Geographers Recognized for National Research on COVID-19

Projects address mobility patterns, access to health care and food systems, racial and disability disparities during the pandemic

WASHINGTON, DC…Geographers have been recognized in 16 research and educational fellowships from The Geospatial Software Institute (GSI) Conceptualization Project. The fellowships support 14 projects that tackle COVID-19’s challenges for public health, social networks and contact tracing, housing stability, and disparities due to age, race, and disabilities, using geospatial software and advanced capabilities in cyberinfrastructure and data science. A full list of the fellows, with biographies and project information, is at

“The COVID-19 crisis has shown how critical it is to have cutting-edge geospatial software and cyberinfrastructure to tackle the pandemic’s many challenges,” said Shaowen Wang, a geographer who is the principal investigator of the NSF project and founding director of the CyberGIS Center at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “We are extremely grateful for NSF’s support to fund this talented group of researchers, whose work is so diverse yet complementary.”

The American Association of Geographers (AAG) is a partner in the GSI Conceptualization Project, which is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Other partners include the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUAHSI), the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), and University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS). Technical and cyberinfrastructure support are provided by the CyberGIS Center for Advanced Digital and Spatial Studies (CyberGIS Center)  at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“Geospatial technologies connect us and make us more geospatially aware, and in doing so, diminish everyday inconveniences,” said Coline Dony, senior geography researcher at AAG. “The AAG is committed to working with groups like GSI to ensure that the complex, interrelated, social, environmental, and scientific challenges of geospatial technologies are addressed. I think these challenges are what the GSI and Geospatial Fellows are well-positioned to accomplish.”

The Fellows come from varied professional, cultural, and institutional backgrounds, representing many disciplinary areas, including public health, food justice, hazard prediction and response, housing and neighborhood change, and community-based mapping. The fellowship projects represent frontiers of emerging geospatial data science, including for example deep learning, geovisualization, advanced approaches to gathering and analyzing geospatial data, and GeoAI.

Pioneered by multi-million research funded by NSF, cyberGIS (i.e., cyber geographic information science and systems based on advanced computing and cyberinfrastructure) has emerged as a new generation of GIS, comprising a seamless integration of advanced cyberinfrastructure, GIS, and spatial analysis and modeling capabilities while leading to widespread research advances and broad societal impacts. Built on the progress made by cyberGIS-related communities, the GSI conceptualization project is charged with developing a strategic plan for a long-term hub of excellence in geospatial software infrastructure, one that can better address emergent issues of food systems, ecology, emergency management, environmental research and stewardship, national security, public health, and more.

The Geospatial Fellows program will enable diverse researchers and educators to harness geospatial software and data at scale, in reproducible and transparent ways; and will contribute to the nation’s workforce capability and capacity to utilize geospatial big data and software for knowledge discovery.

With a particular focus on COVID-19, the combined research findings of the Fellows will offer insight on how to make geospatial research computationally reproducible and transparent, while also developing novel methods, including analysis, simulation, and modeling, to study the spread and impacts of the virus. The Fellows’ research will substantially add to public understanding of the societal impacts of COVID-19 on different communities, assessing the social and spatial disparities of COVID-19 among vulnerable populations.

For more information about the GSI conceptualization project, see their website:

For a list of Geospatial Fellows and their projects, visit

For more than 100 years The American Association of Geographers (AAG) has contributed to the advancement of geography. Our members from nearly 100 countries share interests in the theory, methods, and practice of geography, which they cultivate through the AAG’s Annual Meeting, scholarly journals (Annals of the American Association of GeographersThe Professional Geographer, the AAG Review of Books and GeoHumanities), and the online AAG Newsletter. The AAG is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in 1904.

FOR INTERVIEWS OR INFORMATION, CONTACT Lisa Schamess, phone 202.234.1450, ext 1164 or lschamess [at] aag [dot] org


Welcome to Clancy Wilmott, and thank you to John Kelmelis: AAG representatives on the Board of Directors of the GIS Certification Institute

The GIS Certification Institute or GISCI was established in 2002 by member organizations: Association of American Geographers (AAG), Geospatial Information and Technology Association (GITA), National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC), University Consortium of Geographic Information Science (UCGIS), Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA), to provide the GIS community with a complete certification program, leading to Certified GIS Professionals.

John Kelmelis has completed five years as AAG representative of GISCI’s board of directors and is succeeded by Clancy Wilmott, who assumes a two-year term on the board, and will join Mike S. Scott (Salisbury University) who is currently on the board.

Clancy Wilmott is at the University of California at Berkeley where she serves as an Assistant Professor in Critical Cartography, Geovisualisation and Design in the Berkeley Centre for New Media and the Department of Geography. Wilmott received her PhD in Human Geography from the University of Manchester and also holds undergraduate degrees in Communications (Media Arts and Production) and International Studies (Italian), as well as a postgraduate degree in Cultural Studies from the University of Technology, Sydney.

Wilmott researches critical cartography, new media and spatial practices. She published papers in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Big Data and Society, the Leonardo Electronic Almanac and the Journal of Television and New Media, amongst others. She is also the author of Mobile Mapping: Space, Cartography, and the Digital published in 2020 by Amsterdam University Press. This book argues for a theory of mobile mapping, a situated and spatial approach towards researching how everyday digital mobile media practices are bound up in global systems of knowledge and power.

We are impressed by her experience applying GIS to a variety of projects and by her experience teaching GIS to students from different disciplinary communities. As a member of the board, she will bring an important and needed perspective, and an understanding of the newer challenges in the profession and of the importance of training and awareness GIS Professionals require today.

We would like to express their heartfelt thanks to John Kelmelis for his service and dedication in the last 5 years. He has contributed tremendously the advancement of the GISP credential through providing guidance on important policy issue surrounding the implementation and subsequent revisions to the GISCI Geospatial Core Technical Knowledge Exam that has become a foundation of the GISP certification. John also served on the Executive Director search committee that began its work following Bill Hodge’s announcement of his upcoming retirement.

“The members of the GISCI Board of Directors will miss John’s insights, perspective, and sense of humor and we sincerely appreciate his dedication to our profession and to GISCI,” said Martin Roche, President of GISCI.

The GISCI board meets monthly to ensure the certification process is adapted to new circumstances and effectively administered. Indeed, since the establishment of the institute in 2002, we see continuous innovation to the capabilities of GIS and are still experiencing growth in the field of GIScience. Additionally, a growing number of communities and disciplines – beyond Geography, are gaining interest in the capabilities of GIS.

Learn more about the GISCI at


US Geographer Mei-Po Kwan honored as Fellow of the UK Academy of Social Sciences

The UK Academy of Social Sciences announced today that it has conferred the award of Fellow on US geographer Mei-Po Kwan, among other leading social scientists.

Academy Fellows are drawn from academics, practitioners and policymakers across the social sciences. They have been recognized after an extensive peer review process for the excellence and impact of their work through the use of social science for public benefit. This includes substantial contributions and leadership in various fields, including higher education, social, economic and environmental policy, government, law, charitable foundations and think tanks.

Mei-Po Kwan, Professor of Geography and Geographic Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was the only US geographer to receive the award of Fellow by the Academy of Social Sciences this year. The Academy’s citation accompanying her selection emphasized the impact of Professor Kwan’s work, noting that she “has made significant contributions to theory, methods and practice in urban, GI science, mobility and health research.”

About the Academy of Social Sciences
The Academy of Social Sciences is the national academy of academics, learned societies and practitioners in the social sciences. Its mission is to promote social science in the United Kingdom for the public benefit. The Academy is composed of 1313 individual Fellows, 44 Learned Societies, and a number of affiliates, together representing nearly 90,000 social scientists. Fellows are distinguished scholars and practitioners from academia and the public and private sectors. Most learned societies in the social sciences in the UK are represented within the Academy. The Academy also sponsors the Campaign for Social Science.

For further information, interviews or photos contact:

Aarti Basnyat
Communications Manager
Academy of Social Sciences/Campaign for Social Sciences
+44 (0) 20 7682 4663
E: a [dot] basnyat [at] acss [dot] org [dot] uk

18 October 2018


Discovering Geography – The International Geography Youth Summit

Three long-time AAG members met up recently at the 4th International Geography Youth Summit (IGYS) in Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore), India. The IGYS was developed as part of The Institute of Geographical Studies (TIGS) in Bengaluru. Both are the brainchilds of AAG member, Dr. Chandra Shekhar Balachandran, who founded TIGS in 2000. Together with collaborators and partners in India and the US, TIGS organizes year-round workshops with teachers, parents and students in Indian urban and rural schools to introduce geography as culturally relevant and meaningful. This kind of geography challenges traditional textbook approaches and extends learning beyond the classroom.

Dr. Balachandran developed the IGYS to encourage students to develop their own geographical research on locally relevant social and environmental issues and then present their work in an academic setting. This year, more than 160 students, aged 11-17 years old, convened at the Vidyanjali Academy for Learning in Bengaluru, to share their findings at IGYS-2018.

Students wrote and submitted abstracts online beforehand, and presentations were organized into concurrent thematic sessions, modeled after the AAG annual meeting format, with plenty of time for Q and A. For many students, some of whom are from rural and under-resourced schools and who are supported by a local NGO partner, this is their first time doing their own research, and making a pubic presentation. Dr. Heidi J. Nast, Professor of Geography and International Studies at DePaul University, has fund-raised for TIGS in the US for the past eight years and has attended the past two Summits. As she observes “the student enthusiasm at the Summit is infectious. The topics the students raise and the concerns they have are helping us to think about Indian geography in entirely new ways.”

This year, Dr. Sue Roberts from the University of Kentucky attended IGYS for the first time and gave the Keynote address. She says, “What impressed me most was the way the students took geographical concepts and ran with them. They generated truly fresh ways of approaching complex problems that we adults and professionals can sometimes make rather boring” and she added “the students had no problem connecting their research findings to practical action.”

One team of students, for example, tackled the issue of proliferating potholes in their streets. After examining the geographical prevalence of potholes and thinking through their many spatial effects on social and economic well-being, the students met with local officials who responded with more urgency than had been shown previously. The students additionally filled two potholes on their own, committed themselves to filling two more each month, and they created a website to report and repair potholes.

Three young girls gave the plenary paper, “taboo geographies of menstruation,” based on work they had presented at the IGYS 2017. They questioned why menstruating women are seen as polluting and placed at spatial distance from others, and suggested culturally sensitive ways for changing this.

These are but two examples of how children are taking their geography research work to interventions in the world around them.

There is much AAG members around the world can learn from the work of TIGS to generate awareness of geography and to support geographical research in schools. To find out more about this exciting initiative in India, please visit . A growing number of AAG members are giving financial support to the work of TIGS through its partner organization in the US: Dharani USA Inc. (a non-profit 401-3c organization). Information on how to donate is on the website.


AAG President Highlights Civil Rights at Ohio University Colloquium

On November 3, 2017 AAG President Derek Alderman addressed the Ohio University Geography Department through its Colloquium program. His talk, entitled “Civil Rights as Geospatial Work: Role of Counter Mapping and Radical Place-making in the African American Freedom Struggle”, engaged the audience in a critical look at how geographers can play a role in discussing and practicing civil rights. He emphasized that geographers now have an opportunity to be active in a second wave of Civil Rights movements, making specific note that there is a chance to feature not only civil rights struggles, but the ways in which we talk about them. Coinciding with the Geography Awareness Week theme of the geography of civil rights movements, Alderman highlighted how geographers can interact with new grassroots movements and ways of knowing about race and place.

A key moment of Alderman’s talk called attention to the next generation of geographers. “Students will be our planners and mappers for the future–but you won’t be doing that alone, you’ll do that as part of a larger history of [geospatial and civil rights] work,” Alderman remarked. The statement captures an idea at the heart of his presentation– civil rights and geography are fundamentally linked and have a deep history which can and should be explored further. Examples of the geospatial work Alderman discussed included The Green Book, a tool which helped black travelers during the height of segregation in America, and the importance of data during sit-ins and bus boycotts. One way of looking at these important topics is to view them as part of a longer, broader civil rights movement beyond the common narratives many of us are familiar with today.

The Ohio University Geography Colloquium is a four-part, semester-long series. Chosen by the OU faculty and a graduate student representative, the colloquium speakers connect students with a variety of areas of geographic research. Many Geography departments regularly host similar events with guest speakers sharing information on topics, study areas, or research initiatives they are passionate about and ways they filter into popular culture. For students, these events can help them explore new areas of geographic thought and inspire new research ideas. For faculty in attendance, it presents an opportunity to branch out into other geographic subfields and become energized for their own research.

One way that the AAG supports colloquium programs and the sharing of geographic ideas is through the Visiting Geographical Scientist Program (VGSP). Funded by the Gamma Theta Upsilon Geography Honor Society, the program is geared towards small departments with limited resources to bring in notable geographers as guest speakers. The VGSP helps to identify potential visitors and assists with costs for travel.

Additionally, the AAG has kicked off a brand new resource to highlight geographers interested in and available to give presentations on various aspects of geographic thought and research. The Geography Speakers Bureau is designed to facilitate connections between speakers and those hosting events such as department colloquia, or media contacts seeking a geographer perspective on a topic. The Speakers Bureau, still in development with more speakers to be added, highlights distinguished geographers and their research interests and encourages a culture of public speaking within the field. Not only does the Speakers Bureau aim to connect geographers to each other, but it also seeks to increase public engagement to help communicate all that geography has to offer the world.

For more information on the VGSP program contact Mark Revell at mrevell [at] aag [dot] org. For more information on the Geography Speakers Bureau contact David Coronado at dcoronado [at] aag [dot] org.


Trevor Paglen Named 2017 MacArthur Fellow

Geographer and artist Trevor Paglen has been named a MacArthur Fellow for 2017 for his work revealing the secret world of U.S. military operations and corporate power through a mixture of artistic photography, cartographic analysis, and boots-on-the-ground geography. He uses public records and field work to bring public attention to the secrecy surrounding government surveillance, warfare, and social control. For his projects he has photographed locations of covert government actions such as Area 51, the “Salt Pit” prison in Afghanistan, and the skies in search of drones, military aircraft, and espionage satellites.

Paglen’s spectrum of work includes both written publications, as well as artistic pieces serving as an excellent example of the emerging field of geohumanities. Through written works, such as Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon’s Secret World or Torture Taxi – On the Trail of the CIA’s Rendition Flights, Paglen maps onto paper those areas in which the government has tried to keep hidden, asking his readers to think about the societal implications of secrecy in a democratic state. In more recent work, The Last Pictures speculates on satellites orbiting earth as artifacts of 20th and 21st century civilization. Paglen’s artwork is wrapped up in his written projects and contains photographs of secret sites, military aircraft, and satellites. His pieces have been featured in locations ranging from the galleries of New York City to the Fukushima Exclusion Zone in Japan to a gold disk launched into outer space.

Currently residing in Berlin, Germany, Paglen holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from U.C. Berkeley, an MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago, and a Ph.D. in Geography from U.C. Berkeley (class of 2008). His work has been highlighted in CityLabThe New York TimesThe New YorkerVice MagazineArtforum, and The Colbert Report. Paglen also received a 2014 Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award which recognizes individuals who are extending freedom and innovation in the realm of information technology.

A part of the MacArthur Foundation, the prestigious MacArthur Fellows Program annually awards fellowships of $625,000 over a period of five years to individuals to pursue scholarly and artistic endeavors. According to the MacArthur Foundation website, “the purpose of the MacArthur Fellows Program is to enable recipients to exercise their own creative instincts for the benefit of human society.” The Foundation and rotating Fellows Program Committee have chosen 24 individuals in the class of 2017 to receive MacArthur Fellowships. Recipients of the MacArthur Fellowship must be residents or citizens of the United States and cannot be holding elected office or be in an advanced government position.


AAG Members Publish New Book on Florida Weather and Climate

AAG members Jennifer M. Collins, associate professor in the School of Geosciences at the University of South Florida; Robert V. Rohli, professor of geography at Louisiana State University; and colleague Charles H. Paxton, an American Meteorological Society certified consulting meteorologist, just published, Florida Weather and Climate: More Than Just Sunshine. The book explores the conditions, forces, and processes behind Florida’s varied and remarkable weather. The authors explain the influence of atmospheric circulation patterns such as the Hadley cell, the Coriolis force, and the Bermuda-Azores high. It also covers major weather incidents from Florida’s history and looks ahead to what climate change will mean for the state’s future. The book is aimed for the general public to read, but also as a scholarly resource. To learn more, visit here.


Camelia Kantor Named USGIF Director of Academic Programs

The United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) has appointed Camelia Kantor as its new Director of Academic Program. In this position, she will manage USGIF’s Collegiate GEOINT Accreditation Program, which awards students GEOINT Certificates accompanying their college degrees. Kantor was formerly an associate professor of geography at Claflin University in South Carolina. Most recently, she has served as a GeoMentor. Kantor is the recipient of AAG’s 2017 Dr. Helen Ruth Aspaas SAGE Innovator Award. The award is named for one of the founding members of the SAGE (Stand-Alone Geographers) Specialty Group, Dr. Helen Ruth Aspaas, a retired professor from Virginia Commonwealth University, and recognizes an outstanding and innovative Stand Alone Geographic Educator. To learn more, visit


Geographers Kristine DeLong and Grant Harley featured in New Documentary, “The Underwater Forest”

Kristine L. DeLong, associate professor of geography at Louisiana State University and Grant Harley, assistant professor of Geography at the University of Southern Mississippi, were both part of a team of scientists featured in the new documentary, “The Underwater Forest.” The documentary is about an ancient cypress forest discovered in 60 feet of water and about 10 miles off the coast of Alabama in the Gulf of Mexico. The Underwater Forest, which dates to an ice age approximately 60,000 years ago, could provide information about ancient plant populations, rainfall in the region and other topics. To learn more about this documentary, visit


Presidential Geographers: Drs. Mazey and Nellis Lead Buckeye Universities

As of July 1, 2017, the state of Ohio will have two university presidents who are geographers. Dr. Duane Nellis, president-elect at Ohio University (OU), will join Dr. Mary Ellen Mazey of Bowling Green State University (BGSU) as a leader of a public academic institution in Ohio. Mazey began her Presidency at BGSU in July of 2011 and holds a PhD in Geography from the University of Cincinnati, while Nellis holds his PhD in Geography from Oregon State University.

Mazey has previously served as Provost and Vice-President of Academic Affairs at Auburn University, as Dean of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at West Virginia University, and as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Wright State University. Nellis is joining OU from Texas Tech University where he served as President from 2013 to 2016 and was the President of the University of Idaho from 2009 to 2013. On top of his service at the University level, Nellis served as President of the National Council for Geographic Education from 1993 to 1994, as President of Gamma Theta Upsilon from 1999 to 2000, and as President of the AAG from 2002 to 2003.

As leaders in academia, Mazey and Nellis highlight the ways geographers contribute to furthering research, technology, engagement, and outreach within the University as well as in broader communities.

For more information, you can read Mazey’s BGSU biography and Ohio University’s press release for Nellis’ election.