Dec 19

Young women take watershed challenge | UROC in spring 2020 | Politics and migration


young women in STEM workshop

Michelle Ritchie, Jacklyn Weier Julie Sanchez, and UROC participant Jenna Pulice conducted a Young Women in STEM Workshop, hosted by Graduate Women in Science (GWIS) on Saturday, December 7, 2019. “The Watershed Challenge,” one of the four activities, was a hands-on exploration of watersheds and land use. The challenge of the activity was to design a sustainable, healthy watershed that humans and the environment can thrive in for years to come. Some girls even made their own land use rules, factory regulations, and conservation areas!  At this point in the workshop, the girls had built an island’s topography using packing paper. Over this, we laid a thin sheet of vinyl to represent the surface layer of the island. The girls then sprinkled various pollutants around the watershed (e.g., remnants from an old mine, farmland animal waste, outflow from a paper mill, wastewater). After that, the girls sprayed the island with rain to see what would happen to the different types of pollutants. They learned how different types of land use and the flow of a watershed could affect areas downstream, such as the landscape seen on the projector screen. Using this knowledge, they moved onto a second activity where they designed their own land use system within a watershed. Pictured top left: Michelle Ritchie and Jenna Pulice. Image: Julie Sanchez.


The Penn State community is invited to attend an immersive technology open house taking place across the University Park campus on Tuesday, November 12. The event is being organized by the Center for Immersive Experiences (CIE) and will showcase the University’s resources around virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), 360-degree video, and more.

Brandi Robinson, Jamie Peeler, and Ruchi Patel received the department undergraduate recruiting award for successfully bringing new students into the major.

Elise Quinn, Ruchi Patel, and Jamie Peeler successfully ran the Nittany Valley Half Marathon, held on Sunday, December 8.

Check out the new GIS Coalition story map.


The Coffee Hour lecture series has concluded for the fall 2019 semester. The first Coffee Hour lecture for spring 2020 will be Arturo Izurieta, executive director of the Charles Darwin Foundation. More details to come in January. More information about Coffee Hour and view previously recorded Coffee Hour talks.


UROC for spring 2020

The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Connection (UROC) is accepting applications for research and professional development projects for Spring 2020.

These opportunities allow undergraduate students to gain valuable research experience and technical skills through collaboration on projects within the department and supervised by faculty and/or graduate students, as well as 1-3 credit hours to apply towards graduation.

Politically extreme counties may act as magnets, migration patterns suggest

It may not be just location, location, location that influences where people move to in the United States, but also politics, politics, politics, according to a team of researchers.

In a study of county-to-county migration patterns in the U.S., the researchers found that when people migrate, they tend to move to other counties that reflect their political preferences. They added that the pattern also suggests that people moving from moderate partisan counties are just as likely to move to extreme partisan counties as they are to move to other moderate counties. However, people who live in a politically extreme county are significantly likely to move to a similarly extreme county.


Merits of capstone projects in an online graduate program for working professionals

Justine Blanford, Patrick Kennelly, Beth King, Douglas Miller & Tim Bracken
Journal of Geography in Higher Education

Capstones in professional masters-level programs serve a unique nexus of developing professional, industry-specific competencies within a graduate-level academic setting. Universities offering such degree programs must demonstrate the benefits of an academic approach to working professionals, while focusing on the development or enhancement of a wide range of hard and soft skills required by industries and employers in the field of study.

In this paper we highlight the capstone project model used in an online geospatial professional program in which students apply a wide range of technical skills as well as enhance their soft skills through problem-based projects. These projects include advisement from graduate faculty, rigorous project planning to ensure the work is integrated with and builds upon the leading edge of applied research, and include numerous cycles of revision based on feedback from faculty, fellow students, and peers in the industry.

We examined completed capstone projects and surveyed past students to evaluate how relevant the capstone experience was in developing geospatial competencies. The learning model presented here is flexible and highly applicable for enhancing industry competencies for working professional students not only by providing students with the opportunity to develop research-led projects, but also for the educational institution to adjust to changing demands.

Dec 19

Coffee Hour with Steve Norman | CIE opening | Fighting ticks with fire



In Zagor, Morocco, watermelon production represents a general push toward the intensification of agricultural production and aggregation of smaller farms.The production of watermelons in this region relies entirely on pumping groundwater to irrigate desert fields which represents a radical departure from the traditional oasis agriculture built around date palms which has sustained this region for millennia. While watermelon has been viewed as an attractive commodity to generate increased economic activity, it has introduced a new set of interrelated and converging problems. Caption and Image: Cameron Franz


Supporting Women in Geography (SWIG) is participating again in the Centre Safe Holiday Sponsorship Program. This year SWIG is sponsoring a family of three (two children: a boy and a girl, both are 15 years old), and again the target is to raise $250. The deadline for donations is December 9. Anyone who wishes to contribute can deliver donations to Jacklyn Weier’s office (335 Walker Building), mailbox, or over a digital medium (Venmo: @Jacklyn-Weier; Paypal: jacklynweier@gmail.com).

An Interdisciplinary Workshop on Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation will be held 12:30–4:30 p.m., Friday, December 6, in 134 HUB. Registration is required.

Alex Klippel will speak at the Sustainability Showcase, noon to 1:30 p.m., December 6, in 233AB HUB. He will talk about “Extended Realities-Creating Visceral Experiences for Sustainability.” For more information and to register.



Coffee Hour with Steve Norman

A “perfect storm” or the “new normal”?: Seeking resilience among Southern Appalachian forests and people after epic fire”

Wildland fire has long been a part of the Southern Appalachian landscape, but for decades wildfires were kept small with limited impacts to communities. But the area burned has sharply increased in recent decades and this resurgence reached a crescendo in the hot drought of 2016 when over 140,000 acres burned across state, federal and private lands. These fires forced the evacuation of thousands and led to an unprecedented and costly suppression effort. Tennessee’s Sevier County fires, in particular, destroyed 2,400 structures, killed 14 and injured hundreds, suggesting there is a pressing need for adaptation. Yet community and urban forest resilience are arguably more about “mountain tough” rebuilding than adaptive remaking. This presentation will review what we know about fire in this region, map the pattern of problematic fire that seems to be emerging, then communicate the various causes of our shifting fire regime in a way that relates to what can be done to mitigate risks.


Geographer invests in education to open doors for others

Growing up in a segregated part of Washington, D.C., in the 1970s, Tony Hutchinson didn’t see a lot of the kids in his neighborhood going on to college. Even though several members of his family had graduated from teacher’s colleges — for him — it didn’t seem like an option.

Center for Immersive Experiences opens at Penn State (Video)

When you think of virtual reality you may think of entertainment and video games. But VR is being used more and more by businesses and schools. Instructors and students say the new Center for Immersive Experiences takes research to a whole new reality.

“When I first came to Penn State, I had no idea what I wanted to study and then I was introduced to one of the spaces on campus that had virtual reality and I said, “That what I want to do,” Talia Potochny, Penn State Student, said.

Our best bet against tick infestations might be fire

Erica Smithwick is quoted

People hate ticks. In fact, they hate them so much that folks are willing to deal with the hazards that accompany fire, like smoke, in order to reduce their populations. That’s what Pennsylvania State University professor of geography Erica Smithwick learned during a survey of public attitudes towards controlled fires in northeastern regions of the United States like New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

From The New York Times
New York’s Subway Map Like You’ve Never Seen If Before

Designed in 1979, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s map is a record of how graphic design, politics and geography have shaped New York over the past 40 years.

Use our animated guide to travel around the city and see how the map evolved.


Geospatial Information Visualization and Extended Reality Displays

Arzu Çöltekin, Amy L. Griffin, Aidan Slingsby, Anthony C. Robinson, Sidonie Christophe, Victoria Rautenbach, Min Chen, Christopher Pettit, Alexander Klippel
Chapter in Manual of Digital Earth

In this chapter, we review and summarize the current state of the art in geovisualization and extended reality (i.e., virtual, augmented and mixed reality), covering a wide range of approaches to these subjects in domains that are related to geographic information science. We introduce the relationship between geovisualization, extended reality and Digital Earth, provide some fundamental definitions of related terms, and discuss the introduced topics from a human-centric perspective. We describe related research areas including geovisual analytics and movement visualization, both of which have attracted wide interest from multidisciplinary communities in recent years. The last few sections describe the current progress in the use of immersive technologies and introduce the spectrum of terminology on virtual, augmented and mixed reality, as well as proposed research concepts in geographic information science and beyond. We finish with an overview of “dashboards”, which are used in visual analytics as well as in various immersive technologies. We believe the chapter covers important aspects of visualizing and interacting with current and future Digital Earth applications.

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