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UC Santa Barbara
Department of Geography
UC Santa Barbara
Department of Geography
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UC Santa Barbara Geography / News & Events / Department News

April 22, 2014 - Geography Well-Represented at the 2014 UCTC Student Conference

Cal Poly Pomona hosted the 2014 University of California Transportation Center Student Conference on April 17 and 18. The conference was well-attended - kudos to the Institute of Transportation Engineers Student Chapter at Cal Poly Pomona and the chair of the UCTC student conference Hector Salcedo for a job well done. Many thanks also go to the faculty advisor of the transportation students at Cal Poly, Professor Xudong Jia. Professor Eric Miller from the University of Toronto gave the Mel Weber lecture on the past, present, and future of Transportation Modeling and Simulation.

UCSB was well-represented by two podium presentations, one by Jae Lee on "Investigating the Relationship between Sense of Place, Subjective Well-Being, and Travel Behavior" and one by Carlos Baez on "Transportation Network Companies: Challenges and Opportunities of an Innovative Industry." A third poster presentation was given by our first year graduate student Adam Davis on "Next-Generation Real Time Activity-Travel Behavior Data Collection Using Smart Phones and Available Big Data.” During this conference, the newly created University of California Center for Economic Competitiveness in Transportation (UCCONNECT) had its first executive committee meeting and also met with its advisory group to discuss research strategies and future activities. Next year the student UCTC conference will be here in Santa Barbara.

Editor’s note: Many thanks to Kostas Goulias for providing this article. See the September 30, 2013 article for more about UC Transportation Research Centers and UCSB Geography.

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(L-R): Graduate students Jae Lee and Carlos Baez, Professor Kostas Goulias, and grad student Adam Davis at the UCTC Student Conference. Professor Goulias is the co-director of the UCSB Department of Geography’s GeoTrans Laboratory.
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The University of California Transportation Center consortium focuses on three themes identified by the U.S. Department of Transportation in its strategic plan—environmental sustainability, economic competitiveness, and livability—and, importantly, the connections between them. Advancing each of these objectives is important in and of itself; however, our UTC recognizes that the three are closely inter-twined and oftentimes co-dependent. Our UTC will thus give particular attention to the synergies that can be created and cross purposes that are served when working in a coordinated fashion on all three fronts (

April 21, 2014 - More, Bigger Wildfires Burning Western U.S., Study Shows

The following is an American Geophysical Union joint release of 17 April 2014 with the title above that features the research of alumni Phil Dennison and Max Moritz:

Wildfires across the western United States have been getting bigger and more frequent over the last 30 years – a trend that could continue as climate change causes temperatures to rise and drought to become more severe in the coming decades, according to new research. The number of wildfires over 1,000 acres in size in the region stretching from Nebraska to California increased by a rate of seven fires a year from 1984 to 2011, according to a new study accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal published by the American Geophysical Union.

The total area these fires burned increased at a rate of nearly 90,000 acres a year – an area the size of Las Vegas, according to the study. Individually, the largest wildfires grew at a rate of 350 acres a year, the new research says. “We looked at the probability that increases of this magnitude could be random, and in each case it was less than one percent,” said Philip Dennison, an associate professor of geography at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and lead author of the paper.

The study’s authors used satellite data to measure areas burned by large fires since 1984, and then looked at climate variables, like seasonal temperature and rainfall, during the same time. The researchers found that most areas that saw increases in fire activity also experienced increases in drought severity during the same time period. They also saw an increase in both fire activity and drought over a range of different ecosystems across the region. “Twenty eight years is a pretty short period of record, and yet we are seeing statistically significant trends in different wildfire variables—it is striking,” said Max Moritz, a co-author of the study and a fire specialist at the University of California-Berkeley Cooperative Extension.

These trends suggest that large-scale climate changes, rather than local factors, could be driving increases in fire activity, the scientists report. The study stops short of linking the rise in number and size of fires directly to human-caused climate change. However, it says the observed changes in fire activity are in line with long-term, global fire patterns that climate models have projected will occur as temperatures increase and droughts become more severe in the coming decades due to global warming. “Most of these trends show strong correlations with drought-related conditions which, to a large degree, agree with what we expect from climate change projections,” said Moritz.

A research ecologist not connected to the study, Jeremy Littell of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) at the Alaska Climate Science Center in Anchorage, AK, said the trends in fire activity reported in the paper resemble what would be expected from rising temperatures caused by climate change. Other factors, including invasion of non-native species and past fire management practices, are also likely contributing to the observed changes in fire activity, according to the study. Littell and Moritz said increases in fire activity in forested areas could be at least a partial response to decades of fire suppression. “It could be that our past fire suppression has caught up with us, and an increased area burned is a response of more continuous fuel sources,” Littell said. “It could also be a response to changes in climate, or both.”

To study wildfires across the western U.S., the researchers used data from the Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity Project (MTBS). The project, supported by the U.S. Forest Service and USGS, uses satellite data to measure fires that burned more than 1,000 acres. While other studies have looked at wildfire records over longer time periods, this is the first study to use high-resolution satellite data to examine wildfire trends over a broad range of landscapes, explained Littell. The researchers divided the region into nine distinct “ecoregions,” areas that had similar climate and vegetation. The ecoregions ranged from forested mountains to warm deserts and grasslands.

Looking at the ecoregions more closely, the authors found that the rise in fire activity was the strongest in certain regions of the United States: across the Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada, and Arizona-New Mexico mountains; the southwest desert in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Texas; and the southern plains across western Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and eastern Colorado. These are the same regions that would be expected to be most severely affected by changes in climate, said Dennison.

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A satellite image of the 2011 Las Conchas Fire in New Mexico shows the 150,874 acres burned in magenta and the unburned areas in green. This image was created with data from the Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity (MTBS) Project that the authors of a new study used to measure large wildfires in the western United States. Credit: Philip Dennison/MTBS
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The Las Conchas Fire burned 150,874 acres in New Mexico in 2011. The wildfire was one of hundreds of fires looked at in a new study that found large wildfires in the western U.S. have increased in number and size over the past 30 years. Credit: Jayson Coil
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Philip received his PhD from the UCSB Department of Geography in 2003: “Measuring Vegetation Type, Biomass and Moisture for Integration into Fire Spread Models Using Hyperspectral and Radar Remote Sensing” (Dar Roberts, Chair). His research interests include remote sensing of vegetation physiology and phenology, imaging spectroscopy, wildfire and fire danger modeling, vegetation and the carbon cycle, and natural hazards.
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Max Moritz received his PhD from UCSB in 1999: "Controls on Disturbance Regime Dynamics: Fire in Los Padres National Forest" (Frank Davis, Chair). He is now an Associate Specialist in the Cooperative Extension at U.C. Berkeley, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management: "Much of my research is focused on understanding the dynamics of fire regimes at relatively broad scales and using this information in ecosystem management. I have employed quantitative analyses of fire history, examining the relative importance of different mechanisms that drive fire patterns on the landscape. I am also interested in simulation of fire dynamics, using spatially-explicit models of fire spread and vegetation regrowth."

April 21, 2014 - James Allen Takes Top Honors at Grad Slam

Geography Professor Jennifer King contacted the editor on Friday to say, “Perhaps someone has already reported the news that Michelle Oyewole and James Allen both competed in the Grad Slam Finals this afternoon. The talks were excellent. James won the Grand Prize!!! (Why the talk that included Cookie Monster did not win we can't be sure, but they are all winners in the Final Round!). Great visibility for Geography and IGPMS! And very good turnout by members of Geography."

“James G. Allen, whose research uses satellite imaging to model ocean ecosystems, came away with the top prize of $2,500. Allen survived preliminary and semi-final rounds to compete against nine other graduate students in the finals April 18. 'I needed the kind of practice necessary to do an effective three-minute talk,' said Allen, a doctoral student in the Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Marine Science. ‘Grad Slam was the perfect opportunity to get some lessons in that. It was great because one of my goals in the future is to be able to communicate science to the public’” (source).

Open to all graduate students, the Grad Slam is a campus-wide competition for the best three-minute research talk. This is a great opportunity for graduate students to share their research or explore "big ideas that matter" with the campus community. All graduate students, undergraduates, faculty, and staff are invited to attend Grad Slam events, and refreshments are available at all Grad Slam rounds.

The Grad Slam format consists of a 3-minute talk with PowerPoint slides or Prezi, academic and creative presentations are welcome, and there are up to 10 preliminary rounds. Criteria for judging include clear and effective presentation, being geared for a general university audience, and having intellectual significance; judges' scoring rubric are shared with participants before the preliminary rounds.

There are up to ten preliminary rounds with a maximum of twelve participants each, and the top two presenters in each preliminary round advance to the semifinal rounds and receive a $50 UCSB Bookstore gift card. There are two semifinal rounds with a maximum of twelve participants each, and the top four presenters in each semifinal round advance to the final round and are invited to a VIP lunch with the Graduate Division Dean, Carol Genetti. The final round can have up to ten final contestants; the top prize is a $2,500 research fund, and the prize for two runners-up is a $1,000 research fund.

Last year’s Grad Slam rounds were a big hit, with more than 80 students presenting to large and appreciative audiences from across campus. UCSB’s Grad Slam won the 2013 Western Association of Graduate Schools (WAGS) and Educational Testing Service (ETS) Award for Excellence and Innovation in Graduate Education (source).

Editor's note: Many thanks to Jennifer King (and, later,  Crystal Bae) for bringing this material to our attention.

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Grad Slam logo
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Dean of the Graduate Division Carol Genetti, runner-up Damien Kudela, grand-prize winner James G. Allen, and runner-up Deborah Barany (Photo Credit: Sonia Fernandez)
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Grad Slam finalist Michelle Oyewole's presentation examined the effect of compost application on greehouse gas emissions (Photo Credit: Sonia Fernandez)

April 21, 2014 - UCSB Geography Well-Represented at the AAG in Tampa

The Association of American Geographers (AAG) held its Annual Meeting in Tampa, Florida, April 8-12, 2014, and featured over 4,500 presentations, posters, workshops, and field trips by leading scholars, experts, and researchers. The AAG annual meeting has been held every year since the association's founding in 1904.

The UCSB Department of Geography was well-represented at this year’s meeting:

  • Graduate student Andrew Thorpe presented an illustrated paper titled “Mapping and quantifying methane emissions using airborne imaging spectroscopy” which took first place in the AAG Remote Sensing Specialty Group Student Illustrated Paper Competition.
  • Graduate student Mike Alonzo presented “Mapping urban tree leaf area index (LAI) using high point density lidar.”
  • Professor David Lopez-Carr served as a plenary panelist for the “Human Dimensions of Global Change” specialty group and was a discussant for the session on Geographically Weighted Regression.
  • Professor Keith Clarke was awarded the CAGIS Lifetime Contribution Award (see the April 15 posting). Keith also chaired the paper sessions “Spatiotemporal Thinking, Computing and Applications 1: General Introduction” and “Spatiotemporal Thinking, Computing and Applications 5: Urban Dynamics,” and he was an organizer of seven other paper sessions.
  • Professor Helen Couclelis presented the 2014 Plenary Lecture of the AAG's “Spatial Analysis and Modeling" group, titled “Ignorance in the Age of Information: Prediction and Uncertainty When the Numbers Just Aren't There.” The lecture was followed by a reception.
  • Professors Krzysztof Janowicz and Werner Kuhn were panelists for the session on “Geospatial Ontology, Semantics, and Metadata III: GeoVocamp - A bottom-up and participatory method for developing lightweight geospatial vocabularies and ontologies.”
  • Professor Werner Kuhn was also a panelist for the session on “Visioning GIScience Education.”
  • Professor Emeritus Mike Goodchild was involved in 12 different events as session organizer, discussant, or panel member.
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AAG logo
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Plenary session flyer for “Human Dimensions of Global Change”
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Keith Clarke receiving the The Cartography and Geographic Information Society Lifetime Contribution Award from Terry Slocum, Vice President of CAGIS

April 17, 2014 - Rick Church Selected for 2014 UCGIS Research Award

Chaowei Yang, Chair of the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS) Research Committee, just made the following announcement: “As Chair of the UCGIS Research Committee, I am honored to announce that Dr. Richard Church was selected for the 2014 UCGIS Research Award for his highly-cited “Maximal Covering Location Problem” paper and relevant fundamental contribution to GIScience. The selection was made by a committee chaired by Dr. Luc Anselin with Drs. Ming Tsou, Jochen Albrecht, and Ross Meentemeyer. We are honored to present this award to someone with Dr.Church's distinguished record and career accomplishments (as evidenced by the following award citation).

2014 UCGIS Research Award Citation for Professor Richard Church:

Richard Church, currently Professor of Geography and Associate Dean of Mathematical, Life and Physical Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara is a leading figure in scientific efforts to use and integrate spatial analytical methods with GIS. He has made seminal and sustained academic contributions to GIS, location analysis and modeling, natural resource management, and transportation. His findings have impacted a range of disciplines and enhanced planning and decision making for urban, regional, and environmental management.

He has authored over 230 publications during his 39-year career, with a vast array of co-authors representing a wide range of disciplines, including geography, business, environmental science, civil and industrial engineering, operations research, management science, mathematics, and statistics, among others. His research has had a major influence on the field of GIScience. According to Google Scholar, his work has been cited over 7,900 times, giving him an h-index of 43 (ISI Web of Science indicates over 2,500 citations and an h-index of 27).

Professor Church has made seminal contributions to location analysis, most notably by introducing the “Maximal Covering Location Problem” in a 1974 article in the Papers in Regional Science. This article and the problem it formalizes has become crucial to siting and facility location in that it operationalizes notions of central place theory in an optimization model that considers budgetary constraints. This work and its later extensions constitute a major contribution to the theory and application of location analysis, evidenced by over 1,350 citations to date. It has also made the transition to location software packages included in commercial GIS, such as ArcGIS and TransCAD.

A second influential aspect of Dr. Church’s research pertains to the integration of GIS and location modeling, evidenced by a large number of highly cited articles and book chapters. The culmination of this perspective on GIScience is his recent book on Business Site Selection, Location Analysis and GIS. In this work, he demonstrates how GIS and location modeling are intimately linked in a number of ways – abstraction, data quality, model specification, computational requirement, and geo-visualization. In addition, he has made significant contributions to natural resource management, transportation, and system vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure.

He was elected Fellow of the Regional Science Association International (2009) and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2009), and he received the Lifetime Achievement Award, Section on Location Analysis of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS – 2012).

Editor's note: Many thanks to Geography graduate student Crystal English for bringing this material to our attention--Dr. Church tends to hide his light under a bushel...

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Richard Church is a Professor of Geography at UCSB. He specializes in the analysis of problems defined over space and time, including logistics and transportation, location theory, water resource systems, and urban and environmental systems, using and developing new techniques in Operations Research, GIS, Decision Theory, and Heuristics. He holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Systems Engineering from The Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Church has taught courses in Civil and Environmental Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Management Science and Geography (photo credit: Randall Lamb)
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Since joining the faculty of the Department of Geography in 1980, Professor Richard Church has advised 14 PhD dissertation committees and 28 Masters theses. He has also served on 25 doctoral and 22 Masters committees. One of his colleagues writes, "It has always amazed me that he can give so much time to his students and still get so many of his own sole-authored papers published and give freely of his time to department and university service." For his dedication and exemplary mentorship of graduate students Professor Richard Church was awarded the UCSB 2012-2013 Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award

April 16, 2014 - Geography Makes a Splash at 2014 Spring Insight

UCSB put out the welcome mat on Saturday, April 12, for Spring Insight, the campus’s annual open house. The event introduces admitted and prospective students and their families to the opportunities available to them at UCSB. An estimated 10,000+ guests attended between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Hundreds of faculty and staff members, representing 90 departments, including almost every degree-granting department in the undergraduate colleges, as well as more than 250 student volunteers, make Spring Insight possible. Throughout the day, participants attended their choice of more than 60 concurrent session offerings, including public faculty lectures, numerous special tours, open houses, exhibits, and fairs (source).

The UCSB Department of Geography teamed up with the Sustainability Program to strut their stuff at Spring Insight. Geography participated in the Academic Information Fair, and according to Mo Lovegreen, our Executive Officer, “We had a very successful Spring Insight this year. Both our graduate and undergraduate students worked the tables, and I was told by the Spring Insight coordinators that we had the “best table” at the event! Thanks to the following people that staffed the tables for us: Heather Frazier, Bonnie Bounds, Helen Chen, Kitty Currier, Tim Niblett, Winny Guan, John Solly, Yelizaveta Aleksyuk (Lisa), Matt Conway, Jennifer King, and Dar Roberts. You all did an amazing job and got us a long list of individuals to follow-up with (a new record for the department!).”

Geography and Sustainability held a joint open house in Ellison Hall, and Sustainability also offered tours of the campus to explain what UCSB does to be more sustainable and to show off their diverse efforts in smart campus initiatives, conservation efforts, water reductions, recycling, transportation, green building, climate, food, energy, and more. As Mo put it: “We also held an open house and sustainability/smart campus tours (had our undergraduates participate with I-pads showing off their work on the interactive campus map) and had about sixty people attend the three tours and a number of people that joined us for the open house component. A big thanks to the following people that helped with the open house/tours: Ryan Kelley, Katie Maynard, Jewel Snavely, Jeff Martin, Elissa McBride, Kristyn Arakawa, Nancy Yuv, Sam Goldman, Whitney Jones, Carl Greenfield, Noelle Steele, Garrison Yang, Zac Trafny, Felice Tsui, Ava Cheng, and Qingyun (Rick) Zhang. The feedback on the tours was very positive and the visitors really enjoyed having the undergraduates walk with them and talk about their experience on campus.”

Check out the Spring Insight events on the UCSB Geography Facebook page, and have a look at UCSB Sustainability’s description of their smart campus tours on their Facebook page. Photos of both events will eventually be posted on our 2014 Event Photos page – many thanks to Lisa Gumm, Photography Intern, UCSB Sustainability, and to Ryan Kelley, Geography Undergraduate Adviser, for contributing the photographs.

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Undergraduate student Matt Conway and graduate student Tim Niblett manning the Geography table at the Academic Information Fair – along the Pardall bike path near the Davidson Library – on Saturday, April 12th, 9am to 3pm.
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Mo Lovegreen, Geography’s Executive Officer and the UCSB Director of Campus Sustainability, leading one of the three 50 minute sustainability tours of the campus.
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Jewel Snavely, UCSB Sustainability Coordinator, helps out at the Sustainability and Geography Joint Open House held in Ellison Hall
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Ryan Kelley, our Undergraduate Adviser, spreads the good word about Geography during Open House

April 15, 2014 - CaGIS Distinguished Career Award Presented to Keith Clarke

“The Cartography and Geographic Information Society (CaGIS) is composed of educators, researchers and practitioners involved in the design, creation, use and dissemination of geographic information. CaGIS provides an effective network that connects professionals who work in the broad field of Cartography and Geographic Information Science both nationally and internationally ( The CaGIS board met at the annual Association of American Geographers Meeting in Tampa, Florida, April 8-12, 2014, and awarded UCSB Geography Professor Keith Clarke the 2013 Distinguished Career Award. The following is the announcement of the award by Terry Slocum, Vice President of CaGIS:

"As Past President of the Cartography and Geographic Information Society, I am pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2013 Distinguished Career Award is Keith Clarke. The Distinguished Career Award is awarded each year to honor the accomplishments of senior professionals who have contributed substantially to the advancement of the fields of cartography, GIS or GIScience, or the interface between cartography and GIScience. I would like to thank Lynn Usery and Mike Goodchild for nominating Keith and for providing the material that will enable me to introduce Keith.

Keith received his BA from Middlesex Polytech in London and his MA and PhD from the University of Michigan. He was a faculty member at Hunter College from 1982-1986 and has been on the faculty at UCSB since 1996.

In the research realm, Keith has been highly thought of for his work in four areas. His early work dealt with terrain modeling, where he used the techniques of fractals and spectral analysis to develop a novel method for estimating the fractal dimension of terrain. A second theme of Keith’s research has involved an examination of the history of geographic information technologies and their roles in military and intelligence applications. An example of his work here is his controversial argument that a large proportion of technical developments that now underpin geographic information technologies originated in issues surrounding the Corona spy-satellite program in the 1960s.

Perhaps Keith is best known for his pioneering work on the application of cellular automaton models to urban growth. Urban growth models are often difficult to calibrate, but Keith’s work has produced major advances. Finally, Keith is known for his novel work in field GIS. In collaboration with others at UCSB and Iowa State, he has promoted the use of mobile computing technologies and wireless connectivity to exploit the use of GIS tools in the field. For example, he has promoted the use of computers embedded in user’s clothing. These research ideas have been published in more than 100 refereed journal articles and book chapters, and supported by numerous grants from NSF, NASA, and USGS.

In the teaching realm, Keith has supervised 21 PhD and 40 Master’s students, and he has frequently published papers with these students. Although certainly successful with graduate students, he also has been active in undergraduate teaching. He is author of the widely known text Getting Started With Geographic Information Systems (now in its fifth edition) and is the author of the just released e-book Maps & Web Mapping: An Introduction to Cartography. It is not surprising that in 2003 UCGIS recognized Keith as Educator of the Year.

In the service realm, Keith has been active at a variety of levels. For example, he chaired the department at UCSB for six years, served as President of CaGIS, served as North American editor of the prestigious journal IJGIS, chaired several National Research Council Committees, and has edited the book series in Geographic Information Science for Pearson over a 22-year period.

Reflecting these achievements, Keith has been the recipient of numerous awards – particularly noteworthy is the John Wesley Powell Award, the USGS’s highest award for achievement. Clearly, Keith is more than worthy of the Distinguished Career Award from CaGIS."

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Terry Slocum presents Keith Clarke with the Distinguished Career Award from CaGIS
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Professor Keith Clarke and his charming wife, Margot
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Keith Clarke, the cook
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Keith Clarke, the gardener
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Keith Clarke, the Elvis fan (Elvis, aka, Park Williams)
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Keith Clarke, the fisherman
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Keith Clarke takes the cake, in more ways than one!

April 14, 2014 - Tunnel to the Other Side of the Earth

Mark Grosch, one-time Geography Staff Researcher for Reg Golledge and now an Adaptive Technology Specialist with the Disabled Students Program, recently drew our attention to the Map Tunneling Tool, available at The “map you can make use of” is an antipodes map. “An antipode of a point on the earth is the region on the Earth's surface which is diametrically opposite to that point. The two points which are antipodal to one another are considered to be connected by a straight line or tunnel through the center of the Earth” (; op. cit.).

Antipodes--“The word derives from the Greek words for “opposed” (anti-) and ‘foot’ (pod or pous), or under the feet, opposite. Later on, the Latin usage changed its meaning to ‘those with feet opposite,’ a race of people with feet sticking out of their heads, or people who were inverted and walked on their hands with their legs sticking up in the air, which is what the population on the other side of the world was imagined to be doing. These were common mythical creatures that mediaeval map makers often drew in unknown places to fill up the space. These up-side-down people living at the opposite side of the earth were known as Antichthones. […] They took their place on mediaeval maps and marginalia right next to the dog-faced race and the sciapods! ‘Yonder in Ethiopia are the Antipodes, men that have their feet against our feet.’ (from the earliest usage in English of the word Antipodes, from a 1398 translation of Bartholomew of England's "The Properties of Things," a kind of proto-encyclopeadia in 19 volumes written in Latin in 1240)” (source).

“An interesting thing about the antipodes is that the concept was recognized by the ancient Greeks (Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch, Strabo, and Diogenes), demonstrating their understanding of a spherical world. In contrast, the early Christians found the idea of antipodes to be absurd, requiring a belief that people in the antipodes were inverted, because, of course, being on the other side of the world and all, they couldn’t possibly stand on their feet like we do! Popes and clergy declared the very notion of antipodes to be heretical, because it would require a belief that, since all people descended from Adam and Eve, descendants of Adam and Eve would have had to have gotten in a boat and traveled over seas to the southern lands, (which were not even known in those times with any certainty to exist). From the point of view of scriptural inerrancy, the fact that the Bible doesn't mention anything about this at all means that it could not be possible” (Ibid.).

“Although it seems strange that our antipode is an iceberg in the middle of an ocean, actually it is about what we would expect. After all, over 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by ocean, and the land masses of the southern hemisphere are particularly skimpy. So the antipode of just about anywhere in the northern hemisphere is likely to be in the middle of the ocean. Less than 4% of the earth’s land masses are antipodal to land” (Ibid.).

“Playing antipodes produces amusing pairings. Bermudans would still enjoy sea breezes by Perth, Australia, but climate shock would await Timbuktu’s desert dwellers, who’d come up near tropical Fiji. And as one player says, Imagine the disappointment of someone digging their way out of Siberia and ending up in Antarctica” (source). Mark Grosch, another “player,” takes it a step further: “Notice that the current search area for the Malaysian Air flight is the antipode of the Bermuda Triangle.”

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This map shows the antipodes of each point on the Earth’s surface – the points where the blue and magenta overlap are land antipodes - most land has its antipodes in the ocean. This map uses the Lambert azimuthal equal area projection. The magenta areas can be considered to be opposite reflections of the blue areas but on the inner ‘surface’ of the globe of the Earth (Wikipedia: Antipodes)
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The same map, from the perspective of the Western Hemisphere. Here the blue areas can be considered to be opposite reflections of the yellow areas but on the inner "surface" of the globe of the Earth (Ibid.)
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Up-side-down people living at the opposite side of the earth were known as Antichthones, a race of people with feet sticking out of their heads, or people who were inverted and walked on their hands with their legs sticking up in the air, which is what the population on the other side of the world was imagined to be doing. These were common mythical creatures that mediaeval map makers often drew in unknown places to fill up the space (; op. cit.)
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Mark Grosch. His comment was tongue in cheek (or was it foot in mouth?)

April 14, 2014 - Oliver Chadwick Makes Cameo Appearance in Soil Documentary Feature Film

"Symphony of the Soil" is a 104-minute documentary feature film, produced and directed by Deborah Koons Garcia, that explores the complexity and mystery of soil. Filmed on four continents and sharing the voices of some of the world's most esteemed soil scientists, farmers, and activists, the film portrays soil as a protagonist of our planetary story.

Using a captivating mix of art and science, the film shows that soil is a complex living organism, the foundation of life on earth. Yet most people are soil-blind and "treat soil like dirt." Through the knowledge and wisdom revealed in this film, we can come to respect, even revere, this miraculous substance, and appreciate that treating the soil right can help solve some of our most pressing environmental problems. In addition to the feature film, there are several short films, Sonatas of the Soil, that delve deeply into soil-related topics, and several short clips, Grace Notes, that are available to stream on the film's website.

UCSB Geography’s Oliver Chadwick is one of the “world’s most esteemed soil scientists” who makes a cameo appearance in the documentary. Check out the 2+ minute trailer at (Editor’s note: Many thanks to Associate Specialist Seth Peterson for bringing this material to our attention.)

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Screen print of Oliver's cameo appearance
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Oliver Chadwick’s Soil Science Group in the Department of Geography is currently involved with projects in Southern Spain (Bedrock Stream Incision), California (Predictive Soil Mapping and Soil-landscape Modeling), Hawaii (Silicon Isotope Geochemistry and Time-Climate Matrix), and the Amazon (Soil Biogeochemistry)—see for details.

April 10, 2014 - Computing with a View on the Indian Ocean

Article by Geography graduate student Kitty Currier, 9 April, 2014:

Few office environments can compete with the vista and ambiance of Queen of Blue Whales. This 13 m fishing-turned-whale-watching boat/research vessel recently served as a platform for cetacean surveys off the southern coast of Sri Lanka. For a few days I was lucky enough to participate, trading my office in Ellison Hall for a desk bobbing up and down on the Indian Ocean.

The six-day transect cruise was part of an ongoing study to understand the spatial distribution of whales relative to shipping lanes that bring a constant stream of traffic through the area. Collaborators on the study come from the local whale-watching business Raja and the Whales, the non-profit organizations Biosphere Foundation and International Fund for Animal Welfare, University of Ruhuna's Faculty of Fisheries and Marine Sciences and Technology, and the University of St. Andrews' School of Biology.

Six of us were on board to conduct this phase of the study—Captain Raja and two crewmembers of Raja and the Whales, and Abigail Alling, Mark Van Thillo, and myself representing Biosphere Foundation. Our research boat, Queen of Blue Whales, was outfitted with an in-line hydrophone array, depth sounder, GPS receivers and two data-logging laptops. We completed two 25 nm transects per day, starting by 0700 and finishing around 1600. Two observers and one helmsman scanned the surrounding sea for whales, dolphins, fishing boats and gear, ships, and plastic while one recorder entered their observations at the deck laptop station. Pygmy blue whales were our most frequently sighted cetacean, with an average of 20 logged per day. Also sighted were Bryde’s whales, numerous spinner dolphins, false killer whales, and a few striped dolphins.

Crossing the shipping lanes required finesse with our 300 m-long hydrophone array in tow. It’s easy to see how commercial ships cruising at 20 kn or more pose a hazard to whales feeding, resting or traveling near the ocean’s surface. Combined with long-line fishing boats and gear, abundant at the perimeter of the shipping lanes, these vessels create a veritable obstacle course for passing sea life.

Captain Raja has been documenting the location and circumstances of his cetacean sightings since starting his whale-watching company five years ago. In his data are descriptions of 20, 40, and even 100 whales appearing at a time. Orcas, humpbacks, and sperm, fin, and sei whales are regular visitors to these waters in addition to the blues and Bryde’s we observed during the survey. For obvious reasons, whale watching has become a lucrative part of the tourism industry of Mirissa, the small coastal town where many of the companies are based. In Raja’s notes are accounts of up to 20 whale-watching and dive boats surrounding a single animal. Many tour operators fail to respect international guidelines for responsible whale watching, a problem compounded by the high intensity of boats competing for business.

Filed away in Raja’s data is a section on dead whale sightings, a depressing reminder that not all encounters are pleasant. In the past few years, the success of Mirissa’s whale-watching industry has both expanded local tourism and attracted government attention. However, the ongoing problem of ship strikes combined with pressure from an increasing number of whale-watching boats ironically pose threats to the animals that spawned the industry in the first place.

These worries are real yet seemed far away as I enjoyed the rare opportunity to watch blue whales surfacing all around us during the survey. More immediately pressing was the threat of being launched from my chair with each big swell while typing on the deck of Queen of Blue Whales. Big challenges lie ahead for the wildlife—and humans—who frequent these waters, but with people like Raja, whose passion for whales drives his business practices and desire to facilitate marine research, my outlook is positive.

Image 1 for article titled "Computing with a View on the Indian Ocean"
Not your average cubicle: laptop station on the upper deck of Queen of Blue Whales
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Study area
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Whale-spotting while dodging ships
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Kitty, hard at work
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