Research Activities

Department of Geography students and faculty are actively pursuing a myriad of research topics on campus and around the world.

Focus Areas for Departmental Research Activities:

Center for Urban & Environmental Research (CUER)

The Center for Urban and Environmental Research (CUER) was instituted to harness the geospatial, technology-driven dimension of urban and environmental research.  Housed within the Department of Geography, CUER is uniquely positioned to expand and enhance the application of geospatial technologies for research and academic programs within The George Washington University. Researchers within the Center have expertise in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing, tools that are transforming the field of Geography into an interdisciplinary science that integrates a wide range of specialty areas. Although the geographic technology is one of the major focuses of CUER, the center also incorporates a broad spectrum of fundamental and applied studies across geographical scales and regions. Through the Center, Geography faculty and students are able to engage in innovative research activities that expand the normal boundaries of academic courses while fostering cross-disciplinary collaboration. CUER researchers are funded through and collaborate with a wide range of institutions including, National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA, National Institute of Health (NIH), World Bank, Children’s National Medical Center, and Ford Foundation.  Currently CUER has research expenditures in excess of half a million dollars per year.

Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring (CALM)

Established in 1985 as the primary goal of the Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring (CALM) program is to observe the response of the active layer and near-surface permafrost to climate change over long (multi-decadal) time scales. The CALM observational network, established in the 1990s, observes the long-term response of the active layer and near-surface permafrost to changes and variations in climate at more than 125 sites in both hemispheres. CALM currently has participants from 15 countries. Approximately 60 sites measure active-layer thickness on grids ranging from 1 ha to 1 km², and 100 sites observe soil temperatures, including permafrost temperatures from boreholes. Most sites in the CALM network are located in Arctic and Subarctic lowlands, although 20 boreholes affiliated with CALM are in mountainous regions of the Northern Hemisphere above 1300 m elevation. A new Antarctic component is being organized and currently includes 13 sites. The broader impacts of this project are derived from the hypothesis that widespread, systematic changes in the thickness of the active layer could have profound effects on the flux of greenhouse gases, on the human infrastructure in cold regions, and on landscape processes. It is therefore critical that observational and analytical procedures continue over decadal periods to assess trends and detect cumulative, long-term changes.

Faculty Research Map


Geographers Redefine Immigration Trends

For generations, it was believed that most immigrants were people with limited education or training who came to the U.S. for economic opportunity. They landed in large metropolitan areas and lived in inner cities until they could afford to move to the suburbs. Now research by two Geography professors finds that those patterns are shifting. And there’s no better example of new immigration trends than in metropolitan Washington, D.C.

Geography Students Bring Arctic Adventure back to the Lab

From fieldwork in Alaska to lab work in Foggy Bottom, Assistant Professor of Geography Nikolay Shiklomanov is keeping his students engaged in the long-term effects of climate change on the active and near-surface permafrost layers of the Arctic Circle thanks to a five-year, $1.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation. Read more.