2012 to 2013 Academic Year News

August 22, 2012

An, Stow, Aitken, et al. Receive $1.3 million NSF Award for Golden Monkey

li an doug stow stuart aitken

A multidisciplinary research team from San Diego State University (Geography, Biology, and Educational Technology) and University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill (Geography and Biostatistics) has received an NSF award of $1.3 million for four 4 years. The newly funded project is entitled “CNH: Sustainability of Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) in Coupled Natural and Human Systems”. The Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems (CNH) NSF Program “promotes interdisciplinary analyses of relevant human and natural system processes and complex interactions among human and natural systems at diverse scales”. This funded research seeks to understand the interactions between payment programs and coupled systems over space and time, focusing on essential feedbacks among human livelihoods, demographic behavior, and the environment. The study site is the Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve in China, home to the endangered Guizhou golden monkey. The team proposes to use a novel approach complementing remote sensing and camera trapping with participatory mapping, interviews, and participatory agent-based modeling. Congratulations to the PI Dr. Li An and the research team: Stuart Aitken, Douglas Stow (Geography), Rebecca Lewison (Biology), Minjuan Wang (Educational Technology), Richard Bilsborrow (UNC Chapel Hill, Biostatistics), and Xiaodong Chen (UNC Chapel Hill, Geography)! We look forward to hearing about your progress!

Here is the non technical abstract


September 4, 2012

Stuart Aitken receives the Monty Award

Congratulations once again to Dr. Stuart Aitken. During the Convocation Ceremony on August 23, Stuart officially received his Monty Award. Check out a few selected pictures from the event below.

Video introduction Leave geography site

Stuart Aitken and his family at the Monty Award Ceremony The 2012 Monty Award Winners Stuart Aitken with the President, Dean, and Provost Stuart Aitken with his award


September 10, 2012

Beginning of the Semester Picnic

The Department of Geography’s beginning of the year picnic was held on September 7, at Coronado’s Tideland Park. The Pizza/Potluck affair included current faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students. Even the little geographers came out. The weather was great and the food superb.

Check out the photos below.

People milling around at Tidelands Park Wider shot of people talking at Tidelands Park Empty pizza boxes and a few faculty A couple of people sitting at Tidelands Park


li anSeptember 24, 2012

An Part of Team Awarded new $1.45 Million NSF-CNH Grant

Congratulations to Dr. Li An, who is part of a team that was recently awarded an National Science Foundation - Dynamics Coupled Natural and Human Systems (NSF-CNH) grant, entitled: “CNH: Feedbacks Between Human Community Dynamics and Socioecological Vulnerability in a Biodiversity Hotspot,” (PI Scott T. Yabiku, ASU, co-PIs: Sharon J. Hall, ASU; Li An; Abigail M. York, ASU, and Dirgha Ghimire, University of Michigan). The project team will be investigating connections between non-family organizations and management institutions, and the spread of an invasive weed, Mikania micrantha, in the buffer zone surrounding the Chitwan National Park in Nepal.


doug stowSeptember 27, 2012

Stow et al. Receive $993,000 NASA Grant

Congratulations to Doug Stow and his colleagues on their recent NASA grant “The Urban Transition in Ghana and Its Relation to Land Cover and Land Use Change Through Analysis of Multi-scale and Multi-temporal Satellite Image Data.” The grant is part of the NASA Interdisciplinary Research in Earth Science Program. The research team consists of PI Doug Stow, Co-PIs John Weeks and Li An as well as David Carr (UCSB), Ryan Engstrom (George Washington University), Foster Mensah (University of Ghana), and SDSU-UCSB Geography Ph.D. students Magdalena Benza-Fiocco and Sory Toure.


john weeksOctober 1, 2012

Weeks quoted in the San Diego Union Tribune

Distinguished Professor John Weeks was quoted extensively in an article from the San Diego Union Tribune about updating the census categories for race and ethnicity.

Read the full article, entitled Census may change race, ethnicity terms Leave geography site.


liz kennedyOctober 9, 2012

Kennedy quoted in Politico, has an article published on Open Democracy

Congratulations to doctoral student Elizabeth Kennedy, who had a very productive September. On the 28th, she was quoted in an article from Politico about her work with child migrants.

“You can't separate this migration from the violence associated with the U.S. drug policy,” she told POLITICO. “This is a U.S. driven problem and we can't escape being culpable for it.” Read the full article entitled Child-migrant Problems on the Rise Leave geography site.

Earlier in the month on September 5th, Elizabeth had an article published on Open Democracy about her own experiences working with young migrants on the U.S.-Mexico Border. Read the full article entitled A Child's transnational journey “to be someone” Leave geography site.


mary freemanOctober 17, 2012

Freeman Defends Dissertation

Mary Pyott Freeman sucessfully defended her doctoral dissertation titled An Analysis of Tree Mortality Using High Resolution Remotely-Sensed Data for Mixed-Conifer Forests in San Diego County.

For my research I have been working on various methods to document and understand the increase of tree dieback in our local montane sky islands. The montane mixed-conifer forests of San Diego County are currently experiencing extensive tree mortality, which is defined as dieback where whole stands are affected. This mortality is likely the result of the complex interaction of many variables, such as altered fire regimes, climatic conditions such as drought, as well as forest pathogens and past management strategies. Conifer tree mortality and its spatial pattern and change over time were examined in three components. In component 1, two remote sensing approaches were compared for their effectiveness in delineating dead trees, a spatial contextual approach and an OBIA (object based image analysis) approach, utilizing various dates and spatial resolutions of airborne image data. For each approach transforms and masking techniques were explored, which were found to improve classifications, and an object-based assessment approach was tested. In component 2, dead tree maps produced by the most effective techniques derived from component 1 were utilized for point pattern and vector analyses to further understand spatio-temporal changes in tree mortality for the years 1997, 2000, 2002, and 2005 for three study areas: Palomar, Volcan and Laguna mountains. Plot-based fieldwork was conducted to further assess mortality patterns. Results indicate that conifer mortality was significantly clustered, increased substantially between 2002 and 2005, and was non-random with respect to tree species and diameter class sizes. In component 3, multiple environmental variables were used in Generalized Linear Model (GLM - logistic regression) and decision tree classifier model development, revealing the importance of climate and topographic factors such as precipitation and elevation, in being able to predict areas of high risk for tree mortality. The results from this study highlight the importance of multi-scale spatial as well as temporal analyses, in order to understand mixed-conifer forest structure, dynamics, and processes of decline, which can lead to more sustainable management of forests with continued natural and anthropogenic disturbance.

Congratulations Mary!


sean crottyNovember 13, 2012

Crotty Defends Dissertation

Sean Crotty sucessfully defended his doctoral dissertation titled The Geographies of Day Labor in San Diego County.

My broad research interests lie at the intersection of urban planning and governance, economic geography, legal geography, community studies, and critical perspectives on immigration and race. My dissertation research focused on the spatial organization and operation of immigrant day-labor markets, as well as the socio-spatial relationships between hiring sites and their surrounding neighborhoods that sometimes generate serious community conflicts. Indeed, the primary purpose of my research is to reduce or eliminate day-labor conflicts at the local level through improved urban planning, community building and education, and improved communication networks among laborers. The geographic perspective is critical in my approach, as planning for day labor activities requires understanding how the markets work at multiple spatial scales.

In my dissertation project, I used geographic information systems (GIS) and quantitative analysis in combination with qualitative research methods to explore the geography of day labor markets in the San Diego Metropolitan Area. Specifically, my project examines the distribution and locational characteristics of day labor hiring sites and the neighborhoods that support them. This regional and neighborhood-level analysis is combined with street-level observation and ethnography to understand the ways that spaces of work and social reproduction are informally constructed, maintained, and altered by day laborers and other community members. As a human geographer, my research and analysis is interdisciplinary in nature, and incorporates theoretical perspectives from a variety of disciplines. My work contributes to critical theories of race and ethnicity, community membership, and governance by connecting these literatures with theories of space and place from geography and examining their applicability in the context of day labor activities and conflicts. In particular, my work demonstrates the connection between neighborhood identity and the criminalization of immigrant day laborers. I view this contribution as critical, as it provides a more nuanced understanding of the locational factors that generate day-labor “conflicts.” These findings informed my efforts to develop socially-just solutions to day-labor conflicts as a participant-activist with local community groups involved in immigrant outreach and advocacy in the San Diego Metropolitan Area.

Congratulations Sean!


ming-hsiang tsouNovember 16, 2012

Tsou on KPBS

Professor Ming-Hsiang Tsou was interviewed by KPBS, San Diego’s Public Broadcasting Station regarding his NSF funded project Mapping Ideas Leave geography site. The aim of the project is to track spatial patterns of publically-accessible web pages and social media (Twitter) based upon searching predefined clusters of keywords determined by domain experts.

View the full article and video on the KPBS website Leave geography site.


November 20, 2012

Rushton Gives 2012 Getis Lecture

Dr. Gerard Rushton, a professor of geography from the University of Iowa, was the Arthur Getis Distinguished Lecturer for 2012. The title of his talk, presented last month, was Spatial Analysis for Population Health .

Dr. Gerard Rushton with Dr. Art Getis


December 18, 2012

Annual Department Holiday Party

The annual Geography Department Holiday Party was held on December 14, 2012. There was food, drinks, trivia, and laughter had by all during the two hour extravaganza. For all the photos from the party other recent events, please visit the department’s Facebook page.

Dr. Doug Stow reading a trivia question Dr. Pascale Joassart Marcelli holding up her prize The prizes Dr. Andre Skupin, who moderated the event


kate swansonJanuary 3, 2013

Swanson Named Outstanding International Scholar

Dr. Kate Swanson was selected as the 2012-2013 Outstanding International Scholar by the honor society Scholars Without Borders. This award is given once a year to a distinguished SDSU faculty member who has demonstrated outstanding contributions in the international arena.

Congratulations to Kate for her superb international teaching, scholarship and research. She will be giving a 30 minute talk during the award ceremony on Wednesday, April 24 in the International Student Center Lounge. Her talk, entitled “Youth, Migration and Poverty in the Americas,” begins at 3:30 p.m.


john weeksJanuary 10, 2013

Weeks quoted in the San Diego Union Tribune and Interviewed on KPBS

Professor John Weeks was featured in a front-page story in Sunday’s San Diego Union-Tribune on the new Census Bureau population projections and what they might mean for San Diego County.

This led to a related radio interview on Wednesday on KPBS during their Midday Edition followed by a TV interview that aired on their evening news. Both can be found here.


doug stowJanuary 28, 2013

Stow Named 2013 SAIC Estes Memorial Teaching Award Winner

Professor Doug Stow is this year’s recipient of the SAIC Estes Memorial Teaching Award. The purpose of the Award is to recognize individual achievement in the promotion of remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS) technology and applications through educational efforts.

The award will be presented to Doug at this year’s ASPRS conference in Baltimore,during the Awards Luncheon on March 26

Congratulations Doug!


January 29, 2013

SDSU Geography Welcomes Chinese Delegation

SDSU Geography this week is hosting a delegation from the Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve in Guizhou, China. The delegation will be on campus January 29 and 30th, and will be discussing plans for a collaborative project led by Dr. Li An investigating the use of payments for ecosystem services projects to promote habitat conservation for the Guizhou Golden Monkey.

FNNR Project Team Director Yegin Yang Dean Paul Wong and Lilly Cheng (Confucius_Center) Li An and Ninghua Wang Ninghua Wang


liz kennedyFebruary 12, 2013

Kennedy Published in JAMA Pediatrics and Interviewed by the Office of Public Affairs at UCSB

Congratulations to doctoral student Elizabeth Kennedy, who just published an article in JAMA Pediatrics, which focuses on the unmet mental health needs of unaccompanied alien children Leave geography site.

In response to her recent publication, Elizabeth was interviewed by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Santa Barbara Leave geography site about her work with unaccompanied migrant children.

Congratulations Liz!


milo vejraskaFebruary 13, 2013

Vejraska Awarded a Marshall Plan Fellowship

Milo Vejraska, a graduate student in the Master’s program, was recently awarded a Marshall Plan Fellowship from the Austrian government to spend the summer 2013 at the Carinthia University of Applied Sciences working on a research project “Developing a Multiple Criteria Spatial Decision Support System for Resource Management in Torrent and Avalanche Prone Areas of Southern Austria.” Milo is one of five students from our department who have been awarded the Marshall Plan Fellowship in the last five years.

Congratulations Milo!


denise goerischFebruary 14, 2013

Goerisch Wins Award

Many congratulations to Denise Goerisch for winning the AAG Geographic Perspectives on Women (GPOW) Glenda Laws Student Paper Award! Her paper is titled, “Be Prepared: Girls Imagining Their Future Selves Through Scouting” and is forthcoming in a book on geographies of informal education edited by Sarah Mills and Peter Kraftl.

Way to go, Denise!


February 20, 2013

Aitken Recognized at Basketball Game

Congratulations to Professor Stuart Aitken whose research was highlighted during last night’s basketball game against Wyoming. Stuart is an internationally recognized critical human geographer. His research interests include exploring humanity’s impact on the world and the geographic contexts of social inequality.

Aitken on Basketball Board


March 5, 2013

Aitken, Yang, and Allison Conducting Fieldwork in China

Professor Stuart Aitken, and graduate students Shuang Yang and Steven Allison are conducting participatory mapping survey in Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve, China from late February to mid March. This fieldwork session is an essential part of an ongoing NSF project that studies the impacts of payments for ecosystem services. Read more about the project Leave geography site.

Aitken, Allison, and Yang at work


denise goerischMarch 29, 2013

Goerisch Attends Spring Academy at Heidelberg University

Every year the Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA) in Germany invites outstanding international Ph.D. students from diverse academic disciplines to Heidelberg to pres­ent their dissertation projects in the field of American Studies. This year, Denise Goerisch was one of these students (selected out of a pool of 150 applicants!). The HCA Spring Academy on American History, Culture & Politics is an annual, one-week interdisciplinary conference at Heidelberg University for Ph.D. candidates working in different fields of American studies. It has been very successful in establishing an international network of young and aspiring researchers. Students also have the opportunity to attend several field trips including a walking tour of Heidelberg and a guided tour of the John Deere factory in Mannheim.

Goerisch on a tractor


jared van ramshorstApril 15, 2013

Van Ramshorst Receives Two Awards

Jared Van Ramshorst, a first year M.A. student, has received two awards: the Less Commonly Taught Languages Scholarship, funded by funded by the Instituto Welte Para Estudios Oaxaqueños (Welte Institute for Oaxacan Studies) and the Clarissa Kimber Field Study Award, funded by the Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers (CLAG). These two awards will help support Jared’s summer fieldwork in Oaxaca, Mexico, where he will do research on indigenous transnational networks as part of his M.A. thesis research.

Congratulations Jared!


leticia garciaApril 15, 2013

Garcia Receives Harvard Fellowship

Doctoral student Leticia Garcia has recently became a Harvard Research Fellow in the Study of Capitalism. The fellowship, which is funded by Harvard Law School’s Institute for Global Law and Policy (IGLP), is awarded to graduate students pursuing interdisciplinary research on capitalism. As a fellow, Leticia will do research on intersections of economic development, food security and cultural empowerment in North Central Philadelphia by engaging with current debates in feminist economic geography.

Congratulations Leticia!


stuart aitkenApril 26, 2013

Aitken Receives Fulbright

Dr. Stuart Aitken received a Fulbright award to Slovenia to study politics, activism, and civic responsibilities of the children of the Izbrisani (the “erased”), a group of ethnic Serbs and Croates who lost their residency status when Slovenia got statehood. The project builds on his work with child activists in Chile and SE San Diego, and his experimental mapping project in China.

Congratulations Stuart!


liz kennedyMay 6, 2013

Kennedy Receives Fulbright Student Award

Doctoral student Elizabeth Kennedy received a U.S. Fulbright Student Award for 2013-2014 to work with repatriated unaccompanied child migrants in El Salvador and those who live in lower income neighborhoods of the country. She will be working with Universidad Centroamericana’s IDHUCA team, led by Gilma Perez, Moises Gomez, and Amparo Marroquin, Catholic Relief Services, and the Salvadoran Foreign Ministry.

Congratulations Liz!


zia salimMay 9, 2013

Salim Receives California Geographical Society Awards

Doctoral student Zia Salim received two awards at this year’s meeting of the California Geographical Society (CGS). His paper, entitled ‘Islands on an island’: Urban and social geographies of gated communities in Bahrain, received the first place award in the graduate papers category. He also received the CGS’s 2013 David Lantis graduate scholarship.

Congratulations Zia!


pete coulterMay 16, 2013

Coulter Receives PLF Award

Congratulations to Pete Coulter who just received the President’s Leadership Fund Faculty and Staff Excellence Award. The award will assist Pete in his research, which includes innovative approaches for airborne image collection and processing that enable near real-time post-earthquake disaster assessment, search and rescue of missing persons, border and agricultural crop monitoring, animal surveys, and possibly detection of explosive device (IED) which may reduce risks to military personnel.

Congratulations Pete!


john weeksMay 20, 2013

Weeks Keynote Speaker at Arts and Letters Commencement

Distinguished Professor John Weeks was the keynote speaker for the 2013 College of Arts and Letters Commencement Ceremony on May 19.

Congratulations Dr. Weeks!


andré skupinJune 3, 2013

Skupin Elected to UCGIS Board of Directors

Dr. André Skupin has been elected to the Board of Directors of the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS). He will serve a three-year term for this umbrella organization of 70+ research universities and affiliate institutions. Dr. Skupin previously served as UCGIS Membership Committee Chair.


June 3, 2013

ISYS Receives Grant from HDR Foundation

The Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Youth and Space (ISYS) received a grant from the HDR Foundation for the “Building Healthier Communities and Pathways to Higher Education with Native American Youth,” project which connects traditional Native American cultural practices with higher education opportunities in cultural preservation and environmental management. Congratulations to Dr. Tom Herman, who will run the project, and Dr. Giorgio Curti and Dr. Christopher Moreno, who served as employee sponsors and will assist with project development and implementation.


June 27, 2013

NSF CNH Project Team Held Three-Day Workshop

The NSF CNH project team (PI: Dr. Li An) held a 3-day summer workshop at SDSU (June 12 to 14, 2013) that aimed to help local K-12 teachers develop new curricula. These new curricula will engage students in better understanding Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) and sustainability of Coupled Natural and Human Systems (CNH) at Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve, China. Eight teachers from three different local schools in the San Diego area participated. Project researchers Aitken, An, Chen, Coulter, Lewison, Wang, and Yang all offered training sessions.

Li An teaching a workshop Stuart Aitken leading a workshop


sarah wanderseeJuly 9, 2013

Wandersee Defends Dissertation

Sarah Wandersee successfully defended her doctoral dissertation entitled “Land-Cover and Land-Use Change in Human-Environment Systems: Understanding Complex Interactions among Policy and Management, Livelihoods, and Conservation.”

My dissertation research focused on relationships among land use and local livelihood changes associated with implementation of conservation policies, land change, and environmental perception. Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve (FNNR), the study area, is a high priority conservation area in Guizhou Province, China, and the only habitat for the Guizhou golden monkey. Using remote sensing, GIS, landscape metrics, a mixed methods household survey, interviews with key village and reserve personnel, and logistic and ordered multinomial modeling, I investigated how local people relate to golden monkey habitat in FNNR through land use decisions, as mediated by policy and management and informed by livelihood strategies and ecological knowledge. The results indicated that a major reforestation program, the Sloped Land Conversion Program (SLCP) might be indeed protecting the monkey habitat and appears to benefit from the support of local residents. However, results also raised questions about the efficacy of the program in terms of achieving the dual SLCP program goals of reforestation and poverty alleviation, the implications of differential reforestation type impacts, and connections between environmental awareness and negative experiences with regulations. The research provided policy recommendations including integrating the many disparate conservation policies FNNR implements, forging stronger communication between the reserve and local communities regarding the benefits of conservation, mitigating human-wildlife conflict, and championing more community education on human impacts on the local environment.

Congratulations, Sarah!


alex zvoleffJuly 9, 2013

Zvoleff Defends Dissertation

Alex Zvoleff successfully defended his doctoral dissertation entitled “Understanding the Dynamics of Changing Land-use and Land-cover, Population, and Climate in the Chitwan Valley, Nepal.”

The Chitwan Valley, a rural agricultural district in south-central Nepal, has experienced rapid population growth since the beginning of settlement in the area in the 1960s. My dissertation addressed connections among climate variability and change, land use and land cover, and population in the region. My analysis of present climate trends in the region revealed the vulnerability of agricultural livelihoods in Chitwan to changing climate: increasing interannual precipitation variability, increasing minimum temperatures, and reduced dry season streamflows are all likely to have adverse effects on agricultural yields. To consider the potential effects of these changes on human migration, I developed a proxy of agricultural productivity from satellite data and included the indicator in a regression model predicting individual-level short-distance migrations in the valley. The model showed that individuals living in neighborhoods with declining yields tended to limit short-distance migrations, implying that short-distance migration is not likely to be a dominant adaptation strategy to climate change. To explore the effect of potential feedbacks between environmental and individual-level decisions, the research used an agent-based model. The agent-based model showed that changes in the local environment can affect individual decision making regarding marriage timing and fertility, and that, over time, these feedbacks can lead to small but significant changes in the rate of environmental change.

Congratulations, Alex!