Physical Geography

So….You Look at Rocks?

Hiking, camping and playing outside are my favourite childhood memories, and probably why I choose to study Geology. I love science and math, but being a biologist or chemist didn’t suit me. I wanted adventure, exploration and the ability to work outdoors. When you tell someone you’re going to study geology, it often follows by “Oh, how interesting…. what are you going to with that?”  or “So…. you look at rocks?” Over the past few years, these questions continue to bug me. There are so many jobs and directions you take with geography, geology or any of the geosciences. And yes, I do look at rocks, and yes they are amazing! The earth is billions of years old, dynamic, complex and full of resources, and it’s important that we understand these processes. This is why I followed my passion and finished an HBSc with a major in Geology at Lakehead University.

Rocks tell us the story of Earth’s history through their shape and chemical structures. And more importantly, they provide us with resources. If it can’t be grown and farmed, it has to be mined. So understanding how to find these resources and how they form is very important. But not only is it important, it’s fun to learn about too!

Some highlights during my four years, included a field trip to Alberta, which highlighted the processes of mountain formation, and the implications to the oil industry.  I also had the privilege of spending a whole summer working on a “Snowball” earth research project. The rocks we sampled and observed gave us clues about the environment 1.7 billion years ago, a time that scientists believe the earth was completely covered by ice. To conduct this research, I spent 2 months canoeing and camping in the interior lakes of Northern Ontario.

I also completed an honors thesis focusing on niobium mineralization and the importance of these critical metals.  To complete this work, I got to work with petrographic and scanning electron microscopes. My education was very rewarding and will allow me to go into exploration, mining, environmental sectors and many other specialized areas.

Currently, I have decided to continue my education by starting a Master’s degree at Queen’s University. This Master’s program will focus on the impacts mining has to the environment. I will study windblown tailings as a source of contaminants to surface water at a mine site in Nova Scotia.   I know I want my career to focus on environmental geology, but I also want to give back and show the importance of geology to the general public. I want others to see how amazing and important the earth is. I love how there is always more to learn, and I’m not sure where this will take me, but I can guarantee it’ll be fun.

Submitted by: Amy Cleaver

Day of Geography – Week of Events!

I can’t begin to describe how happy I am that more people continue to contribute to the Day of Geography site. It’s a labour of love and a bit of a challenge to put this all together but the amount of information that students around the world can access continues to grow.

My day this year begins at my “day job” as a Planning and GIS Data Administrator at the Niagara Region in the Long Range Planning Department of the Planning and Development Services Division. While there I’m responsible for the maintenance and updates of the iDARTS program. That is, the interactive development application retrieval and tracking system. Basically it’s a GIS that attaches planning applications to the parcel(s) of land they apply to. These can include Official Plan amendments, Zoning Bylaw applications, Subdivision/Condominium applications among others.

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This is not all I do however, I’m also the Founder and Executive Director of Geospatial Niagara and the caretaker as it were of this here “Day of Geography” initiative along with some other volunteers of Geospatial Niagara – namely Ashley and Matt.

This year, my day with Geospatial Niagara consisted of taking part in a panel discussion called Community Connects for the Brock University Co-op program. This particular panel is about careers in geography, developing interview skills, networking skills and in general promoting the geospatial technologies and information sector, especially as it relates to the growing sector in Niagara. After the presentation, I need to return to work and pick up where I left off.

In the evening, I need to put the finishing touches on my presentation to a class of Grade 10 students at Sir Winston Secondary School in St. Catharines. The organization Business Education Council of Niagara has a program that receives requests from teachers throughout Niagara for people and organizations to participate in discussions with high school students about career/educational opportunities. No surprise, I’m doing a talk about careers in Geography. It’ll be a year to the day, since the last time I was there (incidentally on Day of Geography 2014). I’m sure there will be students that remember last years presentation!

Wednesday is GIS Day! Time to head over to Brock University to watch the ESRI scholarship presentations!

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On Wednesday evening, work continues to finalize discussion ideas for the Niagara Minecraft Project Educator Roundtable discussion on November 20 and the Niagara Minecraft student hackathon on November 21. The Niagara Minecraft Project began as a thesis project in the Niagara College GIS and Geospatial Management Program in the 2014-15 school year. The goal was to convert Niagara Region geospatial data (roads, hydrology and topography) into a 1:1 scale Minecraft map similar to those completed in England and Denmark. It was one of three projects sponsored by Geospatial Niagara. Recently due to the exposure that this project has garnered, Geospatial Niagara became part of ihub – Niagara’s Educational Research and Innovation hub as a portfolio company. This greatly increases our visibility and provides greater access to the schools that make up the District School Board of Niagara. The two events being held as part of the Niagara Minecraft Project will help us to engage those teachers that want to utilize Minecraft in their classrooms to provide their curriculum, and on the following day, allow kids to have fun and experiment with the full Niagara region Minecraft Map.

My work with Geospatial Niagara is a passion that I cannot put into words. I have a vision for what it can be and over the last two years, we’ve slowly built towards that vision bringing more volunteers into the fold. In 2014, we spoke with over 650 students ranging from Grades 2 all the way to Masters students. This year we’re on target to present to over 1000 people.

We have six student projects on the go this year – three of them are at Niagara College – The Niagara Minecraft 2.0 project, the Lincoln & Welland Regiment Interactive Geospatial Visualization project and the Niagara Hops Farm Site Suitability project and three of them are through the Brock University Honours Internship program. These include the Niagara Aspiring Geoparks Economic Study, an Active Transportation Mapping study and a Niagara Geographic Education study.

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Our treeOcode Niagara project really took off this year receiving a grant back in May from Evergreen that helped us out immensely. We’ve recently also started working with a community group to provide them geospatial services and consulting, this brings us out further into the community which is another mission of ours, promoting community participation through geography.

Studying geography opens your eyes to just how big yet how interdependent everything in our world is. Geography as a discipline has never been more important than it is right now. Most challenges we face in 2015-16 and far into the future, revolve around Geography. Working for or creating your own business no matter if it’s for profit or not for profit is incredibly rewarding – doing it as a geographer seems to make it even more fulfilling.

HAPPY DAY OF GEOGRAPHY EVERYONE!! Hope you’ve had an excellent GIS Day as well. Thank you to all who participated this year.

Events at Western

Geography Awareness Week November 17-21, hospital 2014

Submitted by Kathy Tang via dayofgeography@gmail.com

This year, Western University’s Department of Geography is inspiring future learners throughout Geography Awareness Week! The Department invited local high schools to discover their world through the use of Geographic Information Systems and explore its benefits and significance throughout our everyday lives. (more…)

Geospatial Niagara – Day of Geography – Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School

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Sir Winston Churchill Selfie

Well today is the day!!! Day of Geography! The first one ever and definitely not the last.

Geospatial Niagara created Day of Geography but was inspired by the Archaeological community’s “Day of Archaeology“. The story of why, how, when can be found in the “About the Project” section.

Today was a special day because myself and six other colleagues had the fortune of making a presentation to approximately 100+ Grade 9 Geography students at a local high school – Sir Winston Churchill. Joining me on stage were Jean Tong – Director of K-12 Education at ESRI Canada, Kevin Turner – Physical Geography Professor at Brock University, Colleen Beard – Head of the Map, Data & GIS Library at Brock University, Teresa Alonzi and Amber-Lynn Schmucker from the Brock University Geographical Society and Janet Finlay – Program Coordinator of the Niagara College GIS and Geospatial Management Program.

I’d like to thank Kristen Salvas and Melanie Bourque from the Sir Winston Churchill Geography Department for making this happen. They capitalized on this event and we are very thankful. They were the first high school to take part in what I hope Geospatial Niagara can do every year, and that is bringing the possibilities of Geography to students, not only on Day of Geography but throughout the year as well

SirWinstonI am aware that there was another high school Day of Geography event and that was in Waterloo at the Waterloo Collegiate Institute being put on by my colleague Dr. Amanda Hooykaas.

The presentation began with a Jean Tong walking about what resources the students could access immediately and showed examples of various types of story maps. Thus began a journey through their education from high school through to university and post secondary education.

Next up came Kevin talking about some of the course offerings at Brock University and about his own research pertaining to climate change and its impacts in the Far North.

Colleen Beard guided the students through the Map, Data and GIS library site, illustrating some of the student created maps as well as the excellent War of 1812 Google Maps Presentation.

Teresa Alonzi and Amber-Lynn Schmucker, both from the Brock University Geographical Society (BUGS) talked about their experiences in the geography program. Interestingly enough neither of them began with geography at Brock, they found geography and switched their majors. They had found their calling.

Janet Finlay from Niagara College talked to the students about the GIS/Geospatial Management Program and about all the work (and the rewards) that entails.

The presentation wrapped up with me discussing Geospatial Niagara. What we’re all about, out vision, mission and goals.

We wrapped up with a little bit of a question period from the students which included one of my favourite questions to answer. “Why did you choose geography?”…. For me, I had some amazing teachers all the way through grade school to high school and university/college. In the long run I don’t think I chose geography. Geography chose me. But the educators that I had refined my vision and increased my passion for the subject to areas I had no idea about.

I encourage everyone professional or student, to share your love of all things geo. If you are in high school, share it with those in younger grades. If you are in college or university visit your old high school or grade school. Pay it forward…

And now the planning begins for Day of Geography 2015 – November 16, 2015 to make it bigger and better.

Cheers!

The day and life of a GIS/Data Management Specialist at MMM Group Limited

MMM Group Limited (www.mmmgrouplimited.com) is an Canadian employee owned engineering consulting firm servicing our clients in the Transportation, order Environmental, Civil, Geomatics, Water Recourses, Landscape Architecture, Planning, Airports, Renewable Energy, and IT information systems sectors.  With over 60 years of professional consulting expertise, MMM Group is a leader in large scale P3 partnerships and providing quality engineering services to our clients. MMM’s moto “Enriching the Quality of Peoples lives” was adopted in 2013 as a reflection of what one of the main goals are for all of our projects.

On a day to day basis, I manage the Environmental Management departments Geospatial information and datasets and support field staff with information pre and post site visits.  Tasks range widely from plotting GPS coordinates of POIs, monitoring locations, to mapping out areas of environmental concerns. Types of projects that I am typically involved with include: Contamination Overview Studies, Groundwater Assessments, MOE Permits to Take Water, Hydrogeological Investigations, and Phase I/II/III Environmental Site Assessments.  Mainly my job involves a lot of data collection from any source that I can get information from, managing requests from Project/Department Managers, mentoring co-op students, and providing technical geospatial help and advice to project managers about where/how GIS can help the project.

Personally, I love that I am employed in the Geomatics sector.  Since high school, I have loved GIS and seeing the cool things you can do with technology and the power it has to help make informed decisions. I like how my position merges regular everyday information with spatial technology and seeing project manager’s eyes just light up once they see the final product and what they can do with it. As all geospatial professionals know, what’s GIS with data, and the more data we collect about our world the more we understand how it works/evolves (speaking from a Physical geography major).

Thanks to my good friend/fellow colleague Darren Platakis for coming up with this idea of sharing what we do in a day to younger Geomatics professionals.  I wish I had a resource like this too see what geospatial professional do on a daily basis when I was in school. I think it’s a fabulous idea, and I hope this day and website will have an impact on our future generation of professionals so they can see how cool the industry is and how they can have an impact on the world/community they live in!

Happy Geography Awareness Week Everyone!

Of people and places

A study of people and places.’ This was how Geography was first described to me at School, and years later it still seems to me to be a good tagline for the subject. As far as I have seen, Geography is unique. It is perhaps the most multidisciplinary subject, giving you incredible potential to immerse yourself in whatever interests you most, and discover the surprising way in which different subjects fit together. It really is a poster-child for the interdisciplinary philosophy.

My name is Benjamin Laken, and I am a Physical Geographer. I studied Geography as an undergraduate degree in England at Sussex University (2004–2007), and then a doctorate in the subject, also from Sussex, 2007–2010. Since then, I worked in several postdoc research positions: firstly, for the Spanish government at an Astrophysics institute in the Canary Islands (2010–2014), and recently I moved to the Department of Geophysics at the University of Oslo, Norway. In this post, I will try to tell you a bit about what I have worked on, how I see geography and the opportunities it can bring, as well as the possible exciting future areas for people who are considering entering the field.

I will try and give some real-world examples now, from my own experience of some of the projects I have worked on. On my personal website you can find much more information about my work, including publications, presentations, tweets, and videos. For the last four years, one of my main areas of focus has been examining connections between the Earth’s atmosphere and space weather. I felt that this was an important subject, as improving our understanding of natural climate variability directly relates to our understanding of how humans impact our world.

130 000 lakes of the ECCO project covering the Fennoscandian region. We aim to project changes in the ecology and properties of these lakes with global warming.

130 000 lakes of the ECCO project covering the Fennoscandian region. We aim to project changes in the ecology and properties of these lakes with global warming.

As with any scientific research project, this meant spending a lot of time working with large amounts of data to test your ideas. Often, as was my case, a researcher may not have any experience of computer science before embarking on a post-graduate program. In the tradition of a PhD this usually means that you learn to work the way your supervisor worked, and so it was for me. Starting from FORTRAN 77, I learned to create procedural programs, from there I moved to a number of much more modern languages and methods. Today, I primarily rely on Python, Git, and some really exciting tools that let you access and process vast amounts of incredible scientific data non-locally. I found that the best tools are non-discipline specific, so you really learn skills that you could apply to any set of problems, whether its creating a scientific analysis, generating pixel-perfect figures to communicate your findings, or something more practical like building a database or website.

Today, I am working as a Postdoctorate Research Fellow on a cross-disciplinary project in Norway, called ECCO (Effects of climate change on boreal lake ecosystems). This project aims to discover the way in which the hundreds of thousand lakes across the Fennoscandian region will respond to global warming. It essentially combines the skills of hydrologists, biologists, ecologists, remote sensors, GIS, and climate modellers, to produce a detailed picture of how this critical resource will be impacted over the coming decades. My main roles in the project are to develop and run software to identify the future climate over 130,000 individual lakes selected for the project, and to examine recent changes over the lakes and their surroundings from satellite data, and identify the specific processes contributing to these responses. These lakes are a critical resource, and our findings could likely be important in influencing decision-making and policies across the region.

Within geography, you are able to take time to study a wide array of subjects, and focus on the facets of those which interest you the most. For me, this has largely been climate science, and its connection to atmospheric physics, computer science, ecology, environmental science, politics, society, statistics, physics, and many more. Geography gives you free reign to study the big picture of many disciplines, and interact with a wide range of people. You can really see this philosophy in action if you go to the biggest scientific meetings, such as the annual European Geophysical Union, where thousands of researchers meet to discuss an almost unbelievable range of esoteric topics—wherever you go there, you can be sure to find a Geographer somewhere! However, as a downside to the topical breadth of Geography, you find that the onus is indefinitely on you to go back over subjects which you may have only covered in a cursory manner, and deepen your knowledge as required. I would say that in Geography you will probably always feel like a little fish swimming in a big pond: as you become comfortable and familiar with one set of ideas and working tools, you find that the next subject connected to your work has a whole new range of practices and methods which you might want to learn to integrate and benefit from. It is really a subject that will always keep on challenging you. It can be as practical as disaster mapping, and on-the-ground relief work, or as theoretical as speculating on the environment and climate of alien-worlds. In Geography, the choice is yours!