From the Field: Paul Holloway in Botswana

Paul is a Phd student whose research applies movement pattern analysis to improve species distribution models (SDMs). He sent us this update from Botswana earlier this week.

Much like Costa Rica, the roosters of Botswana also like to rise extremely early, three 3 hours before sunrise in fact. And when they are joined by the town dogs and the river’s toads, it makes for an interesting morning alarm, and one that I’m not going to miss.

I’ve spent the last two weeks in the field travelling across northern Botswana, in an attempt to understand the landscape from a brown hyena’s perspective. Several nights in Nxai Pans and Makgadikgadi National Parks in the east of the country showed me the barrenness of their habitat, driving through miles and miles of grasslands and savannas.I’ve collected near to 100 GPS points of that area, with corresponding photos, so I’m looking forward to comparing MODIS land cover to actual on the ground images. It was also noticeable that there was near to no natural water to speak of in the area, with all the wildlife clustered either the river or the artificial wells near the cattle posts. There was also a bounty of dead animals by the side of the only tarmac road in the area, a fact the hyenas must also be aware of…

I also had several exciting animal sightings. Having been lectured on the necessity of not straying beyond sight of the tents due to a high lion presence in the area, I’m not ashamed to say my heart did stop beating for a second when all I could hear was the sound of water being lapped at 2am one night when nature called and I had to leave my tent. Fortunately it was only a black backed jackal, which didn’t look too blood thirsty.

 I’m looking forward to getting back in front of my computer and making the shapefiles come to life through the images and landscape I’ve seen and collected. Thanks to my guides while I was out there, Thoralf, Kelley and Thomas. Hope it’s not too hot in Austin, and I’ll see y’all shortly.

And no, I didn’t actually spot any hyenas. The perfect excuse for next year…

[in print] Recent Publications from Molly Polk and Robert Bean

Doctoral students Molly Polk and Robert bean have new publications available. Follow the links below for the full text of each article.

Bury, J., Mark, B. G., Carey, M., Young, K. R., McKenzie, J. M., Baraer, M., … Polk, M. H. (2013). New Geographies of Water and Climate Change in Peru: Coupled Natural and Social Transformations in the Santa River Watershed. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 103(2), 363–374.

Abstract: Projections of future water shortages in the world’s glaciated mountain ranges have grown increasingly dire. Although water modeling research has begun to examine changing environmental parameters, the inclusion of social scenarios has been very limited. Yet human water use and demand are vital for long-term adaptation, risk reduction, and resource allocation. Concerns about future water supplies are particularly pronounced on Peru’s arid Pacific slope, where upstream glacier recession has been accompanied by rapid and water-intensive economic development. Models predict water shortages decades into the future, but conflicts have already arisen in Peru’s Santa River watershed due to either real or perceived shortages. Modeled thresholds do not align well with historical realities and therefore suggest that a broader analysis of the combined natural and social drivers of change is needed to more effectively understand the hydrologic transformation taking place across the watershed. This article situates these new geographies of water and climate change in Peru within current global change research discussions to demonstrate how future coupled research models can inform broader scale questions of hydrologic change and water security across watersheds and regions. We provide a coupled historical analysis of glacier recession in the Cordillera Blanca, declining Santa River discharge, and alpine wetland contraction. We also examine various water withdrawal mechanisms, including smallholder agriculture, mining, potable water use, hydroelectric power generation, and coastal irrigation. We argue that both ecological change and societal forces will play vital roles in shaping the future of water resources and water governance in the region.

Lafrenz, M. D., Bean, R. A., & Uthman, D. (2013). Soil ripening following dam removal. Physical Geography, (ahead-of-print), 1-12.

Abstract: The onset of pedogenesis in dewatered reservoir sediments following a dam removal was evaluated using a ripening index that was initially developed to describe the condition of drained, marine sediments behind Dutch dikes. The drained reservoir exposed lahar terraces, mantled with reservoir sediment, upstream of the former dam at a similar geomorphic position to a downstream lahar terrace. Three years following dam removal, the exposed sediment has physically ripened (n-values are less than 0.7) over 1 m to the depth of a buried soil. However, the sediment has only chemically ripened to a depth of approximately 16 cm, the depth at which pH values become higher than those of the downstream terrace soils. Even at the surface, the sediment has not biologically ripened, as indicated by the low carbon-to-nitrogen ratios (13:1) relative to those of the downstream soil surface (28:1). These results indicate that chemical and biological ripening happen more slowly than physical ripening. As such, dewatered reservoir sediments likely reach field capacity before other crucial edaphic conditions have developed, such as the accumulation of plant-available iron and nitrate. This difference will greatly affect vegetation successional pathways in these newly created upland environments.

Chang, H., Jung, I.-W., Strecker, A., Wise, D., Lafrenz, M., Shandas, V., Bean, R.,…Paris, M (2013). Water Supply, Demand, and Quality Indicators for Assessing the Spatial Distribution of Water Resource Vulnerability in the Columbia River Basin. Atmosphere-Ocean, 1–18.

We investigated water resource vulnerability in the US portion of the Columbia River basin (CRB) using multiple indicators representing water supply, water demand, and water quality. Based on the US county scale, spatial analysis was conducted using various biophysical and socio-economic indicators that control water vulnerability. Water supply vulnerability and water demand vulnerability exhibited a similar spatial clustering of hotspots in areas where agricultural lands and variability of precipitation were high but dam storage capacity was low. The hotspots of water quality vulnerability were clustered around the main stem of the Columbia River where major population and agricultural centres are located. This multiple equal weight indicator approach confirmed that different drivers were associated with different vulnerability maps in the sub-basins of the CRB. Water quality variables are more important than water supply and water demand variables in the Willamette River basin, whereas water supply and demand variables are more important than water quality variables in the Upper Snake and Upper Columbia River basins. This result suggests that current water resources management and practices drive much of the vulnerability within the study area. The analysis suggests the need for increased coordination of water management across multiple levels of water governance to reduce water resource vulnerability in the CRB and a potentially different weighting scheme that explicitly takes into account the input of various water stakeholders.

From the Field: Greg Schwartz

Greg is a Phd student researching neoliberalism, sustainable development, and women’s land-use decisions in Costa Rica. He sent us this update from the field earlier this week.

I’ve now been in and around the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica for about a month now with three more weeks to go, based in the town of Puerto Jimenez. Each morning I’m awakened by a combination of howler monkeys, a resident rooster,  and the beaming tropical morning sun. This area is home to one of the largest contiguous stands of primary tropical rainforest in the country, which I have wandered into several times and had many many animal sightings. Yet, it took the neighbor’s pit bull here in town to log my first animal attack on this trip. No serious damage though. Otherwise, I’m doing lots of informal interviews and a few fully structured ones, resulting in lots of good contacts. I was even invited, then uninvited due to cost issues, to a beach wedding.

So far, I’ve found that the region’s economy seems to be based, in descending order, on 1) tourism 2) African oil palm plantations & processing 3) Rice plantations 3) Payment for environmental services (government paying land owners not to cut down their trees) 4)  government and/or NGO jobs and 5) gold mining (almost entirely illegal)

Can’t wait to have some Home Slice pizza on South Congress 🙂 See you all soon & have a great 2nd half of the summer !

Which States Drink the Most Beer?

As Austinist noted, despite how you may be feeling after the July 4th weekend, Texas does not rank first in beer consumption in the US. That title goes to North Dakota, which drank the equivalent of 488 beers per person in 2012.* You can explore how thirsty the rest of the America was in 2012 with our handy map. Of course, Texas will always have the highest per capita beer consumption in The Republic of Texas.

*per person aged 21+. 1 beer = 12oz. Data courtesy of The Beer Institute.

Grads Participate in US-IALE

The 2013 Annual Symposium for the U.S. Regional Association of the International Association for Landscape Ecology (US-IALE) took place in Austin from April 14-18th. Co-chaired by leading landscape ecologist and faculty member Ken Young, the event was a big success with over 250 papers and posters presented within the three day period. Graduate and undergraduate students Molly Polk, Xuebin Yang, Sara Diamond, Katherine Lininger, Thomas Christiansen, Paul Holloway, Collin Roland and Emily Mixon represented the Department of Geography and the Environment throughout the week. Geography grads also contributed to the strong selection of research presented throughout the week, with Paul Holloway presenting his work in the ‘Spatial Analysis: Movement’ session, and Molly Polk a co-author on a paper in the ‘Landscape Change’ session. Thank you to everyone who volunteered and was involved throughout the week. It would not have been such a success without your help. See you all in Anchorage 2014!

Molly Polk speaks at Hornsby Bend this weekend

classroom at CERPh.D. Candidate Molly Polk will discuss her doctoral research, “Climate Change and Mountain Mires in the Peruvian Cordillera Blanca,” this Saturday, as part of the Center for Environmental Research’s Ecological Literacy Volunteer Day.

Molly’s lunchtime talk follows a four hour work and learn event in which volunteers conduct maintenance on the trails, habitat gardens, and kiosks at Hornsby Bend.

You can find the full event details on the CER website. Contact Kevin Anderson with any questions:

UT Students Establish ASPRS Chapter

UT students, with sponsorship from the Department of Geography & Environment, have founded a new student chapter of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS).  
Founded in 1934, ASPRS is a scientific association serving over 7,000 professional members around the world. The mission of ASPRS is to advance knowledge and improve understanding of mapping sciences to promote the responsible applications of photogrammetry, remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), and supporting technologies. Members work in the fields of Agriculture/Soils, Archeology, Biology, Cartography, Ecology, Environment, Forestry/Range, Geodesy, Geography, Geology, Hydrology/water Resources, Land Appraisal/Real Estate, Medicine, Transportation, and Urban Planning/Development.

Congratulations to everyone for their hard work getting the chapter started! The next meeting will be Monday, February 18, at 5 pm. Contact chapter president Robert Bean for further details.

Students Represent Department at American Meteorological Society Meeting

Students Jennifer Alexander, Xuebin Yang, and Molly Polk represented the Department of Geography and the Environment at the Weatherfest event of the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). On participating in the event, which took place from January 6 – 10 in Austin, doctoral student Molly Polk said, “we were happy to spread the good word about our department and about the beauty and importance of our fine discipline.” The AMS meeting was co-chaired by meteorologist and faculty member Troy Kimmel.

Jen, Xuebin, Troy, and Molly at the UT Geography and the Environment booth

Students Present at American Geophysical Union Meeting

Graduate students from UT’s Department of Geography and the Environment recently presented posters at the American Geophysical Union’s Annual Fall Meeting, held from December 3rd-7th in San Francisco, CA. Christine Bonthius, Richard Knox, Katherine Lininger, and Edward Park presented in a session titled,”River Morphodynamics and Channel Patterns: How Do River Patterns Come to be Different?” Poster topics included: flooding patterns of the middle Araguaia River of Brazil (Lininger); morphodynamics of the Madeira River of Brazil (Bonthius); bedload transport and effective discharge of a segment of the Mississippi River (Knox); and, using remote sensing techniques to model suspended sediment concentrations in the Amazon (Park).

Joomi Lee Wins Award from the American Institute for Maghrib Studies

UT Geography doctoral candidate Joomi Lee has been awarded  the Mark Tessler Graduate Student Prize from the American Institute for Maghrib Studies for her paper, The End of Local Craftsmanship: A Case Study of Sale’s Disappearing Artisans. The award includes a cash prize, and the paper will be submitted for publication in The Journal of North African Studies. Congratulations to Joomi! Abstract below.

Invocation of tradition’ is a popular discourse and practice in the on-going urban renewal of Islamic cities of the Arab world. Much effort is being put into the rehabilitation of the visual and tangible forms of cultural heritage over the course of the renewal. The rehabilitated architectural forms have become an important ingredient in the urban ‘mis-en-scene’, befitting the image of a modern Islamic city. With a case study of the Bouregreg project in Morocco, this paper criticizes this contemporary Arab urban renewal’s obsession with creating an urban spectacle underlying the role of tangible forms of tradition. We argues that certain categories of tradition are actually privileged in the Project’s stated strategic agenda of “revival of the glorious past” of the Bouregreg River, consequently resulting in structural negligence of others, particularly intangible ones such as local artisanship. In this inquiry, we are particularly attentive to the historical dynamics of the neighboring cities of Rabat and Salé in the River Valley. Salé, once described as ‘a city of high Islamic civilization’ comparable to Fez during the medieval age, has since French colonial rule descended to the status of a mere ‘cite-dortoir’ for Rabat. We argue that though the narrative of ‘revitalization of Salé’ is inscribed in the Project’s agenda of cultural revival, Salé’s artisans – both individuals and communities – are still caught up in a multifaceted trap of structural negligence, leaving many the city’s traditional craftsmanship out of the proposed urban renewal which is now on the verge of extinction.