Mar 20

From the Head | Rethinking food | Holocaust learning resources


EMEX panel on Zoom

EMEX, the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences annual recruitment event, took place virtually on Saturday, March 28. After general sessions about the college, including a Graduates of Earth and Mineral Sciences (GEMS) panel, each department, including the Department of Geography, hosted a breakout session. The Geography breakout session was attended by four prospective students. Jodi Vender and nine current undergraduate students presented information about the program and their experiences as geography students.  Closed captioning, shown at the bottom of the image, was provided during the event.


Jeremy Diaz was selected to receive a 2020 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF).

Zachary Goldberg received the AAG Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group Field Study Award.

Karen Schuckman has been named a finalist in the Personal Achievement in LIDAR category of the Lidar Leader Awards, a joint initiative of LIDAR Magazine and the organizers of the International LiDAR Mapping Forum (ILMF).

“Improving climate risk management: Are we doing the science right? Are we doing the right science?” In this EarthTalks seminar, Klaus Keller will discuss how engaging with stakeholders and decision-makers can help scientists identify mission-oriented basic science questions, and how scientists can help to improve decisions. The seminar will be held at 4 p.m. Monday, April 6, and webcast through Zoom at https://psu.zoom.us/j/594342606.The talk is free and open to the public.

Solve Climate by 2030: Solar Dominance + Civic Action Pennsylvania statewide webinar will take place 7 p.m., April 7 2020.  Link to Join: https://psu.zoom.us/j/550953597

The Dutton Institute has gathered resources for remote teaching on their website.  In addition, the Institute will hold open office hours via Zoom at https://psu.zoom.us/j/732482498. Open office hours can be used for Zoom tips, assessment strategies discussion, help with Canvas or Kaltura, or even a discussion of options for delivering your final exam remotely. Office hours will be at the following days/times this week:

  • Wednesday, 4/1: 10:30 – 11:30 am and 4:00 – 5:00 pm
  • Thursday, 4/2: 10:30 – 11:30 am and 12:30 – 1:30 pm
  • Friday, 4/3: 11:30 am – 12:30 pm and 2:30 – 3:30 pm

Call for maps: Guerrilla Cartography is seeking maps, ideas, cartographers, and researchers for an atlas on shelter. Shelter: An Atlas will bring together a diversity of disciplines all connected by the theme of shelter, and it will be a sister-atlas to Guerrilla Cartography’s earlier projects, Food: An Atlas and Water: An Atlas. Deadline to submit a map idea or to volunteer to be a researcher is Monday, April 13. Want to submit your own map? First map submissions are due June 15.

Job posting: The Department of Geography at Gustavus Adolphus College is searching for one-semester position of Visiting Instructor (or Assistant Professor with appropriate qualifications) in the Department of Geography to begin September 1, 2020 and ending December 30, 2020. The one semester teaching assignment will be 3.5 courses. Primary teaching responsibilities will include introductory GIS and remote sensing of the environment. To apply: https://gustavus.edu/employment/job/1735



From the Head: Right Hires

We couldn’t have planned two better faculty emphases to add to the department in 2020, health geography and data analytics, which will be part of learning how to better study disease. Though Provost Jones announced a freeze on faculty hires in progress at the March 24 Town Hall, EMS Dean Kump confirms that both our hires for next year are secure. Wang and Holmes have already signed their Penn State contracts and will be arriving July 1, 2020.

Shujie Wang will join us as an assistant professor (tenure home in Geography, co-hire with EESI, and associate faculty in both EESI and ICDS). She is hired into the EMS position “Understanding Land-Water Systems Using Data Analytics” and specializes in Earth and environmental sciences using data-driven tools and methods. She studies cryosphere and climate dynamics using geographic information science, remote sensing, image recognition, numerical modeling, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. This coming year, Shujie will be teaching an EMS course on data analytics and intro and advanced remote sensing courses (GEOG 362 and 462). Shujie is currently a postdoc at LDEO at Columbia.

Louisa Holmes will join us as an assistant professor of health geography. She is our SSRI co-hire with the Consortium to Combat Substance Abuse (SSRI is PSU’s Social Science Research Institute). She works on substance use and abuse in tobacco and marijuana. She has experience with NIH and health-related granting agencies, running large surveys of youth that include place characteristics, and intensive quantitative modeling. Louisa’s initial teaching next year is planned as the intro core course in GIScience (GEOG 260), advanced spatial analysis (GEOG 464), and an advanced undergaduate course in health geography (GEOG 497). Louisa is currently an assistant professor at Binghamton University.


It’s time to rethink how you shop for food | Opinion

by Zachary Goldberg, For The Inquirer, Updated: March 27, 2020

These are troubling times for the food industry. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, food consumption is changing fast as restaurants, schools, and other community spaces close. This has prompted panic shopping. Many look to stock their shelves with canned and frozen food, as I did the early moments of the crisis, running out to Target to buy the last case of San Pellegrino along with essential supplies for my mom

Holocaust Education Initiative releases first set of free instructional material

Alexander Kippel is a participant

To help teachers remotely engage their students during the coronavirus crisis, Penn State’s Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Education Initiative has released its first set of free learning resources.

The initiative — a Penn State partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Education and several state and national organizations to provide educators with the tools to tackle difficult topics — has been developing instructional material for classroom use. Responding to the coronavirus outbreak, which has forced schools to close across the state, the innovative program readied some of its learning resources for home use.

Related: Human rights initiative earns Community Engagement and Scholarship Award

Mar 20

A view of spring | From the Head | Geography a key part of fighting outbreak



A capture of the current live Arboretum webcam view.


The EarthTalks seminar will feature Roman DiBiase, assistant professor of geosciences,  discussing how geologic history influenced landscape response to climate change during the last ice age, and how it influences the resilience of watersheds to human land use changes. The seminar will be held at 4 p.m. Monday, March 30, and broadcast through Zoom: https://psu.zoom.us/j/594342606.

Welcome to Judy Heltman, our new graduate assistant, who started this week. Judy comes to us from Architectural Engineering as their graduate program and placement coordinator so she is coming to us with lots of relevant experience.

AAG is facilitating a virtual annual meeting April 6-10, in response to restrictions on travel and gathering during the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual conference will offer more than 130 sessions and panels. If you are interested in participating virtually, please reach out to your session organizer directly.

State College Borough is using Storymaps for coronavirus resources.



From the Head: Big Push to Remote Learning

As a department of modest size we have a major-sized push to remote learning from resident teaching. We have 35 courses for resident students that suddenly went to online, video, and virtual modes last week. I have talked to or emailed with each instructor in the resident program. Anthony Robinson (DOGE) has continually communicated with and supported our Online Geospatial Education program instructors who are not changing mode but whose adult professional students are facing many new stresses.

Among our 35 resident courses this spring, only five were web courses to begin with and two more are hybrid offerings that have online materials already integrated. We have similar numbers of courses that are intro general education (nine), core for geography majors and certificate students (nine), and 400-level advanced undergraduate courses (13), plus four graduate seminars. Our instructors tell of fabulous classes where the students come together in animated conversation and of other days when stressed students are disruptive. Some faculty happened to have light teaching this semester with buy-outs, releases, or sabbaticals and are generous in offering guest lectures for their colleagues’ courses. We’ve come together in Zoom rooms to share experiences, highlights, course changes, and upsets (and pets’ cameos).

Please reach out and support our faculty, instructors, and teaching assistants who are working really hard on these courses.—Cindy

From Forbes

Why Geography Is A Key Part Of Fighting The COVID-19 Coronavirus Outbreak

I am an atmospheric scientist with three degrees in meteorology. However my tenured home at the University of Georgia is the Department of Geography. Like many of you reading this, I had a rather narrow understanding of geography when I left NASA to join the faculty at the university. Over the years, I have certainly heard people describe geography as maps, capitals, rivers, and so forth. While these things are definitely a part of the discipline, there is far more complexity and rigor than memorization of facts or your recollections of the elementary Geography Bee.

Mar 20

No Coffee Hour | From the Head | First-gen geog student


working in LEAPS lab

Erica Smithwick (center) and graduate students Jamie Peeler (left) and Susan Kotikot (right) analyzed soil nutrient concentrations from soils following wildfire in the Landscape Ecology at Penn State (LEAPS) Lab. See the related story, Trailblazers: Erica Smithwick Rethinks Fire in the Forest, in this issue.


Chris Forest will deliver the March 23 EarthTalks seminar online. His presentation is titled “Embracing uncertainty in Earth system modeling to assess climate change risks” You can join via Zoom.

Joshua Inwood wrote an article for The Conversation titled, “Closing polling places is the 21st century’s version of a poll tax.”

Angela Rogers wrote an article for Training Industry, titled, “Diversity Training: You’re Doing It Wrong.”

Alumnus Jack Swab, currently at the University of Kentucky, was elected Student Councilor for AAG.

Internship opportunity: The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, the official Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the ten-county region including the City of Pittsburgh, is seeking interns (May-August) for various transportation planning projects including traffic counting, GIS, transport modeling, data collection, database development-data analysis and related activities. For more information, visit http://www.spcregion.org. Email response preferred. Send letter of interest and resume in confidence to hr@spcregion.org

Job opportunity: Cartographer job opportunity at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for recent graduates.


Coffee Hour talks cancelled

The Speakers Committee has postponed the planned Coffee Hour talks by Julie Reed and Debanuj Dasgupta and hopes to reschedule them for fall semester. The spring UROC talks are cancelled. The  Miller Lecture and book launch with Laurence Smith, scheduled for April 24has been cancelled.  UPDATED MARCH 20, 2020.


From the Head: Spring Break note

Spring break took on an urgent feel as geographer’s national AAG conference in April was cancelled and EMS leaders gathered by Zoom from cabins and field sites to plan and ask questions after the University announced the shift to remote learning and working. Some of our trips were truncated, and others extended to stay with family. In either situation, conversations often focused on the many other events that were being cancelled. Since I was up in Canada, we pondered hockey being suspended and whether the border would close—I scooted home.

In the Department of Geography, we are shifting to Zoom meetings, asynchronous Canvas (learning management system) and email communications among our faculty, staff, grads, and undergrads. We are being proactive about what students can do from remote locations—given that some technologies don’t run on their laptops—and reworking due dates and modes of learning. Our adult professional students in online geospatial programs don’t have a change of mode, but do face changes in responsibilities as their own workplaces shift format. And some faculty, staff, and students have their own children at home with other schools being closed. Our town is very quiet, and we miss our colleagues.

Penn State has been good at communicating with us about staying off campus, changing to online teaching, Zooming for grad exams, cancelling events, staff working from home, lab safety, and many other topics. Our dean Lee Kump and the EMS associate and assistant deans are also giving us useful updates and strategies.

For those of you away, the crocuses are blooming in State College.

Staff are working from home

Department staff are working from home starting on Monday, March 16 until further notice. Contact information and areas of responsibility for all staff are on the Staff Directory webpage.

Cancellations and postponements

Geospatial intelligence helps emergency management teams make better maps

As Hurricane Dorian made landfall on Grand Bahama Island in 2019 and bushfires engulfed Australia in 2020, emergency teams were busy creating plans to best respond and provide relief to those affected by the disasters.

First-generation student pursues passion for geography

First-generation college student Sara Maholland is not afraid to take a leap into the unknown.

“I used to be afraid, but now I ask, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’, and usually it’s that someone says ‘no,’” she explains.

Trailblazers: Erica Smithwick Rethinks Fire in the Forest

Erica Smithwick is a fire ecologist. As the director of Penn State’s Ecology Institute, she hopes to protect forests and stave off the effects of climate change and insect infestation through controlled forest fires. “A lot of my work has been out west working on wildfire recovery,” she said, “particularly in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. I still have a graduate student, Jamie Peeler, who is continuing some of that work.”


The evolving borderland of energy geographies

Baka, J, Vaishnava, S.
Geography Compass
Energy geographers have characterized energy as a borderland topic because of its ability to straddle and interconnect different geographic concepts and debates. In this review, we evaluate how the borderland of energy geographies has been emerging in recent years by analyzing scholarship on energy published in top geography journals and a leading energy studies journal, Energy Research & Social Science. In part 1 of our review, we evaluate how the borderland of energy geographies is evolving by mapping the geographic range of empirical studies, the processes and types of energy systems being researched and the key geographic concepts/theories engaged across the four main sub‐fields of geography. We find that energy geographies scholarship has primarily centered on the Global North, remains focused on the extractive and production phase of energy development and is evolving across and within three of the four sub‐fields of geography. Energy transitions, governance, justice, space, and landscape are key topics and concepts examined. Notable underrepresentations include a relative lack of energy geographies scholarship within physical geography, as well as limited studies that engage geographic concepts to study the transportation sector, unconventional energy development and the food‐energy‐water nexus. In part 2, we identify three broad research themes to expand the frontier of energy geographies: (a) geographies of energy knowledge production, particularly indigenous knowledge; (b) materializing energy, especially through engaging political‐industrial ecology; and (c) advancing geographic thought by critically assessing how studying energy advances/challenges/transforms core geographic concepts and debates. Collectively, our review demonstrates that energy geographies have established firm footing within and across geography. Deepening engagement with emerging trends elsewhere in geography and the social sciences will not only help to better conceptualize what a geographic perspective on energy means but will also help to make clearer sense of the rapid economic, social, environmental, and political transformations currently underway within the global energy system.

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