Group members Megan Hill and Kate Johnson will be co-organizing a session at the 2015 AAG conference in Chicago.

The session is co-sponsored by the Geomorphology, Historical Geography and Landscape specialty groups.

The View from the Anthropocene: Measuring the Historic Human Impact on the Environment and Landscape
Organizers: Megan McCusker Hill and Katharine Johnson, Dept. of Geography, University of Connecticut
Discussant: Dr. Anne Chin, Professor, Dept. of Geography and Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Denver. Editor-in-chief, Anthropocene.

The U.S. Research Council recently identified one of their Grand Challenges as understanding “How Will Earth’s Surface Evolve in the ‘Anthropocene’?” This proposed geologic epoch has been broadly defined as the recent period of geologic history characterized by drastic and widespread changes to Earth’s surface, ecosystems, landscape, and climate by human activity (e.g., Crutzen and Stoermer 2000, Steffen et al. 2007, Syvitski 2012).

Meeting the challenge put forth by the U.S. National Research Council in 2010 requires detailed studies on past and present human interactions with earth surface processes over multiple spatial and temporal scales (Chin et al., 2013). Specific interactions can be measured within specific disciplines (e.g., climate science, geology, archaeology) however these interactions all occur within a spatial framework and thus are brought together under the discipline of Geography. Understanding these interactions from a historic perspective then provides a context for the present and future. As a result, it is vitally important to be able to reconstruct or understand how humans have transformed the earth on historic timescales, and what this means for our future.

Through this paper session, we hope to further studies regarding the Anthropocene by creating a discussion with a focus on quantifying the historic human impact on the landscape and the implications for our present and future. We seek to bring together a broad range of research interests and locations to discuss the present epoch of the Anthropocene and the many physical and spatial forms that it has taken. Papers should emphasize an analysis or critical evaluation of historic human impacts on the landscape.


Chin, A., Fu, R., Harbor, J., Taylor, M.P., and Vanacker, V. 2013. Anthropocene: Human interactions with earth systems. Anthropocene 1: 1-2.

Crutzen, P.J. and Stoermer, E.F. 2000. The ‘Anthropocene’. IGBP Newsletter 41: 17-18.

National Research Council. 2010. Landscapes on the Edge: New Horizons for Research on Earth’s Surface. The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.

Steffen, W., Crutzen, P.J., and McNeill, J.R. 2007. The Anthropocene: are humans now overwhelming the great forces of nature?. Ambio: A Journal of the Human Environment 36(8): 614-621.

Syvitski, James. 2012. “Anthropocene: An epoch of our making” Global Change Magazine 78:12-15.

The Economist. 2011. A man-made world: The Anthropocene – Humankind is becoming a geological force. Accessed 21 September 2014, published 31 May, 2011

Session Participants and tentative paper titles

  • Discussant: Dr. Anne Chin
  • Kathryn A. Catlin, “Archaeology and the Anthropocene: Soil and Scale in the Settlement of Iceland”
  • Katharine Johnson, “Quantifying the Anthropocene: the Physical and Cultural Controls on Stone Wall Construction in Southern New England”
  • Timothy Beach, “The ‘Mayacene’: Maya Mirror for the Americas”
  • Charles W. Martin, “Trace metal storage in recent floodplain sediments along the Dill River, central Germany”
  • Megan McCusker Hill, “Gullies as Markers of Holocene and Anthropocene Environmental Change in southern New England”
  • Suzanne Elizabeth Pilaar Birch, “Reconstructing human-mediated environmental change at the Pleistocene-‘Anthropocene’ transition”
  • Trisha Jackson, “Geochemical Imprints of Society in the Brazilian Amazon”
  • Simon Goring, “Shifts in ecotones position and composition throughout the upper Midwestern United States since EuroAmerican settlement”