GAW Day 5: Applied Geography

During our posts this week, we have talked about some of the main branches of geography, including physical and human geography, and the closely related discipline of cartography. For our final discussion, it seemed that Applied Geography would be an ideal topic, since its focus is using geographic research in an area of specialty and applying it to solve real-world problems. Applied Geography, then, can be part of any of the many fields and subfields of geography, from GIS to development geography to hazards research.

The recent hurricane-related disasters in the US Gulf Coast are already bringing to the fore a number of applied geography research initiatives, including studying the changes in coastline and wetlands brought about by the hurricanes, mapping the flooding and damage to better understand how to prevent future catastrophes, and human geography research on the social factors that led to the disaster and their consequences. Similar examples of Applied Geography can also be seen in the research being done into the tsunami that struck in December 2004.

Another area where Applied Geography research has focused is on the allocation of resources, especially in the developing world. Studies into the uses and maintenance of watering holes for cattle and other livestock in arid regions of Africa or the impacts of climate change on specific areas and how they can be mitigated would be examples of applied geographic research.

An area of Applied Geography that has seen a lot of recent attention is the geography of crime. The use of GIS and other geospatial technologies to map and analyze patterns of crime is now becoming a standard tool for law enforcement and forensic science, and has spawned an area of research known as geographic profiling.

The examples above are only a few of the many areas of research informing Applied Geography. For more information, the sources below are a good place to start:


Pacione, Michael, ed. 1999. Applied Geography: Principles and Practice – an introduction to useful research in physical, environmental, and human geography. NY: Routledge.

Palm, Risa and Michael E. Hodgson. 1992. After a California Earthquake: Attitude and Behavior Change. University of Chicago Geography Research Papers, University of Chicago Press.

Park, Chris C. 1993. Tropical Rainforests. London: Routledge.

Wang, Fahui. 2005 Geographic Information Systems and Crime Analysis. Idea Group Publishing.


Applied Geography
International Journal of Environmental Studies
Landscape and Urban Planning

Web Links – for further information and resources

NASA – Global Change Master Directory – directory of sites on Earth science data and information (including applied geography related to the environment)

Association of American Geographers

Canadian Association of Geographers

Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers