Green Paws certification | Remote sensing and geospatial analysis faculty search | New VR course


ChoroPhronesis Open House

Alex Klippel shares this photo from Penn State Parents and Families Weekend Oct. 19–21, 2018. The ChoroPhronesis Lab Open House welcomed a steady stream of visitors who wanted to experience virtual reality.


Whitney Broussard’s (’17g) MGIS capstone project was highlighted in the article, “Marshland mapping uses drone and data,” in Point of Beginnings, September, 14-19. Written by M. J. Wagner.

Chris Rothermel won third prize for his poster for the African Research Center Undergraduate Research Exhibition on Oct. 20, “The politics of Fire Ban Policies in Benishangul-Gumuz, Ethiopa.” Rothermel is a political science major; he completed a research internship with Bronwen Powell in spring 2018.

Penn State will be holding it’s fourth annual Project Management Conference at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center on Nov. 7, 2018. The theme for 2018 conference is Innovation Across Disciplines: People, Processes, and Performance. The conference places focus on the interdisciplinary and collaborative nature of innovative projects, and the people and processes central to project success. Faculty, staff and students from all disciplines are encouraged to attend. For more information or to register visit:

The Department of Geography Green Team has been recognized by the Sustainability Institute as a “Level One Certified Green Paws Office.” Team members include Cindy Brewer, Alex Klippel, Denise Kloehr, Erica Smithwick, Jodi Vender, Melissa Weaver (team leader), Jacklyn Weier, and Anthony Zhao.


The next Coffee Hour will be Nov. 2, 2018. The speaker will be Maarten V. de Hoop, Simons Chair in Computational and Applied Mathematics and Earth Science at Rice University.


Assistant Professor of Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis

The Departments of Geography and Statistics in partnership with the Institute for CyberScience (ICS) at The Pennsylvania State University, located in University Park, PA, invite applications for a new faculty member in Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis at the Assistant Professor level. This tenure track faculty position is part of the cluster hire initiative of the Institute for CyberScience (ICS) to enhance big-data and big-simulation in support of the ‘Driving Digital Innovation’ thematic area of the Penn State strategic plan. ICS is a University-wide, interdisciplinary research institute with more than 20 ICS tenure-track co-hired faculty and nearly 300 associates in interdisciplinary research enabled by high performance computing (HPC).

New course puts Penn State students in control of transformational technology

In his decade of teaching at Penn State, Professor of Geography Alex Klippel has seen immersive technologies disrupt everything at the University from education to research to outreach. His belief in the power of this machinery to improve the learning process guided his creation of GEOG 197: Immersive Technologies – Transforming Society through Digital Innovation.

“I created one of the first upper-level courses on [virtual reality] and 3D modeling, and I want to share my fascination for immersive technologies with students at all levels,” Klippel said of the brand-new general education course he created alongside instructional designer Amy Kuntz. “Thanks to generous support and marvelous collaboration [with the Teaching and Learning with Technology department] we are able to advance immersive learning at Penn State and share it with a wider audience.”


Jack Johnson versus Jim Crow: Race, Reputation, and the Politics of Black Villainy: The Fight of the Century

Alderman, Derek H. & Inwood, Joshua & Tyner, James A.
Southeastern Geographer
Foundational to Jim Crow era segregation and discrimination in the United States was a “racialized reputational politics,” that constructed African Americans as not only inferior, but as villainous threats to the normative order, leading to the lynching of thousands of African Americans. While black villainy is a destructive force within society, we explore it is as basis for anti-racist politics, when appropriated by African Americans. There is a long history in African American folklore of celebrating the black outlaw who freely moves about and boldly violates moral and legal norms. Early 20th century American boxer Jack Johnson, who reigned as world heavy champion from 1908 to 1915, illustrates this complex and contested process of vilifying black bodies and reputations during the Jim Crow era. Our paper offers a critical, contextualized biographical analysis of Johnson, situating his struggles within the wider historical geography of violent US race relations and paying close attention to the controversial place he held within the white and black public imaginaries. Importantly, the African American fighter appropriated and manipulated Jim Crow villainy to challenge a white racist society and a conservative black establishment while also claiming the right to live on his own terms.

Growth and survival relationships of 71 tree species with nitrogen and sulfur deposition across the conterminous U.S.

Kevin J. Horn, R. Quinn Thomas, Christopher M. Clark, Linda H. Pardo, Mark E. Fenn, Gregory B. Lawrence, Steven S. Perakis, Erica A. H. Smithwick, Douglas Baldwin, Sabine Braun, Annika Nordin, Charles H. Perry, Jennifer N. Phelan, Paul G. Schaberg, Samuel B. St. Clair, Richard Warby, Shaun Watmough
Atmospheric deposition of nitrogen (N) influences forest demographics and carbon (C) uptake through multiple mechanisms that vary among tree species. Prior studies have estimated the effects of atmospheric N deposition on temperate forests by leveraging forest inventory measurements across regional gradients in deposition. However, in the United States (U.S.), these previous studies were limited in the number of species and the spatial scale of analysis, and did not include sulfur (S) deposition as a potential covariate. Here, we present a comprehensive analysis of how tree growth and survival for 71 species vary with N and S deposition across the conterminous U.S. Our analysis of 1,423,455 trees from forest plots inventoried between 2000 and 2016 reveals that the growth and/or survival of the vast majority of species in the analysis (n = 66, or 93%) were significantly affected by atmospheric deposition. Species co-occurred across the conterminous U.S. that had decreasing and increasing relationships between growth (or survival) and N deposition, with just over half of species responding negatively in either growth or survival to increased N deposition somewhere in their range (42 out of 71). Averaged across species and conterminous U.S., however, we found that an increase in deposition above current rates of N deposition would coincide with a small net increase in tree growth (1.7% per Δ kg N ha-1 yr-1), and a small net decrease in tree survival (-0.22% per Δ kg N ha-1 yr-1), with substantial regional and among-species variation. Adding S as a predictor improved the overall model performance for 70% of the species in the analysis. Our findings have potential to help inform ecosystem management and air pollution policy across the conterminous U.S., and suggest that N and S deposition have likely altered forest demographics in the U.S.

Fine‐scale spatial homogenization of microbial habitats: a multivariate index of headwater wetland complex condition

Jessica B. Moon, Denice H. Wardrop, Erica A. H. Smithwick, Kusum J. Naithani
Ecological Applications
With growing public awareness that wetlands are important to society, there are intensifying efforts to understand the ecological condition of those wetlands that remain, and to develop indicators of wetland condition. Indicators based on soils are not well developed and are absent in some current assessment protocols; these could be advantageous, particularly for soils, which are complex habitats for plants, invertebrates, and microbial communities. In this study, we examine whether multivariate soil indicators, correlated with microbial biomass and community composition, can be used to distinguish reference standard (i.e., high condition) headwater wetland complexes from impacted headwater wetland complexes in central Pennsylvania, USA. Our reference standard sites existed in forested landscapes, while our impacted sites were situated in multi–use landscapes and were affected by a range of land–use legacies in the 1900s. We found that current assessment protocols are likely underrepresenting sampling needs to accurately represent site mean soil properties. On average more samples were required to represent soil property means in reference standard sites compared to impacted sites. Reference standard and impacted sites also had noticeably different types of microbial habitats for the two multivariate soil indices assessed, and impacted sites were more homogenized in terms of the fine‐scale (i.e., 1‐m and 5‐m) spatial variability of these indices. Our study shows promise for the use of multivariate soil indices as indicators of wetland condition and provides insights into the sample sizes and scales at which soil sampling should occur during assessments. Future work is needed to test the generalizability of these findings across wetland types and ecoregions and establish definitive links between structural changes in microbial habitats and changes in wetland soil functioning.

An approach to estimating forest biomass change over a coniferous forest landscape based on tree-level analysis from repeated lidar surveys

Turner, S.B., Turner D.P., Gray, A.N. & Fellers, W.
International Journal of Remote Sensing
Forests represent a significant opportunity for carbon sequestration, but quantifying biomass change at the landscape scale and larger remains a challenge. Here we develop an approach based on repeated tree-level analysis using high-resolution airborne lidar (around 8 pulses/m2). The study area was 53 km2 of actively managed coniferous forestland in the Coast Range Mountains in western Oregon. The study interval was 2006–2012. Tree heights and crown areas were determined from the lidar data using point cloud clustering. Biomass per tree was estimated with allometry. Tree-level data (N = 14,709) from local USDA Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis plots provided the basis for the allometry. Estimated biomass change over the 6-year interval averaged −1.3 kg m−2 year−1, with the average gain in undisturbed areas of 1.0 kg m−2 year−1. Full harvest occurred on 3% of the area per year. For surviving trees, the mean change in height was 0.5 m year−1 (SD = 0.3) and the mean change in biomass was 45.3 kg year−1 (SD = 6.7). The maximum bin-average increase in biomass per tree (57.3 kg year−1) was observed in trees of intermediate height (35–40 m). In addition to high spatially resolved tracking of forest biomass change, potential applications of repeated tree-level surveys include analysis of mortality. In this relatively productive forest landscape, an interval of 6 years between lidar acquisitions was adequate to resolve significant changes in tree height and area-wide biomass.

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