How do you become a geographer?
Do you think about the world around you in terms of spatial and temporal relationships? Do you think National Geographic is fascinating and mesmerizing? Do you wish you could join a Royal Geographic Society expedition to a remote location or thought about joining The Explorer's Club? Do you love pouring over maps, atlases, globes and thinking about all the places you have yet to discover? Do you want to understand the relationship that people have to ecosystems and their environment, and how that shapes poetry, politics, and perception? You may be a geographer. Don't worry, this condition can lead to amazing places, people, and discoveries!
The path to becoming a professional geographer is not scripted. Every geographer I have ever met came to the field almost by accident. Often, geographers study something else and then come to geography later. Sometimes people know immediately and pursue geography in academia from their undergraduate degree. The way to geography is your own way.
What does a geographer do?
Geographers do make maps and are interested in landscapes, but they also seek to better understand, analyze, and describe how aspects of the world are related, both across time and space. My work is focused on water resources, often rivers, but the geogrgaphic questions I have, while rooted in water, often incorporate anthropology, political science, international relations, communications, ecology, hydrology...to name a few areas. Geographers are renaissance people, often versed in several disciplines either through study or experience. We look at different scales, the complexity of interrelated systems, trends and patterns, and sometimes we map it. Cartography, while part of geography, is an art in itself and has developed some amazing tools for the digital age.
Tools for geographers include, but are not limited to, remote sensing, face-to-face interviews, historic documents, photographs, mapping software, empirical evidence, and scientific data collection methods both quantitative (numbers and rates) and qualitative (aspects and descriptions). Human geographers are interested in how individuals and communities interact with one another and their environments, social (political, cultural, economic) and ecological. Physical geographers are interested in how landscapes are shaped by or change and effect the natural processes contained within those landscapes. Water resources calls for both human and physical geographic research.
Geographers I know teach, conduct research, lead expeditions and explorations, help with city planning, map and analyze political demographics, manage projects, and cite energy development. There are many possibilities in this continuously growing field.
What is water security and how does it fit in with geography?
Water security is a broadly defined term used to talk about individual's rights and access to safe and fresh water to a river's quality of water to a country's motivation to go to war over water shared with another country, and everything in between. It is a term used across disciplines and is becoming increasingly popular as resources are increasingly polluted or allocated or changing due to changes in the climate. As a geographer, I look at many aspects of water security to understand pressures, advantages, and threats to water resources and the human and ecological communities that are dependent on those resources. The diversity of water security allows spatial and temporal analysis as well as considering multiple scales and different stakeholder interests in one contained idea. While water security is a relatively new field, I believe it will see broad application in geographic studies in the coming decades.