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University of Colorado Denver College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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Department News



It is with great pleasure to announce the Department of Geography and Environmental Science’s main office space has moved to a new location in North Classroom 3014.   Dr. Brian Page, Chair of GES, is located in NC 3014-Suite B, making for a centralized location for the department.  Please feel free to stop by to say hello and visit the new digs.​


Wee receives fellowship in Sweden

Bryan Wee, assistant professor in geography and environmental sciences and STEM Education, has been awarded a research fellowship from Stockholm University, Sweden. He will spend the next academic year at their Center for Teaching and Learning in the Social Sciences to further his research on cross-cultural comparisons of children’s environmental views. In addition to writing interdisciplinary papers/grants, Bryan will refine his scholarship on the use of photography to understand human-environment interactions. He will also develop a travel study course in Scandinavia focused on cultural views of nature. Bryan is very grateful for this opportunity, as well as the support he has received from CLAS and the School of Education and Human Development. 



The CU Denver chapter of ​Gamma Theta Upsilon Honor Society for geography inducted some new members on April 17, 2014. 

Pictured: Christina Power, Robert Osadetz, Thomas Horner, Katelyn Lobato, and Jeanette Hall

Not pictured: Darla Beckley, Samantha Antu, Kara Collier, Jonathan Key, Meg DeLisle, and Denise Swack

2014 Gamma Theta Upsilon Inductees


9News' TaRhonda Thomas made a visit to Five Fridges Farm, the GES Dept Research Site, on April 16, 2014. View the story here. Amanda Weaver and TaRhonda Thomas in video screenshot


As a result of a generous fund established by Mrs. Rodgers in honor of her late husband Brigadier General William M. Rodgers, a former instructor in our department, the Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences awards scholarships for geography majors for both research efforts and as regular scholarship. Please visit the Brigadier General Rodgers Scholarship page for more information.

     2014 Rodgers Scholarhip Recipients      2014 Rodgers Research Scholarship

        Kelsi Miles                                                      Susanna Diller
        Matt Pierce                                                     Ashley Drummond-Bouck


Sharon Smolinski, a graduate of our Master of Science of Environmental Sciences program, has had an article accepted by the ​Journal of Environmental Management​. 

​The article, titled "Mountain Pine Beetle Infestation of Lodgepole Pine in Areas of Water Diversion," is based on her thesis work while in the Environmental Sciences program. This work is co-authored by Dr. Peter Anthamatten, Dr. Jon Barbour, Dr. Leo Bruederle, and Dr. Frederick Chambers (all CU Denver professors). The abstract: ​

Smolinski_Photo_021714.jpg​"The Rocky Mountains have experienced extensive infestations from the mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins), affecting numerous pine tree species including lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta Dougl. var. latifolia). Water diversions throughout the Rocky Mountains transport large volumes of water out of the basins of origin, resulting in hydrologic modifications to downstream areas. This study examines the hypothesis that lodgepole pine located below water diversions exhibit an increased incidence of mountain pine beetle infestation and mortality. A ground survey verified diversion structures in a portion of Grand County, Colorado, and sampling plots were established around two types of diversion structures, canals and dams. Field studies assessed mountain pine beetle infestation. Lodgepole pines below diversions show 45.1% higher attack and 38.5% higher mortality than lodgepole pines above diversions. These findings suggest that water diversions are associated with increased infestation and mortality of lodgepole pines in the basins of extraction, with implications for forest and water allocation management."

currently pursuing a Ph.D. at CU Denver School of Public Affairs and working at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. 

Congrats, Sharon, we look forward to following your bright future in the field!


Classes will begin on Tuesday, January 21, 2014! We're excited to have our students back after a refreshing winter break and hope they're ready to get back to learning. 

Here are a few more important dates for the beginning of the semester: 

  • January 26 - Last day to Add and Waitlist classes using UCDAccess
  • January 27 - Last day to Drop a class without a charge
  • February 5 - Last day to Add or Drop classes (financial adjustments may apply)
                       Last day to apply for Spring 2014 Graduation
  • March 10 - First day to register for Maymester and Summer classes
For a full Academic Calendar, please visit this link. 
Also, don't miss the Grenada Maymester Info Sessions on January 28 at 11 am and January 29 at 4 pm in NC 3012!


A group of both undergraduate and graduate students presented at the Great Plains-RockyFrom left to right: Tyler Kilgore, Tera Keller, Alejandra Uribe-Albornoz, Kara Collier and Isaac Rivera
Mountain Regional Association of American Geographers meeting. Special congratulations go to Isaac Rivera who won first place in the Undergraduate Student Paper Competition with his paper, written with other GES students, “Community Environmental Monitoring via Grassroots Remote Sensing Applications and its Empowerment Potential on Marginalized Communities."


New sustainable urban agriculture certificate combines coursework and field research

by Amy Vaerewyck | University Communications


Amanda Weaver, Five Fridges Farm

Amanda Weaver’s students often ask her why she wears cowboy boots all the time. When they step a flip-flopped foot into manure at their geography instructor’s urban farm, they get it.

Although Five Fridges Farm is just outside Denver city limits, its 13 acres have the livestock smells and by-products of a traditional farm out in the countryside—and CU Denver students are experiencing it all, as they work to earn a newly available certificate in Food Systems and Sustainable Urban Agriculture from the Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences. Approved by theCollege of Liberal Arts and Sciences in March 2012 and offered to students the following fall semester, the four-class certification program integrates traditional classroom instruction with hands-on field research at Five Fridges.
“I want to get students to participate with food systems and to see the different ways that urban agriculture can look,” said Weaver, PhD, a geography scholar who lives in the renovated farmhouse on the land at Five Fridges, which is practically next-door to apartments and condos. On the farm, Weaver raises milk goats, food crops and, now, CU Denver geography students.
 ​    A Different Beast Entirely
Kale, Five Fridges FarmSince purchasing the Wheat Ridge property from its long-time owner in 2012, Weaver has secured a conservation easement and land trust deed, which prevent the land from being subdivided or used for any purpose other than agriculture.
“Urban agriculture is really a different beast,” Weaver said. “You get issues you just would never have on a traditional farm.”
She must navigate labyrinthine land management rules, which include both rural issues—agricultural ditch water, invasive weeds, grazing, fencing, etc.—and issues of urban infrastructure—storm water, sewage, utilities, zoning restrictions, trespassing and more.
“What keeps me going is that I am not bored with it,” geography major Caitlin Reusch said of the coursework on the farm. “There is always a new question.”
For instance, how do you keep a group of teenagers from the neighboring high school from throwing their cigarette butts into the livestock enclosures? Weaver has worked closely with Brian Page, PhD, associate professor and department chair, to develop a curriculum for the certificate that prepares students to find answers to questions like this one.
“[The certificate] stamps students as having a valuable skill set,” Page said.
A Viable Profession
Tractor, Five Fridges FarmSo, will this certificate in Food Systems and Sustainable Urban Agriculture turn students into farmers? Short answer: no.
“This is not a program where you’re going to learn how to grow prize-winning tomatoes,” Weaver said. “This is about how to make urban agriculture viable as a profession.”
Whether they want to work on a farm or in an office, students who understand urban agriculture have careers waiting for them, Weaver said. This is because the urban agriculture movement is quickly evolving, which means laws and regulations must evolve, too.
“I am seeing job descriptions all the time for beginning planners and people involved with the urban environment,” she said. “Cities are changing their land management rules very quickly, so they need people who understand these agricultural issues, and there are so few people with this expertise.”
usch isn’t worried. “There are so many places one can go with urban agriculture, from being an urban farmer to researching the effects of urban farms on the land, economy and world food systems,” she said. “With all of the applications of urban agriculture, I am sure I will find something I love.”
A Farm Field Study
Honeycomb, Five Fridges FarmIn the classroom, students discuss the economic viability of local agriculture. On the farm, they meet local growers and make connections between academic concepts and real systems.
“Five Fridges offers up so many opportunities for small-size environmental and microbiological studies,” Reusch said. “With the farm, you can see your research growing and thriving.”
In order to remain profitable, Five Fridges Farm not only produces, markets and sells its own products but also sells wares from a variety of local producers—from beekeepers to soap-makers to beer brewers. Students learn all of this and more first-hand through the certificate curriculum.
“Like any good curriculum, this one is evolving and adapting to the students who are in it,” Page said. He and Weaver expect students to play an integral role in shaping the future not only of Five Fridges Farm but of the urban agriculture movement.
“It's integrating more field study into a liberal arts degree,” Weaver said. “It’s truly applying their knowledge.”


Internship for Division of Water Resources coincides with Colorado flooding

By Chris Casey | University Communications
CU Denver student Laura Ferre performs an internship for the Division of Water Resources 

DENVER - Laura Ferre, an undergraduate student in geography and environmental sciences at CU Denver, found the importance of her internship project -- studying dam vulnerability -- suddenly magnified amid last week’s torrential rains. 

Multiple dams along Colorado’s Front Range overflowed during the flooding.

Ferre has been an intern in the Dam Safety branch of the Colorado Division of Water Resources. "My project is a spatial analysis of socially vulnerable populations within dam inundation areas," she said. "The DWR would like to use this analysis to supplement internal decision making around a variety of issues from dam inspection prioritization to emergency action plan grant awards."

Applying social vulnerability -- such as areas with aging populations that may need extra assistance in an evacuation -- gives a better idea of the consequence of dam failure, Ferre said. Her work includes critical infrastructure analysis, which includes emergency response, such as police and fire departments, and the built environment, such as roads and power lines. This analysis can help in temporary shelter placement, emergency management plans and future development.

"The rains this week highlight the significance of practical disaster research," Ferre said. "Social vulnerability research is particularly useful for any level of government or decision makers during all phases of the emergency management cycle: preparedness, rescue, recovery and mitigation. Mapping potential consequences identifies specific neighborhoods that will need assistance the most."

At CU Denver, Ferre is a research assistant for Deb Thomas and Peter Anthamatten in the Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences. She said Bill McCormick, chief of dam safety for the Division of Water Resources, believes strongly in interagency cooperation. "Thanks to him I have been very fortunate to discuss my analysis with other federal, state and county departments. Their feedback has been very helpful to make the analysis as meaningful as possible."​