Welcome to the Northern Illinois University Department of Geography blog pages! Refer to these pages to stay abreast of past, present and planned activities within our Department. For more detailed information concerning our history, degree programs and faculty, please visit the NIU Department of Geography website.

Friday, October 30, 2009

NIU Geography Students Present Research, Win Award at ILGISA Conference

NIU Geography seniors, Michaela Friedrichova and John Trishcan presented their research at the Illinois GIS Association (ILGISA) fall conference held at NIU's Naperville campus on October 6.

The title of Michaela's presentation was Creating a Customized Google Map: A Case Study of Tai Toponyms in Southern China and Thailand. She used ArcMap2GMap to convert shapefiles of Tai toponyms to a Google Map format with built-in JavaScript, which can be fully customized to show multiple visible layers in Tai and Chinese fonts. The custom Google Map--available at http://www.niu.edu/landform/taiplacenames.html--can be used to visualize and explore the spatial distribution of Tai toponyms and their relationship with the physical environment.

Google Map created by Michaela Friedrichova and Dr. Wei Luo, Northern Illinois University, 2009

John's presentation concerned Estimating the Volume of Excavation of Martian Valley Networks. He used Black Top Hat transformation, an image processing technique, to extract valley depth from Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) data and estimated the volume of selected valley networks on Mars. Valley networks are river-like features on Mars that may contain important information about past climate and water on Mars. Estimating their volume can help determine the amount water needed to form them and the rate of erosion.

This was the first professional presentation for both Michaela and John and they learned a lot from this experience. They both have been working with Dr. Wei Luo since this summer.

Melissa Burlingame, an NIU Geography graduate student, won ILGISA's People's Choice Award for her the poster she presented, entitled, Evaluating Land Cover Changes Over Time.

Map created by Melissa Burlingame

Melissa's research examines how county-wide assessment of natural resource management policies may be improved with access to readily-available data and easily-interpretable measures. Kane County, Illinois was chosen as the study area due, in part, to its rapid urban development over the past decade. Publicly available land cover data from the US Department of Agriculture (National Agriculture Statistics Service –NASS) were used together with FRAGSTATS, a landscape ecology freeware package, to examine land cover changes and evaluate the degree to which these analyses may inform conservation policy decisions. Melissa's preliminary findings suggest that Kane County has made progress toward conserving forest, wetland, and pasture land over the study period.

Congratulations NIU Geography students on your impressive work!

Post contributed by Dr. Wei Luo and C. Scott Smith

Sunday, October 25, 2009

NIU Geography Soil Judging Team Advances to National Competition

Observation is often the first step toward understanding in science. For student members of NIU's Soil Judging Team, observation is also the key to determining the nature of a soil, how it formed, what types of vegetation it can support, how well it drains, and its ability to safely bear homes, buildings, and roads.

Individual Soil Judging (left) and Team Soil Judging (right)

For the third year in a row, a team of students from Northern Illinois University competed in soil judging against teams from universities in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan and, for the second year in a row, NIU's soil judging team demonstrated their outstanding skills in observation and interpretation. NIU's team of TJ Abell, Clint Bailey, Aaron Browning, Paul Gruca, Amber Singer, and Norman Yackle placed second overall in the Region 3 Soil Judging contest held in early October near West Lafayette, Indiana. Two of the team's members medaled in the individual competition, with Aaron Browning placing second and Clint Bailey placing fifth. This year's Region 3 Collegiate Soils Contest was hosted by Purdue University and the Indiana Association of Professional Soil Classifiers. By virtue of its second place score, NIU's Soil Judging Team is eligible to compete in the 50th Anniversary National Collegiate Soils Competition to be held in Lubbock, Texas in March 2010. Congratulations!

NIU's Soil Judging Team: TJ Abell, Clint Bailey, Aaron Browning, Paul Gruca, Amber Singer, Norman Yackle and Alicia Lisowski

The NIU Soil Judging Team is coached by Dr. Mike Konen, Associate Professor of Geography, and Alicia Lisowski, MS-candidate in Geography.

Post contributed by Dr. Andrew Krmenec