Earth Day 2020

Happy Earth Day!

This semester in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we decided to feature some of the breadth of research we have going on in this department dealing with societal impacts on the environment and ecosystems. Right now we are living in a moment that exemplifies the Anthropocene: the global interconnectedness of our society – flows of goods, people, capital, commodities, energy and waste, and our unprecedented impact on ecosystems all play a role in COVID-19 pandemic.

This semester we examined how the boundaries among traditional disciplines continue to be eroded to confront global change, the invisible people on whom our increasingly urban lives depend, how the practice of science itself can serve industrial goals, the roles that cities can play in addressing environmental problems (and the promise and pitfalls), and that we can advocate for action, as scientists, and citizens.

Earth Day, now more than ever, is a movement to bring awareness and change to our lives as human beings. This movement to make sure that the Earth, our home, is there for future generations; to make sure that our forests, rivers, oceans, skies, wildlife, and even our cities are healthy, safe, and sustainable is an important one. April 22nd is the date we recognize this movement officially but there is much you can do to ensure the healthy coexistence of human kind and nature on a daily basis and not just one day.

  1. Get involved
  2. Vote for environmental issues and candidates
  3. Reduce your own carbon footprint
  4. Shop local
  5. Plant a tree
  6. Support conservation efforts

Climate Change: The Largest Challenge Facing Humanity

This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing humanity and so the theme for Earth Day 2020 is climate action. There are many ways that individuals and organizations can take climate action. As a climatologist in the Department of Geography at The Ohio State University, one of the ways that I am taking action is through helping to assemble, quality control, harmonize and disseminate high-quality climate observations. These data are essential for monitoring and detecting climate variability and climate change. Since 2010, I have been involved in developing the most comprehensive soil moisture database in the United States. With funding from the National Science Foundation, USDA and NOAA, we developed The map shown below indicates the locations where soil moisture measurements are currently being made in the United States. Data from many of these sites are being provided in near-real-time on This includes in situ measurements of soil moisture, satellite-derived soil moisture from NASA SMAP and model-derived soil moisture from NLDAS-2.

Figure 1. Locations of in situ soil moisture sensor networks across the United States from federal- and state-level networks. Credit:

These data fill a critical gap because unlike for other climatological and hydrological variables, there are no national databases for soil moisture. The 2008 report on “Future Climate Change Research and Observations: GCOS, WCRP and IGBP Learning from the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report” (WMO/TD No. 1418) recommended that soil moisture data should be assembled because of its importance for:

(1) improving our understanding of land-atmosphere interactions,

(2) developing seasonal to decadal climate forecasting tools,

(3) calibrating, validating and improving the physical parameterizations in regional and global land surface models (LSM),

(4) developing and validating satellite-derived soil moisture algorithms, and

(5) monitoring and detecting climate variability and change in this key hydrological variable.


Why is soil moisture important?

As we noted in Legates et al. (2011), “soil moisture is not just a process that is integral to climate, geomorphology, and biogeography – it truly lies at the intersection of all three branches of physical geography. A complete understanding of soil moisture and its spatial and temporal variability and impact draws upon interactions among and expertise gained from all three subdivisions. Soil moisture lies at the intersection of climatology, geomorphology, biogeography, and hydrology, thereby providing true integration of the subdisciplines rather than just supplying a common theme.” Soil moisture influences the exchange of energy and water between the land surface and atmosphere. Soil moisture controls the partitioning of rainfall into runoff and infiltration. It modulates vegetation growth and photosynthesis. It also influences mass movements, weathering, erosion and sediment transport. Therefore, soil moisture is a key climatological and hydrological variable. However, compared to precipitation and temperature, there are very few soil moisture measurements.


Current Efforts to Develop a National Soil Moisture Network

Significant progress is being made in the United States to address the critical gaps in soil moisture observations. As a member of the National Soil Moisture Network Executive Committee, I helped to draft “A Strategy for the National Soil Moisture Network: Coordinated, High-Quality, Nationwide, Soil Moisture Information for the Public Good” that was released in February 2020. This Strategy Document was called for in the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) Reauthorization of 2018. It is intended to review the current status of soil moisture monitoring and reporting in the U.S., and to develop a strategy for a national coordinated soil moisture monitoring network, involving federal agencies, regional and state mesonets, data providers, researchers, user groups, and others. The strategy document identifies ten recommendations for how to implement a National Soil Moisture Network. The goal of this effort is to provide a unifying structure to enhance monitoring activities, establish partnerships for building out the network, develop an organizational structure that will collect, integrate and deliver transformative soil moisture products to the nation. This one tangible way that the Department of Geography at Ohio State is actively involved in climate change research. This effort provides better data for assessing how the climate is changing and to increase the resilience of the United States to these changes.


Dr. Steven Quiring,

Department of Geography

The Ohio State University

“Greening” policies: a view from urban China

As part of a recent citywide “greening” effort, the Beijing government has introduced regulations to cover walls surrounding construction sites with artificial grass. (Copyright Samuel Kay 2020)

For a month in the summer of 2013, my lungs and I got our first taste of what could only be described as apocalyptically bad air pollution. I was conducting ethnographic fieldwork in Beijing amidst an air pollution crisis that was also serving as a backdrop for a struggle between environmentalists, scientists, and the Chinese government over how to acknowledge and respond to the pollution. At the time, the official government stance was to downplay pollution levels. Only a few years removed from the worst of the 2008 global financial crisis, the Chinese government was understandably loathe to undertake any policy shift that might slow down the nation’s economic engine, notwithstanding the clouds of toxic smog it was belching into the lungs of hundreds of millions of people.

Then came a few watershed moments for public consciousness: following an “air-apocalypse” in 2013, prominent internet personalities adopted air pollution as a cause célèbre. Filter buying and mask wearing became—for at least a narrow but affluent audience—a form of virtue signaling. In March 2014, the Chinese government shifted its stance from denial and underplaying to a veritable war footing: In March 2014, Premier Li Keqiang declared “war on pollution.” In February 2015, journalist Chai Jing’s documentary Under the Dome, which saw her earnestly discussing her fears as a mother for how air pollution had impacted the health of her newborn daughter in utero, unleashed a pent-up outpouring of environmental anxiety from China’s urban upper-middle class.

By 2016, the government narrative had shifted from a prioritization of economic progress to a paradigm of building an “ecological civilization” by pursuing development through greening. Originally introduced by the previous Hu-Wen administrative, Chinese President Xi Jinping adopted and magnified “ecological civilization” as a signature policy. This ideology of development through greening, which promised to resolve any tension between economic growth and environmental limits, quickly reshaped urban policymaking. Beijing’s 2016-35 comprehensive plan, in pursuit of a city with “blue skies, white clouds, and green mountains,” called for a reduction of urban construction area by 160 square kilometers and the planting of 100,000,000 new trees across thousands of square kilometers of new parks and forests. Although the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, Beijing’s environmental policy became as much about demonstrating progress as about achieving it, with conspicuous greening becoming a key policy tool. The provision of water to 100,000,000 new trees poses a major logistical challenge in a city where the land is sinking because of severe depletion to groundwater. I argue that this is a key reason that non-organic “plants” and other green-colored things (such as dust control cloths blanketing demolition sites) have come to play a major role in urban greening alongside the army of new trees. Since 2013, Beijing has achieved dramatic improvements in air quality, making “blue skies and white clouds” a much more common sight in the city. As water-scarce Beijing seeks to dramatically increase the amount of green in its color palette, how have relationships between humans, non-humans, living, and non-living matter been reconfigured? What are the implications for the politics of urbanization and the environment?

A flower box filled with plastic plants. The sign reads: “Cherish flowers and grass; please do not pick” (Copyright Samuel Kay 2020)

Samuel Kay, PhD Candidate

Personal Website

The Environmental Protection Agency at Fifty: Promoting Deregulatory Science

photo of EPA headquarters

EPA Headquarters in Washington, DC. Photo Courtesy of Becky Mansfield

Established in the wake of the first Earth Day, the Environmental Protection Agency is also 50 this year. Today, the agency appears regularly in the news as a poster-child for President Trump’s regulatory rollbacks. I have researched the EPA for over a decade, including following the Trump EPA with fascination. What have I learned?

I have learned that when EPA takes its mission seriously, it makes progress protecting environmental and human health. Notable successes include reducing smog, acid rain, and lead exposure, and banning many dangerous pesticides [1].

Yet I have also learned that, not only are these issues ongoing, but EPA tends to downplay chemical harms, even in the wake of an avalanche of scientific findings and public awareness of the enormity of environmental change and long-term, cumulative health effects for humans and wildlife. EPA has always used a less-protective, risk-based approach that insists on certainty about harms before taking protective measures. Throughout its history, EPA has been influenced by corporate science-for-hire that highlights and even purposefully produces scientific uncertainty [2]. Also, EPA has not been good at addressing disproportionate harms. For example, my research showed that EPA’s approach to controlling exposure to the neurotoxin mercury was to tell pregnant women to eat less of certain kinds of fish; this makes women of color (who on average eat more fish) responsible for their own exposures while letting polluters (coal-fired power plants) off the hook [3]. A signature success of the Obama EPA was a rule finally requiring power plants to reduce their mercury emissions.

I have learned that the Trump EPA has assaulted protections from many angles [4]. For example, it found the Obama-era mercury controls to be inappropriate; repealed the Clean Power Plan; and decided against proposed bans of several deadly solvents.

Yet I have also learned that the Trump EPA does this not by disregarding science, but by producing deregulatory science. In particular, it has developed new approaches to scientific risk analysis that compel the agency to disregard many benefits of regulation, highlight its costs, dismiss many scientific studies as inadequate, and fail to evaluate many real-world exposures to chemicals (such as using them without protective gear). It justifies these moves using ideas of scientific transparency, reproducibility, and evidence-based decision-making.

A key lesson of fifty years of the Environmental Protection Agency is that when it comes to environmental protection, it is not enough to ask, “Is it science?” It is also crucial to investigate the values and interests that influence scientific judgment. Is evidence being produced and evaluated through the lens of protecting the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries and the interests of the powerful, or through the lens of being most protective to environmental and human health?


Becky Mansfield,

Professor of Geography,

Ohio State University



[2] On regulatory science at EPA, see e.g. Sheila Jasanoff,  The Fifth Branch (1990, Harvard University Press). On tactics of corporate science, see e.g. Kristin Shrader-Frechette, Taking Action, Saving Lives (2007, Oxford University Press).

[3] Becky Mansfield, Environmental health as biosecurity: “seafood choices,” risk, and the pregnant woman as threshold. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 102(5): 969-976. 2012.

[4] These findings are in an unpublished manuscript and were presented at the 2020 Dimensions of Political Ecology conference.

Research Reflections

When I started the MA program in AU 2017, I was planning on conducting a remote sensing research project. My study area was set to be French Frigate Shoals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Island chain. Using high-resolution imagery of this atoll, I wanted to map hazards for threatened and endangered species. I was most excited about the potential ability to detect plastics in my imagery. Everything seemed straightforward.

Satellite Imagery of French Frigate Shoals shown in relation to the Hawaiian archipelago. Tern Island is noted in the top left corner of the inset.

I was first challenged to develop my ‘conceptual framework’ in Becky Mansfield’s Research Design, a core course for graduate students in Geography. Given my broad topic, I got lost in the object of inquiry. This research was concerned with too many things. I had outlined a remote sensing project on marine debris, changes to beach dynamics, risk maps for multiple target species, and policy suggestions. These diffuse research goals reflected my self-doubt. I tried to imagine what was most interesting about my topic to others, rather than what I found most compelling. I considered this an injustice to my study site, which was so rich with evidence of the intermingling’s of social, economic, political, and physical processes and dynamics.

The great benefit of Geography is that it is fundamentally interdisciplinary and expansive. Curious about other disciplinary approaches to my topic, I enrolled in courses on Oceanography, Public Affairs, and Feminist Studies. A. Marie Ranjbar’s course, (Human) Rights in the Anthropocene, was pivotal in shaping my literature review and enriched my theoretical approaches. I took up other readings in political ecology, critical animal studies, and posthumanism. I allowed myself to think about my project differently. I made note of the things that frustrated me in traditional approaches to environmental issues and conservation. This was part of the act of ‘doing research’ that in turn shaped the research question.

I was most troubled by the passive way, or “the othering” of non-human animals, as they were discussed as objects of conservation. I found that the framings encouraged human exceptionalism and species hierarchy. I needed to change my characterization of the atoll as well. The environmental outcomes of today are not happenstance. Instead, they are directly linked to social and economic processes. If we begin to talk about phenomena like pollution and sea level rise as direct consequences of capitalism and colonialism, we can identify the economic, political and social structures that produce environmental violence. Building more just and ethical engagements with non-humans begins by destroying previous conceptions of their value. My research became focused on the foundational issues of representation stemming from current theorizing in conservation policy.

Due to the reshaping of my questions, remote sensing was no longer the strongest evidence I could collect to demonstrate the need to change conservation. My project became focused on the differentiated experience of the female green sea turtle as an embedded and embodied, relational and affective subject as well as an active agent that participates in and contributes to social, political, and economic life. The works of Irus Braverman [1], Lori Gruen [2], Rosi Braidotti [3], Juanita Sundberg, Rosemary-Claire Collard and Jessica Dempsey [4] were indispensable to these goals.

Violence against green sea turtles demonstrated by exposure pathways and subsequent health-related hazards from anthropogenic sources.

This Earth Day, I find it appropriate to reflect on change- what we are in the process of becoming and ending. I see many opportunities to demonstrate care and work towards more ethical engagements with the more-than-human world in this age of the Anthropocene.

Rebecca Chapman, PhD Student,

Department of Geography

  1. Braverman, I. (2015). Wild life : The institution of nature. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
  2. Gruen, L. (2015). Entangled empathy : An alternative ethic for our relationships with animals. New York: Lantern Books, a division of booklight.
  3. Braidotti, R. (2013). The posthuman. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
  4. Collard, R., Dempsey, J., & Sundberg, J. (2015). A manifesto for abundant futures. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 105(2), 322-330.

Glaciers, Exploration, & Geography: Geomorphology Redefined

Book cover for Environmental Geoscience: interaction between Natural Systems and Man

Hamilton Pub. Co; First Printing, Fep Torn edition (1973)

I have a number of textbooks on my shelf, many old and out of date, picked up from piles left behind by retiring faculty. One is by a rather famous father-son pair of physical geographers, Strahler and Strahler called, “Environmental Geoscience: Interaction between natural systems and Man,” published in 1973. In the preface, the authors reflect that an “unprecedented explosion of public and academic interest in environmental problems within the last three years has stimulated the birth of a new discipline: environmental science.” How profound; Earth Day and Environmental Science got started in 1970…kinda like me! As Strahler and Strahler recognized, environmental science as a discipline is not a wholly new science, but rather a mix of traditional ones of biology, chemistry, physics and the geosciences. Instead, the novelty is in the “viewpoint – its orientation to global problems, its conception of the earth as a set of interlocking, interacting systems, and its interest in Man as part of these systems.” Notwithstanding the antiquated phrasing, this “Earth System Science” perspective has been the basis of my entire trajectory into Geography, and frames a reflection on where we are now, and more specifically where I am, since this chronology also neatly spans my entire life.

Photo courtesy of Byrd Polar Research Center

My path to Geography was as serendipitous and unintended as any undergrad who has no formal exposure to Geography until university –or as in my case, not until graduate school. I initially declared a Physics major in college, mostly because it was my favorite class in high school, but I lost passion for it after a frustrating bout with differential equations, and so reverted to History. Had I known of a discipline like Geography, or had it existed in my undergraduate institution, my course may have been different;  instead, I had to first find my way to Geology and realize it was more than minerals and oil prospecting.  During my senior year, in a Geology graduate seminar called, “Meteorological Aspects of Climatic Change” taught by Professor Thompson Webb[1], I first caught a glimpse of what Physical Geography held in store. We not only collected observations to appreciate basic dynamics of weather, but puzzled over long-term climate variability. This was it. This was the moment that would define my path. It was the implicit coupling of water and ice to society by the glacial shaping of the landscape that really fascinated me, and I wanted to learn more. The only problem was, it was too late for me to switch majors. Instead, my prof nudged me to consider Geography as a grad school option. Thanks, Tom!

I’ve now come to appreciate that human connections to the environment not only integrate our diverse discipline but also sustain our society. For me, this human-natural coupling manifests vitally in the Andes, where we have researched various aspects of the reality of glacier loss, water and society. Yet it has been through very specific human relationships and personalities that I have experienced it.

I first got to the Andes in college during a winter break climbing trip. I was amazed. In a two week transect from the Pacific coast to the highest point in the western hemisphere, the diverse geography claimed a piece of my heart, even though I was unaware I’d ever return. While prepping for another climb in Alaska, I met Bradford Washburn and Barbara Washburn[2], the adventurous couple who climbed many Alaskan mountains together including Denali, Barbara becoming the first woman to reach the summit. After the evening lecture about his Everest map-making adventure, Barbara by his side, I asked them how I might do things like that; he said he thought Ohio State had a decent program. With only that comment to guide me, I applied to graduate school at OSU. There, under the advising of another female pioneer, Distinguished Professor Ellen Mosley Thompson, I completed a thesis on snow accumulation at South Pole[3] while specializing in climatology. I met Geoffrey Seltzer[4], a Byrd Postdoctoral Fellow, who was teaching Hydrogeology. Geoff had earned his PhD under Herb Wright, a legendary figure in Quaternary studies[5], and was establishing prominence for his expertise in the glacial geology of tropical Central Andes of Peru and Bolivia. I was inspired and had finally found my tribe. Not only was I drawn in by the prospect of getting back to the Andes, but also by Geoff’s field-based style of research. So, I went to Syracuse University to be among Geoff’s first PhD students. He had been funded to examine more closely the ages of low-latitude tropical Andean glacier advances during the last glacial maximum (LGM) along with collaborators Don Rodbell, another Byrd Fellow, and Mark Abbott.

My dissertation research in the Andes began by considering the history of climate told by ancient glaciers, but never got too far from the people living below them. These glaciers housed eons of history but the people living below them relied on them for theirs existence, their culture, and their future. The last chapter of my dissertation emerged after I got a Fulbright to live in Peru and begin to assess the importance of modern glacier melt to stream flow. There, I tracked down the Peruvian co-author on a paper with Stephan Hastenrath, Alcides Ames[6]. Alcides had photographed and surveyed many glaciers starting in the 1960’s, and his meticulous photogrammetry allowed for invaluable mass change values to be computed and analyzed. Nevertheless, post-Fujimori Peru was not favorable to stable employment in glacial studies; Alcides ended up with unreliable income and pension, so he opened a guesthouse. He welcomed me to his home, and family, and I’ve now returned nearly annually with crews of students, collaborating professors and postdocs; exposing them to the people and places that have become a second home to me. I can only hope that their experiences are as awe-inspiring and as life-changing as mine were.

Shallap Glacier, Cordillera Blanca, Peru. Photo credit for left (1966), Alcides Ames; Photo credit for right (2019) Bryan Mark

We’ve followed in Alcides’ footsteps to quantify the volume loss of glaciers with geodetic methods that have extended from backpacked GPS point surveys to aerial LiDAR[7] to drones[8]. Byrd Polar’s own trained photogrammetrist, Henry Brecher, assisted in mapping 1962 base levels to compare. We’ve found an accelerating retreat of glaciers and an alteration in the seasonality and quality of streams below — and risks to water access in these systems are heterogeneous, dynamic, and interlinked[9]. Our Glacier Environmental Change group finds varied opportunities to ‘trace’ glaciers: whether it be the literal trace of their past presence on the landscape in the form of moraines, wetlands and glacial lakes, or the computation of their 3D mass loss, or the flow of melt-water emanating from them. I am motivated by seeking transdisciplinary[10] insights into the unprecedented changes we are facing in our interconnected yet fractious world. 50 years post Earth Day, we have many more vivid portraits of how our society-altered biogeochemistry interlinks our livelihoods with Andean glacier fate, underscoring needs for change. If and how knowledge translates to social change remains a daunting unknown, and a personal challenge. For example, if we know that our energy conversion is redistributing carbon to alter the hydrological fluxes…and melt the glaciers in the Andes…how should this alter what we do as researchers, and how we do it? I’m not sure. But it is my experience of Geography that our motivation needs to consider our interconnectedness and that it translates to very real relationships, and not abstractions.

Bryan Mark

Professor, Geography

State Climatologist of Ohio

[1] Thompson Webb, Professor Emeritus, Brown University:

[2] Short reflections on long lives of Barbara, and Bradford

[3] Van der Veen, C. J., E. Mosley-Thompson, A. J. Gow, and B. G. Mark.  Accumulation at South Pole: comparison of two 900-year records.  Journal of Geophysical Research, 104 (D24), 31,067-31,076.

[4] Geoff died too early; Mark, B.G., D.T. Rodbell, J. Brigham-Grette and J.A. Smith. Dr. Geoffrey Owen Seltzer: In Memorium. Quaternary International 138-139, 1-4.

[5] Birks, H.J.B. (2017). Herbert E. Wright Jr. (1917-2015): A Biographical Memior. National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoirs:

[6] Hastenrath, S. & A. Ames (1995) Recession of Yanamarey Glacier in Cordillera Blanca, Peru, during the 20th century. Journal of Glaciology, 41, 191-196.

[7] PhD dissertation of Kyung In Huh (2014); Huh, K.I., B.G. Mark, Y. Ahn and C. Hopkinson. Volume change of tropical Peruvian glaciers from multi-temporal digital elevation models (DEMs) and its volume surface area scaling. Geografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography 99(3), 222-239.

[8] PhD dissertation of “Ollie” Wigmore (2017); Wigmore, O., B. Mark, J. McKenzie, M. Baraer & L. Lautz (2019) Sub-metre mapping of surface soil moisture in proglacial valleys of the tropical Andes using a multispectral unmanned aerial vehicle. Remote Sensing of Environment, 222, 104-118.

[9] Mark, B. G., A. French, M. Baraer, M. Carey, J. Bury, K. R. Young, M. H. Polk, O. Wigmore†, P. Lagos, R. Crumley†, J. M. McKenzie & L. Lautz (2017) Glacier loss and hydro-social risks in the Peruvian Andes. Global and Planetary Change 159, 61-76.

[10] Our multidisciplinary group came up with an apt abbreviation, TARN:

Have We Gone Too Far to Come Back?

As geographers and atmospheric scientists, we are keenly aware of the reciprocal and interdependent relationships among human societies and the earth system. Popular understandings of natural disasters such as the recent acceleration of burning in the Amazon [1] and the Australian bush fires arguably overemphasize social drivers, and recent changes, that are political (Brazil) and individual (Australia). What we as a community can contribute is the push to think more systematically, structurally, and historically: how have climate changes over the last 50 years contributed to recent crises? And, given the long-term, dynamically interacting social and environmental systems, what are the prospects for resilience?

Australia, for several months, has been experiencing bush fires on an epic scale. There is a great deal of talk about homes lost, people dead, and smoke clogging the air. However, there are other immediate and long lasting implications to our actions.

The fires have devastated Australia with 30 people dead (including four firefighters), roughly 38,594 square miles of bush, forest and parks across Australia burned [2]. In addition to the landscape change, countless animals have perished and as the smoke clears, we may discover that some of the endangered species inhabiting those regions may very well be extinct.

Our planet, however, has some resiliency. Below are examples of life emerging from the fires as nature attempts to rebound through the flames.

This is heartening, however, bush fires don’t only damage our landscape but they can create dangerous weather patterns to worsen existing fire burning patterns. This can cause unpredictability in the way the fire behaves and endanger those fighting the fire [3].

The fires are still burning and will continue to cause damage. The toll may not be known until long after fires have been extinguished. As Geographers and Atmospheric Scientists, the complexity of how these fires affect our planet, our research, and out understanding of climate change, are both exciting and terrifying. Our planet is resilient, but is it resilient enough to survive human beings? Have we gone too far to come back?


[1] –

[2] –

[3] –


50 Years of Earth Day: Where are we headed?


This April will mark 50 years of Earth Day. Here at the Ohio State University, we have many events planned this spring to mark the occasion. With this new regular blog feature, OSU’s Department of Geography will take stock, over the course of Spring semester 2020, collectively, of our community’s contributions to understanding significant social and environmental change. Specifically, what do geographers have to contribute to highly visible environmental movements such as Earth Day?

Earth Day is an annual event whose purpose is to advocate for environmental protection. Earth Day is perhaps the most visible symbol of the modern environmental movement, to harness the passion and activism of college students, in making a case to protect air, water and biodiversity resources[1].  Earth Day is celebrated each year on April 22nd, with the ongoing goal to mobilize, advocate and educate for environmental issues. Other issues such as climate change, a green economy, and sustainable agriculture have been incorporated into the goals of the event over time[2].

This semester, our blog will present topical and cutting-edge research on social and environmental change. We will explore some of the front lines of climate change (from South American glaciers to midwestern agriculture), engaging with the politics of environmental data: how scientific knowledge about pollution reflects the efforts and interests of multiple institutions, firms and government bodies, our policies to redesign our economies and cities in anticipation of looming environmental crises, how conservation policy can work against the needs of communities and wildlife in practice, and many other salient issues. Moreover, as geographers, we find common ground in prioritizing social and environmental justice in confronting existential threats wrought by climate change – it is clearer now than ever that societal and environmental challenges are inextricably linked[3]. Faculty, graduate students and visitors to OSU geography will provide weekly posts on their research. Our goal is that we uncover some broader insights as a community. Please check back!


Darla Munroe

Professor and Chair

Department of Geography