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.

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