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Navigating Global Change
Forging Sustainable Futures

The Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability undertakes research that pursues the goal of “Navigating Global Change and Forging Sustainable Futures.” Toward this end, we structure our research efforts around three themes: Geospatial Techniques; Climate, Environment, and Society; and the Geographies of Health and Wellbeing. The first topic encompasses a range of methods and tools to analyze and interpret spatial data, enabling the exploration, modeling, and visualization of geographic information for various applications to promote environmental sustainability and social equity. The second research cluster incorporates physical and social science to investigate the interactions among climate, the environment, and society to enhance our understanding of landscapes and the human systems shaping them with an overall goal of enhancing sustainability and fairness. The final area investigates the influences of natural and human environments on the physical, biological, and social processes that affect the burden of diseases and/or the overall quality of life in diverse geographic settings.

Geographies of health and well being, climate, environment, and society, geospatial data science logo logo

Climate, Environment, and Society

This research cluster comprises faculty investigating complex place-based human-natural systems, using a variety of methods from the social and physical sciences. Perspectives and paradigms include climatology, urbanism, economic geography, sustainable development, conservation, landscape ecology, biology, land-air interactions, environmental justice, socio-environmental systems, and urban geography. Research in this cluster examines these complex human-natural systems within such geographies as freshwater ecosystems, cities in the Americas, rural Oklahoma, corporations, policy, U.S. cities, and within society’s marginalized communities. 

Windmill in a field.

Research Specialties

Agricultural water systems 

Climate adaptation  



Economic geography  


Environmental justice  

Food sovereignty  

Freshwater ecosystems  

Green entrepreneurship  


Indigenous geographies  

Land-air interactions

Landscape ecology  

Land-use land-cover change  

Natural hazards  





Socio-environmental movements & systems 


Sustainable development  

Urban geography  

Urban greening  



Nishan Bhattarai.
Nishan Bhattarai published in Science Advances Journal

Nishan Bhattarai's article titled "Warming temperatures exacerbate groundwater depletion rates in India" published in Science Advances.

Read the article here

Diana Denham.
Dr. Diana Denham and Colleagues Awarded Outstanding NSF Grant

Her project titled “Centering Indigenous Knowledge and Values in the Development of Integrated Agroecological Renewable Energy Systems through Convergent Research" have been awarded $3.6 million by the NSF program, Growing Convergence Research!


Lauren Mullenbach.
Olivia Vanbuskirk, Renee McPherson, and Lauren Mullenbach published in Weather, Climate, and Society

Olivia Vanbuskirk, Renee McPherson, and Lauren Mullenbach article titled "What Floodplain Managers Want: Using Weather and Climate Information for Decision-Making" published in Weather, Climate, and Society journal.

Read the article here


Nishan Bhattarai

Food and water security, hydrological modeling, agricultural water sustainability, global sustainability challenges 

Diana Denham

Indigenous geographies; global South urbanism, socio-environmental movements; food sovereignty

Travis Gliedt

Environmental Economic Geography, Green Entrepreneurship, Sustainable Development, Energy Systems

Gary Gress

Cultural Geography, Geography Education, and Place studies

Jennifer Koch

Urbanization, land systems, socio-environmental systems, transboundary river basins 

Renee McPherson

Physical & Applied Climatology, Climate Variability & Change, Land-Air-Vegetation Interactions, Climate Observing Systems

Lauren Mullenbach

Environmental justice, urban greening, climate adaptation, gentrification, critical urban geography, homelessness 

Tom Neeson

Conservation Biology, Landscape Ecology, Freshwater Ecosystems

Randy Peppler

Place attachment, environmental risk perception, environment-society relations, environmental discourse 

Mark Shafer

Natural Hazards, Climate Services, Climate Adaptation, Policy 

Laurel Smith

Cultural politics and environmental geopolitics of Indigenous geographies; place-based storytelling 

Jackie Vadjunec

Human-environment geography, socio-ecological resilience, land-use land-cover change

Chenghao Wang

Urban Climatology, Urban Meteorology, Land-Atmosphere Interactions, Sustainable Urban Development, Energy Consumption, Biogeochemistry

Geospatial Data Science

Within this research cluster of geospatial data science, our faculty members employ geospatial technologies to unravel intricate spatial phenomena, from mapping out urban growth trends and tracking environmental changes to optimizing transportation networks and assessing the impact of natural disasters. We strive to leverage GIScience to bridge the gap between theory and practice and to make informed decisions and solve real-world challenges. We also extend GIScience to exciting frontiers like location-based services, spatial data mining, and the fusion of geospatial data with emerging fields such as geospatial big data and artificial intelligence.

The focal point of this research cluster lies in the advancement and utilization of cutting-edge software and emerging technologies in GIScience and remote sensing. These contexts encompass urbanization, conservation, public health, energy, agriculture, wildlife management, and interactions between humans and their environment. 

River surrounded by trees.

Research Specialties

  • Geographic Information Science/ GIScience

  • Remote Sensing  

  • Spatial Data Science

  • Geospatial Analysis/ Spatial Analysis 

  • Spatial Modeling

  • Cartography 

  • Spatial Visualization

  • Geodatabase 

  • Digital Storytelling with GIS

  • GIS Programming/Development 

  • Renewable Energy Siting 

  • Retail and Location Analysis

  • Demographic and Census Analysis

  • Crime and Law Enforcement

  • Landscape Ecology

  • Urban Planning and Development

  • Transportation and Logistics

  • Environmental Management 

  • Natural Resource Management

  • Agriculture and Crop Monitoring

  • Land Use and Land Cover Change

  • Public Health and Epidemiology 

  • Wildlife Conservation and Biodiversity Monitoring

  • Time Geography

  • Animal Ecology

  • Real Estate and Property Management 

  • Forestry and Forest Management

  • Water Resource Management

  • Climate Change Analysis


Selena Feng.
Selena Feng published in Geographical Analysis Journal

Selena Feng's article titled "Multiplant Location Involving Resource Allocation" published in Geographical Analysis.

Read the article here

Jennifer Koch.
Jennifer Koch, Scott Greene, and Jay Wimhurst published in AppliedEnergy Journal

Jennifer Koch, Scott Greene, and Jay Wimhurst article titled "Predicting commercial wind farm site suitability in the conterminous United States using a logistic regression model" published in AppliedEnergy Journal.

Read the article here

Rebecca Loraamm.
Rebecca Loraamm published in International Journal of Geo-Information

Rebecca Loraamm's article titled "Using a Cost-Distance Time-Geographic Approach to Identify Red Deer Habitat Use in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada" published in International Journal of Geo-Information.

Read the article here


Nishan Bhattarai

Food and Water Security, Remote Sensing, Geospatial Data Science, Surface Energy Balance, Hydrological Modeling, Agricultural Water Sustainability, Machine Learning, Global Sustainability Challenges

Chengbin Deng

Remote Sensing, Geographic Information Science, Geospatial Big Data, Land Use/Land Cover Change, Urbanization, Urban Science, Environmental Sustainability

Selena Feng

Geographic Information Science; Spatial Optimization; Geospatial Data Science; Urban, Regional, and Natural Resource Planning and Development; Emergency Response; Infrastructure and Transportation Systems

Scott Greene

Applied Climatology, Renewable Energy, Oklahoma 

Bruce Hoagland

Plant Biogeography, Vegetation Classification, Floristic Analysis 

Jennifer Koch

GIS, Geospatial Technologies, Data Analytics, Modeling and Simulation, Urbanization, Land Systems, Socio-Environmental Systems, Transboundary River Basins

Rebecca Loraamm

Geographic Information Science, Time Geography, Location Modeling, Suitability Modeling, Network Analysis, Road Ecology, Wildlife Ecology and Management, Animal Movement, Landscape Ecology

Thomas Neeson

Conservation Biology, Landscape Ecology, Freshwater Ecosystems, Simulation and Modeling, Statistics


Darren Purcell

Digital Humanities, Popular Geopolitics, Political Geography, Media and Communications Geographies, Humor


Chenghao Wang

Urban Climatology, Urban Meteorology, Land-Atmosphere Interactions, Sustainable Urban Development, Complex Systems and Networks, Energy Consumption, Biogeochemistry

Michael Wimberly

Disease Ecology, Public Health, Land Use and Land Cover Change, Remote Sensing, Ecological Modelling

Yanhua Xie

Remote sensing, irrigation, urbanization, urban-agriculture conflicts, land use/cover change, machine learning, cloud computing

Anni Yang

Medical and Health Geography, Disease ecology, Infectious diseases, Movement ecology, Wildlife-livestock-human interface, Dynamic spatial simulation models, Network modeling, Wildlife Management and Conservation

Geographies of Health and Well Being

This faculty research cluster shares a common interest in how geographic setting influences wellness and overall quality of life. Areas of emphasis include the effects of physical and social environments on infectious and chronic diseases, One Health approaches emphasizing the interconnections between human, animal, and environmental health, spatial inequities and resulting population disparities in health and well-being, and place-based inquiry into economic, cultural, and political contexts that affect quality of life. Our work in these areas is highly interdisciplinary and combines expertise in cultural geography, biogeography, spatial epidemiology, and geospatial technologies. We partner with diverse communities in Oklahoma as well as local, national, and international public health institutions.

Creek surrounded by trees.

Research Specialties

Climate and health

Community vulnerability

Disease ecology


Extreme heat

Health disparities

Outbreak forecasting

Political geography

Public health

Risk mapping

Social determinants of health

Urban heat islands

Vector-borne and zoonotic diseases


Michael Wimberley.
Michael Wimberley et al published in Malaria Journal

Michael Wimberley et al article titled "Trend analysis of malaria in urban settings in Ethiopia from 2014 to 2019" published in Malaria Journal.

Read the article here

Anni Yang.
Anni Yang et al published in Pest Management Science Journal

Anni Yang et al article titled "Role of social structure in establishment of aninvasive large mammal after translocation" published in Pest Management Science Journal.

Read the article here

Chenghao Weng.
Chenghao Weng et al published in Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society Accepted Articles

Chenghao Weng et al article titled "Evaluation of 30 urban land surface models in the Urban-PLUMBER project: Phase 1 results" published in Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society Accepted Articles.

Read the article here


Diana Denham

Indigenous Geographies; Socio-Environmental Movements; Food Sovereignty

Dawn Drake

Rural and Agricultural Geography; Global Food Shortages; Economics of Livestock

Scott Greene

Climate and Health, Applied Climatology, Renewable Energy

Lauren Mullenbach

Environmental Justice, Urban Greening, Gentrification

Darren Purcell

Popular Geopolitics, Political Geography, Media and Communications Geographies

Laurel Smith

Geopolitics of Knowledge, Representation, and Indigeneity; Visual and Mediated Geographies

Chenghao Wang

Urban Climatology, Urban Meteorology, Sustainable Urban Development

Michael Wimberly

Disease Ecology, Public Health, Climate and Health

Anni Yang

Medical and Health Geography, Disease Ecology, Infectious Disease