Physical Geography Program
The Department of Geography at the University of Kentucky includes 20 full-time faculty, two faculty jointly appointed with other programs, two professional teaching staff, and six adjunct faculty. Of these, seven are directly involved in physical geography, and another six support the program through research or teaching in GIS or environmental geography.
In the tradition of geography coursework growing out of geology programs in the U.S., the first geography courses (physiography) appeared in the official UK Catalogue in 1923. Two years later, courses on Economic Geography and Conservation of Natural Resources were added, followed by an introductory two-semester course titled Elements of Geography. By the mid-1930s several different academic departments at the University offered geography courses. World War II fostered a rapidly escalating demand for geographic information and problem solving techniques. In 1944, the University authorized the founding of a new Department of Geography within the College of Arts and Sciences.
In 1999 geography was designated an RCTF (Research Challenge Trust Fund) program as part of a state effort to identify and enhance the state's top research and graduate programs. Adding a physical geography research and graduate study element to the department's programswas a strategic decision designed to both make use of RCTF resources and achieve the lofty goals of the RCTF program.
Research and graduate study in physical geography at Kentucky emphasizes geomorphology, biogeography, soils, and the intersections of these in the form of biogeomorphology and geoecology. Particular areas of focus include:
•Biogeomorphology and Geoecology: These studies emphasize the interactions between ecological and geomorphological processes, in areas such as biological weathering, the coevolution of soils, landforms, and ecosystems, biotic effects on geomorphic and pedologic processes, and hydrogeomorphic frameworks for ecosystem management.
•Weathering, Soils, and Landscape Evolution integrates the study of weathering processes and forms with investigations of the role of weathering and soil/regolith development in landscape evolution.
•Biogeography & Landscape Ecology in the department includes studies of contemporary processes and change, and historical ecological change. Forest ecosystems, plant geography & ecology, dendrochronology, and disturbance regimes (especially fire) are of particular interest.
•Cultural Geomorphology research is focussed on the applications of geomorphology, particularly weathering and stone decay research, to problems in cultural resource management and historic preservation.
•Fluvial Geomorphology and Hydrology work has emphasized the storage and fluxes of sediment and solutes at the drainage basin scale, response of coastal plain rivers to environmental change, nonequilibrium in fluvial systems, evolution of fluvially-dissected terrain, and fluviokarst. Applied fluvial work has focussed on instream flow programs, forest hydrology, and hydrogeomorphic impacts of dams.
The University of Kentucky is situated in the inner Bluegrass region of the state, in the midst of one of the best-developed and best-known karst landscapes in the world. Close by is the world's longest cave (Mammoth Cave) and the famous sinkhole plain. A short distance away in eastern and southern Kentucky is the Cumberland Plateau section of the Appalachian Mountains, where areas such as the Red River Gorge and Big South Fork National Recreation Area provide outstanding research (as well as R&R) opportunity. Closer still is the Kentucky River gorge with its spectacular limestone palisades and surrounding fluviokarst. In western Kentucky, in the upper Mississippi embayment, lies the spectacular alluvial valley of the lower Mississippi River and associated loess deposits. On a north-south axis, Lexington lies just south of the southern limit of Pleistocene glaciation, providing excellent access to glaciated and unglaciated landscapes and the transition between them.
The Tobacco Road Research Team
The UK Geography Department is home to one of two main chapters of the Tobacco Road Research Team. This group is a real, but loosely-organized and semi-serious, organization. The TRRT was founded in 1990 by Dr. B.D. Mann in eastern North Carolina. The mission of the TRRT was, and remains to this day, unclear but does involve conducting and promoting geomorphic, hydrologic, and pedologic research in tobacco-producing regions of the southeastern U.S. The association with tobacco is incidental; neither the research nor the TRRT is connected with the plant or its products other than occupying the same landscape.
Physical Geography Laboratory
The Physical Geography Laboratory occupies four rooms in the basement of Miller Hall, adjacent to the Cartography and GIS laboratories. The labs include a "wet lab" outfitted with a fume hood and equipment for chemical and physical analyses of water, rock, soil, and sediment, as well as microscopy and similar tasks. The lab also includes a full set of equipment for processing and analysis of tree rings and cores, and specialized equipment for rock weathering experiments.
The lab also houses field equipment, including laser levels (and traditional field survey gear), GPS equipment, electromagnetic and mechanical current meters, rock drill and sediment coring equipment, suspended and bedload sediment samplers, and a variety of rock, soil, and sediment sampling and testing equipment.
Additional equipment, including a PAR (photosynthetically active radiation) meter, is available through a cooperative arrangement with Lexington-based Copperhead Road Geosciences, Inc.
The Department of Geography is also partnered with the archaeology program at U.K. in the maintenance of geophysical survey equipment, including ground penetrating radar, electrical resistivity, and magnetic susceptibility.
Physical Geography Faculty
W.A. (Drew) Andrews, Jr.
Adjunct Professor; Geologist, Kentucky Geological Survey
Geomorphology, landscape evolution, GIS, geologic mapping
Biogeography, Coastal/Forest ecology, Soil-landform modeling, Multivariate/Spatial
Bioclimatology, Landscape Phenology, Remote Sensing, and Spatial Ecology
Adjunct Professor; Research Hydrologist, USDA Forest Service
Fluvial geomorphology, biogeomorphology, hydrology, forest hydrology
Fluvial, coastal, & soil geomorphology; pedology; biogeomorphology; hydrology
Biogeomorphology, climatology, human-environment interactions, scale theory.
Weathering & stone decay, cultural geomorphology, biogeomorphology,
For more information, please contact one or more of the above