Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leventhal Map Center & Mapparium

(Many thanks to geographer/photographer Ashley Costa for all of the photos in this article, with one exception, as noted.)

The Geography Department's EarthView Program had last Friday "off" because of the AAG meeting, and although Dr. Domingo was in New York City that day, this left others on the team with an unscheduled day. Rather than sitting at home eating bonbons, we decided to spend a day learning about maps and globes, instead of teaching about them. (The world is a big place, so geographers are never done learning!)
Several students, friends, and family members took advantage of the opening in our schedule to visit two amazing geographic resources located in the Back Bay area of Boston. We went first to the Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library and then to the Mapparium in the Mary Baker Eddy Library at the Christian Science Monitor headquarters.

This was a perfect outing for February Vacation Week. (Note to out-of-state readers: Massachusetts schools get an entire week off for Presidents Day. And another week in April for the Battle of Lexington and Concord.)
Dr. Debra Block, the Leventhal Center's Education Director, mentioned two ways that maps change. Either what we know about places changes, or the places themselves change. The Center's extensive collection of Boston maps from the earliest to the most modern illustrate the latter. The land on which the museum is situated, in fact, was in or near the water at the time this 1722 map was made.

Many of the Center's other early maps illustrate the latter point, and the long span of time required to learn the geography of some places. The part of the Amazon where I did my dissertation research in 1996 is almost unfindable on some early maps. The area is shown as "unexplored" on a ca. 1885 map in my office; on this earlier map, it is "little known." Rondonia, in fact, is little known and even less understood, even today!

It is nice to have a cartography course back in our department, and to see how enthusiastic our students have become on the subject. In addition to many grown-up tomes on the subject, we found an excellent children's book about a librarian who made the most profound contribution of all time to the field of cartography. The library liaison to geography at BSU, Pam Hayes-Bohanan, has written a nice review of the children's biography of Eratosthenes, The Librarian Who Measured the Earth.

When we first started Project EarthView, we got a call from the Mapparium about possible collaborations. That staff person left the organization soon after and we have not yet reconnected, but we see a lot of potential for collaboration, as these two giant globes complement each other beautifully. One is stained glass and the other is fabric; one is fixed in place and the other highly portable; one is political and the other physical. Even more interesting, the political geography of the Mapparium is frozen in time in the 1930s, so it provides rich lessons in historical geography and the geographies of colonialism.

In addition, each globe has interesting acoustics, though the effects are much more impressive -- and better documented -- in the Mapparium than in EarthView.

PHOTO: John Nordell, Christian Science Monitor
The main advantage of EarthView is that it can be taken to audiences anywhere that a tall ceiling can be found, so it might contribute to a traveling counterpart of the Mapparium program. It may also be possible, though, to set up EarthView in the beautiful and thought-provoking Hall of Ideas, which serves as a lobby for the Mapparium. The room is certainly large enough; the question is whether EarthView will fit around its hanging celestial spheres and the fountain in the center.

The "Ideas" in this hall are quotes and aphorisms projected onto the walls and floor, but only after appear to coalesce in the fountain.

Only a small contingent from the Geography Department was able to go on last Friday's outing. We look forward to many returns to both of these geographic treasures, and are starting to promote them as destinations for the university's many visiting scholars and dignitaries from around the world.


What is wrong with this picture? What is SUFG? Is it supposed to be obscene?
This map shows students who have registered in the Speak Up For Geography campaign, which is sponsored by National Geographic and the Association of American Geographers, among others. Federal law currently lists geography as one of eleven critical disciplines, but not one of the ten critical disciplines with funding.

A number of political leaders in Washington recognize this as a serious problem, undermining our economy and national security, as well as making us look dumb compared to other countries. Unfortunately, not enough leaders understand this. Only two Massachusetts representatives (and neither Massachusetts senator) are among the sponsors of the Teaching Geography if Fundamental (TGIF) Act, nor has Governor Deval Patrick endorsed it, even though he does understand the value of geography.

SUFG is not obscene, of course, but it is obscure. A google search on the acronym brings up some unrelated stuff about electricity. We can use social media to fix this by spreading the good word about SUFG.

Friends of geography -- especially from BSU -- can fix the map by enrolling in the campaign and -- more importantly -- by urging legislators to support TGIF.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Bridgewater at AAG

Several members of the BSU Geography Department were among the 8,000 geographers attending the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) in New York City. New York is among relatively few cities with the capacity to host this meeting, which has steadily increased in size. Not all of the BSU participants were even able to see each other at the meeting, which included 5,000 presentations over a period of five days. See the first day of the meeting calendar for some idea of the scale of this gathering!

As most of us know, Dr. Hellström is a leader in research about really cold places -- his dissertation work at the South Pole means that the whole rest of the planet is relatively mild by his standards. For this meeting, he organized a cryosphere poster session and paper contest, with participants describing research from high-latitude and high-altitude regions throughout the world.

Dr. Domingo and Warren Sutcliffe also attended the meetings, Warren to represent the NESTVAL region in the World Geography Bowl. Our department has done very well in recent years in the regional competitions in NESTVAL. One reason -- in addition to our very enthusiastic geography learners from the United States -- has been that our department attracted students from Brazil and South Africa who have studied geography every year from a young age, getting a bit of a head start!

Dr. Hayes-Bohanan participated on a panel that discussed geography as a diversity discipline and learned about the innovative TwiST geotechnology outreach program near Syracuse, which in some ways could be replicated at BSU.

Drs. Hellström and Hayes-Bohanan were able to hear highlight of the program on Saturday night, when former Irish President Mary Robinson challenged geographers to champion the cause of climate justice. She concluded her address as the second recipient of the prestigious AAG Atlas Award, with a compliment and an admonition. "You understand how our planet works," she said, so we have an obligation to work not only on the problem as whole, but on the highly uneven and inequitable spatial distribution of its causes and consequence.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

EarthView Returns to the State House

The Geography Department's Project EarthView will be returning to Nurses Hall in the Massachusetts State House on Thursday, May 3. This will be our third visit, having last been there in April 2011. It is indeed a wonderful opportunity to share our enthusiasm for geography education on a wider stage.

This year, the event will take place shortly after -- we have every reason to believe -- a version of our legislation to promote geography education will be out of committee and under consideration by the full legislature. We urge members and friends of the department to join us. Some seats may be available on our van that day, but those wishing to drop in for a portion of the day would best use public transportation.

Whether you are able to attend or not, please suggest to your own local legislators that they pay a visit to EarthView -- a unique perspective on the world!

Please use this post or the Facebook event page to spread the word.

Monday, February 13, 2012

EarthView in Taunton

Last Friday, most of the EarthView team -- Drs. Domingo and Hayes-Bohanan, Brigitta Palmer-Hart, and Ashley Costa were joined by recent graduate Patric Anjos at the St. Mary's School in Tuanton. We are very pleased that the Taunton Gazette covered our visit with a nice article and some photos.

This kind of media coverage is important, as EarthView has reached 30,000 students directly, but is part of an effort to improve geographic literacy for hundreds of thousands more.

Missouri State Opportunities

Our department recently received this notice, with a request that we share it with our students:

The MS program in Geospatial Science at Missouri State University has 10 graduate assistantships to fill in teaching and research lines.  Undergrad students interested in graduate work in both the geosciences and GIS/remote sensing should contact Robert Pavlowsky, program director, at  . See our website  at Graduate students in the program often work within or in partnership with the Ozarks Environmental and Water Resources Institute, see website at  Recent MS theses in the program were in structural geology, geochemistry, environmental geology, hydrogeology, karst hydrology/tracing, fluvial geomorphology, water quality, watershed management, sediment contaminant transport, and GIS/Remote sensing.

Graduate assistantships available for Fall 2012 include:
(1) Teaching: geology, physical geography, and GIS/RS lab sections.
(2) Research: water quality monitoring of urban and rural watersheds.
(3) Research: geomorphic assessment of rivers.
(4) Research: mining sediment contamination in rivers.

Robert T. Pavlowsky
Director, Geospatial Science MS program
Missouri State University
Department of Geography, Geology, and Planning (GGP)
901 South National
Springfield, MO  65897

Office: 417-836-8473
Fax: 417-836-6006

Geographies of Transformation in a Democratic South Africa

The Department of Geography invites you to a lecture
by  a leading South African geographer

Dr. Michael Sutcliffe, former City Manager,
Durban, South Africa

”The geographies of transformation
in a democratic South Africa"

3pm Tuesday Feb 21st 
Science & Math Center Auditorium, Rm 120
(2:30pm appetizers/desserts served)

Michael Sutcliffe, South African geographer, urban planner, and city manager will give a lecture on the social, political, and spatial transformation of South Africa. Dr. Sutcliffe has a Ph.D. in Geography from Ohio State and he was until Dec 2011 the City Manager of Durban, South Africa. He was chairperson of the post-apartheid demarcation project that re-defined municipal and provincial regions, substantially changing the politics in South Africa towards a far more democratic system than it otherwise would have had. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ecology/Geography Presentation

Wednesday,  February 8 at 11:15 AM to roughly 1:00 PM we will have a guest lecturer speaking to the GIS class about methods of measuring plant photosynthesis using a new hand-held instrument that the Geography Department acquired last semester.  If you are interested, please drop in as your time permits.
Our guest, Chris Bergweiler (PPSystems Inc.), will set up equipment in room CON 285, our intro GIS lab around 10AM.
If you have direct interest in measuring soil respiration or leaf transpiration/photosynthetic response, please bring sample potted plants or soil samples to the lab room.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Geography of Canadian Hockey

Please join Dr. Andrew Holman, Professor, Department of History, as he presents "A Flag of Tendons: Ice Hockey and Canadian History".   Friday, February 3, 2012 

12:15-1:15 PM 

CART Boardroom, Moakley 221 
A light lunch will be provided.  RSVP              (508)531.1767       or

Dr. Holman is an historian who understands the value of geography. In fact, some of his books include a map produced by one of our geography students and even a couple produced by me!