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Fall 2009
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"Crossing Borders"
A column by Doug Richardson,
Executive Director, Association of American Geographers


Jane Goodall to Receive Atlas Award at AAG Meeting

photo of Doug RichardsonI am pleased to announce that Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, has been named the first recipient of the AAG's prestigious Atlas Award. Goodall will receive the award in person and will deliver a presentation for the media and to the expected 7,000 attendees of the AAG Annual Meeting on April 16, 2010, in Washington, D.C.

The Atlas Award of the AAG is designed to recognize and celebrate the outstanding accomplishments that advance world understanding in exceptional ways. The image of Atlas bearing the weight of the world on his shoulders is a powerful metaphor for this award program, as our nominees are those who have taken the weight of the world on their shoulders and moved it forward, whether in science, politics, scholarship, the arts, or in world affairs. In addition to a substantial cash prize, an Atlas statuette is presented to awardees, which serves as a compelling keepsake for them and an inspiring symbol for the award program itself. The Atlas statue also conveys the international nature of this award clearly and graphically.

Goodall truly embodies the ideals and goals of the AAG Atlas Award, and we are delighted that she will inaugurate this new award from the Association of American Geographers. Goodall began her landmark research on chimpanzees at Gombe Stream in Tanzania in 1960, under the mentorship of anthropologist and paleontologist Dr. Louis Leakey. Her work at Gombe Stream became the foundation for most subsequent primate research and led to redefined concepts about the relationship between humans and animals.

Goodall received her Ph.D. from Cambridge University in 1965 and became the scientific director of the Gombe Stream Research Center in 1967. In 1977, she established the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), which continues the Gombe research and is a global leader in the effort to protect chimpanzees and their habitats. JGI is widely recognized for establishing innovative, community-centered conservation and development programs in Africa and the Roots & Shoots global environmental and humanitarian youth program, which has almost 100,000 members in nearly 100 countries.

Goodall's many honors include the Medal of Tanzania, Japan's Kyoto Prize, Spain's Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research, the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science, and the Gandhi/King Award for Nonviolence. In April 2002, Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Goodall to serve as a United Nations Messenger of Peace, and she was reappointed in June 2007 by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In 2006, Goodall received the French Legion of Honor, as well as the UNESCO Gold Medal.

Goodall's many publications include two overviews of her work at Gombe—In the Shadow of Man and Through a Window—as well as the best-selling autobiography Reason for Hope. Her book The Chimpanzees of Gombe: Patterns of Behavior is recognized as the definitive work on chimpanzees. She has been the subject of numerous television documentaries and films, including, recently, Almost Human.

Goodall's receipt of the AAG Atlas Award in 2010 will also coincide with the 50th anniversary of her initial work in Africa at Gombe Stream, where she carried out her seminal research with chimpanzee communities. The Jane Goodall Institute today continues to support the research station there and works to protect and sustain the Greater Gombe Ecosystem (GGE), which is considered a natural treasure. Its chimpanzees are subjects of global importance and national pride. Within GGE is Lake Tanganyika, which boasts nearly 300 unique fish species. However, many plant and animal species within the ecosystem are increasingly endangered.

The unique Greater Gombe Ecosystem also has Tanzania's highest human population growth rate. As people utilize more of the forest resources, damage to watersheds and widespread erosion have occurred. Fuel wood for cooking has become scarce, forcing women to walk miles daily to reach ever-diminishing woodlands. GGE's five chimp populations also have suffered as they become increasingly isolated from each other inside fragmented habitats.

The Jane Goodall Institute has initiated 18 "holistic" strategies designed to restore and improve the ecosystem for the benefit of chimpanzees, as well as the surrounding human communities. Many of these strategies depend on GIS, high-resolution imagery, and geographic analysis to monitor ongoing habitat fragmentation and to help develop holistic approaches to meet the needs of both the humans and chimpanzees who rely on the ecosystem for their subsistence. As a result of recent meetings, both the AAG and Esri have begun working together with the Jane Goodall Institute on these efforts, which offers an intriguing ongoing dimension to the AAG's Atlas Award program, as well as continuation of Esri's long and significant support.

The creation of the new AAG Atlas Award was made possible by generous contributions from many people, including significant founding gifts by geographers Harm de Blij and Tom Baerwald, both of whom provided not only substantial donations toward the funding of the award but also thoughtful insight regarding the launch of the new award. Of course, an endeavor of this magnitude can only be successful with the support of the larger GIS community. To that end, the AAG welcomes matching donations that will help increase and sustain both the award funding and its international visibility. For more information on the Atlas Award or the Jane Goodall Institute and how you can help, please visit www.aag.org or www.janegoodall.org.

I also would like to invite you to join Goodall and the AAG in Washington, D.C., on April 16, 2010, to celebrate her extraordinary accomplishment of the past half century and to discuss with her and with GIS experts and geographers from around the world our plans for a sustainable future for our planet.

Doug Richardson, drichardson@aag.org

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