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November 7, 2019

SVSU students earn top recognition at regional geography conference

Two Saginaw Valley State University students’ passion for geography earned accolades at a recent regional geography conference hosted on campus.

The East Lakes Division of the American Association of Geographers held their 2019 annual meeting and conference at SVSU in October. There were 117 attendees from 22 colleges and universities across Michigan and Ohio.

Samantha Turner, who received a bachelor's degree in biology from SVSU in May 2019, earned first place in the undergraduate poster competition for her poster titled, “Characterization of Cold Air Movement in Apple Orchards using High Resolution Topographic Data.” The Saginaw resident's passion for ecology and love of problem-solving inspired her to pursue this interdisciplinary research while an undergraduate student.

“Problem-solving has always been something I’m good at, so learning the software — ArcGIS with the Spatial Analyst Extension — was super intuitive to me when I started,” Turner said.

Turner hopes eventually to earn a master’s degree in geography and a graduate certificate in spatial ecology.

Gabrielle Gittens, an SVSU geography major from Saginaw, won second place in the undergraduate poster competition for her poster, titled “Reconstructing Ancient Landscapes: Pollen as the Key to the Past.”

Thirteen judges from various colleges and universities judged competitions for undergraduate student poster, undergraduate student presentation, graduate student poster, and graduate student presentation. Julie Commerford, SVSU assistant professor of geography, served as the conference coordinator.

“The conference is a neat opportunity for students to network and interact with faculty from around the region,” Commerford said. “It’s a once- or twice-a-year opportunity to make the world a little bit bigger.”

During the conference, speaker sessions addressed different areas of geography such as economic geography, urban geography, human geography, physical geography and geospatial techniques. 

The conference also included a panel discussion organized and facilitated by Dayne Walling from the University of Minnesota. Evelyn Ravuri, SVSU professor of geography, served as a panelist and covered topics related to urban revitalization.