Penn State well represented at national geography conference

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Association of American Geographers (AAG) held its annual meeting April 8 to 12 in Tampa, Fla. More than 95 students, faculty and staff from Penn State joined fellow geographers, GIS specialists, environmental scientists, and other leaders for the latest in research and applications in geography, sustainability and GIScience.

“The conference went very well. I found that attending sessions by both Penn State professors and researchers from other schools was very rewarding. It gave me an opportunity to compare research methods and learn about different projects that are being conducted throughout the country and abroad,” said Benjamin Levine, undergraduate student in geography.

The annual AAG conference features more than 4,500 presentations, posters, workshops, and field trips by leading scholars, experts and researchers. The Penn State group was an integral part of the conference and participation included oral and poster and presentations, including a plenary lecture, session chairs, session organizers, panelists and volunteers.

The Department of Geography in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences was well represented at the conference with more than 84 faculty, postdoctoral scholars, graduate and undergraduate students, researchers and staff attending.

Doctoral candidate Arielle Hesse presented the paper “General Understanding of Risk: Gendered Landscapes of Work in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Industry.” Advised by Brian King, associate professor of geography, and by Melissa Wright, professor of geography and women's studies, Hesse discussed the occupational health issues related to the extraction of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale region.

“I am looking at proposed federal regulation aimed at reducing workers' exposure to crystalline silica during the hydraulic fracturing process and the workers' perceptions of those risks. Looking at some of the testimony that was offered at these hearings, I examined the rhetoric used to contest increased regulation by framing workers as critical to the geopolitical security of the U.S.,” said Hesse. 

Richard Hinton, a graduate student studying geographic information systems (GIS), presented the paper “Open Source Geospatial Technologies for Vulnerability Assessment and Disaster Risk Reduction.” Advised by Anthony Robinson, lead faculty for online geospatial education, John A. Dutton e-Education Institute, Hinton’s paper discussed how people can form a picture of a community’s vulnerability to earthquakes using free software tools online.

Anthony Robinson and Richard Hinton at AAG conference

Adviser Anthony Robinson (left) congratulated MGIS student Richard Hinton on completing his capstone project with his presentation on "Open Source Technologies for Vulnerability Assessment and Disaster Risk Reduction" at the 2014 Association of American Geographers (AAG) annual meeting, held April 8–12 in Tampa, Fla.

Image: Angela Rogers

“Using open source software and open source or freely available data, a relatively new GIS practitioner can learn about their community and its possible vulnerabilities to earthquakes. It's about starting the conversation, if it hasn't already begun and giving the everyday person the ability to understand their community by empowering them to learn how their community could be affected by an earthquake,” said Richard.

Numerous undergraduate students served as panelists at the conference. The panelists shared their summer internship experiences to an audience of students, faculty and company representatives. Students that attended learned about the various types of internships available and the company representatives gained insight on how to better develop their internship programs based on student needs.

“As a panelist, it gave me an excellent opportunity to enhance my public speaking skills and practice answering questions during an interview for full time employment,” said Levine.

Lakshman Yapa, professor of human geography, presented “Rethinking Urban Poverty in the United States,” describing his research that combines theories of economic development, postmodern discourse theory, and GIS to argue the relationship between poverty and epistemology. 

Commenting on his research, Yapa explained “The fields of economics, economic geography and sociology have developed a vast literature on poverty. We can call this the poverty discourse which I argue is directly implicated in why poor people have problems with access to food, health, housing, transport, energy and education.

Karl Zimmerer, department head and professor, was selected to give the plenary lecture "Nature-Society Integration or Synthesis? Past Practices, Present Trends and Future Directions" for the Cultural and Political Ecology AAG specialty group.

The conference also hosted the 25th annual World Geography Bowl where student teams from the AAG’s regional divisions competed in a round robin tournament. Lee Ann Nolan, librarian in the Fletcher L. Byrom Earth and Mineral Sciences Library, served as a question author for the tournament.

The students who attended the conference had wonderful opportunities to not only learn about research but also visit job and career centers, attend plenary sessions and view exhibits in the geographical sciences.

“I learned a lot from the conference. It helped broaden my awareness of the research going on in human and nature society geography,” said Hesse. 

The AAG is a scholarly and professional association representing leading researchers, educators and practitioners in geography. Founded in 1904, its 10,000 members share interests in the theory, methods and practice of geography, and its role in helping to create a better world. The AAG annual meeting has been held every year since the association's founding in 1904. Visit www.aag.org online for more information.

Contacts: 
Last Updated May 05, 2014