geographer diver joins coe faculty

Kim DiverThe COE shares faculty from across departments and programs at Wesleyan, including government, history, art, dance, computer science, English, philosophy, environmental science, biology, African American studies, physics, classical studies, chemistry, Science in Society, theater, religion, economics, archaeology, and more.  Kim Diver is an associate professor of the practice in earth and environmental sciences here at Wesleyan and the founder and director of WesGIS. Her research focuses on island biogeography.

What sparked your interest in the environment? 
I was always interested in the environment and I spent much of my childhood outside exploring the woods near my home. I credit my parents’ environmental worldview for my interests in nature, sustainability, and the environment.

Tell us about your research focus on island biogeography.
In my research, I analyze the interrelationships between water level changes, island morphometrics (e.g., island area, shape, etc.), isolation metrics, and forest dynamics to model spatiotemporal distributions of insular plant species. Broader goals are to examine impacts of human-environment interactions and global environmental change on species diversity patterns. My current research sites include temperate freshwater islands within the Great Lakes (Canada) and tropical marine islands within the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean (Republic of Panama).

You are an associate professor of the practice in earth and environmental sciences here at Wesleyan. Why were you also interested in becoming a member of our COE faculty?
I have always enjoyed interacting with COE students in and outside of the classroom. By joining the COE I hope to become more involved with COE students and faculty. I am looking forward to gaining insight on how colleagues outside of my discipline engage with environmental issues.

How does environmental studies intersect with GIS, in your experience?
Many environmental issues have a geographic component to them and are therefore amenable to visualization and analysis in a GIS. Using environmental data in a GIS allows for recognition and understanding of spatial relationships, model development, and so much more.

You are founder and director of WesGIS, which focuses on mapping and spatial data analysis. Tell us about that program! Are there opportunities for students to get involved in WesGIS?
My aim with the WesGIS program is to increase spatial literacy on campus, specifically through mapping and spatial data analysis. As part of the program, I hold hands-on workshops that apply geospatial techniques to timely issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic and US presidential elections, host campus events (like the annual GIS Day in November), and host external speakers. I also direct a GIS Assistant Program in which I pair GIS-savvy students with faculty members to incorporate GIS-related technologies into the professors’ teaching and scholarship. Students can be part of WesGIS as a GIS Assistant, as a workshop participant or event attendee, or as a co-organizer of an event. Interested students can feel free to get in touch with me!

Tell us a little about the courses you’re teaching in spring 2022.
During spring 2022, I will teach Advanced GIS, Introduction to Geospatial Data Analysis & Visualization, and Senior Seminar (capstone course for Earth & Environmental Sciences majors). In the advanced GIS course, students enter the course with a semester-long project idea. As the semester progresses, students work on their projects, learn advanced GIS skills, and teach advanced skills to their peers. The diversity and quality of projects each semester is inspiring: for example, an analysis of the 1918 flu to the geography of Asian American multiracial identity to a groundwater risk assessment of the Berkeley Pit. The introductory course introduces students to GIS theory and skills through case studies in which I show the application of GIS to almost every major on campus. Many of the case studies focus on environmental sustainability or environmental justice. In the E&ES capstone course, student groups continue work on research projects proposed in the fall semester, including analyzing data and writing thorough reports.

Please recommend a must-read book or must-see movie that should be on everyone’s eco-list (related, or not, to your own work)! I would recommend Song of the Dodo by David Quammen, The Adventures of Alexander Von Humboldt written by Andrea Wulf and illustrated by Lillian Melcher, and Medicine Man, starring Sean Connery (1992).