AAG Annual Meeting: Tips and Tricks

By Emily Speelman

Earlier this month, 9,000 geographers from around the world travelled to Boston, Massachusetts to attend the American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting. This five-day conference featured hundreds of paper sessions, panels, and talks to help geographers meet, discuss their passions, and learn more about their discipline. This year’s key speakers included Noam Chomsky, David Harvey, Andrea Wolfe, and many more. Thanks to the DePaul University Department of Geography, I was able to attend the meeting with two other students. I learned so much at the conference and had the opportunity to meet geographers from around the world.


If you plan on attending the Annual Meeting in New Orleans next year or have never been to an AAG Meeting before, here are a few tips for attendees:

Download the AAG App

AAG’s app (available for Android and IOS) allows you to search easily through the entire conference program. Each session is marked by certain themes and tracks (such as Urban Geographies or Jobs and Careers) so you can search under a certain category if you aren’t sure where to start. This helps you plan. You can search through all of the paper sessions, panels, presentation, and different subgroups and save them to your individual calendar. Physical copies of the program are also available, but since the conference has hundreds of possibilities, the app is the best method.

Organize In Advance

Before getting to the conference, go through the program and identify the sessions you definitely don’t want to miss. Star those in your app calendar so you can easily access information about the speakers, their paper abstracts, and the session’s location. This also helps identify when you are available, making other activities easier to choose.

Diversify your activities

While I personally would love to go to every session related to urban planning, the best part about AAG by far is seeing the variety of ways Geography is used and studied. If you aren’t sure where to start, join friends or colleagues at a session of their interest – you never know how it will benefit you in the long run.

Spend time in the conference city

I had never been to Boston before, so I made sure to schedule in time to explore the city. You can do this through a field trip (like I did to the Boston Planning Agency) or on your own. Getting out of the conference center for a bit will help break up the trip, give you time to process all of the new information, and really enjoy the place you are visiting.

Realize you can’t do it all

The annual meeting is exciting. There is so much to learn and do but, unfortunately, you won’t be able to go to everything you want. And that’s okay! Do as much as you can but don’t feel bad about sleeping in one day or spending the day on a field trip. There is a lot of freedom to do what you like, so build your day to what suits you.

Conversation with Noam Chomsky

Conversation with David Harvey

Thank you again to DePaul Geography for sending me to the Annual Meeting – I had a fantastic time. To learn more about AAG and attend next year’s meeting, visit their website here

April 29 -30: NASA Space Apps Hackathon at DePaul University!

Save the date, April 29th and April 30th NASA SpaceApps Challenge! Weekend long “hackathon” for brainstorming solutions to Earth problems, using NASA open data, citizen science, and more. Participants can work alone or in teams, and promising projects will be sent on to NASA for review and potential awards.

Part of NASA’s Earth Science Division, SpaceApps has become the world’s largest global hackathon, engaging thousands of citizens each year across the globe to work with NASA in building innovative solutions challenges we face on Earth and in space using open source data. Diverse and collaborative teams of technologists, scientists, designers, entrepreneurs, and others work together in a 48-hour sprint to develop answers to some of the most pressing challenges facing planet Earth using NASA data. Over 15,000 citizens from 61 countries and in 161 cities around the world participated in the 2016 International Space Apps Challenge.

SpaceApps Challenge Chicago is also looking for volunteers and mentors to help with the event and guide participants with their project ideas during the event. Visit the SpaceApps page for more information and for registration: https://2017.spaceappschallenge.org/locations/chicago-il/ . For updates, follow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/spaceappchicago .

For more information, contact the DePaul University Department of Geography: geography@depaul.edu or the Geographic Information Systems Coordinator, Cassie Follett:  cfollett@depaul.edu

The “L”: The Early Years

by Emily Speelman

Along with the Bean and the Willis Tower, there is one Chicago icon that is not only central to the city’s identity, but is used by tourists and residents alike on a daily basis: the ‘L’ (also known locally just as the CTA). Including both Chicago’s bus and train systems, thousands rely on this system to get to school, work, and around the city. Currently, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) manages the eight different train lines and roughly 130 bus routes running in Chicago and several nearby suburbs, such as Skokie, Evanston, and Oak Park. The CTA serves roughly 3.5 million people a day with an average of 515.3 million riders (bus and rail) during 2015. According the CTA’s website, Chicago’s public transit system is the second largest in the United States (after New York City), running 224.1 miles of track and roughly 1,300 miles of bus lines. The L also services both of Chicago’s airports (O’Hare and Midway), making travel into the city easy and inexpensive for visitors. But how did the Chicago Transit Authority come to be and acquire these vital train and rail lines, most notably the famous elevated tracks?

Though the Chicago Transit Authority wasn’t established until 1947, the city’s first pedestrian rail lines (which would become the L) began running in 1892. The system expanded from its original parameters of Congress and 39th street after Chicago was chosen to host the 1893 Colombian Exposition. The first rail line, which is south branch of the Green Line today, now reached down to 63rd and Stony Island so visitors could get to the fair on these new trains. Until the opening of the CTA, however, each line was opened by a different company. The elevated (“L) Loop opened in 1893 and, as companies built more lines, Chicago’s downtown became a transportation hub of different trains. This lack of unity, however, led to fierce competition for ridership on the different lines and an increase in fares for those needing to switch between lines to reach their destination.

The four original companies running Chicago’s elevated trains merged into the Chicago Rapid Transit in 1924 under the leadership of Samuel Insull, who was the president of what is known today as ComEd. Though Chicago’s trains improved after this merge, the government still had a minimal role in the transit system. This proved problematic at the beginning of the Great Depression, when huge ridership drops and financial losses forced them to step in. The Chicago Transit Authority officially took over for the Chicago Rapid Transit in 1947 and they have controlled Chicago’s public transit ever since.

Sources:

http://www.transitchicago.com/cta70/

http://www.transitchicago.com/about/facts.aspx

https://www.wbez.org/shows/eight-fortyeight/120-years-ago-chicagos-first-l/3cd19039-42f1-4c15-a1c1-a6345cf57790

https://www.wbez.org/shows/wbez-blogs/how-the-chicago-l-grew/cce82b68-9091-4e0c-8e9a-1d55e4c73b2e