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Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach, Chair 305 E. 23rd Street • CLA 3.306 • A3100 • Austin, Tx 78712 • 512-232-1595

Molly Polk

M.A. Latin American Studies, University of Texas at Austin

Doctoral Candidate
Molly Polk



Molly is a PhD candidate in the doctoral program in the Department of Geography and The Environment at the University of Texas at Austin. Her dissertation research is in the Peruvian Andes. Using high Andean wetlands as a focal point, Molly's project aims to investigate the coupled relationships between glacial recession, land cover change and human activity. By evaluating the changing dynamics of high Andean wetlands, much can be learned about the connectivity between hydrologic systems and vulnerable, yet adaptive human systems. The project is designed with direct application and conservation in mind. Results of the study will be shared with local institutions that actively engage in policy-making and natural resource management. 

Molly served as Graduate Research Assistant to Kenneth R. Young, her advisor, on a project funded by the National Science Foundation entitled “Collaborative Research: Hydrologic Transformation and Human Resilience to Climate Change in the Peruvian Andes” (Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems (CNH) Program, Principal Investigators: Kenneth R. Young, Jeff Bury, Bryan Mark, Mark Carey). The project evaluates water use, human vulnerability, land use and land cover change, watershed dynamics, water quality and water governance in order to understand how a new system of governance is emerging in the Andes and how glacial dynamics are transforming meltwater rates in the Santa River watershed.

The results of her master’s thesis were published in the journal Urban Ecosystems under the title “Biodiversity conservation implications of landscape change in an urbanizing desert of Southwestern Peru.” She is a contributing author to a 2013 article in Annals of the Association of American Geographers, "New Geographies of Water and Climate Change in Peru: Coupled Natural and Social Transformations in the Santa River Watershed". In 2015, Molly and student colleagues published in The Southwestern Geographer offering advice on enriching the undergraduate experience.

Molly is the recipient of an NSF DDRI, a UT-Austin Graduate School Continuing Fellowship, and a Dissertation Fellowship Award from the Austin branch of the American Association of University Women. The Department of Geography and the Environment awarded Molly the 2013 Leadership Award and she won the Office of Graduate Studies Professional Development Award. Molly has spent numerous field seasons in Peru, Mexico, Texas, and New Mexico. She is well-versed in geographical field techniques, remote sensing and GIS and is fluent in Spanish.

Follow Molly's tweets @GeoPolkSpace.


Mountain geography, human dimensions of global change, landscape ecology, biogeography, conservation

GRG 335N • Landscape Ecology

37805 • Spring 2014
Meets MWF 1000am-1100am CLA 1.108
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Landscape ecology is the study of spatial patterns in the Earth's biosphere and of the processes that produce those patterns. Landscapes can be defined in many ways and at many scales but in this course we will focus on landscapes at the level of a human observer. This interdisciplinary approach draws from ecology and geography, but it is also a perspective increasingly shared by hydrologists, foresters, wildlife biologists, social scientists, landscape architects, and others. We will examine the current state of knowledge and research on the patches and corridors that constitute landscape mosaics. We will cover the possible causal explanations for landscape heterogeneity from geographical and ecological points of view. Finally, we will explore practical applications of landscape ecology to the study of natural environments and those managed or altered by human activities. 


Polk, M.H. and K.R. Young. In press. Bofedales y los efectos de cambios ambientales através de un sistema socio-ecológico alto-andino in Postigo, J. and K.R. Young (eds.) Perspectivas Socio-Ecológicas en América Latina. Lima, Peru: Institúto de Estudios Peruanos.*
Sounny-Slitine, M. A., K. A. Tasker, K. F. Doubleday, M. H. Polk, B. R. Knight, and C. Schneider. 2015. On Making and Becoming a Graduate. The Southwestern Geographer 18:C1–C3.*
French, A., M. Arenas Aspilcueta, M. Baraer, B. Mark, J. McKenzie, R.J. Gómez López, K.R. Young, M.H. Polk, M. Carey, J. Bury. 2013. Las Áreas Naturales Protegidas Informan. Los impactos del cambio global en las áreas naturales protegidas y sus zonas de influencia: El caso del Parque Nacional Huascarán y la cuenca del Río Santa. Ed. No. 1. SERNANP, Lima, Peru. download
Bury, J., B.G. Mark, K.R. Young, J. McKenzie, M. Baraer, A. French, and M.H. Polk. 2013. New geographies of water and climate change in Peru: coupled natural and social transformations in the Santa River watershed. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 103:363–374. download

Polk, M.H., K.R. Young, and K.A. Crews-Meyer. 2005. Biodiversity conservation implications of landscape change in an urbanizing desert of Southwestern Peru. Urban Ecosystems 8(3): 313–334. download


*Please email me if you would like a copy.

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