Jun 19

Academic promotions and awards | Forests and carbon | Wet CA winter yields more wildfire


Michelle Ritchie and Lee KumpMichelle Ritchie receives the George H. K. Schenck Teaching Assistant Award from Dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Lee Kump at the annual Wilson Awards Banquet held this spring.


Mahda Bagher passed her Comprehensive Exam.

Phil Dennison (‘97) has been appointed chair of the Department of Geography at the University of Utah.

The following is a list of academic promotions for tenured and tenure-line faculty members at Penn State, effective July 1:

  • Guido Cervone, Lorraine Dowler, and Brian H. King, have been promoted to professor.
  • Anthony Robinson has been promoted to associate professor.

The following geographers were recognized at the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences annual Wilson Awards Banquet:

  • Erica Smithwick received the Wilson Award for Excellence in Research.
  • Alexander Klippel received the E. Willard and Ruby S. Miller Faculty Fellowship.
  • Michelle Ritchie received the George H. K. Schenck Teaching Assistant Award.
  • Andrew Patterson received the Ellen Steidle Achievement Award.
  • Joseph Grosso received EMSAGE Laureate status.


South African forests show pathways to a sustainable future

Native forests make up 1 percent of the landscape in South Africa but could play a key role in reducing atmospheric carbon and identifying sustainable development practices that can be used globally to counter climate change, according to a Penn State researcher.

“As we think about pathways for reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, one of the available approaches is to use the natural world as a sponge,” said Erica Smithwick, professor of geography and director of the Center for Landscape Dynamics at Penn State.

From the Washington Post
Wet California winter is a boon for skiers and water supply. But it brings a threat: Wildfires.

Alan Taylor is quoted

This early June morning is Boyd Shep­ler’s birthday, No. 66, and he is spending it in a classic California way: a few hours of skiing in a snowflake-filled morning, then a round of golf in the dry afternoon sun.

The snow here in the Sierra Nevada is epic, packed into a base that is more than double the historical average for early summer. Here on Mammoth Mountain, the ski lifts will be running into August. At lower altitudes, a spring of atmospheric rivers and hard rain has filled the state’s once-languishing reservoirs.


Immersive Learning in the Wild: A Progress Report

Alexander Klippel, Danielle Oprean, Jiayan Zhao, Jan Oliver Wallgrün, Peter LaFemina, Kathy Jackson, Elise Gowen
In: Beck D. et al. (eds) Immersive Learning Research Network. iLRN 2019.
Part of the Communications in Computer and Information Science book series (CCIS, volume 1044)
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-23089-0_1
Immersive technologies have entered the mainstream. To establish them firmly in educational curricula requires both practical and empirical assessments that ultimately lead to best practice and design recommendations. We report on a study that contributes to both. To enrich geoscience education, we developed an immersive virtual field trip (iVFT) that we evaluated in previous small-scale studies. In order to make it accessible to larger audiences we (a) developed a version of the iVFT for mobile devices (Oculus Go); and (b) used an evolving public VR infrastructure at The Pennsylvania State University. The results of an empirical evaluation are insightful in that they show that system characteristics are only partially predicting learning experiences and that required mainstream adoption, that is, making immersive experiences mandatory for all students in a class, still has its challenges. We discuss the results and future developments.

Climate, Environment, and Disturbance History Govern Resilience of Western North American Forests

Paul F. Hessburg, Carol L. Miller, Nicholas A. Povak, Alan H. Taylor, Philip E. Higuera, Suan J. Prichard, Malcolm P. North, Brandon M. Collins, Matthew D. Hurteau, Andrew J. Larson, Craig D. Allen, Scott L. Stephens, Hiram R. Huerta, Camille S. Rumann, Lori D. Daniels, Ze’ev Gedalof, Robert W. Gray, Van R. Kane, Derek J. Churchill, R K. Hagmann, Thomas A. Spies, Sean A. Parks, C. A. Cansler, R T. Belote, Thomas T. Veblen, Michael A. Battaglia,Chad Hoffman, Carl N. Skinner and Hugh D. Safford
Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2019.00239
Resilience and resistance concepts have broad application to ecology and society. Resilience is an emergent property that reflects the amount of disruption a system can withstand before its structure or organization uncharacteristically shift. Resistance is a component of resilience. Before the advent of intensive forest management and fire suppression, western North American forests exhibited a naturally occurring resilience to wildfires and other disturbances. Using evidence from ten ecoregions, spanning forests from Canada to Mexico, we review the properties of these forests that reinforced those qualities. We show examples of multi-level landscape resilience, of feedbacks within and among levels, and how conditions have changed under climatic and management influences. We highlight geographic similarities and differences in the structure and organization of historical landscapes, their forest types, and in the conditions that have changed resilience and resistance to abrupt or large-scale disruptions. We discuss the regional climates’ role in episodically or abruptly reorganizing plant and animal biogeography, and forest resilience and resistance to disturbances. We give clear examples of these changes and suggest that managing for resilient forests is a construct that is strongly dependent on scale and social values. It involves human community adaptations that work with the ecosystems they depend on and the processes that shape them. It entails actively managing factors and exploiting mechanisms that drive dynamics at each level as means of adapting landscapes, species, and human communities to climate change, and maintaining core ecosystem functions, processes, and services. Finally, it compels us to prioritize management that incorporates ongoing disturbances and anticipated effects of climatic changes, to support dynamically shifting patchworks of forest and nonforest. Doing so will make these shifting forest conditions and wildfire regimes more gradual and less disruptive to individuals and society.

Harnessing the power of immersive virtual reality – visualization and analysis of 3D earth science data sets

Jiayan Zhao, Jan Oliver Wallgrün, Peter C. LaFemina, Jim Normandeau & Alexander Klippel
Geo-spatial Information Science
DOI: 10.1080/10095020.2019.1621544
The availability and quantity of remotely sensed and terrestrial geospatial data sets are on the rise. Historically, these data sets have been analyzed and quarried on 2D desktop computers; however, immersive technologies and specifically immersive virtual reality (iVR) allow for the integration, visualization, analysis, and exploration of these 3D geospatial data sets. iVR can deliver remote and large-scale geospatial data sets to the laboratory, providing embodied experiences of field sites across the earth and beyond. We describe a workflow for the ingestion of geospatial data sets and the development of an iVR workbench, and present the application of these for an experience of Iceland’s Thrihnukar volcano where we: (1) combined satellite imagery with terrain elevation data to create a basic reconstruction of the physical site; (2) used terrestrial LiDAR data to provide a geo-referenced point cloud model of the magmatic-volcanic system, as well as the LiDAR intensity values for the identification of rock types; and (3) used Structure-from-Motion (SfM) to construct a photorealistic point cloud of the inside volcano. The workbench provides tools for the direct manipulation of the georeferenced data sets, including scaling, rotation, and translation, and a suite of geometric measurement tools, including length, area, and volume. Future developments will be inspired by an ongoing user study that formally evaluates the workbench’s mature components in the context of fieldwork and analyses activities.

Jun 19

Tea Time | Climate change research | Alumni news


color wheel cheesecake

Cindy Brewer gave a Tea Talk on “Systematizing Cartographic Design” on May 9 at the University of Oregon, Department of Geography, hosted by alumni Carolyn Fish (’08,’18g) and Bill Limpisathian (’15,’17g). As part of the refreshments, a color wheel cheesecake was served.


Rachel Passmore (’14) graduated last month from Columbia University with her Master of Public Health (MPH) degree. She is the incoming Project Director for a two-year NIH funded study on developmental disabilities in the Bronx at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Captain Katherine Meckler (’14), USAF,  is the winner of the Lt. Michael P. Murphy Award in Geospatial Intelligence.

The Centre County Planning & Community Development Office is seeking applicants for a position of Senior Planner 1 – Agricultural Preservation Coordinator.

Marie Louise Ryan received the Society of Woman Geographers Evelyn L. Pruitt National Fellowship for Dissertation Research.


Marching for climate change may sway people’s beliefs and actions

Americans have a long tradition of taking to the streets to protest or to advocate for things they believe in. New research suggests that when it comes to climate change, these marches may indeed have a positive effect on the public.

Eastern forests shaped more by Native Americans’ burning than climate change

Native Americans’ use of fire to manage vegetation in what is now the Eastern United States was more profound than previously believed, according to a Penn State researcher who determined that forest composition change in the region was caused more by land use than climate change.


Carbon stocks and biodiversity of coastal lowland forests in South Africa: implications for aligning sustainable development and carbon mitigation initiatives

Erica A.H. Smithwick
Carbon Management
DOI: 10.1080/17583004.2019.1620035
Indigenous forests represent South Africa’s smallest biome, yet they are critical spaces for aligning sustainable development goals with carbon mitigation activities and conservation. The objectives of this study were to quantify the productivity and biodiversity of coastal lowland forests in the Dwesa Cwebe nature reserve in the Eastern Cape Province and characterize how estimates differed among alternative allometric equations. Using a complete tree census across six plots in the reserve, a total of 1489 trees were inventoried in 2011 and again in 2016. Aboveground tree carbon averaged 99.8 Mg C ha−1 (range 77.2–126.9 Mg C ha−1) using locally derived equations and 214.6 Mg C ha−1 using generalized equations. Tree aboveground net primary productivity averaged 1041.8 g C m−2 y−1. Forty-eight tree species were identified, including many species important to the livelihoods of local communities for medicinal, ceremonial, and other provisioning services. Overall, this study shows that current conservation activities are concomitant with high tree productivity and high levels of C stocks and biodiversity, including species of local and regional significance. Sustaining forest productivity and biodiversity in the future will be critical for maintaining ecosystem services and enhancing stewardship of forest resources in the region.

2000 years of North Atlantic-Arctic climate

Jeffrey D. Auger, Paul A. Mayewski, Kirk A. Maasch, Keah C. Schuenemann, Andrew M. Carleton,
Sean D. Birkel, Jasmine E. Saros
Quaternary Science Reviews
DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2019.05.020
The North Atlantic-Arctic boundary is highly variable due to the transports of heat and moisture through the Gulf Stream and polar jet stream. The North Atlantic storm track generally follows the Gulf Stream and terminates near southeast Greenland and Iceland as the Icelandic Low. The Icelandic Low is the main driver of the North Atlantic Oscillation, particularly during winter months as the baroclinic zone expands to lower latitudes, correlating with temperature and precipitation in many areas around the North Atlantic. Understanding how atmospheric circulation, temperature, and precipitation changes in this region is important to build robust projections of how these variables will change, especially under natural and anthropogenic forcings. Here, climate proxies correlating to the Icelandic Low, summer air temperature, and annual precipitation build an understanding of how these variables changed over the last 2000 years. Through the natural climate shifts of this period — Roman Warm Period, Dark Ages Cold Period, Medieval Climate Anomaly, and Little Ice Age — it is shown that storm frequency decreases as temperature increases and the Icelandic Low increases in pressure (i.e., becomes weaker). However, these climate changes are not simultaneous, and their amplitudes are not similar across the region. Keeping regionality rather than a pan-Arctic average better explains natural variability of each sub-region and how each sub-region has evolved climatically due to anthropogenic forcings of greenhouse gases.

May 19

Weaver named Outstanding | Geographers get IEE grants | New Purple Lizard map


Missy and Alyshia PSEOPMissy Weaver was named the 2018–19 Penn State University Park Office Professionals Outstanding Office Professional Award. Pictured: Weaver and her nominator Alyshia Dann by the Nittany Lion Shrine during the Penn State Educational Office Professionals Annual Recognition ceremony held on May 15, 2019.


  • Guido Cervone was promoted to Professor of Geography, Meteorology and Atmospheric Science.
  • Fritz C. Kessler and Sarah Battersby have published a new book, “Working with Map Projections: A Guide to their Selection” which will be published by CRC Press and out in print by May 31.
  • Corene Matyas (’05g) received a Teacher of the Year award from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Florida. Matyas is an associate professor of Geography at UF, where she began teaching in 2005. She has developed several courses for and coordinates an undergraduate certificate in Meteorology and Climatology and graduate certificate in Applied Atmospheric Science. She teaches both in the computer lab so that students gain skills in utilizing a GIS to analyze atmospheric data, and online to support UF’s online BA degree in Geography.


Institutes of Energy and the Environment announces seed grant recipients

Geographers Bronwen Powell, Alexander Klippel among awardees

The 2018–19 Institutes of Energy and the Environment (IEE) seed grant recipients have been awarded to 18 groups of interdisciplinary researchers at Penn State.

IEE established a Seed Grant Program in 2013 to foster basic and applied research addressing IEE’s research themes. Over the previous rounds, IEE has awarded over $2.7 million to 104 interdisciplinary projects with investigators from at least 15 Penn State colleges and campuses.

From BLUE RIDGE outdoors

Why We Still Need Maps: Purple Lizard Charts Recreation in the Mid-Atlantic

Our group of four are spread across a grassy helicopter pad in southwestern Pennsylvania’s Ohiopyle State Park. We are at a familiar place for many of the one-and-a-half million annual visitors to Ohiopyle, the back of a parking area at the takeout of the Lower Youghiogheny River, known as Old Mitchell Place. Yet at the moment we are having a difficult time figuring out where we are supposed to go.

“So, that’s Sugar Run Trail there, and here at a right angle should be Mitchell,” says Michael Hermann, founder and lead cartographer of Purple Lizard Maps, as he points to our intended target on the state park trail map. It should be within our site. Yet on a sunny spring day, with young green just starting to sprout, our trailhead is nowhere to be seen. We wander further north along the parking area and eventually find the Mitchell Trail. Hermann makes a note of the discrepancy – a difference of roughly a hundred yards – then we continue on the trail.

Map reveals that lynching extended far beyond the deep South

An interactive map of lynchings that occurred in the United States from 1883 to 1941 reveals not just the extent of mob violence, but also underscores how the roles of economy, topography and law enforcement infrastructure paved the way for these brutal, violent outbursts, according to researchers.


Unraveling the Ethnoterritorial Fix in the Peruvian Amazon: Indigenous Livelihoods and Resource Management after Communal Land Titling (1980s-2016)

Tubbeh, R. & Zimmerer, K.
Journal of Latin American Geography
During the past several decades, Latin American governments have increasingly recognized indigenous peoples’ rights to cultural difference and channeled their territorial claims by titling their lands as common property. This “territorial turn” is supported by narratives about indigenous peoples as stewards of the environment. Geographic areas associated with indigenous land titling have increased since the late 1980s. This article presents research based on a case study of present-day livelihoods and resource management in two titled comunidades nativas [native communities] in the Peruvian Amazon. Our research finds that these communal lands have become spaces of dependency, depletion of natural resources, and territorial precarity rather than autonomy and sustainability. In spite of legal title, community members endure the tension between protecting their lands and negotiating their common property rights with outsiders as a strategy for income-earning through the exploitation of gold and timber. These conditions—driven by the encroachment of extractive economies and exacerbated by new road construction—provide new evidence about the contradictory dynamics of the “ethnoterritorial fix” in Latin America. These insights are potentially important for indigenous rights organizations in Latin America that consider territorial control as part of their strategies for the reproduction of indigenous peoples’ cultures, the security of their livelihoods, and the pursuit of autonomy.

May 19

20 years of online GIS | Federal research a key tool | Geography undergrad gets scholarship

IMAGE OF THE WEEKZelinsky Plaque

Faculty, students, and staff gather as Cynthia Brewer (left), head of department, and Karen Kite (right), daughter of Wilbur Zelinsky, unveil a commemorative plaque honoring the late Professor Emeritus Wilbur Zelinsky’s service and contributions to the department and the field of geography. The special event took place during the annual Recognition Reception. The plaque will be hung in seminar room 337.


Alumnus Kirk Goldsberry (’99) had published a new book, “SprawlBall,” about the evolution of basketball and the analytics driving it. It is reviewed in the Washington Post.

MGIS student Curran McBride is one of the 2019 Esri Development Center Students of the Year.

Several geographers received awards at the College of EMS Wilson Banquet:

  • Erica Smithwick won the Wilson Award for Excellence in Research!
  • Alex Klippel received the Miller Faculty Fellowship,
  • Michelle Ritchie won the College Schenck Teaching Assistant Award
  • Andrew Patterson (undergraduate student) won the Steidle Achievement Award.

Three new grad reps have been elected for the 2019-2020 academic year: Courtney Jackson, Connor Chapman, and Ruchi Patel. They will be serving alongside Jamie Peeler and Saumya Vaishnava, whose terms last through the fall semester.


Past, present and future of Online Geospatial Education at Penn State celebrated

Here is something to think about: Some of Penn State’s current Department of Geography students weren’t even born when Online Geospatial Education at Penn State offered its first class. While online classes are now considered normal, for the educators who launched these distance education courses in the late 1990s, it was a novel and risky venture.

Federal research significant in environmental rule-making

Federally sponsored science plays a more significant role in bringing together stakeholders and facilitating environmental governance debates than all other types of research, according to an international team of researchers.

Geography student receives Ashok K. Moza Foundation Scholarship

Nicholas Lacey stepped out of the helicopter and into a crowd of people who gathered in anticipation.

The helicopter carried building materials, but for the people of Haiti, who were still suffering from the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, a devastating Category 5 storm, it was critical material to start rebuilding homes and lives.

Earth and Mineral Sciences graduate students recognized at research exhibition

Two graduate students in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences were recognized for their research and presentation skills during the 2019 Graduate Exhibition, hosted by the Graduate School at Penn State in March. Kirsty McKenzie, a graduate student in geosciences, and Weiming Hu, a graduate student in geography, placed second and third, respectively, in the physical sciences and mathematics division of the exhibition.

Computer lab availability now trackable with campus maps

Penn State’s fully interactive online campus maps have been upgraded with a feature that will come in handy for students looking for computer lab space.

Already capable of displaying more than 15 layers of information at a time—including building and classroom locations, parking options and construction areas—maps.psu.edu is now tracking computer lab usage across University Park, a helpful feature that’s debuted in time for finals week when labs are busiest.


Do Wastelands Exist? Perspectives on “Productive” Land Use in India’s Rural Energyscapes

Jennifer Baka
RCC Perspectives
Jennifer Baka looks at energy cultivation in India through an analysis of two energy development programs. The Social Forestry Programme and the National Mission on Biodiesel supported the development of “wastelands” by transitioning from biomass to biofuel. Their aim was to generate energy, and revitalize rural communities by providing them with energy security. However, Baka shows that the government’s failure to acknowledge the importance of wastelands to rural dwellers’ livelihoods resulted in dispossession, energy shortages, and job losses. These programs ultimately failed due to the disconnect between government conceptions of land-use improvement and existing local land-use practices.

Environmental Knowledge Cartographies: Evaluating Competing Discourses in U.S. Hydraulic Fracturing Rule-Making

Jennifer Baka, Arielle Hesse, Erika Weinthal & Karen Bakker
Annals of the American Association of Geographers
DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2019.1574549
In this article, we evaluate competing environmental knowledge claims in U.S. hydraulic fracturing (HF) regulation. We conduct a case study of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) rule-making process over the period from 2012 to 2015, which was the first attempt to update federal oil and gas regulations in thirty years. Our study addresses a gap in the energy geographies and environmental governance literatures, which have yet to evaluate systematically HF-related decision-making processes at the policymaking scale. We mobilize theoretical insights from science and technology studies on boundary objects and critical environmental discourse analysis to conduct a “cultural cartography” of the BLM’s rule-making process. Our analysis of a subset of 1.4 million public comments submitted to the BLM, combined with fifteen stakeholder interviews, focuses on (1) who participated in the rule-making process; (2) the types of knowledge claims advanced in support or opposition of the rule; and (3) how these claims affected the rule-making process. In contrast to recent literature that finds increased “horizontality” of environmental knowledge production, we find a clear hierarchy that privileges government knowledge—including federal government–sponsored research and existing laws—above all other categories of evidence cited. As such, we argue that government knowledge—which in this case brought disparate stakeholder groups together to debate HF regulation—functions as a key boundary object in the rule-making process. We conclude with a discussion of implications for both research and policy.

Apr 19

Recognition Reception | Climate change workshop for faculty | Zimmerer has new book



Awards given at the spring 2018 Recognition Reception. The spring 2019 Recognition Reception will be held Friday, April 26.


New SWIG officers elected: The department’s 2019-2020 SWIG officers: Bradley Hinger, Elise Quinn, Izzy Taylor, and Jacklyn Weier will succeed the current SWIG officers beginning in the fall semester.

Andrew Carleton was elected to serve on the University Graduate Council for a two-year term.

Brian King was elected to serve as the Chair of the College of EMS Faculty Advisory Committee for a three-year term.

Esri is offering a series of free geospatial development tools webinars.


The Coffee Hour lecture series has concluded for the spring semester, and will resume in fall 2019. To view archived webcasts of talks, use the calendar on our website to navigate to the date of the talk and click on the title to access the description and webcast link.


Recognition Reception will be held April 26

The annual Department of Geography Recognition Reception will be held on Friday, April 26, 2019, on the first and third floors of the Walker Building. We’ll begin the afternoon’s festivities at 3:00 p.m. in the department seminar room, 337 Walker Building, for a commemorative presentation of a plaque honoring Dr. Wilbur Zelinsky, presented to the department by his daughters Karen and Hollis.The reception and master’s poster display will be held from 3:00 to 4:00 in room 103 Walker Building, where we’ll host you with snacks and refreshments. The awards ceremony is scheduled to begin at 4:00 in room 112 Walker Building. We are looking forward to seeing you. For more information go to: https://www.geog.psu.edu/event/recognition-reception-2019

Study finds global action needed to ensure acceptable climate futures

Ensuring a tolerable climate future, one that reduces warming while considering the costs, requires immediate global action, according to an international team of scientists.

“The study analyzes climate change as a multi-objective problem,” said Klaus Keller, professor of geosciences and an associate in the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute at Penn State. “Considering only a goal of tolerable temperature changes misses important aspects. One also needs to consider goals such as tolerable costs and impacts.”

Penn State offering faculty workshop on Ethics of Climate Change course

In order to expand the impact of the course, Penn State’s Office for General Education and the Sustainability Institute will offer a two-day training workshop May 9-10 for faculty members from across the Commonwealth interested in bringing the course to their campuses. Participants will have an opportunity to work with the original designers of the course as well as with climate change experts, such as Michael Mann, director of Penn State’s Earth System Science Center.

The workshop is open to faculty members of any rank from every campus, including University Park. Participants receive a small amount of supplemental pay and individualized guidance that will extend beyond the two-day workshop. Meals and housing are covered and there is no registration fee.


Agrobiodiversity: Integrating Knowledge for a Sustainable Future

Karl S. Zimmerer, Stef de Haan
MIT Press
Wide-ranging environmental phenomena—including climate change, extreme weather events, and soil and water availability—combine with such socioeconomic factors as food policies, dietary preferences, and market forces to affect agriculture and food production systems on local, national, and global scales. The increasing simplification of food systems, the continuing decline of plant species, and the ongoing spread of pests and disease threaten biodiversity in agriculture as well as the sustainability of food resources. Complicating the situation further, the multiple systems involved—cultural, economic, environmental, institutional, and technological—are driven by human decision making, which is inevitably informed by diverse knowledge systems. The interactions and linkages that emerge necessitate an integrated assessment if we are to make progress toward sustainable agriculture and food systems.

This volume in the Strüngmann Forum Reports series offers insights into the challenges faced in agrobiodiversity and sustainability and proposes an integrative framework to guide future research, scholarship, policy, and practice. The contributors offer perspectives from a range of disciplines, including plant and biological sciences, food systems and nutrition, ecology, economics, plant and animal breeding, anthropology, political science, geography, law, and sociology. Topics covered include evolutionary ecology, food and human health, the governance of agrobiodiversity, and the interactions between agrobiodiversity and climate and demographic change.

More of the Same Will Result in More of the Same

Chapter in Agrobiodiversity: Integrating Knowledge for a Sustainable Future
Anna Herforth, Timothy Johns, Hilary M. Creed-Kanashiro, Andrew D. Jones, Colin K. Khoury, Timothy Lang, Patrick Maundu, Bronwen Powell, and Victoria Reyes-Garcia

Dietary intake, forest foods, and anemia in Southwest Cameroon

Caleb Yengo Tata, Amy Ickowitz, Bronwen Powell, Esi K. Colecraft
Forest cover has been associated with higher dietary diversity and better diet quality in Africa. Anemia prevalence among women of reproductive age in sub-Saharan Africa is very high and diet is one known contributor of a high prevalence rate. We investigated whether living in communities with high forest cover was associated with better diet quality and lower anemia prevalence among women of reproductive age in Southwest Cameroon.

Apr 19

Recognition Reception on April 26 | Geographers win awards | Interactive map for Arboretum


UROC participants

Undergraduate Research Opportunities Connection (UROC) researchers (holding their Coffee Hour mugs) and graduate student mentors after the undergraduate students gave presentations on their research at the April 12 Coffee Hour.  Front row (left to right): Nicole Rivera, Julie Sanchez, Shelby Duncan, Samantha Matthews, and Talia Potochny. Back row (left to right): Meg Taylor, Michelle Ritchie, Hunter Mitchell, Sam Black, Cameron Franz, Zachary Goldberg, Jamie Peeler, Ruchi Patel. Learn more about UROC and how to get involved.


Faculty in the Department of Geography won three post doctoral positions from the “Dean’s Fund for Postdoc-Facilitated Collaboration.”

  • Alan Taylor with Sue Brantley: “Data-Driven Models to Assess Spatio-temporal Variability of Surface Water Quality in Coupled Human and Natural Systems at the Continental Scale”
  • Jenn Baka with Zhen Lei and Sekhar Bhattacharyya: “Understanding the Opioid Epidemic in the Appalachian Coal Region”
  • Denice Wardrop with Ray Najjar and Mike Hickner: “Fate and Transport of Microplastics in Chesapeake Bay to Inform a Standard of Degradability”

The PAC Herbarium has two more workshops this spring: Thursday, April 18, “Parasitic plants of Pennsylvania” and Thursday, May 23,”Fantastic Ferns!” Workshops take place from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the PAC Herbarium, 10 Whitmore Lab. For more information and to register: https://sites.psu.edu/herbarium/events/

Spring Commencement is May 3–5, 2019. The Graduate School ceremony will be on Sunday, May 5, at 6:30 p.m. at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Penn State Online Geospatial Program will have a small reception for MGIS and HLS (GEOINT) students and families on Sunday, May 5, 3:45 to 5:15 on the 4th floor of the Earth Engineering Science (EES) Buildling. If you plan to go, let Beth King know.


The Coffee Hour lecture series has concluded for the spring semester, and will resume in fall 2019. To view archived webcasts of talks, use the calendar on our website to navigate to the date of the talk and click on the title to access the description and webcast link.


Recognition Reception will be held April 26

The annual Department of Geography Recognition Reception will be held on Friday, April 26, 2019, on the first and third floors of the Walker Building. We’ll begin the afternoon’s festivities at 3:00 p.m. in the department seminar room, 337 Walker Building, for a commemorative presentation of a plaque honoring Dr. Wilbur Zelinsky, presented to the department by his daughters Karen and Hollis.The reception and master’s poster display will be held from 3:00 to 4:00 in room 103 Walker Building, where we’ll host you with snacks and refreshments. The awards ceremony is scheduled to begin at 4:00 in room 112 Walker Building. We are looking forward to seeing you.For more information and to RSVP go to: https://www.geog.psu.edu/event/recognition-reception-2019

The Arboretum at Penn State launches new interactive Plant Finder map

Visitors to The Arboretum at Penn State now can explore the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens with the Arboretum’s new, interactive Plant Finder.

The map-based program allows users to find the locations of more than 1,100 species of plants in the Arboretum’s living collections.

AAG Announces 2019 AAG Award Recipients

Awards are named for Penn State geographers; awards were won by Penn State geographers

The American Association of Geographers congratulates the individuals and entities named to receive an AAG Award. The awardees represent outstanding contributions to and accomplishments in the geographic field. Formal recognition of the awardees occurredat the 2019 AAG Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. during the AAG Awards Luncheon on Sunday, April 7, 2019.


Vegetation succession in an old-growth ponderosa pine forest following structural restoration with fire: implications for retreatment and maintenance

A Taylor, M Coppoletta, N Pawlikowski
US Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station
Stand changes brought on by fire exclusion have contributed to reduced resilience to wildfire in ponderosa pine forests throughout the western US. Growing recognition of how structural attributes influence resilience has led to interest in restoring more heterogeneous conditions once common in these forests, but key information about interactions between stand and fuel development in such stands is currently incomplete or lacking. Few contemporary examples of structurally restored old-growth ponderosa pine forest exist. We re-measured plots in the Beaver Creek Pinery (BCP), a remote site in the Ishi Wilderness on the Lassen NF in California, that were installed following a 1994 wildfire, to better understand forest and fuel succession over time. The BCP experienced four wildfires since 1900 that restored the structure to one believed similar to historical ponderosa pine forest. Stand-scale change in overstory and understory vegetation were quantified in 2016 by remeasuring and remapping six one hectare plots that were initially mapped in 2000, and landscape-scale change was evaluated by remeasuring circular plots systematically arranged across the BCP in 1998. Tree recruitment, mortality, and growth were measured and changes in tree group and gap size and structure were calculated. We also examined the relative performance of California black oak, a declining but important species valued by tribes for food and wildlife for habitat, to better understand how fire interval and severity maintain the conifer and oak mixture. Using data from the re-measurement, we modeled stand and fuel development over the next 30 years using the Forest Vegetation Simulator (FVS),in order to predict the type of fire and return interval that would be necessary to maintain the desired heterogeneous structure over time.

Environmental Perception, Sense of Place, and Residence Time in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Amelia C. Eisenhart, Kelley A. Crews Meyer, Brian King & Kenneth R. Young
The Professional Geographer
DOI: 10.1080/00330124.2018.1501709

Integral to the geographic discipline are cross-cultural analyses, many of which use languages outside of the researcher’s own. There are few analyses, however, that address issues of translation that are inherently geographic; namely, that language is understood as a manifestation of place and culture. This article argues that the results of environmental interviews must be interpreted through a lens that evaluates how the translation of a word, or even a concept, is understood differentially based on one’s sense of place. Interviews were conducted in three of the Etsha villages situated in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, comparing perceptions of changes in both the local area and the flooding regime. Findings show qualitatively and quantitatively how residents perceive environmental change in light of their residential histories and their production of place. These results highlight that environmental change in an area is perceived in the context of previous residences, including the length of time spent in residence and the environmental characterization of that place. The process of interviewing regarding such change, especially when translation is necessary, should therefore proceed by incorporating inquiries about previous residences and the environments of those areas to correctly contextualize environmental change in a particular area.

Apr 19

Coffee Hour is UROC and GTU | MacEachren wins PSU teaching award | Recognition Reception on April 26


Yanan Xin

Yanan Xin presents her poster on college football fan travel patterns in the Geographies of Media and Communication Specialty Group Poster Session. Hers was one of many Penn State Geography student posters at the 2019 AAG annual meeting in Washington, D.C., last week.


Alan MacEachren was named a 2019 recipient of the Graduate Faculty Teaching Award.

Sara Cavallo won the 2019 Nancy Brown Geography Community Service Award.


Undergraduate Research Opportunities Connection (UROC) showcase and Gamma Theta Upsilon induction ceremony

The final Coffee Hour for the spring 2019 semester will be April 12. The speakers will be the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Connection (UROC) students presenting on their projects. An induction ceremony for the Gamma Theta Upsilon (GTU) geography honor society will also take place.

  • Friday, April 12
  • 3:15 p.m. in 319 Walker Building, Coffee and refreshments
  • 3:45 Gamma Theta Upsilon induction ceremony
  • 4:00 in 112 Walker Building, Lecture
  • Coffee Hour To Go Webcast


Save the date for the Recognition Reception

The annual Department of Geography Recognition Reception will be held on Friday, April 26, 2019, third floor of the Walker Building. Come for refreshments and socializing, the graduate student poster session, and a program where awards and accomplishments are recognized and celebrated.

MacEachren, Prins named recipients of 2019 Graduate Faculty Teaching Award

Alan MacEachren, professor of geography in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, and Esther Prins, professor of education in the College of Education, have received Penn State’s 2019 Graduate Faculty Teaching Award.

The award, established in 1992 by The Graduate School, is presented to faculty members in recognition of outstanding teaching performance and advising of graduate students.

Decision makers need contextual interactive guidance

As decision makers balance economic, environmental and social aspects of living, planners and others need decision-making tools that support the process, but do not dictate the outcomes, so that trade-off choices can reflect a wide array of needs, according to a team of researchers who looked at an interactive program using trade-off diagrams.


GeoAnnotator: A Collaborative Semi-Automatic Platform for Constructing Geo-Annotated Text Corpora

Morteza Karimzadeh and Alan M. MacEachren
International Journal of Geo-Information
Ground-truth datasets are essential for the training and evaluation of any automated algorithm. As such, gold-standard annotated corpora underlie most advances in natural language processing (NLP). However, only a few relatively small (geo-)annotated datasets are available for geoparsing, i.e., the automatic recognition and geolocation of place references in unstructured text. The creation of geoparsing corpora that include both the recognition of place names in text and matching of those names to toponyms in a geographic gazetteer (a process we call geo-annotation), is a laborious, time-consuming and expensive task. The field lacks efficient geo-annotation tools to support corpus building and lacks design guidelines for the development of such tools. Here, we present the iterative design of GeoAnnotator, a web-based, semi-automatic and collaborative visual analytics platform for geo-annotation. GeoAnnotator facilitates collaborative, multi annotator creation of large corpora of geo-annotated text by generating computationally generated pre-annotations that can be improved by human-annotator users. The resulting corpora can be used in improving and benchmarking geoparsing algorithms as well as various other spatial language-related methods. Further, the iterative design process and the resulting design decisions can be used in annotation platforms tailored for other application domains of NLP.

Mar 19

AAG annual meeting information | Recognition Reception save the date | Inwood on French TV


Scenes from AAG annual meeting in 2018, highlighting poster sessions, the alumni and friends reception, and advisers meeting their online students in person.


Welcome to Jack Chang, a postdoctoral researcher affiliated with the ChoroPhronesis lab, starting in spring 2019.

Welcome to Pejman Sajjadi, a postdoctoral researcher affiliated with the ChoroPhronesis lab, starting in spring 2019.

Guido Cervone has been selected to receive the 2019 UCGIS Carolyn Merry Mentoring Award. The award presentation will take place at the 2019 UCGIS Symposium in June in Washington, D.C.

Kelsey Brain, Eden Kinkaid, and Nari Senanayake had an article accepted for publication in the Geographical Review Special Issue on Challenging Research Methods in 21st Century Geography. The paper is titled: “The podcast-as-method?: Critical reflections on using podcasts to produce geographic knowledge.”

Saumya Vaishnava received the AAG-Energy and Environment Specialty Group data and field work award for this summer.

Michelle Ritchie was awarded the Global Safety Office’s Wilderness First Aid Training Grant for her upcoming travel to Iceland.

“Research Framework for Immersive Virtual Field Trips” by Alex Klippel, Jiayan Zhao, Danielle Oprean, and Jack Chang was awarded best paper at the KELVAR workshop.

Alex Klippel’s course proposal for GEOG 170N Immersive Technologies: Transforming Society Through Digital Innovation was approved by the Faculty Senate.

Joshua Inwood was interviewed on The Debate program on the France 24 English news channel about white supremacy in the wake of the attack in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Weiming Hu’s entry was chosen as the third place winner of the Physical Sciences & Mathematics category in the 34th annual Penn State Graduate Exhibition.


No Coffee Hour this week. The final Coffee Hour for the spring 2019 semester will be April 12. The speakers will be the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Connection (UROC) students presenting their projects. An induction ceremony for the Gamma Theta Upsilon (GTU) geography honor society will also take place.


Penn State Geographers at AAG

Nearly 100 current Penn Staters, including graduate and undergraduate students, faculty, and staff are participating in the AAG annual meeting, April 3–7, in Washington, D.C.

Among the highlights:

Save the date for the Recognition Reception

The annual Department of Geography Recognition Reception will be held on Friday, April 26, 2019, third floor of the Walker Building. Come for refreshments and socializing, the graduate student poster session, and a program in which awards and accomplishments are recognized and celebrated. For more information and to RSVP go to: https://www.geog.psu.edu/event/recognition-reception-2019


Research Framework for Immersive Virtual Field Trips

Klippel, A., Zhao, J., Oprean, D., Wallgrün, J. O., & Jack Shen-Kuen Chang
KELVAR: The Fourth IEEE VR Workshop on K-12+ Embodied Learning through Virtual and Augmented Reality

Virtual field trips have been thought of and implemented for several decades. For the most part, these field trips were delivered through desktop computers and often as interactive but strictly two-dimensional experiences. The advent of immersive technologies for both creating content and experiencing places in three dimensions provides ample opportunities to move beyond the restrictions of two dimensional media. We propose here a framework we developed to assess immersive learning experiences, specifically immersive virtual field trips (iVFTs). We detail the foundations and provide insights into associated empirical evaluations.


Lorraine Dowler, Dana Cuomo, A. M. Ranjbar, Nicole Laliberte, Jenna Christian
Keywords in Radical Geography: Antipode at 50, First Edition
Edited by the Antipode Editorial Collective.

This essay calls for a “Manifesto of Radical Care” in Geography. The radical care that we advocate centres on non-dominant and intersectional forms of care (Lugones 2010) and challenges geographers to recognise different bodily experiences while being mindful of a commonality of vulnerability that stems from national or institutional policies and politics. This manifesto demands that geographers move beyond recognition into action, actively working to infuse radical care into our everyday interpersonal interactions and into our departmental, institutional and disciplinary policies and practices.

Mar 19

Coffee Hour with Nina Lam | SYWIG day is Thursday | Zimmerer and Baumann get NSF-GSS DDRI


The image shows the students taking part in a mapping activity during the 2018 event. SYWIG day is Thursday, March 21—Supporting Women in Geography’s annual Supporting Young Women in Geography (SYWIG) Day will be held on March 21, 2019. Seventh and eighth grade girls from Centre County middle schools Philipsburg-Osceola and Moshannon Valley will be visiting the department to participate in interactive workshops led by SWIG volunteers covering a range of topics in geography. The event provides a unique opportunity to connect young women in the State College area and bring geography to life through creative activities led by Geography graduate and undergraduate students. Organizers of this year’s event are SWIG officers, Ruchi, Emily, Elham, and Michelle, with a special thanks to Stacey, Jamie, Julie, Jacklyn, Izzy, Elise, Emily, Sam, Erin, Tara, Saumya, Jodi and the office staff. Through this acknowledgment, SWIG endeavors to highlight the extraordinary service of women in the department every day.


Welcome to Mamma Sawaneh, visiting scholar from The Gambia, working with Erica Smithwick this semester.

15th annual Penn State Powwow is scheduled for April 6-7.

The Smith Center is pleased to announce that the twentieth series of the Kenneth Nebenzahl, Jr., Lectures in the History of Cartography will be held at the Newberry Library, Nov. 7 through Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019.To register or for more information, please contact Smith Center Program Assistant Madeline Crispell at crispellm@newberry.org or at (312)-255-3575.

Karl Zimmerer and Megan Baumann were recently awarded an NSF-GSS Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement (DDRI) grant. It is titled “Doctoral Dissertation Research: Social-Environmental Feedbacks Between the Use and Governance of Water and Soil in Dryland Irrigation Megaprojects.”


Nina Lam
Are Happiest Cities Most Resilient to Disasters? – Challenges in Community Resilience Assessment

A 2014 report published by the National Bureau of Economic Research ranked American cities according to residents’ “happiness.” The results have surprised many people. This brings to a question that is closely related to resilience and sustainability research: are the happiest cities also most resilient to disasters? The answer to the question relies on how we measure community resilience.

  • Friday, March 22
  • 3:30 p.m. in 319 Walker Building, Coffee and refreshments
  • 4:00 in 112 Walker Building, Lecture
  • Coffee Hour To Go webcast


From Smithsonian.com
Checking In on the Health and Vigor of the Chesapeake Bay

It’s May, 2016, and another drizzly day on the Chesapeake. I’m aboard Hōkūle‘a, the Hawaiian voyaging canoe circumnavigating the globe promoting a message of Mālama Honua, meaning “take care of the Earth.” I joined the crew in Yorktown, Virginia, for nine days of journeying in the Chesapeake Bay area, meeting with local Indian tribes and exploring environmental issues and solutions.

Editor’s Note: The following two articles were printed together in the summer 2018 GEOGRAPH as a package to honor the late Peirce Lewis. If you missed it, the Oct. 2, 2018 Coffee Hour lecture given by Richard Schein (’83g) was also a celebration of Lewis’s life and scholarship. You can view the talk here: http://live-geog.psu.edu/Mediasite/Play/c5740d0b55744ec88abb03e8cdb1a99d1d

Students and colleagues remember Peirce Lewis

An energetic man in his late fifties greeted us by switching off the lights and switching on a slide projector.

“As we plunge into intellectual darkness, let me assure you that after this class, you will never be able to look at the world in the same way again. At least, I hope not.” In spectacles and a khaki field jacket, Peirce Lewis fit everybody’s idea of a geography professor.

“I’m going to show you the cultural landscape of the United States and give you the tools to understand why things are where they are, and how they got to be that way,” Lewis continued. “Then you will show yourselves and me what you have learned by going out there and reading the local landscape yourselves. This first slide . . . “

Making good geographical sense

I have just spent a poignant afternoon browsing my correspondence with Peirce; hours sweet with nostalgia for an acquaintanceship that began when I joined the Penn State geography faculty in 1967 and grew into comradery; hours of sadness that his death brought that relationship to the definitive end.


Analysis of remote sensing imagery for disaster assessment using deep learning: a case study of flooding event

Liping Yang, Guido Cervone
Soft Computing
This paper proposes a methodology that integrates deep learning and machine learning for automatically assessing damage with limited human input in hundreds of thousands of aerial images. The goal is to develop a system that can help automatically identifying damaged areas in massive amount of data. The main difficulty consists in damaged infrastructure looking very different from when undamaged, likely resulting in an incorrect classification because of their different appearance, and the fact that deep learning and machine learning training sets normally only include undamaged infrastructures. In the proposed method, a deep learning algorithm is firstly used to automatically extract the presence of critical infrastructure from imagery, such as bridges, roads, or houses. However, because damaged infrastructure looks very different from when undamaged, the set of features identified can contain errors. A small portion of the images are then manually labeled if they include damaged areas, or not. Multiple machine learning algorithms are used to learn attribute–value relationships on the labeled data to capture the characteristic features associated with damaged areas. Finally, the trained classifiers are combined to construct an ensemble max-voting classifier. The selected max-voting model is then applied to the remaining unlabeled data to automatically identify images including damaged infrastructure. Evaluation results (85.6% accuracy and 89.09% F1 score) demonstrated the effectiveness of combining deep learning and an ensemble max-voting classifier of multiple machine learning models to analyze aerial images for damage assessment.

Jet stream dynamics, hydroclimate, and fire in California from 1600 CE to present

Eugene R. Wahl, Eduardo Zorita, Valerie Trouet, and Alan H. Taylor
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Moisture delivery in California is largely regulated by the strength and position of the North Pacific jet stream (NPJ), winter high-altitude winds that influence regional hydroclimate and forest fire during the following warm season. We use climate model simulations and paleoclimate data to reconstruct winter NPJ characteristics back to 1571 CE to identify the influence of NPJ behavior on moisture and forest fire extremes in California before and during the more recent period of fire suppression. Maximum zonal NPJ velocity is lower and northward shifted and has a larger latitudinal spread during presuppression dry and high-fire extremes. Conversely, maximum zonal NPJ is higher and southward shifted, with narrower latitudinal spread during wet and low-fire extremes. These NPJ, precipitation, and fire associations hold across pre–20th-century socioecological fire regimes, including Native American burning, postcontact disruption and native population decline, and intensification of forest use during the later 19th century. Precipitation extremes and NPJ behavior remain linked in the 20th and 21st centuries, but fire extremes become uncoupled due to fire suppression after 1900. Simulated future conditions in California include more wet-season moisture as rain (and less as snow), a longer fire season, and higher temperatures, leading to drier fire-season conditions independent of 21st-century precipitation changes. Assuming continuation of current fire management practices, thermodynamic warming is expected to override the dynamical influence of the NPJ on climate–fire relationships controlling fire extremes in California. Recent widespread fires in California in association with wet extremes may be early evidence of this change.

Diversity, representation, and the limits of engaged pluralism in (economic) geography

Emily Rosenman, Jessa Looms, & Kelly Kay
Progress in Human Geography
Within geography writ large, and economic geography in particular, there has been increasing interest in ‘engaged pluralism’ – defined by its proponents as lively and respectful engagement across theoretical, methodological, and topical lines – to increase diversity and build mutual respect among scholars. Drawing on feminist and postcolonial scholarship, we offer a sympathetic critique of engaged pluralism, grounded in a review of publishing trends in economic geography. Our findings reveal theoretical inertia around particular topics and paradigms, as well as low rates of publishing participation from women. We close with a discussion of engagement, reciprocity, and meaningful contact.


Mar 19

Coffee Hour with Denice Wardrop | Fair election maps for purple PA | Longer drier fire seasons for CA?


Pine Creek Lizard map detailA detail from the new 2nd Edition of the Pine Creek Lizard Map—Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. Purple Lizard Maps was founded by Penn State geography alumnus Michael Hermann (’95).


Gregory S. Jenkins will give a brown bag talk on Wednesday, March 20 on “Natural, Human and Climate Change Drivers in Africa and the Need for Interdisciplinary Research and Communication,” at 12:30 p.m. in 158 Willard Building.

Welcome to Cindy Etchison the new NRT Program Coordinator for Landscape U.

A Penn State study on using VR for second language learning was featured in a news article in Campus Technology.

The Institute for CyberScience is hosting its annual Symposium on April 1, which is free for Penn State faculty, staff, and students (and includes free breakfast and lunch). It’s at the Nittany Lion Inn, and the theme is Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Science and Society. Learn more and register here: https://ics.psu.edu/events/ics-symposium-2019.

Save the date: The Penn State Geography Alumni and Friends Reception during the AAG annual meeting is scheduled for Friday, April 5 at 7:00 p.m. at Lillies. More details to come soon.


Denice Wardrop

Peak Ecological Water and its shift under climate change: case studies from Peru and Pennsylvania

In most watersheds, as withdrawals for human needs increase, the ecological services provided by the same water are in decline. At a certain point, the value of water provided for human use is equal to the value of the ecological services, and beyond this point, ecological disruptions exceed the benefits of increased water extraction; this point is referred to as “peak ecological water.” In addition, the human and ecological benefits may occur at different spatial and temporal scales. Climate change may be shifting the point of peak ecological water in new and unpredictable ways, and two case studies provide insights into how those changes may be context dependent.

  • Friday, March 15
  • 3:30 p.m. in 319 Walker Building, Coffee and refreshments
  • 4:00 in 112 Walker Building, Lecture
  • Coffee Hour To Go webcast


Complex trade-offs persist in drawing fair election maps for purple PA

Penn State Professor Christopher Fowler’s fall 2018 GEOG 421: Population Geography class won first place in the Higher-Ed division of the “Draw the Lines PA” statewide finals in February. For Fowler, the work on how to get better representation in Pennsylvania is just beginning.

Seed grants awarded to projects using Twitter data

Clio Andris is among recipients

Penn State’s Social Science Research Institute (SSRI), in collaboration with the Institute for CyberScience (ICS) and the College of Information Sciences and Technology, has awarded over $100,000 in funding to support six new interdisciplinary teams of Penn State researchers whose work is aimed at developing innovative research programs using Twitter data.

North Pacific jet stream, moisture and fires change with fire suppression

Future conditions in California may include more rain rather than snow during the wet season, longer fire seasons, and higher temperatures leading to drier fire seasons, according to a team of researchers who looked at the historic patterns of the North Pacific Jet, precipitation and fire.


Book Review of A Biography of a Map in Motion: Augustine Herrman’s Chesapeake

Deryck W. Holdsworth
The Journal of Interdisciplinary History
Before Chesapeake City at one end of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal was named in 1839, the plantation site had been known as Bohemia Manor for more than two centuries, under the ownership of Augustine Herrman, a Bohemian who worked for the Dutch West-Indische Compagnie (WIC) in both Amsterdam and later New Amsterdam. Herrman marked its location on his magnificent map Virginia and Maryland as it is Planted and Inhabited this present year 1670. Koot explores the multiple intentions of the Herrman map from its origins as a manuscript initially commissioned by Philip Calvert in 1659 delimiting the boundary between Dutch New Netherlands and colonial Maryland to a far different map printed in London in 1673 as a piece of imperial propaganda celebrating possession of the broader Chesapeake.

Metrics for characterizing network structure and node importance in Spatial Social Networks

Dipto Sarkar, Clio Andris, Colin A. Chapman & Raja Sengupta
International Journal of Geographical Information Science
DOI: 10.1080/13658816.2019.1567736
Social Network Analysis offers powerful tools to analyze the structure of relationships between a set of people. However, the addition of spatial information poses new challenges, as nodes are embedded simultaneously in network space and Euclidean space. While nearby nodes may not form social ties, ties may exist at a distance, a configuration ill-suited for traditional spatial metrics that assume adjacent objects are related. As such, there are relatively few metrics to describe these nuanced situations. We advance the burgeoning field of spatial social network analysis by introducing a set of new metrics. Specifically, we introduce the spatial social network schema, tuning parameter and the flattening ratio, each of which leverages the notion of ‘distance’ to augment insights obtained by relying on topology alone. These methods are used to answer the questions: What is the social and spatial structure of the network? Who are the key individuals at different spatial scales? We use two synthetic networks with properties mimicking the ones reported in the literature as validation datasets and a case study of employer–employee network. The methods characterize the employer–employee as spatially loose with predominantly local connections and identify key individuals responsible for keeping the network connected at different spatial scales.


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