May 17

We are … at the UN | Promotions announced | Protecting plant biodiversity


we are ... at the UN

Passing notes in class?  Bronwen Powell sends this photo from the UN Forum on Forests held in May at UN Headquarters in New York. After introductions, she received a note from fellow Penn Stater Mahmoud Ablan (’07, ’16gr), a lead organizer and advisor at the UN,  “We are …”


For the summer, DoG news will be published every other week. Continue to send your good news, story ideas, and photos from fieldwork and travels to geography@psu.edu.

Courtney Jackson (’15), who will start her Ph.D. program in geography at Penn State this fall, received an award to participate in the 2017 National Water Center Innovators Program Summer Institute.

Rachel Passmore (’14) will finish her 27 months of Peace Corps service in August. She will begin graduate school, to obtain her master of public health, at Columbia University in New York during the same month. She would like to thank Susan Friedman and Lorraine Dowler for their support throughout the application process.

Promotions announced:
Alexander Klippel has been promoted to professor.
Stefanie Rocco has been promoted to senior lecturer/senior instructor.
Michelle Zeiders has been promoted to senior lecturer/senior instructor.


Alumni mentoring program underscores dedication to improving student experiences
Looking back at when he began his first job as a geoscientist, Penn State alumnus Enrique Perez said he saw how a formal alumni mentoring program could have benefited him.

“I’m from a low-income family in Georgia and I didn’t have any relatives in the sort of career I was pursuing,” he said.

Integrative approach needed to protect crop biodiversity, researcher says
While studying ways to protect and strengthen the biodiversity and social accessibility of food plants, Karl Zimmerer, professor of geography, often finds simple solutions.

Sometimes growers have simply run out of seed for a unique strain of crop or garden plant. That food source could be gone forever, or quickly replenished if a seed bank is operating in the region.

May 17

Congratulations to grads | MOOC on FutureLearn | Scholarly publications


undergraduates at commencementGeography undergraduate students, from left (rear) to right (front): McQuillin Murphy, Jack Swab, Grant Smith, Anna Blyth, Yuhao Wang, Kathy Cappelli, Max Rudner, Judy Smith, Paul Yost, Torie Herdt, Jordan Qualtieri-Tyrrell at the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Commencement Ceremonies at the Pegula Ice Arena on Friday, May 5, 2017.


For the summer, DoG enews will be published every other week. Please continue to send your good news, story ideas, and photos from fieldwork and travels to geography@psu.edu.

Alumnus Patrick Stephens, has just had a map published as part of a scientific article.  Stephens generated this map while working on an independent study with Andrew Carleton in fall 2015.

Megan Baumann, Eden Kinkaid, and Carolynne Hultquist were elected at the new grad reps for 2017–18  Lauren Fritzsche will continue to serve during the fall semester.

Erica Smithwick was a panelist on Conversations LIVE: Climate Change with host Patty Satalia on Thursday, April 27.


Penn State opens mapping course on FutureLearn MOOC platform
Penn State’s massive open online course “Maps and the Geospatial Revolution” will open May 8 on FutureLearn, the United Kingdom’s leading MOOC platform.

Record 83 undergraduates receive 2017 Erickson Discovery Grants
Geography undergrad Eva Bonta is a recipient
At Penn State, an increasing amount of students are forgoing their usual summer routines and participating in research in the field, lab, or studio. For some, this means staying close to campus while others travel thousands of miles away to research topics in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities and arts fields.

Army captain balanced military training, deployment while completing his degree
Duhon graduated with a master’s degree in homeland security
Army Capt. Andy Duhon has been busy the past four years. He attained his current rank and position after completing Army courses and trainings. He took language immersion classes before serving overseas. He deployed to West Africa for six months, and he and his wife had two kids.


Leveraging Big (Geo) Data with (Geo) Visual Analytics: Place as the Next Frontier [book chapter]
By Alan M. MacEachren
In Spatial Data Handling in Big Data Era
Access DOI 10.1007/978-981-10-4424-3_10
A tension exists in the discipline of Geography between the concepts of space and place. Most research and development in Geographical Information Science (GIScience) has been focused on the former, through methods to formally structure data about the world and to systematically model and analyze aspects of the world as represented through those structured data. People, however, live and behave in socially constructed places; what they care about happens in those places rather than in some abstract, modeled ‘space’. Study of place, by human geographers (and other social scientists and humanist scholars), typically using qualitative methods and seldom relying on digital data, has proceeded largely independently of GIScience research focused on space. There have been calls within GIScience to formalize place to enable application of Geographical Information Systems methods to place-based problems, and some progress in this direction has been made. Here, however, a complementary view is offered for treating ‘place’ as a first class object of attention by capitalizing on the combination of “big data” and new human-centered visual analytical methods to enable understanding of the complexity inherent in place as both a concept and a context for human behavior.

A decade of colonization: the spread of the Asian tiger mosquito in Pennsylvania and implications for disease risk
By Taber, Eric D.; Hutchinson, Michael L.; Smithwick, Erica A. H.; Blanford, Justine I.
In Journal of Vector Ecology  Jun 2017, Vol. 42 Issue 1, p3-12. 10p.
In recent decades, the Asian tiger mosquito expanded its geographic range throughout the northeastern United States, including Pennsylvania. The establishment of Aedes albopictus in novel areas raises significant public health concerns, since this species is a highly competent vector of several arboviruses, including chikungunya, West Nile, and dengue. In this study, we used geographic information systems (GIS) to examine a decade of colonization by Ae. albopictus throughout Pennsylvania between 2001 and 2010. We examined the spatial and temporal distribution of Ae. albopictus using spatial statistical analysis and examined the risk of dengue virus transmission using a model that captures the probability of transmission. Our findings show that since 2001, the Ae. albopictus population in Pennsylvania has increased, becoming established and expanding in range throughout much of the state. Since 2010, imported cases of dengue fever have been recorded in Pennsylvania. Imported cases of dengue, in combination with summer temperatures conducive for virus transmission, raise the risk of local disease transmission.

Constructing landscapes: Healthcare contexts in rural South Africa
By Margaret Winchester and Brian King
In Medicine Anthropology Theory 4, no. 1: 151–176
Access http://www.medanthrotheory.org/read/7212/constructing-landscapes
The concept of therapeutic landscapes has been adopted from geography by anthropologists with a similar commitment to addressing the intersections between the construction of place and the multifaceted and symbolic dimensions of health. Drawing from health geography and medical anthropology, we take up the challenge from these fields to approach health broadly in order to understand how health decision making is connected to intersecting political, economic, social, and cultural processes that shape what options are available to people. This article presents findings from an ongoing study of the political ecology of health in northeastern South Africa. We consider how therapeutic landscapes are produced by physical infrastructure, social dynamics, and the use of
natural resources for livelihoods and health management. While each of these dimensions is critical in shaping human health, we argue that it is through their interaction that therapeutic landscapes are produced. Landscapes of care are thus complicated and shifting, with rural households making strategic decisions to leverage government support, social support, and resources for health management. We conclude by emphasizing the need for further integration of anthropological and geographic frameworks in studying human health.

The determinants of dietary diversity and nutrition: ethnonutrition knowledge of local people in the East Usambara Mountains, Tanzania
By Bronwen Powell, Rachel Bezner Kerr, Sera L. Young and Timothy Johns
In Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine
Access DOI: 10.1186/s13002-017-0150-2
Diet and nutrition-related behaviours are embedded in cultural and environmental contexts: adoption of new knowledge depends on how easily it can be integrated into existing knowledge systems. As dietary diversity promotion becomes an increasingly common component of nutrition education, understanding local nutrition knowledge systems and local concepts about dietary diversity is essential to formulate efficient messages.
Methods. This paper draws on in-depth qualitative ethnographic research conducted in small-scale agricultural communities in Tanzania. Data were collected using interviews, focus group discussions and participant observation in the East Usambara Mountains, an area that is home primarily to the Shambaa and Bondei ethnic groups, but has a long history of ethnic diversity and ethnic intermixing.
Results. The data showed a high degree of consensus among participants who reported that dietary diversity is important because it maintains and enhances appetite across days, months and seasons. Local people reported that sufficient cash resources, agrobiodiversity, heterogeneity within the landscape, and livelihood diversity all supported their ability to consume a varied diet and achieve good nutritional status. Other variables affecting diet and dietary diversity included seasonality, household size, and gender. The results suggest that dietary diversity was perceived as something all people, both rich and poor, could achieve. There was significant overlap between local and scientific understandings of dietary diversity, suggesting that novel information on the importance of dietary diversity promoted through education will likely be easily integrated into the existing knowledge systems.

Map Projections and the Internet [book chapter]
By Kessler, Fritz, C., Sarah E. Battersby, Michael P. Finn, and Keith C. Clarke
In Choosing a Map Projection
Access DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-51835-0_4
The field of map projections can be described as mathematical, static, and challenging. However, this description is evolving in concert with the development of the Internet. The Internet has enabled new outlets for software applications, learning, and interaction with and about map projections . This chapter examines specific ways in which the Internet has moved map projections from a relatively obscure paper-based setting to a more engaging and accessible online environment. After a brief overview of map projections, this chapter discusses four perspectives on how map projections have been integrated into the Internet. First, map projections and their role in web maps and mapping services is examined. Second, an overview of online atlases and the map projections chosen for their maps is presented. Third, new programming languages and code libraries that enable map projections to be included in mapping applications are reviewed. Fourth, the Internet has facilitated map projection education and research especially with the map reader’s comprehension and understanding of complex topics like map projection distortion is discussed.

Apr 17

Recognition Reception | An indirect approach to human rights? | Course development seed grants


Penn State Department of Geography’s graduate wetlands class spent the Earth Day weekend exploring a gradient of wetlands in southern New Jersey from freshwater Atlantic White Cedar swamps of the Pinelands to coastal salt marshes of Delaware Bay. Here, the two come together where sea level rise is forcing salt marshes to invade the low-lying cedar swamps. Rot-resistant cedar tree trunks can be seen in the background protruding from the encroaching salt marsh. Their Society of Wetland Scientists matching t-shirts display their support for the March for Science. From right to left are: Rob Brooks (instructor), Peter Backhaus, Zheng Lin, Kyle Clark, Josh Wisor, Jesus Ruiz-Plancarte, Travis Young, and Ramzi Tubbeh (not pictured: Tim Gould and Tara Mazurczyk were involved in other contributing activities over the weekend).


Meg Boyle is serving as a panelist tonight (April 25), at the “Teach-in on Climate Change and Environmental Policy in the Age of Trump,” 6:30-8:00 p.m. Foster Auditorium, Paterno Library.

The department’s annual Recognition Reception takes place Friday, April 28 in Walker Building.

Diane Felmlee (Sociology), Alan MacEachren, Stephen Mathews, and Justine Blanford received a Seed Grant from the Social Science Research Institute.

Yanan Xin and Megan Baumann have been selected as the UROC coordinators for the 2017–18 academic year.

Bronwen Powell was invited to speak at this year’s UN Forum on Forests to be held during the first week of May at UN Headquarters in New York.

Annie Taylor, Director of the Dutton e-Education Institute will become EMS Assistant Dean of Distance Learning and Director, Dutton e-Education Institute.

Liping Yang, Guido Cervone, and Alan M. MacEachren won an NVIDIA GPU Grant (NVIDIA Awarded one Titan X Pascal GPU card).


When using the phrase ‘human rights’ hinders human-rights initiatives
A. Marie Ranjbar noticed a peculiar pattern in the conversations she was having as part of her dissertation research. A doctoral candidate in geography and women’s studies at Penn State, Ranjbar was interviewing minority ethnic groups in northwest Iran for research into how certain ethnic groups view a shrinking lake in northwest Iran, Lake Urmia.

Office for General Education announces Integrative Studies Seed Grant awards
Geographers Jennifer Baka, Lorraine Dowler, Chris Fowler, Joshua Inwood, and Karl Zimmerer are among awardees
The Integrative Studies Seed Grant Program, offered through the Penn State Office for General Education, will support 71 different course development projects this summer. In response to the large volume of highly qualified proposals, the budget was generously increased by more than 50 percent by the Office of the Provost and the Office of Undergraduate Education.


Short-term photovoltaic power forecasting using Artificial Neural Networks and an Analog Ensemble
By Cervone, G., Clemente-Harding, L., Alessandrini, S., Monache, L. D.
In Renewable Energy
Access http://doi.org/10.1016/j.renene.2017.02.052
A methodology based on Artificial Neural Networks (ANN) and an Analog Ensemble (AnEn) is presented to generate 72 h deterministic and probabilistic forecasts of power generated by photovoltaic (PV) power plants using input from a numerical weather prediction model and computed astronomical variables. ANN and AnEn are used individually and in combination to generate forecasts for three solar power plants located in Italy. The computational scalability of the proposed solution is tested using synthetic data simulating 4450 PV power stations. The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Yellowstone supercomputer is employed to test the parallel implementation of the proposed solution, ranging from one node (32 cores) to 4450 nodes (141,140 cores). Results show that a combined AnEn + ANN solution yields best results, and that the proposed solution is well suited for massive scale computation.

Source Reconstruction of Atmospheric Release with Limited Meteorological Observations Using Genetic Algorithms
By Petrozziello, A., Cervone, G., Franzese, P., Haupt, S. E., Cerulli, R.
In Applied Artificial Intelligence
Access doi: 10.1080/08839514.2017.1300005
A genetic algorithm is paired with a Lagrangian puff atmospheric model to reconstruct the source characteristics of an atmospheric release. Observed meteorological and ground concentration measurements from the real-world Dipole Pride controlled release experiment are used to test the methodology. A sensitivity study is performed to quantify the relative contribution of the number and location of sensor measurements by progressively removing them. Additionally, the importance of the meteorological measurements is tested by progressively removing surface observations and vertical profiles. It is shown that the source term reconstruction can occur also with limited meteorological observations. The proposed general methodology can be applied to reconstruct the characteristics of an unknown atmospheric release given limited ground and meteorological observations.

Apr 17

Coffee Hour with Keefover-Ring | Crane named Global Programs avp | Recognition Reception


European Beech at Walker Building eastern entrance

A springtime view of the eastern corner entrance to Walker Building, seen through the large buds on the European Beech (Fagus sylvatica). Join us here on April 28 for the annual Recognition Reception. We recognize the accomplishments of our community during this important annual event. We will also celebrate renewals to labs in the department; help us to dedicate our new learning spaces.


  • Tonight at 7:00 p.m. at the State Theatre, a public screening of “Managing Risk in a Changing Climate” followed by a panel discussion, including Erica Smithwick.
  • Russell Hedberg is on the board of the AAG Geographies of Food and Agriculture Speciality Group which published an op-ed in the Finger Lakes Times on how the current administrations proposed immigration policies will affect the food and agriculture sector in the US.
  • Tara Mazurczyk, Natalie Pawlikowski, Cary Anderson, and Lauren Fritzsche will be the SWIG officers for 2017-2018.
  • Azita Ranjbar has accepted a tenure-track position with Ohio State’s Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Morteza Karimzadeh has accepted a lecturer position with Ohio State’s Department of Geography.
  • Alumna Rachel Passmore is going to attend Columbia University in the fall to pursue a master’s degree in public health with a specialization on women’s health.
  • Alumna Adrienne Cooke is going to the University of Illinois, fully funded on a fellowship.
  • Teresa Onorati arrived as a visiting scholar in GeoVISTA/Geography. She will be here collaborating with several of us through the end of summer. Onorati is visiting from the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. She is currently a postdoc in the Department of Computer Science; her research is focused on Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) to empower social knowledge in domains of public interest like crisis management and politics.
  • Karl Zimmerer’s article on “Agrobiodiversity and a Sustainable Food Future” was referenced on the blog Roots, Tubers, and Bananas.
  • Alan MacEachren, Jenn Baka, and Prasenjit Mitra (IST), along with postdoc Liping Yang received a Seed Grant from the Institute for CyberScience for their proposal: Comment Analytics: Leveraging Big Unstructured Data to Understand Spatial and Temporal Variations in Public Response to Government Policy.


Final spring 2017 Coffee Hour with Ken Keefover-Ring: The space-thyme continuum and other tales of chemical biogeography
Plants produce a wide variety of so-called “secondary compounds” which they use for many different functions, including deterring their herbivores or attracting their pollinators. Many of these compounds are familiar to us since we have co-opted them for our own purposes, such as fragrances and flavors (essential oils) and medicines and stimulants (aspirin and caffeine). While we associate specific plants with certain compounds, in natural populations the chemistry of some plant species can be quite variable. I am interested in this variation and how secondary compound-mediated interactions between plants and other organisms can change over a plant’s range. In this talk I will discuss where the fields of chemical ecology and biogeography meet and use some of my work to illustrate the ecological and evolutionary implications of plant chemical variation over the landscape.

  • Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m.
  • The lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.
  • Coffee Hour to go webcast

Robert Crane named associate vice provost for Global Programs
After a national search for an associate vice provost for Global Programs, Robert G. Crane, director of Strategic Initiatives within Global Programs at Penn State, has been named to the post.

“Rob is a tireless advocate for international education and a strong believer in the ideals of transforming Penn State into a truly global university,” said Michael Adewumi, vice provost for Global Programs. “Recommended by the search committee, Rob is an excellent choice, given his experience and close working knowledge and leadership roles in Global Programs over the years. His ability to take on projects and tasks that not only benefit our students and the University as a whole, but also benefit the nation and other countries is longstanding and proven.”

Apr 17

Coffee Hour-Miller Lecture with Anthony Bebbington | Easterling award | Spring events


Geog undergrads at AAG poster session

Undergraduate students in the Department of Geography (from left), Kathy Cappelli, Christopher Mertz, Adelaide Kellett, Connor Klassen and Andrew Brown participated in research poster sessions at the American Association of Geographers annual meeting in Boston, Ma., April 5–9 2017.


Eva Bonta received a Penn State Erickson Discovery Grant for her project “Gastronomic Tourism in Mezcala, Mexico.”

Benjamin Carlsen’s team won “Best Visualization” at Penn State’s 2017 ASA Datafest competition

Aparna Parikh’s paper, “Ignoring perceptions, heightening risk: Examining paradoxes of urban safety policies for women working the night shift in Mumbai, India” receiving the Glenda Laws Student Paper Award from the AAG Global Perspectives On Women Specialty Group.

Ethan Davis was interviewed on “The Morning Mixtape” radio program about his new farm “Strong Roots Organic Farm” and CSAs on Friday, April 7.


Coffee Hour is the Miller Lecture with Anthony Bebbington: Mapping forest threats: the challenge of infrastructure and extractive industry
Debates over the Amazon forest in the 1970s established the adverse effects of large scale infrastructure on forest cover and forest peoples. Yet while scholars and activists in geography and related fields demonstrated the political and economic factors shaping forest conversion, the war over who in practice gets to determine the extent of forest cover continues to wage on. Forests have become increasingly disputed territories, and those disputes challenge the maintenance of forest cover and the rights of populations who live from the forest. In these disputes over forests, the expansion of extractive industry investment and investment in infrastructure play a particular role. This is the case for large and small-scale of extraction and infrastructure alike. This talk presents on-going work that attempts to assess the extent and significance of these two sectors as threats to forest cover, with a focus on the Amazon, Indonesia and Mesoamerica.

  • Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:00 p.m.
  • The lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.
  • Coffee Hour to go webcast
  • Next time: April 21 Ken Keefover-Ring

Easterling receives national ‘Giving Back Award’ for promoting diversity
William Easterling, dean of the College of the Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS), received the 2017 Giving Back Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine for his contributions to increasing diversity and promoting opportunities for students and faculty.

“Dean Easterling is very attuned to issues of power and privilege and equity, as well as to underrepresentation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields and actively works to make a positive difference,” said Victoria Sanchez, EMS’ associate dean for educational equity. “In his time as dean, he has made diversity, equity and inclusive excellence a priority for the College.”

Using geodesign for Major League Baseball stadium development
The best way for students to learn about geodesign is to apply their learning to real world projects, especially because many of the online students are already in the workforce.

Jim Sipes, a faculty member for the online geodesign program at Penn State and renowned designer with Sand County Studios, developed a project to investigate the new Atlanta Braves baseball stadium and neighborhood development as the challenge for the fall 2016 Geodesign II course on urban landscape change issues.


Agrobiodiversity and a sustainable food future
By K. S. Zimmerer, S. de Haan
In Nature Plants
Access doi:10.1038/nplants.2017.47
The biodiversity of food plants is vital for humanity’s capacity to meet sustainability challenges. This goal requires the rigorous integration of plant, environmental, social and health sciences. It is coalescing around four thematic cornerstones that are both interdisciplinary and policy relevant.

Traditional Sustainable Harvesting Knowledge and Distribution of a Vulnerable Wild Medicinal Root (A. pyrethrum var. pyrethrum) in Ait M’hamed Valley, Morocco
By Abderrahim Ouarghidi, Bronwen Powell, Gary J. Martin, Abdelaziz Abbad
In Economic Botany
Access 10.1007/s12231-017-9374-2
This study examined traditional harvesting knowledge and practices, paired with field-based assessment of distribution of a vulnerable wild medicinal root, Anacyclus pyrethrum var. pyrethrum, in southern Morocco. Research included focus groups, qualitative interviews, and a survey of 38 collectors. Based on local knowledge, replanting trials were conducted and transects and plot-based assessments were used to examine distribution.

An Evaluation of a Visual Analytics Prototype for Calendar-Related Spatiotemporal Periodicity Detection and Analysis
By Brian Swedberg, Donna Peuquet
In Cartographica
Access https://muse.jhu.edu/article/652031
Whether it is sunrise, the weekend, or Christmas, some form of temporal structure or periodic pattern governs our daily activities. Understanding them is essential to making sense of human activity, because they frame normality and allow us to identify abnormalities. However, cultural heterogeneity and scale greatly complicate our ability to uncover and understand human activity at a given time within a region. Current research in the field of visual analytics and geography provide methods of addressing spatiotemporal periodicity, but they fall short in providing access to multiple spatial and temporal scales via a relevant calendar. In response to these shortcomings, we developed PerSE (periodicity in spatio-temporal events), a coordinated-view Web application designed to aid users in the detection and analysis of calendar-related periodicity in spatiotemporal event data sets. Given the complexity of such a visualization tool, this paper focuses on the usability and learnability of PerSE. We evaluated the tool through a 20-participant study that consisted of training, a multiple-choice test, and the System Usability Scale. Our analysis of the results shows that the complex combination of visual tools and multi-scale, multi-calendar capability used within PerSE is effective, but still in need of usability improvements.

Planning Dissonance” and the Bases for Stably Diverse Neighborhoods: The Case of South Seattle.
By Lumley-Sapanski, Audrey and Fowler, Christopher S.
In City & Community
Access 10.1111/cico.12224
Recent scholarship has focused extensively on the rise of diverse neighborhoods in U.S. cities. Nevertheless, the theoretical frameworks we have for describing residential settlement patterns generally treat diversity as an unstable and transitory period that is the product of a unidirectional pressure towards segregation. In our analysis of six diverse neighborhoods in Southeast Seattle, we find evidence of processes at multiple scales that not only maintain diversity, but actually reinforce it. From individual decisions about property ownership to broader patterns of regional disinvestment, we find empirical evidence that indicates a need for a more complex theorization of the processes that create and sustain diverse neighborhoods. In our preliminary theorization of these conditions, we call for a conceptualization of residential settlement patterns that is explicitly multiscalar and recognizes a wider range of cultural, economic, and political relations as central to the production of observed patterns of neighborhood settlement.

Mar 17

AAG presenters and reception info | Dowler’s election | Coffee Hour updates


AAG Reception San Francisco

Scene from the Alumni and Friends Reception during AAG in San Francisco. Cindy Brewer [center] makes sure everyone gets enough flatbread pizza. Join us April 7, 2017 for the Alumni and Friends Reception during AAG, at Dillons in Boston, Ma., 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. For more information and to RSVP: www.geog.psu.edu/aag-reception


  • Both Karl Zimmerer and his advisee Nathan Clay had articles published in the March issue of the Annals of the American Association of Geographers.
  • Alex Klippel, Roger Downs, Andrew Carleton, and Karl Zimmerer all contributed articles to The International Encyclopedia of Geography.
  • College of EMS announces a new Stellar Performance Award. Nominations due by the last day of classes for each semester (fall, spring, summer) for recognition during following semester. To learn more about the award and how to nominate a staff member, please visit: www.ems.psu.edu/stellarAward


Coffee Hour schedule announcement
Due to the AAG Annual meeting, April 5–9, 2017, there will be no Coffee Hour on March 31 or April 7. The next Coffee Hour will be April 14. Remember, if you missed a talk, you can view the archived webcast on Mediasite, linked from each talk’s webpage.

Remainder of the spring 2017 Coffee Hour schedule:

  • April 14 The Miller Lecture with Anthony Bebbington, Higgins Professor of Environment and Society and Professor of Geography, Clark University
  • April 21 Ken Keefover-Ring

Many Penn State 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 Boston, April 5–9, 2017.

Newly elected AAG national councilor Dowler sights social justice
Penn State associate professor of geography and women’s, gender and sexuality studies, Lorraine Dowler, has been elected as a national councilor for the American Association of Geographers’ governing body. She is one of six national councilors and will begin her three-year term on July 1.

“In my new role, I will advocate for the discipline to be a leader in education and society more generally in promoting economic justice, political freedom, environmental stability and cultural acceptance,” Dowler said.


Mar 17

Coffee Hour with Antoinette WinklerPrins | NSF Workshop on DDRIs | Student awards


urban agriculture

This photo illustrating an aspect of urban agriculture is on the cover of the forthcoming book Global Urban Agriculture: Convergence of Theory and Practice between North and South, edited by Antoinette WinklerPrins. WinklerPrins, NSF program director of the Geography and Spatial Sciences DDRI, will be leading a workshop on Applying for DDRIs on March 23. She will also be the Coffee Hour speaker on March 24. Her visit is sponsored by Penn State Supporting Women in Geography (SWIG). There is still time to register for the March 23 Workshop on NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Awards, 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., 319 Walker Building, Penn State, University Park campus.


  • There is still time to submit your essay about mentorship for SWIG’s Jennifer Fluri and Amy Trauger Student Essay Competition. Submissions are due March 27, 2017. For more information and to submit your work: http://www.geog.psu.edu/swig-essay-contest
  • Megan Baumann has received the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.
  • Eden Kinkaid has received a Foreign Language and Area Studies Summer Graduate Fellowship to study advanced Hindi and conduct preliminary fieldwork this summer in India.
  • Yanan Xin, Lauren Fritzsche, Ramzi Tubbeh, Peter Ryan, Eden Kinkaid, and Renee have completed painting the PLACE Lab landscape mural.
  • Eden Kinkaid has been awarded the NSF Graduate Research Program Fellowship.
  • Jamie Peeler received an Honorable Mention for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.
  • ChoroPhronesis members Mark Simpson and Jiayan Zhao both got their 3rd peer-reviewed paper accepted for this academic year. Simpson’s paper “Quantifying Space, Understanding Minds: A Visual Summary Approach” will be published in the Journal of Spatial Information Science. Zhao’s paper “Immersive Virtual Reality for Geosciences” will be published in the proceedings of the 2017 IEEE VR Workshop on K-12 Embodied Learning through Virtual & Augmented Reality (KELVAR)
  • Carolyn Fish won the CaGIS Doctoral Scholarship Award for demonstrated excellence in cartography or GIScience and the potential to contribute to cartography or GIScience research.
  • Liping Yang and Guido Cervone won the 2017 NCAR/CISL summer research grant titled “Experiments with TensorFlow and Apache Spark on Cheyenne and Yellowstone Supercomputers for Image Classification and Segmentation”


Coffee Hour with Antoinette WinklerPrins: Global Urban Agriculture: Convergence of Theory and Practice between North and South
Urban agriculture (UA) is the practice of cultivating in cities and other non-rural places, an activity that is increasing as the world becomes more urbanized. The topic has seen growing attention as a topic of investigation by academics and practitioners, but research and writing about UA has often been partitioned between that which is practiced in the Global North (GN) and how it is practiced in the Global South (GS). The focus in the GS has typically been on the role of UA in providing food security and limited employment for the (newly) urban poor. Investigations of UA in the GN have focused on issues of social justice and community empowerment as well as grass-roots and countercultural actions, including a focus on relocalizing food sources.

  • Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m.
  • The lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.
  • Coffee Hour to go webcast 
  • Next time: April 14 The Miller Lecture with Anthony Bebbington


Qualitative Spatial and Temporal Representation and Reasoning
By Klippel, A. and Wallgrün, J. O.
In The International Encyclopedia of Geography. 1–8.
Access DOI: 10.1002/9781118786352.wbieg0940
The representation of and reasoning with spatial and temporal information are central to spatial sciences. Formalizations of both allow the design of efficient computer programs that enable artificial intelligence (AI). The area of knowledge representation, as a subfield of AI but with contributions from the spatial sciences, is playing a leading role in these developments, and a strong subfield exists that is dedicated to qualitative spatial and temporal representation and reasoning (QSTR). The focus on qualitative approaches to reasoning is inspired by an interest in understanding how humans represent, think, and reason with spatial and temporal information from a commonsense, that is, intuitive, perspective. This entry provides an overview on the motivation behind QSTR, with explanations of central concepts such as qualitative calculi and conceptual neighborhood, as well as on cognitive evaluations of proposed approaches and current trends in this area of research.

Spatial Thinking, Cognition, and Learning
By Downs, R. M.
In The International Encyclopedia of Geography. 1–10
Access DOI: 10.1002/9781118786352.wbieg0700
Spatial thinking is a distinctive, universal, and powerful form of thinking used in problem solving in multiple disciplines and in real-world activities. Space, representation, and reasoning are inseparably integrated in spatial thinking and therefore it is, and has always been, central to the teaching and practice of geography in schools, academia, and occupations. Spatial thinking can be learned and should be taught at all levels in the formal education system because life in our spatial world is inconceivable without the aid of spatial thinking. After providing a definition of spatial thinking, this entry sets it into three contexts: geography, psychology, and education.

Climatic Modes and Teleconnections
By Carleton, A. M.
In The International Encyclopedia of Geography.
Access DOI: 10.1002/9781118786352.wbieg0494
Recurring spatial anomaly patterns of climate variability on intraseasonal, interannual, and decadal timescales (“climatic modes”) express associations with atmospheric and oceanic circulations, modulated by land surface–atmosphere interactions. These teleconnections range in influence from global (El Niño Southern Oscillation) to hemispheric (Arctic Oscillation, Antarctic Oscillation) to continental/regional (e.g., North Atlantic Oscillation, Pacific–North America pattern), and originate both in the tropics (e.g., Madden–Julian Oscillation) and extratropics (e.g., Antarctic Circumpolar Wave). Climate variables influenced by – and characterizing – teleconnections include temperature and precipitation, sea level pressure/geopotential height, winds, outgoing longwave radiation, and sea surface temperature. The opposing (i.e., extreme) phases of a teleconnection are evident as distinct patterns of heat and cold, droughts and floods, wildfires, synoptic circulation activity (tropical cyclones, frontal cyclones), and subsynoptic weather (e.g., tornadoes, “polar lows”). Contemporary climate change (“global warming”) may be altering both the internal attributes and frequencies of teleconnections.

Mar 17

Coffee Hour with Roger Downs | Smithwick’s COIL Conversation | PAC Herbarium


Erica Smithwick

Erica Smithwick studies the carbon stored in forests in South Africa during her 2016 Fulbright project. Smithwick talks about her research and teaching in a COIL Conversation, March 16, 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. EST. 313 Location: Keller Building, University Park, PA and online at https://meeting.psu.edu/coil. Registration required at https://goo.gl/Pqewsy



Coffee Hour with Roger Downs: Incidental Learning about Geography: Saint-Exupéry and The Little Prince
There are formal and informal pathways for developing geographic knowledge and skills. Each pathway is characterized by a mode of learning, with distinctions between instructed and uninstructed learning, and intentional and incidental learning. Each pathway generates different understandings of the world. The scholarly discipline of geography is defined by the formal pathway, and that pathway is well-studied. The informal pathway is neither well-recognized nor well-studied. Instead, we lament about the persistence and prevalence of geographic ignorance. Nevertheless, to function people need to know about the geographic world: weather, roads, distances and directions, seasons, cities, hazards, vegetation. People develop an understanding of geography derived from everyday experiences. How do geographic knowledge and skills develop from everyday experience? Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote about flying mail planes in Africa and South America, and wartime flying in Europe. Geography underpins his books, not the formal geography mastered from school instruction, but the informal geography hard-learned from meeting challenges of navigation, storms, night flying with few instruments and little fuel, and searching for emergency landing places.

Penn State’s Roger Downs to receive AAG 2017 Presidential Achievement Award
Roger M. Downs, the Ruby S. and E. Willard Miller Professor of Geography in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, has been selected to receive the American Association of Geographers (AAG) 2017 Presidential Achievement Award.

Pa. Agricultural College Herbarium has dappled history, deep roots
Ever wonder how you can identify a plant you’ve found in your yard or while conducting fieldwork? What about determining how plants in a particular location have adapted over time due to climate change? You can get help at the PAC (Pennsylvania Agricultural College) Herbarium, a kind of museum for plants.

“The PAC Herbarium provides a variety of services to the University and larger botanical community including research and teaching support, tours, and training workshops,” said newly appointed curator Sarah Chamberlain.

from the Centre Daily Times
Erica Smithwick sets out on a ‘grand adventure’

The title of “Globe-Trotting Adventurer” has officially passed from Indiana Jones to Erica Smithwick, an associate professor at Penn State whose research in the field of physical geography has taken her deep into the forests of South Africa. Smithwick happily balances continent hopping with a busy family life.


Geography and the Study of Human–Environment Relations
By Karl Zimmerer
In The International Encyclopedia of Geography. 1–23.
Access DOI: 10.1002/9781118786352.wbieg1028
Human–environment geography is characterized by focused integration and synthesis of the in-depth analysis of both the multifaceted human conditions of interactions with the environment and the active dynamics of the biogeophysical world. The nine topical and thematic areas currently comprising human–environment geography are (i) human–environment interactions in hazards, risk, vulnerability, and resilience; (ii) land use, land systems, land change, and biodiversity; (iii) social-ecological and coupled human–environment systems; (iv) political ecology and human–environment relations; (v) human–environment relations in livelihoods and agricultural landscapes; (vi) resource political economy, management, and politics; (vii) food, health, and bodies in relation to the environment; (viii) environmental landscape history and ideas; and (ix) knowledge concepts in environmental management and policy. Finally, new trends are identified in order to understand the ongoing diversification and potential future expansion of human–environment geography.

Weight and Veterans’ Environments Study (WAVES) I and II
By Shannon N. Zenk, Elizabeth Tarlov, Lisa M. Powell, Coady Wing, Stephen A. Matthews, Sandy Slater, Howard S. Gordon, Michael Berbaum, Marian L. Fitzgibbon,
In American Journal of Health Promotion
Access 10.1177/0890117117694448
To present the rationale, methods, and cohort characteristics for 2 complementary “big data” studies of residential environment contributions to body weight, metabolic risk, and weight management program participation and effectiveness. A total of 3 261 115 veterans who received Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care in 2009 to 2014, including 169 910 weight management program participants and a propensity score–derived comparison group. Forty-four percent of men and 42.8% of women were obese, whereas 4.9% of men and 9.9% of women engaged in MOVE!. About half of the cohort had at least 1 supermarket within 1 mile of their home, whereas they averaged close to 4 convenience stores (3.6 for men, 3.9 for women) and 8 fast-food restaurants (7.9 for men, 8.2 for women). Forty-one percent of men and 38.6% of women did not have a park, and 35.5% of men and 31.3% of women did not have a commercial fitness facility within 1 mile.

Feb 17

Coffee Hour schedule | The Tea Institute | MOOCs with FutureLearn


Devin Yeatman takes a short break after a burnout operation during the September 2012 Mustang Complex, a fire in the Bitterroot Mountains on the Idaho-Montana border.

Devin Yeatman takes a short break after a burnout operation during the September 2012 Mustang Complex, a fire in the Bitterroot Mountains on the Idaho-Montana border. Photo by Josh Tereszkiewicz.

Alumni mini-profile: Devin Yeatman earned his B.S. in 2007 and has worked as a firefighter with the Nature Conservancy and Chena, Alaska hotshot crew.  He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Natural Resources at the University of Idaho,  analyzing the pre-fire vegetation conditions around houses that were involved in major wildfire events to explore the relationship between vegetation surrounding a home and whether it burns or not. Yeatman remains active in the University of Idaho’s prescribed fire program on the university’s experimental forest and with local partners like the U.S. Forest Service. He plans to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail this summer with his fiancée.


  • Catherine and Thomas Lauvaux are delighted to announce the birth of their son, Robin Amédée on Feb. 7, 2017.  Everyone is doing well.
  • Please submit your nominations for department awards for outstanding teaching or research assistant. All nominations should be saved as a single file by the faculty member writing the letter of support and emailed to the awards committee chair at csfowler@psu.edu. The due date for nominations is March 17.


Coffee Hour schedule announcement
Due to Spring Break, March 5–11, there will be no Coffee Hour on March 3 or March 10. The next Coffee Hour will be March 17. The speaker will be Roger Downs, the Ruby S. and E. Willard Miller professor of geography in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.

Remainder of the spring 2017 Coffee Hour schedule:

  • March 24 Antoinette WinklerPrins, NSF Program Director of Geography and Spatial Sciences (GSS) DDRI
  • April 14 The Miller Lecture with Anthony Bebbington, Higgins Professor of Environment and Society and Professor of Geography, Clark University
  • April 21 tbd

Remember, if you missed a talk, you can view the archived webcast on Mediasite.

Geography undergraduate researches tea plantation loss through Tea Institute
For Zongjun Li, a junior majoring in geography at Penn State, the chance to explore real-life opportunities with his degree is what drives him as an undergraduate student.

“It’s important to me to take the knowledge from our textbooks and bring it to life out in the real world,” Li said.

Raised in Guangzhou, China, Li, who is majoring in geographic information science (GIS), has always been fascinated by the applications of the geography major.

Penn State to offer MOOCs on FutureLearn online learning platform
Penn State will begin offering massive open online courses through FutureLearn, the United Kingdom’s leading MOOC platform, as part of the organization’s launch in the United States.

Penn State’s first two MOOCs with FutureLearn will be offered in the spring and will be taught by renowned faculty members in their fields. Richard Alley, a world-renowned climate scientist and Evan Pugh University Professor of Geosciences, will teach “Energy, the Environment and our Future.” Anthony Robinson, assistant professor of geography, will teach “Maps and the Geospatial Revolution.”


Development, Implementation, and Evaluation of Active Lions: A Campaign to Promote Active Travel to a University Campus
By Melissa Bopp, Dangaia Sims, Stephen A. Matthews, Liza S. Rovniak, Erika Poole, Joanna Colgan
In American Journal of Health Promotion
Access: https://doi.org/10.1177/0890117117694287
To outline the development, implementation, and evaluation of a multistrategy intervention to promote active transportation, on a large university campus. The Active Lions campaign aimed to increase active transportation to campus for all students and employees. The campaign targeted active transport participation through the development of a smartphone application and the implementation of supporting social marketing and social media components. Component-specific measures included app user statistics, social media engagement, and reach of social marketing strategies. Overall evaluation included cross-sectional online surveys preintervention and postintervention of student and employee travel patterns and campaign awareness.

Short-term photovoltaic power forecasting using Artificial Neural Networks and an Analog Ensemble
By Guido Cervone, Laura Clemente-Harding, Stefano Alessandrini, Luca Delle Monache
In Renewable Energy
Access: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.renene.2017.02.052
A methodology based on Artificial Neural Networks (ANN) and an Analog Ensemble (AnEn) is presented to generate 72-hour deterministic and probabilistic forecasts of power generated by photovoltaic (PV) power plants using input from a numerical weather prediction model and computed astronomical variables. ANN and AnEn are used individually and in combination to generate forecasts for three solar power plants located in Italy. The computational scalability of the proposed solution is tested using synthetic data simulating 4450 PV power stations. The NCAR Yellowstone supercomputer is employed to test the parallel implementation of the proposed solution, ranging from 1 node (32 cores) to 4450 nodes (141,140 cores). Results show that a combined AnEn + ANN solution yields best results, and that the proposed solution is well suited for massive scale computation.

Feb 17

Coffee Hour with Charles Twardy | Summer internships | Health benefits of parks


A 360-degree VR image of the renovated GeoVISTA center in Walker Building. Place your cursor over the image, hold down the mouse button, and move around to see the perspective change.



Coffee Hour with Charles Twardy: Data Science for Search and Rescue
Lost-person search is a mystery with a deadline. After 24 hours lost in the wilderness, your survivability drops by 20%. Searches happen one at a time, but nationally they consume thousands of hours and millions of dollars per year. Most of the expense is borne by ~5% the searches. These massive, extended searches would benefit from proper application of Bayesian search theory, developed in WW2 and used successfully by the Navy and Coast Guard for the past 70 years. I will discuss the unique challenges in wilderness search, and the progress made since 2000 due to the worldwide collection of lost-person data. I’ll discuss spatial probability maps for lost-person behavior, survival curves lost persons, and empirical and theoretical detection profiles, and the prospects for Bayesian search management.

  • Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m.
  • The lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.
  • Coffee Hour to go webcast
  • Next time: March 17 with Roger Downs

Measuring and improving the impact of parks on health
Geographer Brian King  is a member of the working group
A team of Penn State researchers is helping the National Park Service measure and improve its impact on people’s health. According to Derrick Taff, assistant professor of recreation, park, and tourism management (RPTM) in the College of Health and Human Development, although many people think parks provide health benefits, there is very little empirical evidence to support that notion.

Summer Internships Announced
• Capital Resource Conservation and Development Area Council
(Capital RC&D), a regional non-profit organization seeks three or more GPS assistants to accompany county survey teams and enter and manage data for the 2017 Pennsylvania Chesapeake Bay Watershed, Roadside Crop Residue/Cover Crop Transect Survey. More information PDF

• The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission is the official Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the ten-county region including the City of Pittsburgh and the counties of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Washington and Westmoreland. SPC is seeking interns (May-August) for various transportation planning projects including traffic counting, transport modeling, traffic operations studies, freight planning, safety studies, pedestrian and bicycle planning, data collection and related activities. The work environment will vary for different projects. Most positions will include both indoor and outdoor assignments. More information PDF


Microclimate and Local Climate
By Andrew M. Carleton
In Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research: February 2017, Vol. 49, No. 1, pp. 187-188.
Access: http://www.aaarjournal.org/doi/full/10.1657/AAAR0049-1-book1
Microclimate and Local Climate represents a unique approach to the study of climate at its most fundamental level: it considers the physical processes of radiation and energy, moisture, and momentum exchanges at and near Earth’s surface to be common to—and to interact across—both the microscale (“centimeters to meters”) and the local, or topographic, scale (from ∼10 m to 1 km). The spatial-scale context is fundamentally geographic, as befits the academic heritage of the authors, and Earth’s physical and living environments are treated as a closely coupled system throughout the book. The subject matter draws upon concepts not just from physical geography and climatology, but also from a wide range of cognate disciplines: meteorology, biology and ecology, hydrology, environmental physics, biogeochemistry, soil science, and statistics. Moreover, this book has direct application and relevance to those same disciplines and to others, such as agriculture, forestry, landscape architecture and urban design, environmental history, and, I would argue, even the history and philosophy of science. The authors synthesize a large number of published studies, both recent and historical (i.e., pre-2000!), to comprehensively provide detail on the physical processes of micro- and local-scale climates, the associated spatial patterns, the implications for humans, and recent and anticipated future changes.

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