GUS Icon
College of Liberal Arts Multi Site > Department of Geography and Urban Studies > Faculty > Environmental GIS takes on Urban Heat at the River City Festival

Environmental GIS takes on Urban Heat at the River City Festival

GIS River City

Environmental GIS takes on Urban Heat at the River City Festival

By Hamil Pearsall, PhD, Marlee Cooper, Dempsey DiMedio, Kenneth Govan, Jason Loux, Daron Mulligan, Charlie Orr, Julia Pedrick, Sam Schwarzwalder, and Chris Tauskey

On Saturday, October 14th, the students from Environmental GIS taught by Professor Hamil Pearsall developed an exhibit on urban heat islands in Philadelphia as part of the Climate City section at the Fishtown River City Festival at Penn Treaty Park.

Our goal was to teach attendees about urban heat islands and in a way that was easy to understand, memorable and relatable to individuals living in the Philadelphia area. We followed a climate communication approach developed by the Climate & Urban Systems Partnership (CUSP) that focused on making an issue like climate change local, relevant, and solution-oriented and developed three different hands-on components for our exhibit:

  1. A station for measuring the temperature of common construction materials (e.g. bricks, roofing materials, wood);
  2. A matching game that challenged residents to match a neighborhood-scale photo to its corresponding location on a map of temperatures across the city; and
  3. A game, inspired by The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, to help Fishtown residents come up with ways of cooling their neighborhood.
Students in Professor Pearsall’s Environmental GIS course show River City Festival attendees ways to combat urban heat.

Students in Professor Pearsall’s Environmental GIS course show River City Festival attendees ways to combat urban heat.

Our maps and activities were engaging, fun, and educational. They help get people interested in the timely issue of urban heat, it helped people realize that urban heat islands affect them as
individuals. It also equipped them with recommendations of what they can do to keep their neighborhoods cooler. Easy recommendations included green spaces, planting trees, or being aware of the type of shingles on your roof.

The students from the class enjoyed interacting with the local community to discuss environmental issues relevant to Philadelphia. The exhibit successfully accomplished its goal of making people aware of extreme heat in cities and helping them to find ways that they could make a difference through a few simple actions.