Professor Cheryl Morse

Our faculty are present in the classroom and in the field. Majors will have many opportunities to work with them on various research projects; here are some current departmental highlights.


DR. PABLO BOSE is an urban geographer and migration studies scholar in the Department of Geography and the Global and Regional Studies Program at the University of Vermont.  He has worked extensively on forced migration and displacement in multiple contexts due to urbanization and globalization in Indian cities, as a result of environmental change in multiple regions of the world, and in response to development projects and policies across the globe. In 2015 he published Urban Development in India: Global Indians in the Remaking of Kolkata, based on a decade's worth of field research in India.  His most recent work is focused on resettlement policies and outcomes in the placement of refugees through the USRAP, particularly in non-traditional destinations (primarily small-to-mid-sizetowns and cities across the US). In 2017 he is conducting comparative research on parallels trends on new resettlement sites and strategies inthe US, Canada and the Scandinavian countries.


DR MEGHAN COPE is an urban social geographer. She is currently working on a new project called Mapping American Childhoods, focused on the 20th Century, looking at themes of young people's mobility and migration, health and mortality, the cultural production of ‘childhood in place’, and young people’s experiences of racial segregation and suburbanization from a ‘critical youth geographies’ perspective. She won the 2015 Frank Bryan Summer Research Award from the Center for Research on Vermont to fund work based on historical records of indigent children in Burlington at the turn of the 20th C. In 2016 her co-edited volume, Key Methods in Geography (Sage) was published, reflecting Cope's long-standing involvement in writing about qualitative research, mixed methods, and critical GIS.


DR. LESLEY-ANN DUPIGNY-GIROUX is a climatologist who uses a variety of mixed methods from statistics and historical content analysis to remotely sensed data, to explore the influence of atmospheric processes on fluvial processes and vegetated landscapes. Her work spans a number of climate hazards and severe weather, with a special focus on flooding and droughts. As the State Climatologist for Vermont, she also engages directly with community groups, K-12 schools, State legislators, Federal and State agencies, and national climate organizations. Nationally, she serves on the NOAA Science Advisory Board Climate Working Group helping to guide climate research across the US, and is heavily involved in the National Climate Assessment process of the US Global Change Research Program. Through the NOAA PACE Postdoctoral Fellowships Program, she and Associate Professor Shelly Rayback worked with Dr. Evan Oswald (2013-2015) on Vermont State Agency-driven research on how a changing climate will influence air quality, human health and the health and management of Vermont's forests. Her varied experiences and research foci make her a much-sought after keynote speaker. These culminated in her being a Scholar-in-Residence for the Sustainability Graduate Institute at Goddard College in 2014, and their Commencement Speaker in Spring 2015.


DR. CHERYL MORSE studies the relationship between experience, place, and identity in rural environments. She has focused on belonging and landscape engagement in recent research on rural outmigration, working landscapes, and small town institutions, such as the country store. These topics further develop themes she developed in her earlier work rural youth geography and therapeutic landscapes.


DR. INGRID L. NELSON recently co-edited with Dr. Wendy Harcourt (ISS) the volume, Practicing Feminist Political Ecologies: Moving Beyond the ‘Green Economy’ (Zed Books 2015). Her work examines the political ecologies of environmental intervention and activism, specifically in Mozambique. Her recent work examines masculinities, class, and gender dynamics in forest conservation; afforestation “land grabs;” and illegal timber trade contexts in Mozambique. At the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), she collaborated on a project examining how social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are used for conservation initiatives, and the implications of this for on-the-ground changes in the geographies of conservation. A new research project titled Campus Green and Gold: Techno-politics and the Greening of Higher Education Campus Spaces, ties theories of techno-politics in international development to the political ecologies of universities and colleges navigating the proliferation of sustainability rating systems (AASHE STARS, USGBC LEED, the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Campus USA and others).


DR. SHELLY RAYBACK is interested in the response of trees and shrubs to climate and other environmental changes across varying temporal and spatial scales.  She uses various dendrochronological (tree-ring widths, stable isotopes, blue intensity, basal area increment) techniques on tree and shrub chronologies derived from arctic and alpine sites to understand the influence of environmental variables on plant growth and reproduction and to reconstruct past climate.  Prof. Rayback's research takes place in the Arctic, the Cascades and Rocky Mountains, the Himalayas, and the Northern Forest of New England. Some ongoing work includes dendro-ecological analysis of trees and shrubs at an alpine ecotone in the central Himalayas and an arctic-wide meta-analysis of shrub response to changing climate that was published in Nature Climate Change (2015).


DR. BEVERLEY WEMPLE continues her work on mountain hydrology and geomorphology along several lines.  She is moving to publish results of a four-year long research project for the Lake Champlain Basin program and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources examining sediment and nutrient production dynamics on rural transportation networks in the mountainous terrain of the Lake Champlain basin.  She also recently published a paper with a post-doctoral scholar and a colleague in Civil & Environmental Engineering on projections of climate change impacts on streamflow in the Lake Champlain basin.  Farther afield, Dr. Wemple began collaborating with a conservation foundation in southern Ecuador in 2013 to develop a hydrological monitoring program and develop local capacity for studying water resources and impacts of mountain development in the tropical Andes.  Read more about her work here.  She was recently awarded a Fulbright Foundation grant for a teaching and research fellowship in Ecuador, which she will complete during the spring 2017 semester while on sabbatical.

Service Learning and Geography: In the Classroom and in the Field

Service-learning experiences are directly related to curricular goals, with course assignments tied to the service experiences. These experiences are based on the principle that students need opportunities to conduct independent or team research, and to learn more about the “real world” through interaction with individuals and organizations in public, nonprofit, and/or private sectors.  More broadly, service-learning fosters better ‘engaged scholarship’ among both students and faculty, allowing them to connect theory and practice while serving local needs. The Geography Department is offered two service-learning courses last fall, one in human geography and one in physical geography.

Secrets in the Rings - Professor Shelly Rayback: “Dendrochronology” is the study of tree rings and what tree rings can tell us about the past. This course introduced students to the principles and theory, as well as field and lab techniques used by dendrochronologists to unravel the mysteries contained within tree rings. Students learned the basic principles of how trees grow, function and interact with their environment, as well as the scientific basis, techniques and applications of dendrochronological research. Students also investigated how tree rings are used to reconstruct and analyze, 1) the occurrence of fires or insect outbreaks, 2) changes in forest structure, composition and function, 3) changes in past climate or severe weather events, 4) the dates of geomorphic processes and events and, 5) the history of past civilizations. The 15 students in this course completed a final service-learning project in cooperation with The Nature Conservancy of Vermont. The students investigated the LaPlatte River Marsh Natural Area in Shelburne, Vermont, a unique floodplain forest dominated by silver maple and green ash trees. Using field and laboratory skills learned in the course, as well as remote sensing, GIS, and historical analysis techniques, students successfully reconstructed the ecological history of the floodplain forest over time, and considered the impacts of humans and climate change on the health of this site. The information generated by the students in this course for their final project will be used by The Nature Conservancy of Vermont for educational and management purposes. By linking course goals and content with the service-learning project, students gained valuable experience putting theory into practice, and our community-partner will benefit by obtaining valuable information about a site under their protection and management.

Professor Meghan Cope: “Geographies of Youth” started from the position that children and teens are in many ways subjected to living in an ‘adultist’ world, one in which they are routinely squeezed out of some places and allocated other places as ‘their own’. This happens at all scales, from the social-spatial arrangement of households to neighborhoods, towns/cities, and states. Though young people have little formal power over space (voting, decision-making, etc.), and often hold few means to act upon space or even move across it independently, they are significant social actors and do have enormous influence on spatial arrangements, place-making, and the meanings and experiences of space and places. The 19 students in this class were each involved in one of three projects: 1) working with middle-school children in Williston, VT to assess their access and use of outdoor spaces; 2) working with Edmunds Middle School and Local Motion (a bike and pedestrian advocacy group) in Burlington to evaluate the ‘walkability’ of areas surrounding local schools; or 3) designing a plan for Burlington to become a ‘youth-friendly city’ by completing a landscape assessment and identifying goals based on the Child-Friendly Cities program of the United Nations. By putting into practice some of the objectives identified by the literature on critical youth geographies, these students were able to bridge theory and the empirical world, gained important skills in both social research and community partnerships, and provided useful information for local communities.