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Here's what's been happening in the Department of Geography and the Environment.

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 2020 are now available.
Learn more about the Global Masters Scholar Program.

  • Class of 2019 Graduates

    Congratulations to the Class of 2019!!

    PhD (Geography):

    Sylvia Brady, Public-Private Partnerships: Using Partnerships Between the Private and Public Sector to Advance Transportation Infrastructure, Funding, Financing, and Service Expansion. (Goetz)

    Anna Sveinsdóttir, Environmental Governance, Extractive Industries and Struggles for Environmental Justice in Guatemala. (Taylor)

    MA (Geography):

    Caitlin Lebeda, Using Repeat Photography to Examine Change in U.S. National Park Gateway Communities: A Case Study of Estes Park, Colorado. (Taylor)

    Kelly Measom, An HGIS Approach to Land-use/Land-cover Change is the Blanche Watershed, Czech Republic. (Daniels)

    MS (Geographic Information Science):

    Jeffrey Aiken,

    Duane Bingman, Food Forests: Geospatial Analysis to Enhance Food Sustainability in Target Low-Income Areas of Columbus, Ohio. (Hick)

    Glenn Burnett, 

    Linde Carmack, Building a Custom Story Map for North Denver Photovoice (Li)

    Shauna Christensen, 

    Jennifer Clark, Open-Source Web Application Development to Deliver Terrestrial Stable Carbon Isotopes (Powell)

    Bryan Collins, The Effects of Climate Change on Crop Yield: A Study in Timor-Lest Using the DSAAT Crop Model (Kuzera)

    Jeffrey Ehmann, Bringing Spatial Awareness to the Regulatory Department at Jagged Peak Energy through Enterprise Web Mapping. (Hick)

    Heather Hoelting, Analyzing the Spatial Distribution of German Migrants to Nazareth, Texas from 1890 – 1920 using Spatial Autocorrelation Techniques. (Hick)

    Richard Holbrook, 

    Brett Jefferson,

    Travis Johnson, Spatiotemporal Analysis of Denver County’s Residential Real Estate Market from 2014-2018. (Hick)

    Hailey Macrander, A Web GIS for Human Trafficking Data Exploration (Li)

    Dan Pleier,

    Emily Salmon, A Spatial Consideration of Alternative Methods of Western Water Management. (Hick)

    Kaitlyn Scott, Using GIS to Determine the Feasibility of Restoration of Abandoned Mine Sites in the Alpine Ecosystem around Montezuma, Colorado. (Hick)

    Allyson Shellhorn, Locating Parcels for Surface Water Treatment in Routt County, CO Using Geographic  Information Systems. (Hick)

    Natalie Smith, Examining Contributing Factors to Wildlife/Vehicle Collisions Involving Deer in the State of Colorado and Exploring Some of the Mitigation Methods Currently in Use in Search of Ways to Minimize Incidents. (Hick)

    David Templar, Applying GIS Analysis to the Existing Bus Network in Lexington, KY for the Proposal of Transfer Stations. (Hick)

    Michael Wagner, A GIS Analysis of Urban Heat Island Effect on LCPS Secondary School Grounds. (Hick)

    Jedadiah Winter,

    Ryann Woolf, A GIS Implementation Project for a Small-Scale Agribusiness in Central California. (Hick)

    Joshua Zeeb, Gray Wolf Habitat Suitability & Survey Site Analysis in the State of Wyoming. (Hick)

    BA (Geography):

    Brenn Anderson-Gregson, Sarah Bachetti, Will Black, Clark Bockelman, Marcell Budavari,Casey Culp, William DeLany, Megan Edwards, Madison Gawler, Emily Hennessy, Ryan Holt, John Kurtz, Astrid List, Katelynn McManus, Katherine McGee, Hayley Miler, Alexander Parker, Rachel Pierstorff, Will Regan, Sam Robbins, Jake Rosencranz

    BA (Environmental Science):

    Lindsey Brand, Clare Buckley, Abigail Churchill, Anya Dushinski, Oriana Edman, Cole Millington, Maxwell Silverstein, Daniel Temmen

    BS (Environmental Science):

    Carolyn Brown, Arie Feltman-Frank, Claire Hoette, Jonah Howards, Sadie Iovenko, Taylor Johaneman, Kelby Johnson, Andrea Ku, Carolyn Leroy, Lauren Moden, Max Pivonka, Anna Stumb, Kurt Thurmann, Alison Welch, Harry Zakarian

  • 2019 Department Awards

    Congratulations to this year's award recipients!

    Dr. Laurence C. Herold Memorial Award for Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistants: Linde Carmack, Caitlin Lebeda, Kelly Measom

    Dr. Robert D. Rudd Memorial Award for Outstanding Graduate Student Research: Anna Sveinsdóttir, Byron Schuldt, Xuantong Wang

    Dr. Thomas M. Griffiths Memorial Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Student Scholarship/Independent Research in Geography: Nicolas Tarasewicz

    Dr. David B. Longbrake Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Service in Geography: Madison Gawler

    Professor Moras L. Shubert Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Scholarship in Environmental Science: Arie Feltman-Frank

    Environmental Science Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Research in Environmental Science: Anya Dushinski, Taylor Johaneman

    Paul Stanford Burnhard Memorial Scholarship in Environmental Science: Hannah Gaertner

    Alan Bryce Henry Memorial Scholarship in Environmental Science: Miles Dorrance, Ryan Keenan

  • 2019 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 2019 Herold Fund awardees:

    Brandon Bailey, MA program, "Rock Glacier Development in the San Juan Mountains"

    Chris Hancock, MA program, "Temporal and Spatial Controls on Alpine Streamflow Variability in the San Juan Mountains, Colorado"

    Shannon Jones, PhD program, “Flood Hydrology of Coastal Catchments and Mangrove Sedimentary Response in Tropical Wet-Dry Forests"

    Michael Madin, MA Program, "Climate Change and Seed Security Among Smallholder Farmers in Northern Ghana"

    Corey Martz, PhD program, “Capturing Where Nature is Meaningful for Individuals in a Community Nature Program Through Story Mapping"

    Meghan McCarroll, PhD program, "Water Literacy of Day Zero in Cape Town, South Africa"


  • AY 2019-2020 Colloquium Series

    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. in Boettcher Auditorium 101.

    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


    November 7

    Luca Coscieme, Trinity College Dublin

  • 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 BisioVice 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

    Inscribing Topographies 

    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