Aug 19

Alumnus publishes novel | Forests keep carbon | King named to Faculty Academy


You are here campus map

Penn State has been updating the you-are-here maps around campus. Here is a new one located in the West Campus area.


Thomas Potteiger ’81 retired from Lockheed Martin in May 2019 after 21 years. Potteiger worked in the Flight Operations Department in Avionics Test and Aircrew Instruction of Aeronautical subjects including navigation solutions (GPS/INS/EGI) and digital map display. He also served in the U S Air Force for 25 years as a C-130 Navigator from 1983 to 2007.

Mark your calendar for the Geography Fall Welcome Picnic on September 14. For more information and to RSVP go to: https://www.geog.psu.edu/event/geography-fall-welcome-picnic-2019

The International Society for Landscape, Place, and Material Culture (ISLPMC) is holding their annual meeting in Detroit, Michigan, October 9 to 12. The conference will include a day of paper sessions, along with two days of walking and bus tours. For more information, visit: http://www.pioneeramerica.org/annualmeeting2019.html

Save the date for the Penn State GIS Day events held on Tuesday, November 12, 2019.


Writing with your eyes closed

Geography alumnus Joel Burcat ’76 has published a novel

Joel Burcat’s debut novel, “Drink to Every Beast,” isn’t climbing best-seller lists or getting attention from prominent critics. But it’s remarkable for a different reason.

He finished it after he became legally blind.

An environmental lawyer in Harrisburg, Pa., Burcat, 64, had been writing in his spare time for many years and had cranked out several novels, including an early version of this one. But none had found a publisher and gone out into the world.

Forest carbon still plentiful post-wildfire after century of fire exclusion

Forests in Yosemite National Park hold more carbon today than they did 120 years ago despite burning in a severe wildfire in 2013, according to a Penn State-led team of researchers.

Five added to Student Engagement Network’s Faculty Academy

Beth King was named as a fellow

Five faculty were added to the Faculty Academy program through the Student Engagement Network at Penn State.

The goal of the Faculty Academy is to advance engaged scholarship at Penn State. Faculty apply to the academy with a proposal to deepen the campus-wide discourse, practice and recognition of engaged scholarship at the University. Selection to the academy can be for one- or two-year appointments.

Global climate solution leaders to participate in Drawdown conference

A group of international leaders on solutions to climate change have advised the creation of an upcoming conference, “Research to Action: The Science of Drawdown.” The event will take place Sept. 16-18 at The Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center on Penn State’s University Park campus.


Nonpharmacologic Approaches to Pain Management with IUD Insertion

Passmore R.C., Gold M.A.
In: Coles M., Mays A. (eds) Optimizing IUD Delivery for Adolescents and Young Adults
There are a number of nonpharmacologic approaches one can offer to help adolescent and young adults (AYAs) manage anxiety, discomfort, and pain related to bimanual and speculum exams and intrauterine device (IUD) insertions. These may include diaphragmatic breathing, hypnotic language, music, heat packs, social support (“IUD doula”), aromatherapy, acupressure, and acupuncture. Given the clear and direct relationship between anxiety and pain perception [], any nonpharmacologic approaches that reduce anxiety have the potential to reduce pain associated with IUD insertions.

Aug 19

Greenland melting | 25-year awards | Fall is coming


new chairs

A herd of new chairs for the computer labs in The Department of Geography migrated into Walker Building this week. Existing chairs are being repurposed to grad offices and worn out chairs are on their way to salvage.


The Dutton e-Education Institute will hold a reception for Online Geospatial Education program summer graduates on Saturday, August 10, 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Graduate summer commencement is Saturday, August 10, 2019, 2:30 p.m. at The Bruce Jordan Center.

Undergraduate Research Opportunities Connection (UROC) is now accepting applications for research and professional development projects for Fall 2019.

Mark your calendar for the Geography Fall Welcome Picnic on September 14. For more information and to RSVP go to: https://www.geog.psu.edu/event/geography-fall-welcome-picnic-2019

Call For Papers: 1st IEEE ICDM Workshop on Deep Learning for Spatiotemporal Data, Algorithms, and Systems (DeepSpatial 2019) November 8, 2019, Beijing, China.

Save the date for the Penn State GIS Day events held on Tuesday, November 12, 2019.


From Scientific American
Historic Greenland Melt Is a “Glimpse of the Future”

Luke Trusel is quoted

Greenland is in the midst of one of its strongest melting events on record, as a major heat wave—the same one that scorched much of Europe last month—grips the Arctic.

Ice sheet experts have been keeping careful watch as the event unfolds, taking note of its extraordinary progress. Throughout July, Greenland lost an estimated total of 197 billion metric tons of ice, researcher Ruth Mottram of the Danish Meteorological Institute tweeted early Wednesday morning. That day, the largest melt day of the month, the institute estimated that more than half the ice sheet was experiencing some level of surface melting, and about 10 billion tons of ice was lost in a single day.

Related coverage:

Faculty and Staff News of Record: 25-Year Awards, July 2019

Todd Bacastow, Cynthia A. Brewer, Andrew M. Carleton recognized


Dynamically Optimized Unstructured Grid (DOUG) for Analog Ensemble of numerical weather predictions using evolutionary algorithms

Weiming Hu, Guido Cervone
Computers & Geosciences
The Analog Ensemble is a statistical technique that generates probabilistic forecasts using a current deterministic prediction, a set of historical predictions, and the associated observations. It generates ensemble forecasts by first identifying the most similar past predictions to the current one, and then summarizing the corresponding observations. This is a computationally efficient solution for ensemble modeling because it does not require multiple numerical weather prediction simulations, but a single model realization. Despite this intrinsic computational efficiency, the required computation can grow very large because atmospheric models are routinely run with increasing resolutions. For example, the North American Mesoscale forecast system contains over 262 792 grid points to generate a 12 km prediction. The North American Mesoscale model generally uses a structured grid to represent the domain, despite the fact that certain physical changes occur non-uniformly across space and time. For example, temperature changes tend to occur more rapidly in mountains than plains. An evolutionary algorithm is proposed to dynamically and automatically learn the optimal unstructured grid pattern. This iterative evolutionary algorithm is guided by Darwinian evolutionary rule generation and instantiation to identify grid vertices. Analog computations are performed only at vertices. Therefore, minimizing the number of vertices and identifying their locations are paramount to optimizing the available computational resources, minimizing queue time, and ultimately achieving better results. The optimal unstructured grid is then reused to guide the predictions for a variety of applications like temperature and wind speed.

Relationships of West Greenland supraglacial melt‐lakes with local climate and regional atmospheric circulation

Rowley, N. A., Carleton, A. M. and Fegyveresi, J.
International Journal of Climatology
Along the west‐central Greenland ice‐sheet (GrIS) ablation zone, the time of annual maximum occurrence of surface melt lakes, or peak lake period (PLP) averages 18 June–03 July. This study combines atmospheric reanalysis and automatic weather station (AWS) data from the Greenland Climate Network to assess the roles of synoptic circulation patterns and local climate variables, respectively, in the total melt‐lake area and count in the Sermeq Kujalleq Ablation Region (SKAR) for the PLPs of 2000–2016. Melt‐lake information is obtained from analysis of Landsat‐7 images. Two surface climate parameters (e.g., temperature, incoming shortwave radiation) having a strong combined effect on melt‐lake area in the SKAR are the June mean temperature, and May mean incoming solar radiation (r = 0.96). Incorporating the May insolation into a regression equation permits predictability of total melt‐lake area for the study area into late June. June months classified as high melt correlate regionally with mid‐tropospheric ridging, warm air advection, and reduced cloud cover, while low melt June months are associated with a trough, cold advection and greater cloud amount. A localized feature that we found to be prevalent during the high melt years are piteraq, or downsloping winds, which provide additional warming to the SKAR from adiabatic compression. Atmospheric circulation indices comprising the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAOI) teleconnection and Greenland Blocking (GBI) pattern augment the reanalysis gridded data. We find statistically significant correlations of the NAOI and GBI with melt‐lake area (r = −0.62 and r = 0.77, respectively). The correlations with melt‐lake count however, are not significant; greater combined lake area and count tend to accompany the meridional mode of high amplitude Rossby waves and/or anticyclonic blocking in the Greenland sector. Determining the local and synoptic‐scale atmospheric controls on supraglacial lake variability helps clarify the role of climate in the surface hydrology of the GrIS.

Spatial and temporal dynamics of 20th century carbon storage and emissions after wildfire in an old-growth forest landscape

Lucas B. Harris, Andrew E. Scholl, Amanda B. Young, Becky L. Estes, Alan H. Taylor
Forest Ecology and Management
Both fire exclusion and subsequent wildfires have strongly affected carbon storage in fire-prone dry forests, with implications for how carbon storage will change in the future. Using a reconstruction of forest structure in 1899 and pre- and post-fire field data, we quantified changes in carbon stocks in a 2125-ha old-growth mixed conifer forest landscape over a century of fire exclusion and emissions due to a 2013 wildfire. From 1899 to 2002 aboveground carbon storage in live trees increased 2.5-fold from 97 Mg/ha to 263 Mg/ha. Despite burning in an uncharacteristically severe wildfire, the forest still contained 169 Mg/ha of live aboveground tree carbon in 2014. Direct fire emissions were 72 Mg/ha and did not vary with canopy cover loss because emissions were largely driven by consumption of accumulated surface fuels. Areas that burned at low, moderate and high severity in the wildfire contained similar amounts of carbon in 1899, when the forest was still experiencing frequent low severity fire. By 2002 the low severity areas contained 80 and 86 Mg/ha more aboveground live tree carbon than moderate and high severity areas respectively. The wildfire reinforced and amplified these differences in carbon storage that arose during fire exclusion, such that carbon storage following the wildfire was more variable across the landscape. Additionally, the proportion of carbon stored in shade-intolerant, more fire-sensitive species increased. These changes in where and in what tree species carbon is stored, due to the combination of fire exclusion and wildfire, have implications for the potential future stability of these carbon stocks.

Migration as a feature of land system transitions

Claudia Radel, Brad D. Jokisch, Birgit Schmook, Lindsey Carte, Mariel Aguilar-Støen, Kathleen Hermans, Karl Zimmerer, Stephen Aldrich
Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability
Human migration to and from rural areas is so prominent and persistent globally that land system science must understand how the movement of people is integral to land system transitions both at the origin of migration and at its destination. With a focus on Latin America, we review research on how land change affects migration and how migration affects land systems, to demonstrate that the relationship is complex and context-specific. Various types of migration evidence the challenges of managing land for multiple goals and the needs of diverse groups. A perspective that connects land change in multiple locations is needed. In particular, concepts of telecoupling and translocality can help to further understanding of how globalized economic systems link changes across distant places and capture the economic and non-economic processes that accompany migration and shape land change in multiple, connected locations. Land systems research must anticipate that migration will continue to contribute to complex land systems with multiple users and goals.

Jul 19

Smithwick leads IEE | New service appointments and promotions | Miller demos drones

IMAGE OF THE WEEKBonta Firehawks talk

Mark Bonta (’90) visited the department and gave a talk on Friday, July 12, 2019, in 319 Walker Building. See article about his work in The New York Times.


Mark your calendar for the Geography Fall Welcome Picnic on September 14. For more information and to RSVP go to: https://www.geog.psu.edu/event/geography-fall-welcome-picnic-2019

Erica Smithwick has begun her appointment as associate director of Institutes of Energy and the Environment (IEE).

Chris Fowler is the new director of the department’s Gould Center: The Peter R. Gould Center for Geography Education & Outreach. Thank you to Jodi Vender for the past years of directorship.

Bronwen Powell will serve as director of PLACE lab in the department. Thank you to Jenn Baka for previous lab direction.

James Detwiler and Karen Schuckman were promoted to associate teaching professor.

Sarah Chamberlain was promoted to associate research professor.


New IEE leaders mindful of energy, environmental challenges

Two Penn State faculty members have joined the leadership team of the Institutes of Energy and the Environment (IEE). Erica Smithwick, the E. Willard and Ruby S. Miller Professor of Geography in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, and Bruce Logan, the Evan Pugh Professor in Engineering and the Kappe Professor of Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering, have both been named associate directors of IEE.

Penn State professor, student demonstrate drone capabilities

The ability to use images over fields and forests has totally changed remote sensing, according to Penn State professor Douglas Miller.

“I am still at Penn State in year 34. I couldn’t leave before the chance to see this technology,” he told members of the California Grange in Limestone Township, Montour County.

He spoke before Andrew Yoder, of Miller’s department of ecosystem science and management, demonstrated the flying of a drone hexacopter over the nearby field owned by Herb Zeager.

Miller also discussed the use of a smaller drone Monday evening.

Jul 19

Mapping FLW | Summer speaker this week | Purple Lizard


map of Frank Lloyd Wiright locations

A map prepared by Cindy Brewer and Bill Limpisathian from “The 20th Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright: Nomination to the World Heritage List by the United States of America (2016) Revised (2019).”


  • Please join us for a summer invited speaker in Geography. Mark Bonta (’90) will speak about his work on Firehawks (and maybe also on his other work) at 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Friday, July 12, 2019, in 319 Walker Building.
  • Mark your calendar for the Geography Fall Welcome Picnic on September 14. For more information and to RSVP go to: https://www.geog.psu.edu/event/geography-fall-welcome-picnic-2019
  • Research Alan Taylor was involved with on hydroclimate, fire and jet stream dynamics in California over the last 400 years published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences was discussed in an article on Real Estate in California by the Financial Times (London).


Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture added to UNESCO World Heritage List

Geographers Cindy Brewer, Bill Limpisathian, and Emily Domanico worked for Scott Perkins on this project, creating the cartography for the nomination book.

The designs of American architect Frank Lloyd Wright are joining the ranks of revered UNESCO World Heritage sites such as The Great Wall of China, The Palace of Versailles and the Taj Mahal.

The World Heritage Committee inscribed eight of the Wright’s famed sites into the list, marking the first modern architecture designation in the United States on the World Heritage roster. They include the Fallingwater house in Mill Run, Pennsylvania; the Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House in Madison, Wisconsin; and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.

No Ordinary Map: With their boots-on-the-ground detail, Purple Lizard Maps have become a staple for outdoors enthusiasts

Michael Hermann, founder of Purple Lizard Maps, is an old school mapmaker in a GPS world.

While many map companies rely on satellite technology to develop their maps, Purple Lizard takes a boots-on-the-ground approach. Hermann and his colleagues spend several months immersing themselves in an area when developing a map, intimately getting to know the trails, the terrain, and the communities.

‘Geodesigning’ solutions for the future of Yellowstone National Park

When Penn State World Campus graduate students in the Master of Professional Studies in Geodesign program registered for the Rural/Regional Geodesign Challenges studio course, GEODZ 842, last semester, they were expecting to use the techniques they’ve been learning to address land-based challenges for a particular geographic area. What they were not expecting, however, was to apply their knowledge to help develop a large-scale recovery, restoration and sustainability plan for one of the most iconic and revered sites in the United States, Yellowstone National Park.


Modeling the Importance of Within- and Between-County Effects in an Ecological Study of the Association Between Social Capital and Mental Distress

Yang, T. C., Matthews, S. A., Sun, F., & Armendariz, M.
Preventing chronic disease
Introduction: Levels of mental distress in the United States are a health policy concern. The association between social capital and mental distress is well documented, but evidence comes primarily from individual-level studies. Our objective was to examine this association at the county level with advanced spatial econometric methods and to explore the importance of between-county effects.
Methods: We used County Health Rankings and Roadmaps data for 3,106 counties of the contiguous United States. We used spatial Durbin modeling to assess the direct (within a county) and indirect (between neighboring counties) effects of social capital on mental distress. We also examined the spatial spillover effects from neighboring counties based on higher-order spatial weights matrices.
Results: Counties with the highest prevalence of mental distress were found in regional clusters where levels of social capital were low, including the Black Belt, central/southern Appalachia, on the Mississippi River, and around some Indian Reservations. Most of the association between social capital and mental distress was indirect, from the neighboring counties, although significant direct effects showed the within-county association. Models also confirmed the importance of county-level socioeconomic status.
Conclusion: We found that county social capital is negatively related to mental distress. Counties are not isolated places and are often part of wider labor and housing markets, so understanding spatial dependencies is important in addressing population-level mental distress.

Transforming Earth Science Education Through Immersive Experiences: Delivering on a Long Held Promise

Klippel, A., Zhao, J., Jackson, K. L., La Femina, P., Stubbs, C., Wetzel, R., … Oprean, D.
Journal of Educational Computing Research
The value of field trips is undisputed across disciplines. Field-site visits whether in social or physical sciences provide grounding for place- and discovery-based learning. Yet field trips have limitations that can now be overcome by the promise of immersive technologies that can improve quality and accessibility. This promise is twofold: First, we can harness advancements made in sensing technologies to create immersive experiences of places across the earth efficiently; second, we can provide detailed empirical evaluations on immersive learning and quantify educational value. We report on a study that splits an introductory geosciences course into two groups with one group experiencing a traditional field trip, while a second group visits the same site virtually, immersing the students in the site using a head-mounted device. Results show the advantages of virtual field trips (VFTs) concerning enjoyment, learning experience, and actual lab scores. We embed the discussion of these results into a more general assessment of the advantages of VFTs and a taxonomy of VFTs as a basis for future studies.

Scale – Unexplored Opportunities for Immersive Technologies in Place-based Learning

Zhao, Jiayan & Klippel, Alexander
Conference Paper, IEEE VR 2019 Osaka, Japan
Immersive technologies have the potential to overcome physical limitations and virtually deliver field site experiences, for example, into the classroom. Yet, little is known about the features of immersive technologies that contribute to successful place-based learning. Immersive technologies afford embodied experiences by mimicking natural embodied interactions through a user’s egocentric perspective. Additionally, they allow for beyond reality experiences integrating contextual information that cannot be provided at actual field sites. The current study singles out one aspect of place-based learning: Scale. In an empirical evaluation, scale was manipulated as part of two immersive virtual field trip (iVFT) experiences in order to disentangle its effect on place-based learning. Students either attended an actual field trip (AFT) or experienced one of two iVFTs using a head-mounted display. The iVFTs either mimicked the actual field trip or provided beyond reality experiences offering access to the field site from an elevated perspective using pseudo-aerial 360° imagery. Results show that students with access to the elevated perspective had significantly better scores, for example, on their spatial situation model (SSM). Our findings provide first results on how an increased (geographic) scale, which is accessible through an elevated perspective, boosts the development of SSMs. The reported study is part of a larger immersive education effort. Inspired by the positive results, we discuss our plan for a more rigorous assessment of scale effects on both self- and objectively assessed performance measures of spatial learning.

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.

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