During the summer of 2015 after my first year of graduate school, I received an email from my newly chosen thesis advisor. Fortunately this turned out to be a very good email. My thesis advisor had nominated me for the Women’s Network Travel Grant given out by the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers. The grant is an award of $200 and is used to highlight outstanding female undergraduate and graduate students and to support female attendance and participation in geography. Each awardee also get one year free membership in APCG and a free lunch honoring the Women’s Network Grant recipients at the annual meeting. That year’s meeting was at Palm Springs, which I was grateful for because then I didn’t have to travel too far to get there. This year’s meeting is in Portland, OR, which even with a travel grant would have been much too far for me to attend.
Several other members of my graduate cohort attended the Palm Springs meeting as well and we traveled together. One of them even gave a presentation on her thesis research. This meeting had paper presentations as well as map displays. The first day there I enjoyed looking at the map displays and speaking with the creators of the maps. The second day was full of paper presentations. I didn’t have time to attend all of them as some were occurring at the same time.
Gondolas in Long Beach
The first one I attended was by a fellow Long Beach student, Joe Diminutto, and he presented on his thesis research titled “Cruising for a Sense of Place”. He started out by discussing the phenomenology of his research, which involved romantic locations and activities. He stated that “a place name ignites memory, etiquette, relationships, fondness and sadness”. Gondola cruising was exclusive to Italy but was brought to Long Beach in 1982. This is an example of transplantation. In other words, how romance is still connected to Long Beach gondola cruising despite not being in Italy. American gondoliers embody romance by socially constructing sense of place, place naming and place attachment (evoking emotions). American gondoliers are all ethnic backgrounds and use emotional acting to promote a romantic sense of place despite how they really feel at the time.
Native California Grasses
The second was was by another fellow graduate cohort, Rachel Vann-Foster, also discussing her thesis research on native California bunch grass. These grasses are among the most endangered ecosystems in the US. About 10% of California’s plant species have been converted to non-native annuals. Mediterranean grasses have negatively impacted the recovery of native grasses. In the case of soil, it was found that the revitalization of them was not so important for the grasses. For Rachel’s study, she used hygrochron ibuttons to record the temperature and humidity at certain time stamped intervals. An example of a native California grass is the Purple Needle Grass, while an example of an invasive species is the Italian rye grass.
Coastal Sage Scrub
The third presentation I attended was by a professor at my university, Dr. Christine Rodrigue, who discussed another native California species, Coastal Sage Scrub (CSS). CSS like other native species must do battle with invasive exotics, such as mustard, fennel and thistle. CSS’s importance is stressed even more because of how the Palos Verdes blue butterflies are dependent on them for habitat. This butterfly is also claimed to be the rarest in the world. Rodrigue mentioned how it was revealed that there are distinct boundary types between CSS and grasslands.
There is the Geosciences Diversity Enhancement Program (GDEP 2008-10), which helps to improve the research and educational experiences of underrepresented students in the geoscience disciplines (geology, physical geography, archæology, and environmental science and policy). One of the areas they have been researching is CSS and the study sites included the Santa Monica Mountains, La Jolla Valley, Serrano Valley, and Charmlee Park. What was found is that there are three types of CSS that favor the area behind recurring boundaries, three others favor stable boundaries and three more didn’t favor either types of boundaries. It was also found that few CSS species can tolerate the grasslands. CSS could possibly be capable of restoring itself. Instead of scraping and plowing the land, one could try and plant only one species that can live there.
Erasure in Slovenia
Next up was a presentation by Stuart Aitken titled, “Young People’s Emotional Geographies, Spatial Rights and Mobilities in the Context of Erasure”. He discussed the erasure of people in Slovenia. Children born in Slovenia but who have parents who were not born there are considered erased. On December 26, 1991 about 172,000 people got Slovenian citizenship under the new Citizenship Act. Those who didn’t file for this citizenship lost all of their rights starting February 26, 1992.
In 2009, there were 25,671 erased people based on figures from the Slovenian Ministry of Interior. In 2012, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Slovenia had violated the rights of the erased people. They declared that there had to be “freedom to make and remake cities”. Back in 1989, the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child discussed children as the objects of human rights (civil and political) and the subject of rights (social, economic and cultural). Two issues they noted were: child as the active self and the citizen-self as a relational, dialogical self, who gains a sense of identity through relationships.
Children being erased meant that they lose the right to education (minus elementary school), the right to healthcare, housing, and so on. These children are also bullied for being ethnically Serbian, so when they are in Slovenia they grow to hate their parents who are Serbian. Those children on their own in Slovenia try to be invisible and survive on their own. For more information on this issue, there is the Association of Erased Residents and there is Erased Week in February. One of these erased people who has spoken out about his experience is Aleksandra Todorovic. You can read more about him here.
Urbanism and Public Transportation
Another interesting presentation was given by Brain Garcia titled, “Comparative Urbanism, Ethnography and Site Analysis of Pedestrian Friendly Public Transport Neighborhoods”. He began by stating that CO2 and automobile usage goes hand in hand and when it comes to the Central Business District (CBD), it is what determines urban form. Employment centers and public transportation are also a part of this form. Mapping public transit involves examining the climate risk and climate change and how that can reduce one’s income. Deprivation was found to not have a strong relationship with climate change yet public transport areas contained high crime. In terms of pollution, rail lines were placed in heavily polluted areas but were not necessarily causing more pollution because these areas already had air pollution.
A Pedestrian and Station Amenities Survey showed that there are complex social factors surrounding what could make for pedestrian friendly public transport. Tourist destinations tend to drive ridership for public transportation and are often much more livable than employment centers found within the CBD. These tourist destinations also often have overlaps with residential and mixed-use neighborhoods.
There were many more presentations given that day and I was disappointed that I couldn’t attend them all, but am grateful that I was able to attend the APCG and learn more about what geography has to offer, especially in terms of graduate research.