Published October 3, 2022
David M. Mark, SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Geography and an internationally recognized leader in the field of GIScience, died Sept. 24 after a brief illness. He was 74.
Jeri Jaeger, UB professor emeritus of linguistics and Mark’s partner of 15 years, was by his side.
Mark joined the UB faculty in 1981 and had a major impact on the Department of Geography and the university more broadly, and his influence on the disciplines of geography, GIScience and human spatial cognition/languages was seen on an international scale. Among his many achievements, he worked with Andrew Frank, Andrew Turk, David Stea and others to establish the field of ethnophysiography — the perception and description of landforms by different cultures.
Mark served as director of the UB site of the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA), funded by NSF to UB, UC Santa Barbara, and University of Maine from 1995-2013. NCGIA helped establish a national and international presence for the burgeoning field of GIScience.
Mark’s own research began with geometric descriptions of the land surface and evolved toward ethnophysiography. Along the way, he pioneered methods for representing these landforms using digital computers, which helped usher in the field of GIScience. He and other NCGIA colleagues simultaneously developed a formal theory for spatial thinking, grounded in cognition and linguistics. His ethnophysiographic and ontological research has been a major component of the theoretical foundation of GIScience. Collectively, his work has profoundly influenced the knowledge body of GIScience and the research directions pursued in the field today.
A prolific scholar, Mark published well over 200 manuscripts that have been cited over 18,000 times. He was lead investigator on numerous large grants, including from the National Institutes of Health and two National Science Foundation (NSF) Integrated Graduate Education, Research and Training (IGERT) projects, which funded and launched the careers of about 50 doctoral students.
He was the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science Researcher of the year (2004), Educator of the Year (2009) and Elected Fellow (2010); the American Association of Geographers’ Robert T. Aangeenbrug Distinguished Career Award (2013); Simon Fraser University’s Outstanding Alumni Award for Academic Achievement (2016); and the Waldo-Tobler GIScience Prize from the Austrian Academy of Sciences (2016).
A native of British Columbia, Canada, he earned a BA in geography from Simon Fraser in 1970, an MA in geography from the University of British Columbia in 1974 and a PhD in geography from Simon Fraser in 1977. He was an assistant professor at the University of Western Ontario before joining the UB faculty.
Aside from his academic achievements, Mark was an enthusiastic “birder” for many decades. He and Jaeger traveled extensively, including to the Amazon River, the coast of Alaska, game parks in Africa, Egypt and the Nile River, and India. He added to his lifetime list of birds wherever he traveled.
In years past, David was a member of the geography department’s soccer team and goalie for the floor hockey team. Many of his teammates were his graduate students. He was a dedicated fan of the Buffalo Sabres and Bills, and went to many games with friends. Having bonded with the Bills during the Super Bowl years of 1991-94, he had been looking forward to this year with great anticipation.
Contributions in Mark’s memory may be made to Doctors Without Borders or the Buffalo City Mission.