Academic promotions and awards | Forests and carbon | Wet CA winter yields more wildfire


Michelle Ritchie and Lee KumpMichelle Ritchie receives the George H. K. Schenck Teaching Assistant Award from Dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Lee Kump at the annual Wilson Awards Banquet held this spring.


Mahda Bagher passed her Comprehensive Exam.

Phil Dennison (‘97) has been appointed chair of the Department of Geography at the University of Utah.

The following is a list of academic promotions for tenured and tenure-line faculty members at Penn State, effective July 1:

  • Guido Cervone, Lorraine Dowler, and Brian H. King, have been promoted to professor.
  • Anthony Robinson has been promoted to associate professor.

The following geographers were recognized at the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences annual Wilson Awards Banquet:

  • Erica Smithwick received the Wilson Award for Excellence in Research.
  • Alexander Klippel received the E. Willard and Ruby S. Miller Faculty Fellowship.
  • Michelle Ritchie received the George H. K. Schenck Teaching Assistant Award.
  • Andrew Patterson received the Ellen Steidle Achievement Award.
  • Joseph Grosso received EMSAGE Laureate status.


South African forests show pathways to a sustainable future

Native forests make up 1 percent of the landscape in South Africa but could play a key role in reducing atmospheric carbon and identifying sustainable development practices that can be used globally to counter climate change, according to a Penn State researcher.

“As we think about pathways for reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, one of the available approaches is to use the natural world as a sponge,” said Erica Smithwick, professor of geography and director of the Center for Landscape Dynamics at Penn State.

From the Washington Post
Wet California winter is a boon for skiers and water supply. But it brings a threat: Wildfires.

Alan Taylor is quoted

This early June morning is Boyd Shep­ler’s birthday, No. 66, and he is spending it in a classic California way: a few hours of skiing in a snowflake-filled morning, then a round of golf in the dry afternoon sun.

The snow here in the Sierra Nevada is epic, packed into a base that is more than double the historical average for early summer. Here on Mammoth Mountain, the ski lifts will be running into August. At lower altitudes, a spring of atmospheric rivers and hard rain has filled the state’s once-languishing reservoirs.


Immersive Learning in the Wild: A Progress Report

Alexander Klippel, Danielle Oprean, Jiayan Zhao, Jan Oliver Wallgrün, Peter LaFemina, Kathy Jackson, Elise Gowen
In: Beck D. et al. (eds) Immersive Learning Research Network. iLRN 2019.
Part of the Communications in Computer and Information Science book series (CCIS, volume 1044)
Immersive technologies have entered the mainstream. To establish them firmly in educational curricula requires both practical and empirical assessments that ultimately lead to best practice and design recommendations. We report on a study that contributes to both. To enrich geoscience education, we developed an immersive virtual field trip (iVFT) that we evaluated in previous small-scale studies. In order to make it accessible to larger audiences we (a) developed a version of the iVFT for mobile devices (Oculus Go); and (b) used an evolving public VR infrastructure at The Pennsylvania State University. The results of an empirical evaluation are insightful in that they show that system characteristics are only partially predicting learning experiences and that required mainstream adoption, that is, making immersive experiences mandatory for all students in a class, still has its challenges. We discuss the results and future developments.

Climate, Environment, and Disturbance History Govern Resilience of Western North American Forests

Paul F. Hessburg, Carol L. Miller, Nicholas A. Povak, Alan H. Taylor, Philip E. Higuera, Suan J. Prichard, Malcolm P. North, Brandon M. Collins, Matthew D. Hurteau, Andrew J. Larson, Craig D. Allen, Scott L. Stephens, Hiram R. Huerta, Camille S. Rumann, Lori D. Daniels, Ze’ev Gedalof, Robert W. Gray, Van R. Kane, Derek J. Churchill, R K. Hagmann, Thomas A. Spies, Sean A. Parks, C. A. Cansler, R T. Belote, Thomas T. Veblen, Michael A. Battaglia,Chad Hoffman, Carl N. Skinner and Hugh D. Safford
Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2019.00239
Resilience and resistance concepts have broad application to ecology and society. Resilience is an emergent property that reflects the amount of disruption a system can withstand before its structure or organization uncharacteristically shift. Resistance is a component of resilience. Before the advent of intensive forest management and fire suppression, western North American forests exhibited a naturally occurring resilience to wildfires and other disturbances. Using evidence from ten ecoregions, spanning forests from Canada to Mexico, we review the properties of these forests that reinforced those qualities. We show examples of multi-level landscape resilience, of feedbacks within and among levels, and how conditions have changed under climatic and management influences. We highlight geographic similarities and differences in the structure and organization of historical landscapes, their forest types, and in the conditions that have changed resilience and resistance to abrupt or large-scale disruptions. We discuss the regional climates’ role in episodically or abruptly reorganizing plant and animal biogeography, and forest resilience and resistance to disturbances. We give clear examples of these changes and suggest that managing for resilient forests is a construct that is strongly dependent on scale and social values. It involves human community adaptations that work with the ecosystems they depend on and the processes that shape them. It entails actively managing factors and exploiting mechanisms that drive dynamics at each level as means of adapting landscapes, species, and human communities to climate change, and maintaining core ecosystem functions, processes, and services. Finally, it compels us to prioritize management that incorporates ongoing disturbances and anticipated effects of climatic changes, to support dynamically shifting patchworks of forest and nonforest. Doing so will make these shifting forest conditions and wildfire regimes more gradual and less disruptive to individuals and society.

Harnessing the power of immersive virtual reality – visualization and analysis of 3D earth science data sets

Jiayan Zhao, Jan Oliver Wallgrün, Peter C. LaFemina, Jim Normandeau & Alexander Klippel
Geo-spatial Information Science
DOI: 10.1080/10095020.2019.1621544
The availability and quantity of remotely sensed and terrestrial geospatial data sets are on the rise. Historically, these data sets have been analyzed and quarried on 2D desktop computers; however, immersive technologies and specifically immersive virtual reality (iVR) allow for the integration, visualization, analysis, and exploration of these 3D geospatial data sets. iVR can deliver remote and large-scale geospatial data sets to the laboratory, providing embodied experiences of field sites across the earth and beyond. We describe a workflow for the ingestion of geospatial data sets and the development of an iVR workbench, and present the application of these for an experience of Iceland’s Thrihnukar volcano where we: (1) combined satellite imagery with terrain elevation data to create a basic reconstruction of the physical site; (2) used terrestrial LiDAR data to provide a geo-referenced point cloud model of the magmatic-volcanic system, as well as the LiDAR intensity values for the identification of rock types; and (3) used Structure-from-Motion (SfM) to construct a photorealistic point cloud of the inside volcano. The workbench provides tools for the direct manipulation of the georeferenced data sets, including scaling, rotation, and translation, and a suite of geometric measurement tools, including length, area, and volume. Future developments will be inspired by an ongoing user study that formally evaluates the workbench’s mature components in the context of fieldwork and analyses activities.

Comments are closed.

Skip to toolbar