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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 Geographic Information Science, Biogeography, 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 have focused on two fundamental areas of Geography, Geographical Information Systems (GIS)and environmental geography. Early in my academic career, my interests focused on identifying the distribution of biodiversity and the spatial aspects of human impact on our natural environment. I worked as a wildlife biologist throughout California and developed skills in the application of GIS to better understand the wildlife populations I was studying. I became fascinated with the power of GIS and how this tool revolutionized the type of questions we could ask about wildlife populations. I gradually began to take courses in GIS and develop additional skills in information systems, soon I was finding opporutnities to apply my skills in GIS to other disciplines as well. Throughout my career, GIS and other information systems have always played a central role in any work I was doing. Prior to getting my doctorate, I worked at Southern California Edison as a GIS analyst and worked on several consulting projects implementing spatial information systems for a variety of organizations. Eventually, I decided to go back to school and further explore my interest in both GIS and environmental geography.

In 2003 I founded the Center for Geographical Studies (CGS). CGS is a non-profit consulting firm embedded in the university, we provide services in GIS and other applications to information technology. The center has now grown to a fully sustainable program within the university and includes a full time staff plus over 40 student interns. We provide technology services to a variety of organizations including the State Water Quality Control Board, Caltrans, and Global Ad Distribution. CGS serves as a great model of how to give students real world skills while helping our state and local communities.

I teach a variety of courses ranging from Geographic Information Systems to Introduction to Physical Geography. I enjoy teaching new material and staying on the cutting edge of technology. I also believe strongly in that we have enormous opportunities to take advantage of using technology in the classroom. The use of technology in the classroom aligns well with my experiences with GIS and allows for me to explore how our students connect to learning through the use of technology.

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.

Beller, E., S. Baumgarten, R. Grossinger, S. Dark, T. Longcore, E. Stein, and S. Dusterhoff.  2014.  Northern San Diego County Lagoons: Historical Ecology Investigations-Regional Patterns, Local Diversity and Landscape Trajectories.  Technical Report (TBD),  Oakland, CA: San Francisco Estuary Institute, in stakeholder review.


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 Information 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.

Market Research\GIS Analyst . 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. Developed Geographical Information System database for project.

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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