Dr. Dawna Cerney

Dr. Dawna Cerney - profile photo

Dr. Dawna Cerney


Humanities & Social Sciences

DeBartolo Hall 416

phone: (330) 941-2301



Dawna Cerney is a broadly trained professional geographer, who’s work focus on five areas. These areas are, landscape change and conservation, environmental design, geography education and online/virtual learning, equability in the geography work place and promotion of professional geography in the work place and K-16 education.

Her training and knowledge in landscape change, ecological function and resiliency frame an understanding in many areas of her professional work. Dawna specifically examines landscape level structural change and alteration of ecosystems within complex landscapes under compound environmental pressures.Ecological resilience theory states that combined pressures such as disturbance events (i.e. forest fires) and intense land use and multiple lands pressures may cause stability thresholds to be surpassed. The outcome of exceed threshold limits will result in an altered ecological state reflective in a change landscape structure.

The majority of Dawna’s landscape change and resiliency work has taken place in the Rocky Mountains and adjacent foothills. She also conducts work in the Cascades, Appalachians, the Appalachian plateau, the North American prairie and parkland, barrier islands and Iceland. As an applied geographer her work aims to support land use planners, and policy makers with decisions that will maximize the stability of ecosystem services and community development.

Dawna’s environmental design work began with developing a means to harvest native prairie species for restoration. Design work also has included xeriscaping public and private space with ecological varieties and cultivated varieties of native plants to reestablish various degrees of ecological function. Training in ecological design and environmental geography starts with “knowing place”. Place based knowledge combines “sense of place”, environmental and social justice, and inclusion of local intrinsic natural elements within the human environment. Working within earth systems (geology, hydrology, climate and ecology) are the foundation to healthier communities, as doing so reduces pressures on community infrastructure such as waste water collection systems, and places humans in proximity to nature to produce a greater sense of well-being in individuals and neighborhoods. Incorporation of environmental design results in greater engagement between community members, reduces social pressures and is a key element in improving community wellbeing. Dawna’s recent design work is undertaken with her students and fellow faculty in Eastern Ohio and Southern Alberta as part of her teaching responsibilities, and community outreach which supports reviving and retrofitting Legacy Cities and Communities.

Dawna is deeply passionate about the promotion and understanding of geography as a professional field and is a centered on promoting and educating the public and professional educators on the robust and critical roles that geographers play in business, and government. Dawna’s work with the AGX (Formally the Applied Geography Conference), American Association of Geographers (Mountain Geography Specialty Group and Applied Geography Specialty Group), the National Council of Geographic Education, and GeoSagas, is centered on establishing mechanisms to bring accurate understanding and greater awareness of geography to the American population

Research Interests

- Small and midscale Community resiliency and restoration
- Ecological resiliency in mountain environments
- Ecological succession post forest fires under climate change in mountain environments
- Immersive virtual reality field-based education
- Education equitabilityGender issues and equability in geography workplaces
- Sense of place in decision making

Teaching Interests

Teaching and Course Development:
- Biogeography (Graduate and Undergraduate)
- Environmental Issues
- Experiencing NCGE-GeoCamp Iceland (Graduate)
- Field methods
- Foundations of Conservation
- Fundamentals of Environmental Science
- Geography of Canada
- Geography Capstone
- Human Geography
- Human Impacts on the Environment
- International Studies – Bahamas
- International Studies – Canada
- Land Planning
- Mountain Geography
- Physical Geography
- Physical Geography Lab
- Tropical Ecology
- World Regional Geography
- Weather