Novel Topics in Geoinformatics: Drones, EO, Space-Time, Deep Learning

Developing Open Source SpatiaLite Databases in QGIS

Communicating Geographic Research Through Interactive Web-based Dashboards and Data Storytelling

Integrative Geospatial Institute Secures $15 million NSF Grant

Overview of I-GUIDE’s six interrelated areas of focus.

The National Science Foundation has established the new Institute for Geospatial Understanding through an Integrative Discovery Environment (I-GUIDE, one of five centers to meet the goal of harnessing the data revolution. AAG is among the partners supporting the new effort.

Led by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with an NSF award of $15 million, I-GUIDE will “create an integrative geospatial discovery environment that harnesses geospatial data to understand interconnected interactions across diverse socioeconomic-environmental systems — with a goal of enhancing community resilience and environmental sustainability.” The institute will generate a new set of analytic tools that carefully address data interdependencies to help better estimate and predict risk and anticipate impacts from disasters or climate change.

“This is unprecedented level of support from the National Science Foundation, a victory lap for geographers,” said Shaowen Wang, head of the Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science at U of I and founding director of the CyberGIS Center for Advanced Digital and Spatial Studies (CyberGIS Center), which will lead the institute and with which AAG is also a partner. “The establishment of this institute is an important recognition of geographers as a leading force in the data revolution.”

Geography and geographic data are critical to understanding and visualizing the many interacting causes and impacts of climate change,” said Gary Langham, Executive Director of the American Association of Geographers. “I-GUIDE provides a new, vital framework which supports research partnerships and accelerates data sharing and analyses. 

I-GUIDE, under Wang’s leadership, will receive the funding over five years to work with a broad range of partners and communities, creating a shared geospatial tool for better understanding the risks and impacts of climate change and disasters.

“The goal is to revolutionize theories, concepts, methods, and tools focused on data-intensive geospatial understanding for driving innovative cyberGIS and cyberinfrastructure capabilities to address the most pressing resilience and sustainability challenges of our world such as biodiversity, food security, and water security,” said Wang.

I-GUIDE will bring together about 40 researchers initially, along with a variety of partners, to transform data practice across many fields from computer, data, and information sciences to atmospheric sciences, ecology, economics, environmental science and engineering, human-environment and geographical sciences, hydrology and water sciences, industrial engineering, sociology, and statistics.

“I-GUIDE nurtures a diverse and inclusive geospatial discovery community across many disciplines by bridging disciplinary digital data divides with broader impacts amplified through a well-trained and diverse workforce and proactive engagement of minority and underrepresented groups,“ said Wang of the Institute’s approach and vision.

Because the challenging issues of sustainability and resilience call for interdisciplinary expertise, I-GUIDE is intended to play a central role in bridging disciplines, creating partnerships and frameworks for collaboration across domains. I-GUIDE will also work with community consortia such as Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science (CUAHSI), Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), and the University Consortium for GIScience (UCGIS) to build consensus and establish priorities for developing a community-oriented and integrative I-GUIDE platform. The institute will also foster open collaboration among diverse communities, bridging the digital divide that hinders participation from underrepresented communities. I-GUIDE will also offer education and training programs, as well as access to cutting-edge geospatial data capabilities (e.g., CyberGIS, GeoEDF, and HydroShare).

I-GUIDE is organized across six interrelated focus areas: (A) Convergence Science Catalysts; (B) Geospatial Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Data Science; (C) Core CI Capabilities & Services; (D) Education & Workforce Development; (E) Engagement & Partnerships; and (F) Evaluation & Knowledge Transfer. I-GUIDE brings together leaders in scientific research, technical development, education, knowledge transfer, and engagement through focus area teams. This strategy ensures that research, education, broadening participation, and knowledge transfer activities are deeply integrated across the institute from individual teams to the leadership.

For more information, visit the I-GUIDE website.


Stephen Ladochy

Education: Ph.D. in Geography (University of Manitoba), M.S. in Atmospheric Sciences (Colorado State University), B.A. in Meteorology (University of California, Los Angeles)

Describe your job. What are some of the most important tasks or duties for which you are responsible?
Besides teaching classes in physical geography, meteorology and climatology, I mentor graduate students in their research and Masters’ theses.  I also write several letters of recommendation for students seeking jobs, graduate schools and research opportunities.  I continue collaborating with other scientists on climate research and occasionally answer requests from media on environmental stories.

What attracted you to this career path?
I always liked math, and found that it could be applied in meteorology.  At UCLA I interned at the National Weather Service as well as at air pollution consultants. While working at the L.A. County Air Pollution Control District, someone showed me information on “Jobs in Geography”, where you could teach weather courses at universities.  I was hired by the University of Winnipeg in the Great White North teaching weather and later climatology and environmental courses.  I enjoyed teaching, so went on to a Ph.D. in geography/climatology.

How has your education/background in geography prepared you for this position? Most of my education was in Atmospheric Sciences, so I had a lot of prep work to teach geography courses.  I found my niche and passion in meteorology and climatology and have been studying them since.

What geographic skills and information do you use most often in your work? What general skills and information do you use most often?
I like to show satellite images in my classes and the latest climatic data, such as from NASA. So using remote sensing, weather maps and oceanic conditions (being on the coast), I use statistics and recent environmental data in my classes and research.  Mostly, I’m looking at ENSO-Pacific Ocean Indices, weather maps and satellites and climate data to follow climate change.  We also have field instruments so my classes can measure surface weather data in different land uses in urban settings.

Are there any skills or information you need for your work that you did not obtain through your academic training? If so, how/where did you obtain them?
I was fortunate to have summer employment at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA. There I collaborated with oceanography scientists and student interns on several climate-related projects.  My boss there was a wonderful science communicator, so I learned a lot from him that carried into classrooms and media interviews.

Do you participate in hiring, screening, or training of new employees? If so, what qualities and/or skills do you look for?
I was just on two search committees for new hires. We looked for someone who would be a good instructor with our students, many of whom had English as a second language and were working while in school. We also looked for good mentors for these students, who could relate and encourage high achievement.  Scholarships were also important where they could lead student research

What advice would you give to someone interested in a job like yours?
You need to have a passion for your work and for helping students. That makes the hard work actually fun and something you look forward to doing.  We have special students that work hard and often reach their goals. You need to be a good mentor and inspiration to your students.  Your enthusiasm for your subjects will rub off.

What is the occupational outlook for career opportunities in your field/organization, esp. for geographers?
Our graduates have been fairly successful in finding employment in geography and related environmental fields.  Having skills in computer programming, GIS and remote sensing training or certificates, statistics and the sciences are all helpful.  Internships or summer help in companies or government agencies can often lead to more permanent employment.


Facing an Existential Crisis or COVID-19 and the Long Term Future of Geography

It does not seem so long ago that people were talking about the compression of space and time, about the “ends of history and geography.” How recent events have obliterated this! The pandemic of COVID-19—with its echoes of the 1918 Spanish Flu and the great contagious scourges of the past—demonstrates again that “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” And how well this pandemic also affirms geography’s significance! The importance of place, of distance, of context, of networks—all show the enduring importance of geography and how central geographical concerns are in understanding the disease.

Yet while the ideas and methods of geography illuminate the transmission and effects of COVID-19, geography departments have been thrust into peril. Those of us who work in universities have likely heard the same dire budgetary forecasts. States are being hit with a double whammy of declining revenues from mandated shutdowns and an increased need for services. New student enrollments are down, sometimes way down from where they were a year ago.

Colleges have already refunded large sums of money to compensate students for room and board. And while none have rebated tuition, many students and their parents are upset with what they perceive as a true loss of educational value. The promise of true community—making friends, connecting with mentors, enjoying independence and the time away from home—no longer holds.

I can see it myself. My daughter had the last chunk of her freshman year at college snatched away from her. As a bassoon and chemistry double major, there was no way that online learning—however gamely proceeded—could replace what she would have received in a classroom, lab, or concert hall. As a professor, I understand just how faculty have struggled to keep classes going in this alternative format. But as a parent, I also empathize with students who see a diminution of their education.

None of us know now whether colleges and universities will be able to return to in-person classes in the fall. There are many possible scenarios. For those who are curious, The Chronicle of Higher Education provides an updated list. While a small number have announced mostly online plans, the majority of institutions have indicated that they “expect,” “plan,” “hope,” or “intend” to return to in-person classes in the fall. Others are taking a wait-and-see approach. As we all realize, higher education will take a huge hit next year; several institutions have already announced major cutbacks in positions and salaries. If in-person classes are not possible, my daughter is considering taking a semester off. This is just the reality and I expect many students would follow suit. Beyond the obstacles in accessing reliable internet connections, those students in less privileged positions may leave and not return—a true tragedy in the loss of human potential.

These are all things out of our control. But Geography departments must also look into doing things that are within our control. In my first presidential column I emphasized just how important the number of majors and enrollments are to our discipline’s health. This year, I have spoken with people whose departments are threatened. There are likely to be many more threats in the new academic year.

Geography departments must figure out the best ways to push against these headwinds. One way is to provide courses that will be most attractive to students. Students will be trying to understand this intrinsically geographical phenomenon, and departments can adjust to make sure that such courses are offered. A second way is to prepare to transition courses to an online or hybrid format if necessary, and make these plans known to administrators. I know that this will compromise a lot of geographical education, as it has already, but our field also enjoys certain strengths that make it more adaptable to a switch. For instance, many of the geospatial courses at Kent State are already taught virtually. If the worst happens and student numbers plummet, university leaders will be grateful for those points of light. The third approach is to ensure geographers are as visible as they can be in the university in responding to this crisis. We already have geographers with direct expertise in the areas of health and disease. We also can muster leadership in the evolving pedagogy, in providing faculty- and student-centered solutions to this urgency.

The way we meet now: AAG Executive Committee Meeting on Zoom (Sheryl L. Beach on IPhone)

As many of you have seen, the AAG decided at the Spring Council meeting (held on Zoom of course) that in these extraordinary times it needed to offer an extraordinary response. We therefore have proceeded to develop a COVID taskforce to develop solutions the AAG can provide to its members. We created five separate committees which will work in parallel through the months of May and early June:

  • The Departments committee will look at how the AAG might assist departments as they seek to survive—with some targeted investments and/or repurposing some staff time.
  • The Regions committee will see what we can do now to ensure the health of our nine regional divisions, especially given the uncertainties of next year. The Council just passed a set of proposals from the Regions taskforce intended to strengthen our AAG regions, and this will build on these initiatives.
  • The Members committee will focus on how best we can help AAG members in difficult situations: international members, members who work outside of academia, and precarious members.
  • The Students committee will attend to the additional stresses experienced by student members of the AAG, noting things that our association can do to ease their burden.
  • Finally, the Virtual Connections committee will examine some of the means by which the AAG can help invigorate how we educate, communicate and collaborate outside the physical realm. No matter what happens in the near term, we have crossed the Rubicon into a new world of virtual connections and this committee will suggest how the AAG can be at the forefront.

Once recommendations from the committees are made, a Blue Ribbon panel will be charged with evaluating the proposals and then sending them forward to the Council. At an extraordinary Council meeting, to occur at the end of June, we will come up with a final set of ideas to initiate in July. I will provide all of you with a final report on what we decide.

This has been such a difficult and trying time. It has been positively terrifying for those who have to worry about their health, their finances, their futures, or all of these together. Even those of us who are fortunate thus far have experienced the steady drain of lives lived without the physical contacts we cherish and with a future still so uncertain and bleak. To pretend that all this is not simply awful would be tone deaf and naïve.

But geography is strong. Geographers are resilient. Each and every one of you will do whatever it takes to allow our discipline to thrive. And your association will do everything in its power to help.

— Dave Kaplan
AAG President

DOI: 10.14433/2017.0071


New Books: January 2019

Every month the AAG compiles a list of newly-published books in geography and related areas. Some are selected for review in the AAG Review of Books.

Publishers are welcome to send new volumes to the Editor-in-Chief (Kent Mathewson, Editor-in-Chief, AAG Review of BooksDepartment of Geography and Anthropology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803).

Anyone interested in reviewing these or other titles should also contact the Editor-in-Chief.

PLEASE NOTE: Due to current public health policies which have prompted the closing of most offices, we are unable to access incoming books at this time. We are working on a solution during this transition and will continue our new books processing as soon as we can. In the meantime, please feel free to peruse previous books from our archived lists.

January 2019

The American Politics of French Theory: Derrida, Deleuze, Guattari, and Foucault in Translation by Jason Demers (University of Toronto Press 2018)

The Art of Resistance: Painting by Candlelight in Mao’s China by Shelley Drake Hawks (University of Washington Press 2017)

Banana Cowboys: The United Fruit Company and the Culture of Corporate Colonialism by James W. Martin (University of New Mexico Press 2018)

Below Freezing: Elegy for the Melting Planet by Donald Anderson (University of New Mexico Press 2018)

A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None by Kathryn Yusoff (University of Minnesota Press 2019)

Brazil in the Anthropocene: Conflicts Between Predatory Development and Environmental Policies by Liz-Rejane Issberner, Philippe Léna (eds.) (Routledge 2018)

Can We Feed the World Without Destroying It? by Eric Holt-Giménez (Polity 2018)

Capitalist Pigs: Pigs, Pork, and Power in America by J. L. Anderson (West Virginia University Press 2019)

Citizens in Motion: Emigration, Immigration, and Re-migration Across China’s Borders by Elaine Lynn-Ee Ho (Stanford University Press 2018)

Constructions of Time and History in the Pre-Columbian Andes by Edward Swenson and Andrew P. Roddick (eds.) (University Press of Colorado 2018)

Cuba, Hot and Cold by Tom Miller (University of Arizona Press 2017)

Emptied Lands: A Legal Geography of Bedouin Rights in the Negev by Alexandre Kedar, Ahmad Amara, Oren Yiftachel (Stanford University Press 2018)

Esteban: The African Slave Who Explored America by Dennis Herrick (University of New Mexico Press 2018)

Geographers: Biobibliographical Studies, Volume 37 by Elizabeth Baigent & André Reyes Novaes (eds.) (Bloomsbury 2018)

Human and Environmental Justice in Guatemala by Stephen Henighan and Candace Johnson (eds.) (University of Toronto Press 2018)

Identity, Development, and the Politics of the Past: An Ethnography of Continuity and Change in a Coastal Ecuadorian Communityby Daniel Bauer (University Press of Colorado 2018)

Infrastructure, Environment, and Life in the Anthropocene by Kregg Hetherington (ed.) (Duke University Press 2019)

Inside Smart Cities: Place, Politics and Urban Innovation by Andrew Karvonen, Federico Cugurullo, Federico Caprotti (eds.) (Routledge 2018)

Introducing Sea Level Change by Alastair Dawson (Dunedin Academic Press 2018)

Lévi-Strauss: A Biography by Emmanuelle Loyer (Polity 2018)

Managing Complexity: Earth Systems and Strategies for the Future by Walter R. Erdelen, Jacques G. Richardson (Routledge 2018)

Open Borders: In Defense of Free Movement by Reece Jones (University of Georgia 2018)

The Oxford Handbook of Public Heritage Theory and Practice by Angela M. Labrador and Neil Asher Silberman (eds.) (Oxford University Press 2018)

Quest for the Unity of Knowledge by David Lowenthal (Routledge 2018)

Rebranding China: Contested Status Signaling in the Changing Global Order by Xiaoyu Pu (Stanford University Press 2019)

Regionalism and Modern Europe: Identity Construction and Movements from 1890 to the Present Day by Xosé M. Núñez Seixas & Eric Storm (eds.) (Bloomsbury 2018)

Resource and Environmental Management, Third Edition by Bruce Mitchell (Oxford University Press 2018)

Rick and Morty and Philosophy: In the Beginning Was the Squanch by Lester C. Abesamis and Wayne Yuen (eds.) (Open Court 2019)

Rural People and Communities in the 21st Century: Resilience and Transformation, 2nd Edition by David L. Brown, Kai A. Schafft (Wiley-Blackwell 2018)

Seismic City: An Environmental History of San Francisco’s 1906 Earthquake by Joanna L. Dyl (University of Washington Press 2017)

Trading Territories: Mapping the Early Modern World by Jerry Brotton (Reaktion Books 2018)

Transnational Radicals: Italian Anarchists in Canada and the U.S., 1915–1940by Travis Tomchuk (University of Manitoba Press 2015)

Uncertain Citizenship: Everyday Practices of Bolivian Migrants in Chile by Megan Ryburn (University of California Press 2018)

Water: Abundance, Scarcity, and Security in the Age of Humanity by Jeremy J. Schmidt (New York University Press 2019)


Amanda Sankey

Education: B.S. in Resource and Environmental Studies, Concentration in Geography (Texas State University, San Marcos), Minors in Communications and Geology (Texas State University, San Marcos)

Describe your job and the primary tasks and duties for which you’re responsible as an Environmental Consultant at Crouch Environmental Services, Inc.
Crouch Environmental is a small company of about 18 employees, divided into two departments: the Communications department and the Environmental department. I am responsible for managing projects relating to both teams.

In support of our Communications team, I help facilitate public meetings, deliver presentations, and produce high-quality materials featuring content that directly relates to environmental issues and events happening in the Gulf Coast region of Texas. This requires expertise in developing appropriate messaging tailored to audiences of varying backgrounds.

In support of our Environmental team, I secure different types of environmental permits so that my clients comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and other state and federal regulations. This requires a working knowledge and expertise across a wide range of environmental legislation. It also requires an understanding of hydric soils, native vegetation of the Texas gulf coastal plains, hydrological indicators, and understanding and abiding by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers policies and procedures.

What substantive geographic knowledge is important and useful to know in your position? For example, this includes knowledge and understanding of geographic terminology and substantive concepts (e.g., alluvial plain, metropolitan area, ethnic group, tertiary economy, coniferous forest, geologic fault, etc.)
When I started out doing fieldwork for the environmental team, I used geographic terminology when mapping rivers and streams and characterizing biological environments. In this work I regularly used technical terms and concepts such as bank width, bank steps, ordinary high water mark, sediment sorting, discerning forest communities (a successional community or a mature forest), identifying types of forests and herbaceous communities (such as deciduous or hardwood pine forests), identifying active margins and passive margins, measuring riparian buffers, and identifying contours and benchmarks.

As I have integrated into our communications team, I have found an understanding of public needs relating to environmental justice, metropolitan areas, and limited English proficiency (LEP) to be crucial in serving our clients, as we often explain geographic concepts relating to water quality, flooding, watersheds, and drainage basins to the general public.

What conceptual geographic knowledge is important and useful to know in your position? For example, this includes using “big ideas” in geography such as location, place, region, interconnection, spatial relationships, etc., to think about people, places, and environments, from the local to the global.
When operating under the Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act, I rely heavily on my understanding of concepts relating to hydrologic flow in river basins. When I’m determining flow direction of waterways in my study area, I will often use clues in the landscape, including topographic gradients and dendritic drainage patterns in order to determine what is considered “upstream” and “downstream.” Signs of sediment or refuse collecting in the landscape can be really helpful when I am investigating a landscape.

Other spatial concepts I learned in environmental geography, such as eutrophication, help me figure out where certain wildlife species may be located. For example, if you have a lower dissolved oxygen content in certain areas, you are going to have different types of fish species present. Metrics like dissolved oxygen or presence of e. coli can also help identify potential contaminants present. These concepts are geographic in nature as they relate to the effect of drainage patterns in the landscape.

What procedural geographic knowledge is important and useful to know in your position? For example, this includes spatial analysis with a GIS or other geospatial technology, designing a geographic inquiry and research study, collecting spatial data in the field, etc.
When I was in school, I actually had no intention of learning ArcGIS; however, it was a requirement for my degree at Texas State. I think the fact that I had a basic GIS class may have been what ultimately secured my position at Crouch Environmental when I first started interviewing with them. When I applied for a position at Crouch, their GIS person had just left for another company, and they asked if I could learn this skill quickly to take his place. Without that class, I’m not sure if I would have been able to initially land this job. This skill is extremely helpful to have in your arsenal regardless of what you plan to do with it.

As far as fieldwork goes, prior to heading to the field, the lead field biologist will determine how we will conduct the study based on the size and shape of the area. Our team of biologists will measure the edge of wetlands and the ordinary high water mark along streams by collecting data points with our GPS unit. Once they return from the field, the data is transferred from the GPS unit into ArcGIS. Our GIS specialist then maps out exactly where that stream was located based off of our field data.

In your time at Crouch Environmental, can you give specific examples of where geography really made a difference, and had an impact through the work of the company?
Absolutely! What’s great about working at Crouch Environmental and the industry in general is the type of clients that we get to work with. We get to work a lot with public entities, like Harris County Engineering Department and Harris County Flood Control District, on a regular basis. These entities rely on our environmental studies, public involvement and facilitation, and coordination with leading agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers in order to build public infrastructure projects such as roadways, utility lines, and storm water management detention basins. We get to help expedite environmentally conscious development that is crucial for supporting safe and efficient travel throughout Harris County.

What is it about geography that inspires you and connects with your aspirations, both as a private citizen and as a professional in your field?
As a professional I really love the idea of identifying the least environmentally damaging, practical alternative that still allows people to meet their needs. It’s an evolving, exciting challenge that I get to partake in every day as an environmental consultant. Development is going to happen no matter what, and I get to help make sure that it happens in an environmentally consciousness manner. The credibility and weight that comes behind that is so important!

On a personal level I love that the biology side of my work is geographic in nature. It is a constant reminder of how organisms within the same space all impact each other. My understanding of geographic concepts allows me to take all the details from the raw data that we collect and put them into the bigger picture. The work we do is so important because it directly affects the quality of the streams and water that we drink every day. It amazes me how much we are affected by the world around us and by the different chemicals you’ll find wherever you are.

When did you first make the connection between geography and career possibilities and opportunities?
I first got the idea about going into geography from my father, who also has a geography degree (he’s actually in my field too!). I saw geography as a career possibility early on, but I didn’t quite connect with it until college. In my environmental geography class, I had the opportunity to choose an environmental problem to research and present to the class. I studied the Chinese tallow tree, an invasive species common to the Houston area. From this experience, I learned that invasive species can pose major problems to native environments, and that these problems can be exacerbated by poor environmental management. I realized when I was doing that presentation and putting it all together that I could actually address some of these issues as an environmental consultant. Ever since then, it’s kind of been my path. It’s been three and a half years since I graduated and started with Crouch and I’m still happy to be here.

Beyond your work life, do you ever use your knowledge of geography to inform other aspects of your behavior or your personal life in terms of lifestyle, driving, public transit, shopping, etc.? Are there any other ways you find geography to have a personal value?
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! I can’t say that enough! One big example that stands out in my mind was the fallout from Hurricane Harvey. This was a really scary event for everyone last year! Something I learned from my water resources class was how to pick where to live to minimize damage from flooding. I knew which public databases to go to and how to access information on floodplains and drainage to select a home with the best possible chance of staying dry during a major flooding event. I’d like to think this was a contributing factor in my home not incurring flood damage from Hurricane Harvey.


John Sauvageau

Education: M.S. in Geo-Information Science (Salem State University), B.S. in Cartography and GIS (Salem State University)

Describe your job. What are some of the most important tasks or duties for which you are responsible?
I work within the Retail Network Transformation team, which falls under the consumer business banking umbrella. We’re responsible for the strategy and planning of our branch markets, and where we want to put branches and ATMs. We leverage GIS to analyze and visualize our internal and external data spatially. We then use the ESRI platform ArcGIS Enterprise with its various tool sets including business analyst, network analyst, and spatial analyst as the tools to help us develop strategy.

We provide services to much of the northeast, including Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia, and also parts of the midwest like Ohio and Michigan.  We’re responsible for supporting the analysis and branch recommendations for all types of branch actions – open, close and relocations.

How has your education/background in geography prepared you for this position?
Grasping the various levels of geography and how they relate to each other is fairly important to understand. The banking industry is a little bit different than a standard retail industry, where chains can just put a store where there’s going to be high traffic. We deal with varying levels of governmental compliance. One aspect of compliance is proportionately locating branches in areas to ensure we are serving low to moderate income households, as well as middle to upper income households. We use internal and external data, including Census data,  to understand where that population is so we can target those areas.

Looking at the five themes of geography, I think we really touch two of those: location and region. Location – we have a network of branches and locations, we monitor other retail marketplaces, where they’re coming up, where they’re going away; other competitors’ locations, where customers are located. Location really is the number one thing that I think applies to what we do in this kind of planning. It’s kind of the same thing as real estate: location, location, location, everything is location.

At the regional scale we look at how everything works together and the nuances from region to region. We designate our own regions for organizational hierarchy purposes, but states, counties, etc. – they all have unique nuances, and we want to understand these so we can better interact with the population within those regions and be in the places where they are going to be. We also need to understand how they use the banks: are they primarily driven by branch visits, or using a more digital approach with online and mobile banking? How do we customize the look and feel from region to region to make our banks more attractive?

How does your geography knowledge inform your use of GIS and make it possible to get the most out of the business analyst software and work with big data?
Many of my colleagues across the industry come from more of a business intelligence background. Many have used GIS as a next step and have gone back to universities and vendors for formal training. These colleagues are amazing and have a great deal of hands-on experience and have been using these platforms for a long time. With my educational GIS & Cartography and Geo-Information Science background as a whole, I am able to bring in and apply more foundational concepts and tools to enhance our analysis. Maps can tend to be more mass produced and less of a cartographic product, but whenever I’m asked to make a map, I try to ask more questions first. Questions like: What is the purpose? What is it that you’re trying to convey? How will you be using and presenting the map? These and similar questions allow me to create a product that will be visually pleasing to the customer and their audience and allow the map to speak for itself. Different approaches and techniques will apply for varying levels of requests; it’s not always a “one size fits all” approach.

How did you discover geography was going to help you pursue your aspirations, professionally or in your personal life?
When I think of my “a-ha moment” I always refer back to a certain exercise with ArcGIS in one of my undergraduate courses, where we were working for a town searching for a site for a new fire station. We were given criteria where it had to have its own land within a certain square footage, and it couldn’t be within 7 minutes of another fire station’s service area. Taking all of that information, creating multiple layers and using a raster analysis to find out where the best possible areas were for this fire station – I had never seen that before, so I was like “wow, this is interesting!”

I was working at a bank at that time as a part time teller and thought “this would be really interesting to bring into the bank and use GIS to figure out where to put banks.” Being naïve as I was, I didn’t understand that it had already been going on. I didn’t know it existed. It wasn’t until a few years after that where I was taking some courses at the bank, learning about processes of improvement, efficiency and those sorts of concepts where I realized how interesting this was, and that I already had a good foundation for that kind of work from my education in GIS.

My branch manager at the time gave me the best advice I had ever received for this. He said: “Look in the organization, try to find somebody doing what you want to do, and just reach out to them and ask if you can talk to them and get advice on: How did you get over here, and what kind of preparation would I need to get into this kind of area within the organization?” So I did that. I identified the person I needed to talk to, reached out to them and we exchanged a few emails. Nine months later and I got an email from another person who he referred me to, and they had just created this GIS Analyst position within the bank to do exactly what I had been looking to do in branch site location. They asked me to interview for it, and a few months later I started on this path, which leads me here today. It all goes back to that one lesson in my undergraduate that kind of sparked my interest in the field, and without that I probably wouldn’t be here.

What attracted you to the banking industry? How did you initially develop that interest?
I had just returned from being deployed – I went to Afghanistan in 2010. I was looking for some part time work. My father-in-law had been working in the banking industry for a long time and thought it would be a great fit for me as a part time job.  A branch close to home was hiring, so I applied for a part time position as a teller. I began to thrive and before long I ended up becoming a supervisor. A few years later I was  promoted to a financial services representative. While I was gaining all of this financial experience, I was also going to school full time for GIS.  I had this passion for banking and this passion for GIS and I wondered, how great would it be if I could combine them?

I started in 2014 working on the real estate team and market planning, and gained a great deal of job experience in my first year. I transitioned to another financial institution performing similar tasks. I spent the last 3 years there, and now I’m taking a more senior role at a new institution. It’s been amazing, and it’s interesting because a lot of these types of decisions don’t require banking experience. It’s a unique combination of having worked in a branch and having the GIS experience that gave me insight into how the branch operates, while many of my peers don’t have the same understanding of what it’s like to work in a branch. When I’m helping to program details like how many desks we want to design in a certain branch with a certain amount of staffing, I’m able to bring a different perspective, because I’ve been in their seats before.


Waldo Tobler

Waldo R. Tobler, professor emeritus of Geography at the University of California Santa Barbara, died on February 20, 2018. He was 88.

Tobler spent the first 16 years of his career at the University of Michigan before joining UC Santa Barbara in 1977. He held the positions of Professor of Geography and Professor of Statistics at UCSB until his retirement.

A famed cartographer, Tobler is best known in the discipline as the founder of the first law of geography, “Everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things,” which he formulated while producing a computer movie. In fact, he has used computers in geographic research for over forty years, with emphasis on mathematical modeling and graphic interpretations. Tobler also was one of the principal investigators and a Senior Scientist in the National Science Foundation sponsored National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis.

Tobler has earned many honors for his work and contributions to geography. He was named Member of the National Academy of Sciences and Honorary Fellow of the American Geographical Society. He received the Osborn Maitland Miller Medal of the American Geographical Society (Outstanding contributions in Cartography or Geodesy), Meritorious Contributor Medallion of the Association of American Geographers, and the ESRI Lifetime Achievement in GIS Award among others.

Tobler earned a Ph.D. in Geography in 1961 from the University of Washington where he also received his master’s (1957) and bachelor’s (1955) degrees. The University of Zurich, Switzerland, awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1988.