Department Newsletter, December 2015

Thumbnail for the department newsletterBelow is a sampling of updates from the Fall 2015 Geography Newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click on the thumbnail to the right.

Arctic Research: The Alaskan Frontier
Innovations in Teaching: Bringing Open Source Geospatial Technology Into Classrooms 
Professor Mona Atia’s Research on Poverty and Development
Geographers Making a Difference: The GW Humanitarian Mapping Society
The Inaugural Dorn McGrath, Jr., Lecture
In Memoriam: Richard “Dick” Randall, AB ’48, MA ’49
Student News
Graduation Highlights
Student Awards
Department Achievements


Arctic Research: The Alaskan Frontier

In the field for Arctic ResearchDuring summer 2015, the Arctic field investigations continued as part of the Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring (CALM) project funded by the Arctic Observing Networks program of the NSF. The CALM project is designed to monitor the long-term response of the active layer and near-surface permafrost parameters in various climatic and edaphic conditions characteristic of the circumpolar Arctic. Geography masters students Ziqi Li and Stephen Ross, former graduate student Kelsey Nyland and Northern Michigan undergraduate student Clayton Queen traveled to the North Slope of Alaska to assist in field research and to study the Arctic climate and landscapes with professors from the George Washington University (Nikolay Shiklomanov), University of Montana (Anna Klene) and Northern Michigan University (Frederick Nelson).

The crew drove north from Fairbanks on the Dalton Highway servicing sites on the Prudhoe Bay oil fields and around Toolik Lake Field Station. Then they continued to Barrow (the northern- most point in the US at 71°N) and Atqasuk (small primarily indigenous communities) as well as other remote sites. Lastly, several of the participants traveled to Nome to service sites on the Seward Peninsula. In the field, students have participated in active research and have learned advanced field techniques, instrumentation and data processing. The data collected during 2015 will contribute to a better understanding of the long-term response of permafrost environments to climatic variability and change.

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Innovations in Teaching: Bringing Open Source Geospatial Technology into Classrooms

Students learn Open Source GIS and assist in mapping vulnerable areas of the developing worldOpen geospatial technologies are changing the way people view and interact with geospatial information. These technologies consist of software, web platforms and data collection initiatives that guarantee unrestricted access to all users and are at the cutting edge of geospatial analysis.

In the spring of 2015, Professors Nuala Cowan and Richard Hinton offered a new course in Open Source Geospatial Technology. Students in the course worked exclusively with open source technology for data capture, management, analysis and communication. The course demonstrated how effective and sustainable project management can be using Open Source Solutions. In the spirit of service learning, Professors Cowan and Hinton partnered with the American Red Cross on a mobile data collection app to facilitate disaster risk assessments in the field. Students also worked with the Global Facility for Disaster and Risk Reduction (GFDRR) at the World Bank. Student groups conducted a preliminary scoping mission for several designated developing countries; countries who are developing an open spatial data infrastructure to support development and disaster resilience. After the earthquake hit Nepal in April 2015, current GW students revisited mapping tasks to assist the Red Cross and partners on the ground estimate damaged infrastructure. Today, these partners continue to add to and validate the data created by the students and collect additional attribute information for critical infrastructure in the city (schools and hospitals). The data was intended for earthquake modeling, specifically to determine debris volume in the event of an earthquake, and to plan potential “humanitarian corridors” for both debris removal and aid delivery.

Professors Cowan and Hinton have shown tremendous creativity in rethinking how to teach students new and exciting technological platforms. They have integrated powerful service-learning strategies that challenge students to apply geography and geospatial concepts in real-world situations and to work with collaborative partners in the disaster response community. The students have been inspired and know their work has benefited a wider global community; in turn, partners such as USAID and Red Cross have benefited from the hundreds of hours of student volunteer mapping. We applaud this innovation in teaching!

Photo: Students learn Open Source GIS and assist in mapping vulnerable areas of the developing world.

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 Professor Mona Atia’s Research on Poverty and Development

Professor Mona Atia in MoroccoProfessor Mona Atia has returned from her year-long sabbatical in North Africa, where she commenced fieldwork for her NSF Career Award “The Impact of Poverty Mapping on the Geography of Development.” She spent a total of nine months in Morocco and three months in Egypt investigating the forms of measurement and the type of knowledge and expertise mobilized in the creation of poverty maps. She interviewed economists, ministerial staff, NGO staff and the subjects of poverty interventions in order to capture how these maps are produced and used by different actors to target interventions at the poorest of the poor.

Professor Atia’s Morocco based fieldwork took place in Rabat, Mohammedia and Tinghir-—a largely rural province situated between Ouarzazate and Errachidia on the edge of the high Atlas Mountains. Professor Atia’s Egypt-based work took her to Cairo as well as the Upper Egyptian governorates of Suhag and Qena.

During the course of her fieldwork, Professor Atia developed a collaborative research project with a Moroccan colleague, Said Samlali, that was subsequently funded by the Arab Council of Social Sciences. This project examines the Moroccan government’s attempt to eradicate slums in Morocco and how the targeted populations respond to the flagship program entitled “Villes Sans Bidonvilles” or “Cities without Slums.” She recently presented the preliminary results of this research as part of a panel on Urban Inequality in the MENA at the World Social Science Research Forum in Durban, South Africa. 

Photo:Professor Mona Atia in Morocco

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Geographers Making a Difference: The GW Humanitarian Mapping Society

GWHMS logoThe GW Humanitarian Mapping Society is an opportunity for GW students to use open-source mapping software to contribute towards international aid efforts. The society works with many partners including the Red Cross and USAID to map areas which are identified as at-risk for or have recently experienced disasters. For example, both before and after the Nepal earthquake in spring 2015, HMS and the GW Geography Department mapped Kathmandu and the surrounding regions to help aid workers find and treat those effected by the earthquake. Currently, the society has a smaller subset of members who received a grant to teach middle school students in Ward 8 of Washington, D.C., to do community asset mapping along with other geography concepts.

The impact of the HMS has been considerable! Several stories have featured these student mappers, including and an online article by National Geographic.

HMS is also gearing up for its annual fall Mapathon on November 20; this year features a “map-off” between GW and George Mason University. HMS meets every other Tuesday from 8-9 p.m. in the Geography SAL and are always looking for speakers! For more information or to contact HMS about speaking, please email us and like our Facebook page

You are invited to attend our Mapathons, no experience required! 

Photo: GWHMS logo

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The Inaugural Dorn McGrath, Jr., Lecture

Professors Elizabeth Chacko, Amy Glasmeier, Dorn C. McGrath and Marie Price celebrate the first Inaugural Dorn McGrath, Jr., Lecture in Urban Planning and Geography.The Inaugural Dorn McGrath, Jr. Lecture in Urban Planning and Geography was held on Friday April 17, 2015. Over 200 students, alumni, faculty and staff attended the lecture given my Dr. Amy Glasmeier from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT. Dr. Glasmeier’s talk was titled “Energy Policy = Urban Policy: Are We Prepared?”  After the lecture, the Department of Geography hosted a reception for alumni and donors who contributed to the endowed lecture series.  Professor Dorn McGrath, Jr., attended the lecture and was delighted to see many of his former students from both the Department of Geography and the Urban Planning Program.

The Department of Geography’s goal is to raise $25,000 to endow this lecture so that we may have it every year. We are still in the fundraising phase and would welcome contributions. The intent of the lecture series is to have a high profile academic or planning practitioner to share insights into how to plan and manage sustainable urban places. The lecture will be held each spring.

We have scheduled the 2016 Dorn McGrath, Jr., lecture for Friday, April 15 at 6:00 p.m. More details will be posted to our web page. We look forward to seeing many of you there.

Photo: Professors Elizabeth Chacko, Amy Glasmeier, Dorn C. McGrath and Marie Price celebrate the first Inaugural Dorn McGrath, Jr., Lecture in Urban Planning and Geography.

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In Memoriam: Richard “Dick” Randall, AB ’48, MA ’49

Marie Price, Dorn McGrath, Dick Randall, Elizabeth Chacko and MA student Gloriana Sojo at the Geography Department’s annual holiday party. A long-time supporter and defender of geography at GW, Dr. Richard “Dick” Randall passed away on March 14, 2015, in Washington, D.C., at the age of 89. He was married to Patricia Spencer Randall for 52 years and was the father of three children and five grandchildren. Dr. Randall stayed involved with the department throughout his long career as a geographer. Last December, he even attended the department’s holiday party seen on the photo with Professors Price, McGrath, Chacko and graduate student Gloriana Sojo.

Dick was born in Toledo, Ohio, July 21, 1925, and moved to Washington, D.C., in 1936 when his father was appointed advisor to the U.S. National Resources Board by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Randall served with the 94th Infantry Division during World War II in European Theatre of Operations and was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Bronze Star and four Battle Stars. He received an AB (1948) and MA (1949) in geography from the George Washington University, where he was the second person to receive an MA from the new graduate program. He then earned a PhD (1955) in geography from Clark University. While attending Clark, he also studied at the University of Graz in Austria in 1953-54 as a Fulbright scholar.

Randall worked for the Central Intelligence Agency from 1955 to 1961, first specializing in editorial work in its Geography Division and later as an eastern-European specialist. In 1961, he became the Washington representative for Rand McNally and Company. In 1969, he designed the first series of maps showing the world's oceans and water bodies for inclusion in its major world atlas, the Cosmopolitan Atlas. From 1973 until his retirement in 1993, he worked as geographer for the Defense Mapping Agency (now the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency) and served as the executive secretary of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.

He remained an active member of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping, the American Geographical Society, the Association of American Geographers, the Cosmos Club and the Explorers Club. In 2001, Dr. Randall published Place Names: How They Define the World and More. Growing up in a family that loved music, he developed a passion of his own. Singing was an important part of his everyday life and a constant accompaniment to his characteristically buoyant demeanor. He cherished all things humorous and clever and freely shared poems, puns, amusing anecdotes, songs and puzzles. A life-long learner, he was fascinated by the world and the people in it. He relished meeting new people, learning about their lives, sharing his experience and exchanging ideas.

Photo: Marie Price, Dorn McGrath, Dick Randall, Elizabeth Chacko and MA student Gloriana Sojo at the Geography Department’s annual holiday party.

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Student News

Graduate student Gloriana Sojo spoke at the International Young Leaders Assembly in the United Nations HeadquartersGeography graduate student Gloriana Sojo presented her research about the regularization of foreign workers in Costa Rica at Metropolis, an international migration conference in Mexico City. She conducted this research for the article published by the Migration Policy Institute, where she interned in the spring. Attending this conference was not only an invaluable academic opportunity, but also a chance to network with a diverse and highly-qualified group of migration experts. 

Gloriana was also invited to speak to 1,200 young leaders from 115 countries at the International Young Leaders Assembly in the United Nations Headquarters this summer. "Too often we hear from 24-year-olds who already founded organizations or are presidents of something and we freak out because we haven't done that," she said. "And that is not me. I wanted to tell other young people that it's OK if we are not CEOs, or if we still haven't changed the world. I wanted to encourage people to stay active but also to go easy on themselves."

Photo: Graduate student Gloriana Sojo spoke at the International Young Leaders Assembly in the United Nations Headquarters.

Ten Geography Seniors Inducted into Gamma Theta Upsilon in the spring of 2015

Congratulations to Erik Bethke, Rohan Bhargava, Evan Bradley Feinstein, Christopher Andrew Hart, Katherine M. Hurrell, Lucy Garnett Lee, Ellen Park, Julia Rose Prout, Michelle Faye Stuhlmacher and Luis Jakob Suter. These outstanding geography undergraduates were inducted into Gamma Theta Upsilon (GTU), the International Geographical Honor Society. The inductees earned their place in the honor society based their overall and geography major GPAs.

GTU, founded in 1928, furthers professional interest in geography, encourages geography student research, awards funds for graduate study in geography and advances the status of the discipline for study and investigation.

GTU occasionally meets to plan various activities including field trips to the United States Department of State and the National Geographic Society. We are very proud of our GTU inductees and wish them well as ambassadors for the Geography Department at GW and for the discipline of geography.
 

GW Geography Bowl Team Wins the MAD Competition

GW Geography Bowl Team wins the MAD CompetitionOn Saturday, October 31, 2015, in Towson, Md., six students on the GW Geography Bowl Team competed against three other schools to come out on top at the Mid-Atlantic Division (MAD) Meeting Geography Bowl Competition. GW’s team captain, Kean McDermott, a first year MA student, also won the MVP award for answering the most questions of any of the competitors. Professor Marie Price is the faculty representative for the team.

Congratulations to the team members Holding the MAD trophy (left to right): Forrest Melvin (MA student), Hannah Hassani (undergraduate), Patrick Nahhas (undergraduate), Kean McDermott (captain and MA student), Matthew Mittler (MA student) and Victoria Winch (Undergraduate). McDermott and Nahhas were selected to the region-wide MAD Team that will compete in San Francisco in March 2016 at the Association of American Geographers annual meeting.


MA Graduate Student Internships Make a Difference

Last spring, the department piloted a new requirement for our nonthesis MA students: a capstone internship. Six MA students interned with nonprofits and nongovernmental organization. Emmalee Dolfi did her internship at World Wildlife Fund for the Northern Great Plains program. She helped the team developed a classification methodology that distinguished between different grassland communities to aid in conservation strategy development. She was able to apply the imagery analysis skills she learned at GW, using software like ERDAS Imagine and R, while also learning new techniques such as JavaScript coding in Google Earth Engine API. On top of strengthening her technical skill set, she gained experience working in a nonprofit setting and formed strong professional relationships with her colleagues.

Evan Watson interned at American Rivers, a national river conservation nonprofit based in D.C. The projects he worked varied in difficulty from basic cartography to a land use analysis of a river basin. The capstone internship option was a great opportunity for him to take the skills and concepts he learned in classes and test them for the first time in a low-stress professional setting. He said this experience helped him gain confidence in his technical skills and that the reference provided by his supervisor was instrumental in getting his current position as a water resource specialist for the State of Montana.


Senior Fieldtrip

For most seniors at the George Washington University, the most memorable part of their final year of college is graduation on the mall, celebrating after finishing their thesis or an #OnlyAtGW experience in D.C. However, in the Geography Department, many of the graduates will point to senior seminar, specifically the field trip to Mason Neck State Park, as the highlight of senior year. The weekend long trip allows the seniors to conduct field research of their choice as part of the seminar research project. Some topics from the 2016 class were park management practices, invasive species mapping and walkability in nearby Lorton, Va. The field trip is intended to give students some hands-on field work experience, a key skill to any geographer, but it also provides them with ample cohort building opportunities. On Saturday morning of the 2015 trip, groups of three to five students trekked out to their various research sites, carrying with them water quality testing equipment, surveys, GPS way point collectors and lunches stocked with sandwiches and juice boxes! 

Current MA student Joe Chestunut, BA ’14, reflected on the lasting importance of his experience: “My group went to the Mason Neck State Park to research how park management responds to the needs of park users while still staying true to their mission of nature preservation. After a long day of field work, we ended the last night of the trip with s'mores over the campfire, strange Carl Sauer references and only a few shenanigans. The brief weekend gave us valuable hands-on experience in researching an original research project, but arguably the more salient result of the trip was a cohort of students who bonded over a weekend in the Virginia woods.”

A group photo of the senior field tripStudents gather near food during the senior field trip Female students pose during the senior field tripMale students pose during the senior field trip


Geography Student Presentations at Chicago AAG, April 2015

The following undergraduate and graduate students presented papers/posters at the annual conference:

Madeline Hale: “Strapping on and plugging in: Sex toy bloggers and feminist place-making online.”

Ziqi Li:  “Effect of Arctic Urban and Industrial Development on Land Surface Temperature: a case study for the Norilsk Region, Russia

Kean McDermott: “Mapping the Amarna Letters: Analyzing a socio-spatial network through ancient diplomatic communications

Kelsey Nyland: “Quantifying Anthropogenic Impacts on the Russian Permafrost System using Landsat Dense Time Stacks

Avery Sandborn: “Examining the Relationship between Spatial Features Derived from High Resolution Satellite Imagery and Census Derived Variables in Accra, Ghana.”

Michelle Stuhlmacher: “Regional Snowfall Index with Decadal Population

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Graduation Highlights

2015 MA graduates Kelsey Nyland, Zand Bakhtiari and Avery SandbornOn Friday, May 15, 2015, Columbian College graduate students were recognized for their achievement in the arts and sciences as they completed their master's and doctoral degrees. Along with words-of-wisdom from Columbian College Dean Ben Vinson III, the Geography Department’s own Kelsey Nyland addressed the gathering of students, faculty and family as this year's distinguished scholar and student speaker. We are so proud of Kelsey’s accomplishments as a geography undergraduate and graduate student! 

Here is the full text of her speech:

Good morning. It’s an honor to be speaking to you all. Today I’ll tell you about having plans, but staying flexible, because life has all sorts of surprises—like being asked to make this speech. I’m sure all of us graduates can relate over the many late nights we’ve spent searching for articles,  and watching our file names go from “thesis draft 1,” to “draft 2,” all the way to “draft no seriously finish this.” We’ve seen each other at Tonic happy hours, and, when that was too crowded down the street at Lindy’s. During this time we’ve all been working on some pretty unique and interesting subjects. My work involved traveling to the Arctic for climate change research. I’ll tell you a story about an adventure in Russia, but most importantly how my GW experience has taught me to seize every opportunity, and to be ready for any obstacles along the way.

I first learned this lesson as a freshman at GW. New to college I didn’t entirely understand course numbering and signed up a seminar called Arctic Environments.  On the first day this big, loud Russian walked in and announced he was a climatologist who would set us straight about climate change. Apart from being initially intimidated by the professor, I quickly realized that I was surrounded by even more intimidating graduate students. It was a graduate seminar and not an introductory geography course like I thought it would be. I stayed in the class and once I braved office hours found out that the professor was looking for someone to do field work with him in Alaska. He would become my advisor for both of my degrees as well as a very close friend. Some things that at first seem like obstacles are actually opportunities and we’ve all had professors help us recognize these and we thank them for that.

Professors like mine provided me with countless research, and professional opportunities. For example, I participated in an international field course in Siberia. Now, we’ve all heard jokes about how strange and unpredictable Russia is, but you don’t understand how true these can be until you’ve been there. 

After two weeks studying landscapes in the Polar Ural Mountains we had just three days left on our visas and a 50 hour train ride back to Moscow. Unfortunately, after our trek down from the mountains, we had missed the only train. We were assured that everything would be fine though; thanks to the permafrost landscape the tracks were warped and the train would be moving slow enough for us to catch. After all we had learned during the field course this seemed logical enough. Much later, at one of those Tonic happy hours, I would learn that our instructor had in fact gotten the train conductor on the phone and was promising anything to get him to slow down for us, including my hand in marriage. Never blindly nod when you don’t know the language. Whatever the actual reason the train was slow, and with the help of a local truck driver, we did catch it. After we boarded and the initial relief wore off though, we started to notice our fellow passengers, a lot of heavily tattooed men. Despite having minimal Russian beyond numbers and basic pleasantries, we soon learned that the town where we got on was in fact a prison and that it was time for our new friends to celebrate their recent release. 

Eventually we did make it back to Moscow in time. We had a plan and were flexible enough to deal with obstacles we met along the way and even learned some new things. Like the meanings behind several prison tattoos. Fun fact, a tattoo of the Statue of Liberty does not necessarily imply a love of the U.S., but in Misha’s case that he was a thief. This was an incredible cultural experience that only added to an already excellent field course. 

With the master’s and doctorate degrees we are receiving, make new goals, have a plan, but don’t be deterred if you find yourself with an expiring visa, chasing a train through the Arctic, and surrounded by Russian convicts—stay flexible. We are highly educated and capable graduates of the George Washington University and we’re ready to take on new challenges. So congratulations class of 2015. And good luck with all of your future adventures.

Photo: 2015 MA graduates Kelsey Nyland, Zand Bakhtiari and Avery Sandborn

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Student Awards

Department of Geography and Environmental Studies 2015 Award Winners:

Robert D. Campbell Prize Presented to a Geography Senior Student for Outstanding Leadership and Scholarship. Award Recipients: Michelle Stuhlmacher and Christopher Hart

Michelle StuhlmacherOn family vacations, Michelle’s parents gave her state maps to keep her quiet in the backseat. Today, she continues to appreciate cartography as a geography major with minors in GIS and sustainability. For her sustainability minor's culminating experience, she was as a member of a research team in Costa Rica. After she returned to the United States, she co-authored a publication on this agroforestry work. Michelle has also worked on zero waste projects in the GW Division of Operations, interned for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and assisted with several research projects that dealt with her interest in human-environment interactions. She loves how Old Main has transformed from a space to a place during her time in the department. This fall she started a PhD program in geography at Arizona State University.

Photo: Michelle Stuhlmacher

Chris HartChris has been a geography buff since at least the third grade in his hometown of Westfield, Mass. He began his undergraduate studies at the George Washington University as an international affairs major, but after taking human geography in his freshman year, he decided to follow his passion and declare a second major in geography. Chris quickly realized how well the two disciplines complemented each other and developed a particular interest in how cultural geography shapes interactions between and within states. He was a member of the Geography Bowl team during his sophomore and senior years, and was World Geography Bowl MVP at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers in Chicago. Chris is currently employed as a program support officer in the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, U.S. Department of State.

Photo: Chris Hart

Thomas Foggin Award: Presented to an Environmental Studies Senior in Recognition of Scholarly Excellence. Award Recipient: Socorro Lopez

Socorro LopezOriginally from Honduras, Socorro attained an undergraduate degree in environmental studies with a double minor in public health and geographic information systems. During her time at GW, she volunteered with Casey Trees and Thrive D.C., local nonprofits that restore the district’s tree canopy and provide vital services to people experiencing homelessness, respectively. She also interned at the American Public Health Association, where she had the opportunity to write blogs regarding trends and issues in global health. As a junior, she researched coastal water pollution in Tanzania, and delivered English lessons to primary and secondary students in Colombia. Furthermore, Socorro spent a summer in Atlanta participating in the Collegiate Leaders in Environmental Health Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where she helped to develop strategies and products aimed at improving the national surveillance of environmental health issues. In the future, Socorro hopes to complete an MPH and gain a greater understanding of the interconnectivity between environmental sustainability, population dynamics and reproductive health.

Photo: Socorro Lopez

Sophia Dahodwala

Muriel H. Parry Award: Presented to a Geography Senior in Recognition of Scholarly Excellence. Award Recipient: Sophia Dahodwala.

For Sophia, geography has bridged her passions for the sciences and international affairs. Sophia was introduced to geography during her freshman year, and has since continued to pursue her interests in physical geography and security policy. Her professional and academic interests include disaster response and resilience, glacial geomorphology, and climate change as drivers of conflict. Sophia studied abroad in Christchurch, New Zealand, where she conducted a natural hazard risk assessment for the tourist town of Franz Josef Glacier. In the summer of 2014, she had the unique opportunity to conduct field work in Barrow, Alaska, alongside Professor Streletskiy. Since graduation Sophia spent the summer researching education policy and program development in India, and is now seeking employment in the fields of hazard and disaster management and international development.

Photo: Sophia Dahodwala

Kelsey NylandDorn C. McGrath, Jr. Award: Presented to a Geography Graduate Student in Recognition of Scholarly Excellence. Award Recipient: Kelsey Nyland

Kelsey is a true product of the GW Geography Department having received both her bachelor’s and master’s in geography here. Since her freshman year she has been highly involved in Arctic research with Professors Nikolay Shiklomanov and Dmitry Streletskiy. She continued to work with them for her master’s thesis that examined land cover change in Central Siberia using remotely sensed imagery. During her career at GW, she has participated in five summers of Arctic field expeditions to the Russian and Alaskan Arctic, published a peer-reviewed article as the first author, contributed to other works currently in review and presented her research at more than 20 national and international conferences. Kelsey is continuing her education in the geography PhD program at Michigan State University.

Photo: Kelsey Nyland

Graduate Student Research:  2015 Summer Campbell Research Awards.

Three MA students were award the highly competitive Campbell Graduate Summer Research Grants. The grants assist with travel and other support for graduate research.

Natalie Armstrong received an award for her research project “A Critical Assessment of Business Improvement Districts and their Integration of Sustainability in Washington, D.C.”  She will examine the role of Business Improvement Districts as engines for urban revitalization.

Gloriana Sojo-Lara received an award for her research project, “Dreaming Transnationally: the DREAMers and the Shaping of Geographies of Belonging.”  This project studies the migrant Dreamer population in the United States and Mexico and efforts to create spaces and develop practices for belonging and inclusion.

Ziqi Li received an award for his research project “Evaluate the potential applicability to estimate thawing season active layer depth using MODIS LST and NDVI in North Slope of Alaska, USA.” His research will examine the potential of satellite products to map arctic region active layer depth in three sites in Alaska.

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Department News

The Geography Department continues to expand its Arctic Research program. The 2014 newsletter of highlighted the Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring (CALM) Program (Nikolay Shiklomanov and Dmitry Streletskiy) and “Polar Peoples: Past, Present, and Future” (Tim Heleniak). This year geographers received two additional very prestigious awards aimed at addressing other aspects of the changing Arctic.

Arctic PIRE: Promoting Urban Sustainability in the Arctic

Building on the success of the NSF-funded Research Coordination Network for Promoting Arctic Urban Sustainability in Russia project operated jointly by GWU’s IERES and Geography Department, the geography faculty Dmitry Streletskiy, Nikolay Shiklomanov, Tim Heleniak, Ryan Engstrom, Lisa Benton-Short, Melissa Keeley and Michael Mann together with Robert Orttung and Marlene Laruelle from IERES received one of the most prestigious NSF awards: the Partnership for International Research and Education (PIRE) award. The purpose of this $3 million, five-year project is to develop international interdisciplinary research and educational activities focused on Arctic urban sustainability. The partnership will bring together scientists from the United States, Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Norway and Russia. With the United States chairing the Arctic Council from May 2015 to May 2017, the PIRE grant will improve the ability of policy-makers to promote sustainability by providing tools to measure progress, identify areas of most urgent needs, select verifiable best practices, examine opportunity costs and determine where external actors can have the greatest impact. The PIRE NSF grant will provide geography students with the opportunity to actively participate in the cutting-edge interdisciplinary research, including field trips to Arctic Alaska and Russia.

ARCTIC-ERA: ARCTIC climate change and its impact on Environment, infrastructures, and Resource Availability”

Dmitry Streletskiy and Nikolay Shiklomanov traveled to Grenoble, France, in October, 2015, to take part in the kick-off meeting of the newly funded Arctic project ARCTIC-ERA (ARCTIC climate change and its impact on Environment, infrastructures, and Resource Availability). ARCTIC-ERA is one of the six 1 million euro international proposals funded last year by the Belmont Forum, a forum for national scientific funding agencies to collaborate in addressing the challenges and opportunities of global environmental change. This five-year project brings together scientists from GW, Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l’Environnement (France), Institute of Economic Forecasting (Russia), Institute of Oceanology (Russia) and Hydrology Science and Services (USA) to address critical aspects of human well-being and sustainable use of Arctic infrastructure and resources under the conditions of regionally accelerating global warming. The project outcomes will be used by in IPCC and Arctic Council assessments, national climate change and sustainability reports, by shipping companies and many other Arctic operators involved in issues related to environment, health and natural resources.

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