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Mary Ann Cunningham Professor of Geography and Director of Environmental Studies

My work focuses on the ways landscape composition influences environmental quality and habitat availability. Around Poughkeepsie and the Vassar Campus I have worked with students and colleagues to study how urbanization has changed habitat composition (especially for birds) and water quality in local streams. Much of my work has also explored how species distributions in the Sheyenne National Grasslands, in North Dakota, are influenced by extent and configuration of tree cover in the landscape. For further information, please see this link.

I teach courses in conservation, land use planning, GIS and mapping, and related aspects of environmental and physical geography. Most of my courses involve some components of GIS, environmental inquiry, and field experience (as much as possible). My courses have focused on topics such as historic landscapes and exploration, conservation history in the Adirondack Park, and the intersection of aesthetic landscapes and environmental planning on the Vassar Campus. Interested in thesis/project ideas? see this link.

In addition to research and teaching, I am coauthor on two textbooks in environmental science: Environmental Science: a Global Concern, and Principles of Environmental Science. Our aim with these books are to give students access to ideas about how science is used to examine and ideally to resolve environmental problems, as well as how human, cultural, and political factors give nuance to environmental issues and solutions. Ideas from these books are informed by, and used in, all of my teaching and research activities.

For further information on my recent projects, please see this link.

I am also involved with the Vassar Environmental Research Institute. (link accessible only to accounts)

  • BA, Carleton College; MA, University of Oregon; PhD, University of Minnesota
  • At Vassar since 2001


Research and Academic Interests

  • Geography


  • ESCI 220/GEOG. Cartography: Making Maps with GIS
  • ESCI/GEOG 260. Conservation of Natural Resources


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Photo: Buck Lewis / Vassar College