April 30, 2007

Geography students to showcase their research

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a poster is worth a semester's research – and maybe a cash award.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Department of Geography and Environmental Resources will host a poster session and awards ceremony at 2 p.m. on Friday, May 4, in Faner Hall, room 2533. Among the awards is the $500 David and Carol Christenson Award for Student Research in Sustainability, which is given annually to the best research poster.

Department Chair Leslie Duram said posters are typically part of advanced research presentations. "This is often the best method to present research results in our discipline. Geography and environmental management are very 'graphic' fields," she said.

That's because in geography, presenting data analysis requires more than text alone – as the name geography itself implies. For this competition, scholarly posters use a combination of text and graphed data, such as that making up a geographic information system (GIS), to answer questions about how present uses of resources may affect future populations or environments.

For example, senior Aimee Lemrise will present a research poster that is an historical assessment of ivory-billed woodpecker habitat in the Cache River Wetlands in Pulaski County from 1806 to the present. She is interested in conservation, she said, and believes a "geographical perspective in habitat restoration is necessary."

Graduate student Dan Flaherty, whose career goal is precision agriculture, was part of a group that compared tillage practices in Southern Illinois and the upper Mississippi River Basin. He said he has learned to apply GIS to reduce environmental compromise caused by agriculture.

Though students were not limited to the Southern Illinois area for their research, several will present topics that may be of interest to the Southern Illinois community generally and which demonstrate the practical applications of geography. Other topics include nitrate levels in the Big Muddy River, and the effects of horseback riding on the local ecosystem in the vicinity of the Cedar Lake Equestrian Trail.

Besides the poster session, several scholarships will be awarded to both graduate and undergraduate students, including the David G. Arey Memorial Endowment Fund award and the Priscilla Anne Moulton Memorial award.