Apr 20

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


screenshot-COVID-19 dashboard

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


AAG is facilitating a virtual annual meeting April 6-10, in response to restrictions on travel and gathering during the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual conference will offer more than 130 sessions and panels. The link for the Session Gallery is on the Department of Geography homepage for the week. Go to the Session Gallery

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

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

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



Online dashboard enables COVID-19 tracking by Pennsylvania county

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

Students keep learning communities alive virtually

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

Drifting With Broken Sea Ice

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


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

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

Exploring the Effects of Geographic Scale on Spatial Learning

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

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

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

Mar 20

From the Head | Rethinking food | Holocaust learning resources


EMEX panel on Zoom

EMEX, the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences annual recruitment event, took place virtually on Saturday, March 28. After general sessions about the college, including a Graduates of Earth and Mineral Sciences (GEMS) panel, each department, including the Department of Geography, hosted a breakout session. The Geography breakout session was attended by four prospective students. Jodi Vender and nine current undergraduate students presented information about the program and their experiences as geography students.  Closed captioning, shown at the bottom of the image, was provided during the event.


Jeremy Diaz was selected to receive a 2020 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF).

Zachary Goldberg received the AAG Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group Field Study Award.

Karen Schuckman has been named a finalist in the Personal Achievement in LIDAR category of the Lidar Leader Awards, a joint initiative of LIDAR Magazine and the organizers of the International LiDAR Mapping Forum (ILMF).

“Improving climate risk management: Are we doing the science right? Are we doing the right science?” In this EarthTalks seminar, Klaus Keller will discuss how engaging with stakeholders and decision-makers can help scientists identify mission-oriented basic science questions, and how scientists can help to improve decisions. The seminar will be held at 4 p.m. Monday, April 6, and webcast through Zoom at https://psu.zoom.us/j/594342606.The talk is free and open to the public.

Solve Climate by 2030: Solar Dominance + Civic Action Pennsylvania statewide webinar will take place 7 p.m., April 7 2020.  Link to Join: https://psu.zoom.us/j/550953597

The Dutton Institute has gathered resources for remote teaching on their website.  In addition, the Institute will hold open office hours via Zoom at https://psu.zoom.us/j/732482498. Open office hours can be used for Zoom tips, assessment strategies discussion, help with Canvas or Kaltura, or even a discussion of options for delivering your final exam remotely. Office hours will be at the following days/times this week:

  • Wednesday, 4/1: 10:30 – 11:30 am and 4:00 – 5:00 pm
  • Thursday, 4/2: 10:30 – 11:30 am and 12:30 – 1:30 pm
  • Friday, 4/3: 11:30 am – 12:30 pm and 2:30 – 3:30 pm

Call for maps: Guerrilla Cartography is seeking maps, ideas, cartographers, and researchers for an atlas on shelter. Shelter: An Atlas will bring together a diversity of disciplines all connected by the theme of shelter, and it will be a sister-atlas to Guerrilla Cartography’s earlier projects, Food: An Atlas and Water: An Atlas. Deadline to submit a map idea or to volunteer to be a researcher is Monday, April 13. Want to submit your own map? First map submissions are due June 15.

Job posting: The Department of Geography at Gustavus Adolphus College is searching for one-semester position of Visiting Instructor (or Assistant Professor with appropriate qualifications) in the Department of Geography to begin September 1, 2020 and ending December 30, 2020. The one semester teaching assignment will be 3.5 courses. Primary teaching responsibilities will include introductory GIS and remote sensing of the environment. To apply: https://gustavus.edu/employment/job/1735



From the Head: Right Hires

We couldn’t have planned two better faculty emphases to add to the department in 2020, health geography and data analytics, which will be part of learning how to better study disease. Though Provost Jones announced a freeze on faculty hires in progress at the March 24 Town Hall, EMS Dean Kump confirms that both our hires for next year are secure. Wang and Holmes have already signed their Penn State contracts and will be arriving July 1, 2020.

Shujie Wang will join us as an assistant professor (tenure home in Geography, co-hire with EESI, and associate faculty in both EESI and ICDS). She is hired into the EMS position “Understanding Land-Water Systems Using Data Analytics” and specializes in Earth and environmental sciences using data-driven tools and methods. She studies cryosphere and climate dynamics using geographic information science, remote sensing, image recognition, numerical modeling, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. This coming year, Shujie will be teaching an EMS course on data analytics and intro and advanced remote sensing courses (GEOG 362 and 462). Shujie is currently a postdoc at LDEO at Columbia.

Louisa Holmes will join us as an assistant professor of health geography. She is our SSRI co-hire with the Consortium to Combat Substance Abuse (SSRI is PSU’s Social Science Research Institute). She works on substance use and abuse in tobacco and marijuana. She has experience with NIH and health-related granting agencies, running large surveys of youth that include place characteristics, and intensive quantitative modeling. Louisa’s initial teaching next year is planned as the intro core course in GIScience (GEOG 260), advanced spatial analysis (GEOG 464), and an advanced undergaduate course in health geography (GEOG 497). Louisa is currently an assistant professor at Binghamton University.


It’s time to rethink how you shop for food | Opinion

by Zachary Goldberg, For The Inquirer, Updated: March 27, 2020

These are troubling times for the food industry. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, food consumption is changing fast as restaurants, schools, and other community spaces close. This has prompted panic shopping. Many look to stock their shelves with canned and frozen food, as I did the early moments of the crisis, running out to Target to buy the last case of San Pellegrino along with essential supplies for my mom

Holocaust Education Initiative releases first set of free instructional material

Alexander Kippel is a participant

To help teachers remotely engage their students during the coronavirus crisis, Penn State’s Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Education Initiative has released its first set of free learning resources.

The initiative — a Penn State partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Education and several state and national organizations to provide educators with the tools to tackle difficult topics — has been developing instructional material for classroom use. Responding to the coronavirus outbreak, which has forced schools to close across the state, the innovative program readied some of its learning resources for home use.

Related: Human rights initiative earns Community Engagement and Scholarship Award

Mar 20

A view of spring | From the Head | Geography a key part of fighting outbreak



A capture of the current live Arboretum webcam view.


The EarthTalks seminar will feature Roman DiBiase, assistant professor of geosciences,  discussing how geologic history influenced landscape response to climate change during the last ice age, and how it influences the resilience of watersheds to human land use changes. The seminar will be held at 4 p.m. Monday, March 30, and broadcast through Zoom: https://psu.zoom.us/j/594342606.

Welcome to Judy Heltman, our new graduate assistant, who started this week. Judy comes to us from Architectural Engineering as their graduate program and placement coordinator so she is coming to us with lots of relevant experience.

AAG is facilitating a virtual annual meeting April 6-10, in response to restrictions on travel and gathering during the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual conference will offer more than 130 sessions and panels. If you are interested in participating virtually, please reach out to your session organizer directly.

State College Borough is using Storymaps for coronavirus resources.



From the Head: Big Push to Remote Learning

As a department of modest size we have a major-sized push to remote learning from resident teaching. We have 35 courses for resident students that suddenly went to online, video, and virtual modes last week. I have talked to or emailed with each instructor in the resident program. Anthony Robinson (DOGE) has continually communicated with and supported our Online Geospatial Education program instructors who are not changing mode but whose adult professional students are facing many new stresses.

Among our 35 resident courses this spring, only five were web courses to begin with and two more are hybrid offerings that have online materials already integrated. We have similar numbers of courses that are intro general education (nine), core for geography majors and certificate students (nine), and 400-level advanced undergraduate courses (13), plus four graduate seminars. Our instructors tell of fabulous classes where the students come together in animated conversation and of other days when stressed students are disruptive. Some faculty happened to have light teaching this semester with buy-outs, releases, or sabbaticals and are generous in offering guest lectures for their colleagues’ courses. We’ve come together in Zoom rooms to share experiences, highlights, course changes, and upsets (and pets’ cameos).

Please reach out and support our faculty, instructors, and teaching assistants who are working really hard on these courses.—Cindy

From Forbes

Why Geography Is A Key Part Of Fighting The COVID-19 Coronavirus Outbreak

I am an atmospheric scientist with three degrees in meteorology. However my tenured home at the University of Georgia is the Department of Geography. Like many of you reading this, I had a rather narrow understanding of geography when I left NASA to join the faculty at the university. Over the years, I have certainly heard people describe geography as maps, capitals, rivers, and so forth. While these things are definitely a part of the discipline, there is far more complexity and rigor than memorization of facts or your recollections of the elementary Geography Bee.

Mar 20

No Coffee Hour | From the Head | First-gen geog student


working in LEAPS lab

Erica Smithwick (center) and graduate students Jamie Peeler (left) and Susan Kotikot (right) analyzed soil nutrient concentrations from soils following wildfire in the Landscape Ecology at Penn State (LEAPS) Lab. See the related story, Trailblazers: Erica Smithwick Rethinks Fire in the Forest, in this issue.


Chris Forest will deliver the March 23 EarthTalks seminar online. His presentation is titled “Embracing uncertainty in Earth system modeling to assess climate change risks” You can join via Zoom.

Joshua Inwood wrote an article for The Conversation titled, “Closing polling places is the 21st century’s version of a poll tax.”

Angela Rogers wrote an article for Training Industry, titled, “Diversity Training: You’re Doing It Wrong.”

Alumnus Jack Swab, currently at the University of Kentucky, was elected Student Councilor for AAG.

Internship opportunity: The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, the official Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the ten-county region including the City of Pittsburgh, is seeking interns (May-August) for various transportation planning projects including traffic counting, GIS, transport modeling, data collection, database development-data analysis and related activities. For more information, visit http://www.spcregion.org. Email response preferred. Send letter of interest and resume in confidence to hr@spcregion.org

Job opportunity: Cartographer job opportunity at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for recent graduates.


Coffee Hour talks cancelled

The Speakers Committee has postponed the planned Coffee Hour talks by Julie Reed and Debanuj Dasgupta and hopes to reschedule them for fall semester. The spring UROC talks are cancelled. The  Miller Lecture and book launch with Laurence Smith, scheduled for April 24has been cancelled.  UPDATED MARCH 20, 2020.


From the Head: Spring Break note

Spring break took on an urgent feel as geographer’s national AAG conference in April was cancelled and EMS leaders gathered by Zoom from cabins and field sites to plan and ask questions after the University announced the shift to remote learning and working. Some of our trips were truncated, and others extended to stay with family. In either situation, conversations often focused on the many other events that were being cancelled. Since I was up in Canada, we pondered hockey being suspended and whether the border would close—I scooted home.

In the Department of Geography, we are shifting to Zoom meetings, asynchronous Canvas (learning management system) and email communications among our faculty, staff, grads, and undergrads. We are being proactive about what students can do from remote locations—given that some technologies don’t run on their laptops—and reworking due dates and modes of learning. Our adult professional students in online geospatial programs don’t have a change of mode, but do face changes in responsibilities as their own workplaces shift format. And some faculty, staff, and students have their own children at home with other schools being closed. Our town is very quiet, and we miss our colleagues.

Penn State has been good at communicating with us about staying off campus, changing to online teaching, Zooming for grad exams, cancelling events, staff working from home, lab safety, and many other topics. Our dean Lee Kump and the EMS associate and assistant deans are also giving us useful updates and strategies.

For those of you away, the crocuses are blooming in State College.

Staff are working from home

Department staff are working from home starting on Monday, March 16 until further notice. Contact information and areas of responsibility for all staff are on the Staff Directory webpage.

Cancellations and postponements

Geospatial intelligence helps emergency management teams make better maps

As Hurricane Dorian made landfall on Grand Bahama Island in 2019 and bushfires engulfed Australia in 2020, emergency teams were busy creating plans to best respond and provide relief to those affected by the disasters.

First-generation student pursues passion for geography

First-generation college student Sara Maholland is not afraid to take a leap into the unknown.

“I used to be afraid, but now I ask, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’, and usually it’s that someone says ‘no,’” she explains.

Trailblazers: Erica Smithwick Rethinks Fire in the Forest

Erica Smithwick is a fire ecologist. As the director of Penn State’s Ecology Institute, she hopes to protect forests and stave off the effects of climate change and insect infestation through controlled forest fires. “A lot of my work has been out west working on wildfire recovery,” she said, “particularly in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. I still have a graduate student, Jamie Peeler, who is continuing some of that work.”


The evolving borderland of energy geographies

Baka, J, Vaishnava, S.
Geography Compass
Energy geographers have characterized energy as a borderland topic because of its ability to straddle and interconnect different geographic concepts and debates. In this review, we evaluate how the borderland of energy geographies has been emerging in recent years by analyzing scholarship on energy published in top geography journals and a leading energy studies journal, Energy Research & Social Science. In part 1 of our review, we evaluate how the borderland of energy geographies is evolving by mapping the geographic range of empirical studies, the processes and types of energy systems being researched and the key geographic concepts/theories engaged across the four main sub‐fields of geography. We find that energy geographies scholarship has primarily centered on the Global North, remains focused on the extractive and production phase of energy development and is evolving across and within three of the four sub‐fields of geography. Energy transitions, governance, justice, space, and landscape are key topics and concepts examined. Notable underrepresentations include a relative lack of energy geographies scholarship within physical geography, as well as limited studies that engage geographic concepts to study the transportation sector, unconventional energy development and the food‐energy‐water nexus. In part 2, we identify three broad research themes to expand the frontier of energy geographies: (a) geographies of energy knowledge production, particularly indigenous knowledge; (b) materializing energy, especially through engaging political‐industrial ecology; and (c) advancing geographic thought by critically assessing how studying energy advances/challenges/transforms core geographic concepts and debates. Collectively, our review demonstrates that energy geographies have established firm footing within and across geography. Deepening engagement with emerging trends elsewhere in geography and the social sciences will not only help to better conceptualize what a geographic perspective on energy means but will also help to make clearer sense of the rapid economic, social, environmental, and political transformations currently underway within the global energy system.

Feb 20

Coffee Hour with Jason Hackworth | Robinson on misleading maps | CAUSE for sustainability


Saumya TASaumya Vaishnaya, a teaching assistant for GEOG 30 Environment and Society in a Changing World, facilitates a student activity illustrating the concept of the tragedy of the commons through a game on tuna fishing and commons management.


Alumnus Nathan Amador Rowley (Ph.D., 2015) was awarded tenure and promotion to Associate Professor at Ohio Wesleyan University in the Department of Geology and Geography, effective in the fall semester.

Alumna Robin Leichenko (Ph.D. 1997) Professor and Chair of the Department of Geography at Rutgers University, was elected as an American Geographical Society councilor. She will serve a three-year term.

Andrew Carleton is co-PI on a Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment seed grant proposal that was selected for funding. The project, “Climate Change on Hudson Bay—A Century after ‘Nanook,’” is a collaboration between Carleton and Associate Teaching Professor of Anthropology Kirk French.

Ken Davis, professor of atmospheric and climate science, will give the EarthTalks lecture on Monday, March 2, at 4 p.m. in 112 Walker Building. His talk is titled, “U.S. methane emissions: What do we know? What can be done?”

Penn State Transportation Services and Penn State Student Affairs Health Promotion and Wellness are sponsoring a free bike touring 101 workshop on Thursday, March 5 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at 327 HUB-Robeson Center. As this is an indoor, classroom-style workshop, a bicycle will not be required for participation. To register.

The Delta County, Colorado GIS Department is accepting applications for an E911 GIS Technician. Applications are due March 6, 2020. For more information and to apply.

The new College of Earth and Mineral Sciences magazine, “Impact” is now available online The 2019 issue includes an article on the 50-year history of Coffee Hour.


Jason Hackworth
Manufacturing Decline: How Racism and the Conservative Movement Crush the American Rust Belt

Despite the considerable overlap between the presence of non-white people and generalized population (and capital) flight in a variety of national contexts, the urban decline literature almost entirely ignores race and racism as active causes of urban shrinkage. Most literature focuses on conventional economic explanations (e.g. levels of deindustrialization), and solutions (e.g. reinvention of the economy around a creative class paradigm). This presentation, which is based on material from the book Manufacturing Decline: How Racism and the Conservative Movement Crush the American Rust Belt (2019, Columbia University Press), explores the role of racism as an active cause of urban decline. More than simply being the cause of economic distress, declining cities and their often non-white citizens are actively constructed as virtual bêtes noires to advance conservative political interventions.


Libraries to offer session on marginalized populations in the maps collection

The Donald W. Hamer Center for Maps and Geospatial Information, part of Penn State University Libraries’ Research Informatics and Publishing department, will offer an informational session, “Discovering Marginalized Populations in the Maps Collection,” from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on March 4, in W13 Pattee Library on the University Park campus.

Symposium at U.S. Capitol seeks solutions to election security
Anthony Robinson was a speaker

A thriving democracy requires fair elections, but U.S. elections face real threats from multiple sources, including state election infrastructure attacks and social engineering on social media platforms. As the 2020 election approaches, lawmakers, election officials, Congressional staffers, researchers, members of the intelligence communities, academics, candidates and media will come together in the U.S. capital for the first-ever “Hacking the U.S. Election: How Can We Make U.S. Elections More Secure?” symposium to work to secure U.S. elections.

View the video of Robinson’s talk

Online, residential students join together to study sustainability

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


What’s the market got to do with it? Social-ecological embeddedness and environmental practices in a local food system initiative

Russell C.Hedberg II, Karl S.Zimmerer
Food system localization is often advocated by academics, activists, and policy makers as a means of effectively addressing the negative social and ecological consequences of current systems of food production. Activists and academics alike point to the range of different social relations facilitated by proximity and face-to-face interactions that are defining features of some local food system initiatives (LFSI). The concept of social embeddedness, which posits that economic activity is entangled with ongoing social relations, is frequently used to interpret the social relations of LFSI and to frame overarching arguments. Social embeddedness has been used to describe the alterity of LFSI, but much of this work has yet to assess how embedded social relations affect market functioning or sustainability in these systems—particularly for environmental aspects of sustainability. In this article we utilize the lens social embeddedness to assess what we call social-ecological embeddedness (SEE), which considers how, and to what extent, environmental practices on LFSI farms are enmeshed with the ongoing social relations of the local food system initiative. After developing the SEE approach, we use it to examine how social relations in a farmers’ market network in New York City, USA, influence environmental practices on participating farms, and the implications of social-ecological embeddedness for building more sustainable food systems.

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

Jeremy W. Crampton, 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.

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.

Estimating populations in refugee camps: a toolkit using remotely sensed data

Green, B. and Blanford, J.I.
Proceedings of the 53rd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences
Throughout 2018, approximately 68.5 million people were forcibly displaced due to armed conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations around the world; of those, 40 million were internally displaced persons (IDP), 25.4 million refugees, and 3.1 million asylum-seekers. Effective management of refugee and IDP camps rely on accurate, up-to-date, and comprehensive population estimates. However, obtaining this information is not always easy. Thus, the purpose of this study was to develop a methodology and custom toolset that estimates populations based on dwellings derived from automated feature extraction of high-resolution, multi-spectral orthorectified imagery.Estimates were determined for five Rohingya refugee camp populations and compared with United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR)baseline data to determine accuracy.

Feb 20

No Coffee Hour this week | Fowler on Harrisburg | New WPSU podcast


Coffee Hour mug shot

Speakers Committee co-chair Emily Rosenman (right) with Akira Drake Rodriguez, Joint Lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania’s Weitzman School of Design and School of Social Policy & Practice, who was the Coffee Hour speaker on February 7, 2020. She spoke about her ongoing project to help stakeholders gain spatial justice and educational justice within the School District of Philadelphia.


In January, Carolynne Hultquist joined the Center for International Earth Science Information Network Science Applications division as a postdoctoral research scientist.

The Department of African Studies is hosting a talk on Wednesday, February 12, 12:30-2 p.m. in 319 Walker Building. Guest speaker Robert Voeks, Professor of Geography and the Environment at California State University, Fullerton, will talk on “Out of Africa: Ethnobotanical Conversations in the Atlantic World.”

WE ARE for Science, SoMuSE, and EMS Graduate Student Council are hosting a Diversity Mixer on Thursday, February 13, 4 to 5 p.m. on the ground floor of Deike Building.

Erica Smithwick will give the EarthTalks lecture on Monday, February 17, 4:00 p.m. in 112 Walker Building. Her topic will be “Firescapes of the mid-Atlantic.”

The Institute for Computational and Data Sciences Annual Symposium will be held March 16–17, at The Nittany Lion Inn, University Park campus.


There is no Coffee Hour for Friday, February 14, so you can spend the time with your loved ones. Coffee Hour returns on February 21 with speaker Alex de Sherbinin, Associate Director for Science Applications at the Center for International Earth Science Information Network. de Sherbinin’s talk, “Research Applications of Geospatial Data from the  NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC),” is co-sponsored by the Institute for Computational and Data Sciences.


Millennials eagerly move into downtown Harrisburg, but does that equal growth and change?

Christopher Fowler is quoted

Brad Jones and his business partners weren’t gambling.

As they worked to build more than 150 new apartments in downtown Harrisburg over the past five years, they let the market inform their decisions, Jones said, and all signs pointed to success.

“All across the country, people are moving back to cities,” he said, noting that’s especially true among young, white-collar professionals. “Millennials grew up in the suburbs and want to move back to the city.”

New WPSU podcast highlights Penn State researchers’ work, community impact

A new podcast that highlights the work of Penn State researchers and how their findings impact communities near and far is now available through central Pennsylvania’s public media station.

WPSU Penn State’s Reach podcast tells the stories of Penn State researchers, their studies and how their work impacts central Pennsylvanians, the nation and world. The new podcast from WPSU — an outreach service of Penn State — is available on the WPSU Digital website and through the station’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Feb 20

Coffee Hour with Akira Drake Rodriguez | Brewer remakes the map | CLD accepting proposals

IMAGE OF THE WEEKBrewer accepts awardCynthia Brewer accepts the O.M. Miller Cartographic Medal from the American Geographical Society, with Marie Price, AGS Council president, left, and Christopher Tucker, AGS Council chair, right. See the feature story, Remaking the map: Professor receives medal for influence in cartography. Image: American Geographical Society


Saumya Vaishnava and Harrison Cole have been named as 2020–21 reps for the EMS Student Council.

EarthTalks seminar on Monday, Feb. 10, 2020 at 4 p.m. in 112 Walker Building will feature Chris House speaking on, “Positive Societal Impacts of Origin of Life and Space Sciences Research.”

The John A. Dutton e-Education Institute will host “Speed Dating with Learning Technologies” for faculty, staff and graduate students in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 13, in two locations: 116 Steidle Building and the adjacent atrium. Register for “Speed Dating with Learning Technologies” by Feb. 7.

The Center for Landscape Dynamics is offering a Grad Research Award competition. Applications are due March 2, 2020. For more information and to download the RFP.


Akira Drake Rodriguez
A Spatial Approach to Educational Justice: The Comprehensive School Planning Review Process of Philadelphia

In 2013, the School District of Philadelphia, under the state-run School Reform Commission, recommended closing 32 public schools following a report by a no-bid consultant. Following significant resistance by a number of education advocates, only 23 schools were closed. However, most were in Black and Latinx neighborhoods, eradicating another source of community stability in an increasingly inequitable city. In May 2019, the SDP announced they would again have a comprehensive planning process, this time in response to the city’s growing population and school enrollment. Much has changed between the two planning processes: the school board is no longer under state control; the consultants hired for the planning process were hired through a competitive bidding process; and the increasing transparency and multi-year timeline of this process allows for increased participation and intervention by community stakeholders. However, the process remains extremely exclusionary and technocratic: the goals are to maximize facility utilization while creating thoughtful transitions for students. Long-term educational and spatial justice issues of racial segregation, cognitive and lingual discrimination, school funding inequity, and environmental justice through lead and asbestos remediation are not addressed.

Issues of spatial justice and educational justice overlap in that they privilege the perspectives and interests of those who have been historically marginalized by spatial and educational processes. This talk will discuss how a multitude of interests – parent groups, community groups, immigrant groups, student activists, environmental justice groups, teachers and paraprofessionals, urban planners and education reformers – are mobilizing across and within school borders (catchment areas) to achieve these just aims. Using a participatory action research design, this talk will discuss preliminary findings of how different approaches to achieving just aims are received by those in power.


Remaking the map: Professor receives medal for influence in cartography

If you have consulted or created a map using GIS software, chances are you have encountered Cynthia Brewer’s influence without being aware of it. In recognition of her contributions to the field of cartography, Brewer, who is professor and head of the Penn State Department of Geography, was awarded the O. M. Miller Cartographic Medal by the American Geographical Society at the 2019 Fall Symposium.


Avoiding The Issue: A Critique of Organizational Socialization Research From Feminist and Minority Perspectives

Angela Michele Rogers
Organization Development Journal
Organizational socialization, onboarding, is an important process that has become more
complicated as workplaces become more diverse. Women and minorities entering predominantly or historically white male organizations will fare even worse than white males when onboarding is neglected, due to a variety of factors. Research on organizational socialization is reviewed and critiqued from diversity perspectives. The findings indicate that issues of diversity and inclusion have not been adequately considered by researchers.

WRF Simulation, Model Sensitivity, and Analysis of the December 2013 New England Ice Storm

Julia Simonson, Sean Birkel, Kirk Maasch, Paul Mayewski, Bradfield Lyon, Andrew Carleton
Ice storms pose significant damage risk to electric utility infrastructure. In an attempt to improve storm response and minimize costs, energy companies have supported the development of ice accretion forecasting techniques utilizing meteorological output from numerical weather prediction (NWP) models. The majority of scientific literature in this area focuses on the application of NWP models, such as the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model, to ice storm case studies, but such analyses tend to provide little verification of output fidelity prior to use. This study evaluates the performance of WRF in depicting the 21-23 December 2013 New England ice storm at the surface and in vertical profile. A series of sensitivity tests are run using eight planetary boundary layer (PBL) physics parameterizations, three reanalysis datasets, two vertical level configurations, and with and without grid nudging. Simulated values of precipitation, temperature, wind speed, and wind direction are validated against surface and radiosonde observations at several station locations across northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada. The results show that, while the spatially and temporally averaged statistics for near-surface variables are consistent with those of select ice-storm case studies, near-surface variables are highly sensitive to model when examined at the station level. No single model configuration produces the most robust solution for all variables or station locations, although one scheme generally yields model output with the least realism. In all, we find that careful model sensitivity testing and extensive validation are necessary components for minimizing model-based biases in simulations of ice storms.

Jan 20

Coffee Hour with Arturo Izurieta | VR usability testing | Solar Farm FEW


VR usability testing

Jiayan Zhao gives instructions to usability testing assistant Yu Zhong, an undergraduate student in the Department of Geography. See the feature story In virtual reality, real problems remain to be resolved. Image: Penn State


The Summer 2019 GEOGRAPH is now available online in downloadable and accessible formats.

Mark Simpson successfully defended his dissertation.

Welcome to Michael Cole, the new department work-study. Cole is a third year student who attended Penn State Abington for two years. Cole is also majoring in Geography.

Welcome to Sarah Gergel, from the University of British Columbia, who will be with us this semester. Her visit is hosted through the Ecology Institute and sponsored by the Huck Sabbatical Fellowship program.

Congratulations to departments of Geography and Material Science and Engineering for having the most Graduates of the Last Decade (GOLD) make donations on Giving Tuesday.


Arturo Izurieta

Working on an old question: “How many visitors can the Galapagos hold? Finding a sustainable model”

The visitation to natural wonders like the Galapagos Islands poses questions towards its sustainability (natural, social and economic). After a short journey towards the concepts of sustainability and sustainable development and identifying two clear models of influx of tourists to the islands, it is clear the uniqueness of the Galapagos Islands faces the pressures from the increasing number of tourists. Tourism in the Galapagos started in the late 60s and since then, the number of tourists have been growing without thoughtful planning, impacting the dynamics of the so-called Galapagos socio-ecosystem. Should we allow more tourists come to the islands, and if so, what are the possible consequences and effects on the natural capital that attracts the visitors and maintains 30,000 inhabitants in the islands?


In virtual reality, real problems remain to be resolved

Virtual reality is becoming more widespread in gaming, shopping, research, education and training, but is not a perfect match to the real world. Discrepancies create usability problems with accessing virtual tools, or getting distracted, confused, lost or cybersick. Jiayan Zhao, a doctoral student in the Department of Geography in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and a developer at the Center for Immersive Experiences, is conducting experiments to reduce usability problems and improve the user’s virtual experience.

Student and faculty researchers explore food-energy-water system at solar farm

From the edge of the farm, the completed solar arrays and those under construction seemed to never end. In reality, they occupied only a small area of Pennsylvania land in rural Franklin County, but the arrays possessed a much larger potential, which a group of Penn State faculty and graduate students had traveled two hours to see.

Video: Firescapes in the Mid Atlantic

Wildfires in the Western U.S. dominate the news, but forests in the Mid-Atlantic are just as vulnerable. In this research project, PI Erica Smithwick’s team has been investigating the social barriers and facilitators that influence prescribed fire implementation. The purpose of the video is to provide an educational tool that managers can use when working with communities in their discussions about fire management.

Penn State releases updated strategic plan and resources for unit planning

Institutes of Energy and the Environment and Center for Immersive experiences named among signature initiatives


Spatial Analysis

Matthews, S. A.
in SAGE Research Methods Foundations
doi: 10.4135/9781526421036832531
Rapid advances in the availability of spatial data, new measures, and methods of analysis have generated interest in spatial analysis beyond the traditional academic boundaries of geography and statistics. This uptick in interest is in part driven by a recognition that many contemporary problems are multifaceted and inherently spatial. This entry begins with a focus on fundamental spatial concepts such as location, distance, scale, and dependence to introduce the complexities of working with spatial data. Spatial data are special, most notably that observations in spatial data sets are rarely random and independent of each other, and as such conventional statistical approaches may be inappropriate. Two broad classes of spatial effects—spatial dependence and nonstationarity—have motivated key developments in spatial analysis and the focus here is on methods that promote a better understanding of these effects, spatial econometric and geographically weighted regression models, respectively. Selected emerging methods and themes relating to spatial data and methods are briefly discussed.

Jan 20

Spring Coffee Hour speakers announced | ICDS seed grants | EarthTalks series


Powell, Bronwen, Morroco.

A photo taken on the last day of field work, December 6, 2019, for a project that Bronwen Powell (pictured) and Abderrahim Ouarghidi were working on looking at the impact of irrigation technology change on diet, women’s workloads, and biodiversity in Morocco. It was only in this highest elevation village (Oukaimeden, which is over 2,600m) that there was snow, most of the other lower-elevation villages were just cold and rainy. Photo: Abderrahim Ouarghidi


Doug Miller is on the team that recently won at the TechCelerator pitch competition hosted by the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania. The team was awarded a $10,000 investment for their fledgling enterprise, RealForests.

Mahda Bagher passed her proposal defense on January 15.


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”


Spring speakers for Coffee Hour lecture series announced

The Department of Geography Coffee Hour lecture series resumes on Friday afternoons beginning Jan. 31 through April 24 for the spring 2020 semester on Penn State’s University Park campus.

Institute for Computational and Data Sciences accepting seed grant applications

The Institute for Computational and Data Sciences (ICDS) is accepting applications for its 2020-21 seed grant program that will help fund projects that leverage Penn State expertise to help advance computation- and data-enabled research. Applications will be accepted now through Feb. 3 and awardees will be announced at the 2020 ICDS Symposium, which will be held March 16 and 17.

Spring 2020 EarthTalks series presents science toward solutions

Society faces increasingly complex problems as the world population grows and makes larger demands of the planet’s finite resources. The spring 2020 EarthTalks series, “Societal Problems, EESI Science towards Solutions,” features scientists from Penn State’s Earth and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI) and explores the human impacts on the global environment and how to apply this knowledge to decision-making.


Immersive Virtual Field Trips Reader

Alexander Klippel
A compilation of eight research articles on virtual field trips by members of the ChoroPhronesis lab and Center for Immersive Experiences

Wives influence climate change mitigation behaviours in married-couple households: insights from Taiwan

Li-San Hung and Mucahid M. Bayrak
Environmental Research Letters
Mitigating climate change requires collective action of various sectors and on multiple scales, including individual behavioural changes among citizens. Although numerous studies have examined factors that influence individuals’ mitigation behaviours, much less attention has been given to interpersonal influence. Children have been suggested to influence parents’ climate change concerns; however, how the interactions between couples—typically the primary decision-makers in married-couple households—influence each other’s climate change concerns has seldom been discussed. In this study, we surveyed married heterosexual couples to investigate the interdependency of husbands’ and wives’ motivations for behavioural change to mitigate climate change. We found that wives’ psychological constructs, including climate change risk perception, self-efficacy, and gender role attitudes, demonstrated stronger effects on their husbands’ motivation than did husbands’ own constructs on their own motivation, whereas husbands’ psychological constructs did not influence their wives’ motivation. Our results suggest the importance of wives’ role in motivating household climate change mitigation behaviours.

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.

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