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Our Graduate Students

Our graduate students come from many places and pursue diverse research and career interests while at SIU.

In addition to our current Geography graduate students below, our faculty also advise PhD students in the Interdisciplinary Environmental Resources and Policy Program.


Ali Alruzuq

Ali Alruzuq

Hometown: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Undergraduate Institution: Imem University

Research Interests: Hydrology, Geographic Information System and Remote Sensing.

Adviser: Dr. Jonathan Remo

Future Career Plans: GIS and Remote Sensing Specialist, Natural Hazard.

What Attracted Me to SIU: The faculty are outstanding in research and teaching. They care about their students and are helpful in guiding our work.


Michael Burck

Michael Burck

Hometown: Grafton, Wisconsin

Undergraduate Institution: University of Wisconsin (Wildlife Ecology), University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Conservation and Environmental Science)

Research Interests: Remote Sensing, Wildlife Ecology, GIS

Adviser: Dr. Guangxing Wang

Future Career Plans: Wildlife and Environmental Resource Management and Planning

What Attracted Me to SIU: SIU-Carbondale gave me the opportunity to develop my own study design and focus; faculty in the Geography Department help me develop skills and improve my research techniques.


Patricia Gay Burns

Patricia Gay Burns

Hometown: Carmi, Illinois

Undergraduate Institution: SIU Carbondale

Research Interests: Biochar as an agricultural soil amendment and the anthropological perspective of its utilization

Adviser: Dr. Leslie Duram

Future Career Plans: Work with growers to help improve soil health for better crops and more nutritious food

What Attracted Me to SIU: Highly-rated expertise in a variety of topics that interest me including local food issues, hydrology, climatology, GIS, and more.


Mercedes Gomez Jacobo

Mercedes Gomez Jacobo

Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

Undergraduate Institution: Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Research Interests: Climate change and Geographic Information Systems

Adviser: Dr. Justin Schoof

Future Career Plans: I would like to work with renewable energy, preferably wind and solar. I also have an interest in teaching weather and climate science.

What Attracted Me to SIU:  I appreciate that SIU is home to many first generation college students. I decided to return to graduate school because of the amazing support networks at this university such as Mc Nair Scholars, Hispanic Resource Center and of course the Geography and Environmental Resources Department.


Aleesandria "Alee" Gonzalez

Aleesandria Gonzalez

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Undergraduate Institution: Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP)

Research Interests:  Environmental resource management, biodiversity, alternative energy, geography education 

Adviser: Dr. Silvia Secchi 

Future Career Plans:  Environmental consulting and dual enrollment education 

What Attracted Me to SIU: Encouraged interdisciplinary research; research interest match


Tara Gracer

Tara Gracer

Hometown: Varazdin, Croatia

Undergraduate Institution: Illinois Wesleyan University

Research Interests: Sustainability, hydrology, ecology

Adviser: Dr. Jonathan Remo

Future Career Plans: Physical Scientist, Land Surveyor, Environmental Consultant

What Attracted Me to SIU: The professor of the Geography Department at SIU attracted me with their research interests and passion for environmental science.


Mark Healy

Mark Healy

Hometown: Carmi, Illinois

Undergraduate Institution: Southern Illinois University - Carbondale

Research Interests: Interdisciplinary spatial applications in sustainability science

Adviser: Dr. Silvia Secchi

Future Career Plans: Undecided, possibly PhD

What Attracted Me to SIU: Excellent Faculty in the SIU GENV Department.


Kemar Jones

Kemar Jones

Hometown: St. Philip, Bridgetown, Barbados.

UndergraduateInstitution: SIUC

Research Interests: Sustainability in Higher Education and Athletics. Wetland & Surface Mine Reclamation. 

Adviser: Dr. Leslie Duram

Future Career Plans: Surface Mine Land Reclamation. Urban Sustainability.

What Attracted Me to SIU: The knowledge and encouragement I received as an undergraduate student-athlete from members of the department reassured me that this was a program that could inspire and motivate me as I pursue my master’s degree.


Michael Kennedy

Michael Kennedy

Hometown: New Windsor, MD

Undergraduate Institution: Frostburg State University

Research Interests: Local Food Systems, Community Gardening, Organic Agriculture

Adviser: Dr. Leslie Duram

Future Career Plans: ENGOs

What Attracted Me to SIU: The beautiful landscape.


Joseph Cleveland Leonard

Joseph Cleveland Leonard

Hometown: Carbondale, IL

Undergraduate Institution: Southern Illinois University-Carbondale

Research Interests: Synoptic Climatology, Climate variability in relation to climate change, effects of climate change on sea level rise, and climate patterns on Mars and Titan.

Adviser: Dr. Justin Schoof

Future Career Plans: To work for a weather service or perhaps SpaceX as a climatologist

What Attracted Me to SIU: The family setting of the university is second to none. You are treated like a person, not a number. The professors are all professionals in their respective fields and will help you in your journey.


Kelsey Lyons

Kelsey Lyons

Hometown: Bloomington, IL

Undergraduate Institution: University of Illinois

Research Interests: Interactions between climate and severe weather, severe weather preparedness

Adviser: Dr. Justin Schoof

Future Career Plans: Something in emergency preparedness or education

What Attracted Me to SIU: Friendly atmosphere and a great natural environment!


Brandon Polk

Brandon Polk

Hometown: Tamms, IL

Undergraduate Institution: SIU

Research Interests: Machine learning and GIS

Adviser: Dr. Guangxing Wang

Future career plans: Environmental scientist/GIS Analyst

What attracted me to SIU: High quality education


Julia Ryherd

Julia Ryherd

Hometown: Mahomet, IL

Undergraduate Institution: Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, IL

Research Interests: Natural Hazards! Flooding, for example

Adviser: Dr. Jonathan Remo

Future Career Plans: To work as a Geologist or Hazard Geologist

What Attracted Me to SIU: Professors who have similar research interests to my own.


Julia Sanabria

Julia Sanabria

Hometown: Deerfield, Illinois

Undergraduate Institution: University of Iowa

Research Interests: Sustainability and Outreach and Education

Adviser: Dr. Leslie Duram

Future Career Plans: After graduation, I will be seeking career opportunities that allow me to coordinate sustainability or climate change related outreach and education opportunities and materials for different organizations!

What Attracted Me to SIU: SIU has provided me with opportunities I could not find elsewhere, such as a good community of peers that share my interests and a more hands on approach to learning through internships and assistantships.


Kristyn Stauber

Kristyn Stauber

Hometown: Wildwood MO

Undergraduate Institution: SIUC

Research Interests: GIS and Natural Resources

Adviser: Dr. Ruopu Li

Future Career Plans: US Forest Service

What Attracted Me to SIU:  During undergrad I fell in love with southern IL, from the small towns to the diverse population and culture. After deciding to start my master’s program I knew I wanted to come back to SIU.