The Department of Geography has been making distinctive, fundamental contributions to understandings of how changing societal and environmental patterns and processes are shaping the unprecedented perils and promises facing the world. Reflecting the productivity of our research on human-environment interactions, our faculty and students are actively publishing their work on wide-ranging topics, including environmental changes on long time scales, the dynamics of river-scapes and related fluvial geomorphic processes, spatial modeling, racial/ethno-cultural dynamics, environmental justice and vulnerability, the politics of social and economic development, and so on.
Read the latest research from our department
Johnny Ryan & Sarah Cooley Recognized for their contributions to Oregon Mountainous Glacial research
Geography Department Professors Johnny Ryan and Sarah Cooley have been recognized for their significant contributions to research that is examining the changes in Oregon’s mountainous glaciers. UO researchers have developed a portable tool that uses lasers to measure the composition of glacial ice, data that can help determine how fast that ice is melting. The instrument can be used to study glaciers in remote wilderness areas, like those in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. And it can help verify satellite data collected about bigger glaciers, like those in Greenland and Antarctica.
“Studying how these glaciers respond to climate change is important for informing streamflow management both now and in the future,” said Johnny Ryan, a geographer at the UO who is using the new instrument in his research. Plus, “Many of the processes that we observe on Oregon glaciers also occur on the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Oregon’s glaciers provide a great testing ground for new instrumentation and hypotheses.”
Ryan and UO geographer Sarah Cooley work with data from the NASA satellite ICESat-2, which measures elevation changes of ice sheets and sea ice.
“There are some uncertainties about how much the laser penetrates in snow and ice,” Ryan said. “We can use our ground-based instrument to measure the penetration depth of green laser in snow and ice and see how it varies across space and time.”
Research in Tibet by new GEOG/ ENVS faculty Dr. Lucas Silva featured in the Oregon Quarterly
Word of mouth from nomadic herders led Lucas Silva into Tibetan forests and grasslands. What his team found was startling: Rapid forest growth in tune with what scientists had been expecting — but not yet seeing — from climatic changes triggered by rising levels of carbon dioxide.
Actual scientific findings to date have turned up declining growths in many forests in the face of a warming climate. Such had also been the case for Silva, who joined the UO’s Environmental Studies Program and Department of Geography in August.