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Cat in the Stax: Hayao Miyazaki’s (Un)retirement

By Ethan Shea

"No-Face"

For this week’s “Cat in the Stax” I want to take a brief break from the holiday season and discuss some other big news, Hayao Miyazaki’s (un)retirement.

It was recently announced that Hayao Miyazaki, internationally acclaimed film animator and co-founder of Studio Ghibli, will be coming out of retirement to create one last film. This is not the first time Miyazaki has gone back to work. In fact, he mentioned retiring from filmmaking as long ago as 1997 but did not formally “retire” until 2013.  In 2017, Miyazaki ended his retirement to create one last film, and now in 2021, he’s doing it again.

If you’re expecting to see Miyazaki’s new film sometime soon, you’re out of luck. Studio Ghibli animates its films with very little help from computer-generated imagery (CGI), so 12 minutes of film usually takes about a year to make.  Luckily, as of 2021, this new film, How Do You Live?, has already been in the works for a few years, so it has a tentative  release date of 2023.

The New York Times recently scored an interview with Miyazaki, his first interview with an English-language outlet since 2014, so if you’d like to read more about the man himself, I recommend checking it out here. As a Villanova student, staff, or faculty member, you have free access to the New York Times, so make use of it!

"Book Cover of 'Miyazaki World: A Life in Art' by Susan Napier"

“Miyazaki World: A Life in Art” by Susan Napier

I have to admit that I haven’t seen every Studio Ghibli film, but I hope to watch all of them during the upcoming winter break. The ongoing Studio Ghibli Fest at AMC theaters, which screens past Ghibli films on a monthly basis, has helped me watch some of these films. AMC will be screening My Neighbor Totoro this month, so if you haven’t already seen it, or even if you have, I’d recommend seeing it in theaters soon!

My personal favorite Miyazaki film is Laputa: Castle in the Sky.  This was one of Studio Ghibli’s very first productions, and I was lucky enough to experience it for the first time in theaters recently. I’ll stop myself from spoiling any of the plot, but everything about this film, from the score (which I love to listen to while studying) to the emphasis on the essentiality of nature through intimate visuals of greenery, is beautiful.

You can watch some Studio Ghibli films with the help of Falvey Library. Grave of the Fireflies is currently on the shelves of our stacks, and several other films, such as Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo, are available through interlibrary loan.

We even have several texts on the life and career of Miyazaki living in our stacks. For example, you could check out Miyazakiworld: A Life in Art or Sharing a House with the Never-Ending Man: 15 Years at Studio Ghibli to learn more about the famous storyteller.


Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a first-year English Graduate Student at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Memorial Library.


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Carrel-tas Commitment Contest

By Ethan Shea

""

 

Everyone knows those cubicle desks lining the outskirts of Falvey’s third and fourth floor stacks, but did you know those desks have a specific name? That particular type of desk is actually called a carrel, so here in Falvey, we’re transforming the CARITAS Commitment to the Carrel-tas Commitment!

"Decorated Carrel in Old Falvey"

Decorated Carrel in Old Falvey

To thank the patrons of Falvey Memorial Library for honoring our Carrel-tas Commitment by wearing their masks properly, Falvey will be coordinating daily raffles that culminate in a grand prize drawing. This grand prize gives you a chance to win access to the Falvey room 206 study suite for you and five of your friends during the entirety of finals week (Dec. 10-17)!

If you mask like no one is watching, go ahead and grab a raffle ticket at the reading room or main entrance, write your name on it and place it into a prize bin. Only one entry per person is allowed each day, but you can enter the raffle daily.

By entering any of the daily drawings, you are automatically entered into the grand prize drawing, but keep in mind that you can only win a daily drawing once. Everyone will have the opportunity to win the grand prize regardless of whether they already won a smaller prize or not.

The daily drawings will be picked on Dec. 1-3 and 6-9. Winners will be notified the following morning.

Winners of the daily drawings gain access to room 206 in Falvey on the day they win from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. the next morning.

Thank you again for wearing a mask and keeping our community in good health!


Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a first-year English Graduate Student at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Memorial Library.


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Happy Hanukkah!

THE HANUKKAH ANTHOLOGY

Happy Hanukkah to our community’s Jewish members!

As we welcome the feast of lights, we invite you to take a look at a selection available in our digital collection: The Hanukkah Anthology.

This tome is described as delving “into the stories and messages of Hanukkah as they have unfolded in Jewish literature over the past two thousand years: biblical intimations of the festival, postbiblical writings, selections from the Talmud and midrashim, excerpts from medieval books, home liturgies, laws and customs, observances in different nations, stories and poems, art, and recipes.”

The Hanukkah Anthology is a successor to Hanukkah: The Feast of Lights by Emily Solis-Cohen, Jr., published in 1937.


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TBT: Fading Fall Foliage

By Ethan Shea

"Boy sits under tree with beautiful foliage. Image from 1968 edition of Belle Air"

Photo from 1968 edition of Belle Air

As the autumn leaves adorning our campus begin to fade, this photo from the 1968 edition of Belle Air serves as a reminder to appreciate nature’s passing beauty. Hopefully the tranquil tone of this image sets the mood for your Thanksgiving dinner and the imminent transition to less temperate weather.


Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a first-year English Graduate Student at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Memorial Library.


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Cat in the Stax: What are you thankful for?

By Ethan Shea

"Green beans with bacon for Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving dinner"

A year ago, in spite of the chaos of November 2020, Jenna, last year’s “Cat in the Stax,” wrote about what she’s thankful for in this Thanksgiving blog. To continue this tradition of revisiting reasons to be thankful annually, this holiday edition of “Cat in the Stax” describes a few of the many people, places, and things I’m grateful for.

In-Person Classes

Considering the entirety of my senior year as an undergraduate was online, I’m very thankful to be back on a college campus. Although my experience at Zoom University was as good as it could have been, I definitely connect more with the material and my classmates in a face-to-face setting. Campus life remains imperfect. Still, "Open book"our ability to adapt to the tumultuous world and gather once again is something I will no longer take for granted.

Books

Any library’s blog about thankfulness would be incomplete without mentioning books! Thanks to Falvey’s vast selection of material, I’ve discovered a new passion for aimlessly wandering the fourth floor stacks until I find a book I can use for my research. Not only have the stacks been there to help me with academics, but, of course, I’m looking forward to indulging in some leisurely reading during the upcoming winter break, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to do so.

Family & Friends

It goes without saying that I would not be able to function without my support system. From friends who are willing to let me crash at their apartments on the weekends to family eager to drive four hours to visit me, I’m thankful for everyone in my life who keeps me in good spirits. The comfort of knowing I have people who will help me get back on my feet if I’m struggling is something I couldn’t live without, which is why I’m especially grateful for friends and family this year.

Professors"lecturer in university - students listening to teacher"

Before this semester began, I was apprehensive about conducting research at the graduate level, but, luckily, all my professors have made my first semester at Villanova a memorable one. By taking the time to discuss my ideas and giving guidance where it’s needed, my professors have made the collaborative process of work in the classroom enjoyable. I couldn’t have asked for better courses to kickstart my graduate career.

Wawa

As someone who has only lived in Pennsylvania since August, these past few months have been an eye-opening experience with regard to gas station cuisine. Back home in Connecticut, we swear by Dunkin’ Donuts, but I have to say, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Wawa. I don’t have enough fingers to count the number of meals I’ve bought from Wawa this semester, but the breadth of options there really made me understand the hype. I guess this means I’m officially a Pennsylvanian now?

…maybe not, but regardless, I hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving!


Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a first-year English Graduate Student at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Memorial Library.

 


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Geo Week: Mapping Natural Gas, Aiding Developing Countries

Geography Awareness WeekRecognizing that young Americans have a gap in their understanding of geography and their roles as global citizens, National Geographic “created Geography Awareness Week to raise awareness to this dangerous deficiency in American education and excite people about geography as both a discipline and as a part of everyday life… Each third week of November, students, families, and community members focus on the importance of geography by hosting events; using lessons, games, and challenges in the classroom; and often meet with policymakers and business leaders.” 

 To celebrate Geography Awareness Week, Falvey Memorial Library and the Department of Geography and the Environment (GEV) invite you to attend this week’s geography-focused events, to check out our list of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) projects below, and to follow along with Falvey’s blogs sharing projects and discussions from GEV’s students. 

GIS Projects 

Today we talk about mapping natural gas infrastucture in GIS and how geography can aid developing countries.

 


 

Mapping Natural Gas Infrastructure in GIS

My name is Lloyd Willis, and I am a Villanova Alumni who graduated in the Class of 2020. I discovered an interest in Global  Interdisciplinary Studies (GIS) while taking classes in the Department of Geography and the Environment (GEV). The GIS specific classes that I attended during my time at Villanova made me realize I wanted to pursue I professional career in Geographic Information Systems in some form or another.

Currently, I am a GIS Technician II and a part of the AIS (Asset and Information Strategies) unit at an engineering consulting firm called Mott MacDonald. We use a GIS application called Smallworld, which is provided by GE Digital, a division of General Electric. Smallworld is widely known as the leader for GIS in utilities and communications. The work that we provide to our clients is updating natural gas main and fitting data from fields documents ranging from the 1940’s to present in the Smallworld GIS application to make the data more accessible and easier to manipulate. Since I began working at Mott MacDonald, I have been able to use GIS in new ways and in my everyday work. My work is specifically focused on the utilities side and involves editing data on maps for engineers to use in the field. This GIS work my unit does daily is crucial in correctly updating and manipulating data for engineers to conduct field work safely and efficiently. Without the use of the Smallworld GIS application, it would make the work of the engineers more complicated and dangerous. GIS allows the technicians to effectively and accurately edit thousands of feet of natural gas main data daily. Meaning we can produce large quantities of precise data to our client in a reasonable amount of time.

The utilities aspect of GIS is something I previously have not had much experience in. That being said, I continue to learn and understand how expansive the range of opportunities are in GIS fields and applications. I hope to continue my GIS journey and learn even more useful and practical skills in this field.

Lloyd Willis is a Villanova GEV undergraduate alum from 2020. He majored in Environmental Science and Geography.


 

Using Geography to Help Developing Countries

My name is Peter Nikitin, and when I tell people that I am a geography major their first reaction is “what are you going to do with that”, “that is a useless major, you should’ve majored in"GEV Logo" something that can get you a job and make you money”. These comments troubled me for a while, but I always had a strong passion and interest in geography and maps since I was 13 years old, and I never wanted to give that up. I was always able to absorb a wealth of information from simply looking at a map and see the value that most others don’t. Despite the question marks I trudged on in my academic career as a geography major at Villanova.

Deciding to follow my passion has paid off for me as I have learned a lot in the past 3 years of how geography and mapping skills can be extremely beneficial to the developing world. Through a friend at Villanova, I met someone who lit up when I told him how I was learning geography and how to make maps using the programs Arc Map and ArcGIS Pro. He explained to me how it’s such a great skill to have and how he is working in many countries around the world where geospatial software and mapping is highly in demand.

"Map image"He introduced me to a team of people in India that were working on creating child friendly villages. The goal of these villages were to stop child labor in the mines and ensure that 100% of the children had access to education. I used Arc Map to create a map of which villages have a child school enrollment rate less than 75%. This showed spatial patterns of which parts of this area had higher and lower rates of education access. This was extremely helpful to the team. Right now, we are in the planning stages for my senior project. We hope to find a spatial connection between child labor and deforestation to bring more awareness to the areas we are working in and hopefully gain the support of companies that see deforestation as an important issue. I am especially excited to become more involved because it is very fulfilling to use my skills to help create a better world for children in India.

This is a map I created for a class which shows deforestation in the state of Rodonia in Brazil and the spatial relationship deforestation has with official roads and urban areas. A map like this can help people decide on a area that should be a protected forest for example.

I also received an internship this summer through my major with Catholic Relief Services. I received a scholarship for holding this internship as well. Catholic Relief "Nature overhead shot"Services takes requests from all around the world for mapping projects on ArcGIS Pro and dashboards on Power BI. Using these programs helps bring data collected in the field to life and can help developing countries in seemingly endless ways such as disaster relief, planning, and making information more readily and easily available. As an intern, I am especially helpful to the program because I have access to technology that many people don’t, and I have the free time to work on projects that they’ve been unable to devote time to.

My main project has been using deep learning to identify and measure the diameter of tree canopies from drone imagery which would be used to calculate carbon sequestration in Madagascar. This model can tell people how much carbon is being stored in forests and show which areas are important to protect and preserve to mitigate climate change. It is important to know how much carbon is being sequestered when evaluating how much greenhouse gases are being released in an area. This project relies on user input to teach the software how to identify trees and measure the boundaries of them. I am very glad that I’m contributing to such a useful and interesting project, and I can’t wait to work on more projects like this in my career.

"Nikitin creating map of Madagascar"

Here is a picture of me using the software ArcGIS Pro to create a new map of Madagascar.

 

Peter Nikitin is a senior in Villanova’s Department of Geography and the Environment. He is majoring in Geography.


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Geo Week: Geospatial Tech for the Military, GIS and the Environment

Geography Awareness WeekRecognizing that young Americans have a gap in their understanding of geography and their roles as global citizens, National Geographic “created Geography Awareness Week to raise awareness to this dangerous deficiency in American education and excite people about geography as both a discipline and as a part of everyday life… Each third week of November, students, families, and community members focus on the importance of geography by hosting events; using lessons, games, and challenges in the classroom; and often meet with policymakers and business leaders.” 

 To celebrate Geography Awareness Week, Falvey Memorial Library and the Department of Geography and the Environment (GEV) invite you to attend this week’s geography-focused events, to check out our list of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) projects below, and to follow along with Falvey’s blogs sharing projects and discussions from GEV’s students. 

GIS Projects 

Today we talk about geospatial technology for the military and using GIS and geography to solve environmental problems.

 


Geospatial Technology for the Military

My name is Kylee Giblin, and I am currently using Global Interdisciplinary Studies (GIS) for a job I got after graduation with Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific (NIWC). Because of my GIS experience during undergrad I was able to get hired as a beginning GIS Technician. Currently I have been converting computer-aided design (CAD) documents into ArcGIS Pro for telecom data for various infrastructure areas on the island. This might sound confusing (it was to me too)! The maps we make show manholes and telecom or electrical lines that connect to the manholes. GIS work is important for this because we need to know where the communication lines lie in cases of emergency. The maps are also important for having the exact location of cables etc. in order to fix them or to check them. The job isn’t just computer restricted, we need to go into the field and physically GPS where the manholes and other data are so that when referring to the maps, they are correct.

Though this work is not environmentally focused, I am able to learn a lot about GIS tools that I could apply to future work. I am also learning about the land where I am from and the military areas that I did not know before.

Kylee Giblin is a Villanova GEV undergraduate alum from 2021. She majored in Environmental Studies.


Geography and GIS Help Solve Environmental Problems

My name is Caroline Dimich, and I am a recent graduate of Villanova’s department of Geography and the Environment (GEV). I double majored in Environmental Studies and Geography. I believe that studying geography was extremely beneficial to my education because it led me to understand how everything can be connected, even if it is far apart. I explored many different courses where geography was an undertone topic and I truly got to see how the world works with the meshing of cultures, people, and physical landscapes. I am grateful to the GEV department for inspiring me to learn more about my passion in geography in thought provoking classes with incredible concepts that made coming to class everyday exciting.

For my senior project I was lucky enough to work with Professor Jen Santoro and use Geographic Information Systems to look at a spatial problem that I find important. I completed a Multi Criteria Decision Analysis looking at the state of Montana and understanding its wind energy potential to see where future wind farms could be located. The issue of renewable energy is extremely important as the world faces the impending climate crisis. I grew up in Montana where I have been inspired by the differing landscapes and seeing how dependent the states is on Fossil Fuels while there is such a large potential for renewable energy to be captured. In this study I gained GIS and research experience while being able to locate large amounts land to capture enough wind energy to power the entire United States. This was an incredible opportunity to work with Professor Santoro and learn more about my home state as well as seeing a positive future for renewable energy.

After graduating from Villanova, I had the opportunity to intern with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) as a Data and Geospatial Analyst. During the three month internship I worked with people all over the globe who had one common goal which was to help people who were less fortunate and to make the world a better place. I had two main projects that I worked on throughout my time with CRS. The first project was to look at watersheds in Sierra Leone, Africa and determine areas that were at high risk for flooding in future rain events. This process would eventually be used to determine flooding risk in other areas of the world. The second project I worked on was understanding a GIS model that a Villanova research team had created to find areas in countries after natural disaster events. This model was very intricate and took many hazards and compared them to find areas of high risk. The model then looked at necessities that humans need such as healthcare, transportation, and land cover to determine where shelters must be located after natural disasters. This model will also be used in other areas of the world to help response teams act quickly in the event of a disaster to save as many people as possible.

In both my senior project as well as my internship I have learned why geography and tools such as GIS are important to the future of this world. Not only can the study of geography help bring people together around the world, but it can also help students understand how they can create a better place to live. I cannot express my gratitude to the GEV department for helping students such as myself expand their knowledge and want to help others.

Caroline Dimich is a Villanova GEV undergraduate alum from 2021. She majored in Environmental Studies and Geography.


Geography and GIS in Urban Environments

How do you use geography/GIS in your work or research?

My name is Kate Homet, and I use GIS everyday in my own thesis work, but also for my classes! I’m in my second year here at GEV in the MS program and my thesis research utilizes GIS and spatial data to create a spatial model to help make the planning of green stormwater infrastructure across Philadelphia more equitable in terms of mapping social, infrastructural, environmental, and maintenance vulnerabilities. To do this, I use social demographic data and display it spatially by census block group, map the location of 10-year, 24-hour design storm flood inundation, utilize city parcel data to map which buildings are susceptible to flooding, and model where stormwater infrastructure maintenance impacts such as litter, leaf litter, and sediment tend to build up across the city.

"A map showing the severity of leaf litter buildup across the city based on data from foliage dropping in the 2018-2019 season in Philadelphia"

"A map showing the severity of litter buildup across the city based on data from the city’s Litter Index for 2018"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Description of map images"

Not only am I using GIS and geography for my research, but I also use it in most of my classes as well! It is such an awesome tool to have in my toolbelt because it can be used for a variety of different purposes and in so many disciplines.

"image of map"

I use it in Remote Sensing with Professor Kelley to interpret satellite imagery, I used it in my Drones course with our GIS whiz Michele Gandy and Professor Strader, to download and analyze drone footage, and I used it in my Wetlands course with Dr. Weston to map marsh sites and sediment accretion. And that is only what I did this semester!

Why is geography/GIS important to the work you do?

The ability to understand the spatial relationships in the world around you is crucial. Whether you’re planning to move to a new city, and you need to know where you can get groceries, or you’re looking for a new hiking path to try, you will always be utilizing some sort of geographic information to navigate through life. The work I’m doing now is adding to my toolbox of GIS skills and spatial modeling, something I hope to bring into my future career modeling flooding and planning for climate change adaptation. If you haven’t already taken a class in GIS, I highly suggest it. Our program may seem difficult at first, or it may come as second nature to you, but having those baseline skills in GIS will come in handy one day, no matter what discipline you’re in.

Kate Homet is a Villanova GEV Masters of Science in Environmental Science (MSES) graduate student. She is working with Dr. Peleg Kremer.


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Cat in the Stax: Why Daylight Saving Time Scares Me

By Ethan Shea

"Closeup shot of a broken clock"

Less than two weeks ago, on Nov. 7, daylight saving time (DST) came to an end as our clocks fell back an hour. Although our mornings are brighter, unfortunately, the sun will set at 4:43 p.m. on the day this blog is published.

As you know from the title of this blog, the business of messing with our clocks just doesn’t sit right with me, so for this week’s “Cat in the Stax,” I’m taking a closer look at the reason I’ll be walking home from class in the dark tonight.

To begin, we need to understand why we started “springing forward” and “falling back” in the first place. It may feel like the way we handle time has always been the same, but surprisingly, the United States did not officially begin practicing DST until 1918. The measure was enacted as a means of preserving energy during World War I. More natural light at night meant less coal being burned to illuminate the nation.

"Observance of daylight saving time by state"

Observance of daylight saving time by state

Stranger still, not every state uses DST. Both Hawaii (HI) and most of Arizona (AZ), aside from the Navajo Nation, have decided to opt out of DST, so they remain in their respective standard time zones throughout the entirety of the year. According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), which oversees time zones in the United States, states are allowed to remove themselves from DST but are not allowed to remain in DST.

There have been several bills put forth by politicians in recent years, each with different ideas of how to manipulate timezones so we can enjoy more daylight without messing up our clocks twice a year. In spite of their efforts, none have come close to being enacted.

To answer the title of this blog, DST is unnerving because it reminds me just how unstable our world is. If something as seemingly immutable as time can shift abruptly, what do we have, if anything, that is stable?

Altogether, the moral of this post is that time isn’t real, so go ahead, show up late to that interview, be tardy for that dentist appointment, or leave your date waiting! Don’t submit to the tyrannical Timekeepers at the DOT!

Jokes aside, I don’t recommend fighting an un-winnable battle against time. Unless you’re one of my dogs, who don’t seem to be phased by DST, we all need some sort of order to our days.

Regardless of how time flows elsewhere, students, staff, and faculty have access to Falvey Memorial Library 24/7 this semester! You can check out more detailed stacks and service desk hours here.


Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a first-year English Graduate Student at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Memorial Library.


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Geo Week: Geography and Communications, GIS for Wildlife Ecology

Geography Awareness WeekRecognizing that young Americans have a gap in their understanding of geography and their roles as global citizens, National Geographic “created Geography Awareness Week to raise awareness to this dangerous deficiency in American education and excite people about geography as both a discipline and as a part of everyday life… Each third week of November, students, families, and community members focus on the importance of geography by hosting events; using lessons, games, and challenges in the classroom; and often meet with policymakers and business leaders.” 

 To celebrate Geography Awareness Week, Falvey Memorial Library and the Department of Geography and the Environment (GEV) invite you to attend this week’s geography-focused events, to check out our list of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) projects below, and to follow along with Falvey’s blogs sharing projects and discussions from GEV’s students. 

GIS Projects 

Today we talk about the links between geography and communications as well as GIS for wildlife ecology.

 


 

Geography & Communications, Closer Than They Appear

 

Geography and communications—at first glance, the two fields seem unrelated. However, since beginning my Communications internship at the nonprofit EcoAgriculture Partners, I realized that these two fields are involved in a mutually beneficial relationship.

Working in communications necessitates understanding the audience’s needs and wants. Consequently, geography plays an integral role in understanding the motivations of your audience. As a communicator, I must consider the location of our global partners and stakeholders. Factoring in global audiences requires an inclusive communication strategy. For instance, even something as simple as providing multiple time zones for an event helps supporters better understand our intent and the information we are providing.

Though I do not directly utilize technical geography or GIS skills in my job, my background in these areas translates well into the responsibilities needed for my current position. Spending my junior and senior years at Villanova learning how to design the perfect map blossomed into a passion for designing communicable graphics. The storytelling skills I built in my geography classes and through the creation of StoryMaps gave me the confidence to write compelling stories about the global work EcoAgriculture does. My geography and GIS classes laid the foundation for skills like attention to detail, creativity, and storytelling, all of which I use every day in my role.

In the course of my internship, I plan to utilize my GIS abilities through developing StoryMaps and maps to communicate the results of future field research projects. I am excited to tell these stories by combining old and new skills. At present, I am working on a long-term project of documenting the history of our organization, which will hopefully allow me the opportunity to illustrate a larger geographical picture of the work EcoAgriculture Partners has done for over two decades.

Geography and GIS, while appearing as specifications, are valuable to a plethora of fields. I am so grateful I took advantage of the opportunity to study these areas in-depth while at Villanova which allowed me to take away such beneficial skills. As a grateful alum, I’m wishing everyone a Happy Geography Awareness Week & GIS Day!

 

Delaina Castillo is a Villanova GEV undergraduate alum from 2021. She majored in Environmental Studies and Art History.

 


 

GIS for Wildlife Ecology

Geography has been a key component of my ecological research, allowing me to analyze data and visualize trends in new ways. In the summer of 2020, I lived at Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge studying species distribution of large mammals living there. I used data from a long-standing camera trap network to analyze how species such as mule deer, elk, oryx, coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions are spread across the refuge and use the available water sources. Geography and GIS made my participation in this project possible and allowed me to perform some cool analyses.

""

The first question I asked was if water visitation varied spatially or temporally based on average precipitation or temperature. To do this, I used the GPS location of all of the camera traps and collected precipitation and temperature data from LANDSAT. With this, I was able to study how different species reacted differently to their environment. All species reacted pretty similarly to precipitation—all visiting perennial water sources more frequently in drier weather. When looking at temperature, however, the different species reacted in the distinct patterns; bobcats, elk, and mule deer all used perennial water sources more at higher temperatures. Coyotes and pumas utilized perennial water sources at similar levels across all temperatures—which makes sense as they gain a lot of their water from predation. Oryx showed distinct peaks at each extreme temperature—likely resulting from their adaptations to extreme aridity from evolving in arid regions of Africa.

""

My final research question was asking what habitat characteristics determined optimal habitat for large mammals on the refuge. For this, I modeled optimal habitat for mountain lions based on methods from previous papers. Using land cover, slope, and ruggedness layers, I was able to create a model for suitable mountain lion habitat. I then compared this model to the camera trap dataset and the sites modeled as good habitat had noticeably more mountain lion occurrences. Finally, I paired the camera trap dataset with fieldwork hiking over the refuge and taking GPS coordinates for tracks and scat of large mammals to carry out a Maxent analysis of species distribution. Geographical analysis enabled me to study ecology on a larger scale, giving me tools to research population-wide trends. Most of the research methods I used for this were methods I learned in my coursework at Villanova, during multiple GIS and remote sensing classes. Geography has given me a research skillset distinct from pure ecologists and biologists—leading to some really cool opportunities like this!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alec Henderson is a senior at Villanova. He is majoring in Environmental Science.


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Geo Week: Geography and Health; Geospatial Analysis; and GIS and Environmental Security

Geography Awareness Week

Recognizing that young Americans have a gap in their understanding of geography and their roles as global citizens, National Geographic “created Geography Awareness Week to raise awareness to this dangerous deficiency in American education and excite people about geography as both a discipline and as a part of everyday life… Each third week of November, students, families, and community members focus on the importance of geography by hosting events; using lessons, games, and challenges in the classroom; and often meet with policymakers and business leaders.” 

 To celebrate Geography Awareness Week, Falvey Memorial Library and the Department of Geography and the Environment (GEV) invite you to attend this week’s geography-focused events, to check out our list of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) projects below, and to follow along with Falvey’s blogs sharing projects and discussions from GEV’s students. 

GIS Projects 

Today we talk about geospatial analysis in the utilities industry, urban geography’s impacts on human health, and how geographic information system (GIS) goes hand-in-hand with environmental security.


 

Geospatial Analysis in the Utilities Industry

Since graduation, I have been working as a Business Analyst in the Consulting division of Primera Engineers. As consultants, we provide a variety of services for our clients, from GIS work to project management, often for gas and electric utility companies.

One of my projects currently underway leverages high-accuracy GPS technology to locate gas utility pipelines with sub-inch accuracy, enabling our team to revise historical sketches in GIS and collect data detailing the pipeline materials, assets, and locations. This information is vital to preventing pipeline damages during construction, and improves the utility’s ability to find, repair, and replace its pipelines.

Another of my primary projects is reviewing and revising the emergency response plan for one of our gas and electric utility clients. Responding to a gas event incorporates core geographical questions, such as where, when, why, and how the emergency occurs. In the emergency response plan, my team accounted for severity, event type, procedures, notifications, and other factors while simultaneously streamlining the plan. The process of developing a clear and efficient response plan often utilized the skills I developed through my geography classes, where my course work often focused on connecting diverse details through time and place.

One of the most geographically applicable events is storm response.  Mid-Atlantic gas and electric utilities exist at the nexus of two storm systems, where tropical storms from the Gulf Stream and Canadian Nor’Easters can deliver intense rain and snowstorms. Preparing for a storm emergency in the Mid-Atlantic is innately geographical, as it hinges upon utilities’ locality and how weather patterns impact the area they service. Storm response begins before the storm arrives, with gas and electric utility companies conducting pre-planning meetings to prepare for landfall. In a changing climate environment that forebodes more frequent and intense storm systems, a timely and effective emergency response plan is vital  — enabling utility companies to prepare for climate events and better service their customers.

These projects are only two examples of the work I do at Primera. I have had the opportunity to work on a variety of projects that tap into my geographical skills. I particularly enjoy observing how different projects connect with each other through common goals, regulations, best practices, and more. At work, I often find that I am thinking holistically, a skill that I honed studying geography. I connect my work across utilities, technologies, processes, communications and more, working with my team to advance our clients’ goals.

 

Annelise Laughlin is a Villanova GEV undergraduate alum from 2021. She majored in Geography and Communication and was a 2021 Falvey Scholar.


 

Urban Geography Impacts Human Health

At present, just over half of the world’s population lives in cities; by 2050, two out of three people will call a city their home. As urban populations grow at a rapid pace, it becomes increasingly important to consider air quality and the impact that it has on human health. Though great strides have been made in recent years to ensure that people have access to clean air, air quality management can still be quite difficult in cities. After all, cities are very complex environments; many potential sources of air pollution exist (traffic, industry, and energy production just to name a few…), and the impact of each of these sources can change depending on the time of day and where they’re located in the urban environment. In order to effectively address air quality issues worldwide, we need to know when – and where – air pollution poses the greatest risk to people.

Where in the city does air pollution pose the greatest threat to human health, and what can we do about it?

To this end, I have been conducting research in Philadelphia in conjunction with Drs. Peleg Kremer and Kabindra Shakya to find where and when concentrations of air pollutants – specifically, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) – are highest. Using a van equipped with GPS and air pollution monitors, we drove more than 300 miles throughout Philadelphia and collected over 400,000 data points to gain a deeper understanding of PM2.5 concentrations than is possible with conventional monitoring methods.

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Gearing up for the first of many drives in Philadelphia!

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Through our mobile monitoring campaign, we found that the highest PM2.5­ concentrations were measured in the North Delaware and River Wards planning zones. However, knowing where these concentrations are highest is only half the battle; we also need to consider why concentrations are elevated in these areas. With high resolution land cover raster data combined with parcel data from the City of Philadelphia, we were able to lend essential spatial context to our air pollution data. Ultimately, we found distinct relationships between particulate matter concentrations and specific urban structure patterns. By identifying urban structure patterns that could potentially contribute to higher levels of particulate matter pollution, we can help city planners and officials make more effective policy and design choices to improve air quality as cities like Philadelphia continue to grow and develop worldwide.

If you would like to learn more about air pollution in Philadelphia and how the urban environment can influence air quality, feel free to check out my research articles, Mobile Monitoring of Air Pollution Reveals Spatial and Temproal Variation in an Urban Landscape and Predicting citywide distribution of air pollution using mobile monitoring and three-dimensional urban structure!

 

Lucas Cummings is a Villanova GEV Masters of Science in Environmental Science (MSES) alum from 2021.


 

GIS Goes Hand-in-Hand with Environmental Security

My name is Justin Weber, and I am a second-year master’s student here in GEV. I am currently finishing up my program and am preparing to defend my thesis in November 2021. GIS and geography are central to my research. My research is based in environmental security, a field that examines how climatic and environmental factors influence the development, outbreak, and resolution of both peaceful and violent conflicts across the world. Environmental security lends itself to inter-disciplinary collaboration, connecting subjects like political geography, ethnography, remote sensing, and physical geography. Tabular records, interviews, climatic data, and other data can all be integrated to examine the relationship between environment and conflict. In my thesis, I explored the relationship between land quality and violent conflicts between farmers and herders in Nigeria. These conflicts pose a grave human and economic risk to many people in Africa’s largest and fastest growing country. My goals were to examine if, and to what extent, changing climate influenced the development of conflicts.

Within this project, I operated almost exclusively in ArcGIS Pro with a variety of different data types and datasets. Land quality data were created from remotely sensed vegetation and precipitation data. GIS was immensely valuable because it allows analysts to take news reports of conflicts and geolocate them for analysis. Conflict data were integrated from three independent data sets and combined into a single, ArcGIS feature class, which was easy to analyze using spatial tools in ArcGIS. I then used GIS tools to combine land quality variables with conflict events. From this synthesis of data, I examined previously unknown spatial and temporal patterns. Hopefully, my research can be used by other researchers and policy makers to better protect at risk populations across Africa.

None of the spatial or temporal analysis I conducted during this research would be possible without GIS (at least in a reasonable amount of time!). Thanks to previously developed scripts, tools, and software like ArcGIS and others, I was able to sort through and analyze thousands of conflicts. Additionally, I could examine large geographic areas and integrate twenty years of vegetation and rainfall data into my analyses. Modern GIS allows me and other researchers to explore spatial problems from an analytical framework and at a scale that we have never had before. Additionally, many GIS offer users the ability to create their own tools and programs that integrate into the software. The computing power, flexibility, and analytical value of GIS make them useful for a multitude of academic disciplines.

Map showing All conflicts and resulting deaths from April 2000 to March 2020 within the Middle Belt of Nigeria.

All conflicts and resulting deaths from April 2000 to March 2020 within the Middle Belt of Nigeria.

 

Justin Weber is a Villanova GEV Masters of Science in Environmental Science (MSES) graduate student. He is working with Professor Frank Galgano, PhD.


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Last Modified: November 16, 2021