"I guess part of [the reason] why I got into this field of study in the first place was having a subscription to National Geographic when I was a kid," University Assistant Professor of Geography Adam Csank said.
Now, Csank is the National Geographic Geography Steward for the state of Nevada, a prospect that will usher in new geography opportunities to teach and inspire students throughout Nevada.
Unlike most geographers, Csank's career did not begin with geography. After completing his bachelors in earth sciences at Dalhousie University, he went on to do a Master of Science at the University of Saskatchewan. He did his Ph.D. reconstructing past climates using tree rings at the University of Arizona, and after his doctoral program came to an end he had to choose between geology and geography. Ultimately drawn to the geography program at the University of Nevada, Reno, Csank has the opportunity to work with geographers from various backgrounds studying diverse topics.
"I ended up here largely because I liked the idea of being in a department that had a broad swath of people working in many different areas," Csank said. "We have people in our department who study refugees and the cultural impacts from moving place to place, people studying water resources, then we have people like myself who study past climates - we're all geographers."
Working in this field has provided Csank with a myriad of projects from reconstructing past climate in the Canadian Arctic to studying hydroclimate variability in the Upper Colorado River Basin to studying drought and tree mortality in Alaska. He also has worked in Bermuda using isotope dendrochronology to determine where the timber used to construct historic forts came from. This information is useful to historians studying Bermuda's timber trade.
Geographers are in a unique position to study the relationships between people and the environment to tie everything together. This combination of science and history supports consistent policies and plans for the environment, he said.
"If you're trying to plan for environmental changes you need to have a good grounding in the physical sciences and you also need the social side," Csank said. "I see that geography has this role of integrating multiple fields. You still need the specialists. What geographers can do is integrate from all sorts of fields, and pull pieces from here and there and try to put it together in one cohesive whole."
The Geography Steward will encourage students toward geography interests before college by providing a connection between National Geographic Explorers and Nevada classrooms. Explorers could be geographers, scientists or other academics, such as the University's Zeb Hogan, a research assistant professor in the College of Science, who also partners with National Geographic documenting his travels and research on the Nat Geo Wild television show, Monster Fish. Hogan is also a National Geographic Explorer and Fellow.
In his role as Steward, Csank will be working on starting a state advisory standard for geography curriculum as well as organizing a statewide geography trivia contest, where the winner gets to travel to Washington, D.C. He will also help teachers have access to National Geographic online tools to teach and inspire students in the class.
"Dr. Csank's appointment as the National Geographic Nevada Geography Steward is a critical step forward for K-12 geography education opportunities in the state of Nevada," Chair of the Department of Geography Jill Heaton said. "Currently, geography is only taught as part of the social sciences curriculum in K-12 in Nevada, but this is just half of what geographers do."
Csank teaches Paleoclimatology in the College of Science along with the Physical Geography of the World's Environments, Earth Resources and the Environment and the Geography of Past Environments.
"Dr. Csank's liaison opportunities with schools across Nevada will further shed light on the importance of geography and geographic education in our everyday lives," Heaton said.