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Concord Geography Puts Athens On the Map

By Tsivia Chonoles
On February 11, 2016

Undergraduate research can be one of the most challenging yet rewarding endeavors a college student can pursue; and at every university, in any discipline, there are those who prove to be especially outstanding in their fields. Some Concord University Geography students prove that to be true, 

    Every year the Geography department takes students to the Southeastern meeting, where students can not only present their research, but also have the chance to meet with professionals in their fields of interest as well as to speak with and be recognized by graduate schools. “We introduced them [the students] to graduate school people from across the south and our students always make a good impression,” said Dr. Joseph Manzo. The meeting, which is an opportunity to meet representatives for graduate schools and compete in poster competitions and the world geography bowl, moves around each year, and last semester it was held in Pensacola, Florida.

    “We took about thirteen students, I think,” said Manzo, “and several of them made presentations, but two of them swept their categories.” Those two students were Elisa Sperandio and Katie Testerman. Elisa Sperandio presented a human geography project titled “Life Through the Eyes of the ‘Invader: A Case Study of Immigration in the Düsseldorf-Essen,” for which she conducted field work in Germany. Katie Testerman presented a physical geography project titled “Fire History and Avian Species Composition in a Ridgetop Dwarf-Tree Forest,”for which she conducted field research on Spring Mountain in Pennsylvania.

    “I’ve been interested in wildlife for my entire life,” Katie Testerman said when asked about the inspiration behind her project, which was completed as an independent study class. “When I was presented with the opportunity to study the effect fire had on a globally rare dwarf tree forest, I was interested in the effect it had on the wildlife of the area as well. I chose to study birds specifically because not only do they fly and perch, making them easier to identify them visually, they also call, so I could identify them by sound. Another factor in my decision was that many birds are quite reliant on trees and whatever effect fire had on the trees would have an effect on the bird species that lived there.”

Several graduate school representatives, as well as graduate and undergraduate students  attended the meeting. There were professionals and professors presenting and giving talks, including Concord University’s own Dr. Tom Saladyga. “It was a unique experience for me as it was my first conference,” Testerman said of the meeting. “The talks that I was able to listen to were very informative. It was unique, as such, because everyone there was in some way associated with geography, so for the most part we were all at least somewhat like-minded. We had the opportunity to represent Concord, our geography department, and West Virginia when we competed in the geography bowl.” 

    The overall top score, among both graduate and undergraduate students, for this season’s world geography bowl was also held by a Concord Student: Robert Jessee. Jessee now gets to go to San Francisco in March to compete with the Southeastern team.

    “I extend my deepest gratitude to the CU geography department,” said Testerman, “without [this] wonderful geography project I wouldn’t have had such an amazing opportunity to both do my own research, but present and be recognized for my efforts.”

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