Rosemary Sherriff

Rosemary herself took several classes before finding an interest in geography. Understanding the relationship between humans and the environment piqued her interest in the subject. But the tangible, hands-on research helped solidify her passion.

As an undergraduate student, her most memorable experience occurred on a research road-trip, which took her across the West from the west coast of Oregon to Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and back through eastern Oregon. "The goal of the trip was to conduct field research in Yellowstone National Park and a few other locations, but the entire time as we traveled the professor showed me how the landscape told the story of how the West was formed…This experience changed the course of my life."

"Students gain a lot through being involved in research," says Rosemary Sherriff, Professor of Geography. Each semester, in addition to working with students in class and with teaching assistants and interns, she works personally with a small group of research assistants to conduct research. "One of the most rewarding parts of my job is to work with students individually. HSU undergraduate students are some of the most motivated and hardworking students I've worked with."

"They start by learning how to count tree rings and summarize information into tables and graphics." While the task may be simple, counting tree rings can reveal much more than just the age of a tree. They can indicate past climate conditions, fire history, and other natural and human effects on the ecology of an area. Mapping the location of historical changes documented in tree rings provides the geographic context of how landscapes have changed, and helps inform what to expect into the future in order to resolve how we deal with intensifying problems involving land, water and other natural resources.

During their lab and field research, Rosemary also helps students build advanced technical skills. They apply for research permits, learn how to operate technical equipment, methodically collect data, and interpret their findings. An independent work structure also allows students to expand on their own understanding of the research while exercising their unique abilities.

"Geography is interdisciplinary," Rosemary says. "I want students to walk away from my classes and research experiences with an appreciation for the physical environment, a base set of skills, and a sense of their ability to make an impact for the future of our planet. The focus on sustainability, environmental responsibility, social responsibility, and the inter-connection of social and ecological systems is a core thread woven throughout our interdisciplinary curriculum across colleges. It's certainly what attracted me here to teach at HSU."

Active participation in research is an opportunity Rosemary will continue to provide for her students. But it's also a valuable component of her career and love for geography. "It's not something I'm going to give up" she says. "It makes me a better teacher, keeps me up to date, and helps me stay motivated to be a conscientious citizen."

Rosemary and Her Students Unravel Mysteries of the Past »


In their research, Geography Professor Rosemary Sherriff and her students use mapping techniques and tree rings to examine how landscapes change over time and space. Students learn to analyze tree rings dating back hundreds of years to evaluate how past climate conditions, fire history, insect outbreaks, and other natural and human activities have contributed to changing environments. Their work provides information for understanding the effects of climate change on forest ecosystems, and helps to inform land-use policy and ecosystem management in western North America.

Using Geography to Think Globally and Engage Locally »


In classes, Rosemary and her students explore global patterns of Earth's dynamic systems – energy, air, water, weather, climate, tectonics, landforms and the patterns of biological diversity. Key topics in all of her courses involve examining human-Earth interactions, contemporary environmental issues and the impacts of recent climate change on ecosystems. The topics she covers are important not only to students who are interested in the physical sciences, but those who wish to understand the processes that underlie many human, social and economic aspects of our environment and natural resources. Locally, she encourages students to interact and learn from local scientists and community organizations on observations of local to global environmental change.

Revved Up and Plugged In »


Rosemary's lab and intern students learn skills that involve field sampling and mapping, collecting tree cores, processing samples, maintaining the HSU weather station, and delving into large datasets to explore observations of local to global ecosystem change.

Rosemary Sherriff
Professor of Geography