Robert Crane


My research interests are broadly within the field of climate and climate change. I am particularly interested in regional and local scale climate change and its implications for biophysical and human systems. Much of my work involves downscaling global climate model data for regional applications, and much of this has been undertaken with Bruce Hewitson at the Climate Systems Analysis Group (CSAG) at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Current and Recent Research Projects

  • July 2009 – June 2013: Co-Principal Investigator (with Michael Mann, Matthew Thomas, Andrew Reed and Ottar Bjornstad, the Pennsylvania State University), Quantifying the Influence of Environmental Temperature on Transmission of Vector-Borne Diseases (NSF, $1,884,991).
  • January 2009 – December 2011:  Co-Investigator (PI, Petra Tschakert, the Pennsylvania State University), Anticipatory Learning for Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience  (NSF, $749,814).
  • January 2009 – December 2009:  Co-Investigator (PI James Shortle, The Pennsylvania State University), Pennsylvania Climate Impacts Assessment (Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, $197,000).
  • July 2008 – June 2011:  Co-Investigator (PI Thorsten Wagener, The Pennsylvania State University), A Framework for Probabilistic Projections of Energy‐Relevant Streamflow Indicators under Climate Change Scenarios for the U.S. (U.S. Dept of Energy, $450,000).


Teaching Interests

I have taught a range of graduate and undergraduate courses in physical geography, climatology, earth system science, and remote sensing.  I have also taught first year seminars in ocean science and climate change in Africa.  I have co-taught three of the College’s two-semester undergraduate research seminars:  Global Change in Local Places; Coral Reef Environments; and Environmental Justice in South Africa.  With Tim White and Lee Kump (Geosciences), I will be teaching a CAUSE seminar on Global Environmental Change and Small Island Nations.  Together with Tanya Furman (Geosciences) and Carla Zembal-Saul (Science Education), we are developing a new climate change course for education majors.

Currently, I regularly teach climate change and variability and introduction to the earth system.  With Tim White, I co-teach coral reef systems and science diving.

Study Abroad

I direct a study abroad program in a nature reserve in South Africa. The Wild Coast nature reserves of South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province, and the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania, provide regional foci for Penn State global engagement. Building long-term, multi-faceted partnerships with universities, private and public sector institutions, and local communities, the Parks and People program serves as a study abroad location as well as a potential locus for a broad range of Penn State activities in undergraduate education, faculty and graduate student research, and faculty, staff, and student professional development—all focused on projects that contribute to knowledge while improving the human condition in the communities served. The Parks and People partnerships integrate teaching, research and service across multiple disciplines related to the management of protected areas, community social and economic development, and public education in ecosystem services.  The core of Parks and People comprises two Penn State-administered study abroad programs – one in a South African nature reserve (led by AESEDA and the Department of Geography) and one in a national park in Tanzania (led by the Department of Landscape Architecture). These programs integrate experiential learning with on-going faculty research and service programs in the parks and the surrounding communities, and serve to promote global competency in U.S. and African students, strengthen international linkages, and facilitate partnerships with local communities.


Alliance for Education, Science, Engineering and Development in Africa (AESEDA)
AESEDA operates out of Penn State’s University Office of Global Programs (UOGP) with a primary mission to advance Penn State’s strategic plans for globalization.  AESEDA’s emphasis is on Africa and Africa-related programming, with a three-part mission to:

  1. Increase Penn State engagement in Africa in ways that integrate the social science, physical science, engineering, humanities and educational initiatives of Penn State researchers and students in the context of the developmental challenges facing Africa.
  2. Enhance the education and international experience of Penn State and African students in programs that build global competency and increase opportunity for African populations.
  3. Facilitate collaboration between Penn State’s various African programs and foster cooperation and collaboration among all groups and individuals at Penn State with a scholarly interest in Africa.
  4. In fulfilling this mission we are particularly interested in programs that anchor research, education and outreach within the context of Africa’s diverse intellectual, linguistic, cultural, political, and economic environment; and in programs that seek creative ways to harness these initiatives to help build the strategic human capacity needed to promote economic vitality and enable effective stewardship of natural resources in Africa. 
  5. Penn State Science Diving

I helped establish Penn State’s Science Diving Program in 2001 and served as the University Dive Safety Officer until 2006.  The Penn State Science Diving Program is an administrative unit functioning under the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean for Undergraduate Education of the Pennsylvania State University. The program supervises all compressed gas diving for scientific purposes at the University and is administered by a Diving Control Board.  The Penn State Science Diving Program is an Organizational Member of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS).

Research Interests

  • climatology
  • regional scale climate change
  • African climates

Previous Appointments

  • 2006-2007, Interim Dean, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
  • 1993-2007, Associate Dean for Education, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
  • 1990-1993, Associate Director, Earth Systems Science Center


  • Ph.D., University of Colorado at Boulder, 1981
  • M.A., University of Colorado at Boulder, 1978
  • B.A., University of Reading, England, 1976

Courses Taught

  • GEOG 421W