City skyline with Navy Pier in the foreground at dusk (Photo from Choose Chicago).
Highlights from the 2015 Annual Meeting in Chicago
The Association of American Geographers 2015 Annual Meeting in Chicago, Ill., hosted nearly 9,000 geographers, GIS specialists, environmental scientists, and other registrants from around the world sharing the very latest in research, policy, and applications in geography, sustainability, and GIScience. Of those attending, thousands, representing approximately 35 percent of all attendees came from countries other than the U.S.A., which continues a steady trend toward increased international participation at AAG Meetings. For comparison, the 2006 meeting in Chicago registered approximately 20 percent international attendees.
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This year, attendees came from 82 different countries. The largest participation of scholars from outside of the U.S. came from Canada, the UK, China, Germany, France, Australia and Sweden with strong representation of numbers of geographers from the Netherlands, Switzerland, Brazil, Finland, Korea, Italy, among many others. The international attendance greatly enriched the intellectual and social events throughout the week-long conference.
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AAG President Mona Domosh's opening presidential plenary speakers included Martin Doyle and Becky Mansfield on Nature, Patrick Bartlein and Stephen Daniels on Time, Harriet Hawkins and Sarah Elwood on Visuality, Josh Barkan and Laura Pulido on Justice, and Tariq Jazeel and Dan Friess on Landscape.
Julie Winkler presented the Presidential Achievement Award to Diana Liverman.
The AAG Annual Meeting also featured several diversely themed research tracks and special events, many with strong international dimensions. The Opening Presidential Plenary organized by AAG President Mona Domosh, titled "Radical Intra-Disciplinarity," brought together human, physical, environmental and geospatial geographers to highlight and celebrate the creative and radical possibilities of our discipline being so "un"disciplined. The session was so popular that the large ballroom was standing room only.
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Julie Winkler's past presidential address "Embracing the Complexity and Uncertainty of Climate Change," received a standing ovation, and she also presented this year’s AAG Presidential Achievement Award to Diana Liverman, University of Arizona, for her extraordinary contributions to understanding the human dimensions of global change, including the impacts of climate on society and issues of equity and climate change, and for her leadership roles in numerous boundary organizations, including Future Earth, that strengthen partnerships with scientists, policymakers and stakeholders to promote regional and global sustainability. Additional distinguished awards, including AAG Honors, were conveyed during the AAG Awards Luncheon on the final day of the conference.
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AAG's International Reception connected friends
and colleagues from around the globe.
The AAG sponsored an International Reception to celebrate the global character of the conference and emphasized the importance of international collaboration. Live music was provided by the Ron Harris Music Group, while a record number of attendees danced, reunited with friends and met new colleagues from around the world.
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The AAG launched its newest journal, GeoHumanities, at a special panel session during which co-editors Deborah Dixon and Tim Cresswell discussed their visions for the journal. Shown above are Honorary Geographer Peter Bol, Doug Richardson, co-editor Deborah Dixon, J. Nicholas Entrikin of the U. of Notre Dame and co-editor Tim Cresswell.
Other themes developed for the Chicago meeting were: Radical Intra-Disciplinarity; Symposium on International Geospatial Health Research; Symposium on Physical Geography: Environmental Reconstruction — A Nexus of Biogeography, Climatology and Geomorphology; Geography and Online Education; GeoHumanities; and Chicago and the Great Lakes Region.
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Wide-ranging plenaries and special events included notable speakers, such as 2015 Honorary Geographer Peter Bol; The Chronicle of Higher Education writer Jeffrey R. Young; Jo Ivey Boufford, president of The New York Academy of Medicine; and Elizabeth Purvis, secretary of education for the state of Illinois. Friends and colleagues also gathered to remember Harm di Blij and Florence Margai, among others, during several special tributes. Other sessions included "Geographers on John Muir—Critically Assessing His Legacy and Relevance 100 Years On" chaired by Glen MacDonald and "A New Map of Global Ecological Land Units" with Roger Sayre from USGS and Charlie Frye from Esri.
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Harvard University's Peter Bol received the 2015 AAG Honorary Geographer award, then spoke spoke about "Location and Learning: A Spatial Approach to Chinese Thought and Society."
The above summary represents only a few of the many exciting sessions and international activities that took place at the 2015 AAG Annual Meeting. Numerous other paper, poster, and panel sessions and presentations highlighted geographic work organized by AAG members and AAG Specialty and Affinity Groups. Field trips, workshops, and a special emphasis on Careers in Geography also greatly enriched the experience of AAG conference participants.
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"Symposium on International Geospatial Health Research" opening plenary explored new frontiers in geospatial health research fostering international networks to share information across borders generating synergies building on AAG initiatives of the past decade, such as the AAG Initiative for an NIH-wide Geospatial Infrastructure for Health Research. The panel included Mei-Po Kwan, Yonette Thomas, Bethany Deeds, Marie Lynn Miranda and David Berrigan.
Jo Ivey Boufford, President of The New York Academy of Medicine and AAG's Yonette Thomas spoke during the session, "Recent Developments in Health Research."
Participants and attendees gathered during the Human Geography poster session on Wednesday, April 22. There were two other large poster sessions on Physical Geography and GIS&T held later in the week.
Glen MacDonald organized "Geographers on John Muir—Critically Assessing His Legacy and Relevance 100 Years On." The panel session included Alan H. Taylor, Laura Pulido, Susanna Hecht, Paul Robbins, Carolyn Finneyand Carol P. Harden.
The Chronicle of Higher Education's Jeffrey R. Young presented a special track session "Pop-Up Learning: How Online Courses Are Changing—And Challenging—Higher Education."
A large gathering of colleagues, friends, mentees and family members came together for the special tribute session, "Celebrating Florence Margai’s Contribution to Binghamton University, the African Specialty Group, AAG and Beyond." Many of the attendees in the room offered their memories of Florence Margai.
AAG President Mona Domosh visited the popular CAMP AAG. AAG made an investment to provide full-time, professionally-managed and staffed onsite childcare services, which offered age-appropriate activities for children ranging from 6 months to 13 years of age, including curriculum-enriched, hands-on, creative activities, arts and crafts projects, active games and more.
Esri's David DiBiase introduced "K-12 Education ConnectED with Geography through ArcGIS Online." Panelists included AAG's Michael N. Solem, Bennett Moe of Maps.com and AAG's Candice Luebbering, who talked indepthly about President Obama's ConnectED initiative to enhance geographic literacy in K-12 classrooms. They also announced the AAG-Esri GeoMentors program.
Elizabeth Purvis addressed attendees during the session "Advancing Geography in Federal K-12 Policy Reforms." Joseph Tennial, community outreach coordinator for Senator Richard J. Durbin (IL) at left, later gave his perspective, while the AAG's John Wertman chaired the session.
Also on the panel were AAG Vice President Sarah Witham Bednarz and the AAG's Candice Luebbering.
The U.S. Geological Survey and Esri collaborated on producing new, high resolution global ecological land units map. The initial products from the collaboration include the data, a map, an ecosystem browser application, and a special publication by the AAG.
The "Welcome to the AAG annual meeting! A discussion on navigating and making the most of the conference" session gave new, early-career and international geographers insights into how to get the most out of the annual meeting.
As a special surprise to all, the founder of the World Geography Bowl Neal Lineback (second from right) with Retired Geographers Association members Richard and Susan Nostrand, Will Rense and Marvin Baker donated and delivered eight boxes of Chicago-style deep-dish pizza.
The registration and onsight badge pickup process was especially efficient this year, as the AAG launched its new kiosks allowing registrants to review and edit their information before printing their badges. This new system kept queue times much shorter for the record-breaking attendance.
The AAG booth had some new features, which were a hit with attendees who were looking for a variety of program information and publications. Folks could pinpoint their place of origin on maps, join the new GeoMentors program, show their member pride with AAG-branded clothing and even snag a temporary tattoo.
The AAG booth was a great place for the most seasoned professionals and the youngest geographers-in-training to take a break during the annual meeting.
A group enjoyed a field trip to the Art Institute's conservation department where they saw an x-ray of a Monet painting and Venetian scrolls. They also viewed infrared reflectography of Renoir and Monet paintings and a painting with the story of Ulysses being restored.
The exhibit hall was a popular stop for conference attendees, as were the three nearby poster sessions and the afternoon receptions.