Kansas State University


Department of Geography

Faculty News

Kevin Blake:
This past year featured travel to the European Mediterranean, where for the first time Diana and I visited Aix-en-Provence, Toulon, and Marseille in France; Kotor in Montenegro; Santorini in Greece; Pisa and Sorrento in Italy; and Montserrat in Spain.  Of these, Kotor and Santorini are perhaps two of the more off-the-beaten-track destinations.  Kotor is a well-preserved fortress city on the Adriatic, where the rugged mountains towering over the beautiful bays and inlets remind many visitors of Norway’s fjords.  Santorini, the southernmost of the Cyclades Islands in the Aegean Sea, is the remnant of a collapsed volcanic caldera.  The whitewashed villages are perched high on cliffs above the azure waters.  The trip also featured return visits to Rome, Florence, Venice, and Naples in Italy; Barcelona, Spain; Mykonos, Greece; and Kusadasi, Turkey.  Venice continues to be my favorite of these with an incredible tourism geography landscape where each year 20 million people visit a city with only 60,000 residents.

Travels like these are priceless for their value to my classes.  Last year I taught Perception of the Environment, Geography of the American West, Mountain Geography, and World Regional Geography.  Congratulations to Lis Pankl, one of my PhD advisees, for earning her PhD last year.  Lis and I were also able to collaborate on teaching an online Geography of Tourism class, publishing an article, and presenting two papers at conferences.

If all goes as planned, I hope to retire in August 2015.  I look forward to focusing more on family, travel, hiking, gardening, writing, and various other interests.  I am excited to climb mountains, sink my soul ever deeper in places that are my home ground, and heed the siren call of terra incognita.

John Harrington Jr.:
Sometimes I feel like that Roman guy, Nero. Life for me is good, but the planet with its 7.2 billion humans continues on an undesirable path. I find it somewhat satisfying that students seem to appreciate the knowledge I share with them about global conditions, the current unsustainable trajectories, the political fiddling around, and the fact that there is no Planet B. This past year has been busy with a number of requests for me to present to local groups and engage in discussion about climate change.

During this past year, I have had the pleasure of working with two undergraduate majors; getting them started with research projects. Caitlin Dye has worked on the question of whether or not precipitation seasonality has been changing in Kansas. Her findings indicate that precipitation is increasing in the spring. Livia Cirnu is now doing a climatological summary of the ozone data from the sensor that was active on the Konza from 2002 to 2012. With EPA discussing lowering the exceedance threshold, Livia’s work will provide a sound scientific baseline for understanding seasonal and airmass variations in ozone levels in northeast Kansas.

I am very fortunate this year to be hosting a Turkish animal scientist, Dr. Hayati Koknaroglu. His research interests include examining how heat stress impacts livestock performance (a topic I’ve worked on the past with for students Drs. Katrina Frank and Erik Bowles. Hayati has already examined the historic record of environmental stress for livestock in Turkey and will soon move on to examine three different scenarios for the remainder of the 21st century based on IPCC models.

For the second year in a row, one of my former MA students was selected as the department’s distinguished alum. We were very fortunate to have Dr. John Guinotte visit the department last October and share some of his marine biogeographic work. In addition to documenting the environment of cold water coral species, Dr. Guinotte is work to help the current administration justify the establishment of marine reserves.

The fall semester included my leading a field-based seminar on the High Plains. It was very nice to get back in the swing of taking students into that ‘real-world’ classroom. We put in a few miles, becoming ‘road scholars’, as we learned about natural and human landscapes in western Nebraska, Kansas, the Oklahoma Panhandle, and northeast New Mexico. The highlight for me was a visit to Panorama Point, the highpoint of Nebraska; the students seemed more impressed with Carhenge in Aliance, NE.

The busy fall semester included being a Convocation Speaker at Bethel College, giving a talk on climate variability in Colby as that Research and Experiment State celebrated its 100th anniversary, and being an invited contributor to a NSF funded activity on learning progressions in geography.

A highlight of my work continues to be working with students to help them learn and find ways to enjoy doing this geography stuff. August 2014 provided me with 5 new graduate students to advise; three at the MA level and two doctoral students. We are collectively trying to keep each other out of trouble. I was very pleased that our Beta Psi chapter of Gamma Theta Upsilon has such a wonder year that we were recognized as an “Honors Chapter” and that our past-president, Bill Wetherholt, earned a Buzzard Award for his leadership last year.

Lisa Harrington:
It has been a quiet year for me. Both Laura Wallace (MA) and Ben Munro (PhD) survived me as advisor to graduate. Not much travel—just the regional meeting in Albuquerque (traveling with John’s Great Plains class) and the AAG in Tampa, along with the usual summer trek to the Pacific Northwest. Last summer saw an excellent salmon season, though, so a charter trip resulted in the maximum catch. I am pleased to be on the contingent of US rural geographers to attend the quadrennial meeting in Wales this coming summer, so that’s a key part of my plans for 2015.

Richard Marston:
2014 was another wonderful year in all respects, personal and professional.  During the K-State Spring Break , Nancy and I traveled to Charleston, SC, for some vacation time. In April, I attended the AAG Annual Meeting in Tampa where my daughter, Brooke, present her first AAG paper, based on her geography masters thesis completed at Oregon State University.  As part of my sabbatical leave, Nancy and I spent August and September in Switzerland, with side trips to Krakow (International Geographical Union meeting) and Chamonix, France. We visited most of the mountain regions in Switzerland for a combination of work and pleasure.  I took a two-day trek to Claridenfirn Glacier (and stayed overnight in a Swiss Alpine Hut) to help Swiss glaciologists celebrate 100 years of monitoring mass balance on that glacier.

I am spending the lion’s share of my sabbatical leave on the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach, California, working on a variety of writing projects and editing.  Nancy and I attended Clayton Kershaw’s no-hitter at Dodger Stadium, plus other sporting events involving the L.A. Angels, Anaheim Ducks, Denver Broncos, and UCLA Bruins.  We have attended some nice concerts as well.  I made two separate trips to Alaska in July 2014, one to the North Slope for a consulting job (reaching 70 deg.N. latitude on the shore of the Beaufort Sea), and one to Juneau and Anchorage (with a close charter fly-by of Mount McKinley) for research on glacier hydrology.  I never get tired of the incredible Alaska mountain scenery.

My current doctoral student, Nick Patch, has polished his dissertation proposal on the effects of dams on river meander migration in the Great Plains.  Will Butler (M.A. 2013), is currently employed as a GIS Technician at DrillingInfo in Austin, TX.  We are working together on a manuscript, also with Brandon Weihs as a coauthor) based on Will’s thesis about slope failures in Grand Teton National Park.  Jacob Sowers (PhD 2010) is the Geography Program Coordinator at Minot State University.  Ben Meade (M.A. 2009) was recently promoted to Geologist at Environmental Resources Management in Boston.  We are working together on a manuscript based on his thesis about channel incision in the Black Vermillion River watershed.  Nick Graf (M.A. 2008) is a Research Scientist in the Wyoming Geographic Information Science Center at the University of Wyoming. We are working together on a manuscript based on his thesis about river meander migration and farmland loss on the Big Blue River.

Kendra McLauchlan:
My post-sabbatical adjustment year was as busy, productive, and fun as usual. This year was basically about training people. With 5 undergraduate students, 5 graduate Kendrastudents, and 4 postdocs in Manhattan during the calendar year, it was a challenge to juggle people, projects, manuscripts, and funding. Most of my travel was for professional purposes, but I did get to visit my parents in Missoula, Montana, and head to Washington DC for a portion of Christmas break. In September, I led another of my Novus Research Coordination workshops. This one was in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado and we had a great time. Micah is in fourth grade and Isabel is in first grade, so they are growing up fast.

Bimal Paul: Last year was no different for me than previous several years. Despite my business with editing the Geographical Review, I published three papers in refereed journals in 2014. Although we received our co-author book (Climate Change in Bangladesh: Confronting Impending Disasters) in print form in November 2013, it was officially published by Lexington Books in 2014.

After a gap of long five year we, me and my wife Anjali, were able to visit our native country Bangladesh in March 2014. I also went to Lima, Peru to attend the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 20) as a leader of 10-member observer team of the AAG. This was the first time I visited any country of South America as well as the UN Climate Conference. The conference was very useful and I learned a lot about various issues related to the global climate change and its impacts on human security and survival.  I plan to attend the COP 21 to be held in Paris, France.

On family front, our eldest daughter Anjana is now working in Central Bank in its corporate head office in downtown Kansas City, MO. She will complete her Master’s degree in Business this May. Our younger daughter Archana is still working as a nurse at Overland Park Regional Hospital. Our son Rahul completed ninth semesters at K-State. Hopefully, he will complete his undergraduate degree by Spring 2016.

Jeffrey Smith:
The highlight of 2014 for me was being on sabbatical leave. I spent just over a month in Paraguay where I taught a World Geography class and conducted research. During my last week my wife joined me in Paraguay and we backbacked through western and southern Paraguay visiting such places as Iguazu Falls and the Jesuit Missions.

In June I traveled to Costa Rica. The country is filled with ecotourism spots and it was an enjoyable and productive trip. I gathered a lot of information for my classes.
Please stop by when you find yourself in the halls of Seaton Hall.

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