News and Events

69th Meeting of SEDAAG

The 69th Meeting of the Southeast Division of the Association of American Geographers (SEDAAG) was held in Athens in November 2014 for the first time since 1996. The meeting was hosted by the Department of Geography and convened at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education on November 23–25. SEDAAG is a regional subdivision of the Association of American Geographers (AAG), representing more than 550 members in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The conference began with a reception on November 23 in honor of the late professor Louis De Vorsey in the UGA Special Collections Library, possible only because of the generous support of his former student Elaine Collier Neal of Watkinsville. The events included a “white glove” examination of numerous historic maps and documents, many of which were documents that Lou would have examined in his research. Craig Colten, the Carl O. Sauer Professor of Geography at Louisiana State University, followed with a keynote address on historic boundary disputes. Craig illustrated how the historical boundary disputes that Lou examined are still relevant today. He recalled the history of the demarcation and survey of the Tennessee-Georgia state line, and explained its importance today for the water resources of metropolitan Atlanta. The evening ended with a reception in the Special Collections Library for more than 200 people, featuring food, drink and music amid displays highlighting Lou De Vorsey’s career.

The SEDAAG meeting was the culmination of more than a year of planning by a local arrangements committee consisting of John Knox, Hilda Kurtz, Thomas Mote, and Alana Shaw. The meeting would not have been possible without enormous assistance from geography staff members Jane Worley, Emily Coffee, Emily Duggar, Loretta Scott, and Amy Bellamy and faculty member David Leigh. UGA Geography students volunteered a significant amount of time to serve as guides and at registration, including: Ike Astuti, Emily Ayscue, Wuyang Cai, Jayanta Ganguly, Taylor Hafley, Dean Hardy, Danielle Haskett, Gloria Howerton, Aidan Hysjulien, Jenny McGibbon, Caitlin Mertzlufft, John Nowlin, Nancy O’Hare, Minh Phan, Andrea Presotto, Leanne Purdum, Josh Rosen, Gretchen Sneegas, Chad Steacy, Richard Vercoe, Brian Williams, Castle Williams, Jiaying Wu, Wenjing Xu, and Linli Zhu.

More than 60 students and faculty from UGA participated in the meeting, including numerous presentations and posters by our students and faculty. Hilda Kurtz received the SEDAAG Outstanding Service Award, and Nik Heynen was given the SEDAAG Research Honors Award during the awards banquet on November 22.

The meeting ended with Hilda Kurtz and Deepak Mishra being appointed by the SEDAAG Executive Committee as the next editors of Southeastern Geographer, beginning their terms in July 2015. Thomas Mote was elected as regional councilor by the SEDAAG membership and began serving on the AAG Council immediately prior to the SEDAAG meeting.

2014 SEDAAG World Geography Bowl

The Georgia World Geography Bowl team attempted to extend its championship streak at the SEDAAG conference in Athens. Winners of the past two competitions in Asheville and Roanoke, the team hoped to win this bowl on home ground. Team members included UGA Geography graduate students Jake McDonald, Gretchen Sneegas, Chris Strother, and captain Pete Akers, coached by emeritus professor Vern Meentemeyer. Other members included UGA undergraduate student Evan Knox and Columbus State University student Cristian Waters. In the Geography Bowl, teams from the SEDAAG member states compete to buzz in first and answer geography questions written by SEDAAG professors. The competition begins with round robin play, where each team plays each other, and the two teams with the best record meet again in a final.

The Georgia team breezed through round robin play with a perfect 7-0 record and met South Carolina in the final. The past two championship wins for Georgia were nail biters, with Georgia coming from behind to win in Asheville (2012) and winning on a sudden death tie-breaker in Roanoke (2013). The 2014 Georgia team proved too strong, however, and beat South Carolina with more than double the score of their opponent.

The World Geography Bowl trophy remains for a third year with Georgia, and Pete Akers was named MVP for the third consecutive year. For team members Pete Akers and Jake McDonald, this completed their fourth and final year of eligibility. Georgia now holds the most championship wins in the history of the Geography Bowl with six wins in the past 25 years, and the team is 22-1 in matches over the past three years.

– Pete Akers

Geography-Geology Building Geophysical Globe Restoration

The iconic globe on the second floor of the Geography-Geology Building shines once again after a three-month restoration in fall 2014. The building and the globe date to the construction of the UGA science complex in 1959–1960. The globe was constructed by Geo-Physical Maps Inc., which was later purchased by Rand McNally in 1961. It is one of several geophysical globes installed in the post-Sputnik era; the most similar globe is in Guyot Hall at Princeton University.

The globe has long been a focal point on campus and has often served as a backdrop for photographs and television interviews. Many generations of geography students have arranged to “meet at the globe.” Unfortunately, over the decades, the globe slowly lost its original color. The surface of the globe had become faded, oxidized, chipped and splattered. The mechanics that rotate the globe worked only intermittently during the previous two decades. The globe was in desperate need of restoration.

Late last summer, UGA Facilities Management repeatedly adjusted gears, replaced belts and properly lubricated the system. For the first time in decades, the globe is again rotating several hours each weekday. Meanwhile, Hilda Kurtz identified an art restoration firm that could tackle such a large and unusual object. Through the generous support of our alumni, with special thanks to alumna Elaine Collier Neal, work on the surface of the globe was ready to begin. Georgiana and Dimitiri Nedelcu of Universal Fine Art Conservation in Estill, SC, made repeated trips to campus. They first cleaned the surface of the globe, then re-painted as necessary to match the original colors, and finally applied a clear-coat finish. Facilities Management mounted a higher railing to offer more protection for the globe. Additional work remains, as plans are in development for new lighting around the globe. Restoration of the globe was done in memory of Evelyn Bird (M.A., 1953), the first woman to earn a graduate degree in Geography from UGA. A plaque recognizing her achievement will be placed near the globe in coming months.

Little information is available about our globe, but the Princeton globe is six feet, three inches, in diameter, which is a scale of roughly one inch to 106 miles (1:6,720,000). At the time it was installed at Princeton in 1959, it had the highest degree of contoured accuracy achieved in a relief globe. Our globe was installed about the same time. According to the Princeton University Geosciences Department, the vertical exaggeration at sea level is about 80:1 and at higher elevations about 10:1. An earlier Geo-Physical Maps globe of the same diameter had a vertical exaggeration on a sliding scale that averaged about 40:1 (The Professional Geographer, 1957).

We have not been able to determine if the UGA globe has the same dimensions as the Princeton globe. The primary difference between the Princeton and UGA globes is that our globe arrived unpainted, likely to reduce the cost, according to Simon Whitehouse, a Florida State University graduate student studying geophysical globes of that era. The Princeton globe cost $10,600 in 1959, which would equal an inflation-adjusted $86,200 in 2014. The UGA globe was painted under the direction of then faculty member David de Laubenfels. However, he left to accept a faculty position at Syracuse University before the work was complete. According to Simon, a few other similar globes were sold around this time, including to the Kalamazoo Valley Museum, NBC, and Look Magazine. Little information remains regarding most of these globes.

With the restoration complete, our globe is as close to original condition as possible, represents an important reminder of Cold War history, and remains a useful teaching tool today.

– Tom Mote

NASA DEVELOP 2014 Projects Featured in Earthzine

Beginning in summer 2013, the UGA Department of Geography and Center for Geospatial Research partnered with NASA through the Applied Science DEVELOP Program, a national student internship initiative created to enhance training and development in Earth science.

DEVELOP is headquartered at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia and currently partners with 15 institutions around the world, most of which are closely associated with NASA centers. The program began in 1998 when the Digital Earth Initiative, a federal interagency project dedicated to increasing human understanding of the planet, initiated an effort to increase public access to federal information about the Earth and the environment. Several new projects were completed in the past year.

The following NASA Earthzine articles, including videos, describe three projects completed at UGA in summer 2014:

Two additional projects were completed in fall 2014 and featured in Earthzine:

‘Weather Geeks’ program hosted by Marshall Shepherd

Marshall Shepherd is a self-confessed nerd. A science geek from an early age, he turned his passion into a profession by carving out an early career as a NASA scientist and now as a member of the faculty in geography.

Marshall has emerged as one of the country’s best-known weather and climate scientists and is a sought after media pundit on the major networks. Yet when he was approached by The Weather Channel network to host his own weekly Sunday afternoon talk show he was surprised. Initially hesitant to take up the offer, Marshall was persuaded after talks with the network’s producers.

It has paid off. Weather Geeks (also known as WX Geeks), which premiered in July last year, has been a big hit with viewers. So much so there is even talk of extending the half hour studio-based format to an hour-long show.

Marshall says the pioneering science show covers a broad spectrum of issues rarely explored in depth on national television. It attracts weather geeks but is also accessible enough to appeal to the public and to policymakers.

“It’s actually bringing real science to a national audience. People consume dramatic science shows all the time. When you look at things like CSI, there’s underlined science in those shows. This is a talk show focused on real science and technology issues as it relates to weather and climate.”

WX Geeks has attracted heavyweights in all areas of meteorology and climate science. “The opportunity to have Dr. Shepherd as a regular contributor and host made this an ideal opportunity to create a national platform for a discussion of weather issues,” says David Clark, president of The Weather Channel. “We recognize that we play a role in a much larger community and we felt an obligation to set aside air time for that community to come together and share ideas and expertise.”

WX Geeks airs Sundays at noon eastern on The Weather Channel. Video of past programs is available on the WX Geeks website.

[Editor’s note: Marshall has learned that he will receive the Association of American Geographers Media Award at the upcoming annual meeting in Chicago, which highlighted his work as host of the WX Geeks program among other accomplishments.]

– From “The Weather Geek turning into a rising TV star” in UrbanGeekz, by Kunbi Tinuoye

John Knox named CASE/Carnegie Georgia Professor of the Year

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching selected John Knox as the Georgia Professor of the Year for 2014. The honor was conferred Nov. 20 in Washington, D.C., at a national awards celebration.

John is the first state winner of the award from UGA since 2004 and the first atmospheric scientist from any state to be selected since 1989. John and the other state ¬winners were chosen from nearly 400 top professors nominated by colleges and universities throughout the U.S. The U.S. Professors of the Year program recognizes the most outstanding undergraduate instructors in the country – those who excel in teaching and positively influence the lives and careers of students. Sponsored by CASE and the Carnegie Foundation, it is the only national program to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring.

John has taught more than 5,000 students in his career – 97 percent of them undergraduates – in over 90 different sections of courses at the freshman through doctorate levels. In 2012, he was named one of “The Best 300 Professors” in the nation by the Princeton Review, based partially on anonymous online teaching evaluations of 42,000 professors in all fields.

“Dr. Knox exemplifies the very best of university teaching and scholarship,” said Alan T. Dorsey, dean of the Franklin College. “His high regard for teaching translates into great dedication to his students and an unwavering commitment to his subject matter that makes learning infectious.”

- By Alan Flurry, Franklin College

Marshall Shepherd named ‘Captain Planet Protector of the Earth’

Marshall Shepherd, UGA Athletic Association Distinguished Professor in the Social Sciences, was named “Captain Planet Protector of the Earth” by the Captain Planet Foundation, which recognizes outstanding real-life environmental heroes. Marshall’s acceptance can be seen on YouTube.

Marshall received the award at the annual Captain Planet Foundation Benefit Gala in December. Other 2014 honorees include renowned primatologist Jane Goodall and Carter and Olivia Ries of the nonprofit One More Generation.

The Atlanta-based Captain Planet Foundation was founded in 1991 by Ted Turner and now is chaired by his daughter Laura Turner Seydel. The foundation supports high-quality, hands-on environmental stewardship projects that have enabled more than 1.1 million youth around the world to make significant environmental improvements to their schools or communities. Marshall was notified of the award in a letter from Ted Turner, who commended his “ongoing and exceptional contributions to the future of our planet and your tireless commitment to speaking out about climate change.”

“From his outstanding scholarship and international engagement in the field of atmospheric sciences, Dr. Shepherd brings broad expertise as well as a calm voice to one of the most serious issues of our day,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “We are very proud to have him on our faculty, and I congratulate him on this award, which recognizes his important contributions to the public discourse.”