Mason, Jennifer; Tala (The University of Arizona., 2022-04-29)
      Climate change will likely lead to major changes in plant distribution and thus in biomes and habitats. Humans and other species will be affected as our ecology is intimately linked not only to climate but also to habitat availability. This study looks at the vegetative changes within the Bureau of Land Management’s Areas of Critical Environmental Concern designated areas. These areas are in Rio Arriba County and Taos County in New Mexico and the study is from 2000 and 2020 to determine if the Bureau of Land Management’s protective measures have helped mitigate drought effects within the region. The study area includes the Areas of Critical Environmental Concern designated areas of Lower Gorge, Copper Hill, Ojo Caliente, and the Taos Plateau, which cover approximately 327,040 acres within the two study counties. Using surface reflectance and Normalized Difference Vegetation Index analysis, datasets are compared for changes in vegetation health over 5-year increments – 2000, 2005, 2010, 2015, and 2020. Datasets are also compared between 2000 and 2020. Although precipitation levels fluctuate over the temporal extents and vegetation changes accordingly, overall, there has been a decline in vegetative cover over the entire study area. These vegetation changes are most drastic within the Ojo Caliente and Lower Gorge/Copper Hill Areas of Critical Environmental Concern. More research is needed to determine whether the Bureau of Land Management’s protective measures, or lack thereof, have contributed to the decline in vegetation, or if it has to do with the overall effects of long-term drought and climate change.
    • Where am I? Developing Spatial Thinking Skills

      Lukinbeal, Chris; Glueck, Mary (The University of Arizona., 2020-05)
      Middle school students are inundated with a plethora of geographic and GIS instructional resources; however, these students often lack the spatial thinking skills necessary to orient themselves in space and make meaningful geographic connections to the world. The question, “Where am I?”, is challenging without an understanding of spatial orientation, distance, and connections. Developing geographic literacy, even geographic media literacy, being able to locate and connect themselves in the world, is critical to their greater understandings. With this Master’s Project, I document a learner-centered exercise that develops spatial thinking skills. Spatial thinking combines spatial concepts, visualization, and reasoning. Spatial thinking reaches beyond answering “where” with a simple “here” to consider personal awareness of spatial orientation along with spatial connections, and pattern recognition at different spatial scales for problem-solving, decision-making, or policy purposes. Middle school, a time of growth in student understandings from concrete to abstract, is an optimal stage to advance and implement spatial thinking skills. Furthermore, curriculum standards focus on crosscutting concepts of patterns, change, and scale, providing ample opportunity for increasing spatial understandings. This research project involved a sixty-five student cohort that was guided through a geographic inquiry process to build spatial thinking skills and conceptual understandings by orienting themselves in the classroom, applying historical survey methods to create a grid map of the school courtyard, and extending this to GIS-based virtual transects of student-selected connections. Outcomes indicate considerable growth in student spatial thinking skills and understandings. Their knowledge will be applied to future Earth Science investigations ensuring strong engagement and greater spatial understandings. Keywords: Geographic education, reasoning, spatial connections, spatial orientation, visualization