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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For Joel Burcat, retired environmental lawyer turned novelist, the first step on his career path was a physical geography course.
“I grew up in Philadelphia and attended Penn State without having declared a major,” Burcat said. “At the end of my sophomore year, I was required to declare a major. I was taking a class in physical geography with Professor Robert Larkin. He suggested that a degree in geography would be a good basis for a career in environmental law. That sounded interesting, something I’d enjoy doing and I decided to pursue it.”
Although that was 50 years ago, Larkin, now professor emeritus at the University of Colorado, remembers conversations with Burcat about physical geography and his interest in becoming a lawyer.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When a block of ice the size of Houston, Texas, broke off from East Antarctica’s Amery Ice Shelf in 2019, scientists had anticipated the calving event, but not exactly where it would happen. Now, satellite data can help scientists measure the depth and shape of ice shelf fractures to better predict when and where calving events will occur, according to researchers.
Ice shelves make up nearly 75% of Antarctica’s coastline and buttress — or hold back — the larger glaciers on land, said Shujie Wang, assistant professor of geography at Penn State. If the ice shelves were to collapse and Antarctica’s glaciers fell or melted into the ocean, sea levels would rise by up to 200 feet.
“When we try to predict the future contribution of Antarctica to sea-level rise, the biggest uncertainty is ice shelf stability,” said Wang, who also holds an appointment in the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute. “There’s no easy way to map the depth of fractures in the field over a regional scale. We found that satellite data can capture the depth and surface morphology of ice shelf fractures and thereby allow us to consistently monitor this information over a large range.”
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Recent Master of Geographic Information Systems graduate Nate Geyer has always been interested in epidemiology and geography. As a research support assistant in the Department of Public Health Sciences in the College of Medicine, he was able to put those interests together by creating a new version of the LionVu cancer mapping tool.
“What appealed to me was my sense of creating something new and using my skills to improve public health research,” Geyer said. He programmed the new version and implemented a questionnaire to assess its usability. Then for his capstone project, Geyer analyzed the data and published an article in October 2020 issue of the International Journal of Geo-Information.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — State College native Hope Bodenschatz is looking forward to graduating from Penn State this spring with three bachelor’s degrees and one master’s degree, then starting a position as a research assistant for the director of the New England Public Policy Center at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
“Some of my favorite classes in high school were social studies, history and government,” Bodenschatz said, “but before I got to Penn State, I didn’t understand that these interests, plus my desire to study public policy, were all encapsulated in geography.”
Now, Bodenschatz said, geography provides an important lens for her interest in crafting economically and socially just policies.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As of Jan. 1, materials published or copyrighted in 1925 became part of the public domain and are now freely available for use. Among the most anticipated collections of such materials in the Penn State University Libraries are the Pennsylvania Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of 1925, a collection of maps of 69 towns consisting of 1,600 individual map sheets, most notably four volumes each of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA. — Guido Cervone, associate director of the Institute for Computational and Data Sciences, professor of geography, meteorology and atmospheric science and Earth and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI) associate, was elected as president-elect of the Natural Hazards Section of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and begins a two-year term as president-elect on Jan. 1, 2021, and a two-year term as president on January 1, 2023.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Four students in the Department of Geography were named as College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Academy for Global Experience, or EMSAGE Laureates for fall 2020. Amanda Byrd, Talia Potochny, Harman Singh and Sophie Tessier were recognized by Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Yvette Richardson at a virtual ceremony in November.
“I am so proud of these four women for their active engagement and their leadership,” said Cynthia Brewer, head of the Department of Geography.
“I think it meant a lot to the students to have the college leadership and their department heads there to honor them,” Richardson said. She highlighted each student’s accomplishments reflecting the scholarship, service and global experiences criteria for Laureate status.
“Since we started in 2009, EMSAGE has been the college’s signature undergraduate program for fostering experiential and global competence and promoting a spirit of integrity, service and leadership,” said Karen Marosi, director of student engagement and EMSAGE program coordinator.
Students who wish to apply to become a Laureate must be within 36 credits of graduation; have a 3.0 cumulative GPA; write an essay that ties together their experiences and describes how these experiences have helped them evolve over time at Penn State into the person they are today; and list a minimum of nine accomplishments balanced across the three areas of scholarship, experiential learning and global literacy and service.
Learn more about the EMSAGE program: https://www.ems.psu.edu/emsage
The Department of Geography, in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, at University Park, PA invites applications for a tenure-track faculty position in Water Systems Science broadly defined. The position will be filled at the rank of Assistant Professor, although in exceptional cases more senior candidates will be considered. We seek colleagues who study interactions among water, biota, and the physical components of the Earth system in locations such as rivers, lakes, wetlands, and estuaries, and across terrestrial ecosystems. We are especially interested in applicants who integrate various approaches and complement existing departmental strengths in physical geography, environmental data analytics, and environment/society geography.
There is a backstory to this map. Between 27 November and 5 December of 2012, several hundred clerks at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach went on strike. Port clerks are responsible for managing the transition of cargo between logistics networks and are essential to the operation of the ports. They also belonged to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, so the rest of the 10,000 workers at the ports refused to cross the picket line in solidarity with the strikers, effectively shutting down the ports. During a typical day at either one of the ports (which are directly adjacent to each other), only one or two ships sit at anchor waiting to enter the harbour. During the strike, thirteen ships were at anchor at one time, together holding about $650m in cargo, with some waiting several days to unload. The clerks eventually emerged victorious, securing a better contract and assurance that the ports would not outsource their jobs. But it is the time during the work stoppage that my map concerns.
Mapping an immobile object may sound like a simple task. And it is. For the vast majority of their history, maps have, by and large, been static documents. Even dynamic maps usually rely on the assumption that whatever they are representing will remain in a particular state for however long the map is meant to be useful. And yet there is no shortage of maps that represent, suggest, encourage or propose movement. We are familiar with the visual forms that have been used to represent it: lines, arrows, colour gradients and sequences of dashes. Immobile objects (not moving but not necessarily unmovable) also take particular visual forms, typically as discrete shapes, pictograms or labels. But these represent the objects rather than their immobility. So, what is the visual form of immobility? What does the character, duration or intensity of immobility look like? What can we learn from attending to the visualisation of immobility? I begin to explore these questions with the map presented here, and in this essay to accompany it.
Penn State was selected as an official nominator for the Earthshot Prize, a competition aimed at identifying the most promising solutions to environmental challenges. Faculty and staff are encouraged to either self-nominate or to nominate other researchers or projects that they see as strong examples of promising solutions. The internal deadline to submit expressions of interest is Thursday, Dec. 17.
“We are looking for the best and brightest projects and ideas that Penn State has to offer,” said Erica Smithwick, official nominator for the University. “The Earthshot Prize is an opportunity for Penn State to work collaboratively and nominate projects that could truly change our world for the better.”