From January 3rd-January 15th, Drs. Al Rydant & Lara Bryant led a group of 14 students to the beautiful South American country of Chile. While studying there, they stayed in Sanitago (the capital) for four nights, Vina del Mar for four nights, and La Serena for three nights. Students enrolled in the 4 credit field course for the fall semester. They completed assignments throughout the semester, culminating with the trip in January. The students were also required to do numerous assignments during their stay in Chile, including field journals, observation quizzes, and a comprehensive final exam. That does not mean they did not have time for fun as well. A typical day would include walking tours, group lunch, and chances to spend extra pesos on excursions like horseback riding on the beach, riding funiculars to observation points, and souvenir shopping. The nights would usually give the students free time to explore the cities and grab dinner at a restaurant or pub of their choice. Some nights would be booked with extra activities like the exploration of the Mamaluca Observatory in Vicuna or working on an urban planning project. Some highlights of the fieldcourse include:
1.) Staying four nights in Vina del Mar with host familes. The 14 students were separated into single, doubles, or triples and required to meet local families where they would experience Chilean culture firsthand. Most families did not speak fluent English, so it was an opportunity for the students to put their language learning skills to the test. Needless to say, many students learned more Spanish in four days than they did in their entire lives. Many of the students said they ate some of the best food of their lives while staying with their hosts. Some also felt that they made lifelong friendships and connections that would resonate in their minds and hearts for a lifetime.
2.) A volunteer fieldwork day in the botanical gardens outside of Vina del Mar. The students and professors aided the botanists during a full day of work where they weeded hundreds of local and exotic plants and learned about Chilean flora. Some of the students even played with tarantulas that surprised all of them while getting their hands dirty. It really put into perspective how much work goes into maintaining a park like the botanical gardens.
3.) A trip to a local winery. “Fundo El Sauce” was a local winery where students learned about how much love and work goes into making wine the old fashioned way. They were able to sample various wines and it was a once in a lifetime experience. It takes six months to make a commercial bottle of wine while it takes “Fundo El Sauce” 2 years. The winery also specialized in training horses to participate in the rodeo. A jockey showed them what a horse is capable of after years of training. The rodeo in Chile is not like the rodeo here in the US. Chilean rodeo is more of an artform where the horses will follow commands and earn style points. After the tour was over, the students were able to purchase a bottle or two of the homemade wine to bring back home.
Overall, the field course in Chile was a life-changing experience for the students. They were able to learn about a new culture and a new language. Whether it was playing futbol with locals in a park, figuring out how to navigate a Chilean city, or simply catching some rays on the beach, the trip provided opportunities to do things that they may never be able to experience again. The next field course is yet to be determined, but Dr. Rydant and Dr. Bryant will surely not disappoint!
Jeffery Nugent, Geography Adjunct, works for the Windham Regional Commission for Windham Country, Vermont as a mapping specialist. Recently, he was featured in the Keene Sentinel for his work of mapping the damage from Tropical Storm Irene, which wrecked havoc on the state of Vermont in 2011. These maps, which will provide a historical record of the damage, were released last week and can been viewed at www.windhamregional.org/gis.
How “livable” is your city or town? Do you feel a sense of community? Are local businesses a positive reflection on your town?
Three students at Keene State College recently developed an assessment tool that measures six characteristics of town life that contribute to a positive or negative sense of livability. The students, Camille Martineau, Christa McGaha, and Brittany Smalanskas, all geography majors, conducted an inventory and survey of Marlborough, New Hampshire to determine just how livable that town is. The three presented their research at the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers in Los Angeles and were awarded the Best International Undergraduate Student Paper Award for 2013. Dr. Christopher Cusack, Professor of Geography, served as the project supervisor.
The Department of Geography received Keene State’s ‘Transformation Award’ for demonstrating recent achievements in establishing three coordinated initiatives:
Geography Internship Program;
GIS Research Lab
Conference Presentation Opportunities
Geography competed against dozens of other departments and programs on campus to earn second place in the competition. The Transformation Award recognizes departments that have transformed their work to align more closely with the college’s three
Academic Excellence and Student Success
Institutional Effectiveness, Sustainability, and Financial Stability
Diversity in the Community, Curriculum, and Co-curriculum
The award was based on the department’s poster presentation which highlights how we levereged the success of our Senior Seminar course and community partnerships into this new set of initiatives. The poster, created by Dr. Chris Cusack, can be seen here.
On April 25th, twelve students were inducted into Gamma Theta Upsilon, the Geography Honor Society. The ceremony was held in the Mountain View Room of the Student Center, and was followed by dinner at a downtown restaurant. Pictured here (l. to r.): Current president Amelia Armstrong, Charles Stoll, David Webb, Steve Vitko, Andrew Lampron, Greg McCormick, Samuel Rand, Emily Francis, Chris Dunn, Bryan Finocchiaro, Mike Harpool (new president), Patrick Brough (current vice president) and Keith Pancake. Not pictured are new members Luke Mathews and Max Marek and current members Kelley Levine, Ryan Gould and Michelle Lefebvre.
In early April, fourteen Keene State Geography students made the cross-country journey to Los Angeles to present the results of their seminar research. The Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers was the venue where many of our graduating seniors had the opportunity to share their work with an international audience of scholars.
Student projects focused on a number of environmental and community issues important to Keene and the wider Monadnock region. Presentation topics included a study of the urban heat island effect in Keene, urban planning issues in Marlborough, NH, and an atlas of the Ashuelot River watershed.
Lauren Sutherland and Patrick Brough present at the AAG Conference in LA.
While in LA, geography students also had the chance to explore the dynamic urban environment of southern California. Among some of the sights were Santa Monica, Venice Beach, and Hollywood. An adventurous group of Keene State geographers even made the two hour journey to Joshua Tree National Park, where they experienced the beautiful natural scenery of the Mojave desert (center image below). Back in LA, students had fun roaming around the city on the subway system, and enjoyed a night out with their seminar advisor, Dr. Chris Cusack.
The AAG meeting has become an annual rite of passage for Geography seniors, with recent trips to Washington, DC, Seattle, Washington, and New York City. Future destinations will include Tampa, Florida and Chicago.
In March, Drs. Rydant (Geography), Fleeger (Environmental Studies) and Stephenson (Director, The Global Education Office) travelled to the University of Dundee, Scotland to explore the opening of a student exchange program. Consultations with faculty and administrators were productive; we look forward to creating a new exchange venue for Keene State students with this strong Scottish university.
A little R&R time led the professors to a sighting of Nessie on Loch Ness, castle visits in Edinburgh, visits to a number of Angus Pictish sites and 1500 year old stone sculptures, and a visit to St. Andrew’s University, where Prince William received his Bachelor’s degree in Geography.
New to the Geography department this year is Dr. Lara M.P. Bryant.She joins the faculty at Keene adding her expertise in geographic education.She earned her doctorate in Geographic Education from Texas State University-San Marcos. At Texas State she was actively involved in the Texas Alliance for Geographic Education in a multitude of roles including teacher consultant and conference coordinator.Dr. Bryant is currently the new coordinator for the New Hampshire Geographic Alliance, and will be engaged in outreach programs with the public school system throughout New Hampshire.
Dr. Bryant has ten years experience teaching geography in both rural and urban secondary schools.At Texas State University she taught introductory courses for World Geography and Geographic Information Systems. Dr. Bryant currently teaches Introduction to World Geography, Geography for Educators and GeoSpatial Technologies for K-12.Dr. Bryant’s research interests include GIS in secondary education, affective education, informal geographic education, and spatial cognition. Dr. Bryant’s international experiences include living in Germany, traveling to China as a Fulbright participant and working in Chile to help develop online geography modules for the Association of American Geographers Center for Global Education.
Chris Brehme, Assistant Professor in the Geography Department, is part of a multi-partner collaboration led by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution that received a two-year award from the Northeast SeaGrant Consortium to analyze the potential interaction between endangered whales and lobster gear along the Maine coast. Other partners include the Institute for Broadening Participation, Maine Lobstermen’s Association and New England Aquarium.
Heather Tetrault of Maine Lobstermen's Assocation and a Maine lobster fisherman document fishing areas
With the help of geography major Amy Curran, Chris is using Geographic Information Systems
to analyze information collected at small meetings in dozens of fishing harbors. At these meetings, lobstermen use paper charts and pens to indicate the location and timing of trap placement. These data will be combined with whale sightings information as part of a risk reduction model that the researchers hope will inform a more balanced approach to conservation management.