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Faculty Profile 2011

Dr. Li An

A one-week sightseeing and driving venture with my wife Yanqun started at Ann Arbor, Michigan, and passed through Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, …, bringing us all the way down to San Diego in June, 2005. That summer, I joined the faculty of SDSU Geography and well, started enjoying the nicest climate and one of the top housing markets in the USA. It was an exciting start after the five-year (1998-2003) journey for my doctoral degree at Michigan State University, and a two-year (2003-2005) hike for my postdoctoral experience at the University of Michigan.

SDSU Geography has nurtured my continued professional growth. A platform was given to me to interact with students through my teaching in Quantitative Methods in Geography, Spatial Data Analysis, Landscape Ecology, and Landscape Modeling. I feel grateful to many colleagues here, including Drs. John Weeks, Art Getis, John OíLeary, and Serge Rey, for their advice and unselfish sharing of teaching materials.

Map of Chitwan National 
      Park, Nepal SDSU Geography has facilitated expanding my research, bringing a veritable “zoo” of fantastic animals into my office and my life: from pandas (my dissertation focus) to also include tigers, rhinos, and golden monkeys. This expansion has deepened my research on landscape ecology through incorporation of more remote sensing, GIS, behavior ecology, and human geography components. Since Ph.D. student Alex Zvoleff and M.S. student Gabriel Sady joined my tiger/rhino NSF project, substantive research has been devoted to understanding how micro-level human decisions and demographic processes may interact with land cover change as well as the habitat of tiger/rhino habitat over time in Chitwan National Park, Nepal (right photo; Courtesy: Alex Zvoleff and Neil Carter).

Map of Wandersee's study 
      area in Fanjingshan National Natural Reserve, China One bifurcation along this major research line is my golden monkey project that focuses on species habitat use and interaction with human activities, policies and local livelihood, and space-time changes of land cover at Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve, China (left photo). With contribution from Ph.D. student Sarah Wandersee, this project is deepening to target sustainability of the entire coupled human and natural system. With my research teamís multiple visits to the reserve (photo lower right), a Chinese delegationís visit to San Diego in 2009 (photo lower left), and the signing of a Partnership Agreement between SDSU and the reserve, we have built the infrastructure for comprehensive research, education, and outreach activities for many years to come.

Chinese delegation meeting 
      at the San Diego Zoo Dr. An in China 
      dancing with traditional dancers

Also intriguing to me is complexity theory as well as its application in human-environment interaction and land use and land cover change research. Many systems on the Earth are truly “complex”, e.g., with heterogeneous features, feedback and adaptation, and nonlinear relationships. Also imperfect sampling, data noise, choice of inappropriate statistical models, etc. are adding to this list of complexities. A pseudo-history space-time analysis project, building upon an agent-based model and the various maps it produces with different input, has been conducted to tackle these problems. Ninghua Wang (PhD student), bringing in expertise from computer science and statistics, has produced many intriguing results in this project.

SDSU Geography has stimulated the formation of my research agenda characterized by Space-Time Analysis of Complex Systems (STACS). With support from many colleagues, this agenda has witnessed broader efforts in exploring the space-time dynamics of cyber space through a newly funded NSF project with Dr. Ming Tsou, studying health inequalities in Accra through an NIH funded project with Dr. John Weeks, and mapping local indigenous peopleís daily activities with Dr. Stuart Aitken and land use and land cover change with Dr. Doug Stow in Fanjingshan through various projects. Other pursuits under this agenda include organizing an AAAS symposium and guest-editing a special issue of the journal Ecological Modeling.

SDSU Geography also brings lots of fun and many meaningful opportunities to my life: department retreats, weekly colloquia and subsequent receptions in the balcony, various service opportunities… “God bless SDSU Geography! May you ever be young and healthy”—my sincere wishes from the depth of my heart.

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