Fifteen Geography seniors and four faculty members recently attended the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers. Held this year in Tampa, Florida, this is the premier conference of our discipline, attended by thousands of academic and professional geographers and scientists from a variety of disciplines.
Keene State was one of the best represented departments among the hundreds attending, as our students made six presentations over four days. One group of seniors, Brian Cote, Brian Jones, Michael Harpool and Abby Martelle, received the award for Best Undergraduate Paper Award from the Regional Development and Planning Group, for their project “The Ultimate Commute: An Assessment of Bike Path Conditions in Keene, NH.”
Faculty members Lara Bryant, Chris Cusack and Chris Brehme presented their latest research results during paper sessions, and emeritus professor Klaus Bayr presented a poster with alums Chris Dunn and Adam Riffle describing Dr. Bayr’s ongoing glacier research.
It was not all work and no play in Tampa. Most of the group took in an NHL Hockey game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night. On Wednesday evening we enjoyed a delicious dinner of pizza and cold drinks following our extensive self-guided tour of downtown Tampa. Thursday allowed for some relaxing hours poolside at the conference hotel.
The Annual AAG Meeting has become a rite of passage for our graduating seniors as most look forward to the final weeks of their undergraduate college experience. This year’s juniors should already be looking forward to AAG 2015 in Chicago!
Geography Seniors made a splash at the 2014 Academic Excellence Conference on April 5th with twenty-two seniors presenting six projects. Parents, friends and faculty joined them to share in their success. Read more about all six projects on the student work page. In addition, senior Mike Desjardins gave an oral presentation on the results of his KSC Undergraduate Research-funded work on coral reef conditions in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Read more about his work under his student profile.
Geography Seniors worked in coordination with Peterborough Parks and Recreation Director Jeff King during the Fall of 2013. Their goal was to gain a better understanding of how the town’s recreation facilities are serving current residents and how future trends may impact the recreation department. Many of the facilities are located near the town center, however residents are clustered in several other parts of town. Students used a survey to collect public input, then analyzed the results in GIS and statistical software. The recreation inventory itself is a significant report with locator maps, lists of amenities, images and descriptive information. You can read the entire project report on our Student Work page.
In the fall of 2013, Geography seniors Mike Desjardins, Kristin Carlson, James Shea and Ethan Yazinski undertook work to better understand the recreational amenities and wildlife habitats of Surry, NH. Their research contributed to the development of an ongoing Natural Resources Inventory, or NRI. The NRI is an important tool for municipalities to establish a baseline of understanding about natural resources, to identify areas of concern, and to plan for the future. The work of these students involved an assessment of current recreation areas and a survey of wildlife habitats that builds on the New Hampshire Wildlife Action Plan. Read more about their research in the complete report on the Student Work page.
Spatial Skills involve concepts such as direction, orientation, and adjacency. Geography students Jenn Lundquist, Hallie Oullette and Amanda Smith used a National Geographic giant floor map to test these skills in fifth and sixth graders from local elementary schools. Their research, conducted in the Fall of 2013, revolved around whether these skills might be improved by interacting in this large space. Students were given a pre-test, then invited to play a game of ‘Simon Says’ on a 30 foot x 30 foot floor map of South America. After this activity, the students were given a post-test of questions involving the same skills. Read more about their project and the results in their full report on the Student Work page.
Here we feature our third of six senior capstone projects. One of the greatest amenities of Keene is the recreational paths that thread through downtown, and wind out toward the surrounding countryside. In the Fall of 2013, five of our senior geography students analyzed the use and conditions of these pathways by bikers and pedestrians. As stated in the abstract, “Data were obtained using bike counters, GPS receivers, visual counting and through surveys administered to the public and Keene State College students.” This project will be presented with five others at Keene State’s Academic Excellence Conference on Saturday, April 5th. The poster presentation will be from 4:15 to 5:15 in the Student Center.
This is the second project we are featuring from our 2014 graduating seniors, in anticipation of the upcoming Academic Excellence Conference on April 5th. Completed in the Fall of 2013, the Ashuelot Greenspace study examined a number of neighborhood and citywide variables to inform the planning process for a proposed greenspace adjacent to the Ashuelot River near downtown Keene. Currently an unused parking lot, this space is situated at a critical junction of bike and walking paths, and is very close to one of the most heavily traveled thoroughfares in the city. There is little doubt that this new park will see significant use from neighbors, employees of nearby businesses, as well as visitors. Four of our geography seniors used door-to-door and online surveys to gather opinions from local community members about their use of existing parks, and their recommendations for the new greenspace. Findings showed that residents would like to see more amenities for young children, as well as more convenient access for paddling the Ashuelot River. View the entire report on the Student Work page.
Each year our geography seniors take part in the required Seminar II course in which they engage in exciting and relevant research. In the fall of 2013, five seniors collaborated with Dr. Nora Travis, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, to contribute to ongoing research on air quality issues in Keene. While Keene is an idyllic setting, the same beautiful glacial valley that provides excellent recreation opportunities can also contribute to air quality issues on cold winter nights. Air inversions can trap particulate matter from woodsmoke, causing respiratory issues for local residents. Dr. Travis works with federal, state and local partners to explore this issue and educate the public. Our seniors spent much of the fall of 2013 documenting and mapping the presence of wood stoves in Keene homes. Knowing the potential sources of wood smoke is important to correlate with other data that illustrate the concentration of particulate matter. Together, this information can lead to mitigation efforts that can ultimately lead to cleaner air. Read more about this project and many others on our Student Work page.
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!