Thank you, UW-Madison Geography!

Posted on 26 Mar 2015 by Mamata Akella

I had the honor of traveling to University of Wisconsin-Madison last week as an invited speaker for the Yi-Fu Tuan Lecture Series put on by the Department of Geography. I had an amazing time and want to highlight some of what I did during my visit. I also want to take this opportunity to thank everyone in the Department for being such gracious hosts!

UW-Madison Geography

The Geography Department at UW-Madison is really inspiring. The way in which students, faculty, and staff collaborate and teach each other is something that really stood out during my visit. The comradery is contagious and I found myself wishing I was back in grad school as part of this Department. After my visit, it is clear to me why UW-Madison alumni are some of the most talented cartographers I know.

Cartography students and staff in the UW Cartography Lab. Cartography students and staff in the UW Cartography Lab.

Yi-Fu Tuan

In addition to meeting with students, faculty, and staff, I also had the honor (and pleasure) of meeting with Yi-Fu Tuan, emeritus professor and sponsor of the lecture series. Yi-Fu is a pillar of our discipline - having pioneered the field of humanist geography and the notion of space, place, and nature in a completely new way.

What was most inspiring during my time with Yi-Fu was listening to him explain why he started the speaker series. He started it to give his colleagues in the Department a venue to share their work by creating a place where connections could be made and where everyone was aware of what was going on around them. Over the years, the series has grown into one where professionals (both researchers and practitioners) from around the world come to Madison to share their work.


My Yi-Fu talk gave a look into how NPMap is customizing open source tools to make web mapping possible for everyone at the National Park Service. I also spent a good amount of time explaining how we are incorporating the National Park Service’s graphic identity and accessibility/usability guidelines into our toolset. My slides and abstract can be viewed here.

Giving my talk in Science Hall. Giving my talk in Science Hall.

I also had the opportunity to facilitate a Brown Bag Lunch conversation about the evolution of online basemap design. On Saturday, I led an introductory Mapbox Studio workshop with 30 students. By the end of the workshop, each student had published tiles using a custom vector data source and modified the design of an out-of-the-box Mapbox Studio template to support their custom overlay.

Saturday introduction to Mapbox Studio workshop. Saturday introduction to Mapbox Studio workshop.

In Summary

This is a very brief synopsis of an incredible few days in Madison. It was good to see old friends and make new ones. I am especially excited for what the future of cartography is knowing the caliber of students, faculty, and staff around the world in Geography departments like the one at UW Madison!

Finally, I would like to give an extra special thank you to my Madison host, and friend: Professor of Cartography, Dr. Rob Roth!