Research Agenda

1186319_10101738354994684_721017646_n

I have a several of avenues of scholarship that I am currently pursuing, including my own research, collaboration with students on their individual research, and other collaborative projects I have built with students in courses. My topical research interests are broadly reaching within geography, but coalesce around the development and application of cutting-edge mapping techniques, inquiries into the impact of increasing technology and the geoweb on understandings of space and place, and work toward achieving social and environmental justice. Through my brief career to date, each of these areas of research have proven fruitful, resulting in the invention of new mapping techniques for which my employer is currently seeking patent protection, publications in both peer-reviewed and other outlets, the development of online mapping platforms for presentation of topics of local interest, as well as presentations to audiences ranging from professional conferences to local community and school groups. One important aspect for my areas of applied research is the ability to collaborate on these projects with undergraduate students, an important part of my teaching philosophy. I intend to continue “tinkering” with new mapping techniques, working in more broadly theoretical works critically examining the impact of technology on society, seeking opportunities to engage in issues of social and environmental justice, as well as seeking additional opportunities to engage undergraduates in collaborative research projects.

3d printed mapsMy latest completed work in new mapping techniques involves the development of processes to produce accurate topographic maps through additive manufacturing (“3D printing”), resulting in five unique cartographic production processes.  I have also been active in using cutting edge mapping technology in collaborative work with my undergraduate students, including the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, known colloquially as “drones”) for both collection of imagery and the construction of three-dimensional models of landforms and cultural landscapes. Use of UAVs and mobile mapping have also driven my development of the Tioga County Grave Mapping Project, for which I have lead students in the mapping of local cemeteries for dissemination via online mapping platforms. Using three-dimensional data collected with these UAVs, I have been further collaborating with students this semester to develop a virtual reality-based mapping environment as a means for presenting an immersive campus map to potential students.

My latest theoretical work involves critically examining the impacts of technology, specifically geolocated social media, “Big Data” and the “geoweb” to the cultural understandings of space and place. These efforts have resulted in my co-editing the volume Geography & the Geoweb, forthcoming from the University of Nebraska Press in 2016. I am also currently working on three additional theoretical papers, one exploring space and place of fatness using autoethnographic methods, one critical application of animal rights geographies, and one examining the continued development of the petroleum industry in Pennsylvania from the perspective of environmental justice. My engagement with critical work was developed at Kent State during my PhD where, under the advisement of Jim Tyner, I wrote a dissertation in which I applied the environmental justice perspective to the impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans.

Because I approach my research from a variety of perspectives, tackling both theoretical and application-oriented questions, I have become well versed in both quantitative and qualitative methodologies so that I have the appropriate tools for any problem at hand. I also use a variety of media for the distribution of my work, including traditional peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations, but also maintaining an active research blog. I have authored or co-authored six peer-reviewed publications, have contributed cartography to two others, have another paper awaiting intellectual property clearance, and three more in-progress. I have also contributed a great deal of work to publications outside the peer-review process, including all cartography for the latest editions of the Plaid Avenger’s World, an alternative world geography textbook and digital application. This publication record is notable because during this time, I have maintained a heavy teaching load between four and seven courses per semester. Since 2005, I have given 43 professional presentations of my work: 17 were invited talks, eleven were at national conferences and one was at an international conference (see My CV). My website and blog, andrewshears.com, is where I sketch out most of my research ideas; indeed, I consider myself a public scholar whose work is most useful when brought directly to the community. Though publishing there is obviously not as stringent as requirements for peer-reviewed journals, it has provided incredible exposure national and international media coverage, and some invaluable feedback from other academics among my readership.

I am hoping to continue this active research agenda in developing new mapping technologies, examining social impacts of such technologies, the student collaboration in applied research projects, and an emphasis on social and environmental justice.