Natasha Rivers

Geography wasn’t the only major Natasha Rivers had in mind. In fact, it wasn’t even her first choice. “I originally thought I was going to study business or become a veterinarian,” she explains. It was a course on globalization that caught her attention, however, where for the first time she really learned about the core periphery of inequality and relative inequality in America. “I was interested in the people I was learning about, not just why they move and transform places that they inhabit, but the history of these people. What’s the language with the culture? What culture do they have to get rid of in order to assimilate?”

Understanding the interconnectedness of people and places has stuck with Natasha throughout her education and into her career. “It’s like, oh, okay, we’re all connected. It’s all relative,” she says. She continues on, emphasizing to this point. “But also, what can we do?”

How to create opportunity after getting a foot in the door

Natasha’s current position is the Sustainability and Measurement Director at BECU, a not-for-profit credit union, having worked her way up after originally being hired as a Program Manager. This original position initially entailed calculating the company’s carbon footprint, but that was where the environmental sustainability responsibilities ended. She quickly realized that there were so many other opportunities associated with the role, whether through expanded staff collaborations or providing members with resources. By asking questions, assessing what was needed and what was possible, while also not being afraid to make recommendations, Natasha elevated her role and presence within the organization.

How does geography play a role in your current position?

“Geography gave me a good idea of understanding people and places, of understanding the natural environment and the built environment. I’m thinking about all of these systems and how they play together with the economy. When thinking about our members, I asked for their demographics. Can we understand more about their race, education, background so that we can really deal with those different segments of the population that might need more resources or financial education?”

Using an understanding of spatial relationships to create effective initiatives in the workplace

What’s been a constant is the importance of understanding people in places. Natasha gives the example of Seattle, a place that has experienced a lot of change and growth in recent years. As a native of the city, she’s seen how the dot com and tech booms have impacted the region. “I grew up in Seattle. But Seattle’s unaffordable for most of the people in my family. So, a lot of them live in South King County.”

This diasporic movement impacts not just Natasha’s own family but the members at BECU. With her background in geography, she’s asking important questions about forced versus chosen migration and seeking answers about why and how people congregate in certain enclaves. By doing so she can better provide short- and long-term sustainability and financial health initiatives that educate members as well as staff on the connection between environmental sustainability and a financial institution.

What was your educational path? What did you study?

Natasha’s geography journey began at the University of Washington, where she double majored in Geography and American Ethnic Studies with a focus on Gender Studies. She continued on to get her PhD in Geography from University of California Los Angeles, where she built upon her interest in demography, followed by two post-docs, one at the University of Minnesota Population Center and the other at University of Washington.

“I had goals of just being an academic, publishing papers, teaching, going to conferences,” Natasha says. “That was my actual first goal. But there wasn’t a lot of opportunity at the time. This was 2010, so our country was still in the process of recovering from the Great Recession of 2008 and jobs were limited.”

If I get a Ph.D., I have to stay in academia? Right?

“So, I have this Ph.D. and it has not worked out for me and I need to figure out what my transferable skills are. I need to tap into my network and luckily my connections at the University of Washington introduced me to someone at the Seattle School District. They had just opened a new role, a Demographer role, and that was exactly my track in undergrad, grad, and my postdoc as well.”

But moving into industry from a perceived career in academia is a difficult transition. “I had to accept that and then adjust,” says Natasha. “That was the biggest adjustment: it was realizing I’m not going to have this current path, so what else is out there for me.”

How does one transition out of academia and into industry?

The key to transitioning out of academia was investing in her own professional development. Natasha had been networking for years with others in her community, from volunteering on boards to working with nonprofits, and she learned how to market herself in a non-academic way by speaking their language. Humility also played a big role in this transition. “I think a lot of times people with PhDs might go into industry and think they should be director right away or VP because of what they’ve achieved in the academic space. But I think it’s humbling to go in as a project or program manager and work your way up.”

What is your favorite part about where you work and what you do currently?

In Natasha’s current role, her favorite aspect of the job is getting to be curious and innovative. “There was no blueprint, this role was the first of its kind,” she explains. “I’m trusted to create these initiatives and do a lot of research, see what other people are doing.”

How Natasha came to work at BECU is a valuable lesson for all of us. Her previous position as a Demographer with the Seattle School District offered no opportunity for growth, and while it served her for a while, there came a time when she felt like she needed to do something more.

“A valued member of my expanded network had an opening at BECU and she had opened the role of Sustainability and Measurement,” Natasha says. “I didn’t think a financial institution would need someone thinking about the environment or sustainability. I could totally do that! So, I went for it, and I got the job.”

How does geography and its components impact not just your professional life, but your personal life?

Geography is more than a profession for Natasha, it factors into her day-to-day life as well. “There’s always the question of why was this made, or where? Where is this coming from? There are different languages being spoken here. I wonder where they came from, or what’s their journey to the U.S. It keeps me alert. It keeps me connected. It keeps me curious.”

One example came from a recent snowstorm in the Seattle area earlier this year. “Our trash wasn’t picked up for two weeks and the trash guys went on strike. So, we got these automated calls about where you can drop your trash off, but most people didn’t know where it was, even though it might be a block or two blocks from their house. Once your trash is picked up, you don’t think about it. You don’t think about where it’s going or how it’s taken care of. You just put your bin out. But when you have to take your bin TO the trash, you see all the trash there.

“I think that is what is so fascinating to me, that there are two types of people: ones that ask questions and people who don’t. Some people just want their trash picked up. But there’s others that think about the impact on the environment or how their trash is being disposed of.”

What advice do you have for geography students and early career professionals?

“Learn a lot from people, learn what you can. Don’t have such a strict view of your life, or what your career is going to look like. Be open. Keep your heart open as well. This life does surprise you, and there’s new roles that will fit exactly what you’re looking for.

“I do think that geography is relevant today, just as it was yesterday, and will be, so don’t be discouraged. There’s so much to do, so much work to be done.”


AAG Welcomes Spring 2023 Interns

Two new interns have joined the AAG staff this semester! The AAG would like to welcome Iman and Allison to the organization.

Photo of Iman SmithIman Smith is a junior at the University of Maryland, pursuing a B.S. in Geographical Sciences and a minor in Geographic Information Systems. Her areas of interest include agricultural monitoring and crop management, and global food security. In her spare time, Iman likes to travel, crochet, make pottery, and she also hosts a college radio show.

Photo of Allison RiveraAllison Rivera is a senior at the University of Connecticut pursuing a B.S. in Geoscience and a minor in Geography. She is mostly interested in geomorphology and physical geography and is currently completing a senior thesis on such topics. After graduation, Allison hopes to attend graduate school and pursue further research in the field of geomorphology. In her spare time, she enjoys watching cartoons, going for walks, and reading.

If you or someone you know is interested in applying for an internship at the AAG, the AAG seeks interns on a year-round basis for the spring, summer, and fall semesters.

Learn more about becoming an AAG intern

AAG Letter to Members on the Forces that Shape Police Brutality


Gerry A. Hale

Gerry Hale, a long-time, much-loved professor in the Department of Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles, died on October 14, 2022.

Born in 1933 in Los Angeles, Gerry (pronounced “Gary”) was raised in the neighboring city of Glendale. He attended UCLA as both an undergraduate and graduate student. In the early 1960s, while conducting fieldwork in Sudan, Gerry served as the Head Geography Master at Unity High School for Girls in Khartoum and as a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Khartoum. Before and after his time in Sudan, he also taught at the University of Southern California. In 1966, working under the direction of Dr. Joseph Spencer, he completed his Ph.D. dissertation on agricultural terracing in Sudan’s Darfur region. Soon thereafter, he joined the UCLA Department of Geography as a tenure-track faculty member.

A political and cultural geographer, Gerry’s teaching and research focused on technology, nationalism, the state, cultural hegemony, capitalism, anti-colonialism and empire, and Marxist geography. His regional specializations were in North Africa, the Middle East, and California.

Photo of Sondra and Gerry Hale in their house in Hai el-Matar, Khartoum, Sudan, 1961.Photographer: unknown.
Sondra and Gerry Hale in their house in Hai el-Matar, Khartoum, Sudan, 1961. Photographer: unknown.

A combination of factors—ranging from witnessing pervasive racial injustice in Glendale and exposure to the early years of postcolonial life in Lebanon (where he studied as a M.A. student) and in Africa, to the horrors of the U.S. war in Vietnam—radicalized Gerry. By the late 1960s, he saw himself as Marxist—politically as well as intellectually.

Consistent with his politics—a combination of democratic socialism, feminism, and anti-racism—Gerry was involved in Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography from its initial days. As the journal’s structure became more formalized, he served on the editorial board from 1978 to 1985.

Gerry’s politics also underlay his intense dedication to students. He was the advisor to approximately a dozen Ph.D. students who went on to academic careers, and to scores of Master’s students—in Geography as well as in the African Studies M.A. Program, for which he served as director for some years, and in the Center for Near Eastern Studies. He was also the Department of Geography’s undergraduate and graduate advisor during the 1990s. In these roles Gerry was known to be a strong supporter of women faculty and students.

Because of his politics, life at UCLA in Gerry’s earlier years as a faculty member were often difficult given the strongly conservative ethos that permeated the institution. Changing times and, more importantly, Gerry’s generous spirit, ethical character, collegiality, and dedication as a teacher of undergraduate and graduates alike eventually won over most, if not all, of his detractors. By the time of his retirement circa 1997, Gerry was a highly valued and universally appreciated citizen of the Department and the University as a whole; he was a member of some of the most prestigious bodies on campus, such as the Committee on Privilege and Tenure.

A strong sense of justice motivated much of what Gerry Hale did as a geographer. Many of those who were fortunate enough to take an undergraduate course with him, for example, learned about what happened to the predominately working class and Mexican-descended community of Chavez Ravine. Beginning in 1951, the City of Los Angeles used eminent domain to expel the area’s residents and raze their homes—in the name of public housing which never arrived. Instead, years later, the city sold the land to the Los Angeles Dodgers to build a baseball stadium.

As one former student, now a historian, recalled in relation to Gerry’s telling of the story, “When I was growing up in Echo Park (a Los Angeles neighborhood), I didn’t know this history. I don’t think most people know it today. I learned it once I got to UCLA, in a geography class with Gerry Hale. He was not even a Chicano, but a white man who engaged in a one-man boycott of Dodger Stadium, having made a personal commitment to never go to ballgames because of what had happened on the land on which Dodger Stadium sits.”

Gerry Hale is survived by his longtime partner, Sondra Hale, professor emeritus of Anthropology and Gender Studies at UCLA, and their daughters, Alexa and Adrienne, as well as by countless others whose lives he touched.

Provided by Garth Myers (Trinity College) and Joseph Nevins (Vassar College).



On the Structural and Spatial Forces that Contribute to Police Brutality 

Photograph entitled "Volunteer Bridge" by Tyre Nichols; the image shows the Hernando De Soto Bridge lit up in the evening in Memphis, Tennessee
Photograph entitled "Volunteer Bridge" by Tyre Nichols

The systemic forces and spatial conditions that shape police brutality, especially against Black people, are well documented by researchers in many disciplines, including geography.

In 2022, at least 1,192 people were killed by law enforcement officers in the U.S., the most of any year since at least 2013 (Mapping Police Violence project). As geographer, Rashad Shabazz has written, “Policing in the U.S. has, from its inception, treated Black people as domestic enemies.”

AAG is providing a resource list that brings together work by geographers and colleagues in other disciplines to illuminate how “police and policing [are] a multifaceted manifestation of state power, coercion, and territoriality” (Bloch, 2021). AAG members are committed to studying and working to change these structural issues in their work and lived experiences. Our list of resources is drawn in part from the list curated by the AAG Black Geographies Specialty Group. We also have created a list of Black Geographies articles from AAG journals, available with free access through December 2023.

  • Bledsoe, A. , Butler, J., Eaves, L., Moulton, A. A. (2023). A Syllabus for the Present Predicament. Google doc, February 2023.
  • Bloch, S. (2021). Police and policing in geography: From methods, to theory, to praxis. Geography Compass, March 2021, 15,3.
  • Bloch, S. (2021) Aversive racism and community-instigated policing: The spatial politics of Nextdoor. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, 10.1177/23996544211019754, 40, 1, (260-278).
  • Carby, H (1992). “Policing the Black Woman’s Body in an Urban Context.” Critical Inquiry 18: 739–55.
  • Correia, D. and Wall, T. Police: A Field Guide (2022)
  • Hamilton, A.R. & Foote, K. (2018) Police Torture in Chicago: Theorizing Violence and Social Justice in a Racialized City, Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 108:2, 399-410, DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2017.1402671
  • Herbert, S. (1996) The Normative Ordering of Police Territoriality: Making and Marking Space with the Los Angeles Police Department, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 86:3, 567-582, DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8306.1996.tb01767.x
  • Jackson, A.N. (2022) “The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same: A Spatial Analysis of Historical and Contemporary Incidents of Police Violence”, Leitz, L. (Ed.) Race and Space (Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change, Vol. 46), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 65-86.
  • Pauschinger, D. (2020). Working at the edge: Police, emotions and space in Rio de Janeiro. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 38(3), 510–527.
  • Ramírez, M. M. (2020). City as borderland: Gentrification and the policing of Black and Latinx geographies in Oakland. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 38(1), 147–166.
  • Radil, S. M., Dezzani, R. J., & McAden, L. D. (2017). Geographies of US police militarization and the role of the 1033 program. The Professional Geographer, 69(2), 203–213.
  • Rios. J. (2020). Black Lives and Spatial Matters: Policing Blackness and Practicing Freedom in Suburban St. Louis. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  • Saunders, R. H. (1999b). The politics and practice of community policing in Boston. Urban Geography, 20(5), 461–482.
  • Smith, S. J. (1986). Police accountability and local democracy. Area.18(2), 99–107.
  • Tulumello, S. & Iapaolo, Fabio (2022). Policing the future, disrupting urban policy today. Predictive policing, smart city, and urban policy in Memphis (TN), Urban Geography, 43:3, 448-469,
  • van Stapele, N. (2020). Police killings and the vicissitudes of borders and bounding orders in Mathare, Nairobi. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 38(3), 417–435.
  • Vigneswaran, D. (2014). The contours of disorder: Crime maps and territorial policing in South Africa. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 32(1), 91–107.
  • Vitale, A. S. (2005). Innovation and institutionalization: Factors in the development of “Quality of Life” policing in New York City. Policing and Society, 15(2), 99–124.
  • Wall, T., & Linnemann, T. (2014). Staring down the state: Police power, visual economies, and the “war on cameras”. Crime, Media, Culture, 10(2), 133-149.
  • Woods, Clyde (2002). Life After Death. The Professional Geographer, Volume 54, Issue 1.
  • Yarwood, R. (2007). The geographies of policing. Progress in Human Geography, 31(4), 447–465.
  • Yarwood, R., & Paasche, T. (2015). The relational geographies of policing and security. Geography Compass, 9(6), 362–370.
Further Reading

See more at AAG’s list of free-access articles on Black Geographies from our journals


On the Map: Denver’s Five Points and Whittier neighborhoods

Image of Robinson Atlas of the City of Denver (Plate 12). Source: Denver Public Library, Special Collections
Image of Robinson Atlas of the City of Denver (Plate 12). Source: Denver Public Library, Special Collections

By Sam Hinton with Lisa Schamess

Northeast of downtown Denver, the Five Points and Whittier neighborhoods are among the city’s oldest, the first to extend beyond Denver’s original Congressional Grant. As a longstanding center for African American life in Denver, as well as a hub for the Chicano Movement, these neighborhoods are a vital location in the city.  

Five Points starts at 17th and Downing on the east edge and extends north along Downing to 38th Street. The Whittier neighborhood is less extensive, starting at 23rd and Downing Street and extending north until East Martin King, Jr. Boulevard. Established in the 1870s, Five Points was named after Denver’s diagonal downtown grid with a rectangular suburban grid, which meet at Washington Street, 27th Street, 26th Avenue, and Welton Street. Whittier Elementary School was named in honor of John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892), an American poet and abolitionist. 

The neighborhoods were and still are today dynamic and multi-cultural places. Many Latinx-Americans and Asian Americans work and reside in the area. While it was always historically a home to African Americans, increasing segregation in the 1920s resulted in more than 90% of Denver’s African American residents living in Five Points or Whittier during the mid-20th century.  

Throughout the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, the area was also a significant cultural and entertainment destination. The area is home to Denver’s first urban park, Colorado’s oldest Black church, and Temple Emanuel, one of the state’s oldest synagogues. Jazz also runs strongly through Five Points and Whittier’s narrative. Sometimes called the “Harlem of the West,” the area was a popular stop for jazz stars like Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis. They played clubs like the Rossonian and the Rainbow Room, and Benny Hooper’s hotel. Today, the annual Five Points Jazz Festival and Juneteenth Music Festival are renowned.  

The neighborhoods have a rich entrepreneurial history. For example, the Niederhut Carriage Company was a family-run business by brothers Henry and William Niederhut for a century, and one of the largest transportation manufacturing companies in Denver.  

In 1920, Dr. Clarence Holmes founded a dental practice at 2602 Welton Street and was the first African American to join the Denver Dental Society. A graduate of Howard University in Washington, DC, he otherwise lived his entire life in Denver. He was born to a family that valued civic responsibility: his mother Mary Holmes was the first African American woman to run for the state legislature. Dr. Holmes helped found the Colorado-Wyoming branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). His early years as the first Black dentist in Denver were “rough,” he said in 1973, with obstacles put in his path by segregation, individual racism and intimidation, and white supremacist forces in professional societies and businesses serving dentists. Hear Dr. Holmes offer his oral history to the Denver Public Library in 1973 (Content Warning: frank use of racist terminology). 

Reverend David West Mallard owned multiple businesses including Mallard’s Grocery and Confectionery. Other notable businesses included Rice’s Tap Room and Oven, The Rhythm Records and Sporting Goods Shop, the American Woodmen’s Insurance Company, and Melvina’s Beauty Shop. 


Photo of Niederhut Carriage Company circa 1900; credit Denver Public Library Special Collections
Niederhut Carriage Company circa 1900. Credit: Denver Public Library Special Collections


Photo of David and Virginia Mallard in front of their store, circa 1948, with an unidentified man. Credit: Denver Public Library Special Collections
David and Virginia Mallard in front of their store, circa 1948, with an unidentified man. Credit: Denver Public Library Special Collections


Today, many descendants of the original Black residents no longer live in Five Points. Efforts to bring new life to the community have included a new urban rail line and the renovation of the Rossonian Hotel. These changes, however, have also accelerated gentrification, Nonetheless, the Five Points and Whittier remain an important touchpoint for Black and Latinx communities. The neighborhoods host many artists and are the center of several lively mural projects depicting their history and culture, such as La Serpienta Dorada and the Five Points Mural Gallery.  


Photo of Artist Brian Doss at the annual Jazz Festival in Five Points. Credit: Kent Kanuse, Flickr.
Artist Brian Doss at the annual Jazz Festival in Five Points. Credit: Kent Kanuse, Flickr.


Learn more: 

The neighborhood Business Improvement District hosts a self-guided, self-paced walking tour of Five Points. Five Points Plus is a museum and online exhibit that showcases the human stories and collective memory of living, working, and growing up in Five Points. Developed in partnership with the Black American West Museum and Heritage Center along with Five Points community members and supported by the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library (Denver Public Library) and Manual Highschool. Prepare for your visit by finding out about the Black-owned and other businesses in the area. 

This article was prepared using sources from and the Denver Public Library 

DOI: 10.14433/2017.0126


Stanley W. Toops

With heavy hearts we mourn our dear friend and colleague Stanley Toops, who passed away yesterday of a failing heart. We’re proud Stan called Miami home for 32 years, but he was a man of the world — a quintessential geographer — whose curiosity knew no bounds. He visited so many places and touched so many people through his teaching, research, mentorship, and friendship. We highlight some accomplishments and memories below.

Stan was a Midwesterner, born and bred, from Milton, Iowa. He attended Drake University, earning a B.A. in Geography and Political Science in 1979, and later an Advanced Chinese Certificate from Middlebury College in 1982. Stan went west for his graduate work in Geography at the University of Washington, earning an M.A. in 1983 and Ph.D. in 1990 (with a dissertation “The Tourism and Handicraft Industries of Xinjiang: Development and Ethnicity in a Minority Periphery”). Through his education and research, he became fluent in Chinese and knowledgeable of Uyghur, but could greet you in a variety of other languages.

Stan joined Miami that same year with a joint appointment in the Department of Geography and International Studies. For 32 years he shared his insights and experiences with thousands of students in classes on world regional geography, geography of East Asia, introductory and capstone international studies courses, and more. He enlivened the classroom with anecdotes from his travels, and sometimes with song (a capella renditions of national anthems). He supervised many graduate students, encouraging bold topics and field research across the globe. Former students attest to his depth of knowledge, infectious passion for learning, and encouraging them to critically engage with the world. Colleagues likewise appreciated his dedication to and impact on curricula in Geography and International Studies. Education at Miami will never be the same without him, but so many have been touched by his gifts as a teacher.

Stan was an innovative and productive researcher. He was a classic area studies geographer, focused on East and Central Asia, and particularly China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. His research in geography and international studies exploring the interplay of culture and development earned him diverse publications (and a travel ban by the Chinese government, a badge of honor if there ever was one). He remained an active researcher across his career, with scores of articles, chapters, and books to his credit. Notably, he was a key contributor to the Routledge Atlas of Central Eurasian Affairs (2012) and lead editor of the International Studies: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Global Issues (now in its fifth edition, 2022). His geographical perspective lent important value to diverse conversations spanning borders and disciplinary boundaries. Stan left an important and lasting mark as a scholar.

All of these contributions earned him tenure and promotion in 1996 and the esteem of colleagues across campus, and a much celebrated and well-earned retirement in 2022. Stan moved back west to enjoy retirement at a new home in Federal Way, Washington (with Mt. Rainier on the horizon), but kept in touch with Oxford friends.

But we’ll remember Stan especially as a wonderful colleague and friend. He was incredibly smart, but also profoundly modest and personally warm. He was a regular presence around Shideler Hall, often found in his office surrounded by a towering mess of books and mementos. He spoke gently, but his tenor singing voice carried across the halls. Each day he sported a different, place-themed T-shirt or necktie, many of which he shared with us upon retirement. And in an increasingly busy and distracted campus, Stan took the time for careful and thoughtful conversation with undergraduates, graduate students, and his colleagues. They don’t make colleagues like Stan every day, and his loss leaves a big hole in Shideler Hall and our hearts.

We offer our sincerest condolences to his wife Simone Andrus, their much-loved dog Egg, and Stan’s extensive family and network of friends and collaborators in Iowa, Ohio, Washington, and across the globe. We feel his loss acutely but are thankful for his many years of collegiality and friendship, and proud of his deep contributions to Miami University, Geography (in Oxford and beyond), and everyone who knew him.

Stan’s life was cut far too short, but he lived it very fully. As a quintessential geographer would.

Provided by Marcia England and the Miami University geography department.



Frederick John Simoons

Frederick John Simoons, Jr., a renowned cultural geographer, the latest-surviving of Carl Ortwin Sauer’s Ph.D. graduates, and an emeritus professor of Geography at the University of California, Davis, died on June 30, 2022, four months short of his one-hundredth birthday. He seems to have outlived most of his one-time graduate students.


Background and Education

Born on Nov. 2, 1922 in Philadelphia of World War I immigrant parents (Dutch and Flemish Belgian), Fred was raised in poverty in a single-parent home in a dangerous neighborhood of Newark, NJ. According to his one-time PhD student Daniel Wynne Gade (1936–2015; 1987b: 135), Fred’s parents’ European background and the neighborhood’s ethnic diversity contributed to the maturing child’s sense of culture in the anthropological sense.

Following stateside Army service during and just after World War II, he completed his AB in Sociology at Rutgers University but was impressed by courses taught there by the geographers Andrew Hill Clark (1911–1975) and William LeRoy Thomas, Jr. (1920–2002); accordingly, he declared a special interest in Geography. Simoons graduated in 1949, earning Highest Honors, and was named to The Phi Beta Kappa Society (Gade 1987b: 135).

He opted to take graduate work in Geography at the Berkeley-influenced University of Wisconsin-Madison. There, he met and married the librarianship student Elizabeth “Liz” Stadler (1925–2009), in April 1949. Still, sociology continued to appeal, and, supported by the GI Bill, Fred transferred to Harvard University’s Social Relations program—which included sociology, cultural anthropology, and psychology. There, impressed by a geography course taught by Derwent S. Whittlesey (1890–1956), Fred was stimulated to return to that field.

Obtaining a teaching assistantship at U.C. Berkeley, he removed to the famous Geography Department there, completing a 1952 master’s thesis under young James J. Parsons (1915–1997), “The Settlement of the Clear Lake Upland of California.” During his subsequent Ph.D. studies, he worked under the iconic pioneering cultural geographer Carl Ortwin Sauer (1889–1975), who had been fundamentally influenced by the writings of Romanticist German geographers, historians, and ethnologists and by his campus’s Germanic-American Franz Boas-trained anthropological colleagues Alfred Louis Kroeber (1876–1960) and Robert Harry Lowie (1883–1957; Williams, Lowenthal, and Denevan 2014). Fred absorbed Sauer’s Germanic historicist approach as well as the Old Man’s empiricism, very demanding work ethic, and surpassingly high academic standards.


With Ford Foundation support, in 1953 Liz and Fred traveled to remote and risky northwestern Ethiopia to accomplish fieldwork for his dissertation, “The Peoples and Economy of Begemder and Semyen, Ethiopia” (1956), which emphasized horticulture. In 1960, the University of Wisconsin Press published the adaptation, Northwest Ethiopia: Peoples and Economy (reprinted by Greenwood Press in 1983).

Fred was fascinated by bovines and their religious roles. Office of Naval Research- and Guggenheim Foundation-fostered sabbatical fieldwork in southern Asia led to Fred and Liz’s learning of the mithan, a little-known bovine kept and used ritually by tribal peoples in India’s Assam hills. Subsequent library study resulted in UWP’s A Ceremonial Ox of India (Simoons with Simoons 1968).

Following their Abyssinian stint, for five months Fred and Liz had traveled widely across Subsaharan Africa. One result was that beyond domesticates and traditional farming, Fred had taken up an interest in food habits. His pioneering work on animal-food avoidances resulted in 1961 in the classic Eat Not This Flesh (Wisconsin; reprinted in 1981 by Greenwood). Thirty-three years later, in 1994, Wisconsin issued a revised and augmented edition. Numerous reviews and translations of Eat Not appeared.

Echoing the nineteenth-century German historian Eduard Hahn (1856–1928), Simoons stressed ritual and other non-economical motives for domestication and animal-keeping, contrary to the economic-adaptationist ideas of the cultural-ecological materialist anthropologist Marvin Harris and many others of the day (Simoons 1979).

Cattle, dairying, and milk are major themes in the Simoons oeuvre. At the end of the 1960s, Fred took note of the fact that adult lactose (milk-sugar) intolerance—the usual and genetically controlled human condition—did not pertain among select human groups, notably those having had a long history of dairying. Fred investigated further and, with three publications (Simoons 1969, 1970a, 1970b), first forwarded what came to be called the “geographic” or “culture-historical” hypothesis of the co-emergence of dairying and adult lactase-persistence, which affords the ability comfortably to digest lactose (milk sugar) past puberty (the chronologically lock-step nature of this has recently been questioned: Evershed et al. 2022). A flock of related studies followed, and Fred’s fame grew, including in medicine and in nutrition, and he collaborated with researchers in those fields. His final publication was on this topic (Simoons 2001). Simoons’s contributions in this area led to an above-step promotion and appointment as the UCD Academic Senate’s Faculty Research Lecturer for 1981, a top campus honor. In 1987, Fred’s old Wisconsin student Dan Gade edited a Simoons-Festschrift issue of the Journal of Cultural Geography (Gade 1987), including a bibliography (Simoons 1987)

Other food-habit and related topics also captured Fred’s attention over ensuing decades. Although knowing no Chinese, following extensive research, including field investigation with Liz, Fred produced Food in China: A Cultural and Historical Inquiry (Simoons 1991; translated into Chinese in 2003). In 1998, Wisconsin published his Plants of Life, Plants of Death, which dealt with plants culturally associated with ritual purity, fertility, prosperity and life, as opposed to those associated with ritual impurity, illness, ill fate, and death.

University Employment

Fred first taught as an instructor at The Ohio State University, staying but a year (1956–1957). The following nine years were passed at the Sauerian-flavored University of Wisconsin Department of Geography at Madison, which years saw rapid advancement to full-professorship, until the Louisiana State University Department of Geography and Anthropology recruited him (and Jonathan Sauer) in 1966; but, as in the case of OSU, he (like Sauer) left LSU after one academic year. There followed two academic years (1967–1969) in the University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Geography. Finally, in 1968 Simoons moved on to UC Davis’s Department of Geography, where he spent the remainder of his distinguished career, mentoring many graduate students, serving an effective term as departmental chair, and—after two decades of UCD employment, retiring in 1989. He and Elizabeth—1981 retiree as Branch Manager and Assistant County Librarian in the Yolo County Public Library system—moved to Olympia and then on to Spokane, WA. Fred continued to publish through 2001. Following Liz’s death in 2009, he established a domestic partnership with former Geography graduate student Helen Issel (1926–2021) and resided outside of Sonoma, CA. They both died at the Sonoma Retirement Home, he from complications following a stroke.

References Cited

Evershed, Richard P., et al.  2022.  Dairying, Diseases and the Evolution of Lactase Persistence in Europe.  Nature: International Journal of Science 608(7922): 336–45.

Gade, Daniel W.  1987.  Commentary: Frederick J. Simoons, Cultural Geographer.  Journal of Cultural Geography 7(2): 135–41.

Simoons, Frederick J.  1952.  “The Settlement of the Clear Lake Upland of California.”  Unpublished master’s thesis in Geography, University of California, Berkeley.

––––––1956.  “The Peoples and Economy of Begemder and Semyen, Ethiopia.”  Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation in Geography, University of California, Berkeley.

––––––1960.  Northwest Ethiopia: Peoples and Economy.  Madison:  University of Wisconsin Press

––––––, with Elizabeth S. Simoons.  1968.  A Ceremonial Ox of India: The Mithan in Nature, Culture, and History, with Notes on the Domestication of Common Cattle.  Madison:  University of Wisconsin Press.  

––––––1961.  Eat Not This Flesh: Food Avoidances in the Old World.  Madison:  University of Wisconsin Press; expanded 2nd ed. 1994.

––––––1969.  Primary Adult Lactose Intolerance and the Milking Habit: A Problem in Biological and Cultural Interrelations.  I. Review of the Medical Research.  The American Journal of Digestive Diseases 14(12): 819–36.

––––––1970a.  The Traditional Limits of Milking and Milk Use in Southern Asia.  Anthropos 65(3/4): 547–93.

––––––1970b.  Primary Adult Lactose Intolerance and the Milking Habit: A Problem in Biologic and Cultural Interrelationships.  II. A Culture Historical Hypothesis.  The American Journal of Digestive Diseases 15(8): 695–715.

______1979.  Questions in the Sacred-Cow Controversy.  Current Anthropology 20(3): 467–76. Williams, Michael, with David Lowenthal and William M. Denevan.  2014.  To Pass on a Good Earth: The Life and Work of Carl O Sauer.  Charlottesville:  University of Virginia Press.

––––––1987.  Research Publications,” Journal of Cultural Geography 7(2): 143–7.

––––––1991.  Food in China: A Cultural and Historical Inquiry.  Boca Raton, FL:  CRC Press.

––––––1998.  Plants of Life, Plants of Death.  Madison:  University of Wisconsin Press.

––––––2001.  Persistence of Lactase Activity among Northern Europeans: A Weighing of Evidence in the Calcium Absorption Hypothesis.  Ecology of Food and Nutrition 40(5): 397–469.

By Stephen C. Jett, University of California, Davis,


It’s Up to Us: #AAG2023’s Low-Carbon Travel Campaign

A view of Confluence Park beach and Denver skyline by Kent Kanouse, CC BY 3.0
Confluence Park beach and Denver skyline by Kent Kanouse, CC BY 3.0

AAG has set an ambitious goal of reducing our carbon emissions from each annual meeting by 45% by 2030 and 100% by 2050. As we return to our first in-person meeting in years, the travel choices we make really matter.

To encourage AAG 2023 participants to consider their travel options and lean away from carbon emissions whenever they can, AAG’s Climate Action Task Force prompted us to create the #AAG4Earth campaign. We encourage you to join in, explore your choices, and create a low-carbon adventure to arrive in Denver.

Getting there

Try Rail: Travel Amtrak to arrive at elegant Denver Union Station, a more than century-old Beaux Arts train station. Connect via the California Zephyr, a train route from Chicago to San Francisco. Visit Amtrak to explore your travel options. For groups of 8 or more, Amtrak Share Fares provide a discount of up to 60% off tickets. Groups of 15 or more can earn discounts or a free escort ticket for each 20 travelers. Visit Amtrak’s website or call 1-800-USA-1GRP for more information if your group is 15 or more passengers.

Arrive by Bus: Travel to Denver from virtually anywhere in the U.S. on Greyhound or Express Arrow. Use a service like Busbud or WanderU to find your best route and price.

Have to travel by plane? Denver International Airport (DEN) has taken steps to reduce its global carbon footprint.

On the ground

Even if you are traveling too long a distance to reduce your carbon footprint much, you still have lots of options for curtailing emissions from your activity once you’re in Denver:

Transit in Denver

Denver’s Regional Transit District offers schedules, trip planning, and real-time predictions of arrival from its website or app. Within the downtown area, you can hop on the Free MallRide and MetroRide buses departing from Union Station and continue down 16th Street and 18th/19th Streets, respectively.

Biking, Scooting, Rolling, and Walking

Check out Denver’s Wheelchair Accessibility Guide. And see Denver’s Shared Micromobility Program which offers information on scooters and bikes to rent. From the Visit Denver website, you can download a city bike map or use the Denver Regional COG’s interactive map to explore the many routes in bikeable Denver. There are 20 miles of bike lanes in downtown, convenient to the Cherry Creek and Platte River trails. Cycleton rents bikes from its location about 15 minutes’ drive and 30-40 minutes from Union Station by transit.

Denver’s walkable downtown begins with the 16th Street Mall, a car-free pedestrian space that is the fastest way to the AAG meeting hotels from Union Station, with a drop-off point next to the Sheraton Denver Downtown. The 16th Street Mall also features dining options from fast casual to upscale as well as shopping and breweries. Pedestrian bridges link 16th Street with nearby Commons Park and nearby LoHi neighborhood. Overall, downtown Denver is rated as one of the city’s most walkable places.

When choosing restaurants, shopping, and amusement parks, check for their commitment to shrinking their carbon footprints. For example, the Denver Beer Company spells out its commitment to reducing emissions and ethical product sourcing on its website.

We’re in this together. The decision to travel in a low-carbon way is a community-oriented decision and should be shared and celebrated communally. As you make your travel plans, show your pride in your decisions with the #AAG4Earth hashtag.


Ashok Dutt

Dr. Ashok K. Dutt, Professor Emeritus at the University of Akron, Ohio and a long time AAG member passed away on November 4, 2022. He was 91 years old.

He studied geography at the master and doctoral levels at Patna University (India, 1955, 1961). Subsequently, he was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Institute of Social Studies at Hague (Netherlands, 1964)  and studied physical planning under the supervision of  Professor J.P. Thijsee. He then emigrated to the United States and began his academic career at St. Anselm’s College (New Hampshire, 1966-68), Asian Institute, East Carolina University (Summer, 1967) and spent the remainder of his career teaching and conducting research at the Department of Geography and Urban Studies, University of Akron (1968-2004).

He had a distinguished career in teaching and research in the areas of urban, social, medical, and development planning with regional interests in Europe, Asia and US. He published over a dozen co-edited books and more than 200 research papers, book chapters, and encyclopedic entries. A notable contribution of his research was the conceptualization of the models of urban city forms called the Colonial-based South Asian City and Bazaar-based South Asian City. His most recent co-edited book is titled Urban and Regional Planning and Development: 20th Century Forms and 21st Century Transformations (Springer, 2020). He was a Fulbright scholar in India (1988-89) and was recognized as the recipient of distinguished scholar award by the Asian Geography and Regional Development Planning Specialty groups at the Association of American Geographers (1991 and 1992).

He is survived by his wife Professor Emeritus Hiran Dutta, daughters Jhumku Kohtz and Rinku Dutt and grandchildren.

By Sudhir Thakur, Professor, California State University Sacramento