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

Geographic Phenomenon: Contrails

You are probably familiar with contrails — the thin, vaporous streaks of what looks like engine exhaust left in an airplane’s wake.  What you might not realize, however, is that these vapor trails are not in fact engine exhaust, but artificially-induced clouds resulting from temperature and pressure disturbances airplanes create as they travel through the atmosphere.

“Jet Trails, 2007” from artist Chris Jordan

Contrails generally arise in one of two ways, depending on atmospheric conditions.

  1. First, and most frequently, hot water vapor released as a by-product of jet fuel combustion comes into contact with cold air at high altitudes causing the water vapor to condense into visible, cloud-like contrails.
  2. Less frequently, pressure differences created by the wingtips of aircrafts traveling through extremely humid, water-saturated air can be great enough to induce water condensation and contrail formation.  These pressure differences at the wingtips are called wingtip vortices, and their contrails look like this.

Again, depending on atmospheric conditions, contrails can either last a long time or dissipate quickly.  In humid air, which allows contrails to hang around well after their creation, the initial water condensation can sometimes induce further water condensation, and even full cloud formation.

Contrail patterns over Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina (Photo credit: Courtesy NASA Langley Research Center)

Scientists believe that increased air travel, resulting in increased contrail formation, is having a significant effect on global climate patterns.  The high cirrus clouds that persistent contrails often resemble are known to trap the sun’s radiative energy, which has a net warming effect on atmospheric temperature.  Whether this contributes to global warming is, like all things climate change related, up for debate.  Interestingly, nearly all of the data linking contrails to global climate were collected in the three days following the September 11th attacks during which all commercial air travel was suspended over the United States, an unprecedented event in aviation history.

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Monday News and Links

  • Those of us living in the Midwest got our first taste of tornado season this past weekend as 100+ tornadoes touched down late Saturday and early Sunday across Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska.  The New York Times reports that casualties were minimal thanks to advanced warning and increased severity of warnings in the wake of last year’s unusually deadly season.  “This is a life-threatening situation. You could be killed if not underground or in a tornado shelter,” read one Wichita, KS warning sent out this weekend.  The National Weather Service is experimenting with new, “blunter” language in an attempt to more directly convey the severity of their warnings.  It’s unclear whether the new warnings saved any lives this past weekend, or whether people are paying more attention after what happened last year, but it’s an interesting move by the NWS whose warning system has sometimes been criticized for “crying wolf.”
  • This link has gone somewhat viral over the past two weeks but, if you haven’t seen it, here is a stunning live map of US wind patterns.
  • More weather phenomena: 15 Incredible Cloud Formations
  • A year after the massive tsunami that devastated Japan last spring, the first of the debris expected to wash up on North American shores has done so.

Amazing Geography Photos

GSC Board Member Steve Jansen passed along a collection of incredible geography images from the photo site twisted sifter.  Here’s one…

The Cloud Covered Island of Litla Dimun

Click through to view the rest…

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