Dept. of Geography News & Events this Week - 2/7/17

Department of Geography (DoG) News and Events Where it's at!

FEB 17
Coffee Hour with Jenni Evans | Income and risk inequalities | MGIS alumni focus


Miscanthus, a grass native to subtropical and tropical areas of Africa and southern Asia, growing in the Power Plant garden at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. USDA

PAC Herbarium is offering a workshop on February 9 on “Grasses, Sedges and Rushes, Oh My!” 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. in 13 Whitmore Lab. This photograph shows Miscanthus, a grass native to subtropical and tropical areas of Africa and southern Asia, growing in the Power Plant garden at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.this summer. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.


Kim Thomas has accepted our offer of the assistant professor position in Environment and Society.
Guido Cervone won $9000 for his proposal to University of Split – Penn State Collaboration Development Fund. And he is coauthor of an article, “Analysing the influence of African dust storms on the prevalence of coral disease in the Caribbean Sea using remote sensing and association rule data mining,” published last month in the International Journal of Remote Sensing.
Melissa Wright and Yitian Zhai are the editors of, “Difference: Sexual, Cultural and Universal,” issue 19 of theory@buffalo interdisciplinary journal.

Coffee Hour with Jenni Evans: Getting to know the Institute for CyberScience (ICS) and Exploring Cyber-Hurricanes
The Institute for CyberScience is one of Penn State’s five pan-university, interdisciplinary institutes. ICS was formed in 2012 and is currently going through an increasingly rapid evolution. A brief overview of current and emerging ICS initiatives will be presented before turning to research that utilizes the ICS cyberinfrastructure: an examination of the physics of tropical cyclones, in particular to improve understanding of their development and 5-10 day forecasts of these systems.

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: February 17 with Alfred Kalyanapu “Flood Modeling in the 21st Century: Dealing with Challenges and Making Advances”
Grad student examines links between housing, income and hazard risk
An aerial view of some communities can reveal stark income inequalities: Boundaries at the edges of hills, valleys, streets or other features separate high-income from low-income neighborhoods. In some places in the U.S., like Houston, Texas, those same boundaries mark a drastic difference in risk for natural disasters, like flooding.

“Low-income people in the Houston-Galveston region are being concentrated in areas that are most susceptible to impacts from natural disasters,” says Travis Young, a doctoral student in geography at Penn State.

Penn State Online Geospatial Education Alumni Focus: Meredith Moore
Ever wonder how people are applying the skills they learn through the GIS Certificate or MGIS program, and how these programs are affecting careers? Alumni Focus will highlight stories so you can learn more about the applications of these degrees, and GIS careers in general.

Our first Alumni Focus is with Meredith Moore, who earned her MGIS with Penn State this past fall. Congratulations to Meredith! Here is her story of how her “investment in our program has paid off” (her words).


Mountain Ecology, Remoteness, and the Rise of Agrobiodiversity: Tracing the Geographic Spaces of Human–Environment Knowledge
By Karl S. Zimmerer, Hildegardo Córdova-Aguilar, Rafael Mata Olmo, Yolanda Jiménez Olivencia & Steven J. Vanek
In Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Volume 107, 2017 – Issue 2: Mountains
Access: DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2016.1235482
We use an original geographic framework and insights from science, technology, and society studies and the geohumanities to investigate the development of global environmental knowledge in tropical mountains. Our analysis demonstrates the significant relationship between current agrobiodiversity and the elevation of mountain agroecosystems across multiple countries. We use the results of this general statistical model to support our focus on mountain agrobiodiversity. Regimes of the agrobiodiversity knowledge of scientists, government officials, travelers, and indigenous peoples, among others, interacting in mountain landscapes have varied significantly in denoting geographic remoteness. Knowledge representing pre-European mountain geography and diverse food plants in the tropical Andes highlighted their centrality to the Inca Empire (circa 1400–1532). The notion of semiremoteness, geographic valley–upland differentiation, and the similitude-and-difference knowledge mode characterized early Spanish imperial rule (1532–1770). Early modern accounts (1770–1900) amplified the remoteness of the Andes as they advanced global ecological sciences, knowledge standardization, and racial representations of indigenous people as degraded, with scant attention to Andean agriculture and food.

Agro-environmental Transitions in African Mountains: Shifting Socio-spatial Practices Amid State-Led Commercialization in Rwanda
By Nathan Clay
In Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Volume 107, 2017 – Issue 2: Mountains
Access: DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2016.1254019
Agricultural commercialization has been slow to take hold in mountain regions throughout the world. It has been particularly limited by challenges of mechanization, transportation access, and governance. Efforts at green-revolution style development have met with persistent failures in highland sub-Saharan Africa, where agricultural systems are often finely tuned to complex and dynamic social–ecological contexts. In Rwanda, a mountainous country in east central Africa, development efforts have long aimed to transition away from largely subsistence-based production that relies on high labor input toward commercial farming systems that are rooted in capital investment for marketable goods. Since 2005, Rwanda’s land policy has become increasingly ambitious, aiming to reduce the 85 percent of households involved in agriculture to 50 percent by the year 2020. The country’s Crop Intensification Program (CIP) compels farmers to consolidate land and cultivate government-selected crops. Although state assessments have touted the productivity gains created through the CIP, others speculate that households could be losing access to crucial resources. Research from both sides, however, has focused squarely on the CIP’s immediate successes and failures without considering how households are responding to the program within the context of the complex and variable mountain environment.

Validating Safecast data by comparisons to a U. S. Department of Energy Fukushima Prefecture aerial survey
By Mark Coletti, Carolynne Hultquist, William G. Kennedy, Guido Cervone
In Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, Volume 171, May 2017
Safecast is a volunteered geographic information (VGI) project where the lay public uses hand-held sensors to collect radiation measurements that are then made freely available under the Creative Commons CC0 license. However, Safecast data fidelity is uncertain given the sensor kits are hand assembled with various levels of technical proficiency, and the sensors may not be properly deployed. Our objective was to validate Safecast data by comparing Safecast data with authoritative data collected by the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U. S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) gathered in the Fukushima Prefecture shortly after the Daiichi nuclear power plant catastrophe. We found that the two data sets were highly correlated, though the DOE/NNSA observations were generally higher than the Safecast measurements. We concluded that this high correlation alone makes Safecast a viable data source for detecting and monitoring radiation. Keywords: Safecast; Volunteered geographic information; Fukushima Daiichi; Data validation