News & Events
Here's what's been happening in the Department of Geography and the Environment.
Field Quarter 2021
Now accepting accepting applications for Field Quarter 2021. Application deadline: April 16, 2021. Visit the Field Quarter page for details and application.
Rebecca Powell Wins Teaching Award
Dr. Rebecca Powell is the AY 2019-2020 recipient of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Excellence in Teaching Award. This award recognizes the single top instructor for the year from nearly 100 faculty in the College. Becky teaches several courses in geographic information science (GISc), ranging from introductory remote sensing to advanced courses in remote sensing and applications of LiDAR. These courses are technology heavy and require continuous revision to keep abreast of software updates. The courses are challenging for students and include a significant experiential learning component such as labs and research projects. Students appreciate her depth of knowledge, the organized way in which she presents her courses, and find her to be a helpful and effective instructor.
Becky developed a geospatial technology project course as part of her ongoing work with DU’s Center for Community Engagement to advance Scholarship and Learning (CCESL), where student teams work on a technology project to support the community. She designed a novel approach to provide students an experience similar to what they will encounter in the workforce. Examples of this year’s projects include the development of a web interface to display campus building energy usage statistics, a mobile app to compile and display information about the DU arboretum; a database and series of maps depicting current and future transportation modality options for the DU campus, and a digital dashboard depicting DU solar energy collection and utilization statistics.
New Bachelor of Science in Geographic Information Science Degree
Beginning in Fall 2020, undergraduate students will have the opportunity to complete a BS degree in Geographic Information Science. The U.S. Department of Labor has identified geospatial technologies as one of the top three growth industries for the next decade. This program provides students with the technological skills to join this rapidly-growing workforce. Learn more about the BS(GIS) degree program.
Boettcher West Goes Solar
Boettcher West, home of the Department of Geography and the Environment, was recently upgraded with a 115kW solar array. We anticipate the new array will cover much of the electricity needs for the department. We'll report back once the power usage data are collected.
New Global Masters Scholar Partnership
As part of DU's Global Masters Scholars program, the Department of Geography and the Environment just entered an agreement with the School of Agriculture and Environment at the University of Western Australia to establish a combined undergraduate-graduate degree program. Open to environmental science majors, students will complete the first three years of their undergraduate degree at DU, then spend the next two years in residence in Perth, completing their undergraduate degree and an MS degree in environmental science. This allows students to earn an undergraduate and graduate degree in five years, as opposed to the traditional six years needed to complete both degrees. Students may select from the following research tracks at UWA: environmental management, marine and coastal management, catchments and water, environmental rehabilitation, and sensing and environmental data. In addition to this new opportunity, we launched a similar partnership last fall with the Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science at Lund University in Sweden. Applications for Fall 2021 are now available.
Learn more about the Global Masters Scholar Program.
Class of 2020 Graduates
Congratulations to the Class of 2020!!
Nikolai Alvarado, The Strategies of Non-citizen Migrants to Secure Housing and Services in Urban Informal Settlements in the Global South. (Taylor)
Joshua Baldwin, Urban Green Space: Mitigator or Multiplier of Inequality in the Denver Metropolitan Area. (Sutton)
Xuantong Wang, Using Multi-Source Data to Assess the Dynamics of Socioeconomic Development in Africa. (Sutton)
Brandon Bailey, Rock Glacier Development in the San Juan Mountains. (Daniels)
Chris Hancock, Spatial and Temporal Controls on Streamflow Variability in the San Juan Mountains, Colorado. (Daniels)
MIchael Madin, Climate Change and Seed Security Among Smallholder Farmers in Ghana. (Nyantakyi-Frimpong)
MS (Geographic Information Science):
Lauren Allognon, A Spatial Approach to Agricultural Challenges in West Africa. (Hick)
Taylor Barnes, Spatial Analysis of Bird-caused Wildfires, Land Use and Land Cover and Ecoregions in the Contiguous United States. (Hick)
Jordan Bretthauer, WebGIS and Hazard Visualization in Small Towns. (Sutton)
Lucas Brown, Mapping and Assessing the Sidewalks of Camp Amache. (Sullivan)
Glenn Burnett, Spatial Analysis of Greater Houston Metropolitan Area’s Urban Expansion with Respect to Flooding. (Hick)
Jeff Cappellucci, Development of an Interactive GIS Dashboard for Transportation Energy AnalysisDevelopment of an Interactive GIS Dashboard for Transportation Energy Analysis. (Hick)
Alex Chamberlain, Wildfire Analysis in Salt Lake County Using GIS Overlay Mapping Techniques. (Trigoso)
Rachel Chunn, A GIS Analysis of Marine Mammal Strandings and Harmful Algal Blooms in Scotland from 2007 to 2017. (Hick)
Juanita Corea, Measuring Spatial Accessibility for Texas Veterans to Veterans Nursing Homes in Texas. (Hick)
Wil DeLany, Remote Sensing Urban Agricultural Suitability of Vacant Lots in Detroit, MI. (Powell)
Amanda Drinkard, Colorado Gray Wolf Habitat Suitability Analysis for Reintroduction and Effects on Other Threatened or Endangered Species Using GIS. (Hick)
Matt Hugel, Using Big Spatial Data to Clarify the Effects of Infrastructure on Accessibility. (Goetz)
Jeff Lewis, Implementation Plan for the Analysis of the Forests of Santa Cruz Island, CA Using LiDAR and GIS. (Hick)
Mason Lovaas, S Multi-Criteria Decision-Making Analysis for Wind Farm Site Suitability in Montana. (Hick)
Patrick Mason, Irrigation: Enhancing Asset Management and Using GIS to Increase Efficiency in the City of College Station, TX. (Hick)
David McDonald, Central Place Theory and Specialty Retail: Game Stores in the Colorado Front Range; Is There Room for Growth? (Hick)
Lorraine Metz, Creating a Simple Scenario Tool for What-If Analysis of SPARROW Data in the 2012 SPARROW Models Web Mapping Applications. (Hick)
Hayley Miller, Using Geospatial Artificial Intelligence for Road Feature Detection. (Sutton)
Casey Muirhead, Spatial Analysis of Fort Berthold Indian Reservation’s Boundary Spacing Oil Wells. (Hick)
David Peters, Advancing Municipal Water Utilities with GIS – A Bloomington, IL Case Study. (Hick)
James Porter, Using GIS to Select Prairie Dog Habitat in Taos County, New Mexico. (Hick)
John Rolf, Using NDVI-Equipped UAVs to Detect Monongahela Cultural Remains in Southwestern Pennsylvania. (Hick)
Natasha Sanders, Using GIS to Analyze Swallow-Tailed Kite Movements in the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. (Hick)
Sophie-Min Thomson, An Exploration of the Use of UAVS for the Benefit of a Small Town in Colorado: A Case Study for the Town of Morrison. (Sutton)
Luke Winters, Mapping High-Elevation Wetlands in Colorado Using Object-Oriented Remote Sensing. (Powell)
Erick Yokomizo, Mapping Mountain Public Lands for Entertainment Production Companies in Colorado – A GIS Analysis. (Hick)
Ryan Young, A Spatial Assessment of Ecosystem Service Change in Espírito Santo, Brazil for Landscape Restoration Opportunities. (Hick)
Kathryn Armstrong, Caleb Barsch, Perry Boyle, Cameron Close, Molly Frey, Madelyn Gaharan, Hanna Gilhooley, Matthew Grimaldi (Summa Cum Laude), Lars Hannah, Julia Helwig-Henseleit, Emma Hillis, Anne Marie Klein, Kate Klygis, Garrett Sherman, Erika, Sobelman, Jennifer Sutherland, Nic Tarasewicz (Magna Cum Laude), Andrew Tierney, Kristen Toft,
BA (Environmental Science):
Nicole Barker, Chloe Chalekian, Mikah Conway, Kasey Frankowski, Matthew Hauser, Sami Helgeson, Grant Hussey, Matthew LaFemina, Emily Lovaas-McGloyne, Max Michelotti, Aziz Symmach, Isabel Trott
BS (Environmental Science):
Olivia Bruno, Miles Dorrance, Kevin Flynn, Dana Grad, Cedar Haugen, Ryan Keenan, Jamie Knippen, Kenna Kuhn, Keiko Ohtake-Gordon, Nathan Sirett, Laine Smith, Heather Turcios, Josiane Valette (Magna Cum Laude)
2020 Department Awards
Congratulations to this year's award recipients!
Dr. Laurence C. Herold Memorial Award for Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistants: Meghan McCarroll, Jenn Murdock, Paige Ramsey
Dr. Robert D. Rudd Memorial Award for Outstanding Graduate Student Research: Nikolai Alvarado
Dr. Thomas M. Griffiths Memorial Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Student Scholarship/Independent Research in Geography: Ryan Hyde
Dr. David B. Longbrake Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Service in Geography: Kate Klygis
Professor Moras L. Shubert Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Scholarship in Environmental Science: Kenna Kuhn
Environmental Science Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Research in Environmental Science: Dana Grad, Kevin Flynn, Josiane Valette
Paul Stanford Bernhard Memorial Scholarship in Environmental Science: Hailey Collins
Alan Bryce Henry Memorial Scholarship in Environmental Science: Brianna Herner, Amelia Smart
2020 Herold Fund Research Awards
Created in 2010, this fund honors the memory of Professor Laurance C. Herold, a faculty member in the Geography Department from 1963 through 1996, who led many student field research expeditions, notably to study prehistoric agricultural terraces in the Sierra Madre Occidental of Chihuahua and Sonora, Mexico. The Laurance C. Herold Fund supports field research by graduate and undergraduate students as part of their degree programs in the Department of Geography & the Environment.
Congratulations to the 2020 Herold Fund awardees:
Dinko Hanaan Dinko, PhD program, "Negotiating Water Conflicts and Livelihood Security in Ghana"
Shannon Jones, PhD program, "Pacific Coastal Mangrove Sediment Dynamics Relative to Extreme Flooding from Tropical Cyclones"
Meghan McCarroll, PhD program, "Water Literacy in Drought-Prone Cities: A Case Study from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa"
Jennifer Murdock, MA program, "Geological Application of GIS: Delimiting the Transcontinental Arch of the Rocky Mountain Region using GIS Based Contour Mapping"
Paige Ramsey, "Land Trust Employees and Associated Land Owners and the Conservation Easement Establishment Process and Water"
75th Anniversary Events
2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Department of Geography and the Environment. Due the COVID-19 pandemic, we have postponed all events until it is safe for us to gather in larger numbers. We will keep you posted once a date for the celebration has been set.
AY 2020-21 Seminars
The Department of Geography & the Environment hosts weekly seminars featuring guest speakers, faculty and student researchers, alumni and campus professional development advisors. Seminars take place most Thursdays at 4:00 p.m. via Zoom.
Spring Virtual Colloquium, May 20, 2021 at 4:00 pm:
Cycling for Sustainable Cities
Dr Ralph Buehler
Professor & Chair, Urban Affairs & Planning, School of Public and International Affairs, Virginia Tech Research Center
Dr John Pucher
Professor Emeritus, Urban Planning & Policy Development, Rutgers University Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy
Cycling is the most sustainable means of urban travel, practical for most short- and medium-distance trips—commuting to and from work and school, shopping, visiting friends—as well as for recreation and exercise. Cycling promotes physical, social, and mental health, helps reduce car use, enhances mobility and independence, and is economical for both public and personal budgets. This presentation explores how to make city cycling—the most sustainable means of travel—safe, practical, and convenient for all. Buehler and Pucher discuss the latest cycling trends and policies around the world and consider specific aspects of cycling. Taken together, the presentation demonstrates that successful promotion of cycling depends on a coordinated package of mutually supportive infrastructure, programs, and policies. Cycling should be made feasible for everyone and not limited to especially fit, daring, well-trained cyclists riding expensive bicycles.
October 22, 2020
Christopher Woods and Alison Johnston, Cornell Ornithology Lab, Cornell University
eBird: Monitoring Biodiversity with Community Data
The goal of eBird is to engage the global community of bird watchers to gather species observations in order to identify, explain, and predict how a species’ distribution and abundance vary through time, space, and with features of the environment. Measuring these distributions patterns and predicting their responses to change are not simple tasks but involve- 1) coordinating public engagement, 2) designing sound data management extensible systems development strategies, 3) creating novel ways to analyze and visualize the data, and 4) translating the information to conservation action. The first half of this presentation will describe the eBird data collection and community building. Already, over 500,000 people around the world have taken part in reporting observations to eBird – from community members in the Yucatán Peninsula, to tour guides in Costa Rica, to researchers in India. The second half of this presentation will describe some of the analytical process for eBird data to estimate the distribution and abundance of bird species. Using these amazing data, we are able to estimate the weekly distribution and abundance of 600 bird species in North America and throughout the Western Hemisphere. These analyses have given us an unprecedented look into bird migration, habitat use and distribution. These analyses have also been used to precisely target local conservation actions to provide resources for migrating bird species. Overall, we demonstrate how data collected by the community can provide new ecological knowledge and lead to a better environment for birds and people.
November 5, 2020
Uttiyo Raychaudhuri, Vice Provost for Internationalization, University of Denver.
Humans and the Environment: A Global Citizenship Perspective
Most institutions of higher education in the U.S. acknowledge that the future workforce of America depends on a citizenry that is sensitive to, and aware of, global issues. Primary among these global issues are environmental and sustainability concerns and we aspire that students participating in international experiences will reflect an interest in nurturing a global citizenry that is not only sensitive to, and aware of, complex human - environment relationships but is willing to act in a manner consistent with the new needs and demands facing society. The presentation discusses the impact of experiential education abroad programs in sustainable development on promoting pro-environmental behaviors. The theoretical model proposes that understanding and promoting pro-environmental responsible behaviors combined with international experiences constitutes a transformational learning experience and promotes global citizenship.
December 3, 2020
Helen Hazen, Department of Geography and the Environment, University of Denver
Reviving the Oral Exam as an Assessment Tool
Oral exams have generally fallen out of favor for undergraduate instruction. Many instructors consider the administering of oral exams time-consuming and their grading subjective, in addition to concerns over raising student stress levels. However, oral exams provide many potential benefits, including the opportunity to assess deeper levels of student understanding, to provide instant feedback to students, and to develop students’ oral communication skills. Orals also present huge potential for assessing student learning in field-based classes where challenging field conditions and the need to synthesize information from diverse sources may make oral assessment particularly useful. In this presentation I will present some of the potential pros and cons of oral exams, based on primary research conducted in geography classes at DU over the past four years.
AY 2019-2020 Seminars
September 19 - Brandon Bailey, Chris Hancock, Lucas Brown, Meghan McCarroll, Michael Madin and Corey Martz, Department of Geography and the Environment, University of Denver
Reflections from the Field - Graduate Student Field Research Experiences
September 26 - Zoe Pearson, School of Politics, Public Affairs and International Studies, University of Wyoming
"¡Kawsachun Coca, Wañuchun Yanquis!” (Long Live Coca, Death to Yankees): The Formalization, Implementation, and (Geo)political Implications of Coca Policy Reform in Bolivia
Punitive drug control policies in the Western Hemisphere have failed to meaningfully reduce rates of illegal drug consumption and production, while at the same time causing harm to individuals, families, communities, health, livelihoods, and the environment. The Plurinational State of Bolivia is a major producer of the coca leaf—a medicinal plant native to the Andes, and the primary ingredient in cocaine—and is one of the first countries to institute comprehensive reforms to orthodox supply-side drug control policy. Under the leadership of President Evo Morales, cocaleros (coca growers) are carrying out a “community-based” approach to controlling coca cultivation. This approach is considered to be an innovative rejection of decades of “drug war” geopolitics by drug policy reform advocates. Drawing on research carried out in Bolivia since 2012, I will illustrate how, despite important successes, the formalization and implementation of Bolivia’s coca control approach faces serious challenges. To understand these challenges, we must consider the underpinning logics that drive drug control geopolitics, and the constraints of Bolivia’s “revolutionary” politics in light of the limits symptomatic of the state form.
October 17 - John Corbett, President and CEO, aWhere
High Resolution Weather Data for Agricultural and Environmental Insights for Climate Change Adaptation
Weather drives agriculture. Traditionally the paucity of weather observations - too few and irregularly spaced ground stations - severely limited utilization of weather insight to address challenges in food production that stretch from the farmer behavior (in-time digital agriculture) to research on agronomics (plant breeding to on-farm practices), inputs (fertilizer, crop protection), supply chain management (business risk and investment) and risk (insurance, famine and insecurity monitoring/response). aWhere’s daily generated 9km (5 arc-minute) weather grid unlocks a myriad of opportunities for analytics across each segment of every agricultural value chain. aWhere’s vision, mission, and goal focuses on emerging markets that disproportionately depend on rainfed agriculture for food security and GDP growth and yet have poor access to accurate, localized, and timely weather data. aWhere utilizes - and trains partners on - predictive analytics and modelling along with downscaled weather data to provide both field-level tactical information for farmers and macro-level estimates of crop stress and production risk for industry and governments to adapt to climate change.
October 24 - Jing Gao, Department of Geography & Data Science Institute, University of Delaware
Data-Driven Spatiotemporal Modeling for Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change Studies
Over the 21st century global environmental change may pose critical challenges for societies across the world. To understand its potential impacts, global long-term spatial projections of societal conditions are needed as well as those of physical environmental stressors. Due to the lack of spatially-explicit large-scale time-series observational data, human-dimension studies conventionally often had to limit their scales or/and scopes, though the big picture of global patterns and long-term trends are needed for national and international assessments and decision making. With recent unprecedented development in geospatial data availability and computational technology, many new advancements become attainable. In this talk, I will present two projects: (1) a creative application of machine learning and data mining for simulating global spatiotemporal patterns of urban land expansion over the 21st century, using best available data on urbanization, spatial population, and economic development, including a global time series of fine-spatial-resolution remote-sensing observations spanning the past 40 years, and (2) a theoretical data-science effort developing new model diagnosis method to aid the design and the performance improvement of data-driven geospatial models. Both works demonstrate rewards and challenges of employing data-driven methods for studying long-term large-scale human-environment interactions.
November 7 - Luca Coscieme, Trinity College Dublin
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs): Synergies, Trade-offs and Indicators
Implementing the SDGs presents opportunities for further improvement of post-2030 sustainability initiatives. Dr. Coscieme will discuss how synergies and trade-offs exist among the SDGs and how progress towards some of them can reinforce, or impair, the achievement of others. The rising awareness of the economic, security, social and moral dimensions of environmental challenges is calling for a broader consideration of environmental policy as an essential tool for delivering sustainable human and ecological development, wellbeing, and resilience. In addition, the increasing availability of environmental measures from satellite observations has the potential to substantially contribute to a broader implementation of the environmental SDGs at the global scale. All of this will likely shape future initiatives for UN-SDGs-like agreements and assessment of progress towards sustainable development.
January 23, 2020 - Katherine Lininger, Department of Geography, University of Colorado Boulder
River Corridors and the Carbon Cycle: Floodplain Organic Carbon Storage in the Central Yukon River Basin
Rivers influence the global carbon cycle by delivering carbon to the oceans, providing sites for carbon processing, and storing carbon in floodplains for decades to millennia. However, the amount and residence time of organic carbon (OC) stored in river corridors (channels and floodplains) and the geomorphic influences on the spatial distribution of OC are not well understood. High latitude regions are experiencing rapid warming and permafrost thaw, and these regions contain large amounts of OC in the subsurface. Very little work has quantified OC storage in floodplains in the high latitudes. I present data on floodplain OC concentrations and stocks in sediment in the Yukon Flats in interior Alaska. The large spatial extent of floodplain soil OC samples collected across multiple rivers in the Yukon Flats allows for investigating the geomorphic controls on the spatial distribution of OC across spatial scales. Differences in soil OC occur across the large spatial scale of river basins (102-106 km) are likely due to geomorphic influences such as differences in planform characteristics, grain size, and soil moisture. However, there is greater variation in soil OC at the river reach scale (100-101 km) among geomorphic units (e.g., wetlands, bars, fill surfaces, and other floodplain surfaces), which can also be explained by geomorphic factors such as grain size, surface stability over time, and soil moisture. Fieldwork that recognizes floodplains as distinct environments relative to uplands can result in more accurate estimates of soil OC stocks in permafrost regions. I also constrain floodplain residence times in the Yukon Flats using radiocarbon dates. Because of warming and permafrost thaw, geomorphic and biogeochemical processes may be significantly altered in high latitudes boreal regions. Determining floodplain OC variations and stocks and the geomorphic influences on those stocks is important for accounting for carbon within the Earth system.
January 30, 2020 - Brenden McNeil, Department of Geology and Geography, West Virginia University
Revisiting "The Adaptive Geometry of Trees" Using Hyper-remote Sensing
The relationship of tree form and function has long fascinated humans, and now, much of our ability to improve maps and forecasts of the vital interactions of forests and global change hinges on our ability to understand this adaptive tree crown architecture. To help address this challenge, I revisit Henry Horn’s classic 1971 monograph “The Adaptive Geometry of Trees”, and blend his theoretical framework with a contemporary ecological theory of species’ functional traits. Then, I describe how this trait-based theory tree crown architecture can be robustly tested using state-of-the-art hyper-remote sensing techniques. This suite of imaging techniques from hyper-spatial (e.g. UAV and satellite imagery), hyper-spectral (e.g. AVIRIS imagery), hyper-temporal (e.g. phenocams and tree- or tower-mounted time-lapse cameras), and hyper-dimensional (terrestrial and UAV LiDAR) sensors now enables us to visualize and measure the spectral and architectural properties of individual trees with unprecedented accuracy and precision. Through analysis of hyper-remote sensing datasets collected in forests across the eastern USA, I highlight how this testable trait-based theory of tree crown economics is already providing fresh insights into several important, but heretofore unresolved patterns of spatial and temporal variability in forest functioning.
February 6, 2020 - Heidi Hausermann, Department of Anthropology and Geography, Colorado State University
The Political Ecology of Landscape Change, Malaria and Cumulative Vulnerability in Central Ghana's Gold Mining Country
Following the 2008 financial crisis, small-scale gold mining operations proliferated worldwide. Along Ghana’s Offin River, the landscape has been radically transformed. Within 300-meters of the river, mining expanded 7,900 percent between 2008 and 2013, a time corresponding with historic highs in gold prices; water in abandoned mining pits increased by nearly 33,000 percent during the same period. Landscape changes possess adverse health implications for local people, including increased malaria incidence. Combining ethnography, remote sensing, quantitative methods and long-term fieldwork, this talk details how the socioecological outcomes of mining—from food insecurity and water-logged pits to profound anxiety and mercury contamination— combine to increase malaria incidence. I demonstrate how socioecological and landscape changes interact with existing socio-structural conditions and Plasmodium falciparum’s unique biological capacities to render women and children most vulnerable to infection. This research contributes to geographic debates in several ways. First, a cumulative vulnerability approach helps scholars conceptualize how biological, psychological, structural, and social conditions interrelate to shape humans’ conjunctural vulnerabilities along axes of difference, particularly in health contexts. I also highlight the important role of materiality in vulnerability and malaria dynamics. Finally, I urge geographers pay more attention to familial relationships of care and mental health, heretofore largely unexplored topics in political ecology.
February 20, 2020 - Kevin Wheeler, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford
Negotiating Climate Uncertainty, the Drive for Development, and Regulatory Transformation on Transboundary Rivers: The Colorado River and the Nile River
The decision to build major infrastructure on a river has many facets. People tend to highlight certain aspects of dam development while dismissing others based on their own view of how the world should be. A surge of dam development through the mid-1900s helped to push economic growth through hydropower development, management of floods, and promoting urban and agricultural expansion. This was followed by a period of strong resistance due to their social and environmental impacts, particularly in countries that had already felt their cost and reaped their benefits. Today the dam movement is facing a major resurgence across the developing world, not merely imposed by external forces, but often coming from within. Complicating the issue of dam development is the transboundary nature of international rivers, where geographic advantages and unequal rates of development lead to a myriad of physical and socio-political challenges.
Two iconic rivers, the Colorado and the Nile, symbolize this evolution over time. The early development of the Colorado River led to the economic growth of the western United States and north-western Mexico, but the region now faces the major challenge of improving coordination between the countries to adapt to increasing pressures of consumptive uses, climate uncertainties, environmental concerns. Meanwhile the challenges within economically deprived contexts is demonstrated today by the imminent completion of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile, which seeks to bring much needed energy and economic growth to one of Africa’s poorest nations. As a result, the downstream countries of Sudan and Egypt are grappling with the implications of their upstream co-riparian neighbour seeking to push its way out of the poverty trap it has been locked in since time immemorial. Intense international negotiations have been ongoing in both basins, and both are at a critical juncture in time. The decisions that will be made in the forthcoming weeks, months and years will unequivocally shape the ink of the future books of history.
AY 2018-2019 Seminars
Thursday, October 18, 2018
Bronwen Powell, Department of African Studies and Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University.
Agricultural Intensification and Landscape Change and Diet Quality
Rural landscapes in developing countries are rapidly changing. Land-use policymakers are faced with competing demands and limited (and often overly simplified) evidence on which to formulate policies meant to achieve development and food security at local and national scales, for rural and urban populations. In some cases, narratives of food security are used to prop up agricultural and land use policy that do little to improve the food security or diet quality of rural populations.
Although narratives are slowly shifting, agricultural intensification (so as to increase food production without jeopardizing conservation of nurture and associated ecosystem services) (Phalan et al. 2011), remains the most pervasive paradigms (Powell et al forthcoming). The result of “agricultural intensification” in many places has been increasingly large-scale agriculture and a focus on increasing yields of staple crops. While many countries in Africa continue to have some of the highest rates of impaired child growth (under-nutrition), a large number of countries in Africa now have obesity rates and impaired glucose tolerance rates that are higher than those of most European countries (IFPRI 2016). Agricultural and land-use policies that focus on intensification and increasing yields of staple crops, without attention to nutritionally important foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and lean animal foods, will do little to improve the nutrition situation in Africa. African policymakers need to support agricultural systems that produce diverse and affordable foods, especially nutritionally important foods. Emerging evidence suggests that in some contexts, a large portion of these healthy foods come from the wild and that diverse agricultural landscapes that include trees and forests are better able to provide a healthy and diverse diet. The production of cheap staple foods has led to rapid change in agricultural landscapes. Continuing this trajectory will not likely have a positive impact on either human nutrition or environmental sustainability.
Thursday, October 25, 2018
Paul Sutton, Department of Geography and the Environment, University of Denver
Smart Cities and the SDGs: Do the Limits to Growth Apply to Smart Cities that Have Achieved the Sustainable Development Goals?
The year 2022 will mark the 50 year anniversary of the much maligned and controversial ‘Limits to Growth’ study which asserted that economic growth and population growth cannot continue indefinitely. Since then the world has seen major declarations and aspirations relevant to the limits to growth including: 1) The 1987 WCED (Brundtland Report coining the phrase ‘sustainable development’), 2) The 1992 UNCED (the Rio Declaration establishing Agenda 21, the UNFCCC, CBD, and UNCCD, 3) The 2005 Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, and 4) the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals. A nascent ‘Smart City’ movement is purporting that information technology and webs of sensors will enable the perhaps contradictory goal of ‘Smart Growth’. This presentation explores the challenge of achieving ‘sustainable cities and communities’ with ‘no poverty’, ‘clean water’, ‘clean energy’ and the many other sustainable development goals through the lens of ‘Limits to Growth’. The city of Shanghai in China has determined that it hopes to cap it’s total population at 25 million people. Here, we will contemplate the questions: Can a city become too big? Will smart cities know when they have become too big? Is the smart city movement avoiding the unpleasant limits to growth question and merely enabling the building of larger and larger cities that are even more vulnerable to exogenous shocks to their systems?
Thursday, November 15, 2018
Ron Bisio, Vice President, Geospatial at Trimble, Inc.
The Increasingly Important Role of The Geospatial Professional in Building Information Modeling (BIM)
This presentation will introduce the relevant concepts of Building Information Modeling (BIM) and examine the role of the geospatial professional in surveying, designing, building and operating modern structures. This evolving role will require the next generation of geospatial professionals to work with a variety of technology including terrestrial and UAV-based image capture and scanning; point cloud manipulation and mixed reality visualization.
Thursday, January 17, 2019
Andrew Goetz and Eric Boschmann, Department of Geography and the Environment, University of Denver
Metropolitan Denver: Growth and Change in the Mile High City
Drs. Goetz and Boschmann provide an overview of their new book, highlighting the history of growth of Denver.
Thursday, January 24, 2019
Laleh Mehran, Department of Emergent Digital Practices, University of Denver
Mehran creates elaborate environments in digital and physical spaces focused on complex intersections between politics, religion, and science. The progeny of Iranian scientists, her relationship to these frameworks is necessarily complex, and is still more so given the political climate in which certain views are increasingly suspect.
Thursday, February 7, 2018
Frank Winters, Geographic Information Officer for the State of New York
GIS in Emergency Response, Sandy and Beyond -or- “It’s Really not a Disaster Until the GIS Guy Shows Up”
Thursday, March 7, 2019
Helen Hazen, Department of Geography and the Environment, University of Denver
Risk and Responsibility: Birth Centers as the “Best of Both Worlds”
The US has witnessed a recent resurgence in interest in alternative birth and an increase in out-of-hospital births. Although most out-of-hospital births occur at home, there is a growing movement towards birth centers and other places that fall somewhere between home and hospital. The notion of risk is integral to the place-based decision-making that women undertake in weighing up the pros and cons of different sites of birth, with notions of “responsible motherhood” pushing women towards more institutionalized spaces, while feelings of comfort and control draw women to out-of-hospital locations. Within this framework, the birth center has been widely touted as providing the “best of both worlds”—an in-between space that offers the comforts of home with the purportedly lower risk of the hospital. Through exploring the lived experiences of women who have had recent birth center or home births, I explore how risk and responsibility are integral to constructions of the birth landscape.
Thursday, April 18, 2019
Nicholas Crane, School of Politics, Public Affairs, and International Studies, University of Wyoming
Politicizing Landscapes of Disappearance in Central Mexico
Organized communities in Latin America have for decades used the concept of “disappearance” to describe being forcibly made absent from economic and political life. Across the hemisphere, patterns of disappearance have historically been produced through targeted repression of perceived threats to government stability. In Mexico today, these patterns are typically attributed to the generalized violence that accompanies the Drug War. The government of Andres Manuel López Obrador recently recognized 40,000 disappearances since the declaration of the Drug War in 2006. In this talk, I argue for an expanded conceptualization of disappearance, as a condition violently produced by forms of governance that generate social vulnerability but allow authorities to deny responsibility for it. I also provide an explicitly geographical account of disappearance by highlighting a politics of landscape by which organized communities in central Mexico are challenging its various forms. I present lived experiences of disappearance (violence against women, failing infrastructure, and a war on the poor) and focus on a shared characteristic of political organizing and mobilization against disappearance in central Mexico: the work of making visible the forces that produce the disappeared and assigning responsibility for their endurance. The paper concludes with reflections on an active role for geographers in this conjuncture, emphasizing modes of engagement by which we can accompany people whose lives are directly affected by this violence in Mexico and elsewhere.
Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Michael D. Meyer, Senior Advisor, WSP USA, Inc.
Research Supporting a Bottoms-Up “National” Policy in Climate Change and Transportation: Examples from Around the U.S.”
This presentation will describe climate change-related transportation adaptation actions that are occurring throughout the U.S. (in the absence of any national policy). Typical research and consulting studies that have informed these efforts will be discussed. Examples of efforts to understand transportation system resiliency in light of extreme weather events will be presented. Prospective research topics that could provide substantive contribution to the on-going national discussion on how to prepare transportation systems for future climate change-related shocks will be suggested.
Thursday, May 2, 2019
Wenwu Tang, Center for Applied GIScience, Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Large-scale Agent-based Simulation of Urban-Rural Land Development: A Cyberinfrastructure-enabled Approach
Agent-based models have been extensively used for the simulation of complex land use and land cover change (e.g., urban-rural land development) across multiple spatiotemporal scales. However, massive data and computation are involved for large-scale agent-based land change modeling, posting a big data challenge. In this study, I present a cyberinfrastructure-enabled approach for resolving the big data challenge facing large-scale agent-based land change modeling. The study area is in North Carolina, USA. The agent-based model was developed at a fine spatial resolution. Parallel algorithms were implemented to accelerate the agent-based land change model. While the cyberinfrastructure-enabled approach shows substantial acceleration in the agent-based simulation modeling, this approach provides unique support for the understanding of spatiotemporal complexity of land use and land cover change, represented by urban-rural land development.
Thursday, May 16, 2019
Rebecca Lave, Department of Geography, Indiana University
Bridging the Gap: Integrating Critical Human and Physical Geography in Practice
The relationship (or lack thereof) between physical and human geography is a longstanding discussion within our field. Some commentators assume the possibility of synthesis and call for integrated work; others assume that deep integration is neither possible nor desirable. But even a brief review of the literature makes two points glaringly clear: this discussion has been going on for a long, long time and, given its regular reoccurrence, it would seem we have little to show for it. Rather than debate the possibility or desirability of such integration, I argue here that there is already a strong and growing body of work that draws together critical human and physical geography in an emerging sub-field: critical physical geography. Individually or in teams, critical physical geographers are bridging the gap, combining insights from geomorphology, ecology, and biogeography with approaches from political ecology, science and technology studies, and environmental history. The key characteristics that unify this work are its emphasis on treating physical processes and unequal power relations with equal seriousness, its acknowledgement of the politics of knowledge production, and its normative agenda of using research to promote eco-social transformation. By way of illustration, I present the results of a critical physical geography study of market-based environmental management in the US that I conducted with Martin Doyle (Duke), and Morgan Robertson (U Wisconsin). Drawing on social science data from document analysis and interviews and natural science data from geomorphic fieldwork, I argue that while the fluvial landscape bears a clear signature of environmental policy, the development of ecosystem service markets in “stream credits” has different consequences than could be expected.
Thursday, May 23, 2019
Matthew A. Schnurr, Department of International Development Studies, Dalhousie University
Africa’s Gene Revolution: Genetically Modified Crops and the Future of African Agriculture
Africa has emerged as the final frontier in the global debate over the potential for Genetically Modified (GM) crops to enhance agricultural productivity and alleviate poverty and hunger. Proponents argue that GM crops represent one of the most promising means of improving yields and livelihoods across the continent, and have invested just under half a billion dollars in these new technological possibilities under the banner of Africa’s Green Revolution. Opponents voice concerns over intellectual property, adverse health and environmental impacts, and the increasing control of multi-national corporations over the continent’s food supply. Both sides have worked hard to frame the terms of this polarized debate, the result being they often speak past one another, rarely engaging in meaningful dialogue. This presentation seeks to bridge this gap by assessing the ecological, social and political factors that are shaping Africa’s ‘Gene’ Revolution and evaluating its potential to achieve its lofty goals. It summarizes an analysis of whether Genetically Modified crops constitute an appropriate technology given existing agricultural systems, and evaluates the implications of these findings for scholars, policy makers and farmers.
Thursday, June 6, 2019
Pete Peterson, Climate Hazards Working Group, University of California-Santa Barbara
How to Make a Satellite Rainfall Product: Why Would You and Then What?
Climate Hazards Group InfraRed Precipitation with Station data (CHIRPS) is a 30+ year quasi-global rainfall dataset. Spanning 50°S-50°N (and all longitudes), starting in 1981 to near-present, CHIRPS incorporates 0.05° resolution satellite imagery with in-situ station data to create gridded rainfall time series for trend analysis and seasonal drought monitoring. As of February 12th, 2015, version 2.0 of CHIRPS is complete and available to the public. For detailed information on CHIRPS, please refer to our paper in Scientific Data.
AY 2017-2018 Seminars
Thursday, October 5, 2017
Austin Troy, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Colorado – Denver
Datafying Urban Sustainability
As cities increasingly practice data-driven management there is growing interest in utilizing performance indicators to measure the outcomes of efforts aimed at promoting urban sustainability and equity. This presentation gives a broad outline of urban sustainability indicators, including the value proposition, key definitions, frameworks and protocols. It illustrates the potential for urban sustainability indicators through an example from West Denver, where the CityCraft® Integrated Research Center, in partnership with the Denver Housing Authority, is working to establish a trend-setting system of urban indicators that can be used to assess outcomes as this 6400 acre area of Denver undergoes significant transitions, including large-scale redevelopment.
Thursday, October 26, 2017
Heyddy Calderon, Institute of Geology and Geophysics (IGG-CIGEO) UNAN-Managua, Nicaragua
Hydrogeology of Nicaragua: Challenges and Opportunities
Thursday, November 2, 2017
Steven D. Prager, Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT)
AR4D and the Life Geographic
AR4D is shorthand for “Agricultural Research for Development”. All around the world there are dedicated individuals working to improve the livelihoods of smallholder agricultural producers and the environments on which those livelihoods (and lives) depend. AR4D covers an incredible gamut of topics from understanding the sustainability of food systems to improving crop varieties to developing highly tailored and locally adapted approaches for “climate smart agriculture”. In nearly every aspect of the AR4D process, geographers have the potential play an important role in helping smallholders adapt to the challenges presented by climate change, ever increasing globalization, and the changing food system.
In this talk, we will cover a range of AR4D-realted themes and discuss where geographers fit into this important discipline. Whether you are interested in understanding spatial dimensions equity and access to markets or improving seasonal agro-climactic forecasts for a specific region, geography and geographic information are critical. At the same time, “selling geography” is not always easy, and entry points for geographers into the AR4D world are not necessarily obvious. As such, in addition to considering a variety of different potential research areas, we will also address how to prepare oneself for an AR4D-related career.
Thursday, November 16, 2017
Kristine Hopkins, Texas Policy Evaluation Project, Population Research Center, University of Texas at Austin
Reproductive Health Policies: What Can Texas Teach the Nation?
This talk will review key findings from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, which is a collaborative group of university-based investigators who evaluate the impact of legislation in Texas related to women’s reproductive health. Specifically, I will highlight the impact of budget cuts and the defunding of Planned Parenthood in Texas on family planning clinic closures and access to contraceptive methods among low income and immigrant women. I will also discuss the impact of abortion restrictions on the relationship between the number of abortions and distance to abortion clinics that remained open. I will conclude with a discussion of what these findings might tell us about federal and other state policy changes being contemplated.
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
Junjun Yin, Institute for CyberScience & Social Science Research Institute, Penn State University
Geo-Complexity and Human mobility: Through the Lens of Geospatial Big Data to Understand Urban and Population Dynamics
This presentation centers on my research work in using geospatial Big Data for human mobility study and its applications for urban studies. In light of the increasing availability to a variety of data sources that are capable of tracking movements of individuals in the urban environments (e.g., GPS trajectories, transportation logs, and location-based social media data), this presentation introduces the combination of a computational geography approach and geospatial Big Data to model the relations between spatial urban structures and human interactions. It includes several emerging methodologies, such as advanced data mining techniques, geovisual-analytics methods, and high-performance computing frameworks, for delineating the spatiotemporal geography of urban and population dynamics. In particular, this presentation will illustrate how geo-tagged Twitter data can be utilized for the investigations and how a geospatial Big Data synthesis approach can enhance the geographic contexts for revealing various mobility and activity patterns. Further, this presentation will showcase several ongoing projects as the applications, which are based on the developed methodologies, to illustrate the potential and vision of the research line, namely, Geo-Complexity.
Thursday, January 25, 2018
Yihong Yuan, Department of Geography, Texas State University
From One Step to a Million: Characterizing Human Mobility from Big Geo-Data
Today’s mobile information society depends increasingly on the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), such as mobile phones and the Internet. Meanwhile, the wide spread use of location-aware technologies (e.g., sensors that allow users to instantly locate themselves) has brought another crucial element to this development: location. The usage of these technologies has generated various types of big geo-data, such as georeferenced call detailed records (CDRs), social media check-in data, etc. Unlike traditional travel surveys, these datasets often cover a large sample size and can be easily accessed through crowd-sourcing toolkits, and can therefore help predict people’s mobility patterns and provide important guidelines for maintaining sustainable transportation, updating environmental policies, and designing early warning and emergency response systems.
This talk covers several applications that use big geo-data to extract and characterize human mobility patterns in three aspects: individual-oriented, urbanoriented, and global-oriented. These extended human mobility models and data mining algorithms provide new insights to urban planners and policy makers in the age of instant access. This talk also addresses related data quality issues and the efficacy of applying big geo-data in human mobility modeling, as well as how these results can be used in future research about building data-driven and smart city services.
Monday, January 29, 2018
Guiming Zhang, Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison
A Representativeness Directed Approach to Spatial Bias Mitigation in VGI for Predictive Mapping
Information on spatial variation of geographic phenomena is essential to many environmental modeling and geographic decision making. Predictive mapping is a framework for mapping geographic phenomena whose spatial variation is highly related to their environmental covariates (e.g., soils, biodiversity). It requires representative field samples that are often obtained through well-designed geographic sampling to achieve high mapping accuracy. Geographic information contributed by volunteer citizens (VGI) can provide field samples at low cost for predictive mapping over large areas (e.g., eBird). However, due to the opportunistic nature of voluntary observation efforts, VGI samples usually are concentrated more in some geographic areas than others (i.e., spatial bias). Such spatial bias impedes the representativeness of VGI samples. This research proposes a representativeness directed approach to spatial bias mitigation in VGI samples for predictive mapping. The approach first defines and quantifies sample representativeness in environmental covariates space. Spatial bias is then mitigated by weighting samples towards maximizing sample representativeness (i.e., minimizing spatial bias). Samples falling in over-represented environmental niches are weighted less than those falling in under-represented niches. Manifested in geographic space, spatially clustered samples receive smaller weights than sparsely distributed samples. The effectiveness of the approach is evaluated through two case studies: species habit suitability mapping (using eBird data) and soil mapping. Results show that the accuracy of predictive mapping using weighted samples is higher than using unweighted samples. A positive relationship between sample representativeness and prediction accuracy was observed, suggesting that the quantified sample representativeness is indicative of predictive mapping accuracy. The approach can effectively mitigate spatial bias in VGI samples to improve quality of inferences made from VGI.
Thursday, February 8, 2018
Scott Hutson, Department of Anthropology, University of Kentucky
Very Old Urbanism as New Urbanism? Mixing at an Ancient Maya City
New Urbanists often claim that cities should be socially diverse. Neighborhoods should contain a mix of people of different wealth levels, ethnicities, ages, and occupations. These claims are based on ideas, such as contact theory (heightened interaction between diverse groups reduces prejudice), as well as pragmatic concerns, such as the viability of tax bases (segregation by wealth creates structural inequality through, for example, underfunded school systems). At the same time, social science research as well as urban planning projects gone wrong suggest that economic mixing is difficult to attain and not always desirable. Can archaeological research on ancient cities contribute to these contemporary debates? This presentation argues that modern and ancient cities share enough characteristics to enable comparisons. In particular, this presentation documents a striking amount of spatial mixing among rich and poor people within neighborhoods at the ancient Maya city of Chunchucmil, Yucatan, Mexico. The success of this ancient city suggests that the tenets of New Urbanism have a rather old genealogy.
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Antonio Ioris, School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University
Where Less Space is More: Frontiers, Capitalism and (dare we say?) Resistance
Capitalism is fundamentally based on ‘accumulation by frontier-making’ where processes of enclosure, production and extraction are recreated and further integrated. The dynamics of frontier-making under capitalist relations of production and reproduction can be summarised as the ‘law of scarcity-abundance’ (LSA), which recognises that human made scarcities in areas of relatively advanced capitalism require, and prompt, the formation of new economic frontiers where there is perceived abundance of valued assets. The talk will revisits what has happened in Brazil, a nation largely shaped by the expansion of internal and external economic frontiers. The State of Mato Grosso, in the southern tracts of the Amazon, has been at the forefront of frontier-making for many centuries, accelerated in the last 30 years with the spiralling growth of agribusiness. Mato Grosso paradoxically reached the macro-economic centre, but in practice remains a frontier where abundances and scarcities rapidly follow each other. The state is now considered as highly successful agribusiness experience, but this is a totalising narrative that disregards mounting contradictions. In that context, there is continued and silent resistance, although not easily noticeable, which creates a remarkable opportunity for further research and critical analytical approaches.
Thursday, February 22, 2018
Tim Hawthorne, Department of Sociology, University of Central Florida
The (Often Forgotten) Importance of People in Geospatial Technologies
The community is where mutually beneficial research and education outcomes are discovered together through the power of citizen science, maps, apps, and drones. Citizen science GIS seeks to engage academics and community organizations/residents in shared knowledge production focused on community-engaged research that benefits real-world communities. In this talk, we unravel the potential of engaging communities and science in meaningful collaboration. We will highlight opportunities to use interactive and visual mapping technologies to share the spatial stories and knowledge of community members around the world to understand some of the most pressing challenges in coastal communities. Together we will move beyond the idea of communities as merely dots on a map in research. Instead, we offer the idea of communities as active contributors to science empowered through interactive technologies to understand the most challenging social and environmental issues of our time.
Thursday, March 29, 2018
Wendy Jepson, Department of Geography, Texas A & M University
Comparative Perspectives on Household Water Insecurity: From TexasColonias to Brazilian Urban Comunidades
Thursday, May 3, 2018
Connor Bailey, The Wilderness Society
State of Federal Public Lands: Developing Strategies for Conservation and Development Transparency on Federal Public Lands Through GIS
Thursday, May 24, 2018
Chris Stiffler, Colorado Fiscal Institute
An Alternative Measure of Economic Well-Being: Applying the Genuine Progress Indicator at the State Level in Colorado
GDP per capita in Colorado has more than tripled since 1960 but does that mean we are 3 times as well off? Join a discussion about the flaws of equating GDP to well-being. The Colorado Fiscal Institute calculated an alternative form of Economic Well-Being for Colorado since 1960 known as the Genuine Progress Indicator. It measures things from volunteer hours to commute time to the cost of pollution to lost forest area to give a depiction of how economic well-being has changed over time. Have a look at the results and discuss ways such a frame work should be incorporated into public policy discussions.
Thursday, May 31, 2018
William Moseley, Department of Geography, Macalester College
Rice Value Chains, Geographic Context and Poor Female Farmers: A Political Ecology of the New Green Revolution for Africa and Women’s Nutrition in Burkina Faso