Coffee Hour with Mariana Mora | Labs open for Parents and Families Weekend | Modeling fire to restore past forests


LassenWinter is coming. Alan Taylor shares this image from recent field work examining the effects of the 2012 Reading Fire in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Snow fell at night on Mount Lassen and camping was in temperatures in the 20s.


Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment will hold a science communication panel discussion on Wednesday, Oct. 17, at 4 p.m. in 233 HUB-Robeson Center. Attendees are asked to register:

“The Most Unknown” is an innovative documentary that attempts to reinvigorate love for scientific inquiry by exploring some of the universe’s toughest questions. Public screening of the film will be held 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 18, in the Pike Auditorium, 22 Biobehavioral Health Building on the University Park campus.

SWIG will host an informal workshop with this week’s Coffee Hour speaker, Dr. Mariana Mora, on Friday, Oct. 19, from noon-1:30 p.m. in 337 Walker Building.


Mariana Mora
(Un)earthing cartographies, racial necro-economics and politics of absence

Four years ago, on the night of September 26, 2014 in the town of Iguala, in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, police forces, armed forces and members of organized crime violently attacked public transportation buses on which were travelling students from the teachers’ college of Ayotzinapa to take part in the October 2 commemorations of the 1968 Tlatelolco plaza student massacre in Mexico City. During the course of the night, three students were assassinated and 43 students forcibly disappeared, their whereabouts to this day unknown. The talk focuses on the case of Ayotzinapa in order to critically analyze the ways that extreme forms of physical violence and (il)legal economies engender particular expressions of racialized state formation.

  • Friday, Oct. 19
  • 3:30 p.m. Coffee and refreshments, 319 Walker Building
  • 4:00 Lecture, 112 Walker Building
  • Coffee Hour To Go Webcast


Parents and Families Weekend at Penn State University Park Campus is October 19-21, 2018

With new large geospatial datasets from GPS, social media and online technologies, GeoSpatial analysis technologies are becoming more and more important for understanding human behavior and settlements. Come see the latest research at The GeoVISTA Center, specifically highlighting new projects from the Friendly Cities Lab, which uses data from Airbnb, Yelp, Facebook, The Yellow Pages, college admissions offices, and the NCAA to better understand how cities and communities function and how we relate to one another across geographic space.

Immersive technologies such as virtual reality are changing the way we communicate, understand the future of the planet, prepare and train ourselves, or cure phobias. ChoroPhronesis—Applied Spatial Intelligence—has developed immersive experiences for you that showcase the power of immersion across different academic disciplines. You can explore Iceland’s Thrinukagigur Volcano; experience the visions of architectural students for informal settlements in Rio, Brazil; visit the Maya City of Cahal Pech in Belize; or experience what climate change may do to a forest in Wisconsin. Many of the experiences are free for you to take home.

Geography student models future fires to restore past forests

The forests we walk through today are not the same as the ones that existed hundreds of years ago. Human activities such as agriculture, development, and logging have changed them. Fire, or really the lack of it, also changed forests, to the detriment of some species like Oaks and Pines.

Can we use fire to turn back time, bring forests closer to their original state, and maintain these ecosystems over the long term?

Previous studies show mixed results depending upon when, how often, how severe and in what season a prescribed burn was conducted. Anthony Zhao, a master’s degree student in geography, in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, is using computer model simulations to try to get a clearer answer to this question with his master’s research project, “Modeling Prescribed Fire Effects on Vegetation Dynamics in Pitch Pine and Mixed-Oak Forests.”


Acquisition and transfer of spatial knowledge during wayfinding

He, Q., McNamara, T. P., Bodenheimer, B., & Klippel, A. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
In the current study, we investigated the ways in which the acquisition and transfer of spatial knowledge were affected by (a) the type of spatial relations predominately experienced during learning (routes determined by walkways vs. straight-line paths between locations); (b) environmental complexity; and (c) the availability of rotational body-based information. Participants learned the layout of a virtual shopping mall by repeatedly searching for target storefronts located in 1 of the buildings. We created 2 novel learning conditions to encourage participants to use either route knowledge (paths on walkways between buildings) or survey knowledge (straight-line distances and directions from storefront to storefront) to find the target, and measured the development of route and survey knowledge in both learning conditions. Environmental complexity was manipulated by varying the alignment of the buildings with the enclosure, and the visibility within space. Body-based information was manipulated by having participants perform the experiment in front of a computer monitor or using a head-mounted display. After navigation, participants pointed to various storefronts from a fixed position and orientation. Results showed that the frequently used spatial knowledge could be developed similarly across environments with different complexities, but the infrequently used spatial knowledge was less developed in the complex environment. Furthermore, rotational body-based information facilitated spatial learning under certain conditions. Our results suggest that path integration may play an important role in spatial knowledge transfer, both from route to survey knowledge (cognitive map construction), and from survey to route knowledge (using cognitive map to guide wayfinding).

The geography of gender inequality in international higher education

Myers, R. M. and A. Griffin
Journal of Studies in International Education
The internationalization of higher education results in 4.6 million students attending colleges and universities outside their home countries. In the United States and other countries, there is significant underrepresentation of women among inbound international higher education students. Gender equality in education cannot be achieved so long as women are underrepresented in participation in this important educational venue. To better understand the drivers of gender inequalities in international higher education, this study examines the low participation rate by women coming to the United States by comparing it with participation data for women coming to the United Kingdom and Germany. Gender participation rates from both source regions and countries vary by destination country. By exploring the geography of gender inequality in international higher education, decision makers can better understand barriers to achieving international gender equality goals.

Influences of paleo-topography of the Cretaceous/Tertiary angular unconformity on uranium mineralization in the Shirley Basin, Wyoming

Covington, J. H. and P. Kennelly
The Journal of Maps
The Shirley Basin is a small asymmetric synclinal structure located in northern Carbon County, Wyoming approximately 65 km (40 miles) south of Casper, Wyoming, USA. The basin formed during the Laramide orogeny of the Late Cretaceous to Early Tertiary (78–49 Ma) and contains economically significant uranium deposits. The underlying Cretaceous units form an angular unconformity with the overlying Tertiary units that represents a paleotopographic erosional surface characterized by stream channels and overbank deposits of interbedded sand and clay with some organic detritus. Furthermore, the Cretaceous shales function as the lower confining unit/aquitard for in-situ recovery (ISR) uranium mining, and the overlying Tertiary sandstones host the uranium mineralization.

This study maps the K/T boundary in greater detail than previous studies and identifies paleotopographic features that influence sedimentary environments and structures that favor uranium mineralization. Using a larger study region and thousands of historical wells and associated electric logs not available to previous studies, this research identifies unit boundaries and enters them into Golden Software’s Surfer and Esri’s ArcGIS to construct a detailed structure contour map on the K/T surface. The map delineates paleotopography such as hills and river channels, with the latter showing a strong spatial association with uranium mineralization. Geologists can use these maps to identify thicker host sands and fluvial features which enhance uranium mineralization. Mining companies can reduce operational and exploration costs by drilling in these more favorable areas to efficiently delineate the ore body geometry and develop more accurate mine unit designs that will maximize uranium recovery.

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