Jul 20

From the Head | New online MS in spatial data science | VR brings field sites to students


spatial data science imageMore and more companies are using location data from devices like smartphones and tablets to gain insights into choices consumers make. As the volume and complexity of location data increases, the demand for the professionals with the technical skills to leverage these data is also increasing.

A new degree from Penn State, a master of science in spatial data science, aims to address that growing need.


Penn State Geographers Luke Trusel, Manzhu Yu, and Guido Cervone received seed funding from The Center for Security Research and Education for their project “The Arctic in Hot Water: Quantifying Maritime Transport Under Declining Sea Ice and Increasing Geopolitical Tension”

Denise Kloehr received the 2020 Department of Geography Staff Outstanding Service Award.

Hari Osofsky was quoted in the Reuters news article, “Climate battles are moving into the courtroom, and lawyers are getting creative.”

Environment America, Environment Colorado, Environment Florida, Environment Iowa and PennEnvironment are teaming up to put on a virtual climate film festival during July.  For more information and to register.

Graduate Seminars in geography covering physical geography, human geography, environment–society interactions, and GISciences are being offered for the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters. Register for fall 2020 semester by August 23.


From the Head: Preparing for fall

There are tremendously geographic and spatial aspects to preparing for a back-to-campus fall at a variety of scales. There is a national and global aspect in places students are coming from when they return and what the coronavirus rates are at their summer residences. There is an almost opposite concern that international students already here who are taking all remote/online coursework may be deported by the federal government—a decision Penn State is studying and challenging.

At a different scale, the classrooms in which we teach have all changed in “size.” Rooms are set at about one-third to one-fifth normal capacity, so popular rooms such as 112 Walker Building—where we hold Coffee Hour talks and large classes—has reduced available seats from 137 to 26. (Classroom capacities are listed on the 25Live website.) In our usual departmental meeting room, 319 Walker Building, capacity shrinks from 35 to 8 people with social distancing in effect.

Yvette Richardson, associate dean; geography’s academic adviser, Jodi Vender; and the registrar set new rooms for all the in-person teaching requests in geography over the past two weeks. I’m pleased to say that 20 of our 37 fall geography courses have some in-person meetings planned (fully in-person, mixed-mode, or hybrid). Some instructors split their class into cohorts to meet with half of the student each day in a new, larger room. We were able to claim 108 Forum Building, which is large enough for the whole GEOG 220 Perspectives on Human Geography class to meet together (its usual 355-seat capacity now accommodates the 54 students with social distancing). If infection rates allow us to feel confident in having instructors and students together, we are ready to meet an uncertain fall.


Penn State launches master’s degree in spatial data science

More and more companies are using location data from devices like smartphones and tablets to gain insights into choices consumers make. As the volume and complexity of location data increases, the demand for the professionals with the technical skills to leverage these data is also increasing.

Here but still ‘there’: Using virtual-reality field trips to enrich education

Classes may have been held remotely during the previous spring semester, but Penn State faculty members found creative ways to bring field trips to their students, even when they couldn’t necessarily bring students out into the field. Two courses in Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences employed virtual reality field trips last semester to continue delivering the same high degree of academic quality that Penn State is known for around the world.

“Fully immersive virtual reality, where everything is interactive, is the ideal,” said Alexander Klippel, professor of geography and director of the Center for Immersive Experiences. “But that requires special equipment that would not work in the new remote teaching environment.”


Communal Innovations: Inspiring Neighborhoods of Hope and Advocacy

Rachel A. Smith, Youllee Kim, Stephen A. Matthews, Eleanore D. Sternberg, Dimi Théodore Doudou, and Matthew B. Thomas
Journal of Health Communication
Innovations promise a better future, which may generate feelings of hope and inspire advocacy. Some innovations are more communal in nature: attempting to address a social problem, through community engagement and wide-spread adoption. For such innovations, the social processes that involve collective aspects of community life may play important roles in fostering hope and interpersonal advocacy. This study uses communication infrastructure theory and discrete emotions theory to investigate hope and advocacy within a field trial for a salient, visible, community-bound innovation to reduce transmission of malaria. Heads of households in one community (N = 119) in West Africa were interviewed. Results showed that innovation hope was predicted by appraisals of innovation attributes. Better appraisals of the innovation’s attributes, greater perceived collective efficacy, and recent malaria illness predicted more innovation advocacy. The spatial analysis showed that innovation advocacy was geographically clustered within the community, but hope was not. The implications for theory and practice are discussed.

Patch-scale selection patterns of grazing herbivores in the central basalt plains of Kruger National Park

Cyanne Young, Hervé Fritz, Erica A H Smithwick & Jan A Venter
African Journal of Range & Forage Science
DOI: 10.2989/10220119.2020.1733084
Large herbivores form an essential component in the ecosystem, because of the impact that they have on their surrounding habitat. In this study, we aimed to evaluate some of the mechanisms behind how herbivores select forage at a patch scale. Thirty-six experimental plots were established and fitted with camera traps in Kruger National Park to test forage selectivity by grazers. Plots were manipulated by clearing with a brush cutter and the application of fertiliser. We used generalised linear models to detect trends in probability of occurrence by seven grazing herbivore species using camera trap data. Our results showed that season was a major determinant of species distribution, especially those that are not obligate grazers or feed exclusively in the 0.5 km to 2 km zone from water. We found that most selective feeding occurred in the late wet season when water would be more evenly distributed across the landscape and forage resources close to water would have had the chance to recover from depletion, as a result of dry season use. This has implications for the distribution of artificial water points across the landscape, because areas of reserve forage must be maintained to alleviate grazing pressure close to water.

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