Larry Gorenflo's research interests focus on how people adapt to their natural and cultural surroundings, in both present and past contexts and at scales usually ranging from landscapes to regions. Much of this work involves how people use geographic space and often employs geographic information system technology, with the ultimate aim to inform landscape design. Studies of modern settings emphasize biodiversity conservation and represent attempts to understand human pressure on key locations of plant and animal species, as well as attempts to identify opportunities to conserve biological diversity in a world of human use and human need. Studies of past settings, both historic and prehistoric, represent efforts to understand how earlier human cultural systems modified landscapes to meet their needs and how earlier adaptive strategies affected the environments where they occurred. Although he has worked throughout the United States, most of his recent research involves international settings, with an emphasis on Latin America, East Africa, and Southeast Asia. Similarly, despite emphases on a range of issues in prior inquiries, his current focus often involves human use of fresh water, village economics in rural East Africa and Southeast Asia, and the role of cultural and linguistic diversity in human adaptation. All of this work aims towards developing designed environments that serve people as well as nature, as ecologically-sensitive designs become increasingly essential to human wellbeing. Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State, Dr. Gorenflo worked in the Environmental Sciences Division of Argonne National Laboratory, in the International Science Program at The Nature Conservancy, and in the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science at Conservation International.
Current Research Interests and Activities
Currently Dr. Gorenflo is involved in research in southern Tanzania and central Mexico. The work in Tanzania occurs in the vicinity of Udzungwa Mountains National Park, in south-central Tanzania, and focuses on community design and the identification of resource harvesting patterns by local communities. The work in Mexico focuses on the Basin of Mexico, and emphasizes prehistoric settlement patterns and historic (twentieth century) demographics and land use, among other things focusing on assessing the condition of remaining evidence of prior landscapes. Currently, he is exploring research opportunities in the Amazon Basin in eastern Ecuador, focusing in particular on resource use by local villages and conservation strategies to maintain the remarkable biodiversity in that region.