Site-specific modulators control human responses to their local environment

Analysis of human-induced land-use changes, resulting in land cover patterns and understanding of its drivers, is hardly a new field of research, but with Homo sapiens continuously being the most dominating species of the Biosphere, the significance of the theme has not decreased. Humans have transformed more than half of the terrestrial land surface, in large part, for extraction and production of resources, with the claim now being made that we have entered into a new geological epoch, the “Anthropocene”.

In our recently published paper in Geo (Site-specific modulators control how geophysical and socio-technical drivers shape land use and land cover), we review how both geophysical and socio-technical drivers can shape land use, and how the strength of these drivers may vary geographically according to site-specific modulators. In particular, we present the site-specific modulators as a new asset to describe how drivers affect land cover patterns by considering the importance of geographic variability in the effect of these potential drivers through a conceptual interdisciplinary framework (Figure 1). The framework provides an outline for analyzing and understanding land cover patterns and their dynamics, and consists of three parts:

1) Geophysical and socio-technological drivers that shape land use

2) Site-specific modulators of the effect of the drivers on land use

3) The net effect of 1 and 2 on direct land use and as a result – land cover patterns.

Mette 1

Figure 1. Conceptual framework of how geophysical and socio‐technical drivers (part 1) shape land use via site‐specific modulators (part 2).

In this blog post, we draw attention to two of the examples presented in the paper (Figure 2).

Mette 2

The conceptual framework in Figure 1 demonstrated with examples from the literature.

From a global perspective, human population densities have been shown to be an important determinant of how well topography can explain forest occurrence (Sandel and Svenning, 2013) (Figure 2a). In this cross-scale global study, forest was well explained by topography in areas with high human populations and poorly explained in areas with low populations. This suggests that at the global scale, human land use is constrained by topographic accessibility even – and in fact, especially – where human population pressure is high. Hence, human population, as a site-specific modulator, drives the topographic-forest relationship. Another, more regional study describes how sandy soils and cattle densities drive maize distributions depending on temporal changing temperature (Figure 3) (Odgaard et al., 2011). Maize distributions have increased over a decade for the Danish lowland region. In the beginning of the study period when temperatures were relatively cool, maize distribution was strongly linked to sandy soils. Sandy soils have a higher heating rate compared to loamy soils, thereby increasing the probability for maize to germinate. Towards the end of the study period, characterized by relatively warm temperatures, maize distributions gradually decoupled from the sandy soils, whereas cattle densities increased in their importance. In this example, temperature can be described as the time-specific modulator (Figure 2b).

Mette 3

Influence of cattle (a) and sand (b) on maize area (modified from Odgaard et al., 2011). Colour legends illustrate temperatures ranging from relatively cool (blue) to relatively warm (red).

In conclusion, we recommend that statistical modeling of future land cover patterns and change includes these spatially-varying interactions of geophysical and socio-technical drivers. This will strengthen spatial modeling approaches used to refine our understanding of what drives land use and land cover patterns.

Read the full  open access paper:

Mette V. Odgaard, Tommy Dalgaard, Peder K. Bøcher Jens‐Christian Svenning. (2018). Site‐specific modulators control how geophysical and socio‐technical drivers shape land use and land cover. Geo: Geography and Environment. 2018;e00060https://doi.org/10.1002/geo2.60

Mapping Microbial Multiplicity

By Carmen McLeod, Erika Szymanski, Joshua Evans, Anna Krzywoszynska, and Alexandra Sexton 

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Microbes are everywhere. Headlines announce that microbes have been found in all sorts of spaces, from NASA’s cleanrooms to the vitreous fluid inside the human eye, in addition to such now-familiar residences as soil, skin, and all around our homes. And beyond simply being found, microbes are increasingly seen as significant and often valuable in virtually every space humans study—leading to more and more calls for research that flows between and beyond the natural and social sciences, as with this Geo: Geography and Environment open collection.

Repeating the truism that ‘microbes are everywhere’, however, can risk flattening microbial life into a sameness that is so much less interesting and useful than the diversity this ‘everywhere’ implies. Moreover, reifying ‘the microbe’ would suggest that the single-celled microbial body—one of many possible units of analysis—is always at the root of microbial life and human workings with it.

For these reasons and more, we propose deeper critical discussion of current approaches to thinking about and with microbes in the social sciences. This concern motivates our Geo: Geography and Environment-sponsored session at the upcoming RGS-IBG conference in Cardiff, where we will present and discuss work exploring some of these potentials and limitations. Our experiences working with human–microbial communities in a range of settings have spurred us to consider how social sciences might get better at dealing with microbes as crucial societal and environmental agents. We invite you to join us in this exciting debate.

To give a taste of the session, we thought each of us would share an image and anecdote about how we’ve found and followed our microbial fascinations, and the promise and trouble they bring.

Click on the contributor’s name, or scroll down, to read more about their work:

Carmen McLeod

Carmen McLeod

Synthetic biologists’ crocheted imaginings of microbes for public engagement activities

In 2015, I began working in a UK synthetic biology research centre. As the only full-time social scientist amongst microbiologists and other natural science-related disciplines, I was tasked with embedding a Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) framework within the work of the centre. I assumed that much of my work would centre on the ‘big picture’ relationship between science and society. As it turns out, I have become fascinated by the smaller and intimate relations between humans and microbes. This began as I became aware of the complex ways that my scientific colleagues interact with microbes. Interviews and ethnographic fieldwork revealed that laboratory work encompasses what could be termed ‘cultures of care’ for microbial life and relationships that go far beyond scientific goals. My interest has extended to other specific relations that emerge when considering the context of the human microbiome. In particular, my work is looking at the key role that the gut microbiome plays in health and wellbeing, and the new (and old) human–microbial relations this reveals. Faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT), for example, is an ancient treatment for a disrupted gut microbiome, and FMT applications are growing in both the clinic and ‘DIY’ settings, revealing new sociocultural and ethical considerations. I am excited by the cross-disciplinary opportunities that emerge from studying and illuminating the places where humans and microbes meet. This area of scholarship has the potential to disrupt binary categories, such as human/non-human; science/society; and nature/culture, and my hope is that there will be increasing interest in the work of scholars exploring these messy human–microbial spaces.

Erika Szymanski

Erika Szymanski

My companionable sourdough starter and the current contents of my nightstand which, to be fair, don’t usually live on top of each other.

Yeast has been following me around since my childhood, when I baked bread with my mother and helped destem grapes for my parents’ tiny backyard winery. Notwithstanding a brief affair with gram-negative bacteria as a microbiology student, it wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that I’ve followed yeast through childhood hobbies and adolescent reading to higher education in microbiology, through humanities and now into the social sciences. There might seem little mystery in why someone initially trained in microbiology has, in her later career as a social scientist, chosen to work on microbes. But why have microbes stuck when so much else has not? Yeast, I find, is able to follow me anywhere—or, rather, I am able to follow it—as a common inhabitant of so many spaces where science, technology, culture, and domestic life happen. It is mundane to say that microbes are everywhere. But a corollary that seems to be articulated less often is that everywhere there are ways of coming to know microbes, and that these myriad ways of knowing may often be complementary to each other. In some of my recent work with the synthetic yeast project (Saccharomyces cerevisiae 2.0), I’ve suggested that conceptualizing microbes as collaborators to be listened to, learned from, and worked with—not just as tools or machines to be completely controlled—may offer new routes for achieving human design goals with living systems.

Joshua Evans

Josh

While the Kimbucha is a more recent encounter of mine with microbes involved in food fermentation, it illustrates much of what both enthralls me about microbes, and what suggests to me that current approaches to making sense of them may be insufficient. Kim Wejendorp is a friend and collaborator who works as a chef and crazy brain at a restaurant called Amass in Copenhagen. This screenshot, from his instagram account, details how he arrived at making a kombucha from scratch. Kim’s primary motivation is to produce new flavours for the restaurant’s menu, but it strikes me that with this project he has also inadvertently levelled a challenge at both received fermentation orthodoxy and the scientific literature, both of which generally agree that kombucha can only be made from existing culture. The question of whether this is a kombucha, sensu stricto, cannot simply be answered by looking at which cellular bodies are living in it or which ‘species’ emerge from its metagenome—it must also and mainly involve considerations of flavour, culinary use, and social function. We might indeed typically expect social scientists to highlight these factors; yet strangely, most social researchers studying human–microbe relationships have so far worked rather uncritically from the stories scientists tell, without questioning what other stories are missing and possible. By revealing such gaps, these novel fermentation projects are rich sites for investigating alternative and as-yet-unaccounted-for ways in which microbes come to matter.

Anna Krzywoszynska

Anna

“If you build it, they will come.” Jokingly quoting from a Kevin Costner movie, the farmer I am interviewing brings the invisible microbes in this clod of soil into the conversation; he explains how his changed land management practices are creating a hospitable environment for this microbial life to inhabit. In the UK and across the world a ‘microbial turn’ is taking place in conventional agriculture as farmers and scientists turn to soil biota for solutions to climate change adaptation, productivity increases, and even planetary salvation (through the much discussed capacity of soils to act as carbon sinks). There are similarities between the current interest in microbial life in the farming community, and my previous experiences of following microbes through the worlds of organic winemaking. The invisibility of microbes invites scientific forms of ‘making sense’ of human–microbe encounters and relationships. At the same time, everyday practices of living and working with microbes in fields and wineries have more to do with changing personal identities and ethics then with deploying ‘certified’ knowledges. Scientific tools and narratives are both embraced, refuted, and imaginatively redeployed; working with microbes thus goes to the heart of classic social scientific questions about the relationships between knowledge and power. But there is more here than interpretation. What I see are experiments in living on the planet differently through microbes, with microbes. The  most exciting moments come when the microbes thwart the stories I, my research participants, or my natural science colleagues are able to tell about them: when a wild yeast fermentation creates an unforgettable and unplanned rosé wine; when the unexpected alliance between cover crops, soil biota, and slugs wipes out a harvest. These moments challenge me to think about the relationship between the agential cuts I make as a social scientist in deciding what is and what is not an object of my inquiry when I say I am researching ‘human–microbe relations’. They gesture towards the need for new social scientific understandings of human and nonhuman agency which go beyond the struggle between control and co-existence—which are about finding ways to be human well in a busy world. I am excited to think through the kinds of social and inter-disciplinary science which are needed to be better at living (and making a living) in a world where humans do not call all the shots (something I have been thinking through in the context of soil for a while).

Alexandra Sexton

Alex

There have been many stories told over human history about the ‘future of food’. These stories are important not only for tracing evolutions in technological promise but also for taking a pulse of the food-related anxieties that have been felt across different times and spaces. Taken from a Demo Day of tech start-ups in San Francisco, the image above is one of the current stories being told by an emerging technological movement in Silicon Valley, California. In short, this story describes a broken global food system, particularly livestock-based food, and that salvation lies in the innovation streams and business models of Big (bio)Tech. When I took this photo I didn’t know that I was soon to encounter microbes through more stories presented by the start-ups during their pitches. Speaking to an audience of venture capitalists and media personnel, I heard microbes framed as a ‘logical’, ‘sustainable’, ‘ethical’ and, perhaps most emphatically, lucrative solution to future food production. I also heard that there are “literally no down sides” to these new microbe-based food factories. I was shown graphs of predicted company growth and projected environmental savings. Microbes were conjured as biology-turned-technology, their ‘natural’ behaviours reimagined through notions of the ‘synthetic’ that rendered them more useful for feeding (some of) us and making (some of) us rich in the process. Reflecting on the microbe in these stories has quietly forced me to ask new questions in my research, particularly concerning how the invisible is made visible through the mechanisms of the Valley, venture capital and media hype; and conversely, it has invited consideration of the agents and stories made purposefully silent. These are all inherently political acts disguised through the seemingly apolitical, controllable and distinct ‘bodies’ of microbes. The task set for myself as a social scientist, then, is to critically unpack the hype and find ways of staying open to the ability of microbes to resist and exceed the stories that are told about them.

Taken together, we believe these and other stories suggest why more and more diverse microbe-focussed studies might be useful. We invite you to join us at our session at RGS (Wednesday, August 29, 9-10:40am) to discuss the shape critical microbe studies might take, and to learn more about Microbe Work—our new network for facilitating cross-disciplinary inquiry into microbe–human relations.


Carmen McLeod is a senior research fellow in Responsible Research and Innovation at the University of Nottingham. Erika Szymanski is a research fellow in Science, Technology, and Innovation Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Joshua Evans is a DPhil candidate in the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford. Anna Krzywoszynska is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in Geography at the University of Sheffield. Alexandra Sexton is a research fellow in the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford.

Improving Learning and Applying GIS in Interdisciplinary Research

I guess I’m not alone in either struggling with GIS (Geographic Information System) technologies, or seeing colleagues struggle to effectively use it. When the GIS does not work, or when learning resources use jargon that the would-be GIS users do not understand, they tend to blame themselves. This should not be the case – though never intentional, badly designed systems, materials or practices should be held accountable and either improved or completely rethought. These problems exist, regardless of discipline, when using GIS.

My professional experience includes working in private, public and academic sectors, across a variety of industries, and I have seen this same issue continually arise – enthusiasm turning to frustration when people cannot do what they want to do with the GIS, so they abandon the technology. As GIS professionals, I believe we have a duty to do better and promote the overall understanding of GIS and associated materials, to improve the likelihood of success and uptake. It is my hope that through my research, we can learn how to better support an increasingly diverse range of GIS users, foster that enthusiasm for GIS and create a better and more inclusive community of practice with and around GIS.

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Patrick Rickles helping an interdisciplinary researcher learning GIS

My recently published article, titled “A suggested framework and guidelines for learning GIS in interdisciplinary research”, is based upon my PhD research and has been written with co-authorship and support from my supervisors, Claire Ellul and Muki Haklay. In the article, I share elements of my PhD work which focused on how people go about learning to use GIS, particularly in the context of interdisciplinary research. From this work, I make recommendations on how these results can be used, going forward, to improve the process of learning GIS for future learners.

To begin, I had to first understand what interdisciplinary researchers were doing with GIS and the issues they faced that might affect uptake. These preliminary findings were discussed in Rickles & Ellul (2015), which identified challenges and suggested solutions in interdisciplinary research, as well as a theoretical understanding of learning approaches. Based on an evaluation of prominent interdisciplinary studies using GIS, and observations of an interdisciplinary team’s use of GIS, the relevance of those challenges and suggested solutions were reviewed to support a learning approach. The knowledge gap and time constraints were the most common challenges, with building relationships and training often suggested as solutions.  Problem Based Learning (PBL) – where learners restructure their knowledge to solve real world problems as part of a collaborative process with other learners and/or educators – was put forward as a viable approach for learning GIS in interdisciplinary research.

 

Figure9

Modified Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK) framework for learning GIS in interdisciplinary research

This article provides updates to and further enriches that initial research. An online survey of interdisciplinary researchers provided verification of the issues uncovered in the first article, with interviews providing a more in-depth exploration of what those issues may mean in a practical sense. An overview of those findings shows that interdisciplinary researchers are using GIS to create, analyse and visualise information; that they are using ArcGIS and QGIS desktop platforms as well as web GIS platforms such as Google Maps/Earth and ArcGIS Online; and that they are using informal learning methods (e.g. internet searches, watching a video, asking a more experienced person). The findings also suggest a more structured learning approach may be supportive of the learner, but PBL can be time consuming for both the learner and educator. Therefore, Context Based Learning (CBL), which recognises the importance of the context of the problem domain for the learning activity, but allows for materials to be created in advance, may be a more appropriate approach. Combining these elements, which modify the Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK) framework, guidelines and a specific framework are suggested for educators to use to support interdisciplinary researchers learning GIS. My further research has applied these in a practical setting using a learning resource titled “GIS Lessons for You” (www.patrickrickles.com/tutorial), to test the guidelines and framework. The results will be published as part of my PhD and potentially as a future article.

Patrick Rickles is a PhD student in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering at University College London, and is also an Implementation Analyst for the Department of Communities and Local Government.

Rickles, P. & Ellul, C. (2015). A preliminary investigation into the challenges of learning GIS in interdisciplinary research. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 39(2), 226-236

Rickles P., Ellul C., and Haklay M. A suggested framework and guidelines for learning GIS in interdisciplinary research. Geo: Geography and Environment, 2017; 4 (2), e00046 (open access)

 

Aquatic Transitions: Tracking the nature and trajectories of anthropogenically forced change in freshwater and coastal ecosystems – call for papers @GeoOpenAccess

AQUATIC TRANSITIONS: TRACKING THE NATURE AND TRAJECTORIES OF ANTHROPOGENICALLY FORCED CHANGE IN FRESHWATER AND COASTAL ECOSYSTEMS

Call for papers for a special issue of Geo: Geography and the Environment

Aquatic ecosystems have become increasingly vulnerable in recent years due to interactions between climate change and human activity such as nutrient enrichment, microplastic and organic pollution, extraction, salinization, and catchment modifications. Long-term ecosystem research and monitoring (LTERM) are crucial in the debate of timing, extent, and causes of human-related impacts on aquatic ecosystems, and are key to understanding the complex nature of ecological responses to stressors and related transitions within aquatic ecosystems. Key LTERM approaches include monitoring and modelling, palaeolimnology,  and  analysis of historical and documentary records.  Moreover, investigations involving multiple components of the biological and geochemical records of aquatic systems can help disentangle the impacts of multiple stressors on an ecosystem, develop an understanding of synchronous ecological impacts within ecosystems, allow for an understanding of the sensitivity of ecosystems to anthropogenic impacts, and may result in the development of more robust palaeoenvironmental reconstructions.

The collection of papers will explore multidisciplinary approaches in determining the timing, extent, and nature of ecological responses to recent anthropogenic stressors within aquatic ecosystems. We encourage papers that explore the relationship between various biotic and abiotic components of inland freshwater and/or coastal brackish ecosystems in response to external forcing. We especially welcome investigations across a variety of temporal and spatial scales, and which explore the use of multiple indicators in multi-stressor systems.

Geo: Geography and the Environment has an international and interdisciplinary reach, making it ideally placed to facilitate the results of palaeolimnological studies which have implications for further study and international aquatic resource policies.

Geo publishes articles gold open access only, making an author’s work immediately and fully accessible to publics, stakeholders, policy-makers and other academics internationally. The journal is funded by article processing charges (APCs). Information on this can be found here.  Geo is keen to encourage as many working within the geographical and environmental sciences to make use of the grants (see institutional funding policies here) and waivers (for information see here) that have been distributed to institutions to fund authors to make their work open access. A small number of waivers are available for authors who are not otherwise able to access funding for APCs; APC waivers will be considered on a case-by-case basis.  The editors do not have any involvement in the APC process for individual papers to keep editorial decisions separate, so specific queries about APCs will be forwarded on to the managing editor at the RGS-IBG, Fiona Nash.

The submission deadline for manuscripts is May 2018. We welcome enquiries to the collection editors:

Global environmental images: history, politics, culture

We are happy to announce the publication of a special issue on global environmental images in the Open Collections of Geo: Geography and Environment. Sebastian Grevsmühl directed the special issue with papers by Birgit Schneider, Sabine Höhler, Hervé Regnauld and Patricia Limido, Martin Mahony, and Sebastian Grevsmühl. As the editorial introduction states, this issue was put together in order to stimulate a “sustained interdisciplinary inquiry into global environmental images, paying close attention to the nature of this new type of global knowledge, the imaginaries mobilised, as well as the politics, power struggles, asymmetries and marginalisation processes which are inevitably involved when talking about the global environment.”

Framed as an interdisciplinary endeavour, it is probably no surprise that authors come from various disciplinary backgrounds, including physical and cultural geography, art history and media studies, history of science and environmental history. Thus, the subjects, periods and geographical regions covered vary greatly.

In several essays, the nineteenth century plays a pivotal role, mainly because Humboldtian science introduced to the Earth sciences a uniquely holistic approach, the analysis of which is central to many contributions. For instance, geographer Regnauld and art historian Limido identify Humboldt’s work as the first serious investigation into the concept of a global ocean. And in a similar vein, both Sebastian Grevsmühl and Birgit Schneider read Humboldt’s innovative cartographic contributions to the Earth sciences as an important founding moment of modern climatology. In all three case studies, the visual is identified as playing a significant role in emerging notions of “whole earth” thinking. This development intensified of course during the second half of the twentieth century, and most contributions therefore discuss the historically diverse paths taken by these movements towards global and holistic views of the environment. All of the essays insist in one way or another on the complex relationships that exist between the ‘local’ and the ‘global,’ and argue that global environmental views have become a dominant, almost hegemonic trait within the climate sciences and physical geography.

Unsurprisingly, climate change and its consequences feature as a major topic of this special issue, with one aspect in particular deserving more scholarly attention: the politics of the visual. Indeed, one main aim of the special issue was to invite contributions exploring various ways in which images can become political agents. Grevsmühl, for instance, suggests future work might identify and chart out the political spaces of global environmental images: the changing perceptions of the various physical sites from which they emanate, or through analysing the actual technologies involved in creating global environmental knowledge. This may eventually lead to important new questions about who has access to the infrastructures that produce global environmental knowledge, who may speak on behalf of the global environment, or who has the right to control the future – all questions that are picked up by several contributions to this special issue.

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As each global environmental image participates in its own way in a certain mode of storytelling, the framing, the cultural forms mobilised, as well as the mediating technologies involved all play a major role in shaping our ways of knowing, highlighting for instance certain themes and topics whilst obscuring others. This is particularly true for the El Niño case discussed by historian of science Sabine Höhler, who convincingly argues that the nowadays omnipresent satellite framing introduced ideas of controllability and predictability, to the detriment of an ancient oral tradition which insisted rather on the local violence produced by extreme weather events. Other important political effects of the visual can be observed in climate change photography as human geographer Martin Mahony shows, where typification processes can lead to a “simplistic, racialised politics of place,” calling thus for a re-politisation of global environmental images.

As an interdisciplinary inquiry, all contributions to the special issue celebrate a methodological openness which may prove crucial in order to engage in a dialogue cutting across disciplinary boundaries, conceptual frameworks and institutional borders. We invite the reader to explore with open-mindedness some new methodological tools which enable us to engage in a historically informed, critical analysis of global environmental issues.

By Sebastian Grevsmühl (special issue guest editor) and Martin Mahony (Geo blog editor).

All papers are available, open access via the Geo website, and the links below:

Grevsmühl, S. V. (2017) Visualising the global environmental: new research directions. Geo: Geography and Environment, 4:1, e00035, doi: 10.1002/geo2.35.

Schneider, B. (2016) Burning worlds of cartography: a critical approach to climate cosmograms of the Anthropocene. Geo: Geography and Environment, 3:2, e00027, doi: 10.1002/geo2.27.

Höhler, S. (2017) Local disruption or global condition? El Niño as weather and as climate phenomenon. Geo: Geography and Environment, 4:1, e00034, doi: 10.1002/geo2.34.

Regnauld, H., and Limido, P. (2016) Coastal landscape as part of a global ocean: two shifts. Geo: Geography and Environment, 3:2, e00029, doi: 10.1002/geo2.29.

Grevsmühl, S. V. (2016) Images, imagination and the global environment: towards an interdisciplinary research agenda on global environmental images. Geo: Geography and Environment, 3:2, e00020, doi: 10.1002/geo2.20.

Mahony, M. (2016) Picturing the future-conditional: montage and the global geographies of climate change. Geo: Geography and Environment, 3:2, e00019, doi: 10.1002/geo2.19.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Geographies of the microbiome: call for papers for a special edition of Geo

GEOGRAPHIES OF THE MICROBIOME

Call for papers for a special edition of Geo: Geography and the Environment

Microbial communities are fundamental components of every ecosystem and every species on the planet. Although recent advances have been made in understanding their interactions with human, animal and environmental well-being, many of the specific geographies and functional roles of microbial life remain uncertain. Answering these questions requires new forms of enquiry which reach across the domains of life, spaces, and disciplinary perspectives.

We are seeking high-quality contributions (original scientific papers, reviews, perspectives and data papers) about the geographies of the microbiome. Papers would bring the different sub-disciplines of geography into dialogue in seeking to make sense of these patterns and processes. We are interested in the range of interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches (e.g. human / physical / biological / citizen science practices) which are helping to further our understanding of the connections between microbial communities and spatial processes at different scales. We encourage submissions which discuss the methodological challenges of mapping microbiomes and managing microbial data, including engaging with the complexities of taxonomies and metagenomics. We also welcome studies which focus on managing microbes, as well as recent perspectives on both antimicrobial resistance (e.g. practices of spread, containment, evolution) and the recognition of microbes with respect to questions around more-than-human geographies. We are interested in contributions that explore the social dimensions and political ecologies of microbiome science and its translation.

Geo: Geography and the Environment has an international and interdisciplinary reach, making it ideally placed to facilitate exchange on emerging work on the microbiome across the spectrum of geographical and environmental research.

This RGS-IBG and Wiley journal publishes open-access articles, funded through Article Processing Charges (APCs). These are normally available through your Higher Education Institution; you can check your eligibility by submitting your institution and funder here. There are also a series of discounts and waivers available from Wiley. Further full-fee waivers will be considered for high-quality submissions for this special issue on a case-to-case basis, where authors are unable to access other institutional funds for APCs. Please contact journals@rgs.org for queries relating to APCs. To ensure that editorial decisions are never influenced by ability to pay, the editors are not involved in correspondence with authors regarding payment of APCs.

The submission deadline for manuscripts is February 2018. We welcome early enquiries to the special edition editors:

Arwyn Edwards: aye@aber.ac.uk
Jamie Lorimer: jamie.lorimer@ouce.ox.ac.uk

 

Remediating the inequalities of geographic knowledge production through ‘chromatographical’ visualizations

There has been significant academic coverage of the inequitable power dynamics of geographic knowledge production (c.f. Simonsen 2004; Ferenčuhová 2016).   By now, we are well-versed in the ways in which some representations and narratives win out over others.  We are attuned to the fact that the production of geographic knowledge is also a story of imperialism replete with racialized and gendered processes.  Emerging from this scholarship is the notion of a lopsided geography (Friedman 2016) characterized by the starkness of divisions between the core and periphery wherein some places are represented strongly and others remain largely absent.  Values and practices continue to be shaped by a Northern research agenda.  Additionally, the rich debates and discussions of strategies to decolonize knowledge tend toward the theoretical with few methodological interventions.

In our paper in Geo (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/geo2.38/full)  we attempt to redress some of these inequities by developing a new method for visualizing knowledge production which goes beyond formalized indicators. To illustrate, we chose first to focus on the location of selected dominant critical theories in Geography. By conventionally mapping two sites of theory production (critical GIS and critical urbanism), we demonstrate how normative methods reinforce lopsided geographies by relying narrowly on authorship and scholar affiliation. Our choropleth maps of these two theoretical strands in Geography double as a story of which places are being annotated and who participates in this process.  They also illustrate how conventional indicators silence the contexts informing the research.  The data is ‘extracted’ in one place (often in the Global South) and ‘processed’ elsewhere (often in the Global North).

Figure 1 conventionally represents the production of knowledge for critical GIS and critical urbanism (i.e. the number of country publications per every 10 active geography departments).  Critical theory, exemplified through these two schools of thought, mainly tends towards ‘Western-centrism’.   Production is dominated by the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and South Africa (as the exception). This result, generally, is consistent with our argument that the representation of knowledge through these conventional means suggests a ‘global intellectual divide’.

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Figure 1. Conventional representation of the sites of both critical GIS and critical urban theory knowledge production

To get at the heart of the inherent separations embedded in the representation of scholarly research production, we must acknowledge the uneven distribution of value between data production and the generation of theory.  The conventional map is in effect a series of bundled components that must be unpacked in order to bring to light the contexts that have generated both the data and subsequent  conceptual work.  We propose a ‘chromatological’ visualization whereby, just like in Chemistry, we extract the absorbed materials that are not currently visible or acknowledged.  The heuristic device of chromatography subjects the product (research, data and knowledge production) to a process of scrutiny which serves to ‘write in’ the separation. In other words, we separate the building blocks of critical geographic scholarship by articulating the absorbed components methodologically.

Figure 2 seeks to capture the multiple geographies involved across research processes.  Our chromatographical map is based on our review of the publications with more than 50 citations for both critical geography theories.  In it, we separated the conceptual and situated (empirically based) publications. Using the situated publications, we developed a table showing the frequency with which a country is used as a field site (i.e. where the researchers gathered their empirical data from and/or made their empirical observations). This counter mapping now shows countries such as India and China conventionally represented as part of the ‘silent side’ of knowledge production.

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Figure 2. Chromatographical representation of the sites of knowledge production for both critical GIS and critical urban theory

Our choromatological framework enacts a way of relational thinking currently obscured in discussions of geographic knowledge production.  The methodological alternatives described in our work conceptualize actors, field sites, and research products as a multiplicity of inter-scalar interactions.  Sites that were formally ‘off the map’ can now be recognized as new generative sites crucial to critical geographic scholarship.

Margath Walker is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Geosciences at the University of Louisville. Emmanuel Frimpong Boamah is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the State University of New York, Buffalo 

References

Ferenčuhová S 2016 Accounts from behind the curtain: history and geography in the critical analysis of urban theory International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 40 113–31

Friedman U 2016 The lopsided geography of Wikipedia The Atlantic 21 June

Simonsen K 2004 Differential spaces of critical geography Geoforum 35 525–8