Faculty and Staff News


SETH APPIAH-OPOKU has just entered my 18th year at The University of Alabama. Significant milestones were recorded this past year. In the area of service, he served as the College of Arts and Sciences’ Ombudsperson assisting faculty in finding equitable, just, and timely resolutions to contentious administrative issues. Seth continued to serve on the editorial board of three international journals – Environmental Impact Assessment Review, African Geographical Review, and the Environment and Social Psychology Journal. He also served as an external reviewer for the planning program at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST). It is interesting to note that one of his former graduate students at UA, Dr. Eric Yankson, now teaches at the NUST. Outside the university community, Seth served as a resource person to both the Tuscaloosa Housing Authority and the City of Tuscaloosa Sister-Cities International.

In the area of research, Seth worked with the Alabama Transportation Institute on an exploratory research funding proposal submitted to the Volvo Research and Education Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden. The goal of the proposed research is to analyze the combined effects of transport and urban morphology on public health in two African cities. Collaborators on this proposal are from the Namibia University of Science and Technology and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana. In addition, two articles he co-authored with his graduate students were published in the Journal of Urban Planning & Development and the Journal of African Geographical Review respectively. In addition, he completed another edited book that was recently published in London, UK, by the IntechOpen. The book is titled Land Use Change and Sustainability.

Finally, Seth worked with his graduate student, Judith Oppong, to complete her research and thesis on the “Feasibility Study of Bike Sharing program on the University of Alabama Campus.” Judith is currently a Ph.D. student in Urban Planning at Jackson State University, Jackson, Mississippi.

In the area of teaching, Seth continued to teach Land Use Regulation, Geography of Africa, and World Regional Geography. Finally, he directed and continues to direct the thesis work of three talented graduate students in the areas of international e-waste dumping, campus infrastructure gaps, and low-income housing preferences respectively.


BENNETT BEARDEN’s legal, political, and negotiating experiences have placed him squarely in the center of one of Alabama’s most important natural resources issues: water policy. Bennett is the former founding Director (2013-2018) of the Water Policy and Law Institute at The University of Alabama and is currently an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Geography. In April 2012, the Governor appointed Bennett chair of the Alabama Water Agencies Working Group (AWAWG), the task force charged with developing policy options and recommendations for a comprehensive state water management plan. As chair from 2012-2013, he provided the AWAWG with constructive resolution of emerging challenges at the intersection of water policy and law, emphasizing data-driven policymaking, strategic counseling, water diplomacy, water conflict mediation, crisis management, creative dispute resolution, and enhanced relations with stakeholders and community groups.

Bennett served as Special Counsel to the Governor on Water Law and Policy from 2013-2017. He received his B.S. (geography, 1980), B.S. in Geology (1981), and M.S. (geology, 1984) degrees from The University of Alabama. He received his Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree (1992) from Birmingham School of Law (ranked no. one academically in his class) and his Master of Laws (L.L.M.) degree in Commercial and Corporate Law (with honors, 2006) from the University of London. Bennett also has a post-graduate Certificate in Watershed Management from the University of British Columbia. In 2011, he earned his doctorate (J.S.D. degree, legal education’s counterpart to the Ph.D.) in water law and policy at McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific, in Sacramento, California, where he was the recipient of the 2008 Slater International Water Law Award. Bennett is a member of the Alabama State Bar, the Washington, D.C. Bar, and is admitted to the Roll of Solicitors in England and Wales. He is a member of the American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources (SEER) Water Resources Committee, the Alabama Section of the American Water Resources Association (AWRA), the Organizing Committee of the Annual Alabama Water Resources Conference (Conference Chair in 2020) and the International Water Association (IWA), and a former member of the Executive Committee of the Environmental Section of the Alabama State Bar. He is the co-author and co-editor of a lending national casebook on water law and policy, Cases and Materials on Water Law, now in its 10th edition, published by West Legal Publishing Co. in 2020.

In 2018 Bennett completed a book on water policy and law in Southeast Asia, entitled Following the Proper Channels: Tributaries in the Mekong Legal Regime (published in the Brill International Water Law series of BRILL/NIJHOFF) in which he offers in-depth policy and legal analyses of the marginalization of tributaries in the context of the 1995 Agreement on the Cooperation for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin, law of international watercourses, hydrosovereignty, and the national economic development interests of the Mekong riparians.

He is the Associate Editor of Water Policy, the official journal of the World Water Council and leading publication in the field of water policy. In 2014, Bennett received the Governor’s Award-Certificate of Recognition for advancing water policy in Alabama. In 2017, he received the E. Roger Sayers Distinguished Service Award from the President’s Council of The University of Alabama for his work in advancing water policy and law in Alabama. Bennett teaches Water Resources Management, Law and Policy, Public Policy Development in Water Resources, and Water Diplomacy. He is currently developing a course in Interstate Water Conflict. He is the author/co-author of over 100 publications and four books.


SAGY COHEN, Associate Professor, Surface Dynamics Modeling Lab: Another productive year at the SDML with five journal publications at Environmental Research Letters, Global and Planetary Change, Journal of the American Water Resources Association, and two at Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci. SDML members presented or co-authored over 10 conference papers at multiple conferences including AGU, Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System (CSDMS), and Alabama Water Resources Conference. SDML was awarded or collaborated on three grants by CUAHSI/NOAA, UCAR, and EPA.

Nishani Moragoda and Afrin Anni defended their MS thesis last summer. Both submitted a manuscript for publication based on their thesis work. Afrin’s paper, ‘Sensitivity of Urban Flood Simulations to Stormwater Infrastructure and Soil Infiltration’ is currently under review at the Journal of Hydrology. Nishani’s paper, ‘Climate-induced Trends in Global Riverine Water Discharge and Suspended Sediment Dynamics in the 21st Century’, is currently after review at Global and Planetary Change. Nishani transitioned to a Ph.D. candidacy in the fall. Her dissertation research focuses on the effect of anthropogenic activities on global sediment flux. Dinuke Munasinghe continues his Ph.D. candidacy on morphological changes in large river deltas. He plans to submit two manuscripts to leading journals this summer. Austin Raney is in the 2nd year of his MS candidacy, focusing on channel geometry analysis. He is also expected to submit a manuscript for publication in the summer.

SDML hosted four undergraduate research assistants this year: Anuska Narayanan, working on soil moisture analysis; Henry Pitts, working on stream gage data extractions; Laney Brager, working on Google Earth Engine analysis of river width; and Ben Hand who worked on remote sensing of land use in river deltas. Anuska will start her MS candidacy in the fall, focusing on the effect of forest fires on fluvial sediment fluxes.


KEVIN M. CURTIN is a Professor of Geography and Director of the Laboratory for Location Science at The University of Alabama. Dr. Curtin received his Ph.D. in Geography from the University of California-Santa Barbara, with a dual focus on GIS and optimal facilities location. He performs primary research in the field of Geographic Information Science with specializations in location science, transportation and logistics, urban resource allocation, spatial statistics, and network GIS. Application areas for his research include autonomous vehicle logistics, transportation geography, crime studies, health and nutrition, and geospatial intelligence, and he teaches extensively at both the undergraduate and graduate university levels.


LISA DAVIS This past academic year Lisa worked on paleoflood research funded by the Tennessee Valley Authority. She and Ph.D. student, Rachel Lombardi, have an article currently in press in The Holocene about how rivers across the eastern U.S. responded to changing conditions during the Holocene. Lisa was honored to be an expert panelist at a workshop held in May 2019 by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and a contributor to the development of a report on paleoflood analyses for flood frequency studies being developed by the USGS. She also gave two invited presentations – one during the AGU fall meeting in San Francisco, CA, titled “Characterizing extreme floods on the Tennessee River (USA)” and the other at the annual meeting of the National Council on Science and the Environment meeting held in Washington, D.C. in October, titled “Big decisions, little data: assessing extreme flood risk on the Tennessee River.” Lisa was interviewed about her Tennessee River paleoflood research by local media outlets (WHNT – Huntsville) and featured on TVA’s news page. She was also interviewed, and her research was featured on Climate Connections, a radio, and web-program of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. The GY 207, Austria Field Course in Water and Climate had another awesome trip to central Europe with over 30 students participating in the 2019 course.


EMILY ELLIOTT is a research scientist and instructor at the University of Alabama in the Departments of Geography and Geological Sciences.  Her research focuses on the establishment of paleo-records to better understand hydroclimatic variation and coastal geomorphic change. Utilizing principles of sedimentology, paleotempestology, geochemistry, geomorphology, geochronology, and dendrochronology Elliott works to establish long term, high-resolution records, which can be used to elucidate hydrologic variation, storm frequency/magnitude, geomorphic and ecological change.


KRYSTAL FEIGLE is going into her fourth year as the department’s administrative secretary and her 14th year overall at The University of Alabama. As the departmental manager, she is the primary source for information regarding budgets and payroll, a resource for student financial information, and any other duties that she may be called upon to complete. She has three adult children and one grandchild. Krystal enjoys the outdoors, the beach, reading, and spending time with her family.


APRIL FRAKE is a Medical Geographer whose research examines multi-scalar impacts of global climate and environmental change on infectious disease vector distributions and vector-borne disease ecology. She is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher with the Department of Geography at the University of Alabama and an Adjunct Research Associate with Michigan State University’s Center for Global Change and Earth Observation. April’s research is regionally focused in East and Southern Africa, but she enjoys producing research that is generalizable across geographies.

April’s current research projects include:

  • Investigating the role of irrigation water management on Anopheles larval abundances in a smallholder irrigation scheme in Malawi
  • Demonstrating that proximity of human residence to irrigation is a significant determinant of malaria risk in agro-ecosystems in Malawi
  • Developing an open-source, agile habitat suitability model for malaria disease vectors in Google Earth Engine
  • Analyzing linkages between habitat suitability for Anopheles gambiae s.s. mosquitoes and childhood malaria
  • Investigating mosquito population dynamics and the geography of isolated, vector-borne disease agents in Everglades National Park

Overall, April’s research agenda is guided by two major themes: (1) Spatio-temporal patterns of disease driven by global climate and land-use changes; and (2) Leveraging big data and remote sensing for public health.

When she’s not working, you’re likely to find April building with Legos, playing in sandboxes, or racing hot wheels with her two boys, Ezra (4) and Levi (2). Her Husband, Adam is an accomplished homebrewer and together they enjoy coming up with new recipes to brew, traveling to new breweries and meeting their brewers, and learning more about the geography of craft brewing in the United States and abroad. Together, April and Adam have visited more than 100 breweries and are always looking to add more to their list. Cheers!


CADI FUNG joined the Department of Geography in August 2019 as a postdoctoral researcher for Dean Messina after completing her Ph.D. at Michigan State University. Her research focuses primarily on human-wildlife conflict, particularly among the Amazon river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis), subsistence fishers, and tourism operators in the central Brazilian Amazon. She is currently preparing four manuscripts for publication pertaining to (1) socioeconomic factors that underpin perceptions of, and attitudes towards, Inia geoffrensis among fishers and tourism operators; (2) potential spatial and temporal hotspots of conflict between humans and Inia geoffrensis on the Lower Rio Negro outside of Manaus, Amazonas; and (3) the role of legislation and environmental policy on river dolphin vulnerability in both subsistence fishing and wildlife tourism industries.

More recently, she has begun work as a researcher on a NASA-funded project (Co-PIs Dr. Joseph Messina, UA, and Dr. Peilei Fan, MSU) on urbanization, land transition, and environmental change in Southeast Asia. Fieldwork was to have commenced this summer but has been postponed until 2021.

Prior to her Ph.D. studies, Cadi worked as an animal trainer and performer in Clearwater and Tampa, FL, and later studied Buddhism at a Thai Forest Tradition Buddhist monastery in Southern California. In her spare time, she enjoys figure skating and is a member of Magic City Theatre on Ice in Pelham, AL.


LUOHENG HAN continued his administrative role as associate provost for academic affairs this past year.  He enjoyed working on academic programs and policy-related matters.  This past year marks his 25th year of service at the Capstone.  He is looking forward to continuing his service and contribution to make the University of Alabama a better place.


JUSTIN HART is Professor, Director of the Environmental Science Program, Director of Graduate Studies, and GIS brochure Fall 2019 Director of the Forest Dynamics Lab (FDL). The primary mission of the FDL is to provide science-based solutions to pressing forest management issues. We accomplish this goal through applied research, outreach with an emphasis on practitioners, and professional and civic service efforts. Current research in the lab is largely focused on developing silvicultural prescriptions patterned after natural disturbance processes to improve forest resiliency to disturbance. Currently, the lab supports five graduate students and three undergraduate technicians.


ANDRIES HEYNS joined the Laboratory for Location Science in September 2018.  His current research focus is on the optimization of tower site selection for camera-based wildfire detection systems. His research has already been implemented for the selection of a number of tower sites in South Africa and his work has been selected as a finalist for the International Federation of Operations Research Societies’ triennial award for Operation Research in Development 2020. He has recently completed a surveillance optimization project for the Rhino Pride Foundation in South Africa, as well as the optimization of rural roads planning in Nepal, a project with the World Bank – publications on all these topics are forthcoming. In his spare time, he stays home and maintains a 6-foot buffer between himself and other humans.


STEPHANIE HOLCOMB is completing her first year as the environmental science program administrative secretary and her 17th year overall at The University of Alabama. As the environmental science program source for information, she assists Dr. Justin Hart with undergraduate advising and student records. She has an Associate’s degree in applied science (office administration) from Bevill State Community College, a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and political science from The University of Alabama, a Master of Arts degree in higher education administration from The University of Alabama, and completed all required doctorate classes for organizational leadership in higher education with Grand Canyon University.


DAVID KEELLINGS has had another busy year! David continues to teach weather and climate-related courses to both undergraduates and graduates. He has been active across campus in his advisory role for Club Geography and Environmental Council student organizations and was an invited speaker at the Tuscaloosa Global Climate Strike organized on the UA campus.  Dr. Keellings has published two papers so far, this academic year and has three more under review. He is currently working on numerous research projects including the relationship between climate and forest fires around the globe and changes in heatwave severity and spatial extent over the US. Last summer he received a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation for $340,528 to fund his heatwave research.  David’s heatwave research was also highlighted in the national press including NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox News.  He also gave invited talks on heatwaves and health to local groups including the Tuscaloosa Kiwanis International Club and the Tuscaloosa YMCA.


MATTHEW LAFEVOR is in his fourth year as Assistant Professor. Over the summer he worked in Mexico, Guatemala, and Israel on hillslope agriculture and runoff management. He recently was awarded a grant for a new project with la Universidad de las Americas-Puebla, Mexico although recent travel restrictions have put the grant on hold until next year. LaFevor continues to publish work on agriculture and conservation in Latin America and recently finished his second year directing the Costa Rica study abroad program, as well as the thesis of our first graduate of the Accelerated Master’s Program (AMP). He was also nominated by the Department to become an A&S Distinguished Teaching Fellow.


HONGXING LIU is a professor in the Department of Geography and the director of the Environmental Remote Sensing Laboratory (ERSL). He has published over 100 peer-reviewed papers in various academic journals and received a number of prestigious awards, including two NASA Group Achievement Awards, John Davidson President’s Award for Practical Papers from the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS), the Best Paper Award from Computers & Geoscience, and Editor’s Choice Award from Water Resources Research.

The expertise of his research lab includes remote sensing, inland water quality, eco-hydrology, polar and cryosphere studies, coastal geomorphology, and natural hazards. His research group has extensive experience in processing and analyzing hyperspectral, LiDAR, synthetic aperture radar (SAR), passive microwave, and radar and laser altimetry data. In the past decade, various innovative techniques, algorithms, and software tools have been developed to handle remote sensing and GIS data for a wide range of geoscience studies and practical applications. Those include object-oriented image analysis, image-matching based ice flow analysis, spatio-temporal data assimilation, multi-scale spatial representation, linear feature extraction, localized inversion models, and multi-predictor ensemble models, with a U.S. Invention Patent (U.S. Patent No. 10096154).

The research projects of his lab have been funded by NASA, NSF, NOAA Sea Grant Program, USGS, USACE, NOPP, and other state and private funding agencies. The ongoing research projects include water quality remote sensing of inland lakes and rivers, CubeSat constellation for bathymetry and water quality, and polar ice dynamics. The ERSL is collaborating with NSF NEON program and UA biogeochemistry research group to investigate the drivers (i.e., climate change, land use, invasive species) and responses (ecohydrology, biogeochemistry, biodiversity) of aquatic ecosystems of inland rivers and lakes across large spatial and temporal scales over Black Warrior River and Tombigbee River Watersheds. Drones with multi-spectral, hyperspectral and thermal sensors have been employed in the recent research projects, along with satellite remote sensing data, and in situ instrumentation and field surveys with multiple instruments. The undergraduate and graduate students are strongly encouraged to participate in the research activities of the ERSL.


NICHOLAS MAGLIOCCA completed his third year in the department. Major highlights from this year included contributing to the UA in Costa Rica study abroad program, progress on two on-going collaborative research projects, securing funding for another, and several successful publications produced through from new and continuing collaborations.

As one of four instructors supporting the Costa Rica program, Dr. Magliocca adapted the existing course GY 202: The Water Planet to Costa Rican water systems. One major change was adding a module on water-energy-food (WEF) nexus issues in Costa Rica, which proved to be the ideal place to study these topics. The highlight of the course was a field trip to Guanacaste Province, which included stops at irrigated farms, fields of wind turbines, and a restored wetland – all connected by water sourced from Lake Arenal. In collaboration with Dr. Eugenio Gonzalez-Jimenez of the Soltis Center, Dr. Magliocca published a pedagogical case study of the WEF nexus class in Costa Rica, which was published in Case Studies in the Environment.

Dr. Magliocca is a co-investigator on a multi-institutional NASA-funded project charged with conducting a global synthesis of the causes associated with land-use changes and consequences of large-scale land acquisitions (LSLAs). The project uses remote sensing to detect the timing and rate of LSLA-related land-use changes integrated with geospatial and case study data synthesis to construct generalizable trajectories of LSLA caused-land conversion-consequences. LSLAs were a global reactionary phenomenon prompted by the flood and financial crises of 2008 and 2011, and this research will support the design of policy interventions to manage LSLAs in the event of future crises. Results from the research team’s work in Cambodia were presented at AGU, AAG, and the Global Land Programme’s (GLP) Open Science Meeting (OSM) in Bern, Switzerland. Two published articles report the team’s findings in Ecology & Society and Environmental Research Letters.

Dr. Magliocca has also been directing an NSF-funded project to study the adaptive responses of cocaine smuggling, or narco-trafficking, supply networks to counterdrug interdiction in Central America. This project relates to previous and on-going work investigating the role of narco-trafficking in deforestation in Central America. Working with Dr. Kevin Curtin in the Department of Geography and Dr. Diana Dolliver in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, the team is constructing coupled narco-trafficking and interdiction models to understand the spatial adjustment of traffickers to alternative interdiction strategies. Preliminary modeling work was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Several manuscripts are in preparation for a variety of journals in geography, criminology, and interdisciplinary science.

Finally, Dr. Magliocca is working as part of a team from UA and Auburn University on a newly funded NSF INFEWS (Innovation at the Nexus of Food-Energy-Water Systems) project. The project focuses on the potential agricultural and socioeconomic benefits of transitioning from rain-fed to irrigated agriculture throughout the Mobile Bay drainage constituted by the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT) and Black Warrior-Tombigbee (BWT) river basins. The project will focus on four main activities: (a) agent-based models of farmers’ crop choice and irrigation decisions; (b) a spatially-explicit crop growth model for evaluation of productivity and water use; (c) an optimal irrigation scheduling scheme for minimization of water use for pumping; and (d) a coupled hydrologic-hydrodynamics model for assessment of the interactions between water use for crop production, water supply to municipalities, and its impacts on power generation and riverine navigation.


JARED MARGULIES completed his first year in the department. He spent the Fall 2019 semester completing fieldwork in South Korea as part of his multi-sited, multi-species ethnography of the illicit succulent plant trade for his in-progress book manuscript. He intends to submit his book proposal to University presses this summer. In Fall 2019 he also published a critical review on the problem of racial stereotyping of Asian consumers within illegal wildlife trade demand reduction campaigns. In Spring 2020 he began teaching two sections of World Regional Geography and published two articles related to the illegal wildlife trade, including an article for World Development analyzing fifteen years of international conservation funding by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the emergence of illegal wildlife trade as a matter of national security interest.

Dr. Margulies presented his preliminary findings on the emergence of the international illegal trade in the Dudleya genus of succulent plants as an invited speaker at the San Diego Museum of Natural History’s State of Biodiversity Symposium in February 2020. In February he also co-facilitated a workshop for first-time book authors in the field of political ecology at the 10th annual Dimensions of Political Ecology Conference at the University of Kentucky. Spring 2020 regrettably saw a number of invited talks and chaired panels about the illegal trade in plants in Halle, Germany, Kyoto, Japan, Marseille, France, and Brighton, UK canceled or postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Margulies was commissioned in 2020 by The National Building Museum in Washington, DC, to produce an extended soundscape and gallery-wall sized landscape photograph as part of their upcoming exhibition, “The Wall/El Muro: What is a Border Wall?” which is set to open in Summer 2020. This work builds from his combined interdisciplinary research and artistic practice of political ecology in the US-Mexico borderlands in relation to endangered plant species conservation within violent environments. Finally, a planned May 2020 international workshop to be held in Tuscaloosa co-organized by Dr. Margulies, Dr. Brittany Gilmer (CCJ), and Dr. Francis Massé (U Northumbria) and funded by the University of Sheffield, the Alabama Water Institute, and the Departments of Geography and Criminology and Criminal Justice in support of a planned special issue for the journal Geoforum on illicit geographies and environmental change was instead hosted virtually and attended by 15 participants.


CAROLINE MCCLURE is completing her second year as an instructor for the UA Geography Department. She teaches World Regional Geography; People, Places, and the Environment, Cultural Geography, and Introduction to GIS. Caroline has found that she enjoys teaching the GIS course and seeing what types of questions and projects her students can create/answer using GIS technologies and skills. Caroline also manages the Geography Department’s social media accounts and website, is the GIS Day Coordinator, GIS Certificate Manager, and produces the department newsletter. Outside of the time spent in the classroom, she loves to be outdoors, hiking, playing ultimate Frisbee, or enjoying Tuscaloosa with her dog, Gypsy.


BRAD G. PETER joined the Department of Geography as a Postdoctoral Researcher in the fall of 2019 under the direction of Dean Messina after obtaining his Ph.D. from Michigan State University. His research links remote sensing of agriculture, environmental niche modeling, and geovisualization. He is engaged in ongoing research projects that include (i) exploring global agricultural climate and land suitability, (ii) mapping the geographic scaling potential of sustainable crop technologies, and (iii) evaluating satellite/small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) for precision agriculture in smallholder farming contexts. His first publication affiliated with the department involved drone flights and field sampling at two experimentation farms in Malawi to investigate effective spatial resolutions for relating spectral imagery to crop productivity, which is openly accessible via PE&RS (Photogrammetric Engineering & Remote Sensing). More research utilizing the sUAS imagery is being conducted to explore effective spectral indices and test classification techniques for distinguishing between crop species at fine spatial resolutions. A comprehensive collection of Dr. Peter’s published works can be viewed online at https://cartoscience.com.

Since joining the department, he has begun collaborating with the Surface Dynamics Modeling Lab (SDML) led by Dr. Sagy Cohen to build publicly available floodwater mapping tools using Google Earth Engine. Additionally, he has partnered with Dr. Cadi Fung on a NASA-funded project (Co-PIs Dr. Joseph Messina, UA, and Dr. Peilei Fan, MSU) on urbanization, land transition, and environmental change in Southeast Asia. His role in this project revolves around measuring time-series agricultural productivity trends and linkages to climatic changes and social factors such as foreign direct investments.

Dr. Peter is expected to teach a course this coming fall of 2020 on the use of web-GIS for remote sensing analytics. Brad is formerly a musician from Austin, TX, and enjoys playing bass in his free time, cooking, talking to his cat, and optimizing his soybean and sunflower farms in an online simulator game with his friends.


MARY WALLACE PITTS Over the last twelve years in her role as instructor and advisor, Mrs. Pitts has taught and advised a lot of fascinating students who keep her on her toes.  Her regular course load includes Earth Surface Processes (GY 102), Natural Hazards (GY 317), and Natural Resources and the Environment (GY 339).

A professional geologist, she also serves on the Editorial Board for Environmental Geosciences, and as a committee member on the City of Tuscaloosa Floodplain Management Plan Committee and the Tuscaloosa County Natural Resources Planning Committee. Her interests include water resources, watershed management, and water policy.

A graduate of Trinity College Dublin and University College London, Mrs. Pitts has decided to add a degree from UA to her resume. Currently, her research focus is water policy in Alabama and is being conducted in furtherance of an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Watershed Science from the University of Alabama.

Her 20-year old triplets have just completed their third year at UA!


CRAIG REMINGTON has worked as the Director of the UA Cartographic Research Laboratory since 1984. He received both his degrees from Florida State, earning a bachelor’s in geography in 1976 and a master’s degree in geography in 1981. In his spare time, Craig enjoys camping and traveling.


JASON SENKBEIL is a climatologist/meteorologist with primary research interests in atmospheric hazards and applied climatology. Specifically, Dr. Senkbeil hopes to improve the ways in which we communicate severe weather information so that people better understand their risk and take appropriate actions. This year he completed work on an NOAA Vortex SE Grant, “Improving Accessibility and Comprehension of Tornado Warnings for the Deaf, Blind, and Deaf-Blind.” He and colleagues are hoping that the results and recommendations will be used to establish a separate television meteorology feed during tornado warnings for Deaf audiences. He also started research on a new NOAA Vortex SE Grant, “Geospatial Threat Personalization and its Influence on Warning Risk Perception and Protective Actions.” For this research, core geographic themes of location and mapping will be explored to understand how well people comprehend their locations on maps during tornado warning scenarios. He and his students continue to pursue multiple research topics on hurricane and tornado perception, or perception of commonly used weather communication tools and graphics. They have published and submitted several articles in American Meteorological Society journals in the past 2 years. Other research projects continue to explore climatic variability and change in the eastern U.S.A. This spring he taught Applied Climatology as part of the Costa Rica study abroad program. He and the students conducted a microclimate analysis of a tropical waterfall finding interesting results. In his spare time, he loves being outdoors doing anything active, and coaching youth sports.


WANYUN SHAO This is the second year for Dr. Wanyun “Abby” Shao at UA. She has been selected to be a fellow for the National Science Foundation Enabling Next Generation of Hazards Researchers Fellowship Program. She has published 7 articles in the past year. She has secured a grant from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Gulf Research Program to study decision making regarding the cascading effects of potential petroleum facilities failures in Mobile, AL. She has been advising two graduate students: Md Musfiqur Rahman Bhuiya and Evan Cass. Musfiq is going to study accessibility to critical facilities for movement challenged persons in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Evan is going to study planning for coastal hazards in New Orleans, LA. In addition, she is also supervising an undergraduate student Caroline Barnes on a project comparing sustainability plans of Vanderbilt University and the University of Alabama. She has taught two new courses: Environment and Society and Environmental Decision Making in addition to People, Place, and the Environment. She has been the Department colloquium coordinator since August 2019.


DOUGLAS SHERMAN is Professor and Chair of the Department of Geography at the University of Alabama (since 2011) where he moved after being Head of the Department of Geography at Texas A&M University from 2001. Prior to that appointment, he was on the faculty of the Department of Geography at the University of Southern California for eighteen years. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto and was a post-doctoral scholar in the Ocean Engineering Department at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Dr. Sherman’s research interests are in coastal and aeolian geomorphology and sedimentation. He has published more than one hundred scholarly articles, and recently edited or co-edited volumes of the Treatise on Geomorphology on Coastal Geomorphology and Aeolian Geomorphology, and co-edited a volume of Coastal and Marine Hazards, Risks, and Disasters. Much of his recent research involves human impacts on coastal sedimentation, hydrodynamics in the vicinity of coastal structures, and the physics of sediment transport, especially wind-blown sand. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Association of Geographers, and the American Geographical Society and has twice been a Fulbright Senior Scholar.


ELIZABETH SINGLETON This is Elizabeth Singleton’s 11th year at the university. She is the office associate and works with Geography undergraduate and graduate students, sets up classes, schedules semester classes, and anything else the Geography Department might need.  Give her a beach any day, otherwise, she is a hermit by nature.


MICHAEL K. STEINBERG is a professor in the New College and Geography at the University of Alabama. His research is focused on the human dimensions of environmental conservation, endangered species, and conservation mapping. He is the author of Stalking the Ghost Bird: The Elusive Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Louisiana, 2008 LSU Press, and Dangerous Harvest: Drug Plants and the Transformation of Indigenous Landscapes, Oxford University Press 2004. His work has also been published in journals such as the Geographical ReviewThe Professional GeographerConservation BiologyConservation and Society, Mississippi Quarterly, FOCUS on Geography, and the Bonefish and Tarpon Journal.


MATTHEW THERRELL just completed his seventh year at The University of Alabama. Dr Therrell’s research has been focused on carrying out fieldwork and lab analysis in support of two large externally-funded research projects supported by the EPA and NSF focusing on using tree rings to study streamflow in southeastern rivers. These projects are being carried out in collaboration with colleagues in Geography and Engineering as part of a larger collaborative research group called Collaborative Research of Paleoenvironments and Society (CoRPS), which is focused on improving the interdisciplinary understanding of hydrological and climatological variability and past extreme events to inform and improve the prediction of future socio-ecological impacts. He is also focused on research related to flooding on the Mississippi River and rivers in the southeast.


JOE WEBER This year I did some fieldwork in Nevada to look for a lost city in the desert. Well, actually, a small town that had been flooded by a reservoir 80 years ago and reemerged due to prolonged drought. Nothing much is left of it. I was looking for the route of an old highway that passed through the town.  Decades of sedimentation have erased any sign of the road here, but away from the reservoir, it looks as it would have in 1920.

I also took some time to walk on the moon….sort of. The Cinder Lake Crater Field near Flagstaff, Arizona, was used by NASA to train Apollo astronauts to walk on the moon. In 1967 NASA blasted hundreds of craters in the volcanic landscape to create a replica of part of the moon’s Sea of Tranquility. It is badly eroded and becoming overgrown by trees, but still a fascinating cultural landscape.

I found time to see a museum exhibit featuring Native American Star Wars art. The Hopi, Navajo, Zuni, and others are big fans of the movie and have adapted R2-D2, Darth Vader’s helmet, and other familiar elements of the movies to their own artistic styles. I got to watch a bit of Star Wars that had been translated into the Navajo language. Atsʼáhoníyééʼ nił hólǫ́ǫ doo!