Florence Margai is associate professor and co-chair of the Department of Geography at Binghamton University. With a Ph.D. in geography from Kent State University, Florence focuses on environmental justice and equity, spatial analysis methods, environmental pollution, and health hazards.

Professor Florence MargaiFlorence Margai is associate professor and co-chair of the Department of Geography at Binghamton University. With a Ph.D. in geography from Kent State University, Florence focuses on environmental justice and equity, spatial analysis methods, environmental pollution, and health hazards. In numerous journal articles and book chapters, she elaborates on her work, for example, with household hazardous waste, and environmental inequities such as childhood lead poisoning and learning disabilities. She co-edited Multicultural Geographies: The Changing Racial/Ethnic Patterns of the United States (Global Academic Publishing, 2003) and Race and Place: Equity Issues in Urban America (Westview Press, 2003). AAG member since 1987, Florence currently serves as the chair of the Africa Specialty Group.

Selected publications:

Margai, F.M. 2005. Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health and Health Care: A geographical review. In J.W. Frazier and Tettey-Fio (eds.) Race, Ethnicity and Place in a Changing America. Global Academic Publishing, Binghamton, NY 2005.

Margai, F.M. and L. Tuck (2004) / Exploratory Analysis of Learning Disabilities and Environmental Risk Factors. Research in Contemporary and Applied Geography: A Discussion series Vol XXXVIII No. 3

Margai, F.M. (with N. Henry). (2003) "A Community-based Assessment of Learning Disabilities using Environmental and Contextual risk factors". Social Science and Medicine, 56; pp. 1073-1085.

Margai, F.M. Using Geodata techniques to analyze environmental health inequities in minority neighborhoods: The case of toxic exposures and low birth weights. In Multicultural Geographies: The Changing Racial and Ethnic Patterns of the United States, John Frazier and Florence Margai (Eds). Global Academic Publishing, Binghamton, NY 2003. pp.263-274.

Margai, F.M. Indicators of Environmental Inequities and Threats to Minority Healthin Urban America. In Race and Place: Equity Issues in Urban America (with John Frazier, Florence Margai and Eugene Tetteyfio) Westview Press, Boulder CO. 2003 pp. 189-212.

Margai, F.M. (With J. Frazier) Multiculturalism and Multicultural Education in the United States: The Contributory Role of Geography. In Multicultural Geographies: The Changing Racial and Ethnic Patterns of the United States , John Frazier and Florence Margai (Eds). Global Academic Publishing, Binghamton, NY 2003. pp. 1-10.

Margai, F.M. (With J. Frazier), Culture, Cultural Landscapes and the Historical Contexts for Economic expansion, Immigration and Group Settlements in the United States. In Multicultural Geographies: The Changing Racial and Ethnic Patterns of the United States , John Frazier and Florence Margai (Eds). Global Academic Publishing, Binghamton, NY 2003. pp.11-30

Margai, F.M. (2001) "Health Risks and Environmental Inequity: A Geographical Analysis of Accidental Releases of Hazardous Materials". The Professional Geographer, 53 (3): pp. 422-434.

Lansana-Margai, F.M. (With J. Oigara) (2001) Evaluating the Proliferation and Impacts of Water Hyacinth in Lake Victoria. Book chapter in Issues in Africa and the African Diaspora in the 21st Century. S.N.Asumah and I. Johnston-Anumonwo (Eds). Global Publications and Africana Press. pp.109-121.

Lansana Margai F.M.. 2000. Africa. McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science & Technology, 8th edition pp.192-195.

Lansana-Margai, F.M. (1999). "Promotional Strategies for the Prevention and Proper Disposal of Household Hazardous Wastes". Journal of Environmental Systems, Vol. 27 (2). pp. 85-99.

Lansana-Margai, F.M., Walter, S., Frazier, J.W., and Brink, R. 1997. "Exploring the potential Environmental Sources and Associations of Childhood Lead Poisoning". Applied Geographic Studies, Vol. 1 (4); pp. 1-18.

Lansana-Margai, F.M. (1997). "Analyzing Changes in Waste Reduction Behavior in a Low-Income Urban Community following a Public Outreach Program". Environment and Behavior, Vol. 29 (6); pp. 769-792.

Lansana-Margai, F.M. (1995). "Evaluating the Potential for Environmental Quality Improvement in a community distressed by a Manmade Hazard". Journal of Environmental Management, Vol. 44, pp. 181-190.

Lansana-Margai, F.M. (1993). "A Comparative Analysis of Curbside Recycling Strategies in Urban and Suburban Communities". The Professional Geographer, vol. 45 (2); pp.169-179.
o Lansana-Margai, F.M. (1993). " Distinguishing Potential Recyclers From Non-Recyclers: A Basis for Developing Recycling Strategies". Journal of Environmental Education, Vol. 23 (2); pp. 16-23.

Lansana, F.M., Harvey, M.E. & Frazier, J.W. 1991. The Causal Role of Demographic, Communication and Attitudinal Factors in Recycling Behavior in Energy, The environment and Public Policy (pp.78-88) by D.L. Mackee (Ed.). New York: Praeger.

Lansana Margai, F.M. (With S. Martin) Risk Zones and Public Health Consequences for Hazardous Substance Releases Research in Contemporary and Applied Geography. Vol. 24; pp. 1-18.

Lansana Margai, F.M.. Geographic Information Analysis of Pediatric Lead Poisoning. Proceedings of GIS in Public Health 3rd National Conference, August 1998, San Diego CA.

Lansana, F.M. 1994. Integrating Waste Recovery and Reduction Systems in Low Income Urban Communities. Papers and Proceedings of Applied Geography Vol. 17 pp.122-136

Lansana, F.M., Harvey, M.E. & Frazier, J.W. (1989), Household Participation in Recycling: An Evaluation of some Policy Questions. Papers and Proceedings of Applied Geography Vol. 12 (pp.144-156).

Lansana Margai, (With J. Chung, K. Feitchingher & L. Dixon). A Spatial Analysis of Soil Lead Levels and Pediatric Lead Contamination. 1998. Research in Contemporary and Applied Geography: A Discussion series Vol. 22(4)pp.1-24.

Lansana-Margai, F.M. (With G. Turrner). Group Differentiated Perceptions and Support for Wetlands Protection and Restoration Policies. 1997.Research in Contemporary and Applied Geography: A Discussion series Vol. 21(4)pp.1-24.

Lansana, F.M. 1994. Integrating Waste Recovery and Reduction Systems in Low-Income Urban Communities. Research in Contemporary and Applied Geography: A Discussion series Vol 29 (2), 13pps.

Interview by Association of American Geographers

AAG: What inspired you to work with children and health issues?

Florence: I’ve always been interested in studying health effects of toxic chemicals, but I guess having children of my own inspired me to look at how the topic relates to children. When I first moved to New York State and had my first child, a new law had been passed that all kids had to be tested for lead. I started to read about it, and then tried to apply geography skills to that question.

AAG: What skills have you applied?

Florence: A range of skills including spatial statistical methods and GIS. Especially in urban areas there are differences in exposure to environmental contamination by race and class. I’ve explored spatial equity issues, and all of those with an emphasis on children. Children are so much more vulnerable because their rate of uptake is faster than adults, their organs are not as well developed to cope with these contaminants, and they tend to have more long-term effects from exposure, such as learning disabilities.

AAG: How do you go about doing this research?

Florence: Research that I do always starts out with a conceptual basis but I believe in going out into the field and collecting data on multiple pathways of environmental exposure. In recent years we’ve had tremendous data coming from the U.S. Census, EPA, CDC, and HUD. So being able to pull those in to build a comprehensive database from various angles and then map them is of major value. This is the strength of visualization—to actually show where this is happening. Especially in doing studies of hazards impacts and environmental justice, one also has to be able to validate these statistically, you have to be able to show that it is actually happening.

AAG: How does statistical validation make a difference?

Florence: Statistical validation provides some degree of certainty in the spatial characterization of health outcomes and race/class disparities that exist in urban environments. This helps in taking it the next step further, I think, to the policy aspect. To encourage policymakers and decision-makers to use some of these results in planning for the future.

AAG: Have you been able to accomplish this with your work?

Florence: Yes, with the lead poisoning study I was able to. I am a member of the [Broome County, New York] Environmental Management Council that monitors community environmental health issues. I was able to present some of my research there so officials could be informed about what was going on, what are the changes. They are going out to seek more funding to target these issues.

AAG: What are you currently working on?

Florence: I’ve been doing some work in Africa, also related to children’s’ issues, looking at marginal environments and how they lead to long term rates of malnutrition, especially stunting. I’m looking not only at climatological factors, political factors, but also factors within the household, like mother’s health, attributes of the child, and their impact on the health of children differently.

AAG: What research would you like to take on next?

Florence: I’d like to do more children’s health research in the U.S., because we tend to focus on food-poor nations, but here we also have issues that differ both by race and class. Here the outcomes are a little different—children who are food insecure in this country may be eating the wrong foods, so I’d like to explore that, and address some of the disparities that exist here in the U.S.

AAG: How do you make connections between research and teaching?

Florence: I’ve been lucky to have had some great students to work with. In some of the courses I’ve developed such as “Environmental Health Disparities by Race and Class,” I had students from premed and nursing. It was very rewarding having that mix of different perspectives. That allowed me to bring in some of my research and grow from that experience, and move to the next step.

AAG: What are some of the next steps for geography?

Florence: I think there is more excitement in geography today. Over the last two years, we’ve seen tremendous changes within geography. I think there is more life and spirit, partly because of the new direction that the AAG is taking, but also our ability to integrate the theoretical aspect with the tools and use those towards addressing real life issues.

AAG: What is it about belonging to the AAG that appeals to you most?

Florence: The AAG conference where you meet people, attend sessions, get new ideas... I just feel a part of the AAG community and have folks that I’ve known for years to meet again and those I’ve followed their work over the years--or that I went to school with. Every time I go to the conference I feel rejuvenated and ready to take on the next academic challenge.


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