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UW Students Top Regional Geography Competition

November 1, 2013

While many fishermen would be delighted at the opportunity to regularly catch trout weighing 15-20 pounds, some anglers are not impressed and would rather catch smaller, native fish in Yellowstone Lake.

That’s the conclusion of a study conducted by University of Wyoming geography graduate student Hannah Gunderman of Boothbay, Maine. She won first place in the master’s degree student paper competition and was among several UW students honored at the Association of American Geographers’ recent Great Plains-Rocky Mountain Division meeting in Omaha, Neb. UW competed against students from colleges and universities in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah.

Gunderman’s paper, “The Contested Ecology of Yellowstone Lake: Exploring the Effect of Invasive Lake Trout on Anglers’ Sense of Place within Yellowstone National Park,” was based on interviews with people who had fished in Yellowstone Lake before it was taken over by non-native, large lake trout that were introduced into the lake, leading to a dramatic decline in the native cutthroat trout population.

While much research is underway to assess the environmental consequences and potential threats to Yellowstone’s abundant wildlife that depend upon a thriving cutthroat population, Gunderman wanted to find out how fishermen have been affected.

She says she became aware of the issue while working two summers as a National Park Service gill netter, charged with netting and killing the unwanted lake trout. Gunderman’s supervisor provided her with the names of volunteers who had caught fish in the lake during the heyday of the native trout, and the UW student questioned them on whether their views of the Yellowstone experience had The UW team placed third in the geography bowl competition. From left are Jolene Hess, Oklahoma City, Okla.;  Patricia Pettigrew, Laramie; Matt Balentine, Florence, Ala.; Kyle Headrick, Blackhawk, Colo.; Cody Philip, Green River;  and Devin Lea, Grand Ledge, Mich. (UW Photo)changed.

“Many anglers get a lot less enjoyment out of fishing there, even though they might catch the larger lake trout,” Gunderman says. “It (catching lake trout) reminds them of what the lake trout have done to the cutthroat, and many of them are angry and don’t enjoy Yellowstone as they did in the past. Some ask, ‘What’s the point in even bothering to go into the park?’ It’s no longer a pleasant experience.”

Another champion from UW was Devin Lea of Grand Ledge, Mich., who was the highest scorer of all students participating in the World Geography Bowl, which includes undergraduates as well as both master’s and doctoral students. He has been invited to participate on the divisional team that will compete at the national meeting in Tampa, Fla., next April. Lea led UW to third place in the team competition.

The geography bowl is a round-robin format, so UW competed against every other team. There were eight toss-up questions that anyone could answer, along with one question for each team.

Among the toss-up questions: What Slavic language has the greatest number of speakers? (Russian); what is the name for the phenomenon when precipitation evaporates before it hits the ground? (virga); and what is the name for a map where areas are shaded in proportion to the variable they are displaying? (Choropleth map). An example of a team question: What are the seven countries that border Iran?

Undergraduate students competing on the geography bowl team were Kyle Headrick, Blackhawk, Colo.; Jolene Hess, Oklahoma City, Okla.; Patricia Pettigrew, Laramie; and Cody Philip, Green River. Graduate participants were Matthew Balentine of Florence, Ala.; Lea; and Keith Wresinski, Columbia, Mo.

Lea placed second in the master’s degree student paper competition for his paper, titled “Developing a Locational Probability Map to Examine the Effects of Geomorphic Context and Disturbance History on a Channel Change in a Gravel-Bed River.”

Dylan G. Perkins of Riverton was second in the master’s degree student poster competition for his poster, titled “Standardizing Spatial Animal Movement Data: Leveraging Spatial SQL Data Types, Functions and Interoperability.”

Other students presenting were William Sisneros, Cheyenne, “Space and Place, and the Diurnal Cycle: An Examination of the Diurnal Cycle’s Capacity to Create Place”; and Balentine, Justin Frazier, Virginia Beach, Va.; and Professor Gerald R. Webster, “Here or There: Analyzing the Usage of Foreign and Domestic Place Names in Presidential Debates, 1976-2012.” Faculty member John Harty presented “Maybe Geography Does Matter After All: the Growth and Demise of the Big East Conference.”

These University of Wyoming students placed in the paper or poster competition during the Association of American Geographers’ regional meeting in Omaha, Neb. From left are Hannah Gunderman, Boothbay, Maine; Dylan Perkins, Riverton; and Devin Lea, Grand Ledge, Mich. Lea also was the top scorer in the geography bowl. (UW Photo)

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