LSU Professor Awarded Highest Honor by American Association of Geographers

February 01, 2022

Craig Colten

LSU Professor Emeritus Craig Colten

– Credit: LSU

BATON ROUGE – LSU Department of Geography & Anthropology Professor Emeritus Craig Colten is among 11 geographers nationwide bestowed the highest honor by the American Association of Geographers, or AAG. Colten is a recipient of the 2022 AAG Honors and received the Gilbert White Distinguished Public Service Honors for his many contributions as a government employee during his early career and as an academic. Colten has studied the historical geography of hazards for more than 35 years.

“This year’s recipients of AAG Honors represent a remarkable range of practice in geography, as well as dedication to public scholarship and education,” said Gary Langham, executive director of the AAG.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, as the public sought to understand the shocking devastation of one of America’s iconic cities, Colten demonstrated through many media appearances and newspaper essays just how essential historical geography is for understanding people and places. 

“It is such an honor to be recognized by my peers in the AAG for my efforts to connect the places and people in hazard-prone areas,” Colten said.

“The history of a place, particularly coastal Louisiana, is so closely tied to our culture, our sense of identity and our ways of dealing with hazards and risks such as hurricanes and floods. I must acknowledge the considerable assistance of my colleagues and students in achieving this recognition. None of us work alone.”

- Craig Colten, LSU Department of Geography & Anthropology Professor Emeritus

Since 2000, his research has focused on community resilience, adaptation to environmental change and how marginalized communities survived in Louisiana’s perilous coastal region. He serves as a senior advisor at The Water Institute of the Gulf and was its founding director of human dimensions from 2013 to 2015. 

In addition, Colten spearheaded the Human Coast Initiative at LSU and participated in research funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Academy of Sciences and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He is an AAG Fellow and earned a Ph.D. from Syracuse University. He is also the author of several award-winning books, An Unnatural Metropolis: Wresting New Orleans from Nature; Southern Waters; and Perilous Place, Powerful Storms. He and his many Ph.D. graduates continue to apply their research to support communities threatened by flooding and coastal land loss.

As one of his nomination letter writers wrote: “The highest art of an academic’s work is to be able to work within several worlds simultaneously and to directly provide voice for one’s ideas and knowledge in the halls of power and on the stage of public debate. It is a rare academic that can achieve this … highest bar of achievement that Gilbert White left for us. And it is [a] bar that Craig certainly passes at the highest level.”

Since 1951, AAG Honors, the highest honors bestowed on its members, have been offered annually to recognize outstanding accomplishments by members in research and scholarship, teaching, education, service to the discipline, public service outside academe and for lifetime achievement. The AAG Honors Committee is elected by the AAG membership and charged with making award recommendations for each category, with no more than two awards given in any one category.


About the American Association of Geographers

For more than 100 years, The American Association of Geographers, or AAG, has contributed to the advancement of geography. Members come from nearly 100 countries and share interests in the theory, methods and practice of geography, which they cultivate through the AAG's Annual Meeting, scholarly journals (Annals of the American Association of Geographers, The Professional Geographer, the AAG Review of Books and GeoHumanities), and the online AAG Newsletter. The AAG is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in 1904. For more information, visit