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.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Spring 2010 NIU Geography Colloquium Schedule

Most Fridays between 3 and 4 pm, the Department of Geography hosts a colloquium in Davis Hall, Room 121. The colloquia provide a comfortable setting for innovative researchers both internal and external to NIU to share their work with NIU faculty, graduate students and the broader public. Critical and constructive discussion is encouraged in these settings. Listed below is the colloquium schedule for Spring 2010.
  • January 22: Dr. Michael Konen and Dr. Brandon Curry (Northern Illinois University)
  • January 29: "Finding Food in Metropolitan Chicago: Food Access, Food Justice, and Community Development" by Dr. Daniel Block (Chicago State University)
  • February 19: "Recording Insect Outbreaks with Tree Rings: Lessons from Cicadas and Pandora Moth" by Dr. James Speer (Indiana State University)
  • February 26: "Is there a choice to stay? The Global Ethics of Health Worker Migration." by Dr. Robert Huish (Dalhousie University)
  • March 5: "Climate Change Impact Assessments: Moving from the Local to the Global" by Dr. Julie Winkler (Michigan State University)
  • March 26: "Metabolism, Mortality, and Geography" by Dr. James Wilson (Northern Illinois University)
  • April 9, April 23 and April 28: Graduate Student Presentations (To be announced)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Research by NIU Geography Professor Supports Martian Ocean Hypothesis

A recent study by NIU Geographer Wei Luo and Tomasz Stepinski (Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, TX) uses an innovative computer program to produce a more detailed global map of the valley networks on Mars based on topographic data. The findings, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research Planets (Luo and Stepinski, 2009), suggest that Martian networks are more than twice as extensive (2.3 times longer in total length) as had been previously depicted.

Mars valley network

Further, regions that are most densely dissected by the valley networks roughly form a belt around the planet between the equator and mid-southern latitudes, consistent with a past climate scenario that included precipitation and the presence of an ocean covering a large portion of Mars’ northern hemisphere. Scientists have previously hypothesized that a single ocean existed on ancient Mars, but the issue has been hotly debated. Luo states, “all the evidence gathered by analyzing the valley network on the new map points to a particular climate scenario on early Mars that would have included rainfall and the existence of an ocean covering most of the northern hemisphere, or about one-third of the planet’s surface.”

Mars ocean

The research was funded in part by NASA's Mars Data Analysis Program. Together with Stepinski, Luo developed a global GIS database of drainage patterns on Mars. The database takes advantage of significant advances in machine cartography and consists of high resolution maps of Martian topography. The GIS database is a significant update to the only available global map of valley networks that was constructed in 1990s using Viking-era images. The Martian maps and a conversation with Dr. Luo is available via NIU's YouTube page.