Research fields in graduate studies

The Department of Geography offers three fields of research for graduate studies:

Polar and mountain environments

This field encompasses two main research areas:

  1. the study of natural processes in polar and alpine areas, focusing on the subjects of geomorphology, glaciology, geocryology (permafrost), climatology and hydrology;
  2. the reconstruction of paleoenvironments in arctic, subarctic and mountainous regions using paleoecological and biogeographical analyses.

Climate change, past and present, and its impacts, is emphasized in both areas. Advanced remote sensing and GIS expertise and facilities in the Department of Geography support this research field. Fieldwork is primarily undertaken in the Canadian High Arctic and the Yukon, as well as in Antarctica, the Andes, the Himalayas and elsewhere.

Dedicated departmental research facilities such as the Laboratory for Paleoclimatology and Climatology, the Laboratory for Applied Geomatics and GIS Science and the Laboratory for Cryospheric Research (under construction) are used for graduate student training.

Collaborations are maintained within the Ottawa region with the Geological Survey of Canada, the Canadian Ice Service, Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, Canadian Museum of Nature, Carleton University, and the Ottawa-Carleton Geoscience Centre, as well as with many universities elsewhere in Canada and abroad. 

Professors associated with this field: 

Cities, cultures and social change

This field examines the processes that create, organize, and give life to the social environments of cities and regions, and utilizes approaches that integrate French and Anglo-American social and cultural geography research traditions.

With an emphasis on integrating analyses of social practices and cultural representations (in the media, literature, and other public discourses), this field is especially interested in the multiple dimensions of place and space contestations between individuals, groups and institutions in relation to the experience of everyday life.  The interactions and relations of power between social groups in urban space, with an emphasis on minority communities, is a central concern of researchers.

Research conducted in this field addresses many contemporary theoretical and applied debates in geography, and many of the projects have direct public policy implications. The study of urban and regional processes is an important aspect of the research conducted, especially in relation to human migration, physical and social environmental quality, community politics, and socio-economic development.

Much of the research conducted examines Canadian issues, although a number of projects adopt an international perspective, especially in relation to processes of globalization.

Researchers collaborate with governmental, non-governmental, para-public and private organizations, including Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the Social Planning Council of Ottawa, Canadian Heritage and UNESCO Institution for Statistics. 

Researchers in this field utilize a number of qualitative methods such as community studies, text and discourse analysis, and interviews, as well as various quantitative, spatial and statistical analysis techniques including GIS.

Professors associated with this field:

Environmental change, risk and adaptation

This field integrates the human, physical, and geomatics aspects of the discipline through the examination of environmental change, associated risks posed to human populations, and risk adaptation strategies.  Climate change, resource degradation or depletion, and urban and rural development, as well as their potential impacts on economies, societies and human health are all areas of interest to researchers in this field. 

GIS, remote sensing, spatial analysis, survey research, environmental impact and vulnerability assessment, and policy evaluation are among the tools and approaches being employed to assess potential risks and adaptation strategies.  Understanding risks and processes of risk adaptation necessitates particular attention to the evaluation and development of informed public policy at local, national and international levels. 

Located in the nation’s capital, the Department benefits from its proximity to and collaboration with various governmental and non-governmental organizations involved in decision making processes.  These organizations include the City of Ottawa, Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada, CIDA, IDRC, and the International Institute for Sustainable Development. 

Research in this field focuses primarily on Canada, although the United States, China, and developing regions are of growing interest. 

Professors associated with this field:

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Last updated: 2009.11.18