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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 21, 2015 - Keith Clarke Receives Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award

Professor Keith Clarke has been selected as a recipient of the 2014/15 UCSB Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award. The award was initiated in 2005/06 in recognition of UCSB faculty whose mentoring is considered exemplary, and Professor Clarke is the third faculty member of the Department of Geography to have been given it (Reg Golledge received the award in 2005/06, and Dar Roberts received it in 2007/08).

To quote the Academic Senate web site, “Mentoring graduate students is a vital component of our mission as a research university; it includes training graduate students for careers in research and teaching and preparing them to meet the highest professional and ethical standards as scholars and educators. The Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award recognizes the contributions of faculty whose mentoring is considered exemplary.”

Ram Seshadri, Professor of Materials, Chemistry, and Biochemistry, presented the award to Keith on April 9, 2015. According to Professor Seshadri, the award is usually presented as a surprise while the recipient is teaching class. However, Keith is teaching an online class this quarter, so Ram, along with Geography staff and graduate students, surprised Keith in his office.

The citation by Howard Giles, Chair of the Committee on Outstanding Graduate Mentor Awards, reads: “Dear Keith, Congratulations! The Committee on Outstanding Graduate Mentor Awards is pleased to inform you that you have been named a recipient of the 2014-15 Academic Senate Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award. The Academic Senate will honor your achievement at the Faculty Legislature meeting on Thursday, April23. There will be a reception in the University Center Harbor Room at 3:00 pm, immediately followed by the meeting at 3:3opm. All recipients of the Distinguished Teaching Award, Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award, and Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award will be honored. I hope that you will be able to attend this event. Once again, congratulations on receiving this distinct honor in recognition of the outstanding quality of your mentoring.”

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Keith receives the formal announcement of the award from Professor Seshadri (photo by Bill Norrington)
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No, Keith didn’t get a monetary award as well, but Geography staff donated some goodies for him to share with his graduate students! (Ibid.)

April 20, 2015 - UCSB Ranked Greenest Public University in the USA

“With Earth Day less than a week away, Princeton Review just provided some solid evidence of UC Santa Barbara’s unwavering commitment to sustainability.” George Foulsham, writing for The UCSB Current on April 16, 2015 goes on to state:

UCSB has just been ranked No. 3 in the nation in Princeton Review’s Top 50 Green Colleges. Further, the two colleges ahead of UCSB in the rankings, Lewis & Clark College of Oregon and Green Mountain College of Vermont, are private, making UCSB the No. 1-ranked public university in the country.

The Green Colleges rankings are part of Princeton Review’s 2015 Guide to 353 Green Colleges. The guide profiles colleges with the most exceptional commitments to sustainability based on their academic offerings and career preparation for students, campus policies, initiatives, and activities.

“That UCSB is ranked as the number three green university campus in the nation — and the number one public university — is a testament to the endeavors of generations of staff, students and faculty who have collectively worked to bring such a large and complex institution to its position of preeminence in sustainability,” said Bruce Tiffney, co-chair of the Chancellor’s Sustainability Committee and dean of UCSB’s College of Creative Studies. “From Facilities Management through Housing and Residential Services to the complexities of our academic departments and research facilities, all have worked to achieve this goal. While much remains to be done, particularly in light of UC President Janet Napolitano’s initiatives in sustainability, the UCSB community can be proud of our achievements and our leadership.”

The Princeton Review chose the colleges based on “Green Rating” scores (from 60 to 99) that the company tallied in summer 2014 for 861 colleges using data from its 2013-14 survey of school administrators and students. The survey asked administrators to report on their school’s sustainability-related policies, practices and programs. More than 25 data points were weighted in the assessment. Schools with Green Rating scores of 83 or higher made it into this guide.

Here’s what Princeton Review said about UCSB: It’s easy to be dazzled by this University of California’s “incredible location” in stunning Santa Barbara, but UCSB is much more than a “safe and beautiful campus.” “It has one of the top chemical engineering departments in the country,” a “highly ranked” mechanical engineering program, and is generally “strong in the sciences.” Outstanding students can enroll in the College of Creative Studies, which requires a supplemental application: CCS students report that it “allows me to pursue my academic interests with maximum freedom.”

In its summary about the UCSB student body, the publication said: To find your place at a big school, get ready to get out and do something: “The typical student is active and involved. Whether it be with sports, or in a community service or environmental club, rock climbing, politics, the list goes on. Students fit in by finding a good group of friends in the dorms and by getting involved in extracurricular activities.” Because the university is accessible to so many different types of students, “there is a great sense of community among the students, and those with all sorts of socio-economic backgrounds feel at home here.”

And in its description of campus life, the magazine said: No matter the activity, UCSB students love to be involved: “85 percent of our student body is in at least one extracurricular activity — and I've met the smartest people of my life here.” Outdoor pastimes like “rock climbing, beach volleyball,” “surfing and hiking,” “biking, skateboarding,” figure prominently in students’ favorite ways to spend free time wholesomely. The rankings can be found here. Registration is required to view the rankings.

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“The Princeton Review's Guide to 353 Green Colleges: 2015 Edition” profiles colleges with the most exceptional commitments to sustainability based on their academic offerings and career preparation for students, campus policies, initiatives, and activities. The profiles in the guide give college applicants information about each school's admission requirements, cost, and financial aid, as well as student body facts and stats (from the Princeton Review web site)
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UCSB. Photo credit: jay galvin/Flickr
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Thousands of UCSB students, faculty and staff ride bicycles to campus every day. From The Current; photo credit: Jonas Krant
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More than 90 percent of the UCSB campus is irrigated with recycled water. Ibid.; photo credit: Spencer Bruttig

April 16, 2015 - Hubble Goes High-Definition to Revisit Iconic Pillars of Creation

The following is a NASA announcement, written by Felicia Chou and Ray Villard and posted January 5, 2015 with the title above:

Although NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has taken many breathtaking images of the universe, one snapshot stands out from the rest: the iconic view of the so-called “Pillars of Creation.” The jaw-dropping photo, taken in 1995, revealed never-before-seen details of three giant columns of cold gas bathed in the scorching ultraviolet light from a cluster of young, massive stars in a small region of the Eagle Nebula, or M16.

Though such butte-like features are common in star-forming regions, the M16 structures are by far the most photogenic and evocative. The Hubble image is so popular that it has appeared in movies and television shows, on T-shirts and pillows, and even on a postage stamp.

And now, in celebration of its upcoming 25th anniversary in April, Hubble has revisited the famous pillars, providing astronomers with a sharper and wider view. As a bonus, the pillars have been photographed in near-infrared light, as well as visible light. The infrared view transforms the pillars into eerie, wispy silhouettes seen against a background of myriad stars. That’s because the infrared light penetrates much of the gas and dust, except for the densest regions of the pillars. Newborn stars can be seen hidden away inside the pillars. The new images are being unveiled at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle.

Although the original image was dubbed the Pillars of Creation, the new image hints that they are also pillars of destruction. “I’m impressed by how transitory these structures are. They are actively being ablated away before our very eyes. The ghostly bluish haze around the dense edges of the pillars is material getting heated up and evaporating away into space. We have caught these pillars at a very unique and short-lived moment in their evolution,” explained Paul Scowen of Arizona State University in Tempe. He and astronomer Jeff Hester, formerly of Arizona State University, led the original Hubble observations of the Eagle Nebula.

The infrared image shows that the very ends of the pillars are dense knots of dust and gas. They shadow the gas below them, keeping the gas cool and creating the long, column-like structures. The material in between the pillars has long since been evaporated away by the ionizing radiation from the central star cluster located above the pillars.

At the top edge of the left-hand pillar, a gaseous fragment has been heated up and is flying away from the structure, underscoring the violent nature of star-forming regions. “These pillars represent a very dynamic, active process,” Scowen said. “The gas is not being passively heated up and gently wafting away into space. The gaseous pillars are actually getting ionized, a process by which electrons are stripped off of atoms, and heated up by radiation from the massive stars. And then they are being eroded by the stars’ strong winds and barrage of charged particles, which are literally sandblasting away the tops of these pillars.”

When Scowen and Hester used Hubble to make the initial observations of the Eagle Nebula in 1995, astronomers had seen the pillar-like structures in ground-based images, but not in detail. They knew that the physical processes are not unique to the Eagle Nebula because star birth takes place across the universe. But at a distance of just 6,500 light-years, M16 is the most dramatic nearby example – as the team soon realized.

As Scowen was piecing together the Hubble exposures of the Eagle, he was amazed at what he saw. “I called Jeff Hester on his phone and said, ‘You need to get here now,’” Scowen recalled. “We laid the pictures out on the table, and we were just gushing because of all the incredible detail that we were seeing for the very first time.”

The first features that jumped out at the team in 1995 were the streamers of gas seemingly floating away from the columns. Astronomers had previously debated what effect nearby massive stars would have on the surrounding gas in stellar nurseries. “There is the only one thing that can light up a neighborhood like this: massive stars kicking out enough horsepower in ultraviolet light to ionize the gas clouds and make them glow,” Scowen said. “Nebulous star-forming regions like M16 are the interstellar neon signs that say, ‘We just made a bunch of massive stars here.’ This was the first time we had directly seen observational evidence that the erosionary process, not only the radiation but the mechanical stripping away of the gas from the columns, was actually being seen.”

By comparing the 1995 and 2014 pictures, astronomers also noticed a lengthening of a narrow jet-like feature that may have been ejected from a newly forming star. The jet looks like a stream of water from a garden hose. Over the intervening 19 years, this jet has stretched farther into space, across an additional 60 billion miles, at an estimated speed of about 450,000 miles per hour.

Our sun probably formed in a similar turbulent star-forming region. There is evidence that the forming solar system was seasoned with radioactive shrapnel from a nearby supernova. That means that our sun was formed as part of a cluster that included stars massive enough to produce powerful ionizing radiation, such as is seen in the Eagle Nebula. “That’s the only way the nebula from which the sun was born could have been exposed to a supernova that quickly, in the short period of time that represents, because supernovae only come from massive stars, and those stars only live a few tens of millions of years,” Scowen explained. “What that means is when you look at the environment of the Eagle Nebula or other star-forming regions, you’re looking at exactly the kind of nascent environment that our sun formed in.”

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington.

NASA is exploring our solar system and beyond to understand the universe and our place in it. We seek to unravel the secrets of our universe, its origins and evolution, and search for life among the stars. Today’s announcement shares the discovery of our ever-changing cosmos, and brings us closer to learning whether we are alone in the universe.

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Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have assembled a bigger and sharper photograph of the iconic Eagle Nebula's "Pillars of Creation" (right); the original 1995 Hubble image is shown at left. Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)/J. Hester, P. Scowen (Arizona State U.). Photo source: the NASA announcement.
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The Hubble Space Telescope as seen from the departing Space Shuttle Atlantis, flying Servicing Mission 4 (STS-125), the fifth and final human spaceflight to it. Hubble is the only telescope designed to be serviced in space by astronauts. After launch by Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990, four subsequent Space Shuttle missions repaired, upgraded, and replaced systems on the telescope. A fifth mission was canceled on safety grounds following the Columbia disaster. However, after spirited public discussion, NASA administrator Mike Griffin approved one final servicing mission, completed in 2009. The telescope is still operating as of 2015, and may last until 2020. Its scientific successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), is scheduled for launch in 2018 (Wikipedia: Hubble Space Telescope)
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Astronauts Musgrave and Hoffman install corrective optics during Servicing Mission 1. After the problems with Hubble's mirror were discovered, the first servicing mission assumed greater importance, as the astronauts would need to do extensive work to install corrective optics. The seven astronauts for the mission were trained to use about a hundred specialized tools. SM1 flew aboard Endeavour in December 1993, and involved installation of several instruments and other equipment over ten days. Most importantly, the High Speed Photometer was replaced with the COSTAR corrective optics package, and WFPC was replaced with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) with an internal optical correction system. The solar arrays and their drive electronics were also replaced, as well as four gyroscopes in the telescope pointing system, two electrical control units and other electrical components, and two magnetometers. The onboard computers were upgraded, and the Hubble's orbit was boosted. On January 13, 1994, NASA declared the mission a complete success and showed the first sharper images. At the time, the mission was one of the most complex, involving five long extra-vehicular activity periods. Its success was a boon for NASA, as well as for the astronomers with a more capable space telescope (Ibid.)
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The spiral galaxy M100, imaged with Hubble before and after corrective optics (Ibid.)

April 11, 2015 - 'Warm Blob' in Pacific Ocean Linked to Weird Weather Across the U.S.

The following is a UW Today news and information article from the University of Washington, written by Hannah Hickey and posted April 9, 2015 with the title above:

The one common element in recent weather has been oddness. The West Coast has been warm and parched; the East Coast has been cold and snowed under. Fish are swimming into new waters, and hungry seals are washing up on California beaches. A long-lived patch of warm water off the West Coast, about 1 to 4 degrees Celsius (2 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal, is part of what’s wreaking much of this mayhem, according to two University of Washington papers to appear in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

“In the fall of 2013 and early 2014 we started to notice a big, almost circular mass of water that just didn’t cool off as much as it usually did, so by spring of 2014 it was warmer than we had ever seen it for that time of year,” said Nick Bond, a climate scientist at the UW-based Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, a joint research center of the UW and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Bond coined the term “the blob” last June in his monthly newsletter as Washington’s state climatologist. He said the huge patch of water – 1,000 miles in each direction and 300 feet deep – had contributed to Washington’s mild 2014 winter and might signal a warmer summer.

Ten months later, the blob is still off our shores, now squished up against the coast and extending about 1,000 miles offshore from Mexico up through Alaska, with water about 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than normal. Bond says all the models point to it continuing through the end of this year. The new study explores the blob’s origins. It finds that it relates to a persistent high-pressure ridge that caused a calmer ocean during the past two winters, so less heat was lost to cold air above. The warmer temperatures we see now aren’t due to more heating, but less winter cooling.

Co-authors on the paper are Meghan Cronin at NOAA in Seattle and a UW affiliate professor of oceanography, Nate Mantua at NOAA in Santa Cruz, and Howard Freeland at Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The study was funded by NOAA. The authors look at how the blob is affecting West Coast marine life. They find fish sightings in unusual places, supporting recent reports that West Coast marine ecosystems are suffering and the food web is being disrupted by warm, less nutrient-rich Pacific Ocean water. The blob’s influence also extends inland. As air passes over warmer water and reaches the coast it brings more heat and less snow, which the paper shows helped cause current drought conditions in California, Oregon and Washington.

The blob is just one element of a broader pattern in the Pacific Ocean whose influence reaches much further – possibly to include two bone-chilling winters in the Eastern U.S. A study in the same journal by Dennis Hartmann, a UW professor of atmospheric sciences, looks at the Pacific Ocean’s relationship to the cold 2013-14 winter in the central and eastern United States.

Despite all the talk about the “polar vortex,” Hartmann argues we need to look south to understand why so much cold air went shooting down into Chicago and Boston. His study shows a decadal-scale pattern in the tropical Pacific Ocean linked with changes in the North Pacific, called the North Pacific mode, that sent atmospheric waves snaking along the globe to bring warm and dry air to the West Coast and very cold, wet air to the central and eastern states. “Lately this mode seems to have emerged as second to the El Niño Southern Oscillation in terms of driving the long-term variability, especially over North America,” Hartmann said. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation.

In a blog post last month, Hartmann focused on the more recent winter of 2014-15 and argues that, once again, the root cause was surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific. That pattern, which also causes the blob, seems to have become stronger since about 1980 and lately has elbowed out the Pacific Decadal Oscillation to become second only to El Niño in its influence on global weather patterns. “It’s an interesting question if that’s just natural variability happening or if there’s something changing about how the Pacific Ocean decadal variability behaves,” Hartmann said. “I don’t think we know the answer. Maybe it will go away quickly and we won’t talk about it anymore, but if it persists for a third year, then we’ll know something really unusual is going on.”

Bond says that although the blob does not seem to be caused by climate change, it has many of the same effects for West Coast weather. “This is a taste of what the ocean will be like in future decades,” Bond said. “It wasn’t caused by global warming, but it’s producing conditions that we think are going to be more common with global warming.”

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“The blob” in April 2014, as shown in the July 2014 newsletter where it got its evocative name. The scale is in degrees Celsius.NOAA. From the UW article.
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The warm blob earlier this week, now squished up against the West Coast. The scale bar is in degrees Celsius (each increment is 1.8 F).NOAA National Climate Data Center. Ibid.

April 10, 2015 - The Pony Express Only Lasted 19 Months, but the Legend Lives On

The following is from

The Pony Express was founded by William H. Russell, William B. Waddell, and Alexander Majors. Plans for the Pony Express were spurred by the threat of the Civil War and the need for faster communication with the West. The Pony Express consisted of relays of men riding horses carrying saddlebags of mail across a 2000-mile trail. The service opened officially on April 3, 1860, when riders left simultaneously from St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. The first westbound trip was made in 9 days and 23 hours and the eastbound journey in 11 days and 12 hours. The pony riders covered 250 miles in a 24-hour day.

Eventually, the Pony Express had more than 100 stations, 80 riders, and between 400 and 500 horses. The express route was extremely hazardous, but only one mail delivery was ever lost. The service lasted only 19 months until October 24, 1861, when the completion of the Pacific Telegraph line ended the need for its existence. Although California relied upon news from the Pony Express during the early days of the Civil War, the horse line was never a financial success, leading its founders to bankruptcy. However, the romantic drama surrounding the Pony Express has made it a part of the legend of the American West.

During the 1950s, a portion of the neglected Pikes Peak Stables in St. Joseph was saved from total extinction and became the Pony Express Museum. M. Karl Goetz and the Goetz Pony Express Foundation, along with aid and support from the Chamber of Commerce, the citizens of St. Joseph, and the St. Joseph Museum, Inc. helped to save this historic structure. After stabilization and renovation of the remaining portion, new exhibits were installed and the stables opened to the public.

In 1993, the museum underwent a further renovation to restore the remaining portion of the stables to its original size. Modern, interactive and educational exhibits were created to depict the need, creation, operation and termination of the famous mail service that lasted from April 1860 to October 1861. Today the museum continues to stand as a tribute to the legend and legacy of the Pony Express and its enduring era.

Editor's note: Many thanks to Meryl Wieder, MSO emerita of the Department of Geography, for suggesting this material.

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The stagecoach and freight company Well Fargo & Company was the temporary agent for the Pony Express western route from April-July 1861. In 1866, after the American Civil War was over, the Pony Express assets were sold to Wells Fargo for $1.5 million. (Wikipedia: Pony Express)
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In 1860, riding for the Pony Express was difficult work — riders had to be tough and lightweight. A famous advertisement allegedly read: Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred (Ibid.)
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Probably more than any other rider in the Pony Express, William Cody (better known as Buffalo Bill) epitomizes the legend and the folklore, be it fact or fiction, of the Pony Express (Ibid.)

April 09, 2015 - Jeffrey Hoelle Becomes an Affiliate Professor of Geography

Our Chair, Dan Montello, broke the following news on April 1, 2015:

“The news is official. Please join me in a warm Earthly welcome to our newest Affiliate Professor, Assistant Professor Jeffrey Hoelle of Anthropology. (Yes, the web page can be updated). Welcome, Jeff!”

Dr. Hoelle received his PhD from the University of Florida in 2011, and his research interests include human-environment interactions, space and place, conservation and development, Latin America, and cross-cultural cowboys and cattle cultures.

If the phrase “cross-cultural cowboys and cattle cultures” caught your attention, Jeff explains it this way: “My current research is focused on understanding the economic and cultural factors that contribute to the expansion of cattle raising in the western Amazon state of Acre, Brazil. I employ political ecology and practice theory frameworks to analyze how rubber tappers, colonists, and large-scale ranchers use and perceive cattle in relation to multi-scalar economic structures and conservation and development discourses and policies. I also examine the symbolic practices and preferences for a cattle-centered rural life that are expressed in cauboi (cowboy) and contri (country) popular culture in Acre. My interest in the economic, ecological, and cultural relationships between humans and cattle in Amazonia provides the foundation for an emerging research project in which I compare “cattle cultures” in the Americas, Africa, and India” (source).

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Jeffrey Hoelle is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology, as well as an Affiliate Professor in the Latin American and Iberian Studies program, the Environmental Studies program, and the Department of Geography.
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Jeff’s dissertation was titled “Cattle Culture in Amazonia: The Rise of Ranching in Acre, Brazil,” and he currently has a book on the subject in press: “Rainforest Cowboys: The Rise of Ranching and Cattle Culture in Western Amazonia.” Austin: University of Texas Press.

April 08, 2015 - Alumnus Greg Mohr Keeps on Truckin'

The following is an email which Greg Mohr (BA 1976) sent to the editor on April 8, 2015:

I taught Environmental Studies 165B again last quarter with a record number of students (37, compared to the usual 20 ±5), and it was a real challenge. My teaching "guest" David Stone and I offer it as a practicum follow-on to his 165A lecture class, with seven written assignments that come together at the end as a Final Environmental Impact Report. Our hypothetical "project" is a three-story mixed use building on Campus [Goleta] Point, with 23 faculty townhouses and about 9500 sq. ft. of classroom-lab space, with a main access road that extends Lagoon Rd. past the Marine Science Institute, along the lagoon's south shore, and then makes a hairpin turn to the east and up onto the point. It's fun--lots of issues! However, with 37 kids, that kept us humpin' big time.

Reading the alumni news in the latest Geography Newsletter reminded me that I've had a couple of notables over the past two years. I was given the ES Program's annual Outstanding Alumnus Award in June 2013, and last year I had a presentation accepted for the annual Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences (AESS) Conference at Pace University, New York City, in June 2014. However, I got very ill the day before my flight and missed the conference; am on deck to present it at the AESS Conference this June at UC San Diego, should an opening arise that needs filling. I'm still the AESS's founding Treasurer, through at least June 2017 when my current term's up. That's something that also keeps me humping from time to time, like now, leading up to the conference--many bills to pay, with not much money to pay 'em. To top things off, I'm the Secretary for the Retired Employees of Santa Barbara County, a non-profit 501(c)(7) social benefit corporation, but plan to leave that at the end of this year. I've been doing it since Jan. 2009, and it's time to let it go.

It was good to see some familiar old names on the Spring Newsletter’s donor's list: Jim Frew, Earl Hajic, Doug Stow, and Tara Torburn [I knew her as both Hardoin and Twitchell]. What are Doug and Tara up to? I know that Jim's with Bren, and last saw Earl roller-blading around the SB harbor with much elan, and a broom in hand to clean up after the tourists and other slobs. Enough bragging; property taxes are due in two days, the income tax forms need to be completed by the 15th, and I have a conference call about the AESS's finances at two this afternoon. Make it stop! Best wishes to all, -Greg Mohr

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"I’m Greg Mohr, a UCSB graduate from 1976 (BA, ES & Geography, plus graduate work in Geography, 1976-79). My primary career was with Santa Barbara County as an Environmental Specialist and Planner (1979-2007), and I’ve had other jobs related to environmental impact analysis both before and after my county career. For the past few years I’ve also been involved in volunteer work with the county retirees’ association, the Citizens Planning Association, and the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences."

April 07, 2015 - Michelle Oyewole and Sarah Shivers Awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced this year's recipients of Graduate Research Fellowships (GRF), and UCSB Geography graduate students Michelle Oyewole and Sarah Shivers garnered two of them. The fellowship provides three years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period ($34,000 annual stipend and $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to the graduate institution) for graduate study that leads to a research-based master's or doctoral degree in science or engineering.

According to the NSF web site: “NSF awarded the GRF to 2,000 individuals from among 16,500 applicants in 2015. Awardees represent a diverse group of scientific disciplines and come from all states, as well as the District of Columbia, and commonwealths and territories of the United States. They are also a diverse group of individuals. Among the 2,000 awardees, 1,053 are women, 494 are from underrepresented minority groups, 43 are persons with disabilities, and 31 are veterans. The 2015 class of Graduate Fellows comes from 456 baccalaureate institutions, 72 more than in 2010, when GRFP began awarding 2,000 fellowships each year.

Since 1952, NSF has provided fellowships to individuals selected early in their graduate careers based on their demonstrated potential for significant achievements in science and engineering. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is a critical program in NSF's overall strategy to develop the globally-engaged workforce necessary to ensure the nation's leadership in advancing science and engineering research and innovation.

A high priority for NSF and GRFP is increasing the diversity of the science and engineering workforce, including geographic distribution and the participation of women, underrepresented minorities, persons with disabilities, and veterans. With its emphasis on support of individuals, GRFP offers fellowship awards directly to graduate students selected through a national competition.”

Editor’s note: Many thanks to Susan Meerdink for bringing this material to our attention. While many folks are reluctant to be seen as “beating their own drum,” such accolades also reflect upon the Department as a whole and, as such, merit publicity.

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Michelle Oyewole: Broadly speaking, I plan to continue research in natural and managed landscapes in order to improve understanding of human impacts on nitrogen, carbon, and water cycling in terrestrial ecosystems. My proposal was entitled "Effect of Compost Application Rate on Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Biogeochemical Analyses and Policy Implications.
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Sarah Shivers: My proposal was entitled "Assessing the Capability of Hyperspectral Remote Sensing to Aid in Crop Water Management". My goal is to use remote sensing to better understand patterns of agricultural water use in California, the impacts of the drought, and the ways in which we can optimize use.

April 07, 2015 - The UCSB Geography Spring Newsletter

The UCSB Geography Newsletter is a biannual production, and electronic mailings occur in spring and fall each year. And, yes, both publication dates are calculated to "brand" the Department and to encourage donations (just before Christmas and just before tax filing). You can download a PDF of the spring edition here.

The content of each Newsletter revolves around major Departmental news items since the last mailing and also includes standard items, such as faculty and student kudos, a thank you to recent donors, alumni news, and, at times, a humor spot or a “did you know?” item. The articles included in this edition of the Newsletter are only a small and abbreviated sampling of about 66 postings made on the News & Events page of our web site since the Fall newsletter was sent out last December.

For more Geography News, visit our web site at and check out our Facebook page at If you have a submission of your own, suggestions about further inclusions, or any other comments, corrections, or catcalls, please contact the editor, Bill Norrington, at

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April 01, 2015 - Amazon Web Services Offers Free Satellite Imagery

The following article is by Joab Jackson of the International Data Group (IDG), posted March 19, 2015 and with the title above:

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is offering its customers free use of over 85,000 satellite images, setting the stage for new types of geographically-oriented cloud applications. The images, from the Landsat 8 observation satellite, are already available at no cost directly from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which oversees the Landsat program. But the public agency isn’t in the position to offer the data for high-volume use by third-party applications, which means developers have had to spend considerable time and resources creating ways to download, store, and prepare the data for use.

“Because the imagery is available on AWS, researchers and software developers can use any of our on-demand services to perform analysis and create new products without needing to worry about storage or bandwidth costs,” said Jed Sundwall, Amazon open data technical business manager, in a blog post.

The Landsat imagery is probably the most comprehensive publically available set of satellite images of the earth. It covers the entire globe and is frequently updated. It is widely used across a variety of fields, including regional planning, surveillance, agriculture, cartography, geology, forestry, and education.

A number of AWS customers are already using Landsat imagery for their own services, according to Sundwall. Geographic information systems software vendor Esri uses the dataset to demonstrate the capabilities of its ArcGIS Online viewer, MathWorks.

Image 1 for article titled "Amazon Web Services Offers Free Satellite Imagery"
Landsat 7, launched in 1999, is the second most recent addition to the Landsat program. The Landsat program is the longest running enterprise for acquisition of satellite imagery of Earth. On July 23, 1972, the Earth Resources Technology Satellite was launched. This was eventually renamed Landsat. The most recent, Landsat 8, was launched on February 11, 2013. The instruments on the Landsat satellites have acquired millions of images. The images, archived in the United States and at Landsat receiving stations around the world, are a unique resource for global change research and applications in agriculture, cartography, geology, forestry, regional planning, surveillance and education, and can be viewed through the USGS 'EarthExplorer' website. Landsat 7 data has eight spectral bands with spatial resolutions ranging from 15 to 60 meters; the temporal resolution is 16 days. Source: Wikipedia - Landsat program
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