Association of American Geographers
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AAG Honors Committee B

(two to be elected)

Michael EmchMICHAEL EMCH. W.R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Geography and Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) and Fellow, Carolina Population Center. Ph.D. (Michigan State University), M.A. (Miami University), and B.A. (Alfred University).

Service to AAG and Geography: AAG Health and Medical Geography Specialty Group Board Member (2005-8); AAG Remote Sensing Specialty Group Treasurer (1998-2002); Advisory Editor, Medical Geography, Social Science & Medicine (2005-2019); Associate Editor, Health & Place (2015-2018); Editorial Board, Health & Place, (2014-2015, 2018-Present); Editorial Board, SSM - Population Health, (2015-Present). Served on many study sections, review panels, and committees for the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and the National Academy of Sciences; Chair, Department of Geography, UNC (2013-18).

Awards, Honors, Grants: AAG Distinguished Scholar Award, Health and Medical Geography Specialty Group, 2019; Invited Speaker, United States Senate, World Malaria Day Event Hosted by the Senate Working Group on Malaria, 2012; Fulbright Senior Scholar Award, New Zealand, 2011; Committee on Spatial Data Enabling USGS Strategic Science in the 21st Century, National Research Council of the National Academies, 2009-2010; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar, Columbia University, 2004-06; Invited United States NIH Delegation Member, United States-Japan Cooperative Medical Science Program's 8th International Conference on Emerging Infections in the Pacific Rim, 2003; Fulbright Scholar. Bangladesh, 1993. Received more than $20 million in external grants from NIH, NSF, Gates Foundation, and others during past 25 years.

Research and Teaching Interests: Health geographer with expertise in infectious disease ecology, spatial epidemiology, neighborhood determinants of health, and geographic information science applications of public health. Regularly teaches classes at UNC on health and medical geography, emerging infectious diseases, GIS in public health, GIS for impact evaluation, and research design. Advised more than 90 graduate students and post-doctoral scholars during the past 25 years and has also advised many undergraduate students on honors theses and on NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) projects.

Publications: Author and co-author of more than 170 journal publications and book chapters and two books including a 2017 book entitled Health and Medical Geography. Journal papers have been published in geography and spatial sciences journals such as the Annals of the Association of American Geographers; Health & Place; Social Science and Medicine; Spatial and Spatio-temporal Epidemiology; International Journal of Health Geographics; The Professional Geographer; Environment and Planning A; Spatial Demography. Other papers are published in public health and medicine journals including the Lancet; Journal of Infectious Diseases; International Journal of Infectious Disease; American Journal of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; Biometrics; Environmental Health Perspectives; Bulletin of the World Health Organization; Emerging Infectious Diseases; Biometrics.


Alexandra Ponette-GonzalezALEXANDRA G. PONETTE-GONZÁLEZ: Associate Professor, Department of Geography and the Environment (terminal master’s program), University of North Texas (UNT). Ph.D. (Yale University), M.A. (University of Texas at Austin), B.A. (United States International University, Mexico City).

Service to AAG and Geography: Member, American Association of Geographers Committee on the Status of Women in Geography (2015-2018); Member, American Association of Geographers Excellence in Mentoring Award subcommittee (2017); Local Coordinator, Southwestern Division of the American Association of Geographers GeoBowl (2016); Board Member, Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers (2010-2013); Editorial Advisory Board Member for Progress in Physical Geography (2020-present) and Land (2019-present). Reviewer for the National Science Foundation (NSF) Geography and Spatial Sciences, Geomorphology and Land Use Dynamics, Coupled Human and Natural Systems (CNH), CNH2, and Hydrologic Sciences programs. Ad hoc reviewer for ~15 journals in meteorology & atmospheric sciences, water resources, plant and soil sciences.

Honors, Awards, Grants: UNT Early Career Award for Research and Creativity (2017); Nominee for the UNT Fessor Graham Teaching Award (2017, 2018); Finalist for the UNT CLASS Teaching Award (2018); Nominee (2019) and finalist (2020) for the CLASS Outstanding Researcher Award; UNT Geography Most Appreciated Professor Award (2014, 2017). Awarded multiple internal and external grants: NSF CAREER Award (2016-2021); NSF Belmont ICER (2016-2020), NSF Geomorphology and Land Use Dynamics (2015-2018); NASA (2011-2015), NSF OISE (2011-2014); National Geographic Society (2011-2012); NSF Minority Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (2009-2011).

Research and Teaching Interests: I am an ecosystem geographer interested in human-atmosphere-biosphere interactions under global change. My research aims to understand how land transformation and atmospheric pollution affect ecosystems and their services. Specifically, I explore how human activities alter material fluxes from the atmosphere to the surface via “bottom up” changes in vegetation distributions and “top down” changes in emissions sources.  My work spans diverse ecosystems from tropical forest to urban, and advances understanding of the causes and consequences of changing atmospheric drivers that range from dust to nutrients and pollutants to pests. I teach a large enrollment introductory course for non-science majors and mid- and upper-level undergraduate courses focused on physical geography and ecosystems. From these courses, I often recruit undergraduate student researchers, with the explicit goal of broadening participation in science.

Publications: Author and co-author of 32 peer-reviewed publications. Published works in prominent journals, including: Annals of the American Association of Geographers, BioScience, Ecosystems, Environmental Science & Technology, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (in press), Global Change Biology, Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences, PLos ONE, and others. Additional publications include two technical reports and one Earth Science Laboratory Manual (2020).


Sujata ShettySUJATA SHETTY. Professor, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toledo. Ph.D. (University of Michigan), M.U.P. (University of Michigan), and B.Arch. (School of Planning and Architecture, University of Delhi, India).

Service to AAG and Geography: My focus has been on community service and includes projects with government entities such as the Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commissions and City of Toledo Environmental Services; non-profits such as American Rivers, United North Community Development Corporation and the Cherry Street Legacy Project; and, neighborhood groups such as the Junction Neighborhood Coalition, the Old West End Neighborhood Association and the Perrysburg Heights Community Association. (These were not grant-funded projects, but were projects identified as important by the organizations listed above and conducted in collaboration with them.)

Awards, Honors, Grants: Lovell Foundation grant (on housing evictions, 2020-2021); Toledo City Council grant (on poverty, 2018-2019); First Energy Corporation grant (on housing, 2018); co-PI on an NSF ITEST grant (on geography education, 2014-2018); University of Toledo Research Council Award (on housing, 2013).

Research and Teaching Interests: My research focuses on the role of planning in marginalized and under-resourced communities from multiple perspectives, including land use planning, urban design, housing, community development, and international development planning. Of particular interest are the planning challenges in cities in the U.S. industrial mid-west that are facing population loss, so-called “legacy cities.”  A second area of focus has been geography education. I was co-PI on an NSF project designed to introduce high school students from groups under-represented in geography, to geo-spatial technologies and careers in geography.  Courses include Geography of Asia, Geography of U.S. and Canada, Principles of Urban Planning, Land Use Planning, Patterns of World Development, and doctoral seminars on multiple topics.

PublicationsCo-author “Urban Shrinkage, Industrial Renewal and Automotive Plants,” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), which traces the changing footprint of the automobile industry and examines planning responses in four small to mid-sized cities in the United States and Europe as the local auto plant, once the center of each city’s economic and community life, was shuttered. Author and co-author of multiple peer-reviewed articles and in venues including Applied Geography, Journal of Geography, Theory and Research in Social Education, Housing Policy Debate, Built Environment, Urban Design International, Community Development, Perspectives on Global Development and TechnologyandJournal for Planning Education and Research. Non-traditional publications include a wide range of planning reports. Examples include “Toledo and Lucas County Poverty Study,” prepared for Toledo City Council and “Planning Downtown Toledo: A Review of Planning Efforts for the Central City,” prepared for Toledo 22nd Century Committee, a public-private partnership.


Megan YbarraMEGAN YBARRA. Associate Professor, Department of Geography, University of Washington. Ph.D. (University of California, Berkeley) and B.A. (New York University).

Service to AAG and Geography: Editorial Board member, The Professional Geographer (2019-2023); Editorial Board member, Environment & Planning D: Society and Space (2019-present); International Advisory Board member, Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography (2014-present); Member, AAG Arrangements Committee for Annual Meeting in Seattle (2020-2021); inaugural Chair, Latinx Geographies Specialty Group, American Association of Geographers (2018-2020); Member, Latinx Geographies Working Group to establish a specialty group for the American Association of Geographers (2017-2018).

Awards, Honors, Grants: Winner, Cultural and Political Ecology Outstanding Publication Award, American Association of Geographers (AAG), for Green Wars: Conservation and Decolonization in the Maya Forest, University of California Press (2019). Undergraduate Majors’ Award for Faculty Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, UW Department of Geography (2018). American Fellowship Summer/Short-term Research Publication Grant, American Association of University Women (2012). Research grants include partnerships for community-based knowledge production through the Antipode Foundation and internal grants for community engagement with first generation and scholars of color at the undergraduate level. 

Research and Teaching Interests: I am a human geographer specializing in environmental justice, racial formations and migration. My current research applies abolitionist theories to movements for Indigenous sovereignty and environmental justice, and the relationship between immigration enforcement and criminal punishment systems in the U.S., Mexico and Guatemala. To do this work, I am particularly interested in engaging with the politics of knowledge production, activist scholarship and increasing accessibility of geographic thought across languages and open-access platforms. My teaching examines race as a central principle to how we make our society through where we live, where we work, and where we play. I hope that my classes can be a space where students draw on geographic theories to develop consensus-based community practices to address harms and keep each other safe. Courses include: Environmental Justice; Race, Nature & Power; Transnational Latinx Migrations; Abolition Geographies; and others.

Publications: I am author of Green Wars, an ethnographic study of Q’eqchi’ Maya territoriality that brings a Hemispheric perspective to settler colonialism and Indigenous land defense; a revised open-access Spanish edition of this book in press for publication in Guatemala; co-author of Land, Migration and Life in Petén, Guatemala, 1999-2009 a Spanish-language study that triangulates ethnography and a repeat survey on land tenure and environmental attitudes; and over a dozen peer-reviewed journal articles in English. Publication venues include: Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography; Environment & Planning D: Society & Space; Geopolitics; Land Use Policy; Journal of Peasant Studies; Geoforum and Conservation & Society. Public scholarship includes multiple op-eds, research reports for Guatemalan policy makers; a documentary short and a co-authored bilingual zine on the activism of detained immigrants and an amicus curiae brief for a U.S. Federal court case on minimum wage violations of immigrants held at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA; and more than 20 expert witness statements on country conditions to the U.S. Executive Office for Immigration Review on asylum and/or withholding of migrant removal.