Research Initiatives & Centers

Department of Geography faculty contribute to programs and institutes that conduct research around the world.

Arctic PIRE: Promoting Sustainability in the Arctic

The Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE): Promoting Urban Sustainability in the Arctic project was created to study the accelerated pace of change in the Arctic, both environmentally and socioeconomically. Launched in April 2016 with support from a National Science Foundation grant, the project’s ultimate goal is to develop an Arctic Urban Sustainability Index.

An international coalition of scientists and migration experts, including GW’s own geography faculty and students, examines environmental issues, such as thawing permafrost, as well as social factors, including economic and labor cycles.

The Arctic region has experienced urban growth and rapid change in recent years, with detrimental effects, including pollution, encroachment and contribution to climate change. These concerns have spurred an interest in measuring the state of urban centers, their promotion of sustainability and the efficacy of such projects. Arctic PIRE aims to serve as a model for other cities around the globe as they adapt to the effects of climate change.


Fieldwork in the Arctic: Luis Suter, GIS Certificate ’17, MS ’18, was a research assistant on a department trip to measure climate change’s effects on the tundra and cities in Siberia.

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Luis Suter

"In terms of climate change, the Arctic sees all the challenges that cities around the world are facing but at a quickened pace."

Luis Suter
GIS Certificate '17
MS '18

Center for Urban & Environmental Research

Housed in the Geography Department, the Columbian College’s Center for Urban and Environmental Research (CUER) provides opportunities for faculty and students to engage in research and urban development activities.

The center collaborates with the National Institutes of Health, the Pan American Development Institute, Children's Hospital, Casey Trees and the World Bank. Researchers within CUER have expertise in GIS and remote sensing, tools that are transforming the field of geography into an increasingly interdisciplinary science. The center also incorporates a broad spectrum of fundamental and applied studies across geographical scales and regions.

Visit the CUER Website


CUER Research Spotlight

CUER Project Mapping the Developing World

Ryan Engstrom, associate professor of geography and director of CUER, uses high-spatial resolution satellite data to map slums in developing world cities.


Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring

Students conducting fieldwork with devices set up in the grass

The primary goal of the Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring (CALM) program is to observe the long-term response of the active layer and near-surface permafrost to climate change across decades. Established in the 1990s, the CALM network boasts more than 200 observational sites around the world and participants from 15 countries.

The broader impacts of this project are based on the hypothesis that widespread, systematic changes in the thickness of the active layer could have profound effects on the release of greenhouse gases, on the human infrastructure in cold regions and on landscape changes. Therefore, CALM conducts observational and analytical procedures over several decades to detect trends and changes.


Visit CALM Blog


CALM Research Spotlight

CALM Project Awarded $1.2 Million for Permafrost Observation

The CALM project, led by Associate Professor of Geography Nikolay Shiklomanov, won a five-year grant from the National Science Foundation.


GW Climate and Health Institute

The GW Climate and Health Institute brings together an interdisciplinary team of scholars to find solutions and opportunities to mitigate the harm of climate change on human health.

The institute's mission is to promote equitable protection of population health at the local, national and global levels.

Members of the Geography Department faculty contribute to the institute's cross-university team.


 Visit Climate Health and Institute Website