Common section

Part V

The Part of Tens

In this part . . .

Lists sure are popular these days. The 20 best so and so. The 15 worst such and such. Ten, however, seems to be the most popular number. As in “The Ten Best Dressed Celebrities,” or “The Ten Most Beautiful Beaches.” In this part, you will encounter 10 geographical organizations, 10 geographical occupations, and 10 geographical things you can forget. The first two lists are kinda serious. As for the last one, well. . . .

Chapter 19

Ten Organizations for Geographic Information

In This Chapter

bulletFlying high with the APFO

bulletJoining a not-so-secret society

bulletFinding your state’s geographic alliance

A number of public and private organizations provide information, services and products of interest. Here are ten of the most noteworthy.

Aerial Photography Field Office (APFO), United States Department of Agriculture

How would you like to acquire aerial photographs of, say, your home town as it appeared in a recent year, as well as during the 1980s, the 1970s, the 1960s, and so forth? Aerial photographs are great tools for analyzing the geography of an area and how it has changed over time. And when it comes to air photos of the U.S., nobody beats APFO. This branch of the Department of Agriculture serves as the storehouse for aerial photographs of the United States produced under government backing from as far back as the 1930s. The inventory consists of literally millions of air photos, all of which are available to the public. Prices start at $6 for 9” x 9” black-and-white prints that were standard fare through the mid-1970s, and go higher for infrared prints from more recent aerial surveys. The costs are a fraction of what you would pay a local aerial survey firm for the very same thing, the difference being that APFO is a non-profit government agency.

You can visit the agency online at, or write them at USDA-APFO, 2222 West 2300 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84119-2020. Their phone number is (801) 975-3503.

American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM)

The ACSM is a non-profit educational organization made up of four member societies which serve as special interest groups: The American Association of Geodetic Surveying; The Cartography and Geographic Information Society; The Geographic and Land Information Society; and The National Society of Professional Surveyors, Inc. Its objectives are to advance the sciences of surveying, mapping, and related fields; to encourage the development of educational programs in surveying, mapping, and charting; and to support publications that represent the professional and technical interests of surveying and mapping.

This is a professional organization, so novices may feel a bit overwhelmed. However, if you are seriously interested in mapmaking, learning more about cartographic technology, or finding career opportunities and preparation in map-related fields, then familiarity with ACSM is recommended. Addi- tional information about the organization and its constituent bodies may be obtained online at You can also reach them the old-fashioned way at American Congress on Surveying and Mapping, 6 Montgomery Village Avenue, Suite #403, Gaithersburg, MD 20879. Their phone number is (240) 632-9716, ext. 108.

Association of American Geographers (AAG)

The AAG is the pre-eminent organization of professional geographers in the United States. The organization’s goals are to promote professional studies in geography and to encourage the application of geography in business, education, and government. The AAG publishes two scholarly journals (The Annals of the Association of American Geographers and The Professional Geographer), a monthly newsletter, and annually hosts a national convention and several regional meetings. Membership is not recommended for the average novice, but if you are interested in furthering your geographic education at the university level, then the AAG should be kept in mind.

The AAG maintains an informative Web site ( concerning the organization and geography in general. When you access their homepage, I particularly encourage you to click on “Careers in Geography” and browse the results. Any questions about any aspect of the AAG or geography in general? Click on “Ask a Geographer” and start typing. Don’t have a means of accessing the Internet? Write ’em a letter at AAG, 1710 Sixteenth St. NW, Washington, DC 20009-3198, or give them a ring at (202) 234-1450. Of course, you can always fax them a letter at (202) 234-2744.

National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE)

The NCGE seeks to enhance the status and quality of geography education and learning. Familiarization with this organization is recommended for anyone interested in geographic education at any level, kindergarten through graduate school. The Journal of Geography, the NCGE’s principal periodical, is published ten times a year and is devoted to research on geographic education, content articles, and classroom-ready lesson plans and activities. The Council’s newsletter, Perspective, published six times per year, provides information on learning activities, current events, educational resources, workshops, and other items related to the teaching of geography, as well as to NCGE news. The organization holds an annual meeting, the venue of which changes each year, and has available for sale a variety of monographs related to its mission.

You can learn more about this organization online at or by sending an e-mail to The NCGE’s Central Office is located at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Leonard Hall Room 16 A, 421 North Walk, Indiana, PA 15705-1087. Feel free to call them at (724) 357-6290 or fax them at (724) 357-7708. (Note: Effective June 30, 2002, the Central Office will relocate to 206 A Martin Hall, Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, AL 36265. Phone: [800] 346-5444.)

National Geographic Society (NGS)

National Geographic is more than just a magazine. Founded in 1888 “for the increase and diffusion of geographic knowledge,” the Society is by far the most visible symbol and promoter of popular geography in the United States. In recent years, the Society’s reach and influence have been augmented by its National Geographic Explorer TV series, a cable TV channel, its own magazine of travel and tourism, National Geographic Traveler, and another publication geared to the more active reader called National Geographic Adventure. Meanwhile the old stalwart, National Geographic Magazine, continues to rank among the top periodicals in terms of circulation, and has recently morphed into foreign language versions.

The Society has become a force in geographic education, as evidenced by its pivotal role in producing and promoting the National Geography Standards, its sponsorship of the National Geography Bee, and its nurturing of the state Geographic Alliance Network (see the last item on this list). The Society is also a major marketer of maps, globes, atlases, and assorted geographical paraphernalia. Information may be accessed online at, which also offers a ton of downloadable goodies. You can also call (800) NGS-LINE, or write to National Geographic Society, 1145 17th St., NW, Washington, DC 20036-4688.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

NOAA is the principal agency of the U.S. government concerned with collection, analysis, and dissemination of information about the ocean and atmosphere. As such, it offers a wealth of data regarding non-terrestrial aspects of physical geography. Its oceanic concerns involve coral reefs, tides and currents, marine sanctuaries, coastal development issues, and the effects of chemical and oil spills. Given its mandates regarding safe navigation and transportation, NOAA also engages in ocean mapping and is the country’s major publisher and supplier of nautical and aeronautical maps and charts.

Atmospherically, NOAA is probably best known as the parent agency of the U.S. Weather Service, whose official forecasts, advisories, and satellite images are standard fare for TV and radio weather reports. Climatic phenomena, such as El Niño and La Niña, global warming, climate prediction, and paleoclimatology (ancient climate patterns) fall within its scope, as well as topics about atmospheric quality and human-atmosphere interaction.

A visit to NOAA’s well-organized Web site is a great way to explore what the agency has to offer and to obtain hard-copies of their information. The online address is You can also reach them through their Public Affairs Office at (202) 482-6090, or write to NOAA, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW, HCHB 6013, Washington, DC 20230.

Population Reference Bureau (PRB)

The Population Reference Bureau provides timely information on population trends and their implications. While it markets some very fine resources pertaining to American demographics, PRB’s signature product is its World Population Data Sheet ($6, including postage and handling), an annually updated chart that includes more than 15 demographic variables for 200 countries. Other publications include the quarterly Population Bulletin, a monthly newsletter (Population Today), and the quarterly PRB Reports on America. The PRB also has an education program that produces high-quality lesson plans and classroom resources for the elementary and secondary school levels.

PRB is completely apolitical. It does not endorse or advocate positions related to population policy or controversial population issues. In short, the PRB has no agenda other than to provide the most reliable information possible, and to let the data speak for themselves. Access their Web site at or send them an e-mail at You can snail-mail them at PRB, Suite 520, 1875 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009-5728.You can always try one of their phone numbers at (202) 483-1100 or (800) 877-9881. If all else fails, send them a fax at (202) 328-3937.

United States Census Bureau

This is the place to go for information on U.S. (and, to a lesser extent, global) population geography. The census happens only once a decade, but the U.S. Census Bureau is a perennial organization with a lot to offer. Naturally, most of that is data derived from the census and organized by various geographic levels — national, state, county, city, census-tract (rather like a postal zip code), and occasionally city blocks. But the bureau is not just demographics. It provides data on housing, businesses of all sorts, foreign trade, genealogy, and other matters. Educational resources for teachers also are available.

Part of the Bureau’s mission is to make its data readily available to the general public. Accordingly, reams of information can be accessed and downloaded from the agency’s Web site,, which also provides links to more than a hundred counterparts and related agencies around the world. For general information, you can call the Bureau at (301) 457-4608, or write to U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC 20233.

United States Geological Survey (USGS)

Created by an Act of Congress in 1879, the USGS is the major science agency of the federal government concerned with our physical planet and its Earthly processes. While the name rather matter-of-factly recounts the agency’s original mission, its scope has expanded to include ecosystems, endangered species, environmental quality, and natural hazards of all sorts. The USGS is also renowned for its handsome and exquisitely detailed topographic maps of the United States, which are available to the public.

Like many other government agencies, the USGS has a public outreach mandate. And nowhere is this more evident than in its robust and well-organized Web site, Want current information on earthquakes, volcanoes, floods and wildfires? Click on CINDI, the Center for Integration of Natural Disaster Information. Want the latest assessment on global petroleum reserves, the impact of oil drilling on the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve, or the status of West Nile virus? Click on USGS headlines. General contact information is as follows: USGS National Center, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, VA 20192. Or try calling at (703) 648-4000 or (888) ASK-USGS.

Your State’s Geographic Alliance

If you are interested in geography education in your state — particularly at the K-12 level — then you should become familiar with your state’s geographic alliance. I refer to the Alabama Geographic Alliance, the Alaska Geographic Alliance, the Arkansas Geographic Alliance, and so forth. One can be found in every state, plus Puerto Rico, Canada, and the Dominican Republic. The alliance network is a product of The National Geographic Society’s Geography Education Foundation, created in the late 1980s to help resuscitate the teaching of geography in the nation’s schools. The Alliances sponsor and conduct workshops and teacher-training institutes, prepare and disseminate lesson plans and other education materials, and publish newsletters — all focusing on geography as it pertains to specific curricula in the individual states. In most cases, alliance membership is free and is the key to getting on the newsletter mailing list and finding out what’s happening in your state. A list of appropriate names and addresses is available on the National Geographic Society’s Web site. Go to, click on “Select your state” and do just that.

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