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Geography

Mapping the Cultural Landscape

An interview with Soren Larsen, Assistant Professor, Geography

Going far beyond maps, as one might presume, “Geography is the study of human-environment interactions,” explains Soren Larsen, Assistant Professor of Geography at MU. The discipline as a whole covers activity ranging from physical geography (e.g., wind erosion and weather patterns), techniques (e.g., modeling air pollution with GIS, or Geographic Information Systems, to understand the interactions between humans and the environment), and something called human geography, a subfield that focuses on the political, economic, cultural, urban, and regional elements of human-environment interactions. Human geographers cast their eyes on “the impact of the environment on human behavior,” as well as “the impact of human activity on the environment.” Within human geography Larsen specializes in cultural geography. While traditionally that may have entailed mapping the distribution of various cultural traits to track changes over space and time, cultural geography today is much more process-focused, drawing heavily upon the methodologies and theories of anthropology, psychology, sociology, and philosophy.

Telling the Forests’ Stories

An interview with Grant Elliott, Assistant Professor of Geography

Geography professor Grant Elliott’s research uncovers the stories of forests and their response to a changing climate. His study of the movement of treelines in Alpine forests paints a sobering picture of the stunningly rapid rate of global warming. “The rate of forest change that we’ve been seeing in the last ten years has been pretty—I don’t know if ‘apocalyptic’ is the word, but it certainly deviates quite a bit from what we would consider the natural range of variability,” Elliott discloses. A global change ecologist, Elliott does not employ grandiose rhetoric—there is no need. Instead, the data gathered from his work as a dendroecologist clearly and irrefutably attests to the current unprecedented rate of climate change. Moreover, his research focuses on the effects of such change, not the causes, taking into account a local ecology’s past, present, and future.

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