Robert Crane

Professor of Geography, and

Director, Alliance for Education, Science, Engineering and Development in Africa

The Pennsylvania State University


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Previous Appointments

September 2010 – May 2011:  Interim Director, Global Relations and Programs, University Office of Global Programs, The Pennsylvania State University

September 2007 – Present:  Director, Alliance for Education Science, Engineering and Development in Africa, The Pennsylvania State University.

August 2006 – June 2007:  Interim Dean, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University.

October 1993 – June 2007:  Associate Dean for Education, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University.

July 1994 – Present:  Professor, Department of Geography, The Pennsylvania State University.

October 1990 ‑ September 1993:  Associate Director, Earth System Science Center, The Pennsylvania State University.

July 1989 ‑ June 1994:  Associate Professor, Department of Geography, The Pennsylvania State University.

July 1985 ‑ Present:  Faculty Associate, Earth System Science Center/Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, The Pennsylvania State University.

July 1985 ‑ June 1989:  Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, The Pennsylvania State University.

September 1984 ‑ August 1985:  Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, University of Saskatchewan.

Alliance for Education, Science, Engineering and Development in Africa (AESEDA)

AESEDA operates out of Penn State’s University Office of Global Programs (UOGP) with a primary mission to advance Penn State’s strategic plans for globalization.  AESEDA’s emphasis is on Africa and Africa-related programming, with a three-part mission to:

  1. Increase Penn State engagement in Africa in ways that integrate the social science, physical science, engineering, humanities and educational initiatives of Penn State researchers and students in the context of the developmental challenges facing Africa.
  2. Enhance the education and international experience of Penn State and African students in programs that build global competency and increase opportunity for African populations.
  3. Facilitate collaboration between Penn State’s various African programs and foster cooperation and collaboration among all groups and individuals at Penn State with a scholarly interest in Africa.

In fulfilling this mission we are particularly interested in programs that anchor research, education and outreach within the context of Africa’s diverse intellectual, linguistic, cultural, political, and economic environment; and in programs that seek creative ways to harness these initiatives to help build the strategic human capacity needed to promote economic vitality and enable effective stewardship of natural resources in Africa.


I completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography at the University of Reading (England) in 1976 and went from there to the University of Colorado (USA) for a Master of Arts in 1978 (Dept of Geography and the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research [INSTAAR]); a doctorate in 1981 (Dept of Geography and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences [CIRES]); and stayed until 1984 for a post-doc in the World Data Center-A for Glaciology and the National Snow and Ice Data Center.  During this time I was primarily working on synoptic controls on sea ice distributions, originally working on the energy balance over fast ice off Baffin Island, and then working with colleagues at the Goddard Space Flight Center on the microwave remote sensing of sea ice.  Along the way, I also did some work on arctic cloud cover and snow/cloud discrimination using near-IR sensors.  I then spent a year as a visiting faculty member in the Department of Geography at the University of Saskatchewan, primarily teaching energy balance modeling and physical climatology.  I joined the Geography Department and the Earth System Science Center at Penn State in 1985.  Here I taught remote sensing and image analysis, but my research began to focus more on climate change, and I now teach a range of climate, climate change and earth system science related courses.

Research Interests

Climate and Climate Change:  My research interests are broadly within the field of climate and climate change. I am particularly interested in regional and local scale climate change and its implications for biophysical and human systems. I was part of the team that produced the Mid-Atlantic Regional Assessment for the first U.S. National Climate Change Assessment, and the follow-up Consortium for Atlantic Regional Assessment.  More recently we also conducted a climate change assessment for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (Shortle, J., et al.  Pennsylvania Climate Impact Assessment.  Report to the Department of Environmental Protection.  June 29, 2009).

Much of my work involves downscaling global climate model data for regional applications, and much of this has been undertaken with Bruce Hewitson at the Climate Systems Analysis Group (CSAG) at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Current and Recent Research Projects

  • July 2009 – June 2013: Co-Principal Investigator (with Michael Mann, Matthew Thomas, Andrew Reed and Ottar Bjornstad, the Pennsylvania State University), Quantifying the Influence of Environmental Temperature on Transmission of Vector-Borne Diseases (NSF, $1,884,991).
  • January 2009 – December 2011:  Co-Investigator (PI, Petra Tschakert, the Pennsylvania State University), Anticipatory Learning for Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience  (NSF, $749,814).
  • January 2009 – December 2009:  Co-Investigator (PI James Shortle, The Pennsylvania State University), Pennsylvania Climate Impacts Assessment (Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, $197,000).
  • July 2008 – June 2011:  Co-Investigator (PI Thorsten Wagener, The Pennsylvania State University), A Framework for Probabilistic Projections of Energy‐Relevant Streamflow Indicators under Climate Change Scenarios for the U.S. (U.S. Dept of Energy, $450,000).

Small Island Nation Sustainability:  This is a new area of research that developed initially out of an interest in climate change in the Caribbean.  Along with others at Penn State and collaborators at the University of the West Indies, we are developing an integrated research, education and outreach program focused on the environmental, economic, social, and cultural sustainability of small island developing nations.

  1. Robert Crane: Funded Research

    July 2009 – June 2013:  PI M. Thomas: Co-I: R Crane, M. Mann, A. Reed, T. Scott.  Quantifying the Influence of Environmental Temperature on Transmission of Vector-Borne Disease (NSF, $1,884,991). January 2009 –...
  2. Robert Crane: Publications

    1.  Articles in Refereed Journals: Hewitson, B. C. and R. G. Crane.  Consensus between GCM climate change projections with empirical downscaling:  Precipitation downscaling over South Africa  Int. J. Climatology, 26:1315-1337 (2006). Hewitson, B....


Teaching Interests

I have taught a range of graduate and undergraduate courses in physical geography, climatology, earth system science, and remote sensing.  I have also taught first year seminars in ocean science and climate change in Africa.  I have co-taught four of the College’s two-semester undergraduate research seminars:  Global Change in Local Places; Coral Reef Environments; Environmental Justice in South Africa and Global Environmental Change and Small Island Nations.

Together with Tanya Furman (Geosciences) and Carla Zembal-Saul (Curriculum and Instruction), we are developing new courses in climate systems and climate change for elementary education majors.

Currently, I regularly teach climate change and variability (400-level course for Geography majors) and introduction to the earth system (a general education course for non-science majors).  With Tim White (Earth and Environmental Systems Institute) , I co-teach coral reef systems and science diving.

Study Abroad

I direct a study abroad program in a nature reserve in South Africa. The Wild Coast nature reserves of South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province, and the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania, provide regional foci for Penn State global engagement. Building long-term, multi-faceted partnerships with universities, private and public sector institutions, and local communities, the Parks and People program serves as a study abroad location as well as a potential locus for a broad range of Penn State activities in undergraduate education, faculty and graduate student research, and faculty, staff, and student professional development—all focused on projects that contribute to knowledge while improving the human condition in the communities served. The Parks and People partnerships integrate teaching, research and service across multiple disciplines related to the management of protected areas, community social and economic development, and public education in ecosystem services.  The core of Parks and People comprises two Penn State-administered study abroad programs – one in a South African nature reserve (led by AESEDA and the Department of Geography) and one in a national park in Tanzania (led by the Department of Landscape Architecture). These programs integrate experiential learning with on-going faculty research and service programs in the parks and the surrounding communities, and serve to promote global competency in U.S. and African students, strengthen international linkages, and facilitate partnerships with local communities.


Penn State Science Diving

I helped establish Penn State’s Science Diving Program in 2001 and served as the University Dive Safety Officer until 2006.  The Penn State Science Diving Program is an administrative unit functioning under the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean for Undergraduate Education of the Pennsylvania State University. The program supervises all compressed gas diving for scientific purposes at the University and is administered by a Diving Control Board.  The Penn State Science Diving Program is an Organizational Member of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS).