I wasn’t sure what to expect when I entered Derby Hall in 2008, yet I suspected and hoped it would be a transformative experience. I found faculty research grounded in the physical and social sciences both intriguing and daunting, especially since I earned an undergraduate degree in the natural sciences. And I knew that OSU’s Geography program was long-respected and highly ranked in the field. The next two years–plus an additional four years spent earning my PhD–proved to be an excellent fit and provided me with a strong foundation for my academic career and personal life.
My Geography courses were demanding and rigorous, yet flexible enough to accommodate my research interests. My graduate student peers provided much needed levity in the form of office banter, trivia nights and High Street outings, and testing my (inferior) ping pong and badminton skills. And Staff like Diane Carducci and Colin Kelsey were warm and supportive. Friendships and professional networks developed during that time remain strong to this day.
My advisors Becky Mansfield and Kendra McSweeney supported my multidisciplinary pursuits in History, Rural Sociology, and Public Health. They, along with Nancy Ettlinger, Joel Wainwright, and Cathy Rakowski, among others, encouraged me as I developed research projects in Nicaragua and Latin America. As a Teaching Assistant, graduate students Eveily Freeman and Jessica Barnes modeled excellent undergraduate teaching and opened my eyes to online learning, which has proven immensely helpful in the last two years.
SUNY Old Westbury students and I (lower right) visit a coffee farm near Matagalpa, Nicaragua, in March 2018.
Ultimately, my years in Derby Hall prepared me for my current position as an Assistant Professor of Public Health at SUNY Old Westbury. My broad background and pedagogical training suited my current department’s diverse liberal arts courses: Introduction to the Social Determinants of Health, Global Health, and Research Methods, to name a few. The Environmental Justice course that I developed is heavily inspired by the Nature and Society courses that I took in Derby Hall. I am particularly proud of having taken undergraduate students to Nicaragua and Bolivia; if travel restrictions ease in time, I’ll add Cuba to that list this summer!
Community celebration at Sure We Can, a not-for-profit that supports informal recyclers and advocates for their well-being in Brooklyn, New York, where I serve as Co-Chair of the Board of Directors.
Finally, my time at OSU helped me realize the importance of community. Ed Malecki, Ola Ahlqvist, Alvaro Montenegro, and Max Woodworth regularly ate lunch with graduate students in the lounge, and Morton O’Kelly, Kendra McSweeney, and Becky Mansfield hosted get-togethers in their homes. Importantly, these conversations and gatherings gave me an idea of what work-life balance and parenthood as an academic might look like. (My first child was born in December 2021!) Also, they reinforced the importance of building community beyond Derby Hall and academia, and the possibilities that arise from scholar-activist engagement.
In sum, my time in Derby Hall was truly transformative, and I am happy to be part of OSU Geography’s storied history!
My name is Laurel Bayless, and I graduated last year with a BS in Physical Geography. I’m incredibly fortunate to have worked with multiple faculty and researchers since I started the geography major as a sophomore!
I took Dr. Ellen Mosley-Thompson‘s course on climate change (Geog 3901H), and I was fascinated to learn about her research in ice core paleoclimatology. After asking her how to get involved at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, I started working in the Goldthwait Polar Library. Soon thereafter, I had the opportunity to conduct research with the Ice Core Paleoclimatology Research Group! Last year I completed my senior honors thesis, Signatures of El Niño-Southern Oscillation in an Ice Core from Huascarán, Peru, 1994-2019, under the guidance of Dr. Mosley-Thompson, Dr. Lonnie Thompson, and other members of the Ice Core Paleoclimatology Research Group. We found that isotopic signals found in cores extracted from Huascarán, Peru provide a robust proxy record for central Pacific sea surface temperatures. Since the Huascarán ice core record goes back around 19,000 years, the isotopic record can be used to interpret some aspects of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) history for the entirety of the Holocene and into the late Pleistocene. This record could help us to understand how ENSO has varied over time and how it may now be changing due to climate change. Records of deuterium excess, ice accumulation, and insoluble dust require further research but may yield promising results.
I also worked with Dr. Becky Mansfield after taking her course on nature-society geography (Geog 3800). Our project focused on the portrayal of Neanderthals and prehistoric anatomically modern humans in popular books about human evolution over the past hundred years. The science of human evolution is fascinating, but I also am intrigued by the ways in which our ideas about nature and society are used to shape our ideas of human evolution, and the ways in which these ideas about prehistory are then used to shape our ideas of human nature. With Dr. Mansfield, I explored how the dichotomy between human and Neanderthal has been maintained despite changing ideas of Neanderthals, and how our conceptions of Neanderthals have been developed in conjunction with colonial ideas of race. This paper is currently under review.
Research has been a fantastic opportunity for me to learn beyond the classroom, explore ideas I’m interested in, and to see how the scientific process works! Not only has undergraduate research helped me learn so much about ice core paleoclimatology and science studies, but it has also helped me understand my interests and how pursue them beyond my degree. I am currently pursuing an MPhil in Holocene Climates at the University of Cambridge.
I unknowingly began my journey into the field of geography when I stepped off a boat in the Peruvian Amazon in 2018. I spent the summer living and working on a small biological station run by an NGO called Project Amazonas.
Sreya Juras holding a paca that belonged to a teacher in a village nearby the biological station
At the time, I was a molecular genetics major but my transformative experience in the Amazon led me to switch to international development upon returning to OSU. My time in the Amazon showed me a great deal about the influence of space and place in small rural societies. Years later, I am now pursuing graduate work in the field of geography with my research interests informed by what I learned there.
I graduated from OSU in the Spring of 2021 and obtained a degree in international development studies with minors in environmental science and Spanish, as well as research distinction in geography. In my third year of university, I became involved with the Department of Geography as a research assistant. This was my first time being exposed to geography and the more I learned the more passionate I became about this field. I conducted research with Alvaro Montenegro to understand the pre-historic presence of South American sweet potatoes in Polynesia. Working with Dr. Montenegro allowed me to engage with academic research for the first time. We conducted lab work in Derby Hall and worked with a graduate student, John Temmen who ran GIS simulations which functioned contemporaneously. I began communications with the two in the fall of 2019, began lab work in early 2020 and completed and defended my undergraduate thesis in the spring of 2021.
Photo of sweet potato experiment set up in lab in Derby Hall
In looking toward the future, I want to research climate adaptation and resilience in Latin America. The driving factor in this decision are the experiences I had living in the Peruvian Amazon and the lessons I learned while conducting research within the geography department. I intend to focus my adaptation research on the necessity of migration, and I plan to research how climate-driven migrations from rural communities in Latin America will unfold in the coming years.
Hello everyone! I am pleased to share with you the impact that coming to OSU and joining the Atmospheric Sciences Program in the Department of Geography has had on my career and my personal life. I joined OSU as a masters student in the Atmospheric Science Program (ASP) in 1973. I had just made my first big career decision which was to relinquish a fellowship in the Department of Physics at Miami University (Oxford, OH) because I realized that I lacked the passion or what is often call “the fire in the belly” required to spend 5-years on a PhD. I then spent two years working in the IT section of a medical bookkeeping firm in Columbus and considering my options. Eventually I accepted a fellowship at OSU in ASP which, at that time, was housed in the Department of Electrical Engineering. Soon thereafter, ASP was transferred to the Department of Geography under the direction of Dr. John Rayner. This provided an excellent situation for me and was also a very formative event for ASP. The move to a department that values diverse forms of scholarship and encourages collaboration across multiple areas of inquiry provided a much broader canvas on which I was able to develop my career. Three other very important occurrences during my first year were the choice of Dr. John Rayner as my academic advisor, my new affiliation with the Institute of Polar Studies, forerunner of the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center (BPCRC), and meeting two of my closest friends and colleagues, Claire Parkinson and Keith Mountain, also ASP students, with whom Lonnie and I have maintained 45+year friendships.
My B.S. from Marshall University (Huntington WV) was in physics and math and I never had the opportunity to take a class in climatology or meteorology and I was never required to write a research paper. Fortunately, once I was ensconced in geography I had the opportunity to take a course on Geographic Thought taught by Edward (Ned) Taaffe. In addition, my advisors John Rayner and John Arnfield were excellent professors and skilled writers and from them I developed a deep interest in climate science and gained very strong writing skills. Over the years, my students have commented regarding how much “red ink” I have placed on their theses and research papers; however, they were unaware of the volume of “red ink” my advisors had placed on mine.
As a student affiliate in the Institute of Polar Studies (IPS) I was quickly immersed in the excitement of all things “polar”, and my interest in Antarctica grew. Simultaneously, I joined Lonnie Thompson, my spouse and fellow graduate student (Earth Sciences), in the development of our research program focused on ice core paleoclimatology, a relatively new area of scientific inquiry.
Job # 120504 Ellen Mosley-Thompson and Lonnie Thompson Scott Lab JUL-06-2012 Photo by Jo McCulty The Ohio State University
Again I was fortunate that Drs. Rayner and Arnfield were very supportive as I developed an “individualized’ multidisciplinary graduate program to include classes in paleoclimatology, glacial geology, geochemistry, isotope geochemistry, and scanning electron microscopy taught by Professors Goldthwait, White, and Faure (Earth Sciences). This was a busy and exciting time as Lonnie and I continued developing the ice core paleoclimate research program, writing proposals to support our research, and publishing our first papers. The most important event occurred in 1976 when we welcomed our daughter, Regina.
By 1980, we had completed our PhD studies (Lonnie in 1976 and me in 1979), obtained research positions in the IPS, and developed a growing research program attracting national and international interest. Regina was now 6 years old, so I decided it was time to take the plunge and engage in my first Antarctic field season. An opportunity arose to join a team of Swiss and American scientists and ice core drillers at South Pole Station (SPS) in 1982 to collect a 300-m long ice core for paleoclimate studies. Scientifically this experience was magnificent, but it was an eye opener when I realized how few women were engaged in Antarctic research . There were only two women at SPS that year, and the other was a construction contractor. I soon realized that most of the U.S. ice core drilling projects were being conducted at or near established bases. At that time the U.S. only had three stations located in areas of the ice sheet where cores could be drilled and this limited our opportunities to examine the “spatial” aspects of our ice core-derived climate histories. At the same time I was very engaged in the NSF’s Polar Programs’ Advisory Committee which positioned me to address two systemic issues. These were securing greater support for scientists who wanted to conduct research at remote locations where no previous ice cores had been drilled and promoting greater opportunities for women to not only participate in field programs, but to serve as team leaders at remote field camps.
Fortunately, in 1985 I was funded to lead a drilling project at Siple Station, Antarctica and thus, my second goal was achieved. The photo (left) includes two OSU alums. On the far left is Keith Mountain (PhD, ASP, Geography) and immediately left of me is John Paskievitch (B.S. Earth Sciences). The following year, 1986, my first goal was achieved when I lead a field team of six to drill two 200-meter deep cores at our ”Plateau Remote” camp, a site in East Antarctica located near the “Pole of Inaccessibility” which means the location that is furthest inland from the coast in all directions .
Fast forward 21 years during which I led multiple projects to drill ice cores at other remote sites in Antarctica and Greenland and you will see the progress that we have been able to achieve. The photo to the left is from our remote drill site at Crawford Point, Greenland (2007). Shown is my field team that includes two female OSU alums, Lijia Wei (PhD, Geography, ASP; second from the right) and Natalie Kehrwald (PhD, Earth Sciences; far right). Although there have been a number of accomplishments in my 48 years at OSU, I am so proud to have opened the door to enable more women scientists to lead remote field projects in both Polar Regions. I also served from 2009 to 2018 as the first (and still only) female Director of the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center (BPCRC).
But this story is incomplete. During the 11 years after my graduation, John Rayner and others including Larry Brown encouraged me to teach classes in Geography on an as needed basis. This kept me engaged with the faculty and students in Geography until 1990 when I joined the department as an Associate Professor and began developing courses focused on paleoclimatology, Earth system science, climate science, and climate and environmental change. I am so indebted to my advisors, Drs. Rayner and Arnfield, and my past and present colleagues in both the Department of Geography and the BPCRC who continue to broaden and deepen my interest, understanding, and appreciation of the rich and complex relationships among Earth’s climate system, its environment, and its inhabitants, both human and otherwise. If I had not taken the risk of leaving basic physics and eventually pursuing climatology and atmospheric science, especially through the broad lens provided by geography, I certainly would not have had so many diverse experiences and worked with so many talented and interesting people both national and international and from within and outside academia. Moreover, I would not have been able to enjoy such beauty during a stroll home from work or engage in signing O-H-I-O from the “remote” Bruce Plateau drill site in the Antarctic Peninsula (see photos).
I arrived at Ohio State in September, 1970 from the University of Wisconsin Whitewater unsure about my specialization and future career goals. My uncle Stan drove me to Columbus from my family home in Kenosha. I checked into Jones Tower, the graduate dorm, dropped off my uncle at the airport, and introduced myself to Ned Taaffe, the departmental chair. I was mightily impressed with the prospect of taking classes from Larry Brown, Reginald Golledge, Kevin Cox, George Demko, Howard Gauthier, and S. Earl Brown.
I was the only woman in my Year 1 class. It was pretty much the same at Whitewater so I just did my best to fit in by golfing with the guys at the Jack Nicholas course and TGIF events at the High Street taverns. I did quite a bit of baby sitting in the early years and got an inside look at how faculty members lived and balanced (or not) work and family life.
Second year graduate students were assigned offices in an old house on West 11th Street. It was a messy, decrepit place where the living room was a basketball court, and spatial analysis occurred on the upper floors. West 11th was exclusively male.
Golda Meir Poster
When I requested a transfer to West 11th to stay with my cohort, I was told that the men did not want women there. I was assigned a desk in the old map library in Hagerty Hall with Ph.D. students Vicky Rivizzgno, and Karen Walby. That was 1971 when the woman’s movement awakened our expectations and opportunities. I found the poster of Golda Meir in one of the local shops and hung it on our office door as a note of grievance and solidarity. I carried this poster with me and displayed it in my offices for the next 40 years. It was always the first thing people noticed when they came to see me, and they always wanted to talk about it.
Over the years, George Demko and Larry Brown nominated me for various leadership positions in the Association of American Geographers. When I served as President of the AAG (American Association of Geographers) in 1997-1998, I was sandwiched between Larry Brown as my predecessor and Reg Golledge as successor. I felt part of the OSU team in a way that maybe eluded me earlier. Just as Golda Meir was able to transcend the stereotype of women’s place in politics and society, I was inspired to find my full potential in the geographic profession with the help of my OSU mentors and colleagues.
45 years ago, OSU Geography gave me all the tools needed for a successful research career and life of public service.
When I was getting my PhD with three powerhouse geographers (Larry Brown, Reg Golledge, and Kevin Cox), I designed a large NSF (National Science Foundation)-funded survey to analyze the diffusion of innovations. We studied four Appalachian counties in Eastern Ohio that were struggling with their coal economies. We tried to explain the slow uptake of superior and greener technologies. Some of the these were energy-efficient, some were regenerative, and others were financial. We spent a whole summer completing a few hundred mail surveys of farmers and interviewing a few dozen equipment dealers, bankers, and policymakers. We were testing Larry’s view that communications (the focus of Torsten Hagerstrand, Larry’s advisor) are just one of many triggers. There are also key incumbent firms, disruptive newcomers, change agents, and key infrastructures with non-ubiquitous footprints.
Marilyn Brown with other Ambassadors of Clean Energy, Education, and Empowerment
We were licensed to use SPSS (spatial statistics tool) to complete OLS (ordinary least squares) regressions and I did some original point pattern calculations to test our largely successful hypotheses. The resulting publications strengthened the science of technological change, helped my tenure review in Geography at nearby University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UI-UC), and resulted in yet another book by Larry.
Marilyn Brown and others at IPCC in 2007. Marilyn Brown contributed to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment reports for which the IPCC shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
I also served 2 terms as a Senate-confirmed regulator of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) where I helped bring about the retirement of 18 coal units, the largest single shutdown of coal to date.
Swearing in ceremony for TVA appointment in 2013 (second term)
Along with learning to teach again (!), at Georgia Tech I’ve worked for 3 years as the research lead of the Drawdown Georgia project. And last month, we launched a new survey to explain the laborious uptake of superior and greener technologies in Georgia (sound familiar?), which makes for some interesting flashbacks.
We’ve designed a Qualtrics survey to explore hypotheses about our science-based localized climate solutions. And we’ve infused this research with equity questions. Thanks to an on-line panel design, our survey was digitally completed by 1800 Georgia residents in 3 days, well balanced and including an embedded experiment. The data is being examined using open-source RStudio software and a multi-stage model of “willingness to pay” for climate innovations. Combined with the Drawdown Georgia Business Compact and Emissions Dashboard, the scope of our research is broad, creative, and replicable.
Still, many questions will remain unanswered about why climate change solutions are diffusing so slowly. Clearly, we need more OSU-trained geographers.
In August 2021, I celebrated the 30th anniversary of my PhD from Ohio State Geography. In 1991, I left with my PhD to become an Assistant Professor at the University of Utah; a starting gig that lasted over 20 years. In 2013, when it was time to move on, OSU Geography was recruiting for the first endowed chair in the history of the department, the Bob and Mary Reusche Chair in Geographic Information Science. I applied, was interviewed, and they (surprisingly) offered the position. I am now back where I started, and I’m very proud and happy to be a faculty member in this stellar program. Interestingly, I now occupy an office that is directly above the basement office where graduate students were crammed during the late 1980s. After three decades, I have arrived 20 feet above where I started. This is an amusing observation, but also a metaphor.
Left: Harvey Miller in 1988. Right: Harvey Miller in 2017
Geography was very different in the late 1980s: it was a conflicted discipline in search of its soul. Human and regional geographers criticized the “space cadets” in spatial analysts and the new subfield of Geographic Information Systems. In turn, the cadets had their own criticisms to lob back, while physical geographers and atmospheric scientists watched the slugfest from the sidelines. Meanwhile, Geography was reeling from decades of academic decline and departmental closures.
When I was a PhD student, I had the privilege of taking History of Geographic Thought from Edward J. “Ned” Taaffe, a former AAG President and department Chair who elevated OSU geography. When thinking about writing this blog, I went back to his 1973 AAG Presidential Address, “The Spatial View in Context.” This captures some of the soul-searching and defensiveness of the time: What is Geography? What is our value? I remember asking one day during the seminar – why do geographers apologize for their existence?
Fast forward to 2021. Geography is a more confident discipline. We have learned the value of diverse approaches to knowledge instead of skirmishing over who has the only path to the truth. Our external enemies have mostly retreated: few question the value of mapping, GIS and the holistic, integrative perspective of Geography (although higher education has its foes). Interdisciplinarity no longer feels like begging for a place at the table; rather, it is now a valued approach to understanding and addressing the complexity of the world and its problems. OSU Geography has maintained its traditional foci of human-environment, GIS/spatial analysis and atmospheric science, but we have arrived at a higher place.
We, as geographers, are still faced with the question – what is the core of Geography? What brings us together, besides a common TIU (Tenure Initiating Unit)? To me, the persistent quantitative/qualitative split in Geography is a false dichotomy, and I am pleased to see the new generation of geographers rejecting this false choice. I am also pleased to see OSU Geography adopt “justice” as a common touchstone for the program: environmental justice, social justice, climate justice and data justice. This is a crucial, cross-cutting challenge that demands the diverse perspectives encompassed by contemporary Geography.
A strong future for OSU Geography, and Geography at large, means continuing to work on what unites us. We are on higher ground, but there are still heights left to climb.
When I was invited to blog about “then and now”, I thought about historian David McCullough’s statement: “One might also say that history is not about the past. If you think about it, no one ever lived in the past… They lived in the present.” If then is made in the now as McCullough seems to suggest, now is also a piece of then. It is in this spirit that I see then, my time at OSU in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as a source of inspiration to the making of a protean career, and a piece of now as an economic geographer.
The “boundaried” career is centered on the organization, the university. The tenure institution focuses academics on the needs and requirements of the university early on in an individual’s career. In the 1990s, the old social contract gave way to newer forms of social contracts arising from downsizing and the emergence of smaller and innovation-driven firms. Such instability also occurred in academia with adjunctivization. The less predictable work organization resulted in greater instability for the employee but the protean career also sneaked up on me.
When I graduated from The Ohio State University (OSU) in the 1990s, I was confronted with such instability. Fewer academic positions were available and quantitative economic geography was on the decline. Unlike other students of Emilio Casetti’s (my dissertation adviser), many of whom were assuming illustrious careers in major departments, I had graduated from OSU without a publication because I had spent my time in the Economics and Sociology departments expanding my understanding of international trade and Asia. The lure towards interdisciplinarity is a big piece of now. Graduating without a publication was not my biggest challenge. Speaking the language of the expansion method was. I decided early on to write my papers differently, focusing on the research question than the methodology. The first paper was a hit and was subsequently selected as a classic for a regional science volume. I went on to publish more expansion method pieces despite warnings of doom from colleagues. Part of such early adaptability was honed from animated arguments with Edward Taaffe, Nancy Ettlinger and Kevin Cox, and the audacity to pry apart Larry Brown’s hot off the press “Place, Migration and Development in the Third World”. But one of the biggest resources, graduate students in Derby Hall, fomented a training ground that was to last a lifetime. Some rejected objectivism and forced me to reflect on my intellectual biases. Others tempted me with the lure of emerging geospatial technology. Enlarging boundary has allowed me to cross disciplinary and epistemological aisles, publish using a wide range of methodological tools, and enjoy a protean career as an economic geographer.
Then was a time of learning to embrace methodological pluralism, and now is a piece of then as such pluralism has continued to define my scholarly work. This centennial celebration has provided an opportunity for reflections, OSU being the place where I began my journey across boundaries. Congratulations on your centennial anniversary.
I am a three time OSU Geography/ASP graduate (BS, MS, PhD). Currently I work as a Research Scientist at the Ohio Colleges of Medicine Government Resource Center (GRC), which is an applied health policy research center located at OSU. I oversee the Instrumental Data section and lead projects focused on Medicaid population health and technical assistance requests from state agencies. However, my graduate research focused on hurricane climatology, specifically hybrid cyclones (MS) and concentric eyewall formation (PhD). How did a hurricane researcher end up in public health?
At a basic level, I see a connection in the core research process: being able to divide a problem into pieces, craft a suitable analytic approach for a question with appropriate data, and interpret the analysis (including limitations!) using a deep understanding of the problem’s context. That was my PhD training, and it’s a large part of my work now.
I became fascinated by hurricanes as a young child, and by sixth grade I decided I wanted a PhD in atmospheric science. Up until halfway through my PhD, I was set on an atmospheric science research career. Then I realized I faced the two-body problem: my spouse was long established in Columbus, while my career opportunities were elsewhere. I began wondering if I could use my skills outside weather and climate research.
A fellow graduate student connected me to GRC, which needed a graduate research assistant trained in data visualization. I quickly realized I am most engaged by research that serves to inform policymakers and stakeholders about critical problems. Instead of supporting efforts to improve hurricane forecasts, I support efforts to improve health outcomes in Ohio by helping the state understand population health patterns and the effects programs and policies may have on service utilization and provider access and capacity.
My graduate experience was excellent training for my earlier roles at GRC. Weather observations and health services data are both composed of patterns and code sets. I learned Fortran coding as an undergraduate, and picked up additional programming languages during my PhD. In terms of gaps, tasks like conference calls were not a significant part of my graduate education. Also, atmospheric science research methods are quite different than public health methods, so I speak a different research dialect than most of my colleagues. My current Research Scientist/Principal Investigator role is outside my PhD training. I oversee multiple project timelines and budgets, work directly with sponsors and stakeholders on detailed work plans, and supervise six researchers. Honestly, though, I have my dream job— finding robust data insights that support informed decision-making and improve people’s quality of life.