Cartography at the University of Kansas

By Pearce, Margaret W.; Slocum, Terry A. | Cartography and Geographic Information Science, July 2011 | Go to article overview

Cartography at the University of Kansas


Pearce, Margaret W., Slocum, Terry A., Cartography and Geographic Information Science


The Department of Geography at the University of Kansas has maintained a commitment to cartography as an essential geographical tradition since a cartography program was founded by George Jenks in 1949. In that postwar era, when cartography as an academic discipline began to be defined and shaped, Jenks was among the foremost influences on American cartographic research and pedagogy. Although he remained the only cartographer on the faculty until the 1960s, intellectual interest in cartography was shared by other members of the department, a tradition of intersecting cartographic influence which continues today. Among the current 24-member faculty in KU Geography, George McCleary, Terry Slocum, Jerry Dobson, Stephen Egbert, and Margaret Pearce maintain a range of cartographic research interests, from geovisualization to design and aesthetics and map history We integrate cartography with other geographical research areas, including GIS, hazards and risk, remote sensing, historical geography, spatial statistics, and Indigenous geography, according to our individual research interests.

Joining Jenks on the KU faculty in the 1970s, Associate Professor George McCleary trained as a cartographer under Arthur Robinson. When McCleary arrived at KU, he brought strong interests in map design and production. His emphasis on questions related to thematic map design, from the development of thematic technique, to the implementation of aesthetic design in print production, and the ways in which design theory and praxis can be taught, shape the KU undergraduate and graduate course curriculum. Most recently, McCleary presented his research in tourist map design at ICC 2009 in Santiago, Chile, and his research in cartographic design pedagogy at NACIS 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Department Chair and Associate Professor Terry Slocum's research traditionally has focused on evaluating the effectiveness of new display approaches, including animation, visualizing uncertainty, and stereoscopic displays. More recently, he has explored the history of thematic maps, focusing on evaluating the design of thematic maps over the course of the twentieth century. He is the lead author of Thematic Cartography and Geovisualization, a widely used textbook in cartography classes, and in 2010 received an NSF Geoscience Education grant to examine the effectiveness of stereoscopic displays in introductory physical geography classes.

Professor Jerry Dobson has been working on a number of projects of interest to the cartographic community. Prior to his arrival in Kansas, Dobson studied cartography at the University of Tennessee; he later utilized this training for his contributions to the global population database Landscan during his tenure at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Landscan continues to be a foundational thematic data source for cartographers worldwide. More recently, Dobson collaborated with colleague Peter Herlihy to develop participatory mapping techniques for the Mexico Indigena project, and with colleague Stephen Egbert on a project to develop cartographic symbolization techniques for the portrayal of the landscapes of landmines. In 2008, Dobson received the Award of Distinction from the Cartography and Geographic Information Society (CaGIS), the first Distinguished Career Award for Lifetime Achievement to be conferred by the Society.

Associate Professor Stephen Egbert trained as a cartographer under Slocum and Jenks, with interests in the development of digital interactive techniques. During the last two years, Egbert has combined his subsequent, extensive research in remote sensing with his prior work in geovisualization. This synergy is reflected not only his collaboration with Dobson on landmine visualization and with Slocum on using 3D displays in the classroom, but as well in his work with Karen Roekard on the development of geospatial genealogy, which focuses on using digitized versions of historical cadastral maps together with data extracted from historical records to visualize and uncover patterns of residence, mobility, and tenure. …

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