geographic

National Geographic Documentary Films distributed Bloomberg Philanthropies’ second film, Paris to Pittsburgh, starting on Wednesday, December 12 in the U.S. and  globally in 172 countries and 43 languages. Paris to Pittsburgh brings to life the impassioned efforts of individuals who are battling the most severe threats of climate change in their own backyards. Set against the national debate over the United States’ energy future — and the Trump administration’s explosive decision to exit the Paris Climate Agreement — the film captures what’s at stake for communities around the country and the inspiring ways Americans are responding.


Capital and conscience: poverty management and the financialization of good intentions in the San Francisco Bay Area

Emily Rosenman
Urban Geography
DOI: 10.1080/02723638.2018.1557465
Social impact investing differentiates itself from traditional investing by claiming to create public social benefits alongside private profits. Globally, municipal governments are increasingly looking to this model to fund urban social services and poverty management. Through a case study of social impact investing in affordable housing in the San Francisco Bay Area, I deconstruct the financial and ideological underpinnings of this model to understand how private profits are drawn from local geographies of impoverishment. Analyzing social impact investing as a poverty politics reveals how it places preexisting, state-subsidized systems of poverty management into social impact investing portfolios, dividing impoverished spaces into new hierarchies of deservingness by incorporating private investors’ visions of what will help low-income tenants. But these processes also fail to subsume social life within housing financed in this manner, as tenant practices subverting those idealized by the state and investors persist alongside the generation of private profits.

In situ measurements of surface winds, waves and sea state in polar lows over the North Atlantic

Andrew M. Carleton
Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
DOI: 10.1029/2017JD028079
Polar low (PL) storms are an important feature of the wintertime sub‐synoptic scale atmospheric circulation of middle and higher latitude ocean areas. They can generate hazardous conditions impacting coastal and marine activities like fishing, transport and oil extraction. However, there are few studies available of individual PL systems based on high resolution maritime surface data. Accordingly, the meteorological impacts of 29 PLs have been investigated for the 14 winters 1999‐2013, using in‐situ measurements at 8 stations in the Norwegian and North Seas. On average, the highest wind speed (WS) and significant wave height (SWH) occur following the minimum in sea level pressure (SLP) of the PL, respectively 1 and 3 hours after its passage. The strongest WS averages 17.1 m/s and the highest peak SWH is 6.3 m, but these can reach 31 m/s and 11 m, respectively. PL characteristics of system horizontal extent, propagation speed, and the larger‐scale atmospheric circulation environment, explain the large inter‐case differences. Large, multiple, and fast moving PLs within a meridional circulation environment appear to generate stronger near‐surface winds and higher waves than do small, single and slow moving PLs within a zonal circulation. Multiple systems may have the largest impacts (e.g., SWH > 8 m), although a larger sample size is required to confirm this possibility. The impacts of PLs on sea surface temperature (SST) are quite small and are difficult to interpret separate from the background SST variation. The observed SST decrease may be mainly caused by the cold air outbreak within which the PL is embedded; indeed, a positive SST minus air temperature (AT) anomaly is found during the 24 hours preceding the passage of PL vortices, indicating enhanced low‐level atmospheric instability.

Spatial dynamics of tree group and gap structure in an old-growth ponderosa pine-California black oak forest burned by repeated wildfires

Natalie C. Pawlikowski, Michelle Coppoletta, Eric Knapp, Alan H.Taylor
Forest Ecology and Management
Knowledge of how tree groups and gaps are formed and maintained in frequent-fire forests is key to managing for heterogeneous and resilient forest conditions. This research quantifies changes in tree group and gap spatial structure and abundance of ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) and California black oak (Quercus kelloggii) with stand development after wildfires in 1990 and 1994 in an old-growth forest in the Ishi Wilderness, southern Cascades, California. Forest demography and tree group and gap structure were quantified by measuring, mapping, and aging trees in six 1-ha permanent plots in 2000 and 2016. Tree recruitment, mortality, and growth were estimated using demographic models and spatial characteristics including gap structure were identified using an inter-tree distance algorithm and the empty space function. Potential fire behavior and effects in 2016 were estimated to determine if the current forest would be resilient to a wildfire in the near future.

Smallholders’ uneven capacities to adapt to climate change amid Africa’s ‘green revolution’: Case study of Rwanda’s crop intensification program

Nathan Clay, Brian King
World Development
Development programs and policies can influence smallholder producers’ abilities to adapt to climate change. However, gaps remain in understanding how households’ adaptive capacities can become uneven. This paper investigates how development transitions—such as the recent adoption of ‘green revolution’ agricultural policies throughout sub-Saharan Africa—intersect with cross-scale social-environmental processes to unevenly shape smallholders’ adaptive capacities and adaptation pathways. Drawing on quantitative and qualitative material from a multi-season study in Rwanda, we investigate smallholder adaptation processes amid a suite of rural development interventions. Our study finds that adaptive capacities arise differentially across livelihood groups in the context of evolving environmental, social, and political economic processes. We show how social institutions play key roles in shaping differential adaptation pathways by enabling and/or constraining opportunities for smallholders to adapt livelihood and land use strategies. Specifically, Rwanda’s Crop Intensification Program enables some wealthier households to adapt livelihoods by generating income through commercial agriculture. At the same time, deactivation of local risk management institutions has diminished climate risk management options for most households. To build and employ alternate livelihood practices such as commercial agriculture and planting woodlots for charcoal production, smallholders must negotiate new institutions, a prerequisite for which is access to capitals (land, labor, and nonfarm income). Those without entitlements to these are pulled deeper into poverty with each successive climatic shock. This illustrates that adaptive capacity is not a static, quantifiable entity that exists in households. We argue that reconceptualizing adaptive capacity as a dynamic, social-environmental process that emerges in places can help clarify complex linkages among development policies, livelihoods, and adaptation pathways. To ensure more equitable and climate-resilient agricultural development, we stress the need to reformulate policies with careful attention to how power structures and entrenched social inequalities can lead to smallholders’ uneven capacities to adapt to climate change.

Livelihood Dynamics Across a Variable Flooding Regime

King, B., Yurco, K., Young, K.R. et al.
Human Ecology
Variability in environmental phenomena such as fire, flooding, and weather-related events can have significant impacts for social and environmental systems and their coupled interactions. Livelihoods systems reliant on the natural environment can be disrupted or eliminated, while associated governance regimes require negotiation to ensure equitable and sustainable management responses. These patterns can be particularly pronounced within areas prone to flooding, as these sites can experience variability in the location, timing, amount, and duration of flooding events. While research within the social and natural sciences has evaluated these dynamics within flooding regimes, the coupled interactions can be underemphasized even though they are integral in producing livelihood systems and possibilities for environmental management. This paper details research conducted from 2011 to 2016 in five villages located in different locations within the Okavango Delta of Botswana. We report the findings from qualitative interviewing and livelihood mapping activities that are integrated with remote sensing analysis to provide concrete empirical detail on the variability of flooding and resulting variations in perception and livelihood responses. The paper demonstrates that flooding dynamics vary at discrete locations and produce diverse perceptions that are tied to livelihood adjustments in place-specific ways. These patterns are also embedded in regional and global processes that have significant implications for household vulnerability within socio-ecological systems strongly impacted by local and distant climatic and hydrological drivers of change.

Augmenting geovisual analytics of social media data with heterogeneous information network mining—Cognitive plausibility assessment

Alexander Savelyev, Alan M. MacEachren
This paper investigates the feasibility, from a user perspective, of integrating a heterogeneous information network mining (HINM) technique into SensePlace3 (SP3), a web-based geovisual analytics environment. The core contribution of this paper is a user study that determines whether an analyst with minimal background can comprehend the network data modeling metaphors employed by the resulting system, whether they can employ said metaphors to explore spatial data, and whether they can interpret the results of such spatial analysis correctly. This study confirms that all of the above is, indeed, possible, and provides empirical evidence about the importance of a hands-on tutorial and a graphical approach to explaining data modeling metaphors in the successful adoption of advanced data mining techniques. Analysis of outcomes of data exploration by the study participants also demonstrates the kinds of insights that a visual interface to HINM can enable. A second contribution is a realistic case study that demonstrates that our HINM approach (made accessible through a visual interface that provides immediate visual feedback for user queries), produces a clear and a positive difference in the outcome of spatial analysis. Although this study does not aim to validate HINM as a data modeling approach (there is considerable evidence for this in existing literature), the results of the case study suggest that HINM holds promise in the (geo)visual analytics domain as well, particularly when integrated into geovisual analytics applications. A third contribution is a user study protocol that is based on and improves upon the current methodological state of the art. This protocol includes a hands-on tutorial and a set of realistic data analysis tasks. Detailed evaluation protocols are rare in geovisual analytics (and in visual analytics more broadly), with most studies reviewed in this paper failing to provide sufficient details for study replication or comparison work.

Dec 18

GTU induction | VR journey to Peru | Prehistoric fires formed grasslands


GTU induction

Fall 2018 inductees into the Gamma Theta Upsilon honor society in geography, Alpha Tau Chapter (left to right): Meg Wieger, Hunter Mitchell, Garrett McKinney, Katie Giesa,Thomas Loughery, Brittany Waltemate (Treasurer), Bryce Buck, Erin Arndt (Secretary), Milan Liu (Vice President), Hope Bodenshatz (President). Inductees not pictured: Marianne Black, Emily Case, Cameron Franz, Joseph Grosso, Tracy Severcool.


Sarah Chamberlain, Rob Brooks, Denice Wardrop, Mike Nassry, and Peter Backhaus planned and participated in a joint meeting of wetland scientists and managers from 13 northeastern states and a tribe in Cooperstown, NY this month.

First-year student Hannah Perrelli is a co-author of the poster “Biomimetic Materials for Regenerative Bone Tissue,” which won the Outstanding Research Potential Award in the 2018 EMS undergraduate poster exhibition.

Jamie Peeler received a National Geographic Support for Women and Dependent Care award to attend the International Association for Landscape Ecology World Congress in Milan, Italy.

Courtney Jackson was selected as an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Minority Ph.D. program scholar.

Welcome Kaitlyn Zigmond who is the work-study for the department for the remainder of fall 2018 and for spring 2019.


Thanks for joining us for the fall 2018 semester of Coffee Hour. Please join us on January 18, 2019 for the spring semester opening Coffee Hour featuring Lilian Pintea.


Open source geospatial analyst position

The Pennsylvania State University Libraries invites applications for the position Open Source Geospatial Analyst within the Digital Scholarship and Data Services department. The Open Source Geospatial Analyst will work as a member of the Donald W. Hamer Center for Maps and Geospatial Information team to support open source software, open data, and web-mapping solutions to spatial problems in research, teaching and learning at Penn State University. S/he will provide expert guidance through one-on-one and small group consultation services, develop and deliver guest lectures and workshops, and will be active in the community of geospatial scholars and professionals at the university.

Geography student’s VR app offers glimpse into Peru study-abroad experience

After growing up in a military family and serving in the armed forces as a young adult, Colin Kelly has lived all over the world — 16 different locations in fact — and has seen many amazing places. But when he visited Peru for the first time, he found himself fascinated with the landscape, people and the connection between them.

Fires fueled spread of grasslands on ancient Earth

Ancient wildfires played a crucial role in the formation and spread of grasslands like those that now cover large parts of the Earth, according to scientists at Penn State and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

A new study links a large rise in wildfires nearly 10 million years ago, in the late Miocene, with a major shift in vegetation on land, as indicated by carbon isotopes of plant biomarkers found in the fossil record. Frequent, seasonal fires helped turn forested areas into open landscapes, and drove the expansion of grasslands, the researchers said.


North American Model of Wildlife Conservation: Empowerment and exclusivity hinder advances in wildlife conservation

Serfass, Thomas L., Robert P. Brooks, Jeremy T. Bruskotter
Canadian Wildlife Biology and Management
We argue that the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation (NAM) as currently promoted is an overly narrow construct, used both to explain how North American wildlife conservation developed historically, and as a prescriptive framework for applying a hunting-focused form of wildlife conservation. We argue both constructs are problematic in that the complexities of traditional and historical roots of wildlife conservation in North America are portrayed inadequately and selectively to overemphasize hunter’s contributions. We raise issues and concerns about the rhetoric used to promote NAM and its associated form of wildlife conservation both within the wildlife profession and to the public. Portrayals of NAM have repeatedly emphasized the important role of hunters and hunting, largely failing to provide attribution for contributions made by other stakeholders or through other forms of interest in wildlife. The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation does capture some of the traditional policies and practices within wildlife management in the United States of America (USA), and to some extent Canada, but in our opinion, it has not evolved to fully represent wildlife conservation efforts of the past, nor point the way toward broader, more inclusive approaches to conserve species, communities, and ecosystems into the future. We offer 5 premises with evidence to support our assertions and probing questions as a basis for initiating a call to critically analyze NAM’s structures, functions, and purposes. Briefly, the premises focus on NAM as a hunter/hunting-focused form of wildlife conservation that serves to empower hunters and marginalize non-hunting wildlife conservationists in decision making pertaining to wildlife policy, ultimately hindering development of a more holistic, progressive form of wildlife conservation.

Landscape Indicators and Ecological Condition for Mapped Wetlands in Pennsylvania, USA

Corina Fernandez, James Spayd & Robert P. Brooks
Although landscape indicators are widely used to assess wetland ecological condition, how they capture the spatial arrangement of land cover is not well addressed. We conducted a Level 1 Landscape Assessment to revise strengths and weaknesses of landscape indicators when links to ecological conditions are strong. Wetland sites mapped by the National Wetlands Inventory were defined as 1-km radius circles around centroid points. Forest fragmentation type, road density, Landscape Development Intensity (LDI) index, and percentage of impervious surface were quantified at each site by integrating land cover and road network information. Based on forest cover, 6% of wetland sites scored in the highest ecological category while 45% fit into the lowest one. Results showed high dispersion of data for the impervious surface indicator in the lowest condition category. When comparing LDI and impervious surface under different landscape compositions and configurations, LDI better described distur- bance in agricultural areas where road density was low. Impervious surface better reflected the occurrence of fragmented landscapes at forested areas with high percentage of edge forest cover. In addition, a significant proportion of freshwater wetlands (60%) in the lowest condition category was associated with first-order streams, indicating a wide range of disturbance at some headwater watersheds.

Nov 18

UROC on Thursday | Coffee Hour on Friday with Roger Downs | Tailgate grid map


Climate Change Worlshop panel and organizers

A Climate Change Workshop, sponsored by SWIG and created as a UROC project, was held on Nov. 9. Pictured are the expert panelists with the UROC trio who created the workshop (left to right): Richard Alley, Andrew Carleton, Janet Swim, Michael Mann, Michelle Ritchie, Kathryn Jordan, and Kelly Meehan. Photo: Jacklyn Weier


EMS Undergraduate Poster Competition will be held Wednesday, Nov. 28, on the ground floor of Deike Building from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Awards will be announced on Thursday, Nov. 29, at 12:30 p.m. in the Ryan Family Student Center.

Undergraduate Research Opportunities Connection (UROC) student presentations will be on Thursday, Nov. 30 at 5:30 p.m. in 319 Walker Building. Cameron Franz, Kathryn Jordan, Kelly Meehan, Kayla Bancone, Zhaogeng Ding, Shelby Duncan, and Samantha Matthews will talk about the projects they have been working on with their graduate student mentors. Learn about their research projects and how to get involved in UROC.

Gamma Theta Upsilon (GTU) geography honor society induction immediately precedes Coffee Hour on Friday., Nov. 30. Coffee Hour refreshments will be offered at 3:15 p.m. and the program starts at 3:45 in 112 Walker Building. Please join us to share in this special ceremony.

Alex Klippel’s research on the value of virtual field trips was featured in an article in the Wall Street Journal [paywall].


Roger Downs
Shaping Children’s Geographic Worlds: The Role of Free-Range Parenting

Children play a surprisingly minor role in geographic scholarship, given that of the 325.7 million US residents in 2017, 76.7 million or 23.6% are under the age of 18. The debate over free-range parenting (FRP) presents an opportunity to explore factors that shape children’s geographic worlds.

  • Friday, Nov. 30
  • 3:15 p.m. in 319 Walker Building, Coffee and refreshments
  • 3:45 in 112 Walker Building, Gamma Theta Upsilon geography honor society induction ceremony
  • 4:00 in 112 Walker Building, Lecture
  • Coffee Hour To Go Webcast


grid map booklets

Geographers create unique wayfinding tool for game day safety

Collaboration with University Police and Public Safety yields tailgate grid map

When fans are tailgating before a Penn State home football game, they are standing on an invisible safety grid that helps first responders to pinpoint any location within more than 1,900 acres of pastures and paved lots.

Thanks to a new coordinate grid system developed by Penn State geographers, Penn State University Police and Public Safety and State College police, any 12.5-yard square location can be efficiently communicated to first responders by use of a simple alphanumeric code. The grid overlays a series of maps of the parking lots that surround Beaver Stadium and were compiled into a booklet.

Help SWIG sponsor a family this holiday season

For the last few years, SWIG has committed to sponsoring a family through the Centre County Women’s Resource Center (now called Centre Safe) Holiday Sponsorship Program. The Program connects sponsors with a local family (or families) of women and children who have experienced domestic violence. This year, SWIG is sponsoring a family of three (a mother and two children, ages 7 years and 9 months). We are targeting to raise $250 to fulfill our commitment to the Program. We hope you will consider donating to our efforts! You may drop off donations to Ruchi Patel’s office (328 Walker Building), the collection envelope in her mailbox (304 Walker Building), or via Venmo @ruchpate (comment “Holiday gift basket” please). We will be collecting donations through Friday, Dec. 7.


An Inclusive Treadmill? Expansion of Industrial Maize Farming and Simple‐Commodity Producers in Turkey

Borlu, Y. and Matthews, S. A.
Rural Sociology
The growth of industrial maize farming in Turkey during the first decade of this century points to the primacy of economic development over ecological concerns at a time when global nitrogen and phosphorus flows already exceeded safe limits. In this article we focus on the relations of production as the driver of an economic sector that not only has ecological but also social costs. Through a trend analysis of maize yields as our ecological indicator, we explain how relations of production influence industrial maize farming in this period and how different modes of production (e.g., simple‐commodity producers) participate in a corporate market. A “treadmill of production” perspective argues that simple commodity producers are excluded from industrial treadmills. Our findings indicate that provinces with predominantly simple commodity production experienced significant increases in maize yields and adapted to the industrial maize treadmill. However, there is a significant difference between simple‐commodity producers and large farms that widens over the decade. Our results suggest that simple‐commodity producers are included in ecologically harmful economic practices with significant obstacles. We call for a revision of the assumed relationship between the size of economic operations and their ecological impacts in the critical sociology literature and policy approaches.

Nov 18

Today is GIS day | Dowler awarded | Baka profiled


Carolynne Hultquist

Carolynne Hultquist chaired a session and gave presentations at SciDataCon 2018 as part of International Data Week in Gaborone, Botswana. International Data Week was attended by over 800 people from 66 countries and convened by CODATA, the ICSU World Data System, and the Research Data Alliance. She received travel funding from the Penn State Center for Social Data Analytics. Hultquist organized a session with Penn State Professors Guido Cervone and Jenni Evans on “Harnessing the power of the digital revolution: Data- and computation-driven research for Environmental Hazards.” The session covered challenges in accessing and evaluating relevant environmental data for use in computing applications that increase the societal value of the data and can provide assessment of the direct impact of decisions. She presented on “Assessment of Contributed Environmental Data for Decision-making during Disasters.” She also gave a presentation on “Validation of Spatio-Temporal Citizen Science Data” in a session on “Citizen Science Data – from Collection to Curation to Management.”


Alumna Stephanie Campbell-Flohr (’02) has a new position as Research Project Manager with the Center for Health Care and Policy Research (CHCPR) here at Penn State.

Alumnus Wayne Brew (’81) has published two articles in PAST, the journal of the International Society for Landscape, Place & Culture, from his sabbatical road trip last year.

Lorraine Dowler was awarded the College’s Ryan Faculty fellowship which will allow her to start preliminary research into the role of 2nd generation conflict youth in Belfast, during Brexit, and she was also awarded the AAG’s 2019 Susan Hardwick Excellence in Mentoring Award.

Jamie Peeler received a National Geographic Support for Women and Dependent Care award to attend the International Association for Landscape Ecology World Congress in Milan, Italy.


Next Coffee Hour is Nov. 30 with Roger Downs, “Shaping Children’s Geographic Worlds: The Role of Free-Range Parenting”


Today is GIS Day 2018: ‘Visualize the World’

Penn State University Libraries celebrates GIS Day on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at an event aimed at the broader Penn State community — students, staff, faculty and community members — who are interested in learning about how geospatial information is being used on campus and beyond.

This year’s program, “Visualizing the World: Connecting the disciplines through geospatial technologies and virtual reality,” explores GIS, geospatial technologies, remote sensing, maps, and location-based applications to foster greater geospatial awareness on campus, within the community, and beyond.

Help SWIG sponsor a family this holiday season

For the last few years, SWIG has committed to sponsoring a family through the Centre County Women’s Resource Center (now called Centre Safe) Holiday Sponsorship Program. The Program connects sponsors with a local family (or families) of women and children who have experienced domestic violence. Our responsibility is to purchase gift cards for each family member and prepare a small basket of gift items for the holidays.

This year, SWIG is sponsoring a family of three (a mother and two children, ages 7 years and 9 months). We are targeting to raise $250 to fulfill our commitment to the Program. We hope you will consider donating to our efforts! You may drop off donations to Ruchi Patel’s office (328 Walker Building), the collection envelope in her mailbox (304 Walker Building), or via Venmo @ruchpate (comment ‘Holiday gift basket’ please). We will be collecting donations through Friday, Dec. 7.

Faculty Profile: Cracking the code for sustainable energy

Jennifer Baka joined the Department of Geography in the summer of 2016. She is an assistant professor of geography who studies energy using the emerging subfield of political-industrial ecology.

“Political-industrial ecology is the integration of two kinds of systems thinking,” Baka said. “From an industrial ecology perspective, we think through the whole supply chain for a particular resource. For example, from the extraction of crude oil, to transportation, to refining it into gasoline (and other products), to distribution, to the exhaust coming out of your car.”

“From a political ecology perspective, we think about the political and economic processes shaping that supply chain,” she added. “How are regulations created? Who decides? What are the implications?”

Nov 18

Coffee Hour with Lindsay Naylor | D4R challenge research project | GIS Day is Nov. 13


NASA Suwannee River

In a dense swampland in Georgia, just north of the Florida border, you find the headwaters of the Suwannee River. The Suwannee is known as a “blackwater river” because of its dark-brown waters laden with organic material. This river system has been called one of the most pristine in the United States, but some environmental pressures are putting that distinction in jeopardy. When the river finally meets the Gulf of Mexico along Florida’s Big Bend its dark waters act like a tracer, revealing whereby the river water mixes with the sea. That mixing was on display on February 20, 2015, when the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8 captured this view. Image: NASA.


Mikael Hiestand will present the results from his MS research, “Growing Season Synoptic and Phenological Controls on Heat Fluxes over Forest and Cropland Sites in the Midwest U.S. Corn Belt” in Michael Mann’s climate dynamics seminar Nov. 7 at 11:15 a.m. in 529 Walker Building.

A Tanzania Parks and People Study Abroad Program Information Session will be held on Nov. 7 at 6:00 p.m. in 118 Stuckeman Family Building. Program leaders Carter Hunt and Larry Gorenflo will present basic information on the schedule for the coming season. To learn more, visit: https://stuckeman.psu.edu/studyabroad/tanzania

Dr. Arzu Çöltekin, from the University of Zurich, will visit the department and give a presentation, “Thinking About Visuo-Spatial Information Displays: Perceptual And Cognitive Considerations,” at 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 12, 2018, in 319 Walker Building.

The GIS Coalition is hosting a YouthMappers Map-a-Thon on Nov. 12 at 6:30 p.m. in 208 Walker Building. All skill levels and majors welcome! Come join us as we map villages in Saint Louis, Senegal to help disaster relief efforts for water-borne illness. Drop-in for some pizza, drinks, conversation, and music! No laptop or experience necessary!

SWIG is sponsoring a Thanksgiving basket for Students Engaging Students that will be delivered along with hundreds of others to multiple sites across Centre County. A basket is in 304 Walker Building to collect food items.You can sign up for an item here or just drop something in the basket. To make a monetary donation, there is an envelope in Michelle Ritchie’s mailbox. The last day to contribute to the basket will be Nov. 12.


Lindsay Naylor
“Whose Baby Is It Anyway?” Conflicting Regimes of Care and Feeding in NICU Spaces in the U.S.

In the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit human milk is considered a medical intervention in the treatment of premature and critically ill infants—yet barriers exist to providing milk, including the separation of the mother and infant, education, and traumatic birth experience. In this talk I revisit scale, territory and power beginning with the lactating body as a site of food production and the traumatized body as a territorial battleground in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Drawing on feminist geopolitics, I examine how politics are written by and on bodies, and how power relations flow within and between them as sites of material exchange. Specifically, I consider the (geo)politics of infant feeding in the NICU, where there are conflicting regimes of care and feeding and there is friction between parents and NICU staff as each tries to attend to infant well-being. Using preliminary data from an online survey and early interviews with NICU staff in Delaware, I argue that the NICU is not an apolitical space and the structural barriers to breastfeeding and inequities in access to human milk are compounded in this public, controlled, and regulated space of infant care.

  • Friday, Nov. 9
  • 3:30 p.m. Coffee and refreshments, 319 Walker Building
  • 4:00 Lecture, 112 Walker Building
  • Coffee Hour To Go Webcast
  • Next Coffee Hour is Nov. 30 with Roger Downs


Sifting through 50 million phone calls for patterns to aid refugees

When refugees use their mobile phones they leave clues about how well they are integrating (or not) into their host country. Clio Andris, assistant professor of geography in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, is analyzing a year’s worth of phone calls to find the clues to help address the Syrian refugee crisis in Turkey.

“We responded to the Data for Refugees (D4R) Challenge which provides researchers with call data records (CDR) collected during the 2017 calendar year. Researchers tend to get excited about CDR data because they show human calling, texting and mobility patterns at a very fine grain level. The data challenge is a great opportunity,” Andris said. “And equally compelling is a real opportunity to help refugees.”

GIS Day 2018: ‘Visualize the World’ to be held Nov. 13 at University Libraries

Penn State University Libraries will celebrate GIS Day on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at an event aimed at the broader Penn State community — students, staff, faculty and community members — who are interested in learning about how geospatial information is being used on campus and beyond.

This year’s program, “Visualizing the World: Connecting the disciplines through geospatial technologies and virtual reality,” explores GIS, geospatial technologies, remote sensing, maps, and location-based applications to foster greater geospatial awareness on campus, within the community, and beyond.

The 2018-19 Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows announces its fall presentation series

All talks are held noon to 1:00 p.m. in 102 Chambers Building.

  • November 8
    Higher Education Reform: Promoting Mauritius as an Education Hub
    Challenges in Higher Education in Uzbekistan
    Assessing Critical Thinking in Iraqi Kurdistan Universities
  • November 15
    Secondary Education in Benin
    Teacher Professional Development in Iran
  • November 29
    Higher Education Challenges in Ukraine
    Preparing Undergraduates for the Job Market in Ivory Coast
    Higher Education Challenges in Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt
  • December 6
    Education Reform in Croatia: “School for Life”
    Internationalization of Serbian Higher Education
    How the Internet has changed Chinese Lifestyles


Back-projecting secondary craters using a cone of uncertainty

Naegeli, T. J. and Laura, J.
Computers & Geosciences
In this paper we present an extension to the Large Crater Clustering (LCC) tool set which places a cone of uncertainty around the trajectories of secondary impact craters to determine potential locations of source craters. The LCC tool set was a first step in the spatial quantification of primary and secondary cratering processes, which allows planetary geologists to accurately estimate the geologic age of a celestial surface. This work builds on the LCC tool set by accounting for the ambiguity of flight path trajectories through a Python script that leverages ArcGIS’s ArcPy library. We chronicle the mechanics of the script, which creates geodetically correct cones then counts them within equally sized cells of a vector grid. We describe the process that was used to derive the shape of the cone and provide parameters for the sizes of the cones and the grid. We demonstrate that the cone of uncertainty has the ability to compensate for error in secondary crater trajectories by introducing deviation in the trajectory bearing and comparing the predicted primary crater location. We use two study areas on Mars as well as the entire lunar surface to illustrate the usefulness of the extension as an aid to human interpretation of back-projections.

HIV Citizenship in Uneven Landscapes

Brian King, Marina Burka & Margaret S. Winchester
Annals of the American Association of Geographers
DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2018.1457428
The HIV/AIDS epidemic has taken on a new course in recent years with expanded access to antiretroviral therapy in the Global South. Although this transition is extending the lives of individuals for years or even decades, it is also creating new relationships between citizens and the state that are driven by resource needs specific to HIV management. This article details findings from an ongoing research project in northeast South Africa that is examining the social and ecological impacts of HIV/AIDS. Qualitative interviews are combined with ethnographic observations of a rural primary care clinic to document the ways in which residents and health care institutions are managing HIV. While initiating care for HIV-positive patients on antiretroviral therapy, clinics and other health care agencies advocate behavioral practices that challenge existing cultural norms and spatial economies, particularly in the realm of nutrition and food access. The importance of accessing certain foods is advocated as necessary for maintaining bodily health, yet this therapeutic citizenship confronts historical systems of inequality produced through spatial segregation. The consequence is that the coupling of drug provision with public health interventions produces uneven opportunities for health management that are mediated by cultural, ecological, and political systems in the era of managed HIV.


Oct 18

Coffee Hour with Maarten V. de Hoop | SWIG at Haunted-U | Alumnus lives his love for cartography


SWIG Haunted-U

Supporting Women in Geography hosted two interactive spaces at Haunted-U. In the first one, pictured above, leaves, tree cookies, and a foliage map were used to teach kids about leaf phenology and dendrochronology. Pictured left to right: Michelle Ritchie, Stacey Olson, and Ruchi Patel. See a fun video about the event on our department homepage. Photo: Arif Masrur.


Megan Baumann received a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Award (DDRA) to support her research in Tolima, Colombia. It’s effective from now until August 2019.

Alumna Trieste Lockwood (’08) is profiled in Style Weekly.

Chabad at Penn State is hosting two events featuring the Honorable Rachel Frier, our nation’s first Chassidic female judge. Events include a lunch program from 1:00-2:20 p.m. in Memorial Lounge of the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, as well as a speech and Shabbat dinner at 7:30 p.m. in Chabad House, 443 East Waring Ave., State College.

A Climate Change Workshop is scheduled for Friday, Nov., 9 from noon to 3:00 p.m. in 529 Waller Building. Register here.

SWIG is hosting a Girl Scout Workshop on Sunday, Nov. 11, from 11:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m. in Whitmore Laboratory. The activity focuses on learning about geography and land cover change using Landsat imagery.

Improving Communication through Improv Theater Workshop, offered by the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs & Happy Valley Improv, Monday, Nov. 12, 1:00-2:30 p.m., in 233AB HUB. A 90-minute improv theater workshop in an energetic and supportive environment, this event will prompt participants to practice collaboration, problem solving, and responding to the unexpected. Register here.


Maarten V. de Hoop
Advances in computational seismology

We present new developments in large-scale computing focused on seismology, viewing Earth as an unstructured tetrahedral mesh, across an extreme range of scales. We discuss, while highlighting emerging techniques, the simulation of (i) seismic normal modes on planetary scale, (ii) high-frequency time-harmonic waves in the crust, in particular, sedimentary basins, (iii) earthquakes, and (iv) broad-band wave propagation and scattering in poro-elastic media with connections to rock physics.

  • Friday, Nov. 2
  • 3:30 p.m. Coffee and refreshments, 319 Walker Building
  • 4:00 Lecture, 112 Walker Building
  • Coffee Hour To Go Webcast
  • Next Coffee Hour is Nov. 9 with Lindsay Naylor


Dutton Institute director advocates for all learners through Faculty Senate

Ann Taylor always wanted the experiences of being Penn State University Faculty Senate chair but knew her job duties as assistant dean for distance learning and director of the John A. Dutton e-Education Institute wouldn’t allow for the time commitment.

So the guru of nontraditional learning found a way to make it work.

Schreyer Scholar alumnus maps out dream career while seeing the world

Many of Patrick Stephens’ early interests — traveling, hiking, mountain biking — necessitated the use of maps.

Not surprisingly, then, maps themselves became one of those interests, and served as a constant reminder of how much of the world he has left to explore.

“I always liked traveling,” the Penn State Geography and Schreyer Honors College alumnus said. “I never wanted to be tied down to one place. I told myself that if I could make maps, you can make them anywhere in the world. That was always kind of the goal.”


Can shareholder advocacy shape energy governance? The case of the US antifracking movement

Kate J. Neville, Jackie Cook, Jennifer Baka, Karen Bakker & Erika S. Weinthal
Review of International Political Economy
DOI: 10.1080/09692290.2018.1488757
Research on socially responsible investing (SRI) and investor-led governance, especially in the climate sector, suggests that shareholders adopt social movement tactics to influence corporate governance, including building networks, engaging directly with corporations and lobbying regulators. Further, research on corporate transparency and financial disclosure has proliferated, notably in the extractives sector. Our work builds on these existing literatures, with a focus on shareholder resolutions on hydraulic fracturing (HF) in the United States. We analyze US HF-focused shareholder resolutions from 2010 to 2016 to evaluate filing strategies and outcomes. We argue that these resolutions provide space for a range of new actors to shape corporate governance—but their power is constrained. The constraints flow from the same political economy factors that enable shareholders to take collective action: the distance between individual investors and financial decisions; the structure of resolutions and managerial responses; and the complexity of investment vehicles and vote shares. We assess how shareholders respond strategically by altering the focus of resolution demands, liaising with external campaigns and networks, and engaging with government to enhance regulatory interventions. Our work reveals how the upstreaming of power in commodity chains intersects with the power of management boards and the challenges of financialization, with consequences for corporate and energy governance.

Comparison of simulated radioactive atmospheric releases to citizen science observations for the Fukushima nuclear accident

Carolynne Hultquist, Guido Cervone
Atmospheric Environment
Citizen science data from the Safecast project were shown to provide a reliable estimation of the spatial distribution of concentrations of elevated radiation levels around Fukushima when compared to government data. A comparison is presented between the HYSPLIT Lagrangian atmospheric transport and dispersion (T&D) model and a reflected Gaussian model to both government and Safecast contributed measurements. The advantage of contributed data with respect to the government data is that they are collected over a long period of time and have a larger spatial coverage.

First, the Safecast contributed measurements are compared to aerial surveys completed by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Then the HYSPLIT T&D model is run to simulate the nuclear release using high resolution terrain and meteorological data. A Gaussian dispersion model is also run for comparison using meteorological data observed at the time of the accident. The results of both models and observed data are decay corrected to December 2016 in order to use a larger quantity of contributed measurements in the comparison.

The comparison of areas of elevated radiation shows that the citizen science observations align with the prediction of models representing dynamic behavior of radionuclides dispersed in the environment. This paper shows that citizen science data can be used to validate and potentially better calibrate atmospheric T&D models.

Industrial Maize as a Commodity System: Spatial Scale and Relations of Production in Turkey’s Agriculture After Economic Restructuring

Yetkin Borlu, Stephen A. Matthews
Journal of Economic and Social Geography
During the decade of 2000‐2010, industrial maize production in Turkey doubled to approximately four million tons and the area under maize cultivation increased by ten per cent. Concomitant with the increase in total output, private agri‐food industry came to control 90 per cent of total production by 2010. Using exploratory spatial analysis and spatial regression methods, we are able to have a more detailed and spatially explicit regional study of a commodity system across Turkey. We argue that maize production in Turkey developed in the 2000s along the tenets of a corporate food regime according to demands by agri‐food firms. However, small‐scale farmers are not fully excluded from corporate relations of production, and low‐yield traditional maize farming persists in some provinces as an important field crop for household consumption.

Oct 18

Green Paws certification | Remote sensing and geospatial analysis faculty search | New VR course


ChoroPhronesis Open House

Alex Klippel shares this photo from Penn State Parents and Families Weekend Oct. 19–21, 2018. The ChoroPhronesis Lab Open House welcomed a steady stream of visitors who wanted to experience virtual reality.


Whitney Broussard’s (’17g) MGIS capstone project was highlighted in the article, “Marshland mapping uses drone and data,” in Point of Beginnings, September, 14-19. Written by M. J. Wagner.

Chris Rothermel won third prize for his poster for the African Research Center Undergraduate Research Exhibition on Oct. 20, “The politics of Fire Ban Policies in Benishangul-Gumuz, Ethiopa.” Rothermel is a political science major; he completed a research internship with Bronwen Powell in spring 2018.

Penn State will be holding it’s fourth annual Project Management Conference at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center on Nov. 7, 2018. The theme for 2018 conference is Innovation Across Disciplines: People, Processes, and Performance. The conference places focus on the interdisciplinary and collaborative nature of innovative projects, and the people and processes central to project success. Faculty, staff and students from all disciplines are encouraged to attend. For more information or to register visit: www.pmconf.psu.edu/

The Department of Geography Green Team has been recognized by the Sustainability Institute as a “Level One Certified Green Paws Office.” Team members include Cindy Brewer, Alex Klippel, Denise Kloehr, Erica Smithwick, Jodi Vender, Melissa Weaver (team leader), Jacklyn Weier, and Anthony Zhao.


The next Coffee Hour will be Nov. 2, 2018. The speaker will be Maarten V. de Hoop, Simons Chair in Computational and Applied Mathematics and Earth Science at Rice University.


Assistant Professor of Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis

The Departments of Geography and Statistics in partnership with the Institute for CyberScience (ICS) at The Pennsylvania State University, located in University Park, PA, invite applications for a new faculty member in Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis at the Assistant Professor level. This tenure track faculty position is part of the cluster hire initiative of the Institute for CyberScience (ICS) to enhance big-data and big-simulation in support of the ‘Driving Digital Innovation’ thematic area of the Penn State strategic plan. ICS is a University-wide, interdisciplinary research institute with more than 20 ICS tenure-track co-hired faculty and nearly 300 associates in interdisciplinary research enabled by high performance computing (HPC).

New course puts Penn State students in control of transformational technology

In his decade of teaching at Penn State, Professor of Geography Alex Klippel has seen immersive technologies disrupt everything at the University from education to research to outreach. His belief in the power of this machinery to improve the learning process guided his creation of GEOG 197: Immersive Technologies – Transforming Society through Digital Innovation.

“I created one of the first upper-level courses on [virtual reality] and 3D modeling, and I want to share my fascination for immersive technologies with students at all levels,” Klippel said of the brand-new general education course he created alongside instructional designer Amy Kuntz. “Thanks to generous support and marvelous collaboration [with the Teaching and Learning with Technology department] we are able to advance immersive learning at Penn State and share it with a wider audience.”


Jack Johnson versus Jim Crow: Race, Reputation, and the Politics of Black Villainy: The Fight of the Century

Alderman, Derek H. & Inwood, Joshua & Tyner, James A.
Southeastern Geographer
Foundational to Jim Crow era segregation and discrimination in the United States was a “racialized reputational politics,” that constructed African Americans as not only inferior, but as villainous threats to the normative order, leading to the lynching of thousands of African Americans. While black villainy is a destructive force within society, we explore it is as basis for anti-racist politics, when appropriated by African Americans. There is a long history in African American folklore of celebrating the black outlaw who freely moves about and boldly violates moral and legal norms. Early 20th century American boxer Jack Johnson, who reigned as world heavy champion from 1908 to 1915, illustrates this complex and contested process of vilifying black bodies and reputations during the Jim Crow era. Our paper offers a critical, contextualized biographical analysis of Johnson, situating his struggles within the wider historical geography of violent US race relations and paying close attention to the controversial place he held within the white and black public imaginaries. Importantly, the African American fighter appropriated and manipulated Jim Crow villainy to challenge a white racist society and a conservative black establishment while also claiming the right to live on his own terms.

Growth and survival relationships of 71 tree species with nitrogen and sulfur deposition across the conterminous U.S.

Kevin J. Horn, R. Quinn Thomas, Christopher M. Clark, Linda H. Pardo, Mark E. Fenn, Gregory B. Lawrence, Steven S. Perakis, Erica A. H. Smithwick, Douglas Baldwin, Sabine Braun, Annika Nordin, Charles H. Perry, Jennifer N. Phelan, Paul G. Schaberg, Samuel B. St. Clair, Richard Warby, Shaun Watmough
Atmospheric deposition of nitrogen (N) influences forest demographics and carbon (C) uptake through multiple mechanisms that vary among tree species. Prior studies have estimated the effects of atmospheric N deposition on temperate forests by leveraging forest inventory measurements across regional gradients in deposition. However, in the United States (U.S.), these previous studies were limited in the number of species and the spatial scale of analysis, and did not include sulfur (S) deposition as a potential covariate. Here, we present a comprehensive analysis of how tree growth and survival for 71 species vary with N and S deposition across the conterminous U.S. Our analysis of 1,423,455 trees from forest plots inventoried between 2000 and 2016 reveals that the growth and/or survival of the vast majority of species in the analysis (n = 66, or 93%) were significantly affected by atmospheric deposition. Species co-occurred across the conterminous U.S. that had decreasing and increasing relationships between growth (or survival) and N deposition, with just over half of species responding negatively in either growth or survival to increased N deposition somewhere in their range (42 out of 71). Averaged across species and conterminous U.S., however, we found that an increase in deposition above current rates of N deposition would coincide with a small net increase in tree growth (1.7% per Δ kg N ha-1 yr-1), and a small net decrease in tree survival (-0.22% per Δ kg N ha-1 yr-1), with substantial regional and among-species variation. Adding S as a predictor improved the overall model performance for 70% of the species in the analysis. Our findings have potential to help inform ecosystem management and air pollution policy across the conterminous U.S., and suggest that N and S deposition have likely altered forest demographics in the U.S.

Fine‐scale spatial homogenization of microbial habitats: a multivariate index of headwater wetland complex condition

Jessica B. Moon, Denice H. Wardrop, Erica A. H. Smithwick, Kusum J. Naithani
Ecological Applications
With growing public awareness that wetlands are important to society, there are intensifying efforts to understand the ecological condition of those wetlands that remain, and to develop indicators of wetland condition. Indicators based on soils are not well developed and are absent in some current assessment protocols; these could be advantageous, particularly for soils, which are complex habitats for plants, invertebrates, and microbial communities. In this study, we examine whether multivariate soil indicators, correlated with microbial biomass and community composition, can be used to distinguish reference standard (i.e., high condition) headwater wetland complexes from impacted headwater wetland complexes in central Pennsylvania, USA. Our reference standard sites existed in forested landscapes, while our impacted sites were situated in multi–use landscapes and were affected by a range of land–use legacies in the 1900s. We found that current assessment protocols are likely underrepresenting sampling needs to accurately represent site mean soil properties. On average more samples were required to represent soil property means in reference standard sites compared to impacted sites. Reference standard and impacted sites also had noticeably different types of microbial habitats for the two multivariate soil indices assessed, and impacted sites were more homogenized in terms of the fine‐scale (i.e., 1‐m and 5‐m) spatial variability of these indices. Our study shows promise for the use of multivariate soil indices as indicators of wetland condition and provides insights into the sample sizes and scales at which soil sampling should occur during assessments. Future work is needed to test the generalizability of these findings across wetland types and ecoregions and establish definitive links between structural changes in microbial habitats and changes in wetland soil functioning.

An approach to estimating forest biomass change over a coniferous forest landscape based on tree-level analysis from repeated lidar surveys

Turner, S.B., Turner D.P., Gray, A.N. & Fellers, W.
International Journal of Remote Sensing
Forests represent a significant opportunity for carbon sequestration, but quantifying biomass change at the landscape scale and larger remains a challenge. Here we develop an approach based on repeated tree-level analysis using high-resolution airborne lidar (around 8 pulses/m2). The study area was 53 km2 of actively managed coniferous forestland in the Coast Range Mountains in western Oregon. The study interval was 2006–2012. Tree heights and crown areas were determined from the lidar data using point cloud clustering. Biomass per tree was estimated with allometry. Tree-level data (N = 14,709) from local USDA Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis plots provided the basis for the allometry. Estimated biomass change over the 6-year interval averaged −1.3 kg m−2 year−1, with the average gain in undisturbed areas of 1.0 kg m−2 year−1. Full harvest occurred on 3% of the area per year. For surviving trees, the mean change in height was 0.5 m year−1 (SD = 0.3) and the mean change in biomass was 45.3 kg year−1 (SD = 6.7). The maximum bin-average increase in biomass per tree (57.3 kg year−1) was observed in trees of intermediate height (35–40 m). In addition to high spatially resolved tracking of forest biomass change, potential applications of repeated tree-level surveys include analysis of mortality. In this relatively productive forest landscape, an interval of 6 years between lidar acquisitions was adequate to resolve significant changes in tree height and area-wide biomass.

Oct 18

Coffee Hour with Mariana Mora | Labs open for Parents and Families Weekend | Modeling fire to restore past forests


LassenWinter is coming. Alan Taylor shares this image from recent field work examining the effects of the 2012 Reading Fire in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Snow fell at night on Mount Lassen and camping was in temperatures in the 20s.


Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment will hold a science communication panel discussion on Wednesday, Oct. 17, at 4 p.m. in 233 HUB-Robeson Center. Attendees are asked to register: www.iee.psu.edu/2018-compass-plenary

“The Most Unknown” is an innovative documentary that attempts to reinvigorate love for scientific inquiry by exploring some of the universe’s toughest questions. Public screening of the film will be held 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 18, in the Pike Auditorium, 22 Biobehavioral Health Building on the University Park campus.

SWIG will host an informal workshop with this week’s Coffee Hour speaker, Dr. Mariana Mora, on Friday, Oct. 19, from noon-1:30 p.m. in 337 Walker Building.


Mariana Mora
(Un)earthing cartographies, racial necro-economics and politics of absence

Four years ago, on the night of September 26, 2014 in the town of Iguala, in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, police forces, armed forces and members of organized crime violently attacked public transportation buses on which were travelling students from the teachers’ college of Ayotzinapa to take part in the October 2 commemorations of the 1968 Tlatelolco plaza student massacre in Mexico City. During the course of the night, three students were assassinated and 43 students forcibly disappeared, their whereabouts to this day unknown. The talk focuses on the case of Ayotzinapa in order to critically analyze the ways that extreme forms of physical violence and (il)legal economies engender particular expressions of racialized state formation.

  • Friday, Oct. 19
  • 3:30 p.m. Coffee and refreshments, 319 Walker Building
  • 4:00 Lecture, 112 Walker Building
  • Coffee Hour To Go Webcast


Parents and Families Weekend at Penn State University Park Campus is October 19-21, 2018

With new large geospatial datasets from GPS, social media and online technologies, GeoSpatial analysis technologies are becoming more and more important for understanding human behavior and settlements. Come see the latest research at The GeoVISTA Center, specifically highlighting new projects from the Friendly Cities Lab, which uses data from Airbnb, Yelp, Facebook, The Yellow Pages, college admissions offices, and the NCAA to better understand how cities and communities function and how we relate to one another across geographic space.

Immersive technologies such as virtual reality are changing the way we communicate, understand the future of the planet, prepare and train ourselves, or cure phobias. ChoroPhronesis—Applied Spatial Intelligence—has developed immersive experiences for you that showcase the power of immersion across different academic disciplines. You can explore Iceland’s Thrinukagigur Volcano; experience the visions of architectural students for informal settlements in Rio, Brazil; visit the Maya City of Cahal Pech in Belize; or experience what climate change may do to a forest in Wisconsin. Many of the experiences are free for you to take home.

Geography student models future fires to restore past forests

The forests we walk through today are not the same as the ones that existed hundreds of years ago. Human activities such as agriculture, development, and logging have changed them. Fire, or really the lack of it, also changed forests, to the detriment of some species like Oaks and Pines.

Can we use fire to turn back time, bring forests closer to their original state, and maintain these ecosystems over the long term?

Previous studies show mixed results depending upon when, how often, how severe and in what season a prescribed burn was conducted. Anthony Zhao, a master’s degree student in geography, in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, is using computer model simulations to try to get a clearer answer to this question with his master’s research project, “Modeling Prescribed Fire Effects on Vegetation Dynamics in Pitch Pine and Mixed-Oak Forests.”


Acquisition and transfer of spatial knowledge during wayfinding

He, Q., McNamara, T. P., Bodenheimer, B., & Klippel, A. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
In the current study, we investigated the ways in which the acquisition and transfer of spatial knowledge were affected by (a) the type of spatial relations predominately experienced during learning (routes determined by walkways vs. straight-line paths between locations); (b) environmental complexity; and (c) the availability of rotational body-based information. Participants learned the layout of a virtual shopping mall by repeatedly searching for target storefronts located in 1 of the buildings. We created 2 novel learning conditions to encourage participants to use either route knowledge (paths on walkways between buildings) or survey knowledge (straight-line distances and directions from storefront to storefront) to find the target, and measured the development of route and survey knowledge in both learning conditions. Environmental complexity was manipulated by varying the alignment of the buildings with the enclosure, and the visibility within space. Body-based information was manipulated by having participants perform the experiment in front of a computer monitor or using a head-mounted display. After navigation, participants pointed to various storefronts from a fixed position and orientation. Results showed that the frequently used spatial knowledge could be developed similarly across environments with different complexities, but the infrequently used spatial knowledge was less developed in the complex environment. Furthermore, rotational body-based information facilitated spatial learning under certain conditions. Our results suggest that path integration may play an important role in spatial knowledge transfer, both from route to survey knowledge (cognitive map construction), and from survey to route knowledge (using cognitive map to guide wayfinding).

The geography of gender inequality in international higher education

Myers, R. M. and A. Griffin
Journal of Studies in International Education
The internationalization of higher education results in 4.6 million students attending colleges and universities outside their home countries. In the United States and other countries, there is significant underrepresentation of women among inbound international higher education students. Gender equality in education cannot be achieved so long as women are underrepresented in participation in this important educational venue. To better understand the drivers of gender inequalities in international higher education, this study examines the low participation rate by women coming to the United States by comparing it with participation data for women coming to the United Kingdom and Germany. Gender participation rates from both source regions and countries vary by destination country. By exploring the geography of gender inequality in international higher education, decision makers can better understand barriers to achieving international gender equality goals.

Influences of paleo-topography of the Cretaceous/Tertiary angular unconformity on uranium mineralization in the Shirley Basin, Wyoming

Covington, J. H. and P. Kennelly
The Journal of Maps
The Shirley Basin is a small asymmetric synclinal structure located in northern Carbon County, Wyoming approximately 65 km (40 miles) south of Casper, Wyoming, USA. The basin formed during the Laramide orogeny of the Late Cretaceous to Early Tertiary (78–49 Ma) and contains economically significant uranium deposits. The underlying Cretaceous units form an angular unconformity with the overlying Tertiary units that represents a paleotopographic erosional surface characterized by stream channels and overbank deposits of interbedded sand and clay with some organic detritus. Furthermore, the Cretaceous shales function as the lower confining unit/aquitard for in-situ recovery (ISR) uranium mining, and the overlying Tertiary sandstones host the uranium mineralization.

This study maps the K/T boundary in greater detail than previous studies and identifies paleotopographic features that influence sedimentary environments and structures that favor uranium mineralization. Using a larger study region and thousands of historical wells and associated electric logs not available to previous studies, this research identifies unit boundaries and enters them into Golden Software’s Surfer and Esri’s ArcGIS to construct a detailed structure contour map on the K/T surface. The map delineates paleotopography such as hills and river channels, with the latter showing a strong spatial association with uranium mineralization. Geologists can use these maps to identify thicker host sands and fluvial features which enhance uranium mineralization. Mining companies can reduce operational and exploration costs by drilling in these more favorable areas to efficiently delineate the ore body geometry and develop more accurate mine unit designs that will maximize uranium recovery.

Oct 18

GIScience faculty position | SWIG essay contest | Peirce Lewis event


faculty remember Peirce Lewis

Remembering Peirce Lewis

The Department of Geography honored the late Peirce Lewis on Friday, Oct. 5 with a special Coffee Hour lecture given by his advisee Richard Schein (’83g) now professor of geography at the University of Kentucky. Pictured above, Lewis’s contemporaries (left to right: Ben Marsh, Joe Wood, Jim Eisenstein, and Ron Abler) share their memories at a special reception for family, friends, colleagues and students held in the Joel M. Myers Weather Center.


Fritz Kessler is serving as president of The North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS) this year.

Alexander Klippel is giving the Geosciences Colloquium talk on October 23. The talk is at 4:00 p.m. in 22 Deike Building.

Bike Safety Workshop: Penn State students, faculty and staff, as well as local community members (ages 18 and older) are encouraged to attend a free bike safety workshop on Thursday, Oct. 18 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at 117 Weston Community Center at Penn State’s White Course Apartments. For more information or to RSVP for the event, please visit www.biking.psu.edu. Spaces are limited and RSVPs must be received by end of day Wednesday, Oct. 17. This workshop is sponsored by Penn State Transportation Services.

Esri Mid-Atlantic User Conference: Esri has changed the dates of the this year’s Esri Mid-Atlantic User Conference to avoid any conflicts with Election Day. The conference will now be held on November 28–29, 2018 at the Hilton Meadowlands, East Rutherford, NJ. The agenda, registration link, and exhibitor registration are posted at www.esri.com/en-us/about/events/esri-mid-atlantic-uc/overview.


Next Coffee Hour is October 19. The speaker will be Mariana Mora, associate professor-researcher at the Center for Research and Advanced Studies in Social Anthropology (CIESAS) in Mexico City. Her talk is titled, “(Un)earthing cartographies, racial necro-economics and politics of absence.” For more information, visit: www.geog.psu.edu/event/coffee-hour-mariana-mora


Tenure-Track Faculty Position in GIScience (Assistant Professor)

The Department of Geography at The Pennsylvania State University, University Park invites applications for a tenure-track faculty position at the rank of Assistant Professor specializing in geographic information science (GIScience). We are interested in candidates who will strengthen the department’s research and teaching program and help build strong connections to other relevant science communities. Candidates with an emphasis in any area associated with GIScience will be considered. A PhD degree completed before August 1, 2019, is expected. Excellence in teaching, research, and service is expected of professors employed by Penn State Geography, as is development of an externally funded research program. Participation in the department`s online geospatial education programs is also expected.

SWIG Essay Contest call for submissions

The Jennifer Fluri and Amy Trauger 2019 Student Essay and Creative Works Competition is now open! This is the fifth annual competition run by Penn State’s SWIG. We invite undergraduate and graduate students from all institutions and disciplines to contribute using any of a variety of potential formats. Submissions are due March 23, 2019. Visit for more information and to submit your work, visit: sites.psu.edu/swig/the-jennifer-fluri-and-amy-trauger-student-essay-and-creative-works-competition/

Recognizing the role of gender, class, sexuality, and race in the organization of our everyday lives, Supporting Women in Geography (SWIG) aims to promote and empower women and other underrepresented groups by offering a supportive network that sponsors opportunities to grow professionally, intellectually, and personally within the discipline of geography. Dr. Jennifer Fluri and Dr. Amy Trauger were instrumental in the establishment and promotion of Penn State’s SWIG organization. Their defining leadership established a long-standing culture of mentorship, support, and outreach. By hosting this award in their names, we hope to honor the spirit of their work.

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