Jan 20

Visiting scholar | CIE updates | Spring UROC projects


heron and photographer

A split photo of subject and photographers from Professor Emeritus Rob Brooks. “Becky took the image of Fenway and me as I took the Green-backed heron photo (in Maine),” Brooks said.


Mark Simpson will participate in a roundtable session on “Using Virtual Reality for Research and Teaching” 11:30 a.m. to noon on Thursday, January 16, in 221 Chambers Building, hosted by the College of Education Technology Committee.

The Center for Climate Risk Management (CLIMA) will hold a seminar on “A nonstationary and non-Gaussian moving average model for solar irradiance downscaling,” 4 to 5 p.m. on Thursday, January 16 in 117 Earth and Engineering Sciences Building with Wenqi Zhang, University of Colorado, Boulder.

The National Park Service is hosting paid internship opportunities in the Bozeman,Montana office this summer. The intern will help gather information to support a water resources climate adaptation workshop for fisheries, hydrology and water quality in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Information about eligibility, application process, and the project.

Carol Bouchard, who received her bachelor’s degree in geography in 1987, got married in October 2019. Her husband Glen works in Las Cruces, New Mexico, while she is caring for her dad full time on Cape Cod. “Penn State gave me the proverbial golden foot in the door when I entered on duty at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (and its predecessor organizations) back in 1989,” Bouchard said.”I retired after a wonderful 30-year career, having visited 135 UN countries.”

Matthew Popek, who earned his bachelor of science in geography in 2009, received his American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) certification during the Fall 2019 cycle.

Supporting Women in Geography (SWIG) surpassed its goal for the 2019 Centre Safe Holiday Sponsorship. SWIG collected $350 ($100 more than the original goal) to spend on the sponsored family, a mother and two teen children.

The Penn State Center for Security Research and Education (CSRE) has announced its spring 2020 grant program to support security-related scholarship and educational programs at Penn State. University faculty and researchers are eligible to apply by Feb. 14, 2020. For the first time, CSRE will offer a $50,000 Impact Grant, a $50,000 Homeland Security Grant, and open-topic grants with maximum awards of $15,000. Applications should be submitted online.

The Thinking Within Symposium will he held March 28, 2020 at the Penn State Pattee Library, University Park campus, Pa.

Mei-Huan Chen and Zachary Goldberg have been selected as new grad reps for the term ending in December 2020. They will be joining current reps Ruchi Patel and Connor Chapman.

Peter Backhaus has been certified as a Wetland Professional in Training (WPIT) by the Society of Wetlands Scientists Professional Certification Program.


The first Coffee Hour lecture for spring 2020 will be January 31. Arturo Izurieta, executive director of the Charles Darwin Foundation, will give a talk on Working on an old question “How many visitors can the Galapagos hold? Finding a sustainable model”


Visiting South African scholar wants to rehabilitate old mines

Is there a way to turn waste into a useful resource and at the same time reduce environmental degradation from closed mines? That’s what visiting South African scholar Nemapate Ndivhuwo wants to find out.

Ndivhuwo visited Penn State during fall semester 2019 from the University of Venda, in Limpopo Province, South Africa, as part of its University Capacity Development Programme.

Penn State’s new Center for Immersive Experiences makes dreams a virtual reality

Have you ever dreamed of traveling to a remote, ancient village in Europe, but never had the time or money? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to perform lung surgery without ever setting foot in a hospital?

With Penn State’s new Center for Immersive Experiences, those experiences are becoming a virtual reality for students and faculty of all disciplines.

Alex Klippel directs the center, located in Pattee Library, which staffs a team of nine developers and five-10 student support workers. Together, they provide technology and learning tools to experience and create virtual reality, augmented reality and 360-degree video.

Related coverage:

UROC for spring 2020

The Department of Geography’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Connection (UROC) program allows undergraduate students to gain valuable research experience and technical skills through collaboration on projects within the department and supervised by faculty and/or graduate students, as well as 1-3 credit hours to apply towards graduation (GEOG 494). This is a valuable resume-building experience for undergraduate students and can be beneficial for both future employment and graduate school.

The following projects have openings for Spring 2020:

  • Project SP20a: Mapping post-fire tree cover using object-based image analysis
  • Project SP20b: The Lived Experience of Environmental Change: Centre County Snapshots
  • Project SP20c: Mapping irrigation districts in Tolima, Colombia


Growing Season Synoptic and Phenological Controls on Heat Fluxes over Forest and Cropland Sites in the Midwest U.S. Corn Belt

Hiestand, M.P. and A.M. Carleton
Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology
Spatial variations in land use/land cover (LULC) in the Midwest U.S. Corn Belt — specifically, deciduous forest and croplands—have been suggested as influencing convective rainfall through mesoscale circulations generated in the atmosphere’s boundary layer. However, the contributing role of latent and sensible heat fluxes for these two LULC types, and their modulation by synoptic weather systems, have not been determined. This study compares afternoon averages of convective fluxes at two AmeriFlux towers in relation to manually-determined synoptic pressure patterns covering the nine growing seasons (1 May to 30 September) of 1999-2007. AmeriFlux tower US-Bo1 in eastern Illinois represents agricultural land use —alternating between maize and soybean crops—and AmeriFlux tower US-MMS in south-central Indiana represents deciduous forest cover. Phenologically, the latent and sensible heat fluxes vary inversely across the growing season, and the greatest flux differences between cropland and deciduous forest occur early in the season. Differences in the surface heat fluxes between crop and forest LULC types vary in magnitude according to synoptic type. Moreover, statistically significant differences in latent and sensible heat between the forest and cropland sites occur for the most frequently-occurring synoptic pattern of a low-pressure system to the west and high pressure to the east of the Corn Belt. The present study lays the groundwork for determining the physical mechanisms of enhanced convection in the Corn Belt, including how LULC-induced meso-scale circulations might interact with synoptic weather patterns to enhance convective rainfall.

Reorganization of atmospheric circulation between 1400-1700 CE as recorded in a South Pole ice core

Elena V. Korotkikh, Paul A. Mayewski, Andrei V. Kurbatov1, Daniel A. Dixon, Andrew M. Carleton, Kirk A. Maasch, Jefferson C. Simões, Michael J. Handley, Sharon B. Sneed, Douglas Intron
Earth and Space Science Open Archive
Here we present an ~2000 year high-resolution glacio chemical record from the South Pole. Significant changes in chemical concentrations, accumulation rate, stable water isotopes and deuterium excess records are captured during the period ~1400-1700 CE, indicating a reorganization of atmospheric circulation that occurred in two steps: ~1400-1425 CE and ~1650-271700 CE. Major declines in dust and SO42-concentrations are observed ~1400 CE suggesting poleward contraction of the southern circumpolar vortex and potential intensification of westerly air flow, accompanied by a sea ice decrease in the Weddell Sea and potentially also in the Indian sector of the Southern Ocean. The changes in stable water isotopes, deuterium excess,NO3-31concentration and accumulation rate characterize a second shift in atmospheric reorganization between 1650-1700 CE,reflecting increased marine air mass intrusions and subsequent reduction of the katabatic winds, and a shift to a colder moisture source for South Pole precipitation. These internally consistent changes involving atmospheric circulations and sea ice conditions are also in line with those identified for the recent period, and include associations with the large-scale teleconnections of El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Southern Annular Mode (SAM).

The landscape-scale drivers of herbivore assemblage distribution on the central basalt plains of Kruger National Park

Young, C., Fritz, H., Smithwick, E., & Venter, J.
Journal of Tropical Ecology
The distribution and abundance of herbivores in African savannas are constrained by interactions between abiotic and biotic factors. At the species-level, herbivores face trade-offs among foraging requirements, vegetation structure and the availability of surface water that change over spatial and temporal scales. Characterizing herbivore requirements is necessary for the management of the environment in which they occur, as conservation management interventions such as fencing and artificial water provision consequently have effects on how herbivores address these trade-offs. We tested the effects of environmental attributes on the probability of presence of herbivore functional types at different distances to water in the Satara section of Kruger National Park over the period of a year. Hypotheses about species’ relative distribution and abundance were developed through a literature review of forage and water availability constraints on feeding preference and body size of herbivore. We expected strong seasonal relationships between vegetation biomass and quality, and biomass of water-dependent herbivores with increasing distance to water. Our analyses of herbivore distribution across the region confirmed broad-scale descriptions of interactions between forage requirements and water availability across a set of species which differ in functional traits.

The value of being there: toward a science of immersive virtual field trips

Klippel, A., Zhao, J., Oprean, D. et al.
Virtual Reality
With immersive experiences becoming a medium for mass communication, we need pedagogies as well as scientific, evidence-based design principles for immersive learning. To foster evidence-based designs of immersive learning, we detail an empirical evaluation of a geosciences field trip, common in undergraduate education across numerous disciplines. The study builds on a previously proposed research framework in which we detailed a basic taxonomy of virtual field trips distinguishing between basic, plus, and advanced immersive virtual field trip experiences. The experiment reported here expands the original evaluation of basic field trips into the realm of plus versions using pseudo-aerial 360∘ imagery to provide embodied experiences that are not possible during the actual field trip. We also refined our original experimental design placing a stronger focus on the qualitative feedback elicited from the students. Results show an overwhelmingly positive response of students to virtual field trips with significantly higher-valued learning experience and enjoyment. Furthermore, the introduction of pseudo-aerial imagery (together with higher image resolution) shows a significant improvement in the participants spatial situation model. As contextualizing and spatially grounding is essential for place-based learning experiences, plus versions of virtual field trips have the potential to add value to the learning outcome and immersive virtual field trip experience. We discuss these encouraging results as well as critical feedback from the participants, such as the absence of touch in virtual experiences, and lay out our vision for the future of immersive learning experiences across environmental sciences.

Neighborhood Walkability and BMI Change: A National Study of Veterans in Large Urban Areas

Elizabeth Tarlov, Abigail Silva, Coady Wing, Sandy Slater, Stephen A. Matthews, Kelly K. Jones, Shannon N. Zenk
Objective: Improving neighborhood walkability has been proposed as a policy intervention to reduce obesity. The objective of this study was to evaluate longitudinal relationships between neighborhood walkability and body weight among adults living in large urban areas.
Methods: In this retrospective longitudinal study of United States military veterans using Department of Veterans Affairs health care, Veterans Affairs clinical and administrative data (2007‐2014) were linked to environmental measures constructed from public (2006‐2014) and proprietary (2008‐2014) sources, and linear regression models with person fixed effects were used to estimate associations between walkability and BMI among 758,434 men and 70,319 women aged 20 to 80 years in 2009 to 2014.
Results: Neighborhood walkability was associated with small reductions in BMI. Effects were most pronounced among men aged 30 to 49 and 50 to 64. For women, differences were largest in the two youngest age groups, 20 to 29 and 30 to 49, though only estimates for all women combined were statistically significant. For women aged 30 to 49, effect sizes grew when the sample was limited to those who remained in the same neighborhood during the entire follow‐up period.
Conclusions: Investments in the built environment to improve walkability may be a useful strategy for weight control in some segments of the adult population.

Dec 19

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


young women in STEM workshop

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


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

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

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

Check out the new GIS Coalition story map.


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


UROC for spring 2020

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

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

Politically extreme counties may act as magnets, migration patterns suggest

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Dec 19

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



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


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

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

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



Coffee Hour with Steve Norman

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

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


Geographer invests in education to open doors for others

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

Center for Immersive Experiences opens at Penn State (Video)

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

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

Our best bet against tick infestations might be fire

Erica Smithwick is quoted

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

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

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

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


Geospatial Information Visualization and Extended Reality Displays

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

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

Nov 19

Homeless female veterans | RISE conference | NCSE report


Yanan Xin Best Presentation SIGSPATIAL

Yanan Xin won the Best Presentation Award in the 3rd ACM SIGSPATIAL Workshop on AI for Geographic Knowledge Discovery (GeoAI’ 19). The title of her presentation was “Mapping Miscanthus Using Multi-Temporal Convolutional Neural Network and Google Earth Engine.”


Professor Emeritus Deryck Holdsworth will give the 2019 GRID Lecture, “Above the Turk’s Head: Providence and Post-Maritime World,” at 3 p.m., Tuesday, November 19, in the Stuckeman Family Building Jury Space.

The following students were inducted in to the Gamma Theta Upsilon Alpha Tau chapter on November 15, 2019: Kayla Bancone, Seamus Gibbons, Jacob Grande, Sara Maholland, Kyle Myers, Jenna Pullice, Sophie Tessier, Lixun Wang.

Due to Thanksgiving break there will be no DoG enews next week.

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

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


Homeless female veterans: Out of sight, out of mind

Female veterans are the fastest growing demographic among the homeless population in the United States and face a double hurdle of distance and invisibility in getting the health services they need from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, according to research conducted by Penn State graduate student and U.S. Air Force veteran Elizabeth Elsea.

Conference explores role of institutions of higher education in extreme weather

Erica Smithwick to participate

As the number of extreme weather events associated to climate change continues to grow world-wide, it is becoming increasingly important that institutions of higher education reflect on their role both before and after catastrophic events.

NCSE report on climate scholarship

Today, the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) released a new report showing public universities are contributing significantly to America’s understanding of climate change. In Climate Science Research in the United States and U.S. Territories, NCSE analyzed the research of 80 public institutions from all 50 states and found that they had produced 10,004 studies on the impacts of climate change on their regions between 2014 and 2018.


Spatial Learning in Smart Applications: Enhancing Spatial Awareness through Visualized Off-Screen Landmarks on Mobile Devices

Rui Li
Annals of the American Association of Geographers
DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2019.1670611
Smartphones have become a significant platform in everyone’s daily lives. For example, maps and map-based services on smartphones bring great convenience for wayfinding. They affect users’ spatial awareness, however, due to their small sizes. That impacted spatial awareness can lead to degraded spatial knowledge and disorientation. This study intends to address these issues associated with spatial learning on smartphones by adapting cartographic and cognitive theories and investigating a new design for presenting spatial information on smartphones that can support users’ awareness of space. The design uses the distinctive identities of spatial locations beyond the mapped screen as landmarks and visualizes the identities and distances of landmarks in distance through visual variables. Following previous pilot studies, this study evaluates the effectiveness of using such a design on aspects related to spatial awareness. Results provide additional details on the advantage of using specific visual variables to enhance the acquisition of spatial knowledge and spatial orientation. Although smart devices are ubiquitous in everyone’s lives, it is still important to address the cognitive issues between those devices and their users. This study provides evidence that design can further contribute to the improvement of map-based applications on smartphones, which provides convenience and enhances users’ spatial learning of new places.

US Route 50: The Loneliest Road in America, Part 2

Wayne Brew
PAST: online journal of the International Society for Landscape, Place and Material Culture
Part 2 of the loneliest road in America picks up the story in Missouri. For Part 1 of the story please refer to PAST 2018. For those starting the story here, I traveled the length of U.S. Route 50 (over 3,000 miles) from California east to Ocean City, Maryland (see Figure 1a). It is always a challenge tracing old interstates through major metropolitan areas because the exact route changes over time, usually to bypass the central business district. That is true for Kansas City and Saint Louis, Missouri. Sorting out the old routes can be done using historic USGS topographic maps, and it is the older routes that I travel.

The Blue Highway: US Route 10

Wayne Brew
PAST: online journal of the International Society for Landscape, Place and Material Culture
rom 1926 to 1969 US Route 10 connected Detroit, Michigan, to Seattle, Washington. Starting in 1969 the western end of was subsumed by I-94 and I-90. In 1987, the eastern terminus was truncated to Bay City, Michigan, with the western end in West Fargo, North Dakota.

Nov 19

Coffee Hour with Marel King | Cleaning up the Chesapeake | Happy GIS day


GIS dayIt’s GIS today, Nov. 12 at University Libraries. Several Department of Geography students, faculty, and alumni are presenting talks, which may be viewed on Mediasite.


Undergraduate geography student Zhaogeng Ding will present a poster at the annual Penn State Student Engagement Expo on Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Earth Talks Seminar Series presents “The Dynamics of Deep Decarbonization,” with speaker Leon Clarke, research director, Center for Global Sustainability, University of Maryland, at 4 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 18, 2019, in 112 Walker Building. Clarke’s presentation is titled “US Climate Mitigation and the Paris Agreement.” The seminar series is co-supported by the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI), Power and Energy Systems Transitions Lab (PESTL) and Center for Climate Risk Management (CLIMA.

Alumni Update: Michael Sutherland, a 2016 graduate in geography,  is currently working as a spatial data analyst for commercial real estate company CBRE based out of the Conshohocken, Pa. office. “I mainly work with demographics, and as of late, tracking historic demographic change. Most of my work is nationally based so I’m helping out on GIS projects across the country,” he said.


Coffee Hour with Marel King
Chesapeake Bay: Lessons learned from 40 years of watershed management

Marel King is the Chesapeake Bay Commission’s Pennsylvania Director.  She received her juris doctor degree from the Penn State Dickinson School of Law and her bachelor of science degree in Dairy and Animal Science Penn State.

The Chesapeake Bay is the nation’s largest estuary, with a 64,000 square mile watershed spanning parts of six states and the District of Columbia. Despite the natural, social, and political diversity across the region, efforts to restore the Chesapeake are a model of success. Nevertheless, additional progress must be made before water quality goals are achieved.

Established in 1980, the Chesapeake Bay Commission will celebrate its 40th Anniversary in 2020. The Commission is a tri-state legislative commission advising the General Assemblies of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia on matters of Bay-wide concern. As a signatory to the series of Chesapeake Bay Agreements and its four decades of work within the state legislatures and the U.S. Congress to craft “Policy for the Bay,” several lessons have emerged about how to successfully manage a large-scale watershed restoration effort.


Center for Immersive Experiences to host immersive technology open house Nov. 12

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

GTU induction set

The Department of Geography will hold an induction for the newest members of Gamma Theta Upsilon, the geography honor society, immediately preceding the Coffee Hour lecture on November 15, 2019. Gamma Theta Upsilon was founded in 1928 and became a national organization in 1931. Members of GTU have met academic requirements and share a background and interest in geography. GTU chapter activities support geography knowledge and awareness.

Choosing most cost-effective practices for sites could save in bay cleanup

Robert Brooks was involved in the research

Using site-specific watershed data to determine the most cost-effective agricultural best management practices — rather than requiring all the recommended practices be implemented across the entire watershed — could make staying below the Chesapeake Bay’s acceptable pollution load considerably less expensive.

Online geodesign program adds geographic information systems expert to faculty

Robert Stauder, a geographic information systems (GIS) professional with more than 20 years of experience in geodesign, GIS analysis and GIS in planning, is joining Penn State’s online geodesign graduate program. He is teaching Geodesign History, Theory and Principles, which is the program’s longest-standing course and also the first step toward both the graduate certificate and the master of professional studies degree, which are offered entirely online through Penn State World Campus.


Slow and Fast Violence: A Feminist Critique of Binaries

Jenna Christian and Lorraine Dowler
ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies
Rob Nixon’s recent theorization of slow violence deliberates on specific forms of violence that unfold gradually and in unspectacular ways. However, discussions about the phenomenon that fall under slow violence are not new to the academy and echo the labor of feminist scholars who have for many years written about how violence is experienced in banal, everyday, intimate, and routinized ways. We argue that these Feminist traditions of analyzing violence are vital to touch on, because these contributions are largely overlooked in Nixon’s thesis. Further, this robust scholarship demonstrates how the invisibility of slow violence is shaped not only by its everyday nature, but also by larger gendered and raced epistemologies that privilege the public, the rapid, the hot, and the spectacular. We argue that a feminist epistemological approach to denaturalizing binaries can offer a deeper understanding of how the invisible nature of slow violence is shaped by ongoing gendered and raced epistemologies. Specifically, we believe that a feminist geopolitical framework aids in recognizing the co-constitution of fast and slow violence and engages new pathways that challenge impunity.

Complex interactions among successional trajectories and climate govern spatial resilience after severe windstorms in central Wisconsin, USA

Melissa S. Lucash, Kelsey L. Ruckert, Robert E. Nicholas, Robert M. Scheller, Erica A. H. Smithwick
Landscape Ecology
Context: Resilience is a concept central to the field of ecology, but our understanding of resilience is not sufficient to predict when and where large changes in species composition might occur following disturbances, particularly under climate change.
Objectives: Our objective was to estimate how wind disturbance shapes landscape-level patterns of engineering resilience, defined as the recovery of total biomass and species composition after a windstorm, under climate change in central Wisconsin.
Methods: We used a spatially-explicit, forest simulation model (LANDIS-II) to simulate how windstorms and climate change affect forest succession and used boosted regression tree analysis to isolate the important drivers of resilience.
Results: At mid-century, biomass fully recovered to current conditions, but neither biomass nor species composition completely recovered at the end of the century. As expected, resilience was lower in the south, but by the end of the century, resilience was low throughout the landscape. Disturbance and species’ characteristics (e.g., the amount of area disturbed and the number of species) explained half of the variation in resilience, while temperature and soil moisture comprised only 17% collectively.
Conclusions: Our results illustrate substantial spatial patterns of resilience at landscape scales, while documenting the potential for overall declines in resilience through time. Species diversity and windstorm size were far more important than temperature and soil moisture in driving long term trends in resilience. Finally, our research highlights the utility of using machine learning (e.g., boosted regression trees) to discern the underlying mechanisms of landscape-scale processes when using complex spatially-interactive and non-deterministic simulation models.

Nov 19

Coffee Hour with Emily Rosenman | Faculty give talks | Geography Awareness Week and GIS day


GIS day
Penn State University Libraries and the Department of Geography will observe GIS Day — an annual event celebrating the technology of geographic information systems (GIS) — on Tuesday, Nov. 12, with activities designed to bring together both new and experienced users of geospatial information across disciplines.


Luke Trusel will present a talk on “The Greenland Ice Sheet in a Warming World,” on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 11:15 a.m.to 12:30 p.m. in 529 Walker Building as part of the fall 2019 Earth System Science Center Brown Bag Series.

Guido Cervone will present a talk on “Expanded Dimensionality Image Spectroscopy via Deep Learning,” at the Meteorology Colloquium on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. in 112 Walker Building

Erica Smithwick will be a panelist at the Women in Science Mixer on Wednesday, Nov. 6 at 5:00 p.m. in 114 Steidle Building. Meet and support women scientists from across the university. A panel discussion will be held on being a woman scientist, imposter syndrome, and work-life balance.

Earth Talks Seminar Series presents “The Dynamics of Deep Decarbonization,” with speaker Gary Geernaert, Director, Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, U.S. Department of Energy, on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019 at 4:00 p.m. in 112 Walker Building.The seminar series is co-supported by the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI), Power and Energy Systems Transitions Lab (PESTL) and Center for Climate Risk Management (CLIMA).

Ann Myatt James ’14g recently accepted an appointment as a Data Services Librarian at George Washington University’s Gelman Library in Washington DC. In this role, she’ll be supporting students, faculty, staff, and administrators to more effectively access and engage data resources, geospatial technologies, and visualizations in their research, teaching, and practice.

Academic job postings: The George Washington University in Washing, DC is hiring an assistant professor of geography and an assistant professor of geography and foreign affairs.


Coffee Hour with Emily Rosenman
Marketizing the wealth gap? Geographies of risk and power in the pursuit of an anti-racist finance

Historical and ongoing structural discrimination has created racialized geographies of inequality in the United States: wealth gaps, wage gaps, employment gaps, and so on. This history, coupled with continued constraints on state social services following the 2008 financial crisis, has prompted claims that private and charitable capital must fill these gaps. Many of these capital flows piggyback off state efforts to incentivize (rather than directly fund) social investment in dis/underinvested areas, bolstered by voluntary commitments from private and philanthropic capital to shrug off a racist past in favor of revitalizing disinvested communities with investments guided by a “lens” of racial justice. While at first glance these efforts might simply seem like another pretext for private profiteering, they partially align with the demands of marginalized communities and organizations like the Movement for Black Lives: demands for reinvestment in health, education, and social services in historically disinvested communities.

  • Friday, November 8, 2019
  • Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m.
  • Lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.
  • Coffee Hour to Go on Zoom

For more information about Coffee Hour and to view previously recorded Coffee Hour talks visit https://www.geog.psu.edu/calendar/coffee-hour-lecture-series


Geography Awareness Week — Mark your calendars!

Get ready to celebrate the importance of geography and geographic education during Geography Awareness Week (#GeoWeek) from November 10-16, 2019! The theme for this year’s GeoWeek is Igniting the Spirit of Exploration. While previous years celebrated featured parts of geography, organizers now encourage highlighting any or all aspects of geography. Follow @theAAG on Twitter leading up to and during GeoWeek for more activities and announcements.

Event explores geographic information systems Nov. 12 at University Libraries

“Exploring the World Through Geovisualization” is the theme of this year’s event

Penn State University Libraries will observe GIS Day—an annual event celebrating the technology of geographic information systems (GIS)—on Tuesday, Nov. 12, with activities designed to bring together both new and experienced users of geospatial information across disciplines.

This year’s program, “Exploring the World Through Geovisualization,” aims to foster awareness of geospatial visualization, online mapping, and geospatial data science and the ways these applications are being used on campus, in the community, and beyond. GIS use across the University is enabled through access to Esri GIS software, including ArcGIS Pro and ArcMap, along with ArcGIS Online.

Oct 19

Coffee Hour with Andrew Anderson | New Center for Immersive Experiences | Brewer to get O. M. Miller Cartographic Medal


Rockefeller Archive Center

Rockefeller Archive Center in New York (and bust of John D. Rockefeller), where Emily Rosenman was researching the history of “program-related investments,” in which foundations make investments (rather than grants) to organizations that support charitable causes. Rosenman is looking at investments in Cooperative Assistance Funds, which were a civil rights-era initiative by the Ford and other foundations making investments in urban Black-owned businesses to inform her research on geographies of contemporary investing done with a racial justice “lens.” Image: Emily Rosenman


Cynthia Brewer has been selected by The American Geographical Society to receive the O. M. Miller Cartographic Medal for outstanding contributions in the field of cartography. She will be recognized at the AGS fall symposium on November 22, 2019 at Columbia University, New York.

Emily Domanico ’19g won second place in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Graduate Poster Exhibition held Wednesday, October 23, 2019.

Jessica Whitehead ’09g has just been named as North Carolina’s first chief resilience officer, tasked to think ahead in new ways to bolster the state against the effects of climate change.

Earth Talks Seminar Series presents “The Dynamics of Deep Decarbonization,” with speaker Tom Richard on Monday, November 4, 2019 at 4:00 p.m. in 112 Walker Building. The seminar series is co-supported by the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI), Power and Energy Systems Transitions Lab (PESTL) and Center for Climate Risk Management (CLIMA).

The GIS Coalition is holding a Youth Mappers event on November 4, 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., in 208 Walker Building. During the event, mappers will digitize imagery with Open Street Map ​to help relief efforts navigate and bring aid to those facing food insecurity in the Philippines. More information about the project can be found at https://tasks.hotosm.org/project/5461#bottom.

Erica Smithwick and Scott Showalter will present a seminar on NSF and NIH grantwriting for graduate students and post-docs, November 14, 2019, noon to 1:30 p.m. in 233A HUB. Register at: https://forms.gle/1MRBwcZp77agUtuq7

Federal job posting: Supervisory Geographer, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Open & closing dates: 10/21/2019 to 11/08/2019.


Coffee Hour with Andrew Anderson
The Landscapes of Oman: Nature | Culture | Place

The landscapes of Oman are at once beguiling, surprising and breathtaking. While intimately known to the people who have lived in this corner of Arabia for untold millennia, the landscapes of Oman slowly reveal their secrets – some of them, at least – to those willing to slow down, observe and experience nature, culture and place in this most fascinating of countries.

Following a brief introduction to his unique experience and expertise in the allied disciplines of landscape architecture and world heritage conservation, Senior Landscape Architect and World Heritage Advisor Andrew Anderson will guide a three-part introduction to the landscapes of Oman from the perspective of multi-disciplinary collaboration and research.

  • Friday, November 1, 2019
  • Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m.
  • Lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.
  • Coffee Hour to Go on Zoom

For more information about Coffee Hour and to view previously recorded Coffee Hour talks visit https://www.geog.psu.edu/calendar/coffee-hour-lecture-series


Center for Immersive Experiences set to debut, serving researchers and students

Penn State will be equipped to meet the needs of students, faculty, and a society at large that is progressively more reliant on immersive technology with the opening of the Center for Immersive Experiences (CIE) on the University Park campus.

The center, with physical space in Pattee Library and collaborators in 11 different academic units at the University, will feature comprehensive services around teaching, learning and research involving immersive technology by increasing access to virtual reality, augmented reality, 360-degree video, mixed reality and more.

JOB POSTINGS: Post-doctoral fellows, Ph.D. and Masters, Developer, and Intern positions

The Center for Immersive Experiences at The Pennsylvania State University (immersive.psu.edu), in collaboration with other units at Penn State (such as ChoroPhronesis, chorophronesis.psu.edu, and Teaching and Learning with Technology), is hiring two Post-Doctoral Researchers focusing on areas such as immersive analytics, immersive learning, immersive decision-making, or serious games.


Smart Festivals? Security and Freedom for Well-Being in Urban Smart Spaces

Jeremy W. Crampton ’87g’94g, Kara C. Hoover, Harrison Smith, Steve Graham & J. Colette Berbesque
Annals of the American Association of Geographers
DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2019.1662765

In this article we use the natural lab of music festivals to examine behavioral change in response to the rapid introduction of smart surveillance technology into formerly unpoliced spaces. Festivals are liminal spaces, free from the governance of everyday social norms and regulations, permitting participants to assert a desired self. Due to a number of recent festival deaths, drug confiscations, pickpockets, and a terroristic mass shooting, festivals have quickly introduced smart security measures such as drones and facial recognition technologies. Such a rapid introduction contrasts with urban spaces where surveillance is introduced gradually and unnoticeably. In this article we use some findings from an online survey of festivalgoers to reveal explicit attitudes and experiences of surveillance. We found that surveillance is often discomforting because it changes experience of place, it diminishes feelings of safety, and bottom-up measures (health tents, being in contact with friends) are preferred to top-down surveillance. We also found marked variation between men, women, and nonbinary people’s feelings toward surveillance. Men were much less affected by surveillance. Women have very mixed views on surveillance; they simultaneously have greater safety concerns (especially sexual assault in public) and are keener on surveillance than men but also feel that it is ineffective in preventing assault (but might be useful in providing evidence subsequently). Our findings have significant ramifications for the efficacy of a one-size-fits-all solution of increased surveillance and security in smart places and cities and point to the need for more bottom-up safety measures.

Oct 19

Coffee Hour with Ted Toadvine | GIS Day | Esri ArcGIS software available


geocaching GIS coalition

The undergraduate GIS Coalition recently conducted a Geo-Caching activity on campus. This picture shows Erin Arndt, GIS coalition president, Harman Singh, coalition secretary, and Clarie Byrnes, a coalition member and anthropology major looking for a hidden cache near Deike building.The Geospatial Information Science (GIS) Coalition is an organization that offers students majoring, minoring, or sharing an interest in GIS opportunities to develop supplementary knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in the professional GIS industry.


Esri Education and Directions magazine are offering a two-part webinar on GIS for classrooms Oct. 23 and Nov. 6

Humphrey Fellows Fall Presentation Series, this week in 102 Chambers; noon-1:00 p.m. October 24:

  • Socio-political and economic considerations in higher education in the Anglophone Caribbean
  • Higher education challenges in Afghanistan


Coffee Hour with Ted Toadvine
Climate Change and the Apocalyptic Image of Time

The prospect of climate disruption haunts contemporary culture and political debate today in a way that no environmental threat has before, and it is commonplace to hear climate change identified as the single most important challenge facing humanity. Is this prioritization of climate destabilization as the defining threat of recorded human history justified? Here I investigate the image of time underlying this apocalyptic narrative to show that it depends upon, and attempts to manage, the explosion of our horizons of time represented by “deep” geological timescales.

  • Friday, October 25, 2019
  • Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m.
  • Lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.
  • Coffee Hour to Go on Zoom

For more information about Coffee Hour and to view previously recorded Coffee Hour talks visit https://www.geog.psu.edu/calendar/coffee-hour-lecture-series


Event explores geographic information systems Nov. 12 at University Libraries

“Exploring the World Through Geovisualization” is the theme of this year’s event

Penn State University Libraries will observe GIS Day—an annual event celebrating the technology of geographic information systems (GIS)—on Tuesday, Nov. 12, with activities designed to bring together both new and experienced users of geospatial information across disciplines.

This year’s program, “Exploring the World Through Geovisualization,” aims to foster awareness of geospatial visualization, online mapping, and geospatial data science and the ways these applications are being used on campus, in the community, and beyond. GIS use across the University is enabled through access to Esri GIS software, including ArcGIS Pro and ArcMap, along with ArcGIS Online.

Esri ArcGIS software now more easily accessible to faculty, staff, students

For a project in a geographic information systems (GIS) class in Penn State’s Department of Geography, Alexis Fisher sought to spotlight the wage gap in the United States. She had familiarity with the topic, but when she began plotting a story map using Esri’s ArcGIS online tools, the data really came to life.

Fisher, a senior majoring in cyber security analytics and operations with a focus in geopolitics, entered historical wage data broken down by counties with variables for gender and ethnicity, to create an interactive map with text, videos, and graphics.


Next Steps for Spatial Demography

Stephen A. Matthews
Spatial Demography
I would like to open my first editorial by thanking the founding editors of Spatial Demography, Frank Howell and Jeremy Porter, and their editorial board for all their contributions over the past eight years. Frank and Jeremy recognized long before anyone else the importance of a signature journal for the field of spatial demography. I greatly appreciate the foundation they set and for initiating the later partnership with Springer. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with both Frank and Jeremy on an edited book and then more recently alongside Jeremy as co-editor of the journal. This was a valuable experience and certainly eased the transition to becoming sole editor.

Oct 19

Coffee Hour with Pablo Pacheco | EarthTalks series | VR research published


Nature-Society Workshop

Members of the department attended the Nature-Society Workshop at Syracuse University, NY. The workshop, which is held annually at universities across the Northeast, included panel discussions on climate politics; intersections of fire, livelihoods, and the state in the Amazon; and environmental justice. The workshop also included a keynote lecture by Dr. Wendy Wolford titled “The Social Life of Land” and a field trip to Onondaga lake and other sites exemplifying urban environmental (in)justice and history in and around the city of Syracuse. Photo taken at Syracuse University and Onondaga Lake.


Jacklyn Weier’s first single-author research paper titled, “(Re)producing the Sexuality Binary: On Bisexual Experiences in U.S. Gay and Heterosexual Spaces,” has been accepted by Gender, Place & Culture.


Coffee Hour with Pablo Pacheco
Governing for sustainability in tropical forest landscapes

Halting deforestation and forest degradation are central in the efforts to protect forests and achieve sustainability goals in forest landscapes, particularly in the tropics. Forest sustainability has increasingly been framed within broader policy agendas of conservation, climate change and sustainable commodity supply. This has triggered disparate interventions with a growing involvement of the private sector, which have been implemented under different approaches including individual adoption of voluntary standards, sector-wide supply chain-based interventions, and mixed supply chain and territorial initiatives at jurisdictional level. This presentation will evaluate critically the progress and implementation challenges of these approaches and provide insights on what is needed to overcome those challenges.

This talk is co-sponsored by the Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management (RPTM) program.

  • Friday, October 18, 2019
  • Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m.
  • Lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.
  • Coffee Hour to Go on Zoom

For more information about Coffee Hour and to view previously recorded Coffee Hour talks visit https://www.geog.psu.edu/calendar/coffee-hour-lecture-series


EarthTalks series brings experts to Penn State to discuss decarbonization

Reducing carbon emissions to combat rising global temperatures is a hot topic, but achieving deep decarbonization poses problems that require fundamental changes in the industrial, agricultural and energy sectors. The fall 2019 EarthTalks series, “The Dynamics of Deep Decarbonization,” brings prominent researchers to the Penn State University Park campus to discuss these changes. The series, which is free and open to the public, runs at 4 p.m. every Monday through Nov. 18, in 112 Walker Building.


For the Many, Not the One: Designing Low-Cost Joint VR Experiences for Place-Based Learning

Jan Oliver Wallgrün, Jack (Shen-Kuen) Chang, Jiayan Zhao, Pejman Sajjadi, Danielle Oprean, Thomas B. Murphy, Jennifer Baka, Alexander Klippel
In: Bourdot P., Interrante V., Nedel L., Magnenat-Thalmann N., Zachmann G. (eds) Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. EuroVR 2019. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 11883. Springer, Cham.
The paper details the design and evaluation of a joint, multi-user immersive virtual field trip (iVFT). The setting for our work centers on academic disciplines that value place-based education. The reported user study is embedded into a developing research framework on place-based learning and the role immersive experiences play as supplement, proxy, or through providing experiences physically not possible. The results of this study are both practical as well as theoretical, demonstrating the feasibility of using entry level immersive technologies in regular classroom settings and showing that even low-cost VR experiences strongly relying on 360∘ imagery add value to place-based education. With quantitative analysis, we also identify potentially critical aspects in how individual differences shape the adoption of this technology. Finally, we report insights gained through two qualitative analyses on how to improve the design of future iVFTs for educational purposes.

Oct 19

Bye week for Coffee Hour | Alum blends maps and hoops | UN taps into geographers


points per shot mapKirk Goldsberry’s Points per Shot map shows that the average value for 3-point shots is significantly higher than for mid-range shots. Image: Kirk Goldsberry


Bronwen Powell has been invited by the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) to participate in a meeting to set Global Forest Indicators (a set of indicators on the importance of forests that all countries will report on). She was invited to contribute to efforts to set indicators for the way Forests contribute to Food and Nutrition.

Luke Trusel’s research was cited in last week’s UN IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate.

Humphrey Fellows Fall Presentation Series starts this week in 102 Chambers; noon-1:00 p.m. October 10 talks:

  • More than just books: The underestimated impact of academic libraries on Jordan.
  • Use it, don’t lose it: A tale of highly educated housewives in Pakistan

SWIG is convening an Undergrad/Grad Round Table Discussion for students interested in applying to graduate school on Thursday, October 17 at 6:15p.m. in 319 Walker Building.

The 2019 Esri Mid-Atlantic User Conference will be held December 10–11 in Philadelphia, Pa.

Call for Proposals: UCGIS Symposium 2020, May 28–June 1, 2020, Honolulu, Hawaii.


A bye week for Coffee Hour,  next talk is October 18

For more information about Coffee Hour and to view previously recorded Coffee Hour talks, visit https://www.geog.psu.edu/calendar/coffee-hour-lecture-series


For the love of maps and hoops: Geography alumnus excels in basketball analytics

As a geography student, Kirk Goldsberry never needed an excuse to make maps. The trick was finding ways to combine cartography with his other love — basketball.

The Penn State geography alumnus found professional success combining his passions. He is a leader in basketball analytics, having worked as an NBA front office executive and as a writer for ESPN.

In his most recent work, The New York Times best-selling book “SprawlBall: A Visual Tour of the New Era of the NBA,” Goldsberry examines how the proliferation of the 3-point shot, and other trends, have helped transform the league, perhaps in unexpected ways.

“My book is just another example of a geographer noticing a change, searching for its essential causes, and trying to explain them via the mighty combination of maps, stats and prose,” Goldsberry said.


Environmental Knowledge Cartographies: Evaluating Competing Discourses in U.S. Hydraulic Fracturing Rule-Making

Jennifer Baka, Arielle Hesse, Erika Weinthal & Karen Bakker
Annals of the American Association of Geographers
DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2019.1574549
In this article, we evaluate competing environmental knowledge claims in U.S. hydraulic fracturing (HF) regulation. We conduct a case study of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) rule-making process over the period from 2012 to 2015, which was the first attempt to update federal oil and gas regulations in thirty years. Our study addresses a gap in the energy geographies and environmental governance literatures, which have yet to evaluate systematically HF-related decision-making processes at the policymaking scale. We mobilize theoretical insights from science and technology studies on boundary objects and critical environmental discourse analysis to conduct a “cultural cartography” of the BLM’s rule-making process. Our analysis of a subset of 1.4 million public comments submitted to the BLM, combined with fifteen stakeholder interviews, focuses on (1) who participated in the rule-making process; (2) the types of knowledge claims advanced in support or opposition of the rule; and (3) how these claims affected the rule-making process. In contrast to recent literature that finds increased “horizontality” of environmental knowledge production, we find a clear hierarchy that privileges government knowledge—including federal government–sponsored research and existing laws—above all other categories of evidence cited. As such, we argue that government knowledge—which in this case brought disparate stakeholder groups together to debate HF regulation—functions as a key boundary object in the rule-making process. We conclude with a discussion of implications for both research and policy.

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