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.

May 20

Alum’s book on homelessness | Virus dashboards rely on GIS | Student maps marine traffic


Shown above is a partial view of Harrison Cole’s map, “Finding Refuge in Prince William Sound” published on visionscarto.net This map is a snapshot of marine traffic during the busiest months of 2017, which shows the paths of over 1,000 unique vessels and many thousands of trips. While minimizing damage to the environment is an important factor when considering a PPOR, the continued use of Prince William Sound as a high-volume thoroughfare both by oil tankers as well as other marine vessels means that damage to the environment will remain a matter of course rather than an exceptional tragedy.


Manzhu Yu received a seed grant from the Institute for Computational and Data Sciences for her project, “Utilizing geometric deep learning to predict the rapid intensification of tropical cyclones”

Esri is holding a Teaching with ArcGIS Notebooks Webinar on Thursday, May 21, 2020, at 10:00 a.m. (PDT) to learn how to teach with ArcGIS Notebooks in higher education and the options available to incorporate it into your curriculum. Topics include: Introducing ArcGIS Notebooks; Using Notebooks in ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Online, and ArcGIS Enterprise; Best practices, useful resources, and a case study. For more information and to register

Spring 2020 graduate Joseph Nadonley accepted employment as a GIS Production Analyst for Fugro Earthdata, Inc. His primary responsibilities will revolve around the development of their ROAMES Power project.

The May 2020 issue of the Newsletter of the American Association of Geographers (AAG) is available.


How the Streets Got So Mean

When Don Mitchell was a master’s student in geography at Penn State in the late 1980s, he came across a newspaper article on homelessness that struck him. Homelessness was surging in many U.S. cities — from 1984 to 1987 the number of people living on the streets almost doubled — and the article attempted to explain the trend by looking into the characteristics of those experiencing homelessness: age, race, gender, work history, drug or alcohol abuse. That didn’t seem like a satisfactory approach to Mitchell.

The Software That’s Powering All the Coronavirus Dashboards

With roughly a zillion different sources out there for coronavirus information, experts and authorities are rapidly iterating on ways to best present useful information to the public. Are deaths spiking, or is the curve flattening? How is the virus moving around, and how can it be stymied? To collate all of this information, many groups are leaning on geographic information system (GIS) software. It’s often used by governments and large businesses that need to account for changes in the physical world, usually meaning disaster preparedness and mitigation, as well as monitoring public infrastructure, such as plotting the location of 911 calls.


Carbon isotope ratios in tree rings respond differently to climatic variations than tree-ring width in a mesic temperate forest

Stockton Maxwell, Soumaya Belmecheri, Alan H. Taylor, Kenneth J. Davis, Troy W. Ocheltree
Agricultural and Forest Meteorology
Determining the response of forest growth and productivity to climate variability is crucial for understanding and modeling forest carbon sequestration in mesic temperate forests. Most tree-ring analyses have used monthly climate data. Daily climate data may be more appropriate to use in the determination of tree-ring response to climate because cell division, enlargement, and thickening occur during discrete periods of the growing season. We analyze annual tree-ring width and δ13C from Tsuga canadensis (1992–2012) at ten sites in the northeastern US to test the null hypothesis that tree-ring width and δ13C respond similarly to critical climate periods using daily climate data and linear regression. There was a significant difference in the climate response of ring width and δ13C. Precipitation predicted both δ13C and ring width with the highest r2 and greatest level of significance overall. δ13C integrated climate over longer periods of the year (and previous year) than ring width at most sites. δ13C showed a more consistent seasonal signal across sites for each climate variable than ring width. Our work provides a new perspective on the response of annual tree growth and δ13C to climatic variability that can inform ecosystem productivity, carbon cycle, and earth system models.

Virtual reality for student learning: Understanding individual differences

Ping Li, Jennifer Legault, Alexander Klippel, Jiayan Zhao
Human Behaviour and Brain
DOI: 10.37716/HBAB.2020010105
Virtual reality (VR) is emerging as a rapidly developing technology that holds significant promises to impact student learning. In this review, we focus on the features of this technology regarding levels of immersion and interaction and individual differences in cognitive characteristics of VR learners. We attempt to parse the specific technological features that enable effective learning and examine how students mentally process these features. While VR helps to create situated learning conditions, its theoretical significance lies in its ability to provide perception-action enabled experiences to the learner, and it is these experiences that lead to positive behavioural and brain outcomes compared to traditional methods of learning. Our discussion highlights the understanding of VR learning with respect to individual differences, especially in spatial abilities of the learner, and how variability in spatial abilities might impact both spatial learning and language learning.

May 20

Geography’s transition to remote learning | Last EarthTalks for spring semester | VR research roundup


poster detail

Zhuolai Pan, majoring in Earth sciences with a minor in geography and advised by Luke Trusel, won first place in the Undergraduate Exhibition Physical Sciences category for his presentation on “Dynamics of supraglacial lake drainage on Amery ice shelf, East Antarctica.” Abstract: Surface meltwater lakes can destabilize ice shelves through the process of hydrofracture, thereby reducing their buttressing effect and causing sea level to rise. Here, we present remotely sensed observations of repeated, rapid drainages of a ~4.3 km2 supraglacial lake on Amery ice shelf. We describe lake evolution and volume variations using ultra-high-resolution (~0.5 m) optical imagery and digital elevation models. Our research aims to advance the understanding of surface melt on ice shelf stability. A detail of his poster is shown.


Hannah Caudill and Chanel Lange-Maney have been elected as the two new Grad Reps for the coming year.

Michelle Ritchie published a book review of Breakpoint: Reckoning with America’s Environmental Crises in The Northeastern Geographer.

Jenn Baka accepted an invitation to join the editorial board of The Annals of the American Association of Geographers, one of the world’s foremost geography journals.

The article, “Fine‐scale spatial homogenization of microbial habitats: a multivariate index of headwater wetland complex condition” by Jessica B. Moon, Denice H. Wardrop, Erica A. H. Smithwick, and Kusum J. Naithani, published in Ecological Applications in October 2018, is among the top 10 percent most downloaded papers among work published between January 2018 and December 2019. https://doi.org/10.1002/eap.1816

Brendan Collins, who earned his MGIS in 2011, founder of spatial data science company, makepath, is supporting COVID-19 battling efforts behind-the-scenes. He teamed up with Safegraph, a company providing the CDC and over 1000 organizations with data to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is a data previewer he created to show operating POI in New York City (and the top 10 cities in the US). makepath, also just published a guide on open source spatial analysis tools for Python.

The AAG has set up a new COVID-19 Resource Hub, open to all AAG members, to help facilitate communication and knowledge-sharing within our community during the pandemic. Members can use the platform to share resources and data; seek research collaborations and information; connect to colleagues across subdisciplines; and support one other during this pandemic. Log in to join.

A webinar on “Working Remotely with Geospatial Data and Mapping Projects” will be held on Friday, May 15 at 3 p.m., hosted by Tara Anthony, GIS Specialist in the Donald W. Hamer Center for Maps and Geospatial Information

Guerrilla Cartography is hosting an Atlas in a Day Challenge on Friday, May 15 at 9 p.m. PDT. Cartographers from around the world will have slightly less than 24 hours to make a map on the theme to complete the 24-hour Atlas in a Day (AIAD) Challenge.

An EarthTalks panel “Green futures: Energy education in a post-COVID-19 world,” will be held 4 p.m. Monday, May 18. Susan Brantley, director of the Earth and Environmental System Institute, and Lee Kump, John Leone Dean in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, will lead a panel discussion on the future of energy education. Panelists include Jennifer Baka, assistant professor of geography; Seth Blumsack, professor of energy policy and economics and international affairs; Mike Loudin, former head of geoscience workforce development at ExxonMobil and a dedicated proponent for diversity in geosciences and energy education; Kevin Smith, CEO for the Americas, Lightsource BP; and Sanjay Srinivasan, head, John and Willie Leone Family Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering. The talk is free and open to the public. View via Zoom at https://psu.zoom.us/j/594342606


Challenge met: Geography department transitions to remote teaching and learning

Within days of the University’s shift to remote learning, faculty, instructors and teaching assistants in the Department of Geography moved 35 resident instruction courses into remote delivery mode to teach 1,947 students.

Online, residential students join together to study sustainability

They attend Penn State from many different locations, but that didn’t stop a diverse group of students from joining together to tackle sustainability challenges.

Undergraduate students from across Penn State’s campuses, including Penn State World Campus, worked side by side as part of a three-semester course sponsored by the College of Earth and Mineral Science’s Center for Advanced Undergraduate Study and Experience (CAUSE), designed to promote undergraduate research.


Extended realities – How changing scale affects spatial learning

Zhao, J., Simpson, M., Wallgrün, J. O., Sajjadi, P., & Klippel, A
2020 IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces Abstracts and Workshops (VRW https://conferences.computer.org/vr-tvcg/2020/pdfs/

Investigating the relationship between the human body and its environment is essential to understand the process of acquiring spatial knowledge. However, few empirical evaluations have looked at how the visual accessibility of an environment affects spatial learning through direct experiences. To address this gap, this paper extends research on geographic scale (ground vs. pseudo-aerial perspectives) by incorporating active exploration in a human study. Results indicate that only low spatial ability participants benefit from the pseudo-aerial perspective in terms of spatial learning. In contrast, high spatial ability participants make more efficient use of the normal ground perspective.

Learning in the field: Comparison of desktop, immersive virtual reality, and actual field trips for place-based STEM education

Zhao, J., LaFemina, P. C., Carr, J., Sajjadi, P., Wallgrün, J. O., & Klippel, A.
2020 IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces (VR)
Field trips are a key component of learning in STEM disciplinessuch as geoscience to develop skills, integrate knowledge, and prepare students for lifelong learning. Given the reported success of technology-based learning and the prevalence of new forms oftechnology, especially with immersive virtual reality (iVR) entering the mainstream, virtual field trips (VFTs) are increasingly being considered as an effective form of teaching to either supplement or replace actual field trips (AFTs). However, little research has investigated the implications of VFTs in place-based STEM education, and empirical evidence is still limited about differences between students’ learning experiences and outcomes in VFTs experienced on desktop displays and field trips experienced in iVR. We report on a study that divided an introductory geoscience laboratory course into three groups with the first two groups experiencing a VFT either on desktop (dVFT) or in iVR (iVFT), while the third group went on an AFT. We compared subjective experiences (assessed via questionnaires) and objective learning outcomes for these groups. Our results suggest that, although students reported higher motivation and being more present in the iVFT group, they did not learn more compared to those in the dVFT group; both VFT groups yielded higher scores for learning experience and perceived learning outcomes than the actual field site visit. These findings demonstrate positive learning effects of VFTs relative to AFTs and provide evidence that geology VFTs need not be limited to iVR setups, which lead to considerable equipment costs and increased implementation complexity. Discussing the results, wereflect on the implications of our findings and point out future research directions.

CZ investigator: learning about critical zones through a VR serious game

Sajjadi, P., Bagher, M. M., Cui, Z., Myrrick, J., Swim, J. K., White, T. S., & Klippel, A.
2020 IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces Abstracts and Workshops (VRW) https://conferences.computer.org/vr-tvcg/2020/pdfs/
The critical zone (CZ) plays a pivotal role in the food-energy-water nexus, yet in its entirety, it is not well understood by society. Challenges range from imagining the invisible (from bedrock to soil) to understanding complex relations between the involved components. We have launched a transdisciplinary project driven by immersive technologies that allow for an extension of what physical reality offers society about the concept of CZ. We have developed a VR serious game that enables learners to have a concrete experience about what a CZ is, and how natural and human processes affect it.

Immersive place-based learning – An extended research framework

Klippel, A., Zhao, J., Sajjadi, P., Wallgrün, J. O., Bagher, M. M., & Oprean, D.
2020 IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces Abstracts and Workshops (VRW) https://conferences.computer.org/vr-tvcg/2020/pdfs/
At Kelvar 2019, we introduced a research framework for immersive virtual field trips (iVFTs) as a key element of immersive place-based learning. Organizing our research in this framework has been highly successful. We will be documenting outcomes of our research guided by this approach here, both as a conceptual extension of the original framework and through discussing three new studies that complement our existing empirical studies aimed at providing an evidence-based basis for assessing immersive learning. We believe in and strongly argue for the necessity of such a framework as we witness for the first time in the history of immersive technologies opportunities for comprehensive studies of immersive place-based learning, given the accessibility of the technology and the growing need for an evidence-based foundation. In detail, to assess the value of immersive experiences for learning, we argue for the necessity to compare them to traditional media such as desktop environments; correspondingly, we extended the framework to include non-sensing media. We conducted several new studies (both submitted and still unpublished work) that fill in gaps such as comparing desktop versus immersive VFTs, comparing Oculus GO versus Quest, and we describe our first experiences with moving immersive learning into the category of advanced iVFTs using both simulations and gamification as potential advantages of immersive technologies. We critically reflect on the results and lay out an agenda for future research on immersive place-based learning.

Apr 20

Scene from Marrakech | Student donates masks | Grad awards announced



Bronwen Powell in Morocco shares this photo she recently took (from the car) on her way home from the supermarket. “There are rows and rows of taxis parked along the streets beside the bus station near the famous Koutoubia mosque in central Marrakech. This time of year is normally the peak tourist season and it is often very difficult to flag a taxi,” she said.


Jianfan Yang received a box of 450 N95 masks from his relatives and was able to donate the masks to Mt. Nittany Medical Center.

Marie Louise Ryan received the Graduate Student International Research Award.

A class project in GEOG 586 in the online MGIS program has been accepted for publication in PlosOne. Blanford, J.I., T. Belcher, T. Black, E. Derner, J. Dunham, E. Galvan Campanero, M. Gority, R. Jones, B. Kaley, J. Kuli, R. Ligon, E. Mandal, T. Quink, J. Shinsky, M. Sodek, N. Teigland, and S. Turne collaborated on, “Pedal Power: Explorers and commuters of New York Citi Bikesharing scheme.”

Hannah Schreck was named a spring 2020 EMSAGE Laureate.

Working Remotely with Geospatial Data and Mapping Projects online session will introduce graduate students to geospatial data from U.S. and international sources, along with information on geospatial software access at Penn State including ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS ArcMap, and ArcGIS Pro. 3 p.m. on Friday, May 15, 2020.

Esri Offers Students Free Access to Software through August 31.


USGIF Announces K. Stuart Shea Endowed Scholarship Recipient

The United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) recognized Wendy L. Zeller Zigaitis, a Pennsylvania State University (PSU) Ph.D. student, as the 2020 recipient of the Foundation’s K. Stuart Shea Endowed Scholarship.


Virtual reality for student learning: Understanding individual differences

Li, P., Legault, J., Klippel, A., & Zhao, J.
Human Behaviour and Brain
Virtual reality (VR) is emerging as a rapidly developing technology that holds significant promises to impact student learning. In this review, we focus on the features of this technology regarding levels of immersion and interaction and individual differences in cognitive characteristics of VR learners. We attempt to parse the specific technological features that enable effective learning and examine how students mentally process these features. While VR helps to create situated learning conditions, its theoretical significance lies in its ability to provide perception-action enabled experiences to the learner, and it is these experiences that lead to positive behavioural and brain outcomes compared to traditional methods of learning. Our discussion highlights the understanding of VR learning with respect to individual differences, especially in spatial abilities of the learner, and how variability in spatial abilities might impact both spatial learning and language learning.

Apr 20

Geography’s GEMS | Zeller Zigaitis gets USGIF scholarship | AAG virtual sessions available


winning CUE posterTakhari Thompson and Kayla McCauley (Meteorology and Atmospheric Science) won best poster in the 2020 Celebration of Undergraduate Engagement Awards for “Meteorological Developments of Dust Events in Senegal.” Additional participants included Xintong Guan and Jianfan Yang and Harman Singh. See all entries here.


Wendy Zeller Zigaitis was named as the recipient of the Stu Shea Endowed Scholarship from the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation.

Helen Greatrex joined the World Meteorological Organization WMO Societal and Economic Research Applications (SERA) Working Group and attended her first meeting in April.

Helen Greatrex was awarded a Corporate Social Responsibility grant by the global insurer and reinsurer, AXA-XL.

The Institutes of Energy and the Environment is holding a workshop on Climate and Carbon Challenges at Penn State. Wednesday, April 22, 2020, at noon. Join via zoom: https://psu.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ixsWkk6HRFihEVKCgjlsvA

Access session videos from the AAG virtual meeting. Were you unable to attend some of the live sessions? Most sessions were recorded and videos are now viewable in our online session gallery through May 14.

Penn State Alumni Association offering complimentary three months of membership to any Penn Stater who opts in through May 4.


Geography’s board representatives strengthen connections to alumni

The Department of Geography has three representatives serving on the Graduates of the Earth and Mineral Sciences (GEMS) board this year: Emily Starin Connor who earned a bachelor of science in 2012 and now works as an associate with CleanCapital; Susan Lechtanski, who earned a bachelor of science in 1997 and now works as a project manager for Penn State Auxiliary and Business Services; and Wendy Zeller Zigaitis, who earned a bachelor of science in 1999 and is currently a doctoral student.

Esri Press e-books access for students at no charge

To support distance learning during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis, Esri Press e-books are now available at no charge to students through the VitalSource Helps program until May 25, 2020.

  • Students must be enrolled in a 2-year or 4-year college or university.
  • Students can access to up to 7 titles of their choice.
  • They must sign up with VitalSource and access e-books through Bookshelf using their school-assigned email address.

Students are being provided access now through May 25, 2020. After that, any e-books will disappear from their Bookshelf library.


A Comparison of Visual Attention Guiding Approaches for 360°Image-Based VR Tours

Jan Oliver Wallgrün, Mahda M. Bagher, Pejman Sajjadi, Alexander Klippel
Proceedings: 2020 IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces (VR)
https://conferences.computer.org/vr-tvcg/2020/pdfs/ VR2020-2f8MzUJjtCXG6Ue9RYFSN2/560800a083/560800a083.pdf
Mechanisms for guiding a user’s visual attention to a particular point of interest play a crucial role in areas such as collaborative VR and AR, cinematic VR, and automated or live guided tour experiences in xR-based education. The attention guiding mechanism serves as a communication tool that helps users find entities currently not visible in their view, referenced for instance by another user or in some accompanying audio commentary. We report on a user study in which we compared three different visual guiding mechanisms (arrow, butterfly guide, and radar) in the context of 360°image-based educational VR tour applications of real-world sites. A fourth condition with no guidance tool available was added as a baseline. We investigate the question: How do the different approaches compare in terms of target finding performance and participants’ assessments of the experiences. While all three mechanisms were perceived as improvements over the no-guidance condition and resulted in significantly improved target finding times, the arrow mechanism stands out as the most generally accepted and favored approach, whereas the other two (butterfly guide and radar) received a more polarized assessment due to their specific strengths and drawbacks.

Apr 20

Dowler receives award | Virtual commencement | COVID-19 grants



Although Penn State’s University Park campus remains quiet, hopeful signs of spring are beginning to bloom. See a photo gallery of spring blooms.


Lorraine Dowler has been awarded the 2020 Jan Monk Service Award from the AAG Feminist Geographies Specialty Group.

The EarthTalks seminar will be held at 4 p.m. Monday, April 20. David Yoxtheimer will discuss the science and technology of shale energy development, and how to combine research, policy and technology to mitigate the environmental issues while meeting society’s energy. Zoom at https://psu.zoom.us/j/594342606. The talk is free and open to the public.

April 22, 2020 will mark 50 years of Earth Day.  In honor of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, The GREEN Program will be hosting a virtual panel series to catalyze dynamic conversations around sustainability topics.



Penn State to recognize class of 2020 with virtual commencement ceremony

In response to the growing coronavirus pandemic, orders from the state government and recommendations from global public health organizations, Penn State will hold its spring 2020 commencement ceremony via livestream on May 9. The virtual ceremony will recognize all Penn State undergraduate students and all graduate students in the Penn State Graduate School.

Explore Grants to help researchers search for COVID-19 solutions

Penn State researchers interested in using computational resources to address the COVID-19 pandemic are encouraged to apply for support through the Institute for Computational and Data Sciences’ (ICDS) Explore Grant program.

From the esri ArcGIS Blog

Virtualization of ArcGIS from the Cloud and On-Premise platforms to support Higher Education

The coronavirus (COVID-19) is causing many universities and colleges to virtualize their classes.  Schools that have not considered or postponed a decision to virtualize their GIS classes using ArcGIS Pro and ArcMap are revaluating their options.  Those that have experimented with virtualizing ArcGIS Pro are seriously considering how to expand their virtualized offering.


Book Review: Re-enchanting the World: Feminism and the Politics of the Commons

Jacklyn Weier
The AAG Review of Books
DOI: 10.1080/2325548X.2020.1722464
This edited collection by Italian feminist, scholar, and activist Silvia Federici features writings published in various venues over the course of her career. In essence, the collected writings trace the entanglement of capitalism, women’s reproductive work, the burgeoning debt crisis, and the commons. With a foreword by Peter Linebaugh, and publications from the 1980s to the present, Re-enchanting the World: Feminism and the Politics of the Commons offers a view of Federici’s previous work that argues for its continued importance and relevance in the world. Although Federici is most known for her book Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation (Federici 2004), as well as her publications demonstrating the connections between sexuality and reproductive work, Re-enchanting the World offers a renewed perspective on some of the other key theories and ideologies Federici has delved into throughout her career. The inclusion and ordering of her previous publications successfully place her work among larger discussions concerning Marxist accumulation, the political importance of the commons, and the role of debt in capitalism and the creation of the proletariat.

Coming Out of the Foodshed: Phosphorus Cycles and the Many Scales of Local Food

Russell C. Hedberg II
Annals of the American Association of Geographers
DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2019.1630248
Systems of food production and provision face a set of complex and interdependent challenges to sustainably meet current and future nutrition needs and minimize the negative social and ecological consequences of modern agriculture. Food system localization, often in the context of specific initiatives like farmers’ markets, are frequently put forth as a promising strategy for establishing more just food systems and agroecological production that relies on regional resources and in situ ecological processes rather than agrichemical inputs. Despite a significant literature on local food, there remain critical omissions in geographic inquiry, particularly analyses of scale in regard to food system localization. This article uses scale as an analytical lens to examine phosphorus fertility on farms participating in a farmers’ market network in New York City. Through a synthesis of biogeochemical analysis, semistructured interviews, and nutrient network mapping, the work charts the complex and often contradictory interactions of material and discursive scales in local food systems. The lens of scale reveals multiple narratives of sustainability, indicating both the great potential for agroecological phosphorus management and significant structural problems that undermine the project of food system localization. These findings argue for a more expansive approach to localization that acknowledges a mosaic of overlapping scalar processes in food systems and that the sustainability promise of food system localization requires interconnected sustainabilities in multiple places and at multiple scales.

“The Care and Feeding of Power Structures”: Reconceptualizing Geospatial Intelligence through the Countermapping Efforts of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

Joshua F. J. Inwood & Derek H. Alderman
Annals of the American Association of Geographers
DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2019.1631747
This article advances three interrelated arguments. First, by focusing on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s (SNCC) Research Department, an undertheorized chapter in the civil rights movement, we advance an expressly spatialized understanding of the African American freedom struggle. Second, by focusing on an SNCC-produced pamphlet titled The Care and Feeding of Power Structures, we advance a larger historical geography of geospatial agency and countermapping of racial capital within black civil rights struggles. SNCC’s research praxis, which we argue constitutes a radical geospatial intelligence project, recognizes that geographical methods, information, and analytical insights are not just the purview of experts but are a set of political tools and processes deployed by a wide range of groups. Our article develops a deeper understanding of the rich spatial practices underlying black geographies and the role of geospatial intelligence in a democratic society outside the military–industrial–academic complex.

Racial/ethnic segregation and health disparities: Future directions and opportunities.

Yang, T‐C, Park, K, Matthews, SA.
Sociology Compass
Health researchers have investigated the association between racial segregation and racial health disparities with multilevel approaches. This study systematically reviews these multilevel studies and identifies broad trends and potential directions for future research on racial segregation and health disparities in the US. After searching databases including CINAHL and MEDLINE, we systematically reviewed 66 articles published between 2003 and 2019 and found four major gaps in racial/ethnic segregation and health disparities: (a) the concept of segregation was rarely operationalized at the neighborhood level, (b) except for the evenness and exposure dimension, other dimensions of segregation are overlooked, (c) little attention was paid to the segregation between whites and non‐black minorities, particularly Hispanics and Asians, and (d) mental health outcomes were largely absent. Future directions and opportunities include: First, other segregation dimensions should be explored. Second, the spatial scales for segregation measures should be clarified. Third, the theoretical frameworks for black and non‐black minorities should be tested. Fourth, mental health, substance use, and the use of mental health care should be examined. Fifth, the long‐term health effect of segregation has to be investigated, and finally, other competing explanations for why segregation matters at the neighborhood level should be answered.

Apr 20

AAG virtual meeting this week | COVID-19 dashboard for PA | Students connect online


screenshot-COVID-19 dashboard

Pennsylvania COVID-19 online dashboard created by the Donald W. Hamer Center for Maps and Geospatial Information. The dashboard, which is updated manually two hours after the Pennsylvania Department of Health Cases Table is updated, provides a map of the state with the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases represented by county. See the story below.


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. The link for the Session Gallery is on the Department of Geography homepage for the week. Go to the Session Gallery

The Graduate School will host a virtual town hall at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 9, at https://liveevents.psu.edu to provide updates and answer graduate students’ questions about the school’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Emily Rosenman is hosting a virtual happy hour for womxn in economic geography on Friday, April 10, coinciding with the AAG virtual meeting. The gathering is a welcoming space where women-identified and non-binary scholars of the economy, broadly understood, can build connections across intellectual traditions, topics of study and theoretical orientations. For more information and to RSVP

The Ecology Institute announced a call for proposals for its Flower Grant program. The funds aim to support ecology research focused across the institute’s five core themes: resilience and adaptation; provision of ecosystem goods and services; ecology at the interface; rapid evolutionary change; and ecological foundations. The application process and details about the program are available on InfoReady. Questions not answered by the InfoReady page can be sent to Smithwick at smithwick@psu.edu.



Online dashboard enables COVID-19 tracking by Pennsylvania county

Residents of Pennsylvania can monitor the spread of COVID-19 across the commonwealth with an online dashboard created by researchers at Penn State. The dashboard, which has been available since March 12, provides a map of the state with the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases represented by county.

Students keep learning communities alive virtually

The halls and classrooms of Walker Building are empty and silent but undergraduate and graduate students in the Department of Geography are finding ways to connect and support each other during remote learning. The students are holding virtual meetings to provide both academic and social support.

Drifting With Broken Sea Ice

In September 2019, the German research icebreaker Polarstern left Norway and cruised toward the heart of the Arctic Ocean. The purpose: Spend a year frozen into the sea ice while scientists onboard make measurements of the effects of climate change. Now about halfway through the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC) expedition, the icebreaker has weathered the dark polar winter and daylight has started to return.


From the School Yard to the Conservation Area: Impact Investment across the Nature/Social Divide

Cohen, D. and Rosenman, E.
In the face of planetary crises, from inequality to biodiversity loss, “impact investing” has emerged as a vision for a new, “moral” financial system where investor dollars fund socio‐environmental repair while simultaneously generating financial returns. In support of this system elite actors have formed a consensus that financial investments can have beneficial, more‐than‐financial outcomes aimed at solving social and environmental crises. Yet critical geographers have largely studied “green” and “social” finance separately. We propose, instead, a holistic geography of impact investing that highlights the common methods used in attempts to offset destructive investments with purportedly reparative ones. This involves interrogating how elite‐led ideas of social and environmental progress are reflected in investments, as well as deconstructing the “objects” of impact investments. As examples, we use insights from both “green” and “social” literatures to analyse the social values embedded in projects of financialisation in schooling and affordable housing in the US.

Exploring the Effects of Geographic Scale on Spatial Learning

Jiayan Zhao, Mark Simpson, Jan Oliver Wallgrün, Pejman Sajjadi & Alexander Klippel
Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications
Investigating the relationship between the human body and its spatial environment is a critical component in understanding the process of acquiring spatial knowledge. However, few empirical evaluations have looked at how the visual accessibility of an environment affects spatial learning. To address this gap, this paper focuses on geographic scale, defined as the spatial extent visually accessible from a single viewpoint. We present two experiments in which we manipulated geographic scale using two perspectives, a ground level and an elevated view, in order to better understand the scale effect on spatial learning. Learning outcomes were measured using estimates of direction and self-reports of mental workload. In contrast to our hypothesis, we found few differences in spatial learning when comparing different perspectives. However, our analysis of pointing errors shows a significant interaction effect between the scale and spatial ability: The elevated perspective reduced the differences in pointing errors between low and high spatial ability participants in contrast to when participants learned the environment at ground level alone. Bimodal pointing distributions indicate that participants made systematic errors, for example, forgetting turns or segments. Modeling these errors revealed a unified alternative representation of the environment and further suggests that low spatial ability participants benefited more from the elevated perspective in terms of spatial learning compared to high spatial ability participants. We conclude that an increased geographic scale, which was accessible through an elevated perspective in this study, can help bridge the performance gap in spatial learning between low and high spatial ability participants.

Making an Anthropocene Ocean: Synoptic Geographies of the International Geophysical Year (1957–1958)

Jessica Lehman
Annals of the American Association of Geographers
DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2019.1644988
Although the notion of the Anthropocene has generated a great deal of literature across disciplines, the geographic critique of this concept is still developing. This article contributes to justice-oriented engagements with the Anthropocene by highlighting the relationships through which planetary knowledge is constructed as sites of critique. I develop an analytic of synoptic geographies, which addresses the praxis of coordinated field measurements that creates the planetary knowledge on which concepts of the Anthropocene rest. Synoptic geographies require a geographic analytic that is capable of going beyond assertions that all knowledge is local. The International Geophysical Year (IGY; 1957–1958) provides a strategic opportunity to elaborate the stakes of synoptic geographies. The IGY was arguably the first attempt to understand the Earth as a planet through a program of widespread synoptic data collection. In particular, the synoptic geographies of the IGY’s oceanography program reveal the ways in which old and new forms of imperialism were knitted together to produce the world ocean as an object of knowledge in a new era of planetary-scale environmental politics.

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

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