[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Help Develop Themes for the AAG Los Angeles Meeting

"Crossing Borders"

A column by Doug Richardson, Executive Director, Association of American Geographers

photo of Doug RichardsonEach year, the AAG identifies a few featured themes for its Annual Meeting, and I'd like to invite you to help us this year as we plan the program for the Los Angeles (LA) meeting. In past years, themes have included topics such as space-time integration in geography and GIScience, climate change, geography and human rights, historical GIS, and geography and sustainable development.

We invite you and the Esri user community to help us develop ideas for themes by suggesting new ideas for Los Angeles, and for coming years, as well. Themes are often suggested by the meeting's location itself or by political and intellectual trends within the discipline or in society at large. Los Angeles, for example, readily prompts many possibilities. International cities and urban geographies would be a natural theme for the LA meeting. Water is always a dominant consideration for Los Angeles. Others come immediately to mind: the Pacific Rim and Asia. Borders. Migration and immigration. Hollywood, film, and global cultures. Transportation. And so many more.

Please send me an e-mail ( with your ideas for special themes that you would like to see covered during the AAG's Los Angeles meeting or any comments you may have on important new trends we should be thinking about for AAG's meetings. To stimulate our thinking, below are a few examples of possible themes that are beginning to emerge for the AAG Los Angeles meeting, which is scheduled for April 9-13, 2013. You are also invited to present a paper or poster during the meeting on any topics you think are important, sharing your work and discussing your ideas with an expected 8,000 geographers, GIScientists, and GIS specialists from around the world.

Emerging Asias

Acknowledging Los Angeles's and California's location on the Pacific Rim and their increasing interconnections with Asia, AAG president Eric Sheppard's 2013 presidential plenary session will take up the question of "Emerging Asias." This title references three aspects of Asia today: its rapid (re)emergence as a center of the global economy; its enormous diversity as a region; and, within the heterogeneous subregions of Asia, the expanding differences in the livelihood possibilities of those who have come to live prosperously and those who live precariously.

In the 21st century, the center of gravity of urbanization has relocated decidedly into the Global South, and Asia in particular is experiencing unprecedented rates of urban change. The urbanization of poverty has been a central aspect of these changes, as circular rural-urban migration, low-wage manufacturing and informal economies and settlements, and urban politics accompany the emergence of a consumption-oriented urban middle class. How can we better understand these changes? What are the implications for northern cities? These and related questions are becoming widely debated; LA will be an excellent forum to engage further with them.

GIScience, Geography, and Health: Spatial Frontiers of Health Research and Practice

Building on several recent AAG initiatives, together with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in this research area, this theme will explore new research frontiers in health and social environments and also address progress generated by the AAG Initiative for an NIH-wide Geospatial Infrastructure for Health Research. These AAG initiatives have generated a greatly increased awareness by health researchers, as well as geographers, of the core role that geography and GIScience can play in addressing global health needs, both in research and in practice.

Sessions will include leading medical and health researchers, and we encourage GIS specialists and geographers active in health to present their work. Topics addressed in these sessions will include spatial analysis and modeling of disease; health disparities and inequalities; mobilities and health; exposure monitoring utilizing real-time GPS/GIS methods; genomes and geography; environmental health (including interactions among environment, pathogens, humans, and institutions); spatial patterns of drug abuse and treatment; gene-environment interactions; and mHealth and global health service delivery initiatives, among many others.

Climate Change, Variability, Adaptation, and Justice

This track of sessions would examine the latest research on global climate change and variability, including geographies of projected climate change impacts, mitigation and/or local adaptation strategies, and societal and human rights implications. The Obama administration's recent Strategic Plan for US Global Change Research for the next decade will also be the focus of discussion in terms of its potential opportunities for geographic and GIScience research related to global and climate change. This US Global Change Research Plan directly addresses central roles for geographic and GIScience research, urging researchers to conceptualize global change "at the spatial and temporal scales on which planning, management, and policy decisions are made." The plan also places increased emphasis on integrated human/natural dimensions of global change. Sessions addressing activities and outcomes of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) will also be encouraged as part of this theme.


Southern California is an excellent venue for advancing research on political borders and their implications for the places they separate and the connectivities between them: migration, language and culture, water, sovereignty, economies, etc. The United States-Mexico border provides a compelling regional focus for this theme, and research and theoretical work related to borders elsewhere is also welcome. Field trips to border areas will also enrich these sessions.

These multifaceted themes are not intended to be the exclusive focus of an AAG meeting but, rather, serve as a lens to help focus discussion and provide a fresh and engaging skeletal structure to each of our large and richly complex meetings. The dynamism, innovation, and range of cutting-edge research presented at AAG Annual Meetings are always remarkable, and we encourage the broadest range of geographic scholarship and research at our meetings. The AAG Specialty Groups also develop their own featured sessions each year, and we encourage prospective attendees to contact the AAG Specialty Group in their areas of research interest to help build strong session tracks around the many diverse and interactive topics and regions that they represent.

For more information, visit

I look forward to receiving your good ideas for additional themes and to seeing you at the AAG Annual Meeting next April in Los Angeles, a most creative and fascinating "transnational" city!

Doug Richardson (with input from Eric Sheppard) (e-mail:

Contact Us | Privacy | Legal | Site Map