Ryan Baxter

Contact InformationRyan Baxter

215 Walker Building
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA  16802
(814) 863-8755


I am an Associate Teaching Professor in the Department of Geography within the College of Earth & Mineral Sciences. I teach classes in the Penn State Online Geospatial Program, which offers Certificate and Master's Degree options in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and I teach undergraduate GIS courses in the Department of Geography.

I am active in several research projects at Penn State's Institutes of Energy & the Environment (IEE) that span two topical areas: geographic information science and the land use implications of energy production.  My GIS-related research interests include spatial databases, online data discovery tools, interactive mapping applications and cloud-based GIS services. I am the lead developer and system administrator for the Pennsylvania Spatial Data Access (PASDA) clearinghouse and the Penn State Data Commons. My energy-related research interests include the spatial modeling of land use change, quantifying the amount of land available for bioenergy feedstocks, and assessing the suitability and productivity of energy crops, such as switchgrass and winter rye.


  • Geog 160: Mapping Our Changing World
  • Geog 260: Introduction to GIScience
  • Geog 363: Geographic Information Systems
  • Geog 482: Nature of Geographic Information
  • Geog 487: Environmental Applications of GIS
  • Geog 865: Cloud & Server GIS

Selected Publications

  • Baxter, R., Calvert, K. (2017). Estimating Available Abandoned Cropland in the United States: Possibilities for Energy Crop Production. Annals of the American Association of Geographers (107) 162-1178. doi:10.1080/24694452.2017.1298985
  • Feyereisen, G., Camargo, G., Baxter, R., Baker, J., Richard, T. (2013). Cellulosic Biofuel Potential of a Winter Rye Double Crop across the U.S. Corn-Soybean Belt. Agronomy Journal, (105), 631-642. doi:10.2134/agronj2012.0282
  • Baxter, R., Feyereisen, G., Yu, Y., Richard, T. (2011). Winter crop and residue biomass potential in China.  Biofuels, 2(5), 503-513. doi:10.4155/bfs.11.128

Research Projects

PASDA is the official geospatial information clearinghouse for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  I am PASDA's Information Technology Coordinator and lead developer of the physical systems, database design, website search engine and interactive mapping applications.  Data services include:

-- Comprehensive searching tools to discover geospatial data layers and metadata
-- Efficient mapping applications to interact with data dynamically online (e.g., Pennsylvania Atlas)
-- Dedicated interactive tools to view and download large raster imagery collections (e.g., Imagery Navigator)
-- Dynamic map services that enable data layers to be consumed by desktop GIS or other client applications
-- GeoJSON, KML and WMS services

The Data Commons was developed to provide a resource for data sharing, discovery, and archiving for the Penn State research and teaching community. Access to information is vital to the research, teaching, and outreach conducted at Penn State. The Data Commons serves as a data discovery tool, a data archive for research data created by PSU for projects funded by agencies like the National Science Foundation, as well as a portal to data, applications, and resources throughout the university.

Coal mining has occurred in Pennsylvania for over a century. The maps to these coal mines are stored at various public and private locations (if they still exist at all) throughout the commonwealth. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Active and Abandoned Mine Operations (DEP) and PASDA developed the Pennsylvania Mine Map Atlas to provide access to and visualization of thousands of underground mine maps. These maps can be viewed in the PA Mine Map Atlas as well as downloaded via PASDA.

The Pennsylvania Flood Risk Tool is designed to provide floodplain managers, insurance agents, developers, real estate agents, local planners and citizens with an effective means by which to make informed decisions about the degree of flood risk for a specific area or property. This application was developed for and funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

This application is a product of the Online Geospatial Education Programs at Penn State. It allows direct interaction with map projections and their parameters to help in visualizing and understanding how the Earth's surface is distorted during transformation from 3D to 2D.