University of Wisconsin–Madison

Yi-Fu Tuan Lecture Archive

Yi-Fu Tuan in a classroom

The Yi-Fu Lecture Series features a wide variety of U.S. and international guest lecturers from all geographic disciplines. Lecturers at these Friday seminars also often speak at brown-bag lunches, one-on-one student sessions, and breakfast meetings with student interest groups as part of their visit. Doctoral students are invited to present their final research. The lecture series was initiated by Dr. Tuan (pictured at left) and receives enthusiastic support as a department and campus tradition.

All lectures are presented on Friday at 3:30pm in Science Hall - Rm 180 unless otherwise noted. Alumni, friends and the public are always invited to attend.

Spring 2011 Lectures

January 28 - Value, Measurement and Alienation: Making a World of Ecosystem Services
Morgan Robertson
University of Kentucky, Department of Geography

The development of markets in water quality, biodiversity, and carbon sequestration signals a new intensification and financialization in the encounter between nature and late capitalism. Following Neil Smith's observations on this transformation, I argue that the commodification of such "ecosystem services" is not merely an expansion of capital toward the acquisition or industrialization of new resources, but the making of a new social world comparable to the transformation by which individual human labors became social labor under capitalism. Technologies of measurement developed by ecosystem scientists describe nature as exchange values, as something always already encountered in the commodity form. Examining these developments through specific cases in US water policy, I propose that examining this transformation can provide political ecology and the study of "neoliberal natures" with a thematic unity that has been notably absent. I understand capital's encounter with nature as a process of creating socially-necessary abstractions that are adequate to bear value in capitalist circulation. Political ecologists struggling with the commodification of nature have tended to overlook the social constitution of nature's value in favor of explicit or implicit physical theories of value, often as more-or-less latent realisms. I suggest that critical approaches to nature must retain and elaborate a critical value theory, to understand both the imperatives and the silences in the current campaign to define the world as an immense collection of service commodities.

February 11
Anne Bonds
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Department of Geography


February 25 - Mixing of Species, Self Organization, and Ecological Surprise in Cities and Novel Ecosystems
Ariel Lugo
Director, International Institute of Tropical Forestry USDA Forest Service

We now live in a world dominated by humans (the Homogeocene era). In this era cities and human-dominated environments are particularly important to biodiversity. Today, cities contain over half of the world's population and are the source of many anthropogenic effects on the world's biota. Simultaneously, the area of pristine environments in the planet is increasingly smaller. Anthropogenic activities on Earth are resulting in new habitats and new environmental conditions including climate change. To many, the Homogeocene is an era of environmental doom that unless reversed, will result in catastrophic reductions in biodiversity. An alternate view is that the biota will adjust to the new environmental conditions and through processes of species mixing and self-organization will form sustainable novel communities of organisms. Close examination of San Juan, Puerto Rico, a tropical city, reveals a significant green infrastructure. The city contains natural and human-constructed forests, urban aquatic systems with native and introduced species, and a thriving and diverse biota adapted to urban conditions. Using examples from both San Juan and the whole island of Puerto Rico, I discuss the mechanisms of novel forest formation and how these types of ecosystems might represent the natural response of the biota to the Homogeocene. It behooves all ecologists to pay attention to the biodiversity of urban and other human-dominated environments to learn lessons about ecological persistence and adaptation to novel anthropogenic environments.

March 4 - Teaching at a Research University: A Nuisance or a Necessity, OR Reflections of a Biogeographer at Madison
Thomas Vale
UW-Madison Department of Geography, Professor Emeritus

At major research universities, teaching is often seen as a hindrance to research efforts. In my own career, I found the opposite: Teaching acted as a stimulus to research and publication. A look backward over my thirty years as a biogeographer illustrates the links between the two major responsibilities of a professor. For me, teaching was not only a welcome part of the academic life but also a vital contributor to the thinking that is the core of research.

March 25
E. Edna Wangui
Ohio University, Department of Geography


April 1 - Geographies of Justice: Conquest, Human Rights, and the Case of Awas Tingni v. Nicaragua
Joseph H. Bryan
University of Colorado at Boulder, Department of Geography


April 8 - Geography Student Symposium

The symposium will kick off at 2pm on Thursday with an opening key note address by Abigail Neely entitled 'Evaluating the Pholela Community Health Centre as a "Model for the World"' and close on Friday 8th April with a key note by former alum and physical geographer, Marie Peppler at 3:30. The symposium will take place in room 444 Science Hall apart from Marie Peppler's closing key note, which will be in room 180 This symposium will take place April 7 and 8. Read more about the closing keynote address View the symposium's information poster.

April 22 - Managing climate change impacts on biodiversity - bridging fine and coarse scales
Scott R. Loarie
Stanford University, Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution

One of the most fundamental and pervasive challenges in ecology is how to scale information from very local to very large scales and vice-versa. Understanding climate change impacts on ecosystems exemplifies these challenges as most projected future impacts are derived from global models while most observed impacts and adaptation strategies occur at the scale of individual land holdings. Drawing from examples across western North America, I will discuss applications of remote-sensing and citizen-science to harness datasets that can bridge this scale mismatch and rigorously inform regional extirpation models. In particular, I will discuss new partnerships that are transforming iNaturalist.org - a social-network for naturalists - into a global citizen-science effort to monitor climate change impacts on biodiversity.

April 29 - Re-examining the societal implications of spatial technologies: Privacy, concealment, and revelation through new spatial media
Sarah Elwood
University of Washington, Department of Geography

An ever-expanding range of 'new spatial media' are implicated in a paradigmatic shift in who makes and uses maps and geographic data, how, and for what purposes. Our cell phones can add latitude and longitude coordinates to digital photographs so we can include them in maps. Web services such as Google's MyMaps allow us to create and share our own maps. Other websites recruit us to 'crowdsource' geographic information by adding our own observations into collaboratively-produced data sets. This paper will examine the fundamental challenges these developments pose for GIScience as a field, and also present findings from ongoing research studying one small dimensions of this new environment for geographic information: its implications for the social nature of privacy around the world.