Inside the College
How would you describe your academic specialties to an outsider?
Biogeography is the what, where, when, and how of life on Earth. In the field, we try to understand the present and past geographic distribution of plants and animals and focus on the interactions these life forms have with their physical environments.
With remote sensing, we are able to see our planet from a new perspective, improving our understanding of entities in geographic space beyond our own. By using geographic information systems (GIS), we can analyze and model Earth’s entire system through gathering location-specific information about various components on the Earth’s surface.
Which class is your favorite to teach? Why?
I love teaching all my classes, and for different reasons. In remote sensing, observing and interpreting the earth is like being a detective. In GIS, it is rewarding when students complete their independent research projects. In biogeography, I’m fulfilled when I get the chance to demystify the geologic progression and evolution of life forms within the context of their physical space. In globalization, it’s exciting to help 20-year-olds open their eyes to the state of the world and consider all things without judgment.
What is one research project you areparticularly excited about?
Currently, I am participating with Allison Schuette ’93, MFA, associate professor of English, and Liz Wuerffel ’00, MFA, associate professor of art, on a project called “Flight Paths.” Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the project is a subset of the Welcome Project, and the goal is to produce an online interactive experience that tells the stories and geographic trajectories of people who moved to Gary, Indiana, and then emigrated for various reasons. Allison and Liz’s approach makes the phenomenon relatable by delving into personal stories, perceptions of neighborhoods, and impressions of people and their differences.
Outside the College
Given your research background, it would seem natural for you to have an interest in travel. Where is the most interesting place you have traveled?
My first summer in the United States, as a graduate student, I took a field study class with a biologist. We drove up one of the many “sky islands” in Big Bend National Park. That trip helped me form a serious interest in biogeography.
On the same trip, I ate my first ever peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream. I have had many since, but none tops that experience.
What are some of your favorite parts of the Valpo community?
Whenever I can, I try to participate in campus activities. Valpo theatre is amazing! I also tell people to check out SOURCE presentations. Being a vegetarian, my restaurant choices around town are somewhat limited, but my favorite is Shoe’s Pizza. I also have Tomato Bar, Pestos, and Serranos in my rotation. My wife loves pizza!