Introducing the New Graduate Student Cohort 2023-2024!

The UW-Madison Geography Department is delighted to introduce our newest cohort of research-based Master’s and Ph.D. students:

Alec Armon, Anjo Brekalo, Yanbing Chen, Christina Dennis, Ashmita Dhakal, Eric Giese, Ray Lacko, Daniel Maraldo, Brynn Patrello, Gabriel Shapiro, Songxi Yang, and Qianheng Zhang.

They bring with them a wealth of experiences and interests from across the globe, and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome them to Madison and Science Hall. We also extend a warm welcome to Hilary Habeck Hunt, who joins the department as a joint Geography/Nelson Institute PhD.  

This cohort’s research interests span all sub-areas of the discipline, for example: 

  • The use of ecosystem services programs to make farming more sustainable.  
  • Collective ownership of conservation lands.  
  • How agricultural land ownership, management, and conservation can interact for biodiversity.
  • How quickly different vegetation communities moved across the landscape during the post-glacial period of rapid climate change. 
  • The intersection of Geovisualization, Human-Centered Design, and GIScience Education.
  • Wildlife detection using remote sensing, GIS, and machine learning. 
  • The use of drones that have been widely used to quantify emissions from permafrost landscape.
  • Large-scale durian production in Thailand. 
  • The interplay between social movements, knowledge production, and public policy in Chile. 

So far, new grads are enjoying the department, where “there’s a palpable sense of camaraderie among students and faculty alike, which fosters a thriving academic community” and “their peers make it easy to show up every day”. Departmental support provides a strong base from which to engage with a wide range of “sometimes overwhelming” lectures and presentations across UW as well as with other campus units including GLUE (Global Land Use and Environment Lab), LACIS (Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies), CSEAS (Center for Southeast Asian Studies), WEI (Wisconsin Energy Institute, and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. Grads mention favorite campus spots, such as the Indian Mounds, the Lakeshore path, and appreciate the diverse campus architecture, from the red brick of Science Hall to the “brutalist modernism” of the Humanities Building and the classic columns of the Historical Society and Memorial Union. 

Many have especially enjoyed the October colors and sunshine of Madison, some taking time to “collect and press leaves” while others knit by the lake. Others mention hobbies like hiking in Wisconsin’s many state parks, learning to canoe, foraging for wild mushrooms, and biking. Many commute by bike and appreciate the green spaces and bike-ability of the city (that is, until the snow comes!).  Madison’s offerings of live music, dancing, stand-up comedy shows and trivia nights are popular. Others simply say Madison “rocks” and it’s an “upbeat” place where “you’re surrounded by awesome coffee shops and craft breweries, and the people are super friendly”. Beer and cheese are already part of many students’ diets, but one admits they’ll have to build their “taste for cheese”, setting a (rather ambitious!) goal of tasting “all the varieties of cheese available here” by the time they graduate.  

Again, we are excited to welcome our new cohort of “geograds” and look forward to their continuing contributions to the department and the field. To learn more about our graduate programs and the work of all of our grad students, please visit our website:

Author: lwunderlich