Plaid Avengers to be Remembered as Conscious, Plaid-Wearing

Plaid Avengers, the GAGs trivia team and 2011 champions of the McCombs Business School International Week Trivia Night declined to defend their title this year, citing organizational and scheduling issues.  The team, who cruised somewhat effortlessly to victory last year after garnering a satisfactory 88 points, will be remembered for their characteristic patterned shirts of alternating colored threads and continuous state of awareness throughout the competition. “In the moment, I don’t think we realized the gravity of our achievement,” recalled team alumnus Jonathan Lowell, “I mean, each of us was experiencing coherent cognitive and behavioral responses to the external world.” Although the fully-conscious, tartan-clad bunch will, by default, lose their status as reigning trivia champions when the 2012 competition kicks off on Wednesday, the Plaid Avengers’ legacy endures. While noting that he preferred tweed, university president Bill Powers said of the teams’ 2011 victory, “[Plaid Avengers’] complete wakefulness and indisputably crisscrossed attire will not be forgotten in the relatively near future.”

Students participate in Race, Ethnicity, and Place Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Doctoral candidates Naya Jones and Bisola Falola co-organized and chaired two sessions at the 2012 Race, Ethnicity, and Place Conference (hosted in part by the Ethnic Geography Specialty Group of AAG) in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Both sessions were titled: (En)countering Space, Place, and Agency: Everyday Youth  Geographies

Naya presented: Of Soul Food and Barbacoa: Black and Latin@ Youth, Food, and Intersubjectivity

Bisola presented: Entangled Emotions: Connecting the Links between Race, Emotional Landscapes, and Youths’ Future Expectations

The sessions were well attended and had engaging discussions!

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Students and faculty present at annual SWAAG meeting in Las Cruces, NM

Department of Geography and the Environment graduate students and faculty members traveled to Las Cruces, NM, last week to present their research at the annual meeting of the Southwestern Division of the Association of American Geographers (SWAAG). Congratulations to the presenters for their hard work!

The Case of the Missing Laureate: The Communication Geography of the 2010 Nobel
Peace Prize
; Dr. Paul Adams

Rural-to-Rural Trading in the City: Artisanal Sugarcane Liquor Commercialization in
the Northeastern Peruvian Amazon
; Mario Cardozo

Spatial Analysis of Woody Species in Northwest Botswana; Thomas Christiansen

An Evolving Home: Communal Vision and Changing Livelihood in an Amazonian
Religious Community
; Jonathan Lowell*

Land Cover Change in Seronga, Botswana Between 2003 and 2011; Xuebin Yang*

*denotes participation in student competitions

Graduate students at White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

[in print] Recent Publications from Matt LaFevor and Niti Mishra

 Doctoral candidates Matt LaFevor and Niti Mishra have new publications available. Follow the links below for the full text of each article.

LaFevor, M. 2012. Sulphur Mining on Mexico’s Popocatépetl Volcano (1820-1920): Origins, Development, and Human- Environmental Challenges. Journal of Latin American Geography11(1): 79-98.

This paper traces the origins and development of a little-known extractive industry in nineteenth-century Mexico: volcanic sulphur mining. Unpublished documents from Mexican archives, nineteenth-century travel literature, reports from early scientific expeditions, and historical newspapers provide the bulk of data. Documents show how both Mexican and United States interests – indigenous sulphur miners (azufreros) and venture capitalists – confronted the challenges of mining sulphur from the crater of Mexico’s Popocatépetl volcano, at 5,426 meters (17,802 feet) elevation.

 The discovery, extraction, and monopolistic control of key natural resources was a priority of New Spain’s colonial administration. Managing the region’s abundant resources, however, often proved difficult for the Spanish Crown. Human and environmental challenges impeded protoindustrial growth and development, and monopolistic control of resources often met resistance. In this article I examine these processes in the context of New Spain’s little-known monopoly on sulphur—a yellow, powdery mineral the Crown jealously guarded as its own.



Mishra, N. B., Crews, K. A., & Neuenschwander, A. L. (2012).Sensitivity of EVI-based harmonic regression to temporal resolution in the lower Okavango Delta. International Journal of Remote Sensing. 33(24), 7703–7726.

In this study, we examined how satellite time-series-based characterization of ecological cycles and trends is sensitive to the temporal depth and spacing of the time series and whether the observed sensitivities were cover and/or cycle specific. The results show that as the temporal depth decreases, the sensitivity to both short- and long-term ecological cycles was lost in the seasonally dynamic environment.

[event] Food for Black Thought

Fri, September 28, 2012 • 11:00 AM – 9:30 PM • The John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies, the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center

Critical discussions of food and the food system are on the rise in academic research, public policy, and in popular media. Organized by the Department of Geography and the Environment Doctoral student Naya Jones, Food for Black Thought (FFBT) will explore how these issues involve, impact, and engage Black populations from transdisciplinary and community-based perspectives. FFBT will explore Black experiences with food and the food system, past and present, in Austin and beyond.

The 2-day community + action symposium will take place at the Warfield Center for African and African American Studies (UT Austin) and at the George Washington Carver Cultural Center. Facilitators and presenters include youth and adults, from the University of Texas at Austin, the greater Austin community, and from across the United States.

Geographic highlights include keynote Dr. Kwate of Rutgers, who discusses urban space, access, and race in relationship to food. Roundtable speakers include UT faculty from Planning, Advertising, and American Studies (Dr. Englehardt). 

Doctoral Students receive AAG EDGE Career Grants

Congratulations to Marina Islas and Naya Jones for receiving the 2012 AAG EDGE Careers and Outreach Grant.  They will both use the NSF funded grant to promote geography outreach and build diversity in the field.
Marina’s funds will support the Undergraduate Diversity Liaisons Project (UDLP) which aims to: 1) broaden the participation of underrepresented groups within the Department and 2) to promote geography as a declared major for undergraduates. During the upcoming year, the diversity liaisons will promote geography at orientations, give geography-related presentations to fellow undergraduates, and further develop their knowledge about the discipline.
Naya’s grant will increase the educational component of her participatory food mapping research by enabling her to support a peer facilitator and expose the youth participants to the discipline and related career paths. Her undergraduate peer facilitator will share mapping/GIS knowledge with diverse juniors and seniors from East Austin as part of the project.

AAG Annual Meeting 2013 – Call for Papers

Online registration for the AAG Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, April 9-13, 2013, is now open. All presenters and attendees are invited to register. Abstracts for papers and sessions are also being accepted. Abstracts are due by October 24. 
The AAG Annual Meeting is an interdisciplinary forum open to anyone with an interest in geography and related disciplines. All scholars, researchers, and students are welcome to submit abstracts for papers and presentations. 
Please take a moment to read the Call for Papers and Abstract Guidelines

Julio Postigo was awarded the 2012 Outstanding Dissertation Award

Julio Postigo was awarded the 2012 Outstanding Dissertation Award for the study areas of Social Sciences, Business and Education. Julio began in the doctoral program in the Department of Geography & the Environment in 2007. Previously, he completed his M.A. degree in 2006 in Latin American Studies.

His dissertation is entitled “Responses of Plants, Pastoralists, and Governments to Social Environmental Changes in the Peruvian Southern Andes.” He found that the ecological and social systems in the Andes Mountains are responding not only to climate change, but also to simultaneous changes in social, economic, and political factors. The fieldwork involved vegetation sampling, household and community interviews, and analyses of governmental responses. His dissertation supervisor was Dr. Kenneth Young. The other committee members were Drs. Kelley Crews, William Doolittle, Gregory Knapp, and Camille Parmesan.

Julio continues to do research on global environmental change, as informed especially by social science and interdisciplinary approaches.The Outstanding Dissertation Award included a $3000 prize.

Abstract of his dissertation: Anthropogenic global changes are altering properties and functions of social and ecological systems at multiple spatial and temporal scales. In addition to climate change, the Peruvian Southern Andes has also experienced dramatic political and social change. This dissertation addresses the responses of plants, humans, communities and sub-national governments to the impacts of these changes. Methods from both the social and natural sciences were used at three levels: 1) on the forelands of the Quelccaya ice cap a chronosequence approach was used and 113 quadrats (1m2) sampled the vegetation covering an altitudinal range from 5113 to 4830 m.a.s.l.; 2) with the households of herders in the Quelcaya community surveys, interviews, participant observation, and archival research were employed; and 3) with the three Regional Governments (Arequipa, Cusco, and Puno) interviews with officials and stakeholders were conducted. The results show an upward displacement of the elevational limit of plants and a trend towards homogenization of vegetation. Warming climate, a shortened rainy season, and longer dry and cold spells are the most relevant impacts of climate change in the study area. Responses to these changes occur within households, supra-household units and communities, through dynamic institutions, traditional knowledge, and flexible polycentric social organization. These responses originate from path dependencies generated by human-environment interactions in the Peruvian Southern Andes. For instance, pastoralists increased livestock mobility within their pastures, created wetlands through irrigation, and introduced agriculture of bitter potatoes. The women agriculturalists modified the productive calendar to adjust agricultural tasks to changes in the rainfall regime; they replaced maize for wheat and fava bean, because these crops are more resistant to cold spells. Agro-pastoralists increase institutional water governance and demand infrastructure to improve efficient water use. Synergies between local and regional adaptive responses to climate change may be led by projects like building irrigation infrastructure and strengthening local resource governance, although there are also disjunctions that limit adaption. Local social ecological systems are adaptive and resilient to multi-scale social environmental disturbances by a malleable forging of former strategies to face change, innovation, polycentric social organization, and a dynamic institutional body that promptly response to change.

Doctoral student receives residency at Center for Land Use Interpretation

Doctoral student Kathleen Shafer has received a residency at the Center for Land Use Interpretation’s Wendover, Utah site. Wendover was a stop on the Western Pacific Railroad and later home to the Wendover Air Force Base which trained B-17 and B-24 bomber crews. Much of the air base remains intact. Shafer will spend one month in Wendover this October/November.

The Center operates a residence program to support the development of new interpretive methodologies and ideas. The program is open to artists, researchers, theorists, or anyone who works with land and land use issues in an innovative and engaging manner. Residents primarily work out of the CLUI facilities at Wendover, Utah, and explore and interpret the landscape of that unique and inspiring geographic region, which includes the Great Salt Lake and its desert and salt-flat environs. More information can be found at the CLUI website at

Graduate Students Receive Research Funds from the Latin American Studies Institute

Two graduate students in the Department of Geography and the Environment received Summer 2012 Research Grants from the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LILAS). Ph.D. student Josh Rudow received a grant for preliminary dissertation research in Peru. He will investigate how small- to medium-sized farmers are adapting to the effects of climate change, including unpredictable weather conditions and loss of glacier melt. Master’s student Katherine Lininger also received a grant to conduct research on floodplain processes on the Araguaia River in the Brazilian Cerrado.