Elon University

Ryan W. Kirk

Associate Professor
Department of History & Geography
Department of Environmental Studies

Office: 112-A Lindner Hall
Phone: 336-278-6477

Fax: 336-278-2855
Email: rkirk2  @   elon.edu
Campus Box 2335
Elon, NC 27244


Curriculum Vitae (pdf)

Teaching Philosophy
Information for Advisees
Student Evaluations


PhD, Natural Resources Science & Management, 2009

University of Minnesota
Dissertation: Land Use and Terrestrial Carbon Storage in Western North Carolina from 1850-2030 (pdf)


MS, Forestry, 2005
University of Minnesota
Thesis: Regional-Scale Forest Production Modeling Using Process-Based Models and GIS (pdf)


BS,  Management Information Systems, 1996
William Jewell College, Liberty, MO

Primary course offerings:



COR110: The Global Experience (pdf)

GEO131: World Regional Geography (pdf)

GEO150: Our Spatial World (pdf)


Strategies for Environmental Inquiry (pdf)

ENS250/GEO250: Introduction to GIS (pdf)

GEO270: Topics in GIS (pdf)



ENS340/GEO340: Water Resources Management (pdf)

GEO360: Geography of North America (pdf)

GEO377: Soccer & Globalization (pdf)



Research Interests:

My research interests fall under a variety of overlapping categories, all of which use GIS and spatial analysis:

1) Environmental geography of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The Appalachian Mountains are a fascinating area for studying the interrelationships between humans and the natural environment. My Appalachian research is focused on historic and current land use change and evaluating the ecological legacy of land use decisions.

2) Water resources management in the Piedmont. Water is a vital natural resource, and the stresses on the historically-abundant water resources of the Piedmont region has increased in recent decades due to population growth and drought cycles. I am working with colleagues in local and regional government agencies to better understand stressors on water quality and identifying ways to mitigate those stresses. My current projects focus on spatially estimating changes in impervious surfaces in the Haw River watershed, developing sediment budgets for a paired urban/exurban watershed study, and beginning study of groundwater dynamics in the Elon University Forest.


3) Forest ecology in the Elon University Forest. The Elon University Forest is a 56-acre reserve on campus that was established in 2010. A group of 9 faculty members, along with several students, have begun long term monitoring of this mixed-disturbance, mixed-forest type area that is so characteristic of the patchwork of Piedmont landscapes. Current projects include researching the environmental history of the site, establishing baseline forest vegetation surveys, and developing a water budget in the Elon Forest's watershed.


4) Using Twitter and smartphones to better understand how we experience our communities.  This is a new research track. Early examples include tracking student movements to explore how urban design influence interactions and mapping and analyzing student consumer behaviors. Click here to see specific examples.


5) Geography of soccer & globalization. Another new research track. After teaching about globalization for years and following soccer for a lifetime, I am combining these into a summer class that uses the global game as a lens to explore the breadth and magnitude of globalization (GEO 377 Soccer & Globalization), a research project on the changing geographies of US college soccer, and a blog that provides an excuse to play with cartography.


6) Applications of GIS. GIS is my primary research tool, and I greatly enjoy collaborating on any variety of projects that use GIS or GIS-based cartography. In my time at Elon I have collaborated with a political scientist, multiple historians, a wildlife biologist, an artist, a communications professor, a sport management professor, and several environmental studies faculty. Please contact me if you have ideas for collaborations.

Student Collaborations:

I am very interested in student-faculty collaborative research. If you have interests in environmental management, water resources, forest ecology, urban and regional planning, or GIS and spatial analysis, please let me know. I have ongoing projects in the Appalachian Mountains, new projects in the Piedmont, and am very open to discussing other possibilities. There are lots of wonderful opportunities waiting for motivated students. If you are interested, please send me an e-mail or stop by my office any day of the week.

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