Geography Research Clusters

The University of Kentucky’s Department of Geography is known for high quality research and education in human geography, physical geography, and mapping.

Faculty and student research in the Department of Geography focuses on interrelated thematic clusters. The clusters facilitate collaborative scholarship though they typically do not function as formal research teams. The clusters tend to work as loose and overlapping intellectual communities that can incorporate working groups, reading groups, and collaborative projects, and they give a sense of the breadth of the research conducted in the department. Current research clusters are:

  • BiogeomorphologyReciprocal interactions between geomorphological and biological processes; coevolution of ecosystems, soils, and landforms; soils and landforms as extended composite phenotypes and products of ecological engineering; biological weathering; bioturbation; vegetation-landform interactions in salt marshes and coastal dunes; fluvial biogeomorphology; forest biogeomorphology. Part of the Earth Surface Systems track. Faculty: Phillips, J.; Stallins; Turkington.
  • Biogeography and Landscape EcologyBioclimatology; ecosystem responses to climate and environmental change; evolutionary theory; landscape phenology; species distribution modeling; ecological engineering and niche construction; quantitative landscape ecology; biophysical remote sensing; disturbance; coastal and forest ecosystems; scale and scaling theory. Part of the Earth Surface Systems track. Faculty: Beymer-Farris; Liang; Phillips, J.; Stallins.
  • Critical Mapping and GIS:  Social implications of geospatial technologies; critical GIS/cartography; histories of cartography and GIS; public participation GIS, and community-based GIS; volunteered geographic information and neogeographies; mapping 2.0 and the geoweb; spatialities of user-generated content; geographies of the Internet; digital/spatial humanities.  Much research in this area is organized through the New Mappings CollaboratoryFaculty: Brunn (emeritus); CramptonKim; Raitz (emeritus); WilsonZook.
  • Cultural and Social Geographies: Interpretation and analysis of cultural landscapes and the built environment; space and representation; the political economy of landscape production; racialized landscapes; historical geographies of settlement; questions of space and power relating to ‘race,’ class, gender and their intersection; historic preservation; US roadscapes; regional imagery; popular culture; community, identity and belonging; diasporic identities; Islamic/Muslim cultural practices in the Middle East, Europe, and the United States; health care, disease, and society; the geography of aging and the life course; poverty and social policy; human behavior in space and time; spatial structure of social networks. Faculty: Brunn (emeritus); Finney; Ehrkamp; Raitz (emeritus); Samers; Schein; Secor; Shannon; Wilson.
  • Development Studies: Policies and practices of development; political economy perspectives on development; anti-development and postcolonial theory; household survival strategies; environmental management and sustainable development. Faculty: Beymer-Farris; Karan; Mutersbaugh; Roberts.
  • Economic Geography: The political economy of urban and regional economic change; globalization, and in particular global finance; information and telecommunications, especially the economic geography of the internet; resource extractive industries; uneven development and spatial inequalities; multinational corporations, inward investment, global production and commodity chains; economic clusters; alternative economies (including Islamic banking); the geography of labor and employment; labor migration and migrant labor; theorizing the social character of economic phenomena.  Faculty: Karan; Roberts; Samers; Schatzki; Wood; Zook.
  • GeomorphologyFluvial geomorphology, surface hydrology, and river science; soil geomorphology and pedology; rock weathering; cultural geomorphology; fluvial-karst interactions; applied geomorphology; stone conservation and preservation; complexity and nonlinearity in geosciences; coastal geomorphology and ecology (particularly in dunes and salt marshes); spatial variability of soils and landforms; landscape evolution. Part of the Earth Surface Systems track. Faculty:  Phillips, J.; Stallins; Turkington.
  • Political Ecology: On the human geography side: critical theories of nature, complexity and resilience; sustainability, the politics of environmental management and conservation policy; mega-engineering projects; environment and resource extraction; human-nonhuman relations; trade, markets, and environment; fair trade networks. Physical geographic approaches address issues related to: human influences on fluvial and soil geomorphic processes, weathering, and biogeographic patterns; bioclimatology and human climate change; urban weather modification; hydrology; earth surface systems modeling; remote sensing and geospatial applications. Faculty: Beymer-Farris; Brunn (emeritus); Finney; Karan; Kim; Liang; Mutersbaugh; Phillips, L.; Schatzki; Stallins; Turkington.
  • Political Geography: Questions of states, territory, and law; citizenship, faith and belonging; migration and immigration; transnationalism; post-colonial and imperial geographies; Islamist politics; feminist geopolitics; political economy of environmental movements; political economy of globalization discourses and practices; the surveillant state; geographical intelligence; urban governance; the politics of urban and regional development. Faculty: Beymer-Farris; Brunn (emeritus); Crampton; Ehrkamp; Mutersbaugh; Philips, L.; Roberts; Samers; Secor; Wood.
  • Social Theory: Theories of human spatiality; marxist, neo-marxist, and post-marxist theory; postmodernism and poststructuralism; social ontology; practice theory; continental philosophy; feminist theory; queer theory; identity theory; race theory; geographic thought and society; geography and psychoanalysis; science and technology studies; topology; posthumanism. Faculty: Beymer-Farris; Crampton; Ehrkamp; Finney; Roberts; Schatzki; Schein; SecorWilson;
  • Urban Geography: The politics of urban development; urban social fragmentation; the politics of sprawl and urban planning; urban property markets; citizenship and public space; urban space and identities relating to ‘race’, gender, class, and migrants and immigrants; urban historical geography; urban landscapes; racialized landscapes; historical preservation; labor migration; informal employment; urban economic development. Faculty: Brunn (emeritus); Ehrkamp; Finney; Phillips, L.; Raitz (emeritus); Samers; Schein; Secor; Wilson; Wood.

Faculty have regional expertise in South and Southeast Asia, Japan, the Himalayas, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East (particularly Turkey), the Central Asian republics, Western Europe, Canada, East Africa (Tanzania), and the U.S. (particularly the Southeast). In addition, research conducted in the department rests on expertise in a variety of methodological areas including field methods; qualitative research methodologies (such as interviews, focus groups, critical ethnography, experiential methods, textual and visual methods, and deconstruction) quantitative methods (especially multivariate statistics, spatial statistics, and simulation modeling); as well as GIS and remote sensing methods (such as LIDAR, participatory GIS, digital image processing, and crowd-sourced data collection).

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