Coffee Hour with Don McCandless | EcoChallenge | Geospatial advisory board



The Sustainability Institute at Penn State is piloting a new program called EcoChallenge to choose actions to reduce your impact. You pick your own challenge and set a goal that stretches your comfort zone and makes a difference for you, your community, and the planet. Challenges encompass a variety of eco-issues such as waste, food, health, transportation, energy, water, and nature, and range in difficulty. For example, one challenge could be using a reusable water bottle each day, while another challenge could be carrying your trash that you accumulate throughout the duration of the challenge.


Azita Ranjbar successfully defended her dissertation on August 11, and has started a new faculty position as assistant professor of women gender and sexuality studies at Ohio State University

Lorraine Dowler and Azita Ranjbar just had an article accepted to the Annals of the Association of American Geographers titled, “Just Praxis in the City: Positive Security in Belfast and Orumiyeh.”

Kelsey Brain has been awarded a Fulbright-Hayes Fellowship for her dissertation research in Costa Rica.

Mikael Hiestand and Andrew Yoder passed their FAA Section 107 Pilots exam this week and are now able to legally fly small unmanned systems under Section 107 rules.

The Penn State Critical Geographies Conference abstract deadline has been extended to Monday, September 25.


September 22 Coffee Hour with Don McCandless: Research to Start-Up: Initial steps to technology commercialization for Penn Staters
The thought of translating fundamental research into a commercial product can appear mysterious and daunting to many in the research and academic community. However, there is a process, with multiple pathways, that can be followed to increase the chances of success. These paths are lumpy, not linear. But by creating and investigating “Business Models” (not a “Business Plan”), researchers can get a better idea on whether there is actually a commercial need for their proposed product/service. This process is currently being implemented at the national level thru I-Corps programming at NSF and NIH, as well as by the 68 teams in the past five years in our TechCelerator@StateCollege Entrepreneurial boot camps. Today’s talk will outline several ways to get started, including an overview of licensing, funding options, prototyping, team formation, and customer discovery techniques.

  • 3:30 to 5:00 p.m.: Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m.; the lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.
  • Watch the webcast on Mediasite

GEOGRAPH SU17: From the Department Head
(Your name here): Building community, supporting international travel, and celebrating excellence
A few times during the year, our college development folks email me about upcoming visits with alumni, and they ask me what our department funding priorities are. They might also ask what specific opportunities exist for someone with a special focus on x-y-z. So, as head, I need to think about our development priorities from two different points of view; first, what will strengthen and position the department overall for success, and second, what unique projects will appeal most to particular donors. I currently have four things on my general department funding wish list:

Penn State Online Geospatial Education advisory board meets
On Monday, August 28, the advisory board for the Penn State Online Geospatial Education program held its annual meeting. Each year, the board evaluates the MGIS degree and GIS, GEOINT, and Remote Sensing certificate programs. Members provide advice and insight on how we can continually refine our classes and programs to anticipate the needs of geospatial professionals and society. Members of the Advisory Board include senior leaders from Esri, CARTO, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, eMap International, 18F, and Azavea, as well as from academic units within and outside of Penn State. Several board members are alumni of the Department of Geography and our online programs, ensuring that we have the voices of our students as well as their potential employers in mind.

At the 2017 meeting, board members reviewed course content with faculty and made suggestions on how to build upon the program’s strengths. Engagement with the board enhances our ability to respond to continuing changes in the geospatial professional landscape. In the year ahead we will be redesigning our core GIS Certificate courses based in part on Advisory Board recommendations.


SensePlace3: a geovisual framework to analyze place–time–attribute information in social media
By Scott Pezanowski, Alan M MacEachren, Alexander Savelyev & Anthony C Robinson
In Cartography and Geographic Information Science
SensePlace3 (SP3) is a geovisual analytics framework and web application that supports overview + detail analysis of social media, focusing on extracting meaningful information from the Twitterverse. SP3 leverages social media related to crisis events. It differs from most existing systems by enabling an analyst to obtain place-relevant information from tweets that have implicit as well as explicit geography. Specifically, SP3 includes not just the ability to utilize the explicit geography of geolocated tweets but also analyze implicit geography by recognizing and geolocating references in both tweet text, which indicates locations tweeted about, and in Twitter profiles, which indicates locations affiliated with users. Key features of SP3 reported here include flexible search and filtering capabilities to support information foraging; an ingest, processing, and indexing pipeline that produces near real-time access for big streaming data; and a novel strategy for implementing a web-based multi-view visual interface with dynamic linking of entities across views. The SP3 system architecture was designed to support crisis management applications, but its design flexibility makes it easily adaptable to other domains. We also report on a user study that provided input to SP3 interface design and suggests next steps for effective spatiotemporal analytics using social media sources.

GeoCorpora: building a corpus to test and train microblog geoparsers
By Jan Oliver Wallgrün, Morteza Karimzadeh, Alan M. MacEachren & Scott Pezanowski
In International Journal of Geographical Information Science
In this article, we present the GeoCorpora corpus building framework and software tools as well as a geo-annotated Twitter corpus built with these tools to foster research and development in the areas of microblog/Twitter geoparsing and geographic information retrieval. The developed framework employs crowdsourcing and geovisual analytics to support the construction of large corpora of text in which the mentioned location entities are identified and geolocated to toponyms in existing geographical gazetteers. We describe how the approach has been applied to build a corpus of geo-annotated tweets that will be made freely available to the research community alongside this article to support the evaluation, comparison and training of geoparsers. Additionally, we report lessons learned related to corpus construction for geoparsing as well as insights about the notions of place and natural spatial language that we derive from application of the framework to building this corpus.

ChoroPhronesis papers accepted to the Immersive Analytics 2017 workshop at IEEE VIS conference

Two ChoroPhronesis papers have been accepted to the Immersive Analytics 2017 workshop at IEEE VIS conference in Phoenix, Arizona on October 1st! These are peer-reviewed conference papers, and we will update with the DOI’s once they are assigned.

The first paper is “Take a Walk: Evaluating Movement Types for Data Visualization in Immersive Virtual Reality” by Mark Simpson, Jiayan Zhao, and Alexander Klippel, which concerns a pilot experiment testing the effect different types of movement in virtual environments on interpreting 3D data visualizations. Mark will be presenting the paper at the workshop in person.

The second paper, “Immersive Applications for Informal and Interactive Learning
for Earth Sciences” by Arif Marsur, Jiayan Zhao, Jan Oliver Wallgrün, Peter LaFemina, and Alexander Klippel discusses their work on an iVR tool which lets users explore databases by interacting with 3D models and 360 images in a virtual or augmented reality environment. They were accepted into the poster presentation track

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