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Robert Vega, Director FAC 18 / 2304 Whitis Ave. Stop G6200 78712-1508 • 512-471-7900

Faculty Profiles - Geography

Dr. Gregory Knapp – Cultural and Political Ecology, Historical Geography, Latin America (especially Andes)
Dr. Kenneth Young – Biogeography, Landscape Ecology, Climate Change, Sustainability, and Tropical Environments

DR. GREGORY KNAPP


Academic Background: Ph.D. & M.S., Geography, University of Wisconsin at Madison; B.A., Mathematics & Economics, University of California at Berkeley

Areas of Specialization: Cultural and Political Ecology, Historical Geography, Latin America (especially Andes)

What made you decide to go to graduate school?
I realized, after several years working (in canneries, as a librarian, and various other odd jobs) that I was addicted to reading and thinking about cultural and environmental issues, and wanted to be involved in research. At first I did not think of a teaching career, but was open to a variety of trajectories working for government agencies or nongovernmental organizations.

What was your dissertation topic when you were in graduate school?
I worked on the history of agricultural adaptive strategies in highland Ecuador. This research involved spending more than a year doing field and archival research in the Andes.

What topics do you teach at UT?
This year I am teaching a large freshman course on Latin America, a signature course on environmental history and sustainability in Latin America, and our department's entry-level seminar for graduate students, Issues in Geography. From time to time I also teach Cultural Ecology and Culture, Environment, and Development.

Can you tell us a bit about your areas of specialization?
I am interested in human-environment relationships, a topic which is also sometimes called ecological anthropology, cultural ecology, political ecology, human ecology, environmental history, or sustainability studies. By its very nature this research is interdisciplinary and synthetic. I have also spent a lot of time studying the regional geography of Latin America; many processes operate differently in Latin America than in other parts of the world due to Latin America's unique environments, cultural history, and political trajectories.

Are you currently conducting research? What is your research focus?
There are a number of topics on which I am currently working. I have a forthcoming article on early efforts to map indigenous groups in Ecuador. These mapping projects have involved conflicting agendas having to do both with nation building and with indigenous movements.

A longer-term project is to track the local impacts of trade liberalization on local agricultural modernization in the Andes. This involves interviewing managers of irrigation systems and such modern agricultural enterprises as flower plantations.

Is there a hot topic currently being discussed by geography scholars in the U.S. or around the world?
Many geographers are currently concerned with sustainability, either in terms of immediate challenges of global change or in terms of long-term environmental and social processes.

Did you participate in a research project as an undergraduate? Would you recommend research to undergraduates?
As an undergraduate I researched the role of American banks in Latin American development under the direction of economic historian Rosemary Thorpe. At the time there was concern that the benefits of international capital investment were unevenly distributed. Of course, by the 1980s Latin America entered its debt crisis and many banks took a drubbing.

What are your top tips for students interested in applying to a geography graduate program?

  1. Make sure you are ready for graduate school;
  2. Make sure our program is right for you, by researching programs around the world; and
  3. Make sure you have identified a faculty member that is appropriate as a mentor, and that you have gotten in touch with her or him.

What are the top five geography programs in the US?
In terms of studying human-environment interactions in Latin America, I believe we are the best. Other excellent programs with somewhat different foci are at Berkeley, University of California at Los Angeles, University of Washington at Seattle, University of Colorado at Bolder, University of Wisconsin at Madison, Pennsylvania State University, Louisiana State University Syracuse University, and Clark University, among others.

What careers do alumni generally pursue after graduation from the program?
Most of our PhD students become tenure-track faculty members at colleges or universities. Students with master's degrees pursue a wide range of careers in education, government, non-governmental organizations, and business.

Download Dr. Knapp's Profile

DR. KENNETH YOUNG


Academic Background: Ph.D., Geography, University of Colorado at Boulder – CO; M.A., Botany, University of Florida – Gainesville, FL; B.S., Ecology, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign – IL

Areas of Specialization: Biogeography, Landscape Ecology, Climate Change, Sustainability, and Tropical Environments

What made you decide to go to graduate school?
I wanted to be a scientist, and do research.

What was your dissertation topic when you were in graduate school?
My doctoral dissertation was on the ecology, biogeography, and conservation of tropical forests in the highlands of northern Peru. Previously I studied the recovery of cut tropical forest in Costa Rica for my master’s thesis.

Can you tell us a bit about your areas of specialization?
I combine studies of the ecology of landscapes and vegetation with methods that will give me insights on the rates and types of change, and on the source of those changes, whether from human influence, natural disturbance, or climate change.

Are you currently conducting research? What is your research focus?
I have long-term research ongoing in Peru on the conservation of tropical landscapes, particularly as they are changing with human influences and climate change. In addition, I am involved in other research projects through students and colleagues on biodiversity and biogeography in the western Amazon, the highest elevations of the Andes Mountains, and the Okavango Delta in southern Africa.

Is there a hot topic currently being discussed by geography scholars in the U.S. or around the world?
Many scholars are working on research related to climate change, whether that be studying past change or trying to understand likely future changes.

Did you participate in a research project as an undergraduate? Would you recommend research to undergraduates?
I worked on a pollination ecology project for a professor at the University of Illinois. It was a wonderful experience to see what research looked like, and I would recommend that kind of experience to any interested undergraduate. I also wanted to do my own research, and so did an independent project in my senior year.

What are your top tips for students interested in applying to a geography graduate program?

  1. Communicate early with professors and graduate students already in the program to see if your goals match the possibilities.
  2. Come visit also, if at all possible.
  3. Have a backup plan as admission is selective.

What makes a good graduate student?
Dedication to hard work and self-improvement. Interest in learning new things.

What are the top five geography programs in the US?
Maybe Clark University, University of Minnesota, University of Colorado, Arizona State University, Ohio State University, and others depending on the specific part of geography

What careers do alumni generally pursue after graduation from the program?
They work in academia, in government positions, and for nongovernmental organizations.

Download Dr. Young's Profile

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