Jun 20

Murphy Award | Adventure maps | Climate change and racial justice


Mike Hermann visits near Parsons, West Virginia, while working on the Elkins-Otter Creek Lizard Map of the Monongahela National Forest. See alumni profile story on how this cartographer founded an adventure map company. Image: Purple Lizard


Harman Singh received an Erickson Discovery Grant for summer 2020, for her project, “Examining the Relationship between Flooding and Land Use Land Cover in Kochi through a Mixed Method Approach.”

Emily Sikora used her final project for GEOG 320 Urban Geography: A Global Perspective with Emily Rosenman during spring semester to highlight the problem of homelessness in New York City and the increased vulnerability of this population to Covid-19.

Andrea Garcia wrote the articles “From 1967 to 2020: A history of the racism Black students have faced at Penn State”  and  “Black community members at Penn State share frustrations with university’s administration” in The Daily Collegian.

Emily Rosenman received a seed grant for “‘Invest in People, Literally’: The Rise of Income Share Agreements as an Alternative to Student Loans in US Higher Education,” from the Penn State and the University of Auckland Joint Collaboration Development Program.

Esri will host a brownbag chat on Tuesday, July 7, at 9:00 a.m. (PDT) on Teaching with and Using ArcGIS Experience Builder to Create Customized Web Mapping Applications.


Purple Lizard geographer’s mission to aid outdoor discovery

It took a global pandemic to convince many of something Mike Hermann has long known: We are surrounded by some amazing outdoor attractions.

Hermann, founder of the adventure map company Purple Lizard and a 1995 Penn State geography alumnus, said he founded the company after attending the University and realizing how little people knew about the area that surrounds them. Since 1997, he’s parlayed his love of geography and outdoor landscapes into his business venture.

World Campus graduate, reservist wins award for geospatial intelligence

When Lauren Maloney trained in military intelligence with the U.S. Air Force, she was impressed by how much information could be conveyed by geospatial intelligence, which uses images and data to analyze activity in specific locations.

Climate change is also a racial justice problem

Gregory Jenkins is interviewed

If humanity is going to effectively tackle climate change, scientists and activists told me, it’s a question we have to answer. You can’t build a just and equitable society on a planet that’s been destabilized by human activities, they argue. Nor can you stop the world from warming without the experience and the expertise of those most affected by it.

Summer Series on questions of geo-ethics and Human Rights highlighted by COVID-19 Conditions

This series developed from discussions that took place at the AAG’s Virtual Annual Meeting, April 6-10, 2020, during publicly available panels of the breaking theme “Geographers Respond to COVID-19”. The panels were set up by AAG specialty groups and their chairs who wanted to initiate discussions about the ongoing pandemic using a geographic lens, showcase the application of geography to urgent issues, and to learn from the evolving circumstances to build future preparedness. Recordings of the panels are still available for anyone to watch.


Conceptual Links between Landscape Diversity and Diet Diversity: A Roadmap for Transdisciplinary Research

Sarah E Gergel, Bronwen Powell, Frédéric Baudron, Sylvia L R Wood, Jeanine M Rhemtulla, Gina Kennedy, Laura V Rasmussen, Amy Ickowitz, Matthew E Fagan, Erica A H Smithwick, Jessica Ranieri, Stephen A Wood, Jeroen C J Groot, Terry C H Sunderland
Malnutrition linked to poor quality diets affects at least 2 billion people. Forests, as well as agricultural systems linked to trees, are key sources of dietary diversity in rural settings. In the present article, we develop conceptual links between diet diversity and forested landscape mosaics within the rural tropics. First, we summarize the state of knowledge regarding diets obtained from forests, trees, and agroforests. We then hypothesize how disturbed secondary forests, edge habitats, forest access, and landscape diversity can function in bolstering dietary diversity. Taken together, these ideas help us build a framework illuminating four pathways (direct, agroecological, energy, and market pathways) connecting forested landscapes to diet diversity. Finally, we offer recommendations to fill remaining knowledge gaps related to diet and forest cover monitoring. We argue that better evaluation of the role of land cover complexity will help avoid overly simplistic views of food security and, instead, uncover nutritional synergies with forest conservation and restoration.

Hunter and Non-Hunter Perceptions of Costs, Benefits, and Likelihood of Outcomes of Prescribed Fire in the Mid-Atlantic Region

Zachary D. Miller, Hong Wu, Katherine Zipp, Cody L. Dems, Erica Smithwick, Margot Kaye, Peter Newman, Anthony Zhao & Alan Taylor
Society & Natural Resources
DOI: 10.1080/08941920.2020.1780359
In the mid-Atlantic region, prescribed fire is as an important tool for natural resource managers to achieve a variety of outcomes, including the management of wildlife habitat and wildfire risk reduction. However, little research has been conducted in this region to help inform managers about public perceptions and acceptance of prescribed fire. In this research, data from intercept surveys of hunter and non-hunters on public lands in New Jersey and Pennsylvania are used to compare perceptions of perceived costs, benefits, and likelihood of outcomes for these groups related to prescribed fire. Results show that hunters generally had lower levels of perceived costs and likelihood of negative outcomes from prescribed fire than non-hunters. From this, managers using prescribed fire in these areas can better understand public perceptions, differences among recreation users, and possibly better communicate about using prescribed fire as a tool for managing resources.

Jun 20

From the Head | Research traces traveling fans | Community climate forum


traveling mapThis image shows the Flow map for U.S. football game attendees who traveled to State College. The merging point in Pennsylvania represents the destination State College. Other dots represent home locations of football fans. The sequential color scheme and the size of the dots represent the number of travelers at the location. From Yanan Xin and Alan MacEachren’s article, “Characterizing traveling fans: a workflow for event-oriented travel pattern analysis using Twitter data,” published in the International Journal of Geographical Information Science.


Yanan Xin successfully passed the defense of her dissertation on Mobility-Based Anomaly Detection. Adviser Alan MacEachren noted, “I believe that this was the first ever completely virtual defense in the Department — with faculty participating from 3 continents.”

Michelle Ritchie accepted a tenure-track assistant professor position at the University of Georgia’s Institute for Disaster Management and the Department of Health Policy and Management. She will finish her last year of the Ph.D. program remotely from there.

A town hall meeting for students and families about fall semester will be held on Monday, June 22 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at https://liveevents.psu.edu/.   This is an important meeting for you to attend.

The Esri User Conference, will be held  virtually July 13–16, 2020.  The event which will include a combination of livestreamed sessions, interactive components, and on-demand content, is offering free registration to customers with current subscriptions. For more information and to register

The American Geosciences Institute is conducting a year-long study to capture the nature and extent of impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the geoscience workforce and academic programs. This study aims to understand how geoscience employers and educational institutions are changing their workplace and instructional environments and to discover which of these changes will become permanent. For more information and to participate


From the Head: Planning for fall semester

The department is continuing our planning for fall, and we now have firmer direction with President Barron’s announcement that we will be back on campus. I know this is good news to many of you, and it also raises questions on what life on campus will be like during the upcoming semester. Here’s what we have been doing to prepare and what to look for in the next few weeks.

A safety session was held on Zoom on June 11 to prepare for being able to work in Walker Building again. Everyone who attended the session will be soon be signing forms indicating that you understand and will follow the new procedures. These include one-way stairwells and hallways and stations to wipe-down possessions brought into the building. Darlene Peletski has been lead on planning, preparing, and presenting the safety procedures for the department. She and I will hold a second version of the Zoom meeting later for those who missed it, and we’ll post that recording for others to catch up. Sooner is better than later, so you are approved for front-door swipe access to Walker Building.

Geography’s associate heads have graduate and undergraduate communications well prepared. Brian King sent out fall graduate assistant matches and useful news on the state of planning for fall classes. Lorraine Dowler is working with Jodi Vender in communicating with our undergraduate majors about fall at Penn State.

Penn State’s Town Hall meetings on Monday, June 22: Town Halls for faculty and staff will be held from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. and for students and families from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at https://liveevents.psu.edu/. These meetings will help us understand details not described in the initial June 14 announcement.

A next step will be for geography instructors to plan the mix of in-class, remote, synchronous, video, flipped, hybrid, online, and other inspirations that best suits the learning needs in fall their GEOG classes. I’ll be having individual conversations with each instructor about fall modes once news and plans for technology additions and social distancing in classrooms firms up. Please stay tuned and ask questions.

The geography department looks forward to welcoming you back to campus and until then please enjoy your summer best you can, listen well, and wash your hands lots.


Community forum on climate research to be held on June 17

The Institutes of Energy and the Environment (IEE) have announced a community forum on climate research at Penn State. The online event, titled “Building Convergence in Climate Science,” will occur from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, June 17. The community is encouraged to register and attend the meeting.

Erica Smithwick, an IEE associate director and the E. Willard and Ruby S. Miller Professor of Geography, is helping coordinate the event. She said the meeting is an effort to build and unify the University’s climate community to help further mitigate the climate crisis.


Shared discovery: A process to coproduce knowledge among scientists, policy makers, and stakeholders for solving nutrient pollution problems

Matthew B. Royer, Robert P. Brooks, James S. Shortle, Susan Yetter
Journal of Environmental Quality
There is growing recognition of the importance of involving stakeholders in solution‐oriented multidisciplinary environmental research projects. Management of nutrients to address water pollution is a wicked problem requiring multidisciplinary research and participation of stakeholders. Here, we frame participatory research as shared discovery , a deliberative, focused engagement process that serves as a directional guide for how research unfolds during the entire span of a project. We explore its application within a 5‐yr, multidisciplinary research project seeking innovative solutions to nutrient management challenges in four agriculturally influenced small watersheds in the Chesapeake Bay basin. This process involved deliberate development of a stakeholder engagement strategy and structure, which included a specific research team dedicated to implementing shared discovery throughout. Recognizing that stakeholders involved in nutrient and watershed management engage at multiple scales, we developed a biscalar approach to engage stakeholders at both a regional or state policy level and within the local study watersheds. Early collaboration allowed stakeholders to be participatory in developing research questions and shaping research design, which made research results more applicable to the identified problems. The biscalar framework for engagement was a novel approach that allowed researchers to incorporate both broader policy concepts into research and local concerns and concepts specific to the small study watersheds, allowing solutions to be tailored to local needs. Although infusing research with stakeholder engagement and input from the outset is a time‐consuming process, it bolsters research design and products and leads to greater application of research to solve nutrient pollution—a wicked problem indeed.

Who is resilient in Africa’s Green Revolution? Sustainable intensification and Climate Smart Agriculture in Rwanda

Nathan Clay, Karl S. Zimmerer
Land Use Policy
Under the banner of a “New Green Revolution for Africa,” agricultural intensification programs aim to make smallholder agriculture more productive as well as “climate smart”. As with Green Revolutions in Asia and Mexico, agricultural innovations (hybrid seeds, agronomic engineering, market linkages,and increased use of fertilizer and pesticides) are promoted as essential catalysts of agriculture-led economic growth. Intensification programs are now frequently linked to Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA), which attempts to build resilience and reduce greenhouse gas emissions while increasing crop yields. This article considers who and what is resilient in Africa’s Green Revolution. We report on a multi-season study of smallholder food producers’ experiences with Rwanda’s Crop Intensification Program (CIP) and related policies that aim to commercialize subsistence agriculture while implementing CSA. . We suggest that there are fundamental limits to the climate resilience afforded by CSA and development efforts rooted in Green Revolution thinking. Our findings illustrate that such efforts foreground technology and management adjustments in ways that have reduced smallholder resilience by inhibiting sovereignty over land use, decreasing livelihood flexibility, and constricting resource access. We put forth that rural development policies could better promote climate-resilient livelihoods through: 1) adaptive governance that enables smallholder land use decision-making; 2) support for smallholder food producers’ existing agro-ecological strategies of intensification; 3) participatory approaches to visualize and correct for inequalities in local processes of social-ecological resilence Such considerations are paramount for meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and building climate-resilient food systems.

Participatory seed projects and agroecological landscape knowledge in Central America

Megan D. Baumann, Karl S. Zimmerer & Jacob van Etten
International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability
DOI: 10.1080/14735903.2020.1775930
Participatory projects supporting the farmer-based seed management of agrobiodiverse varieties including landraces have proliferated globally in response to nutritional insecurity and climate change. This research examines the agroecological landscape knowledge of farmers in a recent participatory seed project using the tricot approach in Central America. Over 800 smallholder farmers in Nicaragua facilitated on-farm trials of diverse common bean varieties that are nutritiously valuable and potentially well-adapted to increased temperatures and variable precipitation. Our article integrates relevant research concepts in a case study of the agroecological landscape knowledge of 52 participating farmers. Participatory sketch maps, transect walks, and semi-structured interviews were used to identify key areas of farmers’ agroecological landscape knowledge in crop and seed management. Results indicate the prevalence of nine themes of farmer agroecological landscape knowledge. This landscape knowledge exerts major influence on the choice, placement, and management of common bean varieties and associated land use decisions. Our analysis reveals that farmers use this knowledge to manage their landholdings as landscapes of agroecological interactions that guide seed and variety management and affect potential sustainability. Results demonstrate that local agroecological landscape learning is strengthened through and benefits participatory seed projects.

The geography of sentiment towards the Women’s March of 2017

Felmlee DH, Blanford JI, Matthews SA, MacEachren AM
The Women’s March of 2017 generated unprecedented levels of participation in the largest, single day, protest in history to date. The marchers protested the election of President Donald Trump and rallied in support of several civil issues such as women’s rights. “Sister marches” evolved in at least 680 locations across the United States. Both positive and negative reactions to the March found their way into social media, with criticism stemming from certain, conservative, political sources and other groups. In this study, we investigate the extent to which this notable, historic event influenced sentiment on Twitter, and the degree to which responses differed by geographic area within the continental U.S. Tweets about the event rose to an impressive peak of over 12% of all geo-located tweets by mid-day of the March, Jan. 21. Messages included in tweets associated with the March tended to be positive in sentiment, on average, with a mean of 0.34 and a median of 0.07 on a scale of -4 to +4. In fact, tweets associated with the March were more positive than all other geo-located tweets during the day of the March. Exceptions to this pattern of positive sentiment occurred only in seven metropolitan areas, most of which involved very small numbers of tweets. Little evidence surfaced of extensive patterns of negative, aggressive messages towards the event in this set of tweets. Given the widespread nature of online harassment and sexist tweets, more generally, the results are notable. In sum, online reactions to the March on this social media platform suggest that this modern arm of the Women’s Movement received considerable, virtual support across the country.

Characterizing traveling fans: a workflow for event-oriented travel pattern analysis using Twitter data

Yanan Xin & Alan M. MacEachren
International Journal of Geographical Information Science
DOI: 10.1080/13658816.2020.1770259
Characterizing event attendees’ travel patterns is key to understanding the dynamics of social events in cities. However, the scientific investigation of event travel patterns has been hindered by the difficulty in gathering travel diaries of participants. Geotagged microblogs provide new opportunities for studying event travel patterns by offering rich locational and semantic information of attendees. Here, we develop, implement, and apply a workflow to characterize travel behaviors of event attendees with geotagged Twitter data, using college football events as a case study. The workflow includes five steps: 1) filtering event attendees using real-time geotagged tweets, 2) identifying origins of the event attendees using historical timeline tweets, 3) identifying past sports-related activities at travel destinations using topic modeling, 4) computing user movement features using origin-destination travel flows, and 5) identifying atypical travel patterns to characterize event attendees. The travel patterns uncovered in the study offer insights into user interests and travel behaviors related to sporting event attendance. The findings demonstrate that our method holds promise in revealing long-term event travel patterns (not limited to sporting events) through the use of geotagged microblogs.

Multiple geometry atmospheric correction for image spectroscopy using deep learning

Xu, F., Cervone, G., Franch, G., Salvador, M.
Journal of Applied Remote Sensing
doi: 10.1117/1.JRS.14.024518
The goal of this research is to develop a general deep learning solution for atmospheric correction and target detection using multiple hyperspectral scenes. It is assumed that the scenes differ only in range and viewing angles, that they are acquired in rapid sequence using an airborne sensor orbiting a target, and that the target and the atmosphere remain invariant within the time scale of the collection. Several hundred thousand hyperspectral simulations were performed using the MODTRAN model and were used to train the deep learning solution, as well as to validate the proposed method. The input to the deep learning solution is a matrix of the simulated radiances at the sensor as function of wavelength and elevation angles. The output is atmospheric upwelling, downwelling, and transmission. This solution is repeated for all or a subset of pixels in the scene. We focus on emissive properties of targets, and simulations are performed in the longwave infrared between 7.5 and12μm. Results show that the proposed method is computationally efficient and it can characterize the atmosphere and retrieve the target spectral emissivity within one order of magnitude errors or less when compared with the original MODTRAN simulations.

Spatiotemporal event detection: a review

Yu, M., Bambacus, M., Cervone, G., Clarke, K., Duffy, D., Huang, Q., Li, J., Li, W., Li, Z., Liu, Q., Resch, B., Yang, J., Yang, C.
International Journal of Digital Earth
The advancements of sensing technologies, including remote sensing, in situ sensing, social sensing, and health sensing, have tremendously improved our capability to observe and record natural and social phenomena, such as natural disasters, presidential elections, andi nfectious diseases. The observations have provided an unprecedented opportunity to better understand and respond to the spatiotemporal dynamics of the environment, urban settings, health and disease propagation, business decisions, and crisis and crime. Spatiotemporal event detection serves as a gateway to enable a better understanding by detecting events that represent the abnormal status of relevant phenomena. This paper reviews the literature for different sensing capabilities, spatiotemporal event extraction methods, and categories of applications for the detected events. The novelty of this review is to revisit the definition and requirements of event detection and to layout the overall workflow (from sensing and event extraction methods to the operations and decision-supporting processes based on the extracted events) as an agenda for future event detection research. Guidance is presented on the current challenges to this research agenda, and future directions are discussed for conducting spatio temporal event detection in the era of big data, advanced sensing, and artificial intelligence.

Jun 20

A geospatial look at COVID-19 | Baka prioritizes connection | Geography report card


Susquehanna River
The Susquehanna River cuts through the folds of the Valley-and-Ridge province of the Appalachian Mountains in this photograph taken by the crew of the International Space Station. The Valley-and-Ridge province is a section of the larger Appalachian Mountain Belt between the Appalachian Plateau and the Blue Ridge physiographic provinces. The northeast-southwest trending ridges are composed of Early Paleozoic sedimentary rocks. The valleys between them were made of softer rocks (limestone and shales) that were more susceptible to erosion; they are now occupied by farms. The Susquehanna River cuts through several ridges as it flows south. The Susquehanna River flows 444 mi (714 kilometers) from upstate New York to Maryland, draining into Chesapeake Bay. Image: NASA/Expedition 61


Carolynne Hultquist, former Ph.D. student of Guido Cervone, accepted a lecturer (assistant professor) position in Geospatial Science in the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Angela Rogers was elected vice president of the newly formed Workforce Education Graduate Student Association (WEGSA).

Emily Rosenman and collaborator Tom Baker (a senior lecturer in geography at the University of Auckland) was awarded a seed grant from the University of Auckland-Penn State Collaboration Seed Fund. The project is: “Invest in people. Literally”: The rise of Income Share Agreements as an alternative to student loans in US higher education.

A recording of the Women and GIS webinar is available to view for free. To celebrate the release of the second volume of Women and GIS, Esri Press, in partnership with Esri’s Women’s Enablement & Career Advancement Network, hosted a webinar focused on celebrating and highlighting the amazing women featured in the book.

2020 Virtual Citizen Lobby Day for Climate Action is June 16, 2020. PennEnvironment will be bringing together hundreds of Pennsylvanians from all across the state to hold video lobby meetings from your own home. For more information and to register.


Geographers bring expertise on geospatial data, modeling to COVID-19 research

Penn State geographers are taking part in a variety of projects in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Helen Greatrex, Anthony Robinson and Erica Smithwick are among those receiving grants from the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences COVID-19 multi-institute seed grant fund for projects related to social sciences and predictive modeling. Todd Bacastow is convening focus groups within the geospatial intelligence community. Alumni Siddharth Pandey and Rachel Passmore are supporting state and federal responses.

Strengthening connections in a physically distanced world

The coronavirus pandemic may leave faculty, students and colleagues physically distanced, but Jennifer Baka sees the situation as a means for reconnecting.

The “Nation’s Report Card” on Geography Reveals a World of Opportunities

Periodically since 1994, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has released its “report card” on geography education in America, providing a snapshot of student achievement. The most recent assessment was conducted in 2018 with a nationally representative sample of nearly 13,000 8th grade students.


Integration of Crowdsourced Images, USGS Networks, Remote Sensing, and a Model to Assess Flood Depth during Hurricane Florence

Hultquist, C., Cervone, G.
Remote Sensing
Crowdsourced environmental data have the potential to augment traditional data sources during disasters. Traditional sensor networks, satellite remote sensing imagery, and models are all faced with limitations in observational inputs, forecasts, and resolution. This study integrates flood depth derived from crowdsourced images with U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) ground-based observation networks, a remote sensing product, and a model during Hurricane Florence. The data sources are compared using cross-sections to assess flood depth in areas impacted by Hurricane Florence. Automated methods can be used for each source to classify flooded regions and fuse the dataset over common grids to identify areas of flooding. Crowdsourced data can play a major role when there are overlaps of sources that can be used for validation as well providing improved coverage and resolution.

Representation in geosocial data: grappling with uncertainty in digital traces of human activity

Hultquist, C.
International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing
Researchers from the spatial humanities can play an active role in the ongoing discussion around representation and uncertainty in geosocial data. Opportunistic geosocial data from crowdsourced and user contributions are typically available in large quantities, however, these data are generally not sampled or collected with intentionality for research purposes. Therefore, digital traces from geolocationally-enabled devices may not provide data that are directly relevant to addressing precise questions or being used in applications of societal interest. It is crucial to first understand characteristics of geosocial data prior to proceeding with interpretation. The spatial humanities could encourage realization of the role data analysts and researchers play in creating narrative in light of large opportunistic data with many facets of uncertainty. An approach is proposed that suggests directions of inquiry into data limitations based on the characteristics of the source and the properties of the data. Finally, this article notes that the digital world influences the activities of individuals in real-life so the generalizability of the behaviour of users may be limited. Integrating other forms of relevant spatial data can help to bound uncertainty and constrain the interpretation of geosocial data.

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