Published on December 6, 2019 by Sean Flynt  
Geography Conference
(L-R) Jonathan Fleming, Sarah Grumulaitis, Davis Ebbert, Jennifer Rahn and Jennifer Speights-Binet

Senior Samford University geography students Davis Ebbert and Sarah Grumulaitis presented their original research projects at the annual conference of the Southeastern Division of the Association of American Geographers (SEDAAG) in Wilmington, North Carolina, Nov. 24-25. Grumulaitis’ project—Food Deserts in Birmingham, AL: Location, Suitability, and Access to Potential Urban Gardens—earned first place in the undergraduate research poster presentation category. Geography professor Jonathan Fleming, who supervised the project, said Grumulaitis applied data analysis and mapping skills to demonstrate the sparse distribution of USDA-qualified stores providing access to wholesome foods in the city, and identified areas where urban gardens could relieve Birmingham’s “food deserts.” “This demonstrates the importance of undergraduate research at Samford in helping to bring greater awareness to significant social and environmental issues facing our local communities,” Fleming said.

Fleming also supervised Ebbert’s project—Solar Energy: An Assessment of Alternative Energy Potential at Samford University—which mapped Samford’s campus using a drone-mounted camera and created a 3D model of buildings to identify rooftops with suitable slope angle and direction for placement of photovoltaic solar panels. Ebbert also performed a solar radiation analysis to quantify the amount of solar radiation striking each rooftop throughout the year. This allowed him to quantify solar energy potential across campus and identify specific buildings that are most viable for solar power production. “Again, this demonstrates our students’ passion and ability to apply the skills they've acquired in our program to address important issues that will ultimately expand well beyond their own time at Samford,” Fleming said.

“It is impressive how many students we have presenting their research each year, especially compared to other large departments in the southeast,” said Geography and Sociology Department chair Jennifer Speights-Binet. She, Fleming and professor Jennifer Rahn attended the conference with Ebbert and Grumulaitis, and served in various leadership roles, further emphasizing Samford’s outsize impact at the conference.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.