Savannah Sanford talks to a conference attendee about her research poster at the AAG conference in Boston

Clark geography students present research at AAG conference; faculty honored by alumni, peers

April 21, 2017

Twenty-one undergraduates and seven master’s degree students from Clark University Geography presented posters at the American Association of Geographers’ (AAG) annual meeting April 5-9 in Boston, and for many, the chance to explain research to peers and faculty from across the world marked a step into new territory.

“This is my first time at AAG. It’s interesting that I’m presenting on the same level as students who are younger than me, as well as students and professors who are older than me, and that’s something to be proud of,” Savannah Sanford ’17 said during the event. Sanford  (pictured above), an environmental science major on the earth systems science track, presented a poster on “Mapping Juvenile Tree Vulnerability to Environmental Phenomena with Climate Change in Worcester, Massachusetts.”

“It’s great that at Clark, you can accomplish these sorts of things and use it in a job application or for future research,” added Sanford, who is headed into Clark’s fifth-year program in geographic information science (GIS).

Sanford worked on the year-long project, part of Clark’s HERO (Human-Environment Regional Observatory) program, with four other undergraduates – environmental science majors Tyler Anderson ’18 and Eli Simonson ’17 and geography majors Emma Freud ’17 and Rishi Singh ’17.

Saira Khan
Saira Khan '17

Last summer, the HERO students collected data on a sampling of 30,000 trees planted by the Worcester Tree Initiative and the Department of Conservation and Recreation to replace those removed to eradicate the Asian longhorned beetle, as well as interview residents who received replacement trees. They were mentored by two doctoral students in geography, Arthur Elmes and Zhiwen Zhu, as well as Professor Deborah Martin and Associate Professor John Rogan, who oversee the HERO program in the Graduate School of Geography.

Also at the AAG conference on April 7 was Saira Khan ’17, a double major in geography and international development and social change. She presented a poster on “Mapping Overlap Between Extractive Industries, Agriculture and Indigenous Communities: A Case Study of the San Andrés Mine in Copán, Honduras.” Khan worked on the project with Rogan; Anthony Bebbington, M.A.’88, Ph.D.’90, director of the Graduate School of Geography and Milton P. and Alice C. Higgins Professor of Environment and Society; and geography doctoral student Benjamin Fash.

“I’m very interested in displacement of people, refugees, and human-land conflict. It’s been an interesting project to join, and Clark has many resources. The professors have so much knowledge about the subject, and I’ve always had a lot of support from people who have worked on this project for years and years,” said Khan, who also plans to enter the fifth-year GIS program.

Richard Peet
J. Richard Peet


Dianne Rocheleau

Every year, Clark geography faculty sponsor undergraduate and fifth-year graduate students whose research culminates in poster presentations at the annual AAG conference, held this year in Hynes Convention Center and neighboring hotels.

“The students’ poster sessions and attendance at the conference are made possible by alumni gifts to the department, as well as by an immense amount of faculty mentoring,” Bebbington said. “Their participation in the conference is a testament to the quality and ambition of our students.”

The AAG conference also provides an opportunity for the alumni of Clark’s top-rated doctoral program in geography to reconnect with each other and the faculty. In particular, two sessions on “50 Years of Radical Geography at Clark” on April 5 honored Professor J. Richard Peet and his 50 years of service at Clark, with presentations by geography graduates from across the decades. And on April 7, three sessions honoring Professor Dianne Rocheleau drew a number of alumni. Rocheleau, who has served on the geography faculty at Clark since 1989, is retiring this spring.

Undergraduates present posters at AAG conference


Spring Pillsbury '17

Besides Khan and Sanford, the other undergraduate students presenting posters throughout the five days included:

  • Oyut Amarjargal ’17, “Spatial-Econometric Relationship Between Urbanization and Economic Development in Mongolia”; she also presented her work as part of an honors thesis in economics, where her adviser is Professor Wayne Gray.
  • Claire Bayler ’17, “Degrowth Lessons from Cuba and Agroecology”; sponsor, Dianne Rocheleau.
  • Gabe Epstein ’17, “Creating Social and Environmental Uplift: Examining the Feasibility and Effects of Renewable Energies for Affordable Housing in Worcester, Massachusetts”; sponsor, Mark Davidson, associate professor of geography.
  • Shirin Esmaeili ’17, “Monitoring and Forecasting Shifting Climate and Land Change Impacts in Perú’s Parque de la Papa for Enhanced Agricultural Management.”
  • Ali Filipovic ’17, “Modeling the Hydrological Ecosystem Services of Juvenile Trees in Worcester, Massachusetts”; sponsor, John Rogan.
  • Saraneh Fitzgerald ’17, “Understanding Coastal Marine Debris Through Participatory Geographic Information Systems”; sponsor, Timothy Hawthorne, assistant professor of geographic information systems, University of Central Florida.
  • Emma Freud ’17, “Socio-Spatial (In)equity of Urban Tree Canopy: Implications for Urban and Community Forestry in Worcester, Massachusetts”; sponsors, John Rogan and Deborah Martin.
  • Will Heikes ’17, “Twitter, GIS and Disasters: An Exploration of the Role of Social Media in the 2016 Louisiana Flooding”; sponsor, Yuko Aoyama, professor of geography.
  • Madilyn Jacobsen ’17, "The Impact of Public Transportation on the Lives of Youth in Worcester, Massachusetts”; sponsor, Deborah Martin.
  • Anthony Jreije ’18, "Politics of Gentrification in Beirut”; sponsor, Mark Davidson.
  • Katie Luczai ’17, “The Geography of Cranberries in Massachusetts: An Exploration into the Politics, Culture and Ecology of an Endangered Industry”; sponsor, Dianne Rocheleau.
  • David O'Brien ’17, “GIS Validation for Reduce Emissions due to Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) projects”; sponsor, Robert Gilmore “Gil” Pontius, Jr., professor and associate director of the Graduate School of Geography.
    Daniela Reyes Saade presents at AAG
    Daniela Reyes Saade '17

  • Spring Pillsbury ’17, “Shallow Drinking-Water Aquifer Suitability in Holliston, Massachusetts”; sponsors, Christopher A. Williams, associate professor of geography, and Timothy Downs, associate professor of environmental science and policy.
  • Daniela Reyes Saade ’17, “A Temporal and Spatial Analysis of Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika Viruses in El Salvador”; sponsor, Florencia Sangermano, M.A.’08, Ph.D.’09, research assistant professor with Clark Labs and visiting assistant professor of geography.
  • Carly Robbins ’17, “Verification of the Sedimeter as a Turbidity, Erosion and Scour Sensor”; sponsor, Christopher A. Williams.
  • Eli Simonson ’17, “Prioritizing Tree-Planting Locations in Worcester, Massachusetts”; sponsors, John Rogan and Deborah Martin.
  • Rishi Singh ’17, “Modeling Ecosystem Services of Juvenile Trees in Massachusetts Using i-Tree Eco”; sponsors, John Rogan and Deborah Martin.
  • Tom Smith ’17, “Analysis of Trends in Global Vegetation Productivity from 1982 to 2015 Using NDVI Products from the AVHRR and MODIS Instruments”; sponsor, J. Ronald Eastman, professor of geography and director of Clark Labs. 
  • Charis Smuthkochorn ’18, “A Multi-dimensional Analysis of Wealth Inequality in Thailand”; sponsor, Yuko Aoyama.

Fifth-year GIS students at AAG


Kimberly Johnson '16

The fifth-year GIS program students presenting posters included:

  • Savannah Cooley ’16, M.S.’17, “Using Simulated ECOSTRESS Level 3 Evapotranspiration Data to Assess the Impact of Drought and Evaluate Potential Improvements to Agricultural Water Management in Guanacaste, Costa Rica”; sponsor, Christopher A. Williams.
  • Yuka Fuchino ’16, M.S.’17, “Mapping Landscape Connectivity for African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) Movement in the Tarangire-Manyara, Tanzania, Using Circuit Theory Modelling”; sponsor, John Rogan.
  • Kimberly Johnson ’16, M.S.’17, “Mapping the Linkage Between Extractive Industries and Forest Loss in Indonesia”; sponsor, John Rogan.
  • Katherine Landesman ’16, M.S.’17, “Vulnerability of Conversion from Mangrove Forests to Aquaculture in Myanmar”; sponsor, J. Ronald Eastman.
  • Hannah Rosenblum ’16, M.S.’17, “Utilizing NASA Earth Observations to Create a Precipitation Climatology of Jordan, Israel, and the West Bank to Identify Optimal Rainwater Harvesting Locations for Underserved Schools”; sponsor, John Rogan.
  • Warren Scott ’16, M.S.’17, “Regional-Scale Winds and Storminess as Drivers of Sea Ice Variability in Polynyas of the Pacific Arctic Region”; sponsor, Karen Frey, associate professor of geography.
  • Chung Truong ’16, M.S.’17, “Improved Calibration of the Near Real-Time Forest Loss Detection System in Vietnam Using Sentinel and Landsat Satellite Imagery”; sponsor, John Rogan. 
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