Bowman Expeditions

The AGS Bowman Expeditions Program provides a framework for gathering human geography data through fieldwork in foreign areas. It provides an improved understanding of foreign people and places through university-based, scholar-student research. It produces vital, open-source information that results in better understanding of people and places worldwide and practical assistance in mapping, analysis, and GIS functionality for host countries and communities.

As part of the KU-American Geographical Society (AGS) Bowman Expedition to Mexico, KU geographer Peter Herlihy and Carleton University geographer Derek Smith discuss community cadastral property records with indigenous surveyors.


The American Geographical Society sends teams of geographers to foreign countries to:

  • Build a comprehensive multi-scale geographic information system (GIS) for each region
  • Collect open-source GIS data
  • Conduct participatory research mapping (PRM) to help residents learn to use geographic Information systems (GIS) to document their own knowledge of lands and resources
  • Build lasting relationships among American and foreign scholars and institutions
  • Conduct geographic research on issues of national interest to the United States and host countries
  • Train a new cadre of regional experts
  • Disseminate GIS data freely to the public
  • Publish results in scholarly journals and popular media.

Our purpose is to improve U. S. understanding of foreign lands and peoples and, thereby, to

  • Reduce international misunderstandings
  • Provide a knowledge foundation for peaceful resolution of conflicts
  • Improve humanitarian assistance in case of natural disasters, technological accidents, terrorist acts, and wars.

We aim to revitalize world human and regional geography. Prior to 1945, these were vital components of understanding in America as in the rest of the world today. We aim to revive America’s knowledge of foreign lands and peoples and improve it with modern theories, methods, and automated information technologies.

Each project is called a Bowman Expedition in honor of former AGS Director Isaiah Bowman who served as President Wilson’s geographer in World War I and President Roosevelt’s geographer in World War II.

Bowman Expeditions have been conducted in the following countries and world regions:

Based on the highly acclaimed successes of these separate projects, AGS proposes to establish a cohesive program covering many countries around the world. All Bowman Expeditions are conducted in partnership with universities. To date, about a dozen different universities have been involved.

For internal guidance, AGS formed an Advisory Committee to advise and consult on the AGS Bowman Expedition Program. It consists of leading scholars, eventually including foreign scholars. The Advisory Committee held its first meeting on September 14, 2011 in Lawrence, Kansas, to develop directives for the program. All subsequent meetings and discussions have been electronic.

AGS Bowman Expedition Advisory Board

  1. Dr. Leon Yacher, University of Southern Connecticut
  2. Dr. Andrew Sluyter, Louisiana State University
  3. Dr. Geoffrey Demarest, Foreign Military Studies Office
  4. Dr. Peter Herlihy, University of Kansas
  5. Dr. Thomas Klak, University of New England
  6. Dr. David Keeling, Western Kentucky University
  7. Dr. Marie Price, George Washington University

If you want to know more about this program, check out FOCUS on Geography’s special issue on Bowman Expeditions.

To read the AGS Guidelines for Ethical Conduct of Foreign Field Research, click here.

We seek funding from all sources (private donors, foundations, and government agencies) to continue and expand this vital effort.