Category: geography

[Re]Defining 'Food Deserts'


Very interesting new research from the Jerry Shannon in the department of geography on access to healthy food:

The concept of food deserts grew out of a need to describe areas with the combination of a low-income population and reduced availability of stores selling healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Online resources made available by the USDA identify food deserts by measuring the distance to the closest supermarket from each census tract. Coupled with income, if more than 33 percent of a population in a given area lives more than a mile away from a supermarket, that is considered a low-access area.

"For geographers, that definition is problematic, because the perception of distance can change-something can be far away but feel close if you have a car, for example," Shannon explained. "Access to healthy food is a question of resources and daily mobility as well as proximity."

Food deserts straddle development, politics, economics and transportation issues; one solution used in many localities has been to introduce a new supermarket or big box store into a low access area. Shannon's research and related case study suggest a different development alternative may be more effective.

One primary finding documents how low-income people access the food system and confirms that people do not only shop where they live.

Physical development of our communities dictates so much about the quality of life - of all citizens. With income disparities only growing more acute, conversations about development will be even more dominated by economic interests at the top. But understanding how development issues - and food access is certainly one - affect all members of the community (and as Shannon notes, food deserts are often invoked to support certain schemes) is more important than ever. This work, and the accompanying map, go a long way to helping make us more informed. More great work for our geographers.

Franklin Visiting Scholar: Jennifer Fluri


fluri exteriorThe Franklin College Office of Inclusion and Diversity Leadership brings to campus visiting feminist political geographer Jennifer Fluri from Dartmouth to give an important talk on gender, security and violence in south and southwest Asia:

Fluri, an associate professor of geography and chair of the women's and gender studies program at Dartmouth College, will discuss "The Beautiful ‘Other:' A Critical Examination of ‘Western' Representations of Afghan Corporeal Modernity."


Fluri's research focuses on the geography, politics and economics of gender, security and violence in conflict and post-conflict societies. Her lecture will look at the role of the female body, gender and the Western ideal of beauty during and after the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan. Fluri examines how the female body is used to reconstruct new forms of political meaning, social value and economic opportunities in post-conflict Afghanistan.

"Gender, security and violence are tightly linked in post-conflict societies, such as those in southwest Asia," said Amy Trauger, an assistant professor of geography and Fluri's host during her visit. "International aid, popular representations of Afghan women and capitalism work together to create a post-conflict nationalism that may not empower the most vulnerable populations. Dr. Fluri will share some new insights from her research in these areas."

March 17 at 3:30 p.m. in Room 214 of the Zell B. Miller Learning Center. Free, open to the public and not to be missed.

And now... the weather


students with TV monitorsOne of the 'super hubs' for collaboration and partnership at UGA is our public televisioon station, WUGA TV. The Franklin College has a partnership with the station in the interview show that I host - but the College of Public Health, the College of Veterinary Medicine, the Hugh Hodgson School of Music and of course the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication all have growing collaborations with the station. One of the latter is Grady News Source, a half hour news program airing daily that gives our broadcast students great experience. In an interesting expansion of that endeavor, the weather reports are now being provided by students from our Atmospheric Sciences Program:

"The collaboration with WUGA-TV represents a wonderful opportunity for our students," said Thomas Mote, professor and head of the geography department, which is part of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "Nearly every career in meteorology requires polished communication skills. Even students who don't wish to pursue a career in broadcast meteorology will benefit from the opportunity to improve their presentation skills. The collaboration with WUGA-TV provides a public service opportunity with a broad audience across the region."

WUGA-TV, the public television station owned and operated by the university, is available in 1.55 million homes in 55 counties in north Georgia and can be watched locally on Charter cable channel 6 and channel 32 of DishNetwork, AT&T Uverse and DirecTV. The station is on university cable channel 8.1.

The 12 students, who are developing the forecast under the guidance of Jeff Dantre, director of news and content for WUGA-TV, videotape the weather segment each weekday. During the process, a group of two to four students looks at weather models to determine the forecast for the area, creates the slides and images to be shown and records the presentation for airing. 

The TV station is a major asset with an impact that we are just coming to understand. With access to the ninth largest broadcast market in the nation, it can help the university project its influence in ways we've never been able. That is true capability for reaching people - alumni, citizens of Georgia, decision-makers. The station allows UGA to fulfill its service mission like never before, even as it provides our students with important training and experience across a variety of fields. Tune in.

Image: Matt Daniel, right, a senior atmospheric sciences major and president of the UGA chapter of the American Meteorological Society, works with Riley Hale, a senior atmospheric sciences major, to prepare weather forecasts for broadcast on WUGA-TV.  Photo by Paul Efland


Friday lectures: Geography, Cinema, Anthropology and Women's Studies



Friday Lectures Abound: Geography, Cinema, Anthropology and Women’s Studies

By Jessica Luton

Fall is in full swing here in Athens. And alongside the crisp cool air and colorful changing leaves all over campus is a busy schedule of lectures, from both UGA faculty and visiting scholars.  Here’s a look at what’s on today’s schedule for lectures.

Women’s Studies: Female Judges

First up, is the Women’s Studies Friday Speaker Series held each week in room 148 at the MLC from 12:20 to 1:10 p.m. We’ve written about this series before.

This week’s lecture, given by Susan Haire, an associate professor in the school of political science and international affairs, will address the need for more female judges on the Federal Appeals Court bench. 

Geography: Climate Connections and Marine Science

This afternoon, from 3:30 to 5 p.m., the Geography Departmental Colloquium is sure to be informative and inspiring as UGA department of marine sciences professor and researcher Patricia Yager discusses her research about climate change and the marine biosphere.  The lecture, entitled “Climate Connections to the Marine Biosphere—from the Amazon to Antarctica,” will be given in room 200C of the Geography and Geology building.  Below is the description:

The ocean has absorbed about one-third of the anthropogenic carbon produced, but scientists know this sink is climate sensitive. With high latitude changes in sea ice cover, and extreme hydrologic variability in the tropics, the carbon sink offered by marine ecosystems is likely to change, potentially feeding back to climate. Using observations from marine ecosystems in both the Amazon River plume and the Amundsen Sea polyna in Antarctica, this seminar will discuss what role the ocean plays in global climate, particularly when it comes to understanding how the ocean biosphere is helping to keep our planet cooler than it might otherwise be. The question is whether the ocean can continue to play this role under changing climate conditions.”

Ecology:  Enamel and Jomon Period Foragers

Over in Baldwin Hall at the same time, 3:30 to 5:00 p.m., the Anthropology Fall Speaker Series will feature a lecture by University of North Carolina, Wilmington, professor and researcher Dan Temple.  His lecture, in room 264, is entitled “Tracking Variation in Ecology and Life History Using Linear Enamel Hypoplasia and Incremental Microstructures of Enamel Among Late/Final Jomon Period Foragers.”  Temple’s lab website offers the following description of his work:

“We study systemic stress using enamel microstructures, appositional and longitudinal growth, ecogeographic and functional adaptation, and phenotypic evolution in postcranial morphology. Our approach is integrative, and our research questions address two of the larger questions in biological anthropology: 1. How does variation in ecology drive human life history? 2. What forces of evolution have operated to produce diversity in postcranial morphology?

We focus on Early to Late Holocene foragers from Jomon period Japan, Siberia, Florida, and Alaska.”

Cinema Roundtable: A Discussion of 1973

At 4 p.m. in room 150 of the MLC is “The Way We Were in 1973: From Mainstream Nostalgia to New Hollywood, Blaxploitation and Foreign Art Cinema.”  Here’s a recent blog post on the event.  And the description of today’s discussion provides some context about just why this particular year was chosen as a topic of discussion. 

“The Way We Were in 1973: From Mainstream Nostalgia to New Hollywood, Blaxploitation and Foreign Art Cinema." This fall’s Cinema Roundtable investigates 1973 in American cinema, expanding on the special “Now and Then: 1973″ exhibit at the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries. This roundtable is moderated by Richard Neupert, film studies coordinator in the Department of Theatre and Film Studies, and features theatre and film studies faculty Freda Scott Giles (African American Studies), Christopher Sieving and Rielle Navitsky.

For politics and culture, 1973 included such milestones as Roe v. Wade, the return of POWs from the Vietnam War and President Richard Nixon proclaiming he was not a crook on national television.

In the world of cinema, things were just as tumultuous. Hollywood offered up movies set in the past, such as "The Way We Were" and "The Sting," while Scorsese’s "Mean Streets," "Malick’s Badlands" and Friedkin’s "The Exorcist" shook up the usual formulas. Within "Blaxploitation," women characters burst on the screen in Coffyand Cleopatra Jones, while Jimmy Cliff brought reggae into the mainstream with "The Harder They Come." But foreign cinema was also huge in art cinemas that year, with Brando shocking America in "Last Tango in Paris," though Truffaut’s "Day for Night" won the Academy Award, and Bruce Lee helped launch a martial arts craze.

Today is a great day to check out a free lecture and explore a topic of intrigue or one of sincere passion.  Don’t pass up the opportunity is see one of these great lectures this afternoon.  

Exploring Earth Sciences


Earth, smaller, from spaceBy JESSICA LUTON

If interest in the Earth sciences is at your core, two events happening this week may very well provide some insight into the kinds of careers that are possible in meteorology and geography.

First up, tonight from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in room 200B of the Geography and Geology building, is an informational meeting entitled “Your Future in Meteorology.”  The UGA Chapter of the American Meteorological Society is hosting a discussion about the many career opportunities in the field. 

Featuring Georgia Athletic Association Professor and director of the UGA Atmospheric Sciences Program Marshall Shepherd, associate professor John Knox, broadcast meteorologist and alumni Tyler Mauldin, and several graduate students, the event will offer interested students an opportunity to learn more about weather and atmospheric sciences from those who know best.

If geography piques your interest, then you won’t want to miss this Friday afternoon Geography Department Colloquium. From 3:30 to 5 p.m. in room 200C of the Geography and Geology building, Katherine Hankins, from the department of geosciences at Georgia State University will be giving a talk entitled “The Politics of Place and the Place of Politics in Atlanta.”

The description provides some insight into the type of scholarly knowledge that will be discussed:

For decades, scholars of urban politics have pondered the questions of who governs, and in whose interests. And how is that governance resisted or reworked to represent the interests of marginalized groups in society? In this talk Hankins will explore the spatialities of these questions by putting into focus two particular processes that both express or carry out and respond to the changing tensions between urban space and politics: mobility and mobilizations.  Hankins will draw from her own work in Atlanta around school activism, public housing, land-use conflict and community development efforts to explore the politics of mobility—or the meaning and power underlying and produced through location-to-location movement, and the politics around mobilizations, or organizing resistance to dominant sociospatial forces.

Opportunities abound on campus to discover new potential areas of interest or just absorb new knowledge. Take advantage of it while you can.    

For more information on Geography as a major, visit:

For more information on the Atmospheric Sciences program, visit:

Image: Third planet from the Sun.

Summer NASA experience for Franklin students


This is an update on a story we reported back in January. The Franklin College is especially pleased that it is written by the newest member of our communications team, Jessica Luton. Be sure to watch the great videos for each research project.

students with NASA sign


To Infinity and Beyond

From Observation to Application: Franklin students inform policy using NASA data

By Jessica Luton

When NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, is mentioned in everyday conversation, it is probably most-often associated with landing on the moon, childhood fantasies of going to space camp or the discovery of unknown life on faraway planets.

But NASA does more than just study the rest of the solar system.  Earth, it seems, is just as important to study and NASA has a vast archive of data on Earth itself. NASA’s DEVELOP program helps college students and recent graduates, through paid internships offered year round, conduct and run their own research projects using NASA-collected observational data about Earth.

UGA recently became a new collaborator in the DEVELOP program and, for the first time ever, ten students from UGA spent the summer using NASA’s observational data to explore public health and environmental issues.

“It’s a great experience because it provides a paid internship and the students really take ownership of the projects,” said UGA graduate student and NASA DEVELOP coordinator Steve Padgett-Vasquez.

“Ultimately one of the goals is to increase the number of people using NASA observation data,” he added.  “NASA invests a lot of money and research on ways to monitor Earth.” 

Padgett-Vasquez, who is earning his Ph.D. in integrative conservation and geography via UGA’s Center for Integrative Conservation, initially began the conversation with Geography Department faculty to get UGA set up as a node for the program.  As a previous DEVELOP center lead for DEVELOP at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., Padgett-Vasquez knows first-hand what an excellent hands-on learning experience the program is for students.  That experience, he said, was worth offering to UGA students.

Lauren Childs-Gleason, the National Science Lead for DEVELOP at the National Program Office at NASA's Langley Research Center, is pleased to have UGA on board with the program.

“It’s very exciting to collaborate with the University of Georgia,” she said. “We share the common goal of cultivating and enabling the next generation to apply science to make informed decisions to improve the planet around us.”

UGA joined the DEVELOP family this summer, as students conducted four applied Earth science projects that highlight the use of NASA Earth observations to address real-world environmental concerns. At the end of the 10-week summer internship, NASA held a summer close out event at NASA Headquarters, which UGA students participated in.

“UGA students were a really great presence,” she said.

These internships are a different kind of experience than most students garner in an internship position, she said.

“DEVELOP participants take ownership of project proposals outlining basic application concepts and have ten weeks to research core scientific challenges, engage partners and end-users, demonstrate prototypical solutions, and finalize and document their results and outcomes,” she said. “The opportunity to take a project from A to Z in this high pressure, results-driven environment builds strong networks and hones effective communication skills. Participants gain both technical experience in remote sensing and GIS, as well as enhance their personal skills like working with teammates from other disciplines and personality types.”

Many participants go on to work for NASA and its supporting contractors or in other federal, state or local government agencies based off of connections and opportunities that stem from their project and time with DEVELOP, she added.

One lucky UGA student, Caren Remillard, a graduate student in Geography, was one of two people selected annually as the recipient of a scholarship from Science Systems and Applications Inc. (SSAI), a NASA contracting organization that does payroll for the DEVELOP program, as the recent DEVELOP wrap-up event at NASA headquarters. 

The following is a list of the projects, participants and mentors, as well as links to great videos that summarize the research and findings on each project.

NOAA supercomputers: 200 trillion calculations per second


flossiehwrf18hourprecipforecast.jpgAs we enter the height of hurricane season, forcasters have a new model to improve their work. Newly upgraded supercomputers of NOAA’s National Weather Service are now more than twice as fast in processing sophisticated computer models to provide more accurate forecasts.

The scientific data and insights that these newly upgraded supercomputers will provide are essential to help government officials, communities, and businesses better understand and manage the risks associated with extreme weather and water events.


"Given recent events like the tornado in Moore, Oklahoma or Superstorm Sandy, federal weather resources and personnel should be considered vital national assets. These upgrades assure world-class capabilities and a continued pathway to keep American lives and property safer," said J. Marshall Shepherd Ph.D., president of the American Meteorological Society and Professor at the University of Georgia. "As a father of two children and a scientist that understands looming weather threats, I take comfort in these developments."

Shepherd's tenure at the AMS continues to bring honor and attention to our program in atmospheric sciences in the department of geography. Public understanding of climate and its relationships to weather has perhaps never been as important. These upgraded computers have a direct bearing on public safety and awareness.

Image: Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF) model showing the Tropical Storm Flossie precipitation forecast for the Hawaiian Islands on July 29, 2013, courtesy of NOAA.

Departmental newsletters


The Franklin College is home to 30 departments and nearly 30 more centers, institutes and programs. That's a lot of news to keep up with. But our units do a great job of sharing their specific news, notes, headlines and quotes with the wider world. And what were formerly printed materials that units mailed out are now nice elctronic documents and websites that allow us to share more information than ever with a growing roster of friends, alumni, supporters and colleagues across campus and around the world.

Two of these just-published e-newsletters are from the statistics department and the department of geography. Working with publications staff in the college, these are terrific pieces from which to learn about and share information on what's going on at the action-level in the Franklin College. Check them out.

Weather and climate experts


The devastating tornado that hit the Oklahoma City suburbs on Monday has rightly taken up a lot of media oxygen over the last few days. The attention means faculty members in geography John Knox and especially current president of the American Meteorological Society J. Marshall Shepherd have been on call, non-stop. A sampling for Shepherd alone, just in the past two days:

Huffpost Live, XM Sirius B. Smith Show

NPR Science Friday on Friday. 

Also quoted in following articles by Time, USA Today, etc.

The storm, its aftermath, sources and portents for the future hold a great deal of mystery that our faculty members help the public unravel. There remains a great amount of misinformation and perhaps willful denial about correlations between extreme weather events and climate change. Kudos and thanks to Shepherd and Knox on their work, the trust in which allows them to wade into contentious public debates with confidence and authority.

UGA Research magazine


The fall 2012 issue of the ugaresearch magazine is out, and available online. It features some great stories on Franklin College faculty, including geography professor Steven Holloway and whole section devoted to the Civil War, with a focus on books by history facuty members Stephen Berry, John Inscoe and a forthcoming work by Kathleen Clark.

Great work all around.