2. Department Highlights and Community Updates

Send your updates to geography@psu.edu. We want to hear from you!


Brewer and Gockleys with Will Coughlin and Blake Naito

Pictured (left to right): Cindy Brewer, William Coughlin, Blake Naito, Marianne Gockley, and Fred Gockley.


Annual Recognition Reception held on May 1

Students, faculty, staff, and friends of the Department of Geography gathered on Friday, May 1, 2015 at The Nittany Lion Inn for the annual Recognition Reception to give awards and honor achievements for the year. Fred and Marianne Gockley presented the Jeff Gockley Memorial Award. The award was established in 2005 to honor the memory of alumnus Jeff Gockley (B.S. ’97). It is awarded to top graduating senior(s) in the GIS option. This year’s recipients were William Coughlin and Blake Naito. Coughlin comes from Waldorf, Maryland. He is double-majoring in Geography and International Relations, with a minor in Middle East Studies. He is vice-president of UnderDoGS, the geography student club, and has presented research at the past two annual meetings of the Association of American Geographers. Coughlin previously interned with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and will work there again this summer. Naito hails from Littleton, Colorado. He comes from a family of geographers: his mother and older brother are Penn State Geography alumni, and his father is a cartographer. Naito is minoring in trombone performance, and he plays baritone with the Penn State Blue Band. He is president of the GIS Coalition and has worked as a research assistant on three different projects. “It has been a really great year for all of us in geography—as shown by the large number of awards earned by our undergraduate and graduate students. I’m proud of our large class of graduating students, and the positive impact they have made on Penn State during their time here,” Cindy Brewer said.

Middle States AAG Recap

Jase Bernhardt, Carolynne Hultquist, and Adrienne Tucker joined with Shippensburg University students to compete in the Middle States Geography Bowl in October 2014. While their “PennShip” team finished in second place, Bernhardt earned a spot on the regional team that competed for the World Geography Bowl title at the AAG meeting in Chicago. Hultquist‘s poster, “Machine Learning for Post-fire Burn Severity Assesment in Diseased Forests,” won the graduate prize in MSAAG’s inaugural student poster competition. Tucker’s paper, “Eastern Pacific Ship Tracks in Relation to Sea Surface Temperature Variations,” garnered first place in the graduate division of the student paper competition, while Erin Goodnough took second place with her paper, “A Proposed Open Source Architecture for Collecting and Analyzing USAID Performance Indicator Data.” M.GIS students Erin Goodnough and Marnie Sippel presented their capstone projects at the meeting, supported by faculty advisors John Kelmelis (Ph.D. ’91) and Doug Miller.

Pennsylvania Geographical Society Recap

Carolynne Hultquist received first place in the graduate student poster/map contest for “Machine Learning for Post-fire Burn Severity Assessment in Diseased Forests.” Carolyn Fish received second place in the graduate student poster/map contest for “Are You Blind to Change? Evaluating the Influence of Change Blindness in Animated Choropleth Maps.” Jack Swab took second place in the undergraduate student poster contest, for “Whose Hand is on the Tap? Examining the Political Structure of Water Providers in Harford County, Maryland.” The Distinguished Geographer Award went to Petra Tschakert. PGS past president Jodi Vender hosted the meeting in State College, Pennsylvania.


Undergraduate students at Commencement

Graduating geography students are all smiles during the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences commencement ceremony held at the Pegula Ice Area. Pictured (left to right): Marina Burka, Britta Schumacher, Everleigh Stokes, and Barbara Munin, all Schreyer Honors Scholars.

Undergraduate and Graduate Students

Andrew Homka accepted a full time GIS Analyst Job offer with TerraSim in Pittsburgh, starting in late May 2015.

Three Penn State geographers received USGIF schlarships: Undergraduate, Everleigh Stokes; M.GIS, Nouman Hussain; MPS/HLS-GEOINT, Seth LeMaster.

Jase Bernhardt and Andrew Carleton’s article “The impacts of long-lived jet contrail ‘outbreaks’ on surface station diurnal temperature range (DTR),” has been accepted for publication in the International Journal of Climatology (a journal of the Royal Meteorological Society).

Sara Cavallo, along with co-authors Joann Lynch and Peter Scull (Colgate University), recently published a paper in the Journal of Urban Technology titled, “The Digital Divide in Citizen-Initiated Government Contacts:  A GIS Approach.”

Jenna Christian was awarded a research grant from the Africana Research Center at Penn State for her ongoing dissertation research on “Militarized Youth: Citizenship, Soldiering, Incarceration, and Young People’s Futures” in Houston, Texas.

Laura Harding won first place in the AI student awards competition for oral presentations at the American Meteorological Society conference in Arizona.

Russ Hedberg published a book review in the journal Agriculture and Human Values. The book he reviewed is “Labor and the Locavore: the Making of a Comprehensive Food Ethic,” by Margaret Gray.

Eun-Kyeong Kim and colleagues published “Effects of Spatial Distribution on Change Detection in Animated Choropleth Maps,” in the Journal of the Korean Society of Surveying, Geodesy, Photogrammetry and Cartography. 

Emma Gaalaas Mullaney was selected to serve as a Scientific Consultant to the United Nations Environmental Programme, and traveled to Berlin, Germany  to participate in the Global Intergovernmental and Multi-stakeholder Consultation on the sixth Global Environment Outlook report (GEO-6).

Aparna Parikh received the Susan Hansen Dissertation Proposal Award from the AAG Geographic Perspectives on Women specialty group.

Aparna Parikh is the winner of this year’s SWIG Nancy Brown Geography Community Service Award.

Azita Ranjbar has been awarded a two-year Ph.D. fellowship through the ZEIT-Stiftung Foundation’s Trajectories of Change programme.

Elena Sava’s paper on “Evaluating Lost person Behavior Models” was accepted by the Transactions in GIS journal.

Jamie Shinn has accepted a position as an assistant professor in the Department of Geography at Texas A&M University.

Kevin Sparks is the lead author on a peer-reviewed book chapter on “​Crowdsourcing Landscape Perceptions to Validate Land Cover Classifications” that will appear in the book, Land Use and Land Cover Semantics.

Joshua Stevens is working at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center as lead data visualizer for the Earth Observatory.

Faculty and Staff

Clio Andris and a colleague published an article “Good hard vs. bad hard” in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Todd Bacastow was recognized by the head of NGA for MOOC and CRADA at the Esri Federal Conference on February 10, 2015.

Cynthia Brewer gave a talk for GIS day: “Advanced Federal Map Design using GIS” at the Sixth Annual USACE Agency-Wide Global Virtual GIS Day for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Rob Brooks, Denice Wardrop, Sarah Chamberlain, and Hannah Ingram of Riparia received an EPA Wetland Program Development award to continue the Mid-Atlantic Wetland Work Group for four more years.

Andrew Carleton is a co-author (with colleagues in France and Norway) on a recently-accepted article titled “Polar-low tracks over the Nordic Seas: A 14-winter climatic analysis.” The article will be published in the European/Swedish geophysical journal Tellus, Series A.

Guido Cervone’s team won the NCAR Advanced Study Program and two visitor programs, so that most of the GEO lab will spend the summer doing research in renewable energy and hazards in Boulder, Colorado.

Mark Coletti competed with his bagpipe band, MacMillan-Birtles Pipe Band, on September 27, 2014 at the Celtic Classic in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  It was the first time he had competed with the band after a two-year hiatus courtesy of grad school.  They placed third in a very competitive field.

Chris Fowler was appointed to the Advisory Board for the Population Research Institute.

Alex Klippel was successful in working with the graduate school to complete final approvals for the Ph.D. dual-title graduate degree program in African Studies. We have that degree in place starting next year for interested geographers.

Lise Nelson is the lead author of an article titled “Latino immigrants and rural gentrification: Race, ‘illegality’ and precarious labor regimes in rural U.S. amenity destinations,” which was recently accepted for publication in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers.

Alan Taylor received a grant from the USDA Pacific Southwest Research Station for “Forest Growth Response to Climate and Millennial time scale reconstruction of climate in the Klamath Mountains.”

Melissa Wright has been appointed as Head of the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Penn State.


Joel R. Burcat (B.S. ’76), a partner in the Environment and Oil and Gas practices at Saul Ewing LLP, law firm has been appointed to the Board of Directors for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute.

Benjamin DeAngelo (B.A. ’92) was recently on the U.S. delegation that took part in the government approval of the IPCC Synthesis Report of the 5th Assessment.

Donald N. Rallis (Ph.D. ’92) is a professor of geography at the American University of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, a position he has held since January 2013. (The University, by the way, has a Penn State alumna as president, and another alumnus as assistant professor.) Check out his blog at: http://regionalgeography.org/101blog/

Kat Nickola (B.S. ’00) was recently the featured author in the yearly Destination Paradise magazine published by the Stars and Stripes. She is a regular travel writer for the Stripes Pacific regional bimonthly newspapers for American military members overseas.

Three alumni — Reuben Rose-Redwood (M.S. ’02, Ph.D. ’06), John Krygier (Ph.D ’95), and Jeremy Crampton (M.S. ’87, Ph.D. ’94)— are among the authors of the Cartographica special issue “Deconstructing the Map.”

Anna (Brendle) Kennedy (BS ’02) and husband Steven Kennedy welcomed Miriam (Mia) Frances Kennedy to the world on April 6, 2014. She weighed 7 lbs. 10 oz. and was 20 inches long at birth.

John Mills (B.S. ’02) accepted a R&D Engineer position with the Penn State Applied Research Laboratory. He will be supporting the Geospatial and Decision Support Department, located in Reston, Virginia.

Diansheng Guo (Ph.D. ’03) was a Coffee Hour speaker in February 2015.

Chris Gabris (B.S. ’09) started a new job as a GIS specialist in October 2014 at Blue Raster in Arlington, Virginia.

Brian Tomaszewski (Ph.D. ’09) published a book: Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for Disaster Management.

Angelica Hassinger (B.S. ’10) started a new job as a GIS analyst in January 2015 with Langan Engineering. Langan engineering provides environmental services, engineering services, landscape architechtural services, and GIS consultant services.

Roberto Albandoz (Ph.D. ’11) and Thomas Sigler (M.S. ’07, Ph.D. ’11) won a National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) award for Best College/University article: “Beyond representation: Film as a pedagogical tool in urban geography.” Sigler is currently at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, and Albandoz is an academic adviser for Penn State Word Campus.

Ann Myatt James (Ph.D. ’14) is at Bucknell University as a visiting assistant professor teaching economic geography for the spring 2015 semester.