Dept. of Geography News & Events this Week - 11/29/16

NOV 16

Coffee Hour with Kathleen M. Carley | Holdsworth recognized | Humans influence fire


milkweedRob Brooks shares this image of the common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), a great pollinator, releasing its seeds. This plant is also a favorite of monarch butterflies and caterpillars.


  • Geography undergraduate students, Kathy Cappelli, Haley Darr, Adelaide Kellett, and Christopher Mertz have been selected as EMS Ambassadors.
  • SWIG is collecting donations for a family through the Centre County Women’s Resource Center Holiday Sponsorship Program.  Julie Sanchezand Jamie Peeler are accepting donations through Friday, December 2.
  • Joshua Inwood’s article, “MLK in TrumpLand: America should look to Martin Luther King Jr. during this post-election chaos,” originally published on The Conversation, was picked up by, and he was interviewed for a podcast about it.
  • Deryck Holdsworth has been named a General Education Faculty Fellow for 2016–17.
  • The League of American Bicyclists recognized Penn State with a silver Bicycle Friendly University (BFU) award. With this designation, Penn State is one of more than 150 bicycle-friendly colleges and universities across the country. For more information about bicycling on campus, visit


Coffee Hour on December 2 with Kathleen M. Carley
Dynamic Network Analysis and Big Data
Our ability to understand and predict socio-cultural activity is being transformed by the exponential growth in big data available on the web – both social media data as well as open government and organizational records. Analysis of such data has the potential to create the timely and detailed information needed to improve crisis response and so save lives and goods, improve community resilience, support early identification of security threats and decrease social-cyber attacks. Across all these areas there are a set of common key methodological challenges are driven by the nature of the data: “wide” data, sampled data, and geo-temporal evolving data.

  • 3:30 to 5:00 p.m.
  • Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m.
  • The lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.
  • Coffee Hour To Go Webcast
  • Next time: January 20, 2017 with Derek Alderman

Human actions influence fire regimes in the Sierra Nevadas
While climate contributes strongly to fire activity in the Sierra Nevada mountains of the western U.S., human activity, starting well before European contact, has also played an important part in the severity, frequency and sheer numbers of forest fires occurring in the area, according to researchers.

“Initially, we did work to see if we could develop long-lead forecasts for fire in the area — six to 18 months in the future — using climate patterns such as El Niño,” said Alan H. Taylor, professor of geography, Penn State. “This would be a significant help because we could place resources in the west if forecasts indicated it would be dry and the southeast would be wet. However, the climate relationships with fire did not consistently track.”


Socioecological transitions trigger fire regime shifts and modulate fire–climate interactions in the Sierra Nevada, USA, 1600–2015 CE
By Alan H. Taylor, Valerie Trouet, Carl N. Skinner, and Scott Stephens
In Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 2016 113 (48) 13684-13689; doi:10.1073/pnas.1609775113
Large wildfires in California cause significant socioecological impacts, and half of the federal funds for fire suppression are spent each year in California. Future fire activity is projected to increase with climate change, but predictions are uncertain because humans can modulate or even override climatic effects on fire activity. Here we test the hypothesis that changes in socioecological systems from the Native American to the current period drove shifts in fire activity and modulated fire–climate relationships in the Sierra Nevada. We developed a 415-y record (1600–2015 CE) of fire activity by merging a tree-ring–based record of Sierra Nevada fire history with a 20th-century record based on annual area burned. Large shifts in the fire record corresponded with socioecological change, and not climate change, and socioecological conditions amplified and buffered fire response to climate.

States of Disease: Political Environments and Human Health
By Brian King
Published by Univ of California Press, Jan 24, 2017
Human health is shaped by the interactions between social and ecological systems. In States of Disease, Brian King advances a social ecology of health framework to demonstrate how historical spatial formations contribute to contemporary vulnerabilities to disease and the opportunities for health justice. He examines how expanded access to antiretroviral therapy is transforming managed HIV in South Africa. And he reveals how environmental health is shifting due to global climate change and flooding variability in northern Botswana. These case studies illustrate how the political environmental context shapes the ways in which health is embodied, experienced, and managed.