Landing Sites

JEDI Symposium

The contemporary landscapes of Denver and its surroundings are inscribed by histories of contested and competing activities–mining and extraction, communication, military-industrial research, and eco-tourism.

As Anna L. Tsing has described, observing complex landscapes is a way to understand the overlapping human and non-human agents engaged in “shaping” and forming the world.[1] This event will consider the contemporary conditions of field-based research across fields of inquiry. We will foreground interdisciplinarity and ask different questions of and about the infrastructural landscapes of Denver: what are the political and ethical contexts of data-based research in the city; how does the region's legacy of archaeoastronomy affect the reading and production of contemporary spaces; how might the landscapes of the Southwest be a site for interplanetary simulation; and how do militarized landscapes continue to impress certain histories and value.


We bring together four organizations that practice site-specific research and demonstrate new theories of learning and knowing about land. Beyond their convergence in geographic inquiry, we have invited guests whose very ways of working challenge and foreground the roles of researchers, methods of researching, and the politics of accessing and publicizing research.


Landing Sites is a two-day symposium featuring four JEDI Symposium Talks, a bus tour, and a roundtable discussion. Day one, Thursday, April 21, includes talks by MARS Group, Jeffrey Nesbitt, Victoria McReynolds and a bus-tour led by Priyanka deSouza. Day two, Friday, April 22, features a roundtable panel bringing all together to discuss the stakes of contemporary research practices. This symposium is open to the public.

[1] Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton University Press, 2021.


Day 1 - Thursday, April 21, 2022

9.00 - 10.00 am - Breakfast in the College of Architecture and Planning (CAP) 2nd-floor lobby (1250 14th St, Denver, CO 80202)

JEDI Talks

10.00 - 11.00 am – Jeffrey Nesbit’s presentation. 2nd-floor lecture space, CAP

11.00 am - 12.00 pm – Shannon Rupert’s presentation. 2nd-floor lecture space, CAP

12.00 - 1.00 pm -  Victoria McReynold’s presentation. 2nd-floor lecture space, CAP

1.00 - 2.00 pm - Lunch break

Bus Tour

2.00 - 5.00 pm - Bus tour to the Loveland Sugar Refinery Quarry. Starts and ends outside CAP. 


Day 2 - Friday, April 22, 2022

9.00 - 10.00 am - Breakfast in the CAP 2nd-floor lobby 


10.00 am - 12.00 pm - Moderated roundtable discussion with all four guests in the CAP 2nd-floor lecture space

Field Guests: JEDI Talks

The Mars Desert Research Station
Shannon Rupert, Director

The Mars Society is the world’s largest and most influential space advocacy organization dedicated to the human exploration and settlement of the planet Mars. Established by Dr. Robert Zubrin and others in 1998, the group works to educate the public, the media, and the government on the benefits of exploring Mars and creating a permanent human presence on the Red Planet. Society activities include Mars analog simulations in the Utah desert and the Canadian Arctic, public outreach, and educational programs such as the MarsVR virtual reality simulations, the annual University Rover Challenge, political advocacy efforts, privately-funded research, chapter meetings and activities in the U.S. and around the world, and the annual International Mars Society Convention.

The Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), owned and operated by the Mars Society, is a space analog facility in Utah that supports Earth-based research in pursuit of the technology, operations, and science required for human space exploration. We host an eight-month field season for professional scientists and engineers as well as college students of all levels, in training for human operations specifically on Mars. The relative isolation of the facility allows for rigorous field studies as well as human factors research. Most crews carry out their mission under the constraints of a simulated Mars mission. Most missions are two to three weeks in duration, although we have supported longer missions as well. The advantage of MDRS over most facilities for simulated space missions is that the campus is surrounded by a landscape that is an actual geologic Mars analog, which offers opportunities for rigorous field studies as they would be conducted during an actual space mission.

Dr. Shannon Rupert is an educator and ecologist with more than two decades of experience in Mars Analog research.  A former professor of biology, she is currently director of the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in the Utah desert. She is an expert in planetary mission simulations and field exploration. Her research interests include microbial ecology of planetary analogs and the biological diversity of the MDRS area.  She is a collaborator on many other science investigations and is involved with space analog programs in Australia and the Canadian High Arctic. She is also the Principal Investigator of the NASA Spaceward Bound Utah program. Shannon holds a Ph.D. in Biology (freshwater social-ecology) from the University of New Mexico; a M.S. in Biological Sciences (plant ecology) from California State University, San Marcos; a B.S. in Ecology, Behavior and Evolution from the University of California, San Diego; and an A.S. in Biology from San Diego Miramar College.

Jeffrey S Nesbit
Director, Grounding Research

Jeffrey S Nesbit is an architect, urbanist, founding director of the research group Grounding Design, and recently received his Doctor of Design degree (DDes) from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. His work focuses on processes of urbanization, infrastructure, and the evolution of "technical lands." His experience spanning over a decade includes leading design teams for public architecture and large-scale urban projects, along with leading sponsored design research projects for city governments, local institutions, and NGOs.

Currently, Nesbit’s research examines the 20th-century American spaceport complex at the intersection of architecture, infrastructure, and aerospace history. He has written several journal articles and book chapters on infrastructure, urbanization, and the history of technology, and is co-editor of Chasing the City: Models for Extra-Urban Investigations (Routledge, 2018), Rio de Janeiro: Urban Expansion and Environment (Routledge, 2019), New Geographies 11 Extraterrestrial (Actar, 2019), and host of Nature of Enclosure, a podcast series on urbanNext.

Nesbit holds the H. Deane Pearce Endowed Chair in the College of Architecture at Texas Tech University. Nesbit has taught architecture and urbanism, along with leading numerous design studios and urban theory seminars at Harvard University, Northeastern University, University of North Carolina Charlotte, and the University of New Mexico. He also holds a Master of Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from Texas Tech University.

Priyanka deSouza
Assistant Professor, UC Denver College of Architecture and Planning 

Priyanka deSouza is an Assistant Professor of Urban and Regional Planning in the College of Architecture and Planning at CU Denver. She holds a PhD in Urban Studies and Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her prior degrees include a Bachelor and Master of Technology (with a minor in Physics) in Energy Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, as well as an MSc in Environmental Change and Management and an MBA from the University of Oxford where she was a Rhodes Scholar. She previously served as consultant to UN Environment in which was responsible for deploying Nairobi’s first long-term low-cost air quality monitoring network.

deSouza’s research has focused on developing new methods to monitor air pollution in cities using low-cost sensors and satellite data. She has studied the impact of planning practices on air pollution and has quantified the health impacts of pollution on vulnerable populations. She is a research fellow at MIT’s Senseable City Lab where she serves as the lead air quality analyst working in partnership with the clients that include Phillips, the City of Cambridge and New York. She also serves as a consultant for the World Health Organization. 

Victoria McReynolds
Assistant Professor, Texas Tech College of Architecture

Victoria McReynolds is an architect and educator based on the Llano Estacado in West Texas. Her research focuses on site and light conditions recently evident in her seven-month survey project along the Pacific Coast across 110 degrees latitude in North and South America. She is a 2015 Center for Art + Environment Research Fellow at the Nevada Museum of Art and a 2017 CRITPrax Fellow for Lawrence Technological University. She studied architecture at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo and received her Master of Architecture at Cranbrook Academy of Art. McReynolds teaches at Texas Tech University College of Architecture where she utilizes the West Texas light and landscape as a laboratory for her design studios. In 2011 and 2014 she co-founded design studios that surveyed urban environments shaped by the natural forces of gravity and water, in Valparaíso, Chile, and Venice, Italy respectively. She has presented and exhibited her work at venues ranging from Illinois Institute of Technology’s Crown Hall in Chicago, to the London School of Economics in London, UK. Professionally she worked in Los Angeles, California, and Detroit, Michigan, most memorably with Michael Rotondi on a traditional Buddhist temple in California Tehachapi Mountains, and maintains an active architecture license.

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