University of Vermont

The College of Arts and Sciences

Department of Geography

Faculty Research

Faculty Research and Activity

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. All faculty members are conducting research; details available in each faculty member's profile.

DR.PABLO BOSE has a co-authored book titled Displacement by Development: Ethics, Rights and Responsibilities (Cambridge University Press) coming out in Spring 2011. He has recently completed a two-year study on refugees and transportation issues in Vermont and is beginning several new related projects, including an examination of age, gender and culture in refugee transit use, and the politics of refugee resettlement in the Northeastern US. Dr. Bose has also recently completed articles on nature and video games, urbanization and informality in the global south, and diasporas and development in South Asian cities.

DR MEGHAN COPE has been working on the question of youth mobility and access to public space for the past few years. She has recently received funding with Brian Lee (Engineering/Transportation Research Center) from New England University Transportation Centers to do a blended qualitative-quantitative project called "Getting the Kids to School," which examines the household time and space constraints that influence how high-school youth travel to school, such as whether they take the school bus, walk, or drive cars. This project is one of many currently in the works as part of Dr. Cope's attempt to understand how young people (ages 10-18) get to places they want to go, what kinds of constraints they face, where their top destinations are, qualities of young people's experiences in public space, and the impacts of different travel choices and modes of transportation. In addition to her work in Vermont, Dr. Cope is planning on some international collaborations during her sabbatical in 2011-12 in northern Europe.

DR REECIA ORZECK has three areas of research interest: The political economy of public international law; the role of international law in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and popular and scholarly representations of the body. Increasingly interested in academic work conditions, Dr. Orzeck has also begun to research and write about academic freedom. Dr. Orzeck teaches GEOG 070: Space, Place and society, one of the Department of Geography's introductory courses. At the intermediate and advanced level, she teaches courses on Economic Geography, Geography of the Modern Middle East, and Geographies of the Body.

DR SHELLY RAYBACK is currently working on a dendroclimatology project based in northern New England.  In collaboration with Dr. Andrea Lini at the University of Vermont’s Environmental Stable Isotope Laboratory, they are developing stable carbon and oxygen isotope ratio time series from tree rings for sites in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.  In addition to live chronologies developed from trees in old growth forest stands, they are extending the length of the “live” chronologies by salvaging wood from the bottoms of cold lakes and bogs, and from historical structures found in the region.  Dr. Rayback’s goal is to develop the first stable isotope ratio chronologies from New England and to reconstruct 500 years of past climate.  Two undergraduate students are currently doing thesis work related to this project under her guidance with support from University of Vermont’s APLE summer internship program and the Department of Geology’s Hawley Fellowship for undergraduate research.  Recently, Dr. Rayback’s work has been published in Physical Geography and Arctic related to her on-going research on the response of arctic and alpine shrubs to changing climate, and the reconstruction of past climate using multiproxy techniques.

DR LESLEY-ANN DUPIGNY-GIROUX, gave an invited talk titled "Challenges to Promoting Climate Literacy at the Secondary and Undergraduate Levels" at the January 25-28 Global Climate Change Research and Education Workshop, World Meteorological Organization, Geneva Switzerland. She presented a paper at the AAG meeting entitled, new indicator-based drought index for quantifying spatio-temporal fluctuations in 18th century New England.

This Fall, DR.BEVERLEY WEMPLE saw publication of a book examining the effects of forest management on water resources across the U.S. The book, titled Hydrologic Effects of a Changing Forest Landscape, was published by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences and was co-authored by Beverley and thirteen colleagues from academia, industry, and government. The book lays out the progress made in forest hydrology over the last century since the initiation of the first paired-watershed study in Colorado in the early 1900's and issues a call for a new research agenda for the 21st century to address emerging changes in the forested landscape in an era of changing climate conditions, new land use pressures, and the emergence of new pests and exotic species in the forest.

DR. CHERYL MORSE devoted much of her time in summer 2008 to providing professional development opportunities to Vermont K-12 teachers through the Vermont Geographic Alliance. Over the academic year she has developed a new course, "Rural Geography", which she is thrilled to be offering this spring, brought National Geographic's "Giant Traveling Map of North America" to UVMas well as local Vermont schools, and delivered, along with Richard Kujawa of Saint Michael's College, a graduate level course on Geography Education She continues to collaborate with the Fleming Museum to enhance their Abenaki Teachers Kit and is beginning a new research project on rural women and outdoor pursuits. She plans to present a paper on Gender, the 'Great Outdoors', and Rural Outmigration at the Rural Sociological Society meeting in Wisconsin this summer.

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.

Wiley Robinson, senior using an increment borerSecrets 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.


Alice Gold senior working with Essex Junction DR. 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.

Last modified June 02 2011 09:17 AM