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AAG President Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach

Happy New Year, Geographers and Friends of Geography! There is still much for us, as fellow AAG Members, to do and to accomplish, and what better month than January to re-commit ourselves to serving people and the planet, when we celebrate Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday. It is hard to believe we are already halfway through the fiscal year, whether you are still enjoying the academic winter break, or are just returning from the holidays with family and friends. I do ask that we stop to recognize our fellow Geographers in the federal workforce who, at the time of this writing, are experiencing one of the two longest Government shutdowns in U.S. history, and we hope it is resolved soon for their sake and for the greater good of our country. Their absence is felt at the conference I am currently attending, the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) International Meetings in San Diego as I write this column.

Thomas Vilsack, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa Governor
Thomas Vilsack, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa Governor

The opening SSSA session keynote speaker was former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa Governor Thomas Vilsack, who spoke on “Climate Smart Agriculture, Good for the Farm and Good for the Land.” He exhorted us to share our science not only with fellow scientists, but with the broader public and policy makers. He also emphasized that we actively address climate change, in the context of this meeting of course in agriculture, and especially in food security as the planet’s population grows, and to address the loss of arable land as urban areas expand to accommodate growing populations worldwide. The momentum to make a difference across disciplines is clear, from academic and professional association to association, not only in climate change, but also in addressing harassment and discrimination head on as SSSA also did in their meeting opener, and we are witnessing a sea change of scientific activism. We Geographers will take up the baton at our AAG Meetings in April in Washington D.C., so be ready for your turn around the track! As Secretary Vilsack pointed out, there is much competition now with misinformation widely available on social media, and scientists in particular must continue to provide evidence-based, peer-reviewed science that can stand the test of time and rise above the sea of misinformation. Scientists cannot abandon the scientific method in our activism, we must use our activism to embrace it and educate the public and policy makers on its rigor and benefits. This is where the human right to benefit from science helps us to make a strong case.

The AAG Meeting Online Program is now posted so it is time to make your travel plans! I am excited that our AAG Annual Meeting is coming together so well for April in Washington D.C., and remind all of you that there is still time to submit poster abstracts by 31 January 2019, and to organize poster sessions by 15 February 2019. Posters and sessions may also be designated by submitting authors as one of the three Special Themes of the 2019 Annual Meeting: Physical Geography in Environmental Science, Geographic Information Science and Human Health, and Geography and Human Rights. Paper abstracts and sessions are also open for edits until 24 February 2019. My thanks go out to the AAG staff and our theme-organizing committees for their work on the program, and most of all, you, the AAG members, for submitting your exciting research to share, you are the stars of our meeting!

Doug Richardson, Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach, Rita Colwell, Mei-Po Kwan, Heather Viles
Doug Richardson, Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach, Rita Colwell, Mei-Po Kwan, Heather Viles

To open the Annual Meeting, please join me for the 2019 AAG Presidential Plenary Opening Session, on 3 April 2019 at 6:20 pm. It is one of many special events AAG has planned for us. The Plenary will address “The Intersection of Geography, Environmental Science, Human Health, and Human Rights,” featuring distinguished panelists addressing how their research fields intersect with Geography and these three meeting themes. Our invited panelists include distinguished scholars in human and physical geography, environmental history, and biological sciences. It will be my honor to welcome you all to the meetings, and to preside over our panel of distinguished guests including Dr. Mei-Po Kwan (U. of Illinois Geography Professor), Dr. Heather Viles (Oxford University Geography Head and Professor), and 2019 AAG Honorary Geographer Dr. Rita Colwell (University of Maryland College Park Distinguished University Professor, Cell Biology and Public Health), who will receive her award and address our gathering at this event. Stay tuned for more details!

Remember, again, to check for your paper presentation time and other events to attend in the Online Program and make your travel plans! I look forward to seeing you in Washington D.C., April 3-7, 2019.

— Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach
President, American Association of Geographers
Professor of Geography and Fellow of the C.B. Smith Sr. Centennial Chair in U.S. Mexico Relations, University of Texas at Austin

Please share your ideas with me at: slbeach(at)austin(dot)utexas(dot)edu

DOI: 10.14433/2017.0050