Graduate Students

Patrick Blaszyk

This past Spring of 2021, I graduated Summa Cum Laude from Appalachian State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Community and Regional Planning, minored in Geography, and also attained a GIS Certificate. I have returned to Appalachian State University this Fall semester in order to attain my Master’s degree in Geography with a concentration in Planning through the Accelerated Admission Master’s program.

For two summers in a row, I held a Planning Intern position at the Town of Indian Trail. For my first internship, my primary tasks and duties were assisting one of the Senior Planners with updating the Comprehensive Plan and Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). For my second year interning at the town, I focused on the day-to-day side of planning. This included issuing various permits to residents, assisting residents with various planning-related issues over the phone or email, creating maps with GIS, and assisting new residential development that was being built in the town. I hope to further grow my knowledge of Geography and Planning in order to prepare myself to enter the workforce as a candidate for becoming a Planner!

In my free time I enjoy listening to classic rock music, collecting vinyl, CD’s, and various rock memorabilia, attending concerts, collecting antique maps of where I grew up in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State and the town where I live near Charlotte, long-distance running, playing the trumpet, and spending time with my American-English Coonhound Maisie!

Matthew Blaszyk

I graduated from Appalachian State University in May of 2021 with the honor of Summa Cum Laude. I obtained my Bachelors in Community and Regional Planning, Minor in Geography, and Certificate in Geographic Information Systems. I am currently enrolled in the Accelerated Admissions Program at Appalachian State University to obtain a Master’s Degree in Geography, with a concentration in Community and Regional Planning. I also work as a Graduate Assistant for the Geography department.

During the past two summers, I have worked as an intern. The first position was for the Planning Departments at the Village of Marvin, North Carolina, and the second was the Long-Range Planning Department for the City of Rock Hill, South Carolina. During each of these internships, I have focused on the future planning aspects for these communities. Two of the projects I have worked on include, a comprehensive plan draft and, an existing condition report along a road corridor study. I plan to further strengthen my skills throughout this year in the field of planning, to prepare for work in the professional planning field.

My personal interests/activities include playing bass guitar, running, and being a crew member for the band DECARLO.

Harrison Brown

I graduated from Appalachian State University in Spring 2020 with a B.A. in Geography and Planning and a B.A. in German Language, Literature, and Culture.

My research involves remote sensing, human geography, and linguistics. I intend to further research the connections between climate change and human/political geography, specifically, how to connect with people in order to effectively communicate the need for climate change policy and climate justice reform.

My personal interests are listening to music and playing my guitar and bass, as well as learning about different languages and cultures.

Bailey Chavis

I graduated from Appalachian State University in May of 2020 with my B.S. in ecology, evolutionary and environmental biology and a minor in geography as well as a GIS certificate. I am currently pursuing my M.A. in Geography with a focus on GIS and GIScience.

My research interests include climate change, GIS technology and advancements, remote sensing imagery, and biological species conservation and ecology. Previously I have been involved in pollinator research which focused on the geographical distribution of bumble bees along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I hope to direct my future research towards species preservation and conservation using GIS technology.

My personal interests include fungi foraging, hiking, listening to music, and anime.

Caity Duncan

I graduated from Appalachian State University in May of 2021 with a B.S. in Community & Regional Planning, a GIS Certificate, and a minor in Geography. I am also an Accelerated Admissions student within the department. 

My research interests include the geographic distribution of climate change and its effects on historically marginalized populations, hazard mitigation planning, natural disaster recovery, GIS technologies, and biodiversity conservation. I have previously been involved in research with RIEEE that focused on examining climate resilience in rural inland areas, with a specific focus on western North Carolina, as well as a project examining the decoupling of carbon dioxide emissions from economic growth. 

My personal interests include spending time on my family's farm, hiking, vegan cooking, and playing soccer.

Nick Gastelle

I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a B.S. degree in Urban and Regional Planning in December 2019.

My research interests are in Urban Density, Demographic Mapping, Political Geography, and Global Urbanization. I am currently researching cross-professional collaboration potential between Social Workers and Urban Planners at the community level.

My personal interests are Skiing, playing Basketball and Soccer, Yoga, and I am also learning German and Swedish. 

Rachel Geoffrion

Graduating from Appalachian State with a B.S. in Community & Regional Planning in May 2021, I have returned to the department through the Accelerated Admissions Program and will be earning my Geography M.A. with a GIS concentration.

My research interests include urban water systems, the activation of landscape architecture as a solution to social and climate justice issues, public access to green space, and the development of accessible data visualization to better convey these issues to the public. I currently work with Mosaic Civic Studio on trail and park planning, master planning, and landscape design in counties and towns across the Southeast. I plan on eventually pursuing a second master's degree in Landscape Architecture to transfer my geography and GIS skills into design applications.

In my free time, I love traveling, eating Vietnamese food, thrifting, and sewing sustainable clothing, learning to rollerskate, and journaling.

Matt McGregor


I graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Community and Regional Planning and conjunctively obtained a certificate in GIS. I am currently continuing my college education at Appalachian State University by pursuing a Master of Arts Degree in Geography.

During the Spring and Summer of 2021, I worked for the Town of Boone’s Planning and Inspections Department as their Planning Intern. I was very thankful and honored to take on this position as their first intern in several years. Through my experience working for the Town of Boone, I formed meaningful connections with the dedicated and influential people who form the Planning and Inspections Department. Through my position, I learned what it truly means to contribute to the planning process of a town. One of the projects I tackled in this position was collecting physical records and translating them into obtainable electronic data to be accessible to the general public of Boone. I also researched the prevalence of hostile architecture in Boone and possible solutions. Along with these tactile tasks, I was an active contributor to the weekly meetings run by the Town of Boone in collaboration with numerous organizations, such as the Planning Commission, Board of Adjustment, Community Appearance, Historic Preservation Commission, and the Sustainability, Economics, and Environment Committee. Although I am obtaining a generalized Geography degree, I still hold a special place in my heart for planning. My hope in obtaining my Master’s Degree is that I gain experience in all fields of Geography and Planning.

My research interests consist of Transportation Planning, Zoning, Human Geography, History, Climate Change, and Political Science. I would love to positively contribute to society in any way that I can and am passionate about the overall interaction with the community on a personal level.

My interests in my free time consist of creating art pieces, playing video games, basketball, reading historical articles, and consistently listening to music.

Erali Miller

I graduated from Sam Houston State University in Texas where I received my B.S. in Geography with a minor in Psychology. Prior to my graduation I had the opportunity to complete two separate research projects. I conducted research into the effectiveness of three different environmental not-for-profit agencies operating throughout the Hawaiian Islands. This research I presented at the Kona Science Lecture Series in December of 2019. In April of 2020, I presented research at the Undergraduate Research Seminar that I had conducted into the effectiveness of not-for-profit organizations with community supported agriculture (C.S.A.) as their focus within the state of Texas. After conducting this research, I decided to join the American Association of Geographers Geographies of Food and Agriculture specialty group.

I am interested in research surrounding food sovereignty and food justice. During my graduate career, I will be working with Dr. Schroeder through the Graduate Research Associate Mentoring (G.R.A.M.) Program. While collaborating with Dr. Schroeder on her research, I hope to gain new perspectives on my research interests.

In my free time, I enjoy rock climbing and hiking with my two dogs. I really love cooking, baking bread, and practicing yoga. I am also learning Swedish, and my goal is to be a polyglot.

Tyler Minor

Josh Platt

I graduated from Appalachian State University with a B.S. in Geography. During undergrad I jumped on an opportunity to conduct field work on the Watauga River, surveying channel morphology and monitoring suspended sediment prior to the removal of the Ward’s Mill Dam. This historic dam brought energy and industry to the surrounding community and presents a cultural aspect to the study that shouldn’t be ignored. “Nature and culture are inextricably linked.”

With the dam removed in May of 2021, I am thrilled to continue this research during my time with the grad program. Small scale dam removals are a growing trend and the vast majority of studies indicate the ecological benefits of removal far outweigh the economic benefits this aging, often obsolete infrastructure could potentially bring. However, there is a gap in literature for such removals on Appalachian streams and I am honored to have the opportunity to contribute my findings.

Besides fluvial geomorphology, I am also interested in examining past semi-autonomous communities of Appalachia and their future in a post-extractive economy.

In my free time, I enjoy drumming, olympic weightlifting, mountaineering, climbing, snuggling my dog, and mountain biking.

Sophie Ryan

I graduated from the University of Vermont in May 2018 with a BA in Geography and a minor in Geology. At UVM, I conducted research and completed a senior thesis on phosphorous transport from forested watersheds in Vermont to further address and answer questions regarding toxic algae blooms.

During my undergrad I also conducted research looking at ocean terrace sediments and their nutrient content, diurnal stream chemistry variability, water quality in a rapidly developing coastal town and human-environment interactions with regards to high Andean grasslands – páramo. I love conducting research and learning more about the landscapes and history of where I live and visit. My research interests include water chemistry & quality, climate change & human health, and natural disasters.

After graduating college, I moved to the Tetons of Idaho and Wyoming where I worked as a landscaper, environmental educator, and cross-country ski coach.

In my free time I love to run, hike, kayak, cook, cross-country ski and read on my porch.

Caroline Smith

I graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in May of 2021 with a degree in Public and Urban Affairs, majoring in Smart and Sustainable Cities. During my time at Virginia Tech, I worked on various research projects. Some of which included: performing economic analyses resulting from sea-level rise, administering interviews and carrying out qualitative analyses, and conducting independent research through a grant looking at COVID-19’s effect on college students’ social interactions.

My current research interest is broadly defined as natural disasters and their impact on vulnerable populations.

Some of my personal interests include weight training, nightly walks, spending time on the water, and FaceTiming my cats.

Taylin Spurlock

I graduated in Spring 2021 from the University of Tennessee with a B.A. in Geography with a focus in Climate and Climate Change. I came to the Geography Department after studying abroad with Semester at Sea and seeing the effects of climate change firsthand. During my time in the department, I did undergraduate research in the Laboratory of Paleoenvironmental Research and worked in the GIS Outreach and Engagement Lab to promote geography education in K-12 schools. 

My current research interests include climate, biometeorology, and GIS. I hope to combine these interests to study how climate affects public health. 

Outside of class, you can find me traveling, doing yoga, or anything related to being outdoors. I also have two pups who love to hike!

Luke Wertis

I graduated from Appalachian State University with a B.S. in Applied Physics in May 2017.

My research interests include GIS technology, climate change, and water systems. I am currently doing research with AppAqua looking at river quality/quantity of the Upper South Fork of the New River watershed.

In my free time, I enjoy rock climbing and reading.

Quincy Williams

I graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Platteville in May of 2020 with a B.S. in Geography and minor in GIS. During my time at UW-Platteville my research focuses were rooted in dendrochronology though spanned across remote sensing, historical preservation, and human-environment interactions. I began focusing on issues in water science in the spring of 2020 while conducting research which attempted to reconstruct Lake Superior water supplies through Eastern Hemlock tree rings.

At Appalachian State, I am working with Dr. Derek Martin on a project which has the objective of providing insight to the impacts of dam removal on the fluvial geomorphology of the Watauga River. Ward's Mill Dam is the subject of this project and is a dam which has impounded the Watauga River since 1890 and represents a complex intersection of local history and ecological restoration.

In my free time I like to read about aviation and go outdoors for Nordic skiing, backpacking, sea kayaking, sailing, and canoeing.

Personal Website

Continuity in Research during COVID-19