Summer Commencement | IEE grants | Research on food, water, social media


graduate commencement Limpisathian and Brewer Summer 2017

Bill Limpisathian (left) graduated with his master of science degree in geography on Sunday, August 12, Penn State’s summer Commencement. With him is his adviser and head of the department, Cynthia Brewer. Congratulations to all our geography grads!


Weekly publication of DoG enews resumes on August 29, 2017. Continue to send your good news, story ideas, and photos from fieldwork and travels to

Joshua Inwood and a colleague wrote an opinion piece about confronting white nationalism in The Globe Post

Welcome to visiting faculty member Nai Yang. He will be here for one year, working on GIScience research topics in collaboration with faculty and students in GeoVISTA. His past research includes a range of topics in 2D and 3D terrain representation and generalization, geovisualization, spatial analysis, and GIS applications.


Institutes of Energy and the Environment seed grant recipients announced
Geographers Erica Smithwick and Jennifer Baka among them
The 2017 Institutes for Energy and the Environment (IEE) seed grants have been awarded to a pool of interdisciplinary researchers at Penn State. Thirteen grants totaling more than $312,000 have been awarded to 42 researchers that addressed four of IEE’s five research themes: Climate and Ecosystem Change, Future Energy Supply, Smart Energy Systems, and Water and Biogeochemical Cycles.


Geographic Accessibility Of Food Outlets Not Associated With Body Mass Index Change Among Veterans, 2009–14
By Shannon N. Zenk, Elizabeth Tarlov, Coady Wing, Stephen A. Matthews, Kelly Jones, Hao Tong and Lisa M. Powell
In Health Affairs
In recent years, various levels of government in the United States have adopted or discussed subsidies, tax breaks, zoning laws, and other public policies that promote geographic access to healthy food. However, there is little evidence from large-scale longitudinal or quasi-experimental research to suggest that the local mix of food outlets actually affects body mass index (BMI). We used a longitudinal design to examine whether the proximity of food outlets, by type, was associated with BMI changes between 2009 and 2014 among 1.7 million veterans in 382 metropolitan areas. We found no evidence that either absolute or relative geographic accessibility of supermarkets, fast-food restaurants, or mass merchandisers was associated with changes in an individual’s BMI over time. While policies that alter only geographic access to food outlets may promote equitable access to healthy food and improve nutrition, our findings suggest they will do little to combat obesity in adults.

The Ganges water treaty: 20 years of cooperation, on India’s terms
By Kimberley Anh Thomas
In Water Policy
International cooperation has become a universal mandate for governing transboundary waterbodies. Diverse stakeholders promote cooperation as a desirable, if not indispensable, approach to achieving sustainable and equitable benefits from and for transboundary waterbodies. However, calls for international water cooperation operate from the presupposition that cooperation is an unambiguous concept. While cooperation appears self-evident and unproblematic, cases of formal cooperation reveal points of contestation about cooperation itself. For example, India and Bangladesh disagree about the extent to which cooperation is occurring over the Ganges River despite having penned a bilateral treaty that has been in force for 20 years. I analyze qualitative interviews and previously unpublished hydrological data to evaluate assertions that hydrological hazards in Southwestern Bangladesh result from India’s activities and that India is failing to uphold the 1996 agreement. The analysis indicates that these assertions are true and false: India is broadly adhering to the Ganges Treaty but unilaterally withdraws water during a critical period of the dry season when regional livelihoods are most vulnerable. The study concludes that transboundary water cooperation as an abstract ideal overlooks the fact that cooperation as a practice emerges from and operates within specific historical, political, cultural, and economic contexts.

A cloud-enabled automatic disaster analysis system of multi-sourced data streams: An example synthesizing social media, remote sensing and Wikipedia data
By Qunying Huang, Guido Cervone, Guiming Zhang
In Computers, Environment and Urban Systems
Social media streams and remote sensing data have emerged as new sources for tracking disaster events, and assessing their damages. Previous studies focus on a case-by-case approach, where a specific event was first chosen and filtering criteria (e.g., keywords, spatiotemporal information) are manually designed and used to retrieve relevant data for disaster analysis. This paper presents a framework that synthesizes multi-sourced data (e.g., social media, remote sensing, Wikipedia, and Web), spatial data mining and text mining technologies to build an architecturally resilient and elastic solution to support disaster analysis of historical and future events. Within the proposed framework, Wikipedia is used as a primary source of different historical disaster events, which are extracted to build an event database. Such a database characterizes the salient spatiotemporal patterns and characteristics of each type of disaster. Additionally, it can provide basic semantics, such as event name (e.g., Hurricane Sandy) and type (e.g., flooding) and spatiotemporal scopes, which are then tuned by the proposed procedures to extract additional information (e.g., hashtags for searching tweets), to query and retrieve relevant social media and remote sensing data for a specific disaster. Besides historical event analysis and pattern mining, the cloud-based framework can also support real-time event tracking and monitoring by providing on-demand and elastic computing power and storage capabilities. A prototype is implemented and tested with data relative to the 2011 Hurricane Sandy and the 2013 Colorado flooding.

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