Sep 20

Peirce Lewis Obit in Annals | Coffee Hour history | Welcome new post-doc


Kaltura screnshotFriday, Sept. 11 was the kickoff Coffee Hour lecture for the fall 2020 semester.  If you missed it and would like to view the recording of Kaitlin Harbeck’s talk on ICESaT-2 or view any previously recorded Coffee Hour lectures, you can go to the Department of Geography Coffee Hour Channel. Each recent semester of Coffee Hour is saved as a playlist, so you can easily find the speaker or topic of interest.


Mikael Hiestand was quoted in the article, “Introducing Students to Scientific Python for Atmospheric Science,” in the September 2020 issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Welcome to Tatiana Gumucio who has joined as a post-doctoral scholar on Helen Gretrex’s AXA-XL grant on humanitarian weather response in Somalia.


Coffee Hour with Qiusheng Wu is on Friday, September 25, 2020
Using Google Earth Engine for interactive mapping and analysis of large-scale geospatial datasets

Google Earth Engine is a free cloud computing platform with a multi-petabyte catalog of satellite imagery and geospatial datasets. During the past few years, Earth Engine has become very popular in the geospatial community and it has been used for numerous environmental applications at local, regional, and global scales.


Peirce F. Lewis, 1927–2018

by Ben Marsh & Joseph Wood in the Annals of the American Association of Geographers

All geography rests, finally, upon the land. Few geographers have stayed as connected to the land throughout their professional careers as Peirce F. Lewis, few relished the immediacy of being in the field more than he did, and few imbued that deep love into as many students and students-of-students as he was able to. Land is in the very name of the discipline that he championed for over five decades: cultural landscape. That term refers to the world of human experience, “nearly everything we can see when we go outdoors” (Lewis 1979a, 12).

50+ years of Coffee Hour

Fall 2018 was the fiftieth anniversary of the Department of Geography Coffee Hour, weekly socializing and a lecture on Friday afternoons. Although the methods have modernized, Coffee Hour remains true to its purpose, which Peirce Lewis and Wilbur Zelinksy described in a 1987 article in the Professional Geographer as “creating and preserving a sense of intellectual and social community within the department.”


Desktop versus immersive virtual environments: effects on spatial learning

Jiayan Zhao, Tesalee Sensibaugh, Bobby Bodenheimer, Timothy P. McNamara, Alina Nazareth, Nora Newcombe, Meredith Minear & Alexander Klippel
Spatial Cognition & Computation
DOI: 10.1080/13875868.2020.1817925
Although immersive virtual reality is attractive to users, we know relatively little about whether higher immersion levels increase or decrease spatial learning outcomes. In addition, questions remain about how different approaches to travel within a virtual environment affect spatial learning. In this paper, we investigated the role of immersion (desktop computer versus HTC Vive) and teleportation in spatial learning. Results showed few differences between conditions, favoring, if anything, the desktop environment. There seems to be no advantage of using continuous travel over teleportation, or using the Vive with teleportation compared to a desktop computer. Discussing the results, we look critically at the experimental design, identify potentially confounding variables, and suggest avenues for future research.

Automatic detection of volcanic surface deformation using deep learning

Sun, J., Wauthier, C., Stephens, K., Gervais, M., Cervone, G., La Femina, P., & Higgins, M.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) provides subcentimetric measurements of surface displacements, which are key for characterizing and monitoring magmatic processes in volcanic regions. The abundant measurements of surface displacements in multitemporal InSAR data routinely acquired by SAR satellites can facilitate near real‐time volcano monitoring on a global basis. However, the presence of atmospheric signals in interferograms complicates the interpretation of those InSAR measurements, which can even lead to a misinterpretation of InSAR signals and volcanic unrest. Given the vast quantities of SAR data available, an automatic InSAR data processing and denoising approach is required to separate volcanic signals that are cause of concern from atmospheric signals and noise. In this study, we employ a deep learning strategy that directly removes atmospheric and other noise signals from time‐consecutive unwrapped surface displacements obtained through an InSAR time series approach using an end‐to‐end convolutional neural network (CNN) with an encoder‐decoder architecture, modified U‐net. The CNN is trained with simulated synthetic unwrapped surface displacement maps and is then applied to real InSAR data. Our proposed architecture is capable of detecting dynamic spatio‐temporal patterns of volcanic surface displacements. We find that an ensemble‐average strategy is recommended to stabilize detected results for varying deformation rates and signal‐to‐noise ratios (SNRs). A case study is also presented where this method is applied to InSAR data covering Masaya volcano, Nicaragua and the results are validated using continuous GPS data. The results confirm that our network can indeed efficiently suppress atmospheric and other noise to reveal the noise‐free surface deformation.

Sep 20

Coffee Hour on ICESat-2 | Bacastow appointed to board | Research on ice and fire


ICESat-2 image

NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) was launched in September 2018 and became the highest-resolution laser altimeter ever operated from space. The satellite is now measuring the height of Earth’s surfaces in remarkable detail. A forested hillside in Mexico is visible in the elevation measurement above, acquired on October 19, 2018, by the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS) on ICESat-2. For reference, the orbital path is laid over a natural-color image acquired on January 11, 2017, by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8. Learn more about ICESat-2 at Coffee Hour on Friday, Sept. 11, with our speaker, Penn State Geography alumna Kaitlin Harbeck.


The undergraduate clubs in the Department of Geography, GIS Coalition, Gamma Theta Upsilon, and UnderDoGS are holding combined meetings on Zoom this semester. The next meeting is on Monday, Sept. 14 at 7:30 p.m.

Alumna Sheryl Kron Larson-Rhodes, who earned a bachelor of science in 1985, received a State University of New York (SUNY) Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Librarianship. The Chancellor’s Awards are “honors conferred to acknowledge & provide recognition for consistently superior professional achievement & to encourage the ongoing pursuit of excellence.” Larson-Rhodes is among nine librarians from SUNY’s 64 campuses to receive the Chancellor’s Award for the 2019–2020 academic year. She serves as the First Year Experience Librarian at SUNY Geneseo, & among the college departments she supports is (of course!) Geneseo’s Department of Geography, which in 2018 received the Award for Bachelors Program Excellence from the American Association of Geographers.


Coffee Hour with Kaitlin Harbeck
ICESat2 – Measuring the Height of the Earth One Photon at a Time

NASA’s next generation laser altimeter mission, the Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2), launched on 15 September 2018, carrying the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS) as its sole payload. ATLAS is a photon-counting lidar that directs laser beams (532 nm) at the Earth’s surface, fires a stream of light 10,000 times per second, and measures the distance between the illuminated ground surface and the instrument by precisely measuring individual photon times of flight.


Bacastow appointed to US Geospatial Intelligence Foundation board of directors

Todd Bacastow, teaching professor in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences at Penn State, has been appointed to the board of directors of the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) for a three-year term.

USGIF is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting geospatial intelligence training and education and building a stronger community of interest across industry, academia, government, professional organizations and individual stakeholders. Since 2007, Bacastow has also served as a member of USGIF’s Academic Planning Committee.


Woody plant diversity changes of Abies-Tsuga forests during the natural regeneration of arrow bamboo (Bashania faberi) in the Wolong Nature Reserve

Zhu, T., Jinyan, H., Dian, L., Taylor, A.H., Hemin, Z.
Chinese Journal of Applied and Environmental Biology
DOI: 10.19675/j.cnki.1006-687x.2019.05002
We examined the response of woody plants to internal forest disturbance during subalpine succession and its underlying driving mechanism by comparing changes in woody plant diversity of Abies-Tsuga forests after the flowering and die-back of arrow bamboo (Bashania faberi). We calculated species diversity indices (a-diversity and β-diversity) for the survey data from six fixed plots in the area of the Wolong Nature Reserve, Sichuan Province, from 1984 and 2013 to understand changes in flora and species diversity over time, including the pro-phases and post-phases of the bamboo regeneration and restoration. The results showed that species and the diversity indices of the trees in the Abies-Tsuga forests did not change significantly before or after the regeneration and restoration of arrow bamboo but maintained relatively stable state (P > 0.05). In contrast, species diversity and the importance values of shrubs changed significantly between the pro-phase and postphase of the regenerative and restorative periods, and the species composition and diversity indices of the Abies-Tsuga forests slightly increased (P < 0.05). Variation was seen in woody plant tree diversity patterns, as changes in the tree species of the sample plots below 3000 m above sea level were small, but a significant change was seen in the sample plots above 3000 m above sea level. In contrast, the diversity of shrubs was significantly different among all plots and showed a slight increasing trend. At the same time, there were no significant differences in the tree species diversity of the Abies-Tsuga forests between different sites before or after the regeneration and restoration of arrow bamboo. Shrubs were significantly different with each other during the early stage. Only several plots and several indices were significantly altered during the later stage, and the rest presented no significantly statistical effects. In a word, these results reflect the stability of the species composition in climax communities, the variability of the species diversity of Abies-Tsuga forests during the process of bamboo regeneration and restoration, and the adaptation of diverse types of plants (e.g., tree species and shrubs) to environmental changes. This provides a basis for developing strategies for biodiversity conservation and the ecological restoration of wild giant panda habitats.

Strong Legacy Effects of Prior Burn Severity on Forest Resilience to a High-Severity Fire.

Harris, L.B., Drury, S.A. & Taylor, A.H.
Legacy effects from one disturbance may influence successional pathways by amplifying or buffering forest regeneration after the next disturbance. We assessed vegetation and tree regeneration in non-serotinous Sierra lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. murrayana) stands after a 1984 wildfire which burned with variable severity and again after a high-severity subsequent fire in 2012. The legacy effects of the 1984 fire were amplified; seedlings and saplings were abundant in areas initially burned at low severity (1267 stems ha−1) despite high reburn severity, but regeneration was low in areas twice burned at high severity (31 stems ha−1). Our results suggest that the severity of the 1984 fire may have influenced post-2012 tree regeneration by creating variable fuel loading, which may have affected soils, litter cover and shade after the 2012 fire and therefore affected seedling establishment and survival. A canopy seed bank of unburnt cones from trees killed by the 2012 fire potentially contributed to a strong effect of prior burn severity on regeneration after the 2012 fire despite a lack of serotinous or resprouting tree species, although the influence of this canopy seedbank was likely limited to the year following the fire. Our results suggest that a low- to moderate-severity fire increases forest resilience relative to a high-severity fire even when the next fire burns at high severity.

Quantifying spatiotemporal variability of glacier algal blooms and the impact on surface albedo in southwestern Greenland

Shujie Wang, Marco Tedesco, Patrick Alexander, Min Xu, and Xavier Fettweis
The Cryosphere
Albedo reduction due to light-absorbing impurities can substantially enhance ice sheet surface melt by increasing surface absorption of solar energy. Glacier algae have been suggested to play a critical role in darkening the ablation zone in southwestern Greenland. It was very recently found that the Sentinel-3 Ocean and Land Colour Instrument (OLCI) band ratio R709 nmR673 nm can characterize the spatial patterns of glacier algal blooms. However, Sentinel-3 was launched in 2016, and current data are only available over three melting seasons (2016–2019). Here, we demonstrate the capability of the MEdium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) for mapping glacier algae from space and extend the quantification of glacier algal blooms over southwestern Greenland back to the period 2004–2011. Several band ratio indices (MERIS chlorophyll a indices and the impurity index) were computed and compared with each other. The results indicate that the MERIS two-band ratio index (2BDA) R709 nmR665 nm is very effective in capturing the spatial distribution and temporal dynamics of glacier algal growth on bare ice in July and August. We analyzed the interannual (2004–2011) and summer (July–August) trends of algal distribution and found significant seasonal and interannual increases in glacier algae close to the Jakobshavn Isbrae Glacier and along the middle dark zone between the altitudes of 1200 and 1400 m. Using broadband albedo data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), we quantified the impact of glacier algal growth on bare ice albedo, finding a significant correlation between algal development and albedo reduction over algae-abundant areas. Our analysis indicates the strong potential for the satellite algal index to be used to reduce bare ice albedo biases in regional climate model simulations.

Sep 20

Social justice+outreach | Diaz named to NSF GRFP | Studying movement, COVID-19


mask up pack up

Keeping communities safe will take a collective effort. Help us spread the word to colleagues, family, friends and neighbors by taking a picture wearing a mask, posting to social media, and using the hashtag #MaskUpOrPackUp.


Alumna Lettice Brown of York, Pa., who completed a bachelor of science in geography in 2006, was recently featured in an Allegheny Front story, “Nature Groups Address Environmental Justice in Pennsylvania.”

Mikael Hiestand will speak as part of the fall 2020 Climate Dynamics seminar series, on the topic, “Annual variations in latent and sensible heat fluxes under differing synoptic regimes in the U.S. Corn Belt,” on Sept. 30, from 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. via Zoom. For more information and link.

Thabiti Willis of Carleton College will speak as part of the African Studies Program fall 2020 speakers series on  “From East Africa to the Persian Gulf: Mapping Journeys of Slavery and Freedom in the Western Indian Ocean Region,” Sept. 9, at 12:30 p.m. All events will be live-streamed on Zoom. Links for the talks will be sent via email in advance of each presentation.

The AAG’s call for papers is now open. Anyone with an interest in geography may submit an abstract of up to 250 words, describing their presentation’s purpose, methods, and conclusions. Find out details on how to submit.

The undergraduate clubs in the Department of Geography: GIS Coalition, Gamma Theta Upsilon, and UnderDoGS are holding combined meetings on Zoom this semester. The next meeting is on Sept. 14 at 7:30 p.m.


Students learn the power of collective voice while advocating for justice

Students discovered the power of community voice while working as interns over the summer through a social justice program facilitated by the Penn State Center Philadelphia, a Penn State Outreach service. Jaqueline Saleeby and Mackenzie Flanders both pivoted from their summer projects to assisting in the organization of a virtual symposium for the Penn State community that will be held in September and is focused on racial justice.

18 new NSF graduate researchers join the ranks at Penn State

Geographer Jeremy Diaz is among the new fellows

Eighteen students were named National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) recipients for the 2020-21 academic year.

Faculty funded to study how people’s movement impacts COVID-19 transmission

Nita Bharti, Lloyd Huck Early Career Professor and assistant professor of biology at Penn State, and her collaborator Anthony Robinson, associate professor of geography at Penn State, have been awarded seed funding from the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences at Penn State to study how monitoring the movement of people can potentially be used as a predictor or early indicator of COVID-19 transmission and guide health policy decisions.


Disclosing Influence: Hydraulic fracturing, interest groups, and state policy processes in the United States

Jennifer Baka, Arielle Hesse, Kate J. Neville, Erika Weinthal, Karen Bakker
Energy Research & Social Science
This paper examines copy-and-paste regulating in hydraulic fracturing (HF) fluid disclosure regulation across US states. Using text analysis, cluster analysis and document coding, we compare HF regulations of twenty-nine states and two “model bills” drafted by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF, an environmental NGO). In contrast to recent studies that have documented ALEC’s widespread influence across policy domains, we find limited evidence of ALEC influence in HF fluid disclosure regulations. Instead, elements of the EDF bill are more prevalent across state regulations. Yet, text similarity scores between states are higher than similarity scores between states and the EDF bill. In particular, Colorado and to a lesser extent Pennsylvania functioned as leader states for other states to follow. This indicates that state-to-state communication was a more influential channel of policy diffusion than interest group model bills in this instance. Future research should better examine processes of information sharing amongst state oil and gas regulators as regulatory text is but one channel of policy diffusion. The cluster analysis also reveals that contiguous states, often within the same shale basins, frequently have different regulations. This finding calls for a reconsideration of the current state-led environmental regulatory framework for HF, which has resulted in a patchwork of regulations across the US. Finally, through the use of novel text analysis tools, this paper adds methodological diversity to the study of policy diffusion within energy policy.

Robust paths to net greenhouse gas mitigation and negative emissions via advanced biofuels

John L. Field, Tom L. Richard, Erica A. H. Smithwick, Hao Cai, Mark S. Laser, David S. LeBauer, Stephen P. Long, Keith Paustian, Zhangcai Qin, John J. Sheehan, Pete Smith, Michael Q. Wang, Lee R. Lynd
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Biofuel and bioenergy systems are integral to most climate stabilization scenarios for displacement of transport sector fossil fuel use and for producing negative emissions via carbon capture and storage (CCS). However, the net greenhouse gas mitigation benefit of such pathways is controversial due to concerns around ecosystem carbon losses from land use change and foregone sequestration benefits from alternative land uses. Here, we couple bottom-up ecosystem simulation with models of cellulosic biofuel production and CCS in order to track ecosystem and supply chain carbon flows for current and future biofuel systems, with comparison to competing land-based biological mitigation schemes. Analyzing three contrasting US case study sites, we show that on land transitioning out of crops or pasture, switchgrass cultivation for cellulosic ethanol production has per-hectare mitigation potential comparable to reforestation and severalfold greater than grassland restoration. In contrast, harvesting and converting existing secondary forest at those sites incurs large initial carbon debt requiring long payback periods. We also highlight how plausible future improvements in energy crop yields and biorefining technology together with CCS would achieve mitigation potential 4 and 15 times greater than forest and grassland restoration, respectively. Finally, we show that recent estimates of induced land use change are small relative to the opportunities for improving system performance that we quantify here. While climate and other ecosystem service benefits cannot be taken for granted from cellulosic biofuel deployment, our scenarios illustrate how conventional and carbon-negative biofuel systems could make a near-term, robust, and distinctive contribution to the climate challenge.

Aug 20

Summer student marshal | Nepal research awarded | Submit UROC projects


milan liuMilan Liu was selected to represent the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences as the student marshal for Penn State’s summer 2020 commencement. Liu graduated summa cum laude with a 4.0 grade-point average with a double major in geography and international politics, a minor in Chinese and a certificate in geographic information science. Her faculty marshal was Roger Downs, professor of geography. Image: Courtesy of Milan Liu


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

The 2020 AAG Guide to Geography Programs in the Americas has been published and is available for free to all users at www.aag.org/guide. It also includes an interactive map of geography programs listed within the Guide, which allows users to search and filter programs by, degree type, program specialties, regional focus, and more.

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


Milan Liu selected Earth and Mineral Sciences 2020 summer student marshal

Milan Liu was selected to represent the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences as the student marshal for Penn State’s summer commencement, which was held virtually on  Aug. 15.

Liu is graduating summa cum laude with a 4.0 grade-point average with a double major in geography and international politics, a minor in Chinese and a certificate in geographic information science. Her faculty marshal is Roger Downs, professor of geography.

Doctoral candidate’s research explores human, agricultural interactions in Nepal

Marie Louis Ryan, doctoral candidate in Penn State’s Department of Geography, received the Graduate Student International Research Award from the Graduate School for her research exploring human and agricultural interactions in Nepal.

Specifically, Ryan examines how the labor force outmigration of working age men in Nepal’s midhills impacts labor, land use, and the agricultural biodiversity of rice and finger millet — two key crops in the region.

Open education website connects teachers, learners with quality resources

A parent in Philadelphia needs information to help her daughter with a class project on wet weather pollution control in the school yard rain garden.

Elsewhere in the U.S., a furloughed government worker seeks professional development during a shutdown. In Brazil, a woman is interested in learning more about the changing climate, and in Zimbabwe, a GIS technician wants a reliable source of professional information.

They all turned to OPEN.ED, a website hosting high-quality learning materials written by faculty in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. The content, created though the Open Education Resources (OER) initiative launched in 2007 by the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS) at Penn State, is free for educators and learners under a creative commons license.


Space-Time Patterns, Change, and Propagation of COVID-19 Risk Relative to the Intervention Scenarios in Bangladesh

Masrur, Arif; Yu, Manzhu; Luo, Wei; Dewan, Ashraf
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to be a significant public health threat worldwide, particularly in densely populated countries such as Bangladesh with inadequate health care facilities. While early detection and isolation were identified as important non-pharmaceutical intervention (NPI) measures for containing the disease spread, this may not have been pragmatically implementable in developing countries due to social and economic reasons (i.e., poor education, less public awareness, massive unemployment). Hence, to elucidate COVID-19 transmission dynamics with respect to the NPI status—e.g., social distancing—this study conducted spatio-temporal analysis using the prospective scanning statistic at district and sub-district levels in Bangladesh and its capital, Dhaka city, respectively. Dhaka megacity has remained the highest-risk “active” cluster since early April. Lately, the central and south eastern regions in Bangladesh have been exhibiting a high risk of COVID-19 transmission. The detected space-time progression of COVID-19 infection suggests that Bangladesh has experienced a community-level transmission at the early phase (i.e., March, 2020), primarily introduced by Bangladeshi citizens returning from coronavirus epicenters in Europe and the Middle East. Potential linkages exist between the violation of NPIs and the emergence of new higher-risk clusters over the post-incubation periods around Bangladesh. Novel insights into the COVID-19 transmission dynamics derived in this study on Bangladesh provide important policy guidelines for early preparations and pragmatic NPI measures to effectively deal with infectious diseases in resource-scarce countries worldwide.

Can Social Media Anti-abuse Policies Work? A Quasi-experimental Study of Online Sexist and Racist Slurs

Diane Felmlee, Daniel DellaPosta, Paulina d. C. Inara Rodis, and Stephen A. Matthews
Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World
DOI: 10.1177/2378023120948711
The authors use the timing of a change in Twitter’s rules regarding abusive content to test the effectiveness of organizational policies aimed at stemming online harassment. Institutionalist theories of social control suggest that such interventions can be efficacious if they are perceived as legitimate, whereas theories of psychological reactance suggest that users may instead ratchet up aggressive behavior in response to the sanctioning authority. In a sample of 3.6 million tweets spanning one month before and one month after Twitter’s policy change, the authors find evidence of a modest positive shift in the average sentiment of tweets with slurs targeting women and/or African Americans. The authors further illustrate this trend by tracking the network spread of specific tweets and individual users. Retweeted messages are more negative than those not forwarded. These patterns suggest that organizational “anti-abuse” policies can play a role in stemming hateful speech on social media without inflaming further abuse.

Aug 20

Recognition Reception online | Dowler wins award | Flower Grants

IMAGE OF THE WEEKRecRecscreenshot

The 2020 Department of Geography Recognition Reception website listing award winners, graduates and other notable accomplishments is here:  https://sites.psu.edu/geogrecrec20/


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

The 2020 AAG Guide to Geography Programs in the Americas has been published and is available for free to all users at www.aag.org/guide. It also includes an interactive map of geography programs listed within the Guide, which allows users to search and filter programs by, degree type, program specialties, regional focus, and more.

This map quantifies the Sheetz versus Wawa turf war.

The virtual 2020 Esri Education Summit will be held from August 6 to 7. Registration is complimentary. For more information and to register.

The American Association of Geographers’ annual meeting will have both in-person and virtual aspects in 2021. Attendees including geographers, GIS specialists, environmental scientists, and other leaders will share and discuss the latest in research and applications in geography, sustainability, and GIScience. The meeting will be held from Wednesday, April 7 – Sunday, April 11, and will feature more than 6,900 presentations, posters, workshops, and field trips by leading scholars, experts, and researchers. September 14 is the early bird deadline.


Penn State professor receives AAG award for service to women in geography

Lorraine Dowler, Penn State professor of geography and women’s, gender and sexuality studies, is the 2020 recipient of the American Association of Geographers (AAG) Feminist Geographies specialty group’s Jan Monk Service Award.

This award is named in honor of Jan Monk, a past president of AAG, and “recognizes a geographer who has made an outstanding service contribution to women in geography and/or feminist geography.”

Ecology Institute announces grant recipients

Erica Smithwick is director of the Ecology Institute and associate director of the Institutes of Energy and the Environment

The Ecology Institute has awarded 11 proposals from across the University as part of its Flower Grant program, including five projects submitted by faculty at Commonwealth Campuses.

The funds provided by the Flower Grant 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.


Fostering Penetrative Thinking in Geosciences Through Immersive Experiences: A Case Study in Visualizing Earthquake Locations in 3D

Mahda M. Bagher, Pejman Sajjadi, Julia Carr, Peter La Femina and Alexander Klippel
Proceedings of the 6th International Conference of the Immersive Learning Research Network (iLRN 2020)
Thinking in and understanding of three-dimensional structures is omnipresent in many sciences from chemistry to geosciences. Current visualizations, however, are still using two-dimensional media such as maps or three-dimensional representations accessible through two-dimensional interfaces (e.g., desktop computers). The emergence of immersive virtual reality environments, both accessible and of high-quality, allows for creating embodied and interactive experiences that permit for rethinking learning environments and provide access to three-dimensional information through three-dimensional interfaces. However, there is a shortage of empirical studies on immersive learning environments. In response to this shortcoming, this study examines the role of immersive VR (iVR) in improving students’ learning experience and performance in terms of penetrative thinking in a critical 3D task in geosciences education: drawing cross-sections. We developed a pilot study where students were asked to draw cross-sections of the depth and geometry of earth-quakes at two subduction zones after visualizing the earthquake locations either in iVR or 2D maps on a computer. The results of our study show that iVR creates a better learning experience; students reported significantly higher scores in terms of Spatial Situation Model and there is anecdotal evidence in favor of higher reflective thinking in iVR. In terms of learning performance, we did not find a significant difference in the graded exercise of drawing cross-sections. However, iVR seems to have a positive effect on understanding the geometry of earthquake locations in a complex tectonic environment such as Japan. Our results, therefore, add to the growing body of literature that draws a more nuanced picture of the benefits of immersive learning environments calling for larger scale and in-depth studies.

A spatial analysis of COVID-19 period prevalence in US counties through June 28, 2020: Where geography matters?

Feinuo Sun, Stephen A. Matthews, Tse-ChuanYang, Ming-Hsiao Hu
Annals of Epidemiology
Purpose: This study aims to understand how spatial structures, the interconnections between counties, matter in understanding COVID-19 period prevalence across the US.
Methods: We assemble a county-level dataset that contains COVID-19 confirmed cases through June 28, 2020 and various sociodemographic measures from multiple sources. In addition to an aspatial regression model, we conduct spatial lag, spatial error, and spatial autoregressive combined models to systematically examine the role of spatial structure in shaping geographical disparities in COVID-19 period prevalence.
Results: The aspatial ordinary least squares regression model tends to overestimate the COVID-19 period prevalence among counties with low observed rates, but this issue can be effectively addressed by spatial modeling. Spatial models can better estimate the period prevalence for counties, especially along the Atlantic coasts and through the Black Belt. Overall, the model fit among counties along both coasts is generally good with little variability evident, but in the Plain states, model fit is conspicuous in its heterogeneity across counties.
Conclusions: Spatial models can help partially explain the geographic disparities in COVID-19 period prevalence. These models reveal spatial variability in model fit including identifying regions of the country where fit is heterogeneous and worth closer attention in the immediate short term.

Seed source pattern and terrain have scale-dependent effects on post-fire tree recovery

Jamie L. Peeler & Erica A. H. Smithwick
Landscape Ecology
Context: Distance to seed source is often used to estimate seed dispersal—a process needed for post-fire tree recovery. However, distance, especially in mountainous terrain, does not capture pattern or scale-dependent effects controlling seed supply and delivery. Measuring seed source pattern (area and arrangement) could provide insights on how these spatial dynamics shape recovery.
Objectives: We tested metrics and investigated how seed source pattern, tree regeneration traits, scale, and terrain interact to shape post-fire tree recovery. Our research questions were: Does seed source pattern outperform distance when modeling tree species presence and regeneration density? If yes, does seed source pattern have scale-dependent or terrain-dependent effects on regeneration density?
Methods: We measured seed source pattern at nested spatial extents around 71 plots and related measurements to local post-fire tree recovery. We used generalized linear models to test metrics and visualize scale-dependent and terrain-dependent effects on regeneration density.
Results: Distance sufficiently modeled presence, but seed source pattern outperformed distance when modeling regeneration density. Relevant spatial extents and relationships were species-dependent. For wind-dispersed species, regeneration was associated with more seed source area and more complex arrangements, but terrain mediated these relationships. For serotinous and resprouting species, regeneration was associated with less seed source area and less complex arrangements, which are consistent with high-severity burn sites that promote recovery.
Conclusions: Seed source pattern supports spatial resilience and interacts with scale and terrain to shape regeneration density. Accounting for these spatial dynamics could help steward forests facing changing fire regimes.

Informal food chains and agrobiodiversity need strengthening—not weakening—to address food security amidst the COVID-19 crisis in South America

Karl S. Zimmerer & Stef de Haan
Food Security
The COVID-19 crisis is worsening food insecurity by undermining informal food chains. We focus on impacts involving the informal food chains that incorporate the resilience-enhancing biodiversity of food and agriculture known as agrobiodiversity. Our analysis addresses how informal food chains and agrobiodiversity are impacted by policies and interventions amidst COVID-19 disruptions. Our methodology relies on research in Peru with a focus on the cites and surrounding areas of Lima, Arequipa, Cusco, Huancayo, and Huánuco. We extend these insights to similar challenges and opportunities across western South America and other word regions. We utilize the four-part Agrobiodiversity Knowledge Framework to guide our examination of agrobiodiversity-related processes that interconnect governance, nutrition, agroecology, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Our results detail three links of informal food chains that are being disrupted and yet can offer resilience. These are food retailing, logistics and transportation, and seed systems. Utilization of the Agrobiodiversity Knowledge Framework cuts through highly complex issues to elaborate key food-security difficulties facing informal systems and how they can be strengthened to provide more resilience. We identify the specific roles of agrobiodiversity in resilience-enhancing processes that need strategic policy and program support. Results identify ways to augment the resilience of informal food chains using agrobiodiversity and the empowerment of social groups and organizations in urban food systems and rural communities. We conclude that the disruptions triggered by the global COVID-19 pandemic highlight the need to use agrobiodiversity as an instrument for resilience in informal food chains.

Jul 20

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


From the Head: Preparing for fall

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

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

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


Penn State launches master’s degree in spatial data science

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

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

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

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


Communal Innovations: Inspiring Neighborhoods of Hope and Advocacy

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

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

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

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.

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