Department News

75th Anniversary Events

75th logo

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Department of Geography and the Environment and there are a number of events scheduled to help us celebrate (details to follow). We hope to see you at some (or all) of the following:

  • February 22 - Alumni Hockey Night. Join us for a reception followed by a hockey game as the DU Pioneers take on the Miami (OH) Red Hawks.
  • April 2 - Special Colloquium: Panel discussion with current and emeritus faculty and alumni.
  • April 10 – Anniversary Dinner. Speakers include AAG President Dr. David Kaplan and senior DU administrators. Keynote address to be given by Dr. David Anderson (BS, 1991), Head of Geography, Eton College.
  • June 4 – Laurance C. Herold Memorial Lecture. Dr. Christopher Tucker, Chairman, American Geographical Society

Hazen Wins Teaching Award

Helen Hazen, PhD

Dr. Helen Hazen was recently presented with the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Excellence in Teaching Award. This award recognizes the single top instructor for the year from the nearly 100 faculty in the College. Helen teaches a variety of courses for the department: first year seminars, introductory human geography, introductory physical geography and an advanced course in the geography of health. The majority of these support the general education curriculum at DU, with large enrollments (64-96 students per course). These courses are comprised entirely of non-majors, perhaps one of the most challenging cohorts of students to teach in the undergraduate curriculum. Helen excels in her ability to bring the content of her courses to life. She incorporates case studies, real-world examples, and a variety of teaching pedagogies to keep students interested and engaged: in-class exercises, group work, discussion, lectures, videos and guest speakers. Student comments about Helen’s teaching are consistently positive:

Welcome New Staff

Patricia Guerra

Patricia Guerra joined the department in April as the new assistant to the department chair.

In the News . . .

Several faculty, students and alumni were feature in local media this year. Follow the links below to learn more:

Andy Goetz and Eric Boschmann discuss their new book Metropolitan Denver: Growth and Change in the Mile High City: Read more.

Andy Goetz interviewed about operator shortages, higher fares, and lower ridership for Denver RTD transit service: Read more.

Mike Kerwin teamed up with the Denver Art Museum for their landmark exhibition on Claude Monet titled “The Truth of Nature." Mike was interviewed by museum staff and is featured on the audio recording at the museum which runs until February 2020. Listen here.

Hanson Nyantakyi-Frimpong is featured in an article about food insecurity around the world: Read more.

Paul Sutton provided a guest commentary to the Denver Post. Read more.

Nic Tarasewicz (senior geography major) was interviewed about his honors thesis research on air quality issues in Denver in DU Magazine: Read more.

Maddy Gawler (BA Geography, 2019) interviewed about her international travels: Read more.

Julia Richards (BS Environmental Science, 2016) interviewed about her role leading the sustainability efforts at DaVita, Inc.: Read more.

Field Quarter 2019

2019 field quarter
2019 Field Quarter students (left to right): Will Sweeney,
Julia ​​​​​​Helwig-Henseleit, Sophia Fitzgerald, Emily Lovaas-Gloine,
Zach Norton-Nunez, Dana Grad, Jenn Sutherland, Aziz Syammach,
Don Sullivan, Chloe Chalekian, and Jack Oberg.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Field Quarter, and it still remains one if the most popular and memorable experiences for our undergraduate majors. This year, the cohort of 10 students traveled to Grand Mesa on the Colorado Western Slope with Don Sullivan to learn paleoenvironmental research techniques. Upon returning from the Western Slope, they joined Mike Kerwin to learn about alpine ecosystems at the Mt. Evans Field station. They then moved on to desert ecosystems in the Southwest, traveling throughout the Four Corners area. They next flew to Prague, where Mike Daniels taught them about human-environment interactions throughout the Czech Republic. The final course found the group on a three-week road trip from Denver to the tip of the Baja California peninsula including visits to a sea turtle conservation program and a variety of different coastal desert environments. We asked the students to blog about their experiences, and we invite you to visit the Field Quarter blog to learn more.



student packing up for Grand Mesa
Students pack up for trip to Grand Mesa. Two vans, the department vehicle and a pickup truck later, the group headed out of town.
grand mesa lecture
Students take notes as Don Sullivan explains the environmental history of Grand Mesa.
students at mt evans
Student hunker down in the tundra at Mt. Evans to learn about alpine ecosystems from Mike Kerwin.
tree coring in arizona
Aziz takes a tree core to reconstruct historical precipitation conditions in the Four Corners.
students outside prague
Students travel with Mike Daniels to the small town of Kralovice in the Czech Republic where they engaged with the locals and conducted soil research through soil sampling and landscape surveying.
bicycling through a biopreserve in Czech.
Students explore the Trebon Basin Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO preservation site located in Southern Bohemia, via bicycle.



Geospatial Technologies Laboratories Update

With the increase in research and instruction in geospatial technologies, the department added a new research lab, upgraded a second research lab and improved our GISc instructional facilities. The new Geospatial Visualization Laboratory, a designated research lab, provides faculty and students with state-of-the-art computational and visualization technology to enhance research capabilities with large geographic databases and geospatial modeling. Equipped with five adjustable-height workstations and three large wall-mounted LCD displays, geospatial data may be shared among the individual workstations as well as displayed on the larger monitors for enhanced viewing.

In addition to the new lab, the Remote Sensing Laboratory was upgraded with new computers and much-needed furniture, producing a more effective research space. In the Longbrake Geographic Information Technology Laboratories, new computers were installed in the two instructional labs, and large wall-mounted LCD displays were added to the smaller 16-seat lab to facilitate increasing computer programming instruction in GISc courses.

geospatial visualization lab
Geospatial Visualization Laboratory
bw125 lab upgrades
Smaller instructional lab.

Department Purchases New Field Vehicle

new field vehicle
Mike Kerwin and Field Quarter students prepare to take the
Expedition on the road.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to our fundraising efforts to purchase a new field vehicle. This year we met our goal and purchased a 2019 Ford Expedition to replace our 2010 Chevrolet Suburban, which after nine years of heavy use is ready for “retirement.” The Expedition has a larger, more fuel efficient engine, greater storage capacity for gear, and with four wheel drive, will provide safer and more reliable access to remote field sites. According to the students, the "wicked sound system" is a vast improvement!



Julie Zhang
Julie Zhang

Guiming Zhang and Xiaoli Zhu welcomed daughter Julie on April 16th, weighing in at 8 lb 9 oz. Ming reports: "Witnessing Julie’s arrival to the world is a very unique and wonderful experience for me. I am so grateful to have them in my life." 


Paul Sutton completed his 20th year on the Department of Geography and the Environment.

Will Kiniston was promoted to Administrative Assistant II.


Paul Sutton completed his 20th year as a member of the Department of Geography and the Environment faculty.

Will Kiniston was promoted to Administrative Assistant II.