Now is the time to begin planning for the AAG annual meeting, one of the largest venues in the world for sharing and communicating the broad range of contributions by geographers to basic and applied knowledge and to problem solving. The 2014 annual meeting will be held April 8-12 in Tampa, Florida. This is the first annual meeting to be held in the southeastern United States in over a decade and the first ever in Tampa. The excitement of a new venue, coupled with the intellectual stimulation that we all expect of an AAG annual meeting, promise to make the 2014 AAG annual meeting particularly noteworthy.

The AAG annual meeting traditionally has a number of featured themes that help to provide some structure to this diverse and rich meeting. Some of the featured themes emerge organically as the Local Arrangements Committee and the AAG meeting staff organize the thousands of abstracts and hundreds of special sessions submitted for the conference. Other themes are provided directly by AAG members, and I invite all of you to suggest provocative and engaging themes for the Tampa meeting. The setting of the meeting itself suggests numerous potential themes including environmental hazards, emigration, the aging of America, among others. There are many other current issues and developments that merit consideration as a featured theme, and I encourage you to submit suggestions.

In addition, the AAG Executive Committee and Executive Director have developed three overarching, “core” themes for the Tampa meeting that we believe are of sufficient interest to engage all meeting participants, that are of themselves interconnected and cross the human, physical and methods dimensions of the discipline, and that, most importantly, are of such weight and significance that collective focused attention is warranted. These themes are “Geographies of Climate Change,” “Racism and Violence in America: Fifty Years since the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” and “GIScience, GIS, and Public Policy.”

Climate change is one of a myriad of environmental concerns facing humankind today and is representative of the inherent scientific complexity and uncertainty of these concerns, their political and policy contextualization, the challenges of formulating adaptation and mitigation strategies, and the importance of effective communication. The “Geographies of Climate Change” theme was selected to highlight the complex scale interactions of climate change including the observed and anticipated spatial differentiation in potential impacts and vulnerability. The Presidential Plenary session on the opening day of the conference will “kick off” this theme. Presenters include: Mike Hulme, founding director of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research and currently Professor of Climate and Culture in the Department of Geography at King’s College London, and author of Why We Disagree about Climate Change; Linda Mearns, director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research Weather and Climate Impacts Assessment Science Program, and project leader of the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP) which is providing high-resolution climate change projections for the impacts community; Susanne Moser, an independent researcher and consultant on adaptation, science-policy interactions, decision support, and climate change communication; and J. Marshall Shepherd, the current president of the American Meteorological Society and a faculty member in the Department of Geography at the University of Georgia, whose research focuses on urban influences on climate. Numerous other sessions on the “Geographies of Climate Change” will be held throughout the annual meeting, and I urge you to keep this theme in mind as you submit an abstract and/or propose sessions.

I am writing this column on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Fifty years have passed since that landmark event, and many of the commemorative addresses acknowledge the considerable progress that has been made with respect to civil rights over the past half century. However, Florida is the location of a harsh and sorrowful reminder of the continuing pervasiveness of racism and violence in the United States. We would be remiss, while in Tampa, to not collectively consider the broader implications of the death of Trayvon Martin and the complex and disturbing trial that followed, and to explore our potential contributions to a path forward. Hence, a core theme of the meeting is “Racism and Violence in America: Fifty Years since the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.“ Fifty years ago the March participants sought comprehensive civil rights legislation, desegregation of public schools, greater access to employment for all groups, and an increased minimum wage. The featured theme for the AAG annual meeting provides an opportunity for us to explore past, current, and potential future contributions of geographical research to understanding and addressing progress in these and related areas. It will also enable all of us to reflect on our personal actions and commitment to reducing racism and violence. AAG Past-President Audrey Kobayashi and Professor Joe Darden from Michigan State University are leading the planning effort for a collection of plenary and special sessions and public events around this featured theme, and they request your input and suggestions.

The potential for GIScience to contribute to the formation of public policy has been demonstrated, but not fully realized. The third core theme, “GIScience, GIS, and Public Policy” will explore the expanding role of GIScience in the public policy arena, both generally and also with respect to climate change and racism and violence. This theme also encompasses another dimension, that of federal and state policy-making regarding GIS itself. In particular, the roles of the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) and the National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC) in developing a new strategic plan for the U.S. National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) will be highlighted during several special sessions. Again, your assistance in contributing papers and posters, and organizing special sessions around the featured theme of “GIScience, GIS, and Public Policy,” is requested.

As noted above, the featured themes attempt to provide some structure to a large, exciting, highly attended meeting. But, as always, the AAG annual meeting is an open meeting, and I look forward to your contribution to the meeting and to being submerged in the diverse set of paper and poster topics that we all expect at our annual meeting. Instructions for submitting abstracts and special sessions are found at http://www.aag.org/cs/annualmeeting. Keep in mind that the “early bird” registration discount ends October 23.

See you in Tampa!

Julie Winkler