Mary Ann Cunningham

Professor of Geography
Mary Ann A. Cunningham wearing a black sweater against a light background.

My recent work has focused on two themes relating to climate change impacts and mitigation. First, using spatial data and modeling (GIS), I have studied how climate change is likely to affect agricultural systems and biodiversity. Second,to understand how we can mitigate change, not just worry and watch its impacts, I have increasingly focused on renewable energy systems and their rapid evolution. This theme addresses both climate anxiety and recent policy incentives that promote renewables and climate protection.

This work has evolved from my earlier concerns about landscape change and environmental impacts. Landscape change and climate change are both key drivers of change in environmental quality and biodiversity, and as a geographer, I am interested in understanding both the dynamic of changes and the policy contexts that drive those changes. In that context, my earlier work focused on landscape-scale impacts of agricultural policy and agricultural expansion on avian biodiversity (which involved field bird surveys), as well as suburban expansion and its impacts on water quality and biodiversity. Throughout these themes, I am motivated to understand environmental change, to learn new approaches in GIS analysis, and to help students gain useful knowledge and skills for environmental research. To learn more, see this link.

BA, Carleton College; MA, University of Oregon; PhD, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
At Vassar since 2001


Ely Hall
Box 261

Research and Academic Interests



ENST/ESCI/GEOG 340 Advanced Urban and Regional Studies
ESCI/GEOG 220 Cartography: Spatial Data Visualization with GIS

In the Media

Bryan Corrigan (far right), Project Manager for Vassar’s Office of Facilities and Operations, addressed Exploring College students on the challenges the College faces renovating some of its older buildings to make them energy-efficient.

Climate change and sustainability were the themes of this year’s Exploring College program. Students took a mini-course on the social and economic impacts of climate change, learned about Vassar’s sustainability goals and projects and also got some tips on how to navigate the college application process.

Students in Professor of Geography Mary Ann Cunningham’s introductory Environmental Studies class used government and industry databases to compute annual carbon emissions in five local municipalities.

Mary Ann Cunningham, Associate Professor of Geography and Chair of Earth Science and Geography, and Neil Curri, Geographic Information System Academic Computing Consultant, were part of a Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies investigative team that found that road salt pollutes drinking water wells in suburban New York State, as noted by EurekAlert!.


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