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AAG Presidential Achievement Award

The AAG Presidential Achievement Award was established by the AAG Council to recognize individuals who have made long-standing and distinguished contributions to the discipline of geography. Up to two individuals may be recognized each year.


Sally Horn working in the field in her Explorer boat (photo by Erik Johanson)Sally Horn has made significant contributions in the area of paleoenvironmental change research in underexplored neotropical regions. Dr. Horn’s research specialties are in Quaternary vegetation and climate change in the Circum-Caribbean region and southeastern U.S.A., Forest ecology and fire history, Páramo ecosystems and their long-term history (including glacial history), and human influences on vegetation. Her methodologies include coring sediments in remote lakes in the mountains of Costa Rica, and analyzing them for multiple environmental and physical indicators of change, ranging from pollen to isotopes. Dr. Horn’s research contributes new knowledge in tropical environmental change, and in methodological advances for detecting and measuring change. Understanding the connections between long-term environmental changes and human impacts and responses in the tropics is critical given the tropics are the home of a significant proportion of Earth’s living terrestrial biomass and species diversity. Her scholarship has been honored at university, national and international levels, including the Carl O. Sauer Award (Conference of Latin American Geographers, 2002) the AAG’s Barry Bishop Mountain Geography Award (2010), AAG’s James J. Parsons Biogeography Specialty Group Award (2014), the SEDAAG Lifetime Achievement Award (2014), and election as a AAAS Fellow in 2003. Dr. Horn is also recognized for her enthusiastic devotion to educating the next generation of scientists, as evidenced by her many teaching and advising awards, by her numerous NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates and Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement grants for students to conduct field research in the tropics and the southeastern US, the lab, and in publishing; by supervising undergraduate honors theses; and by her extraordinary productivity of graduate students. Dr. Horn has advised 34 Masters and 14 PhDs (including 6 in progress), and also served on the committees of 99 MA and PhD Students, in programs ranging from Geography to Anthropology to Ecology. The lasting impact of her scholarship is evidenced by her more than 150 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and edited volumes, and by her multiple grants from such sources as NSF, the Mellon Foundation, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Dr. Horn’s loyal service to the AAG includes numerous presenter (since 1983!), panelist, chair and organizer roles at AAG National and Regional Division Meetings, AAG Honors and Nominating Committees, and leadership roles with AAG’s Biogeography and Paleoenvironmental Change Specialty Groups. Dr. Sally Horn has spent her career selflessly promoting the careers of students and her fellow scholars, and it is time for us to honor her for her humble labors for the betterment of us all, in addition to celebrating her unmatched scholarly impacts on the fields of biogeography and paleoenvironmental change. (Photo by Erik Johanson)

Nicholas DunningNicholas Dunning has made significant contributions in the areas of environmental archaeology, soils, physical geography, cultural ecology, and Latin America. Nick has devoted his scholarship to Ancient Maya subsistence, land use, and long-term environmental interactions and change. Nick’s contributions include keen insights into human ecology and the environment, especially as applied to the Ancient Maya. Nick has three degrees in geography (University of Chicago BA and MA, University of Minnesota PhD), yet the broader impacts of his work range far beyond geography into anthropology and archaeology, to epigraphy, soil chemistry, pre-Columbian Studies, and Latin American Studies. In support of his research Nick is fluent in Spanish and Yukatek Maya in addition to his native English, and has been a devoted Maya scholar since he was a young child. During graduate school, Nick’s office mates watched him draw complex maps of ancient Maya settlements and soils, as he built the field-based dataset for his brilliant 1990 dissertation Prehispanic Settlement Patterns of the Puuc Region, Yucatan. Int that work Nick painstakingly connected patterns of ancient practice with modern knowledge, building a folk taxonomy of soils of the Yucatan that not only gives us insight into ancient agricultural practice, advantages and challenges, but practical knowledge for human use of the resources of Yucatan today. He published his dissertation as the book Lords of the Hills: Ancient Maya Settlement in the Puuc Region, Mexico (Prehistory Press, 1992) and this volume remains one of the most influential and best cited works in our field. Dunning has since published more than 125 peer-reviewed papers and chapters and a dozen books, monographs, and special issues of journals, across different fields, from Culture and Agriculture in 1998 and the AAG Annals in 2002, to two articles in a special issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2012, to a paper applying LiDAR in Maya Geoarchaeology in a special issue of the journal Geomorphology. Nick’s impacts on our field can be measured in many conventional ways: writing insightful papers and book chapters, high citation indices, directing 29 theses and dissertations and serving on an additional 53 graduate student committees, success in grants, teaching thousands of students physical geography at the University of Cincinnati, and leading scores of graduate and undergraduate students abroad for research in Latin America. However, Nick also measures up the most in his unwavering support, loyalty, patience and good humor with his family, friends, students, and colleagues; his careful consideration of research questions and data quality; and his keen intellectual drive. This is all against a backdrop of his facing a perilous illness several years ago, from which he proceeded to get back up and dust himself off, return to the field, and push the frontiers of geographical exploration and knowledge forward. Nick has led his research teams and generations of students on an amazing journey, without ever thinking of rewards for himself. 


Rickie Sanders for enhancing diversity and inclusion in geography and championing the study of race, gender, and social justice within the discipline and beyond. Dr. Sanders powerfully uses her scholarship and her own biography to address the need for women of color in geography, to confront white privilege and gender inequality in education, and to create dialogue between racial and feminist theorists and classroom teachers. Her long-standing contributions include award-winning teaching and mentorship and leading important initiatives to broaden the participation and belonging of historically under-represented groups in the discipline.

David Padgett has made significant contributions in advancing geography, GIS, and STEM education within the Historically Black College and University. He has become an important authority on the opportunities, challenges, and needs facing geographers at predominantly minority-serving institutions, as well as those working in small academic programs and blended departments. Dr. Padgett has led an exemplary career in community engaged scholarship and teaching, having developed working relationships with a variety of grassroots groups, non-profits, and government agencies. His innovations in service-learning and participatory research are felt locally and through the many national workshops and funded projects he has led. 


Billie L. Turner, II for transformative research on development of land use/cover change science,  and between historic/prehistoric analysis and contemporary issues. Dr. Turner has also extensively represented geography on important national and international bodies including the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, the International Human Dimensions Programme, and the U.S. National Climate Assessment; he also served as Associate Editor of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Susan Cutter whose transformative research and leadership in disaster vulnerability/resilience has  extended the reach of geography to other academic disciplines and to policy communities. Dr. Cutter also brings attention to issues of race, class and environmental justice to the discipline of geography. In addition, we recognize her many service contributions to the discipline, including her leadership as President of the AAG and President of the Consortium of Social Science Associations.


Roger Downs for his groundbreaking research in the development of spatial cognition in children, spatial thinking with and through geospatial technologies, and the nature and development of expertise in geography. With his colleagues in psychology and other behavioral sciences, he has explored the intersection of geography and the cognitive sciences, and produced cutting-edge work on cognitive mapping and spatial behavior. 

Audrey Kobayashi
 for her foundational contributions to understanding the intersectionality of gender, race, class and all forms of socio-economic difference that have reshaped what geography is and can be, and for her insistence that geography and geographers reflect critically on their whiteness. As editor, mentor, teacher, colleague and friend she has strengthened geography by encouraging new and often challenging ways of seeing and understanding our world.


Diana Liverman for her extraordinary contributions to understanding the human dimensions of global change, including the impacts of climate on society and issues of equity and climate change, and for her leadership roles in numerous boundary organizations, including "Future Earth," that strengthen partnerships with scientists, policymakers and stakeholders to promote regional and global sustainability.


Doreen Massey for her foundational contributions to feminist geography, geographical political economy, relational geography, conceptualizations of place and space, and emancipatory approaches to urban development.


Bobby WilsonBobby Wilson for his career-long dedication to anti-racist scholarship in geography, as well as for his a mentorship to many students and for the example he has set for colleagues throughout his academic career.


Laura Pulido

Laura Pulido for her extensive work in the areas of environmental justice, radical movements of the sixties and seventies, labor studies, alternative tourism and comparative ethnic studies.

Dawn Wright

Dawn Wright for her significant contributions and leadership in the areas of geographic information science, ocean informatics and cyberinfrastructure.


Patricia Gober for her rich record of peer-reviewed publications in populations, water resource management and climate change, her creation and implementation of public fora for science-engaged decision-making and her influential leadership in the discipline in service to society.


Peter Meusburger for his accomplishments strengthening ties between English and German medium geography, fostering internationalization of academic curriculum in Europe and beyond, and broadening research across political borders; and in recognition of his intellectual commitment and personal hard work towards a more international geography.


Douglas B. Richardson for his outstanding service as a geographer, as the leader of a path-breaking company that advanced geographic information science and technology, and as the Executive Director of the Association of American Geographers, which he has enabled to be a strong, cohesive, inclusive, and vibrant organization working to advance geography now and in the future.

Thomas J. Wilbanks for his long-standing and wide-ranging contributions within and beyond geography as a scholar, an administrator, a community leader, and a highly effective integrator of insights from geography and other fields to address significant societal problems


David Ward for his role as a prominent geography leader and as a key contributor to our discipline and to higher education as a whole, in particular regarding his success in advancing issues of international education.


Laura and Jack Dangermond for their universally recognized creative force and long-time leading pioneering efforts in the field of Geographic Information Systems, and for their generosity toward many worthy social and educational programs in geography aiming to make a difference in the world.

James C. Knox for his extraordinary contributions to geography and the stature of the discipline through his prolific teaching, international research in geomorphology and paleohydrology, his mentoring of students, and his selfless service.


Trevor Barnes for his exceptional scholarship on the quantitative revolution and for his substantial contributions to the understanding of the history of human geography, science studies, regional science, and economic geography.

Wilbur Zelinsky for his long and distinguished career in geography; for the influence of his publications across a wide range of topics in human geography; and for his early and fervent support for the incorporation of more women into the discipline.


Donald W. Meinig for his extraordinary contributions to geography and the stature of geography as a discipline through his teaching, research, and writing.


Bruce Alberts for his distinguished contributions to the discipline of geography through outstanding vision and administration of the NAS and for his support of geography within the National Academies.

Harm J. de Blij for his extraordinary contributions to the advancement of the discipline and for his longstanding contributions to the public awareness for geography both nationally and internationally.

Alan M. Voorhees for his exemplary professional career as scientist, educator, preeminent planner, and philanthropist, throughout which he has advocated for geography and has made significant intellectual and applied contributions, and for his dedication to expanding geography’s role in improving our world.

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