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Contact Information

Office: 130P Sierra Hall
Phone: (818) 677-3530

Department of Geography
California State University, Northridge
Northridge, CA 91330


Ph.D. August 2003
University of California, Los Angeles, CA.
Major: Geography emphasis Biogeography, Conservation, and Spatial Analysis

Masters of Science August 1997
Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA.
Major: Natural Resource Management emphasis Wildlife Management

Bachelor of Arts May 1990
University of California, Davis, CA.
Major: Sociology of Law

Research and Teaching Interests

My research interests are focused on identifying the distribution of biodiversity and the spatial aspects of human impact on our natural environment. I am currently working on several research projects to provide documentation on the distribution and type of contemporary and historical wetlands in southern California. You can find out more about some of the projects at the Center for Geographical Studies website. For our Southern California Wetlands Mapping Project we are mapping contemporary coastal wetlands from Pt. Conception to the Mexican Border. The project is funded through Proposition 50 funds via the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP). Our working partners on the project are SCCWRP, the National Wetlands Inventory, and the Wetlands Recovery Task Force. Our wetland maps will serve as the foundation for wetlands assessment and inventory throughout southern California.

I have also been working on several historical ecology projects to document the natural landscape in southern California prior to the arrival of Europeans. These projects are fascinating and always teach me something new about the southern Califonria landscape. My students benefit immensely from these projects by learning new tools in GIS used to interpret historical cartographic information as well as by developing a critical sense of the historical environment. There is so much we have to learn and so much we have taken for granted about the natural environment in southern California.

I also have an interest in the invasion of non-native species into the mediterranean ecosystems of California. My research has focused on the invasion of both plants and animals from a spatial perspective. I believe strongly that the discipline of geography can make a significant contribution to this phenomena by providing both a spatial and a cultural perspective. I would also like to continue to conduct work that assesses the distribution of forest carnivores in southern California. Finally, in case it isn't obvious, I have a strong interest in GIS and remote sensing. The discipline of geography has undergone immense changes as a result of advances in both of these technologies. We now have an opportunity and responsibility to explore the world from a completely new perspective.

My teaching interests are in the area of environmental geography. I find that students interested in environmental issues bring a sense of interest and action to the classroom that is unparalleled in my other teaching experiences. I believe that in order for students to have a solid understanding environmental issues they must understand the physical and cultural processes at work and I believe that only geography can properly deliver this approach. Teaching is a true passion of mine! My students constantly remind me that there is hope for conservation and a world where the environment is respected.

Courses Taught

Introduction to Physical Geography
Geography of World Ecosystems
Introduction to GIS
Intermediate GIS
Environmental Applications of GIS
Environmental Geography (CSUN)


Dark, S., R. Gutierrez, and G. Gould. 1998. The invasion of Barred Owls (Strix varia) in California: Potential impacts on the Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis). The Auk 115(1): 50-56.

Dark, S. 2004. The biogeography of invasive plants in California: An application of GIS and spatial regression analysis. Diversity and Distributions 10:1-9.

Dark, S. and T.W. Gillespie. 2004. Using Landsat imagery to assess the distribution of alien plant species in coastal sage scrub of the Santa Monica Mountains, California. In Ecology, Conservation, and Management of Mediterranean Climate Ecosystems, Arianoutsou, M. and V.P. Papanastasis (eds). Millpress Science Publishers, Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Smith, A., T. Gillespie, S. Dark, and M. Shin. 2006. “Species Richness and Abundance of Coral Reef Fishes in the Florida Keys Following a Decline in Coral Cover.”  Florida Scientist, 70(2): 137-147.

S. Dark, R. Maas, J. Mejia, and N. Belliappa.  2006. “An Examination of Wetland Diversity in Ventura County, California.”  APCG Yearbook, Vol. 68: 79-93.

S. Dark, D. Bram, M. Quinones, L. Duong, J. Patanaan, J. Dooley, M. Antos, S. Sutula, and E. Blok. 2006. Wetland and riparian mapping within the Rivers and Mountains Conservancy territory: a landscape profile. Technical Report 519. Southern California Coastal Water Reserach Project, Coasta Mesa, CA.

S. Dark and D. Bram.  2007. “The modifiable areal unit problem in physical geography.”  Progress in Physical Geography, 31(5): 471-479.

Stein, E.D., S. Dark, T. Longcore, N. Hall, M. Beland, R. Grossinger, J. Casanova, M. Sutula. 2007.  Historical ecology and landscape change of the San Gabriel River and floodplain. Technical Report 499. Southern California Coastal Water Research Project. Costa Mesa, CA.

Stein,E.D., S. Dark, T. Longcore, R. Grossinger, N. Hall, and M. Beland. 2010. Historical Ecology as Tool for Assessing Landscape Change and Informing Wetland Restoration Priorities. Wetlands 30: 589-601.

Grossinger,R, E.D. Stein, K. Cayce, R. Askevold, S. Dark, A. Whipple. 2011. Historical Wetlands of the Southern California Coast: An Atlas of US Coast Survey T-sheets, 1851-1889. Technical Report 589. Southern California Coastal Water Research Project. Costa Mesa, CA and San Francisco Estuary Institute, Oakland, CA.

Beller, E.E., R. Grossinger, M. Salomon, S. Dark, E. Stein, B.K. Orr, P.W. Downs, T. Longcore, G. Coffman, A. Whipple, R. Askevlod, B. Standford, and J. Beagle. 2011. Historical Ecology of the lower Santa Clara River, Ventura River, and Oxnard Plain: an analysis of terrestrial, riverine, and coastal habitats. Techincal Report 641. San Francisco Estuary Institute, Oakland, CA.

Dark, S., E.D. Stein, D. Bram, J. Oscuna, J. Monteferante, T. Longcore, R. Grossinger, and E. Beller. 2011. Historical Ecology of the Ballona Creek Watershed. Technical Report 671. Southern California Coastal Water Research project. Costa Mesa, CA.

Dark, S., E.D. Stein, D. Bram, and J. Osuna. 2012. Historical Ecology as a Living Resource for Informing Urban Wetland Restoration. Urban Coast 3:54-60.


S.J. Dark. 1996. A landscape-scale analysis of mammalian carnivore distribution and habitat use by fisher. M.S. Thesis. Humboldt State University

S.J. Dark. 2003. The distribution of invasive plants at a local and landscape scale in California. Ph.D. Dissertation, UCLA, August 2004

Posters and Presentations

D. Bram, Dr. Shawna Dark. Using GIS to Create Efficiencies in Statewide Water Policy: California Basin Plan Project. 2012. CalGIS, Sacramento, CA.

Dr. Shawna Dark. “Using Historical Aerial Photography to Map Wetlands.” 2009. ASPRS Conference, San Diego, Ca.

Dr. Shawna Dark, Danielle Bram, Dr. Martha Sutula, and Dr. Eric Stein. 2008. “The Southern California Wetlands Mapping Project.”  ESRI User Conference, San Diego, CA.

Dr. Shawna Dark, Danielle Bram, Dr. Martha Sutula, and Dr. Eric Stein. 2008. “The Southern California Wetlands Mapping Project.”  H20 Conference, San Diego, CA.

Dr. Shawna Dark, Eric Stein, Martha Sutula, Travis Longcore, Robin Grossinger, Michael Beland, and Nick Hall.  2007. “Historical Ecology of the San Gabriel River Floodplain: An Application of GIS.”  Association of Pacific Coast Geographers Annual Conference, Long Beach, CA.

Dr. Shawna Dark. 2007. “Historical Wetlands Mapping of the San Gabriel River Watershed.”  California Geographical Society Annual Conference, Anza Borrego State Park, CA.

Dr. Shawna Dark, Eric Stein, Robin Grossinger, and Travis Longcore. 2007. “Historical Wetlands Mapping of the San Gabriel River Watershed.”  ESRI Annual Users Conference, San Diego, CA.
Dr. Shawna Dark and Dr. Eugene Turner.  2006. “GIS Opportunities at California State University, Northridge.” CalGIS Annual Conference, Santa Barbara, CA.

Dr. Shawna Dark.  2006. “Historical Wetlands Mapping of the San Gabriel River.”  CSUN, Department of Biology, Research Colloquium, October, 2006, Northridge, CA.

Dr. Shawna Dark.  2005. “Mapping Wetland Diversity in A Mediterranean Climate.” ESRI Annual Users Conference, San Diego, CA.

Dr. Shawna Dark. 2005. “Using Landsat Imagery to Assess the Distribution of Alien Plant Species in the Santa Monica Mountains.” California State University Faculty Research Poster and Publication Fair, Northridge, CA.         

Dr. Shawna Dark, Regan Maas, Namrata Belliappa, John Davenport, Jason Mejia, California State University, Northridge.  2005. “Mapping the Wetlands of Ventura County, CA: An Application of the Cowardin Classification System.” Association of Pacific Coast Geographers 2004 Annual Conference, San Luis Obispo, CA.

S.J. Dark and T.W. Gillespie.  2004. “Using Landsat imagery to assess the distribution of alien plant species in coastal sage scrub of the Santa Monica Mountains, California”  MEDECOS Annual Conference, Rhodes, Greece.

S.J. Dark. 2004. “Assessment of the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index as a proxy for non-native alien plant invasion in Coastal Sage Scrub of the Santa Monica Mountains, CA.” American Association of Geographers 2004 Annual Conference, Philadelphia, PA.

Work Experience

Research Assistant. Climatology (Atmospheric Circulation and Antarctic Sea Ice Concentration). UCLA, Geography Dept. (December 1999 – June 2002). Performed analysis and programming tasks using both IDL and NCL programming languages as part of a larger climate model study. Other assignments included programming in IDL and NCL for visualization of time series data and maps of sea ice concentration.

GIS Consultant. Wildlands Project. (February 2001 - June 2001). Performed basic GIS tasks such as digitizing and spatial analysis of protected habitat for wildlife species. Data were used for analysis of wildlife habitat linkages in southern California.

GIS Programmer Analyst. HazInfo, Sherman Oaks, California. (December 1998 – December 1999). Created customized ArcView application for real-estate hazard mapping company. Other responsibilities included checking GIS data layers for error, georeferencing data, digitizing, and trouble shooting software.

Geographic Analyst. Los Angeles County Natural History Museum/Southern California Edison (May 1998 – January 2000). Performed spatial analysis with GIS for electric utility company. Assignments included customization of GIS applications, programming with Avenue, creation of maps and location/allocation analyses.

Research Associate. Economics Research Associates, Los Angeles, California (April 1997 - May 1998). Developed economic feasibility studies with a focus on GIS and demographic analyses. Studies focused on the development of entertainment projects with analysis of economic trends relative to population growth.

Research Associate. Dr. Rocky Gutierrez. Spotted Owl Project. Humboldt State University (April 1996 - March 1997). Research involved analysis of the Spotted Owl population throughout California and the Pacific Northwest. Performed basic statistical analysis and GIS mapping on several projects. Work resulted in publication of Barred Owl invasion paper (see publications).

Research Biologist. Shasta-Trinity Fisher Project. Wildlife Department, Humboldt State University (January 1994 - March 1997). Research focused on identifying the distribution of fisher and other forest carnivores at a landscape scale. Managed team of 2-4 people. Performed radio-telemetry and track plate surveys on fisher year round.

Research Assistant. Dr. Rocky Gutierrez. Spotted Owl Project. Humboldt State University (April 1993-September 1993). Assistant in Spotted Owl survey for the southern Spotted Owl in the San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains.

Research Assistant.
Dr. Rick Golightly. Wildlife Department, Humboldt State University

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