The American Association of Geographers (AAG) hosts one of the largest gatherings of geographers in the world. This year’s conference was held in Boston, Massachusetts, home of Paul Revere, Dr. Seuss, and some rather boisterous tea parties. The event is always exciting, bringing together geographers from myriad perspectives to interact and share their work. I happen to be somewhat of a traditional geographer, one that loves to make maps and transform data into scientific knowledge, but the breadth of the discipline spans the research gamut. Each time I attend I learn of new ways geographic principles are being applied. This year, I learned a bit about human-wildlife interactions through the story of a community-revered tigress named Machali at Ranthambore National Park in India, a bit about remote sensing and terraforming Mars, and a lot about cartographic design and information visualization. The versatility of the geographer’s craft is never mundane.
Doctoral student Brad G. Peter with geography icon Dr. Waldo Tobler recalling the time he etched isolines on a potato as part of a class exercise to illustrate the complexities associated with drawing lines on a geoid. AAG 2016, San Francisco, CA
My own research, which I was delighted to present at this year’s meeting, focuses on space-time trends of agricultural productivity and agricultural improvement for smallholder farming systems. The work I presented was on maize-based farming and pigeonpea integration in Malawi, a country in Sub-Saharan Africa. I use a suite of remotely-sensed biophysical information to identify the intersection of suboptimal conditions for maize production and optimal conditions for pigeonpea cultivation. Since pigeonpea has soil rehabilitation properties, areas where soil is driving marginal maize production are areas that are likely to receive positive outcomes from pigeonpea integration.
In geographic spirit, the annual AAG meeting is held in a different city each year. Being in Boston this year, enjoying a lobster roll along the seaport was unavoidable (yum). With its rich history and present diversity, traversing the city offers captivating architecture, a variety of restaurants, and culture galore. Music, art, food, and architecture often overlooked in daily life are integral to cultural geography and the nature of space and place—the things that make a place unique should be sought and enjoyed! That said, I very much look forward to learning of new geographic topics in New Orleans next year, with a po’boy in hand and jazz in my ears.
Brad G. Peter is a doctoral student in the Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences. His research interests include remote sensing of agriculture, habitat modeling, and data visualization through cartography. His trip to present his research at the American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting in Boston this spring was funded in part by ESPP.
Pigeonpea climate niche in Malawi: optimal temperature and precipitation between 2000 and 2014. Publication citation: Peter, B. G., J. P. Messina, A. N. Frake, and S. S. Snapp. Accepted, expected 2017. Scaling Agricultural Innovations: Pigeonpea in Malawi. The Professional Geographer.