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Vol. 12, Issue 2 • Fall 2013


Celebrating 20 Years of Riparia



Climate change and geography

Members, friends, and followers of the department know that research on climate, climate change, climate interactions, and closely related issues are foundational to Penn State geography in light of our history and ongoing activities. Most recently the department is welcoming Kirby Calvert as a geographic and energy policy specialist whose work has important ramifications for climate change—see page 10 of this issue. An early phase of the department’s efforts on these themes was centered mostly in climatology and humanenvironment geography, led by outstanding works of now-Dean Bill Easterling (whose Nobel Prize-winning contributions were recognized along with fellow report authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change/IPCC), and faculty members Brent Yarnal and Andrew Carleton. As a result, the department’s alumni community includes a legacy of impressive leaders working on these themes, including alums Andrew Comrie (Ph.D ’92), Karen O’Brien (Ph.D ’95), and Robin Leichenko (Ph.D ’97). In 2009 we used our increasingly diverse portfolio of activities in these areas as a centerpiece of the department’s leadership at the annual College-wide GEMS (Graduates of Earth and Mineral Sciences) Symposium and since then it has continued to grow. Nowadays the department is redoubling these efforts. New, innovative approaches to these themes have also become a vital part of other programs as well—I’ve observed these innovations recently as part of my invited reviews of a number of Geography departments and related schools (Universities of Maryland, Indiana, Texas, and U.C. Berkeley, along with Wageningen University in

the Netherlands). It is very clear Penn State geography is exceptional in the scope and quality of our activities along several related fronts. For example, faculty member Petra Tschakert is now in the home stretch of finalizing her lead authorship of a major forthcoming IPCC report and Brian King is researching this theme in southern Africa. The department’s biogeographers and ecologists led by faculty Alan Taylor, Erica Smithwick, and Jennifer Balch have launched a spate of new, highly successful projects on forest fire ecology and related issues influenced through climate change. The dynamic team of Riparia faculty and staff directed by Rob Brooks and Denice Wardrop uses wetland sites to study the impacts of management issues and climate change—see this issue and cover photo. Scientific communication of climate change has also become increasingly vital and here too our department is taking a leading role. Brent and his former and current students have forged major advances, including the pioneering use of GIScience, cartography, and geovisualization approaches led by faculty Alan MacEachren, Cindy Brewer, and others. Emeritus long-time faculty member and former AAG President Wilbur Zelinsky—whose memorial service was held on campus mid-October—was a supporter of this work. Recently former Penn Staters Diana Liverman and James McCarthy have joined me in a journal issue devoted to climate change communication in the new Dialogues in Human Geography. Penn State geography is energetically committed to advancing the capacities of local communities and global societies in the context of climate change, and as always we welcome your inputs and feedback.

ABOUT This newsletter is a publication of the Department of Geography in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences at Penn State. Contact us at: Department of Geography 302 Walker Building Penn State University University Park, PA 16802 Phone: 814-865-3433 Fax: 814-863-7943 URL: E-mail: Design/editor content: Angela Rogers Additional editors: Jodi Vender, Karl Zimmerer U Ed. EMS 14-16 This publication is available in alternative media. Penn State is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity, and the diversity of its work force.

COVER PHOTO Group photo of Riparia staff was taken on the Ridge and Valley Sculpture watershed map created by artist Stacy Levy. (More information at: http://arboretum.psu. edu/HOSBG/StacyLevysculpture.htm) Pictured (left to right): Gian Rocco, Hannah Ingram, Aliana Britson, Abbey Tyrna, Rob Brooks (in front), Joe Bishop, Denice Wardrop, Mike Nassry, Sarah Chamberlain, Suzy Yetter. Graduate students Andrew Townsend and Claire Regan not pictured. Photo credit: Angela Rogers.

Inside Coffee Hour /Department Highlights ... 3 Reflections on 20 years of Riparia ... 4 Online tool helps assess wetlands ... 6 Riparia timeline ... 8 Q&A with Kirby Calvert ... 10 Community Updates ...13 Stake out for serpents ... 14 Community Updates continue ... 18 Philanthropy ... 20



Fall 2013 Coffee Hour Schedule September 13 Sue Brantley  “Sharing Water Quality Data in Pennsylvania ...” September 20  Anthony Robinson “Maps and the Geospatial Revolution ...” September 27  Amy Hessl “Energy and Empire ...” October 4 Peter Hudson  “Just when you thought you were safe ...” October 11 Leonie Newhouse “Can my Mother Forget About me?...” October 18  David Titley “Counting the Cards in Nature’s Casino ...” October 25  The Miller Lecture: Ken Young “Sustainability trade-offs in the Andes and Amazon of Peru” November 1  Tim Kelsey “Local Economic Benefits Related to Marcellus Shale Development: What the Numbers Say” November 8  Petra Tschakert November 15  Tom Patterson November 22  Stephen Matthews November 29 Thanksgiving Break, no Coffee Hour December 6  Alan MacEachren December 13  Last day of classes, no Coffee Hour

Coffee Hour To Go

If you cannot attend the weekly coffee hour in person, the department offers Coffee Hour To Go as a webcast you can view live or at a later time. Viewers can see the speaker talking in one frame and the slides in another frame. The link for each Coffee Hour To Go is included with each talk’s specific event information on the department website.

Distinguished Professor of Geosciences Susan L. Brantley (left) receives the traditional Coffee Hour mug from lecture series co-chair Alan Taylor. Brantley, who is the director of the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, kicked off the fall semester with her talk, “Sharing Water Quality Data in Pennsylvania: From the Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory to Areas of Marcellus Shale Development.” Freshly brewed Coffee Hour news at or via Geog-Coffee-Hour-L Undergraduate students in the Department of Geography participate in Total Orientation to Earth and Mineral Sciences (TOTEMS), a summer program for first-year students in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences held at Lake Raystown. Pictured below from left to right: Grant Smith, Everleigh Stokes, Jake Simon, Melissa Peterson, and Raymond Schneider. Smith and Schneider are first-year students. Stokes, Simon, and Peterson are mentors.



Reflections on 20 years of Riparia A dialogue between Rob Brooks (below), director, and Denice Wardrop (right), associate director

Rob Brooks (RPB): Denice, you came to Penn State as a returning adult student to pursue your doctorate just as Riparia (then the Penn State Cooperative Wetlands Center) was formed in 1993. What was it like to join the field team that year to begin sampling our first reference wetlands? Denice Wardrop (DHW): Three things immediately come to mind. The first is that it was the ultimate team field experience: an intensive practice in our own area of expertise, with simultaneous exposure to a wide range of other disciplines in the same context. The learning experience was intense and totally invigorating. The second thought is that I saw so many sites in such a short time, that it provided a sense of the overall condition of the wetland resource that held up to years of experience (and probabilistic sampling) we did later. The third thing is just how good Sun Chips can taste at the end of a day on the Rob Brooks Field Diet and Exercise Plan. DHW: Staying with the early days, the reintroduction of the river otter and the fisher were a significant part of life at Riparia, and my experience seeing those animals up close and personal had a profound impact on me. What was your inspiration for having Riparia take on these unique projects? RPB: As you know, Denice, my early graduate career focused on

studies of semi-aquatic mammals, such as beaver and muskrat. I was always fascinated by these water-dependent species, including otters, and finally got a chance to work with river otters when Tom Serfass joined us as a doctoral candidate. He had started the otter reintroduction program at East Stroudsburg University (their only remaining populations in Pennsylvania were in the Poconos), so we continued the work at Penn State adding innovations. We then used our successful approach with otters to reintroduce fishers, a tree-dwelling weasel that was eliminated from Pennsylvania by unregulated trapping about 1900. Today, all evidence points toward increasing populations and expanding geographic ranges in the Commonwealth for both species. For me, and I think for many of us in Riparia, reviving a species in decline is one of the most rewarding activities one can be a part of in conservation. RPB: Reminiscing about the otter and fisher projects reminds me how valuable our contacts with agencies, organizations, industries, and citizens have been through the years. We couldn’t have completed those projects and others without agency funding, help with logistics, and communicating openly and frequently with the public. You know how much energy we have put into our outreach activities. What’s your perspective on Riparia’s ever-evolving integration of research, education, and outreach?

For me, and I think for many of us in Riparia, reviving a species in decline is one of the most rewarding activities one can be a part of in conservation.

DHW: My perspective on that is certainly shaped by my preacademic experience

20 YEARS OF RIPARIA as an engineer in environmental consulting, where I experienced either profound gratitude or frustration about new knowledge. The gratitude came from the power of that knowledge when it could be utilized on the ground to increase health and happiness, and frustration when its potential could not be realized because a translational step had not been taken or its potential value or application was poorly communicated. I totally embrace the concept of transformational research, as well as the power of research as an aspect of experiential learning. The continued work in trying to dissolve the hard boundaries that can unwittingly occur between research, education, and outreach has been very meaningful to me, and the experience of being a part of a center where we were all dedicated to that task has made it even more so.

Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. Without a doubt, it was our most complex, highly integrated series of projects. Very rewarding! But, we needed a change in venue within the University to optimize how we do our work since we were not getting adequate support internally at that time. Several options were considered. Ultimately, conversations with geographers interested in landscape and spatial data (Alan Taylor and Alan MacEachren,

The continued work in trying to dissolve the hard boundaries that can unwittingly occur between research, education, and outreach has been very meaningful to me ...

DHW: Our move to the Department of Geography profoundly shaped our day-today world, and I’d venture to say that it changed our work (after all, many of us are landscape ecologists and we found ourselves in a new context). Can you describe some immediate differences that you saw, and can you offer some thoughts on how the body of Riparia’s work might be different than it would have otherwise? RPB: In 2003, our tenth year, the center was quite successful, and we were completing our largest project ever—the 5-year, $6 million, Atlantic Slope Consortium—which had taken on the development and testing of ecological and socio-economic indicators from the Appalachian

specifically) led us to the Department of Geography, and the entire Center moved in June of that year. The most dramatic shift was exposure to the broad array of subdisciplines found in geography, which trickle down to the students we teach and recruit, the seminars we attend— such as Coffee Hour—and even the potential research topics we consider. We were able to maintain strong connections with our collaborators across Penn State, especially links to Ecology, and Riparia also developed a nucleus around which the Ecosystem Geography group as grown within the department. So, a much shorter answer to your question is that much of what we do is the same, but we season it with lots of new, and sometimes exotic, flavors. RPB: During the twentieth year of our center, we can’t miss an opportunity to look forward to our collective future. For example, next year, we get to resample some of our first reference wetlands for the third time over 20 years (1993–94, 2003–04, 2013–14),

adding valuable information to that long-term dataset. What do you imagine we will learn when, hopefully, someone returns to those sites yet again in 2023–24? DHW: We have always worked at the boundary of landscape ecology and physical geography, elucidating how anthropogenic See REFLECTIONS on page 17




Across the Mid-Atlantic region, state agencies, environmental groups, developers, and private landowners have struggled to assess the quality of their wetlands in a consistent and actionable way. Sarah Chamberlain, a senior research assistant with Riparia, hopes a tool she’s been researching and developing for more than a decade, the Floristic Quality Assessment (FQA) method, will be able to help them do these kinds of assessments better and faster. Developing the calculator The Floristic Quality Assessment (FQA) method was developed by Floyd Swink and Gerould Wilhelm in the 1970s to assess prairie habitats in the Chicago region. The method was used to estimate nativity, or how well present-day habitats matched those of pre-colonial times using plant community composition as an indicator. Their goal was to identify habitats with high nativity, that were more likely to contain remnant prairie plants, and that could then be singled-out for protection. The original FQA dropped out of use until the 1990s when it was rediscovered as a way to measure condition of habitats, Chamberlain explains. When the average coefficient of conservatism (represented

If plants could talk…

Online tool helps landowners assess the quality of their wetlands by “C”) is multiplied by the square root of native species richness (represented by “N”), the result is the Floristic Quality Index (FQI), a score for the habitat. As with C values for plants, high-quality habitats typically have high FQI scores, while lowquality habitats have low scores. The C value indicates the degree to which each plant can tolerate disturbance or has an affinity to a pristine ecological condition. “So, if a plant will only grow in a wetland of high ecological integrity,

On the left, an example of the results for a superior quality wetland with an adjusted FQI score of 54.2. On the right, an example of the results for a limited quality wetland with an adjusted FQI score of 17.7. The calculator is hosted online at:



Some examples of plants that indicate a degraded wetland (from left): Tree-of-Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), Morrow’s honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowii), Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), Mile-a-minute (Polygonum persicaria), and Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii). it gets a high score. If a plant will grow just about anywhere, it gets a low score,” Chamberlain says, adding, “For example, Red maple (Acer rubrum) is a generalist and gets a lower score than Pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea), a conservative species that is restricted to bogs and other low-nutrient wetlands. There are many species in the middle.” “What we found is that the original FQI score is very sensitive to overall species richness,” Chamberlain says. “For example, in Laurel Run, one of our reference sites in Rothrock State Forest, species richness is low, with only twelve species identified throughout the entire wetland. Although it is one of our most pristine sites, we observed that it was scoring lower than less pristine sites with a greater number of species. To account for this, we developed an adjusted FQI that basically calculates the index as a percentage of the total possible score and, unlike Swink and Wilhelm’s version, takes into account non-native species. Now, sites with a lot of nonnative species score lower.” “Because C values need to be assigned for all the plants in an area before you can calculate FQI, we decided that the most effective way to facilitate the use of FQA in the Mid-Atlantic would be to assign those values to the entire region. So, in 2009 we convened thirteen botanists to assign scores to the entire flora. To facilitate the process, we calculated the mean and median scores based on existing lists from around the region or in adjacent regions and final values were assigned based on consensus,” Chamberlain says, adding that despite the large geographic area and varied knowledge brought to the table, committee members worked together well and ranked over 2000 species within a three and one-half day meeting. The values have been used to create the FQI calculator which is available for

the public to use. This research has been funded primarily by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Using the calculator To conduct an assessment, the first thing you’ll need is a list of all the plants you observe in your site, explains Chamberlain. Since rankings are assigned by eco-region, you will then select the ecoregion for your site from a drop- down menu. Next, enter your list of observed species by typing in or pasting your list from an Excel file. A built-in search function allows you to find plants based on scientific names. “We use scientific names because they are consistent,” Chamberlain observes. “Common names vary from region to region.” Chamberlain suggests using sources like the USDA’s plants database ( or Wikipedia to find the scientific names for plants. Once complete, submit your list, and then the calculator automatically matches the entered names against the database, returning any errors. The corrected list is used to calculate the score. Other metrics generated by the calculator include the mean coefficient value and percentage of native plants. For all native plants, the calculator will show the family and C-value. For nonnative plants, the calculator will show the family, but nonnatives do not have a C-value. Calculating the future Down the road, Chamberlain hopes to create a rapid assessment tool that does not require as many plant names and also to incorporate the FQI score into the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) wetland monitoring program. See PLANTS on page 12

Riparia leads Atlantic Slope Consortium to develop and test multiple ecological and socioeconomic indicators for wetlands, streams, and estuaries (Brooks et al. 2006b)

1993–2003 1993–1998 1993–2002

Riparia establishes Reference Wetlands Collection of 222 wetlands, first of this size in the U.S. (Brooks 2004)

Reintroduced 190 fishers to Pennsylvania using methods developed for river otters (Serfass and Brooks 2002)



Riparia samples 83 reference wetlands in the Upper Juniata Watershed to determine wetland condition within a watershed (Wardrop et al. 2007 a, b)


Adopt-a-Wetland for Pennsylvania High Schools (Gray et al. 1997)


2003 Riparia and USEPA-Region 3 establish Mid-Atlantic Wetlands Work Group (www.

Graduate student projects establish that wetland mitigation projects do not replicate natural wetland structures or functions (Bishel-Machung et al. 1996, Stauffer and Brooks 1997, Cole and Brooks 2000, Campbell et al. 2002, Brooks et al. 2005) Riparia, with funding from USEPA develops 3-level monitoring and assessment system: Landscape, Rapid, and Intensive (Brooks et al. 2006)

Riparia: A center where science informs policy and practice in wetlands ecology, landscape hydrology, and watershed management

Riparia and VIMS perform a wetland condition assessment for the MidAtlantic Region (Brooks et al. 2013)


Wardrop begins leading a multi-year, multi-college project to predict impacts on wetland ecosystems services from climate change (Wardrop et al. 2012)

2008 Brooks receives the University’s Faculty Outreach Award, and doctoral student in Ecology and Brooks advisee Jim Julian, receives University’s 2009 Outstanding Graduate Student Award


Citations for all timeline events can be found online at Citations for all timeline events can be found at



Article is published on Bird Community Index (BCI) for Appalachians, an indicator of ecological condition (O’Connell et al. 2000)

Robert P. and Rebecca P. Brooks Endowment is established for Riparia in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences


2007 2007–2009

Wardrop receives Edward Bellis Award for graduate contributions in Ecology, and EMS Faculty Mentoring Award

Riparia conducts 3-year study comparing reference to mitigation wetlands in Pennsylvania; provided recommendations to build a better wetland (Gebo and Brooks 2012)

Wardrop is elected Chair of Chesapeake Bay Program’s Science and Technical Advisory Committee





Riparia publishes new hydrogeomorphic classification system for wetlands of the MidAtlantic Region (Brooks et al. 2011)


Riparia’s Reference Wetlands Database goes online for use by practitioners building mitigation wetlands. Brooks is awarded National Wetlands Award for Science Research by Environmental Law Institute and USEPA

Joe Bishop and Denice Wardrop first offer GEOG 493 - Explorations Across the Americas, an experiential learning course taking students to Peru (They receive teaching award from EMS in 2009)


Trish Miller, doctoral student in Ecology and Brooks advisee, wins best student presentation at Raptor Research Foundation conference for work on golden eagle migration in the eastern U.S. (Miller 2012, Katzner et al. 2012)

Riparia’s New Book is published by Springer. It summarizes research during the past 20 years and relates it to our current understanding of wetlands as valued ecosystems (Brooks and Wardrop, eds. 2013)



Q&A with Kirby Calvert Q: How did you initially become interested in energy policy?

A: I became interested in energy policy through my interests in land-use and land-cover change. In my capstone undergraduate course I wrote a paper on the landuse impacts and environmental uncertainties related to ethanol production and consumption in North America. I quickly realized that the shift toward renewable energy (RE) in general, and especially biofuels, was going to play a significant role over the next century in shaping physical and social landscapes. I also realized that as a geographer I had the background knowledge and a set of skills to understand these impacts, and to provide decision-support for future energy planners and policymakers.

reducing infrastructural sprawl, and enabling community ownership in the energy sector; and present opportunities for a more diverse and indigenous fuel mix that has potential to be more resilient than one that relies on a monoculture of foreign resources. In the long term, a transition to RE will place corporations and states at the competitive edge of the most lucrative sector in the global

ecosystem integrity, perpetuate environmental injustices, and contribute to widening socioeconomic disparities. Let’s not make the same mistake as when fossil resources were developed by getting the resources into the system whatever the cost. Q: What is one of the most interesting/surprising things you have learned through your work to date?

“In fact, RE systems have inherent functional and strategic advantages over incumbent energy systems that strongly recommend widespread adoption, independent of climate change and fossil resource scarcity.”

Q: What are some commonly held misconceptions about RE? A: I think the most common misconception is that the only reason for deploying RE technologies is because of climate change and peak oil. In fact, RE systems have inherent functional and strategic advantages over incumbent energy systems that strongly recommend widespread adoption, independent of climate change and fossil resource scarcity. In the near term, RE systems provide useable forms of energy in remote or isolated locations without the need to bear the economic costs and environmental risks of resource transport; offer decentralized and embedded micro-scale electricity generation, which has the benefit of alleviating utility system congestion,

economy. In fact, the RE option must precede the development of a sustainable hydrogen economy, which itself would establish the theoretical and technical scaffolding for the climb to fusion technology. The second common misconception is that the shift toward RE can only be positive. In fact it is not. I want to be clear here because I realize that statement can be misinterpreted—I recognize and believe whole heartedly that a transition toward RE is the only possible pathway through which society will achieve sustainability. And I think the quicker we can shift from non-renewables toward renewables, the better. My point is that we need to exercise some caution in how we think about and subsequently develop our renewable resources. Without a thoughtful policy and planning framework, the development of renewable resources can compromise local

A: The transition toward RE is not a simple shift in the fuel mix—in other words, it is not simply a matter of replacing coal with biomass or natural gas with sunlight. The transition toward RE represents much broader geographical and social changes. Our existing energy system is largely (>80%) based on a set of resources (coal, oil, gas, uranium) that can be tied into global distribution networks. Energy resources from one part of the world can be consumed in another. By contrast, the friction of distance is strong when it comes to RE—it is just not possible to transport the sunshine falling on the Middle East to North America. This apparently simple difference is profound. It means that we need to use our local land and resources in new ways. We need new infrastructure and new engineering practices in order to connect sources of RE with energy users. We need to develop social and technical (or, more accurately, socio-technical) systems that work with, rather than against, the rhythms of the natural world. Q: Have you seen the billboards that say “Wind Dies, Sun Sets … You need reliable, affordable, clean coal

FACULTY AND STAFF electricity”? What can scientists do to effectively rebut this kind of propaganda? A: The first part of the statement, in and of itself, is absolutely true. But this is not the point, and I think the best way to rebut this statement is to shift the focus from the wind or the sun toward the technologies that harness the power of those resources, toward human ingenuity. There are ways to implement, organize, and manage energy systems in such a way that the intermittency of those resources is controlled and electricity provision is made reliable in the sense that when you flick your light-switch, it will work. The terms “reliable,” “affordable,” and “clean” are also incredibly problematic in the context of coal. We can only consider coal reliable on a relatively short time frame. Is coal a reliable energy resource for future generations? We can only consider coal affordable if we dismiss the incredible environmental/ecological externalities that are not included in the market price. What would be more or less affordable if we were forced to pay for military support and ecological remediation involved in the provision of fossil energy directly through the market price rather than through the tax base? And while new technologies are making coal cleaner than in the past, it is indisputable that coal will never be as clean as renewables. For me, the far more unsettling advertisements are those that read “Affordable coal energy: increasingly green and always red, white, and blue.” Here we see that the production and consumption of coal is tied directly to a national identity—very powerful rhetoric. We are beginning to see similar discursive strategies deployed in Canada, where debates about the development of the oil sands in

Alberta are somehow evolving into debates about Canadianness and what it means to be Canadian. We need to continue to challenge the underlying assumptions of these communications strategies in a way that resonates with the public. Q: What are your future research plans? A: I have both short and long-term research plans. In the short-term I hope to leverage my Ph.D. work to study some of the challenges faced in Ontario with their roll-out of a feed-in tariff (FIT) program for renewables. With such a critical mass of technology deployment in that province, we have a wealth of data that we can tap into to answer some questions about


the geographical implications of and barriers to RE development. One of the big issues is land-use change. The land-energy nexus has been well studied in the context of bioenergy, but less attention has focused on solar PV developments. We know that these systems are cheaper to build, and economies of scale can be achieved, on agricultural land. And while the Ontario government placed restrictions on the amount of agricultural land that could be re-purposed toward solar PV production, it will be interesting to know what factors were considered in siting decisions, what land-use changes are occurring, and the scale of those changes under future See CALVERT on page 12



PLANTS from page 7 Under the federal Clean Water Act, DEP has an ongoing program to assess the quality of waters in Pennsylvania and to identify wetlands and other bodies of water that are impaired. One way to do this is using a Biological Condition Gradient (BCG) that defines six condition categories and helps in setting restoration goals. Although Chamberlain needs to do more testing, so far it looks like FQA metrics are useful in defining BCG category breakpoints for wetlands in Pennsylvania. See the table on page 13. So what can you do to restore a wetland that is assessed as Condition Category 3 based on an FQI score of 27? Because most wetlands occur on private property, regulators envision restoration to occur on a watershed basis. Best Management Practices that could be used to increase a wetland’s quality include removal of invasive species and planting or protecting buffers.

Chamberlain is currently investigating developing a rapid version of the index. “We know that FQA is a great method for condition assessment, but it’s timeconsuming and requires some knowledge of plant identification. Most state agencies don’t have the resources to conduct this kind of detailed assessment on a routine basis,” Chamberlain says. A rapid version of the FQI tool would make it easier for natural resource managers, environmental groups and developers to quickly assess the quality—not just the quantity (in acres)—of their wetlands. “This information could aid in deciding appropriate mitigation for wetlands or be used to pinpoint high quality wetlands for protection,” Chamberlain says, adding, “I’d like to see the FQI tool combined with Level 1 (landscape assessment) and 2 (rapid assessment which gathers information on site stressors and buffer characteristics) assessment tools to make it a one-stop shop for wetland assessment.”

CALVERT from page 11 development scenarios. These are all unanswered questions in a lot of ways—while we’ve modeled some of this stuff there is a serious need for exploratory, empirical research in this area. In the long term I hope to develop and implement a RE resource management system that can be used to bring coherence to the scientific assessment and communication of resource potentials, and to develop spatial plans for the integrated development of RE resources. This will look something like the system used by the petroleum industry to distinguish resources from reserves and to prioritize their development from a business and policy standpoint.

that are currently providing theoretical insights to these matters—including innovations theory, evolutionary economics, science and technology studies, etc.—and geography, but more particularly contemporary spatial theory and landscape theory. I want to bring these together theoretically to begin to answer questions such as: What social and physical factors are influencing how and why RE technologies are dispersing geographically? What new social networks and geographic connections are being made, and with what consequence?  In what ways are these technologies being made to adapt to regional/local settings?  Do small regional or local differences matter in explaining the pace, scale, and outcome of energy transitions See “Toward RE geo-information infrastructures: and if so, which ones are most important?  Applications of GIScience and remote sensing that How are regional and national economies build institutional capacity” in Renewable and Sustainable responding to the distortive effects (in, Energy Reviews. Volume 18, February 2013, Pages 416– e.g., socio-spatial relations and global 429. value chains) of emerging energy pii/S1364032112005667 industries?  What are the links between energy transitions and other socio-political My second objective is to understand not only spatial strategies (e.g., the post-staples economic the physical but also the social dynamics that are transition; landscape / nature conservatism; neoentangled within the operation of energy systems, liberalism; spatial planning)? Empirically I intend to and which will be re-configured by policy attempts use the living laboratories that lie right outside my to facilitate a sustainable energy transition. In backdoor: my home province of Ontario and my new order to change our social and technical systems home Pennsylvania.   to accommodate and accelerate RE development, we need to understand how those systems work. To date, there has been a woeful lack of integration between those disciplines or theoretical frameworks



This table shows Biological Condition Gradient categories based on FQI scores. Category 1 wetlands are considered reference standard wetlands, the highest condition category, while Category 6 wetlands represent wetlands that are severely degraded.

COMMUNITY UPDATES UNDERGRADUATE Ariel Alvarez was profiled on the University Office of Undergraduate Education’s Research Opportunities for Undergraduates site. Andrew Homka completed a GIS Analyst summer internship with TerraSim in Pittsburgh. Britt Eckerstrom started as goalkeeper for the Penn State women’s soccer 2013 fall season. Abby Dolinger completed a global change ecology internship during summer 2013 near Madrid, Spain. The internship was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

GRADUATE Jase Bernhardt and Raechel Bianchetti represented Penn State on the Middle States Division team which won the World Geography Bowl the 2013 AAG Meeting. Jase Bernhardt received a runnerup prize at the recent student

paper competition of the AAG Climate Specialty Group for his paper, “A synoptic climatology of contrail outbreaks and associated surface temperature impacts for two sub-regions of the continental United States.” Amanda Young, Audrey LumleySapanski, and Sam Stehle join Sasha Savelyev as the graduate representatives. The new reps’ terms will run from now to May of 2014. Azita Ranjbar, Amy Thissel, Jamie Shinn, and Yooin Hong were named the new Supporting Women in Geography (SWIG) officers for the year. Amanda Young and recently graduated Helena Kotala (B.S. ’13) traveled this summer to the Japanese Alps to conduct research on how trees compete in high altitudes. Amy Thissel spent several weeks on a “cerrado” in Brazil to study the adaptations that plants may be developing to make them more or less vulnerable to increasing fire exposure.

Wei Luo and Alan M. MacEachren’s review paper “Geo-Social Visual Analytics” has been accepted for publication in Journal of Spatial Information Science (JOSIS). Paulo Raposo’s article “Scalespecific automated line simplification by vertex clustering on a hexagonal tessellation” has been published Cartography and Geographic Information Science. Volume 40, Issue 5, 2013. David Retchless passed his comprehensive exam in May, and his master’s thesis was published in September in Cartography and Geographic Information Science as “Communicating Climate Change: Spatial Analog Vs. Color-Banded Isoline Maps with and without Accompanying Text.” Sam Stehle and Donna Peuquet received the Best Presentation award at the NGA Academic Research Program (NARP) Symposium in Washington, D.C.

See UPDATES on page 18.



Stake Out for Serpents

If you have ever gone hiking, you may have heard the saying that any snake you might encounter on the trail is more afraid of you than you are of it. Given the chance, a snake may retreat from a human on foot, but it is much less likely to recognize the threat from a human-operated bulldozer or backhoe. As energy development moves into remote areas, research conducted by a team of wildlife biologists, herpetologists, and other field technicians led by Riparia Principal Investigator Gian Rocco, is providing clues into just how vulnerable these animals could be. Rocco and his team are conducting several studies in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to determine how snakes might be affected when human activity compromises their environment. Central to answering that broader question is understanding how snakes respond to the loss of their overwintering sites. “Ethically, you don’t want to purposely go out and destroy a site to see what happens,” Rocco explains. “In New Jersey, we were offered the opportunity to observe their fate and behavior because the loss had either already occurred or was likely to occur and ‘rescued’ animals were available for long-term observation by radiotracking. Basically, regulatory agencies decided to make the most out of an unavoidable situation resulting from utility improvement projects. And both utility companies sponsored the research, recognizing that it would benefit everyone to learn how snakes cope in such circumstances.” Radio-tracking snakes is not the glamorous and exciting occupation that nature shows make it appear to be. “Truth be told, it is not for the weak-bodied or -minded as it requires physical toughness, extreme diligence, perseverance, and dedication,” Rocco warns, adding “For the passionate and truly professional wildlife biologist, it is the ultimate window into an animal’s life — there is no other experience like it—however, much will be missed unless you really, really want to be

there and for all the right reasons.” For the safety of the snakes and other reasons, specific locations and other details about these studies are not being revealed. Don’t try this at home. The Pennsylvania study: what’s the easiest way to count rattlesnakes? Research sponsor, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PADCNR) leases hundreds of thousands of acres of remote forest areas to companies for the extraction of natural gas from the underlying Marcellus Shale. These remote forest areas are also home to the timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus), a Pennsylvania Candidate animal species of concern. (Dramatically affected by human activity, and no longer occurs in many of its former locations.) “As human intrusion and activities will undoubtedly increase in these once remote areas, it seems reasonable as well as prudent to evaluate the potential impact of energy development on the timber rattlesnake,” Rocco notes. So, since May 2011, Riparia has been studying the long-term impact of natural gas extraction activity on Timber Rattlesnakes at multiple sites in two remote areas, a large treatment tract, where natural gas extraction is anticipated, and a similarly sized control tract, where no such activities are anticipated in the near future. The timber rattlesnake is a wide-ranging, well-camouflaged,

and cryptic-behaving animal, Rocco explains, so like most other snakes, they are difficult subjects to sample effectively. “We decided to focus our sampling in places that tend to attract gravid [pregnant] females because they are the easiest to detect and the most sedentary during their gestation [brooding] period,” Rocco explains. “Timber

20 YEARS OF RIPARIA rattlesnakes give birth to live young, but doing so successfully requires them to have access to what appears to a human as a blisteringly hot, minimally shaded, rocky slope. In these communal gestation sites, up to several dozen gravid snakes absorb an abundance of warmth from sunshine during the day and radiant heat from the rocks during the night. For them, it’s a strategic choice. For us, it means that from mid-June to late-August, most will be in the same place, allowing us repeated sampling of the same site. It’s almost as if we are monitoring places rather than the creature itself.” It is the timber rattlesnake’s normal naturally selected

behavior that puts it at risk when humans enter their environment. An ambush predator, the timber rattlesnake positions itself on the scent trail of a mouse or chipmunk. It remains immobile and relies upon is coloration and deathly still behavior to camouflage it against the forest floor. Its survival in the forest has depended upon this instinct to hide and stay motionless—no matter what. When humans enter these remote forest areas with large noisy machinery, you might think that the noise, activity, and vibration would scare away any creatures in the vicinity. Not the timber rattlesnake. “This animal is not hard-wired to move away, even assuming it recognizes

Photo taken by Chris Camacho at a spectacularly productive communal gestation site on July 4, 2011, a year also believed to be unusually productive for gravid females.


the threat. Invariably, heavy equipment will roll over the snake if it happens to be lying on the path, a one-sided game of ‘Battleship’ in the wilderness.” In all the snake research Rocco supervises, the animals are captured by highly experienced individuals called “hunters,” and then measured for length, weighed, and permanently marked with passively induced transponder (PIT) tags. “There is no snake-wrangling here, and this is where so many nature shows again do us an injustice. Professional tools of the trade are used at all times to ensure the safety of the animals and, of course, the handlers. It is to our advantage to be as gentle as possible, following specific protocols,” Rocco notes. “This is not going out there like a bunch of cowboys on a rattlesnake roundup. You want to study healthy animals that are not injured or under stress.” PIT tags contain a unique identification number that when energized by a scanner will read like a bar code on a grocery item. These are the same tags that your vet can place in your pet. The recapture of a PIT-tagged animal can inform researchers of its status (age, growth, breeding condition), its movement since its last capture, and can be used to infer population size, Rocco explains. “The recapture of the same animals over and over again would suggest a small population; whereas the opposite situation – the re-capture of few previously marked animals – would suggest a very large population, among other possibilities,” he adds. Some individual snakes are equipped with radio-transmitters, a signaltransmitting device that unlike a PIT tag, allow field personnel to locate and visually confirm the location of snakes without disturbing them. See SERPENTS on page 16



SERPENTS from page 15 What have we learned so far? “After two years of pre-disturbance study, we have an outstanding baseline— the study will also help us understand what type of overwintering sites timber rattlesnakes use in these parts of Pennsylvania. This information in particular, will aid regulatory agencies striving to keep natural gas development activities as far away as possible from such critical habitat,” Rocco says. More on the New Jersey study: if you build artificial snake dens, will they come? What happens to snakes deprived of their overwintering sites? In the winter of 2012-

2013 a utility company in the process of upgrading and repairing a high voltage electricity transmission line in northern New Jersey discovered that the stone-filled foundations of their towers were being used by several species of snakes for overwintering. Although they do not hibernate as mammals do, snakes need shelter from freezing temperatures during the winter months when they are less active. The snakes were captured, in some cases following hand-excavation, and held at a wildlife rehabilitator for much of the winter. Many of these snakes were released unmarked because of their small size following the arrival of warmer weather. All other remaining snakes, those that were larger, were pit-tagged prior to their release with some of these larger ones also fitted with radio-transmitters. “You can’t put a radio collar on a snake—it’s one long neck,” Rocco observes. Unlike PIT tags, radio-transmitters transmit a signal (a beep-like sound) at regular intervals and within a very narrow frequency to allow receiver and directional antenna-equipped field personnel to home-in on individual snakes by tuning the receiver to a particular frequency. By this method, field biologists can see the day-to-day whereabouts of the animal. Copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix), black rat snakes SERPENTS continues next page Polygons illustrate the activity ranges (outermost locations shown) for 33 timber rattlesnakes radio-tracked in 2011 and 2012 at the treatment tract in north central Pennsylvania. Football field is scaled for comparison.



REFLECTIONS from page 5 land cover change surrounding our wetland ecosystems impacts their ecological functioning. We have done much work to clarify the relative importance of surrounding land cover versus on-site factors, but the relatively short time frame of observation has not allowed us to examine the contribution of the history of a series of land cover changes. A significant portion of the MidAtlantic has undergone multiple changes in land cover on as short as a decadal scale. I’m hoping that we can begin to unravel the relative explanatory power of land cover legacy versus current land cover conditions in the ecological functioning of a wetland, and find a way to articulate land cover legacy in our analyses. DHW: You are generally associated with looking forward and not back (it’s a good thing), so I’m going to take this opportunity to ask you the following: setting aside all of the wonderful accomplishments of Riparia, if you had to do it again, what would you do differently?

RPB: Great question, Denice, and fortunately an easy one to answer. I would do it more or less the same way for several reasons. Founding the center in 1993 clearly allowed all of us—faculty, staff, and students—to build upon our work synergistically. Graduate students built upon the research of those that came before. Over time, we established a strong reputation as a science-based group where the tough issues concerning wetlands, regulatory and ecological, could be answered. We presented education and outreach programs to many, many more participants because of return engagements year after year. I think our reputation for delivering creative and dependable products, whether those were well-trained graduates, informative journal articles, or useful tools for advancing science, management, and conservation, helped keep us funded and productive over two decades. The highlight and major benefit of establishing Riparia is that we have built long-term, trusting relationships with so many

colleagues, many with whom we still work with today. This has benefited our science and been advantageous to our students and staff who have moved on. Look how many former students and peers contributed chapters to our new book, Mid-Atlantic Freshwater Wetlands—15, by my count. Today, you and I each have former doctoral advisees successfully working as postdoctoral scholars with U.S. EPA research laboratories, Kristen Hychka (geography) and J. B. Moon (ecology)—one on each coast! We’ve been able to follow the careers and even the lives of our students and colleagues through the years, which continues to bring us lots of joy and pride. So, although we could have tweaked the model of Riparia a little here and there, I’m more than satisfied with where we are now, in fact, I’m delighted, and looking forward with anticipation to what’s happening next.

SERPENTS from previous page (Pantherophis obsoletus), and black racers (Coluber constrictor) were implanted with transmitters then released “exactly where they were found— we know from other studies that relocating them to a nonfamiliar area is a terrible conservation strategy—in May 2013, when weather was warm enough that they would have emerged from their overwintering dens,” he explains. “So far we have seen typical summer range behavior: mating, feeding, and depredation. The most interesting part is coming right now as the animals begin to move to their former overwintering sites and to where artificial dens were constructed as replacement,” Rocco says, adding “The new dens were constructed nearby the ones lost during construction of the new electricity towers— this was part of the utility company’s mostly voluntary mitigation work in an effort to offset the loss of the

previously occupied dens which were probably also inadvertently created many decades ago.” As with the Pennsylvania study, the benefit of the New Jersey study is that the information can help regulatory agencies assess the risks when known overwintering sites are lost. The general expectation is that the snakes will retreat for the winter to the new artificial or existing natural dens. It is known that some snakes use multiple dens. “With timber rattlesnakes, females tend to have greater site fidelity whereas several of males we have observed have used different dens. We know this from other studies as well,” Rocco explains. “But we don’t know how these snakes will view these artificial dens. They could use them or they could ignore them. They are not random in their movements. Snakes have mapped their world much in the same way as we humans.”



UPDATES from page 13

Bigfoot skeptic Josh Stevens just couldn’t resist mapping the dataset of North American sasquatch sightings released by the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization. Josh’s blog post quickly went viral with a writeup on LiveScience that’s been picked up by NBC News, Fox News, Yahoo News, and Business Insider. It was also featured on the Discovery Channel show “Daily Planet.”

FACULTY AND STAFF Brent Yarnal received the 2013 AAG Climate Specialty Group (CSG) Lifetime Achievement Award at the Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, California. Robert G. Crane received The W. LaMarr Kopp International Faculty and Staff Achievement Award. Karl Zimmerer received the 2013 Robert McC Netting Award, which is a career honor of the Cultural and Political Ecology (CAPE) Group of the Association of American Geographers (AAG).

( cape-honors/). As part of this award he will deliver the featured paper presentation of the AAGCAPE plenary session at next year’s annual AAG meeting. Jan Oliver Wallgrun and Jinlong Yang authored a paper that has been accepted at the IEEE International Conference on Cognitive Informatics and Cognitive Computing. Title: “Investigating intuitive granularities of overlap relations.” Robert P. Brooks received the 2013 National Wetlands Award for Science Research. Brooks and six other award recipients were honored at a ceremony at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. on May 9, 2013. Andrew Carleton is a co-author on the article “Land Cover Changes and their Biogeophysical Effects on Climate,” accepted for publication in The International Journal of Climatology. Professor Emeritus Wilbur Zelinsky died on May 4, 2013 in State College, Pennsylvania.

Professor Emeritus Fredrick Wernstedt died on June 9, 2013 in Tuscon, Arizona. Donna Peuquet is the 2013– 2014 EMS Faculty Performance Committee member. Kennedy Perks (daughter of Jessica and Brock Perks) was born on Saturday, June 15. A paper published by Alexander Klippel, Frank Hardisty, and Rui Li (Ph.D. ’12) was recently selected as an NSF highlight. Color Influences the Usefulness of Maps was published on NSF’s SEE innovation website. http://go.usa. gov/bdH9       Erica A. Smithwick was promoted to associate professor. The Geographical Society of Tokyo awarded Emeritus Professor of Geography Ronald F. Abler its Tokyo Geoscience Medal at the International Geographical Union (IGU) Regional Conference held in Kyoto, Japan in early August. The medal is awarded to individuals and groups who have contributed significantly to the development of geosciences or who have played important roles in disseminating the fruits of geosciences to the public. Petra Tschakert conducted a methods training workshop on

Faculty, family, and grad students participated in the Centre County Women’s Resource Center Steps to Safety 5K held on October 6, 2013. Pictured: (rear, left to right) Sam Stehle, Jase Bernhardt, Kirby Calvert, (front, left to right) Arielle Hesse, Aparna Parikh, Jess Calvert, Amy Thissel.

COMMUNITY UPDATES participatory scenario building and flexible flood management in Assam, India. This workshop and subsequent fieldwork in four rural communities along tributaries to the Brahmaphutra are part of a large climate change adaptation project (HICAP), in partnership with CICERO (Norway), ICIMOD (Nepal), and Aaranyak (India). Erica Smithwick’s Working Group on “forecast forest responses to atmospheric nitrogen deposition” has received support from The John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis, which promotes science-driven, interdisciplinary analysis and synthesis of complex natural science problems. Rosie Long, administrative assistant and office manager, accepted a position as administrative assistant to Dean Bill Easterling in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Karl Zimmerer has received the first-ever awarded Alexander and Ilse Melamid Medal from the American Geographical Society (AGS). The Melamid Medal is given for outstanding work on the dynamic relationship between human culture and natural resources. Rob Brooks is a co-director with Jim Shortle, from the College of Agricultural Sciences, on a new research project funded by USEPA to establish a Center for Nutrient Solutions. This project is funded for $2.2M over 3 years. The research team, involving four Penn State colleges, the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, and the on-campus USDA Pasture Systems and Watershed Research Unit, will investigate “webs of nutrient flows” in four watersheds with a goal of modeling nutrient flows, targeting best management practices and improving decisionmaking.

Michael Nassry joined the Department of Geography as a post-doc with Riparia. His doctoral work in Biological Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech focused on landscape controls on organic matter and nutrients in glacial meltwater flowing into the Gulf of Alaska. His current research ranges from working with Rob Brooks on improving nutrient management in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to studying wetland vulnerability to climate change with Denice Wardrop. Kary (formerly Blashak) Isett, undergraduate administrative assistant, married Roger Isett on October 5, 2013.

ALUMNI Joel Burcat’s (B.S. ’76) story, “Executioners” is an Honorable Mention winner in the Valhalla Press Legal Professionals Writing Contest. appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of Ragnarok, the e-lit journal of Valhalla Press. “Executioners” is a chapter from his environmental legal thriller manuscript, Drink to Every Beast. Lori Simmons (B.S. ‘79) retired after working for 30 years as a cartographer for the National Park Service. Andrew Comrie (Ph.D. ’92), was appointed in February permanently as the new Provost at the University of Arizona. Comrie had served in the provost position on an interim basis since August 2012.


Mike Hermann (B.S. ’95) Purple Lizard Maps founder and lead cartographer, released a new Bald Eagle State Forest map. Anna Brendle Kennedy (B.S. ’02) ) started a new job in July 2013 as the Executive Director of the Lancaster Osteopathic Health Foundation in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, focusing on children’s behavioral health. Rachel (Kurtz) Headley (Ph.D. ’03) left the USGS to become the STEM Liaison for Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota. She’ll be helping them build out their science disciplines and get their scientists more engaged in the Sanford Underground Research Laboratory in Lead. Christopher Gabris (B.S. ’09) received his GISP certification. Mallory Henig (B.S. ’12), FEMA Map Specialist with the Michael Baker Corporation, passed the Certified Floodplain Manager exam through the Association of State Floodplain Managers, Inc. Audra Kershner (B.S. ’12) graduated in July from the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), the culmination of 10 months of fulltime service to communities in need. M. Chelsea Nestel, nee Gilliam (B.S. ’13) was awarded a Fellowship worth $5,000 by The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. Sarah Hanson (B.S.’13) Patrick Blonski (B.A.’13) became engaged. Hanson and Blonski met on the Parks and People: South Africa program in 2011. Nate Amador (Ph.D. ’13), has accepted a Visiting Assistant Professor in Geography position at Bucknell University, Pennsylvania. 

The Pennsylvania State University Department of Geography 302 Walker Building University Park, PA 16802-5011

Many individual tributaries bring the water together to form a great river If you would like to donate to Riparia through the Robert P. and Rebecca P. Brooks Endowment for the Cooperative Wetlands Center, please email or visit: In celebration of Riparia’s 20 years of bringing science to inform policy and practice, Dr. and Mrs. Brooks will match all gifts, dollar for dollar, up to $5,000. When giving online, please include the code XCMBE to the right of the description. Like every stream, every gift is important.

Thank you for your continuing support.

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The cumulative effect of many gifts makes a significant impact on the quality of research we can undertake to address the most important academic, scientific, and social concerns of our time.

Penn State Geography Fall 2013 Newsletter  

Special Issue featuring Riparia in honor of the twentieth anniversary

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