Representatives from UW-Platteville Geography Program go to New York City

March 28, 2012

PLATTEVILLE - Five representatives from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Geography Program recently traveled to New York City to present research at the Association of American Geographers annual meeting. Students Nick Flinner and Brody Knaak attended the event with UW-Platteville geography faculty and staff members Dr. RJ Rowley, Chris Underwood and Thomas Wilding.

"Our students did an excellent job with their presentations, which were every bit as good, and even better in many cases, than those of their peers," said Underwood, UW-Platteville geography lecturer. "This is quite an accomplishment, considering their peers were mostly graduate students and faculty from other colleges."

In their research presentation, Flinner and Wilding showed how they used dendrochronology, the dating of past events and variations in the environment by examining the growth rings of trees, to examine subtropical stream flow in northeastern Florida. The project was done in cooperation with Dr. Evan Larson, UW-Platteville assistant professor of geography who is currently in Sweden as a Fulbright Scholar, and Tom Mirti of the St. John's Watershed Management District in Florida.

Flinner, who presented research at the 2011 AAG annual meeting in Seattle, said he was glad to have the chance to do so again this year. "This experience provided us undergrads a chance to see some of the exciting things that are happening across the geographic community," he said. "Looking at graduate school projects myself, the trip allowed me an opportunity to network with potential advisers, as well as allowed me to develop a few ideas about which projects I might like to work on this year."

Wilding, a 2011 UW-Platteville alumnus and geography staff member who also presented at last year's event, said, "National conferences offer an opportunity to not only present to others the hard work that you have put in over the last semester or year, but they also provide you with the opportunity to see what possibilities exist for the future. Both trips have been a fantastic experience and gave me the opportunity to visit and explore two interesting and significantly different cities."

Knaak, an environmental engineering major, presented research that used dendrochronology to examine the potential effects of invasive earthworms on growth rates in sugar maple trees in the Menominee Forest of Northern Wisconsin. Knaak represented a research group that included Larson, UW-Platteville students Sara Allen and Steven LaBarge, and College of Menominee Nation students Henry Dodge and Leon Fowler.

"The trip was awesome!" said Knaak. "We got to interact with the world's leading professionals on dendrochonology and really gain a perspective on where the field is headed. It was great having this project discussed among other dendrochronologists. All in all, it was a blast!"

Rowley, who is focusing his current research on sense of place in Las Vegas, participated in a symposium that explored urban history, identity and social justice through the use of Geographic Information Systems.

"It was good to be a part of a larger group interested in this emerging trend in the field, which seeks a mixed-methods approach to research involving both qualitative and quantitative mapping techniques," said Rowley, UW-Platteville assistant professor of geography. "I learned a great deal about the field and made good contacts. I also learned a lot about New York City, through various random and tourist-type wanderings and used some of what I learned in a mini-lecture in my World Regional Geography class when I returned."

Underwood presented research he did in cooperation with colleagues at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where he is currently a doctoral candidate. In two separate projects, one based in the Florida Keys and the other in the Great Smoky Mountains, the research team was able to construct long-term fire histories for each area by examining the leftover charcoal evidence.

For more information contact Dr. RJ Rowley, assistant professor, UW-Platteville Geography Program, (608) 342-1311,

Written by: Barbara Weinbrenner, communications specialist, UW-Platteville College of Liberal Arts and Education, (608) 342-6191,


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