TA Steve Cardinal Takes First Place Award in AAG Regional Competition

Steve Cardinal at AAG Conference

Other geography students recognized, as well

Master’s student and teaching assistant (TA) Steve Cardinal, who is due to complete his thesis and graduate in May 2020, recently took first place in the master’s oral presentation competition during the 2019 American Association of Geographers (AAG) West Lakes Division Conference at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. Other geography grad students from Mizzou won awards, as well.

About 130 individuals from 31 universities were in attendance, and Cardinal’s presentation was based on his thesis research he is doing with Professor Grant Elliott. The research utilizes repeat photography at five sites within the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado.

“Repeat photography is the practice of capturing multiple photographs of a specific location at two different times then trying to make inferences as to what changes have taken place,” Cardinal says. “My overall findings were that spruce beetle infestations have taken place dramatically at three out of five of the sites between 2002 and 2019. A lot of tree mortality has taken place because of the infestations that have been plaguing Colorado for the past decade or so.”

Cardinal’s work was a “repeat” off Elliott’s photography work, which the geography professor started in 2002 as part of his master’s thesis. Cardinal visited five of his sites in summer 2019 and took identical photos as Elliott.

Taylor Fox at AAG Conference

“I think Steve’s work does a great job of capturing the rapid changes that are happening across mountain landscapes since drought began in 2002,” says Elliott.

Cardinal says his presentation was on his preliminary observations of the photographs taken. He showed the audience the initial changes that had taken place from analyzing the photographs. “One of my sites only had tree densification as the big change that occurred,” he says. “While others had the spruce beetle infestation — it really just varied site to site in terms of change.” Cardinal adds infestation has peaked and is slowly on its way out.

When Cardinal learned his presentation took first place, he was “taken aback. Apparently, my expression was rather adorable just because of my shock,” he says. “I had no idea. I wasn’t anticipating I won first place.”

Cardinal says he was a little nervous, but was told he looked confident throughout the presentation. “I knew what I would be getting out of this was helpful feedback for my defense in May,” he adds. As a TA since August 2018, he’s had plenty of practice teaching and says its important to be genuine with the presentation.

“I always find opening a lecture presentation with a “hey, how’s it going” sets the mood so to speak. It was definitely a wonderful time. It helped break up the monotony of day-to-day life. Any time I’m on the road is always an adventure.”

Hesston Bridgeman at AAC Conference

After graduation, Cardinal, who is from Connecticut originally, would like to work with the National Park Service or Forest Service in some type of research capacity. He says he chose Mizzou for two reasons: 1) he was interested in working with Elliott as they had similar research interests, and 2) he had never been to the Midwest and felt it would be a slower pace of life compared to New England.

Others who took awards include James Kaemmerer who took second place in the oral paper presentation competition for master’s students; and Taylor Fox who won second place in the poster competition for master’s students. In addition, students Sydney Bailey, Hesston Bridgeman and Alex Ringling presented in the poster competitions. In all, a total of 23 awards were given in 16 categories, up from the usual 16 due to ties.

“A total of 65 student presentations have entered various competitions and the competitiveness varies by different categories,” says Bingqing Liang, chair, West Lakes Division of the American Association of Geographers. “The stiffest ones were for undergraduate poster competition with 24 posters and AAG Council Award (24 oral papers), followed by doctoral oral paper (15), doctoral or Masters poster (10), Masters’ oral (9), and undergraduate oral (7).

“I would like to congratulate the winners from your department on their achievements,” he adds. “I wish they will continue their research path and to attend other professional events including the national AAG and future WLDAAG conferences to present their exciting research. I also hope they feel confident in their abilities to rise to their next challenges whether personal or professional.”

The next conference will be at Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville Nov. 12-14, 2020. “The goal of WLDAAG is to bring students and geographers mostly from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and Wisconsin for the latest in research, teaching, and applications in geography, sustainability, and GIScience.” Liang adds.

 “Mizzou geography made quite the showing,” says Geography Chair Soren Larsen. “I’d also like to thank Matt Foulkes for taking lead on graduate recruiting — it was great to see our table so busy with interested prospective students.”