Seminar Series 2020
GeoSpectives is the lecture series hosted by the Department of Geography. Talks are in Burnside Hall, Room 426, normally on Fridays, 12 noon to 1 p.m. unless stated otherwise.
Date: January 31, 2020, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Advances and challenges in Blue Carbon science and policy
Prof. Gail Chmura
Department of Geography
Blue carbon is the organic carbon (OC) stored in salt marshes, mangroves and seagrasses. The soils of these ecosystems have been recognized as the world’s most efficient carbon sinks due to their largely negligible emissions of greenhouse gases and soil carbon stocks that have been accumulating for millenia. In 2013 the IPCC published default global greenhouse gas emission factors associated with land use change such as drainage, reflooding (i.e., restoration), and transformation for aquaculture affecting blue carbon habitats to be used in national greenhouse gas inventories under the UN Framework on Climate Change. These emission factors also can be part of the methodology for assigning carbon market credits using the Verified Carbon Standard. Both programs require knowledge of the source and fate of the OC. This presentation reviews what we know about blue carbon in salt marsh sediments and the research needed to justify its sale on carbon markets.
Date: February 14, 2020, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Conceptual Maps in Dionne Brand’s A Map to the Door of No Return
Prof. Nalini Mohabir
Department of Geography, Planning and Environment
How do find your way back using a map with orientation, yet submerged destination? Dionne Brand explores the dilemmas of history, memory, and geography in A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging (2001), charting a journey that begins in Trinidad, weaves through Canada, recalls Africa and intersects with India. Hers is a geographically-attuned project, yet the explicit mapping techniques of this celebrated text has yet to be discussed. I will be discussing the possibilities and limits of conceptual maps of Black geographies located in this memoir.
Date: February 28, 2020, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
When relative motion changed our answer: surprising stories from ecology, evolution, and human history.
Dr. Ty Tuff
Once upon a time, the study of animal migration was as rich with lore as Greek mythology. People thought that migrating birds hibernated at the bottom of lakes over the winter months or bloomed from flowers each spring. Some believed that birds flew to the moon to stay warm, while still others suggested they turned into mice. Theories surrounding the origins of seasonal birds accumulated rapidly, until a fateful day in 1822, when a white stork crash landed outside of Rostock, Germany with a hand-carved arrow piercing its neck. Researchers tracked the arrow’s origin to a single tribe in central Africa, who had made the arrow from a local wood and shot the bird months before. This African arrow in the neck of a German migrating stork was the beginning of an entirely new way of thinking. This famous stork, known as Rostocker Pfeilstorch (now stuffed and on display at the University of Rostock), inspired the development of bird banding and animal telemetry, which radically accelerated our understanding of global movement and the connections between ecology and geography. Over time, scientists came to realize that space was its own ecological mechanism and that migration provided the valuable function of stitching geographic space together. For me, this story underscores just how important it is to consider space, time, and the movement connecting them when studying patterns in the natural world. It was impossible to understand the notion of bird migration until we scaled up our thinking to include travel to far-away places. I can’t help but wonder…
Date: March 13, 2020, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Urban as palimpsest: Neoliberal environments, fishing livelihoods, and toxic landscapes in Mumbai, India
Dr. Aparna Parikh
Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
This talk illustrates the conceptual and representational significance of the palimpsest to analyze urban transformations over time. The growth of Mumbai’s service sector has entailed the reworking of urban peripheries. Here, I analyze how Malad, formerly a periphery dotted with fishing villages, became a service sector hub and an area epitomizing Mumbai’s urban modernization. I use a series of digital collages to illustrate Malad’s urban morphological changes in the twentieth century. Each collage forms a palimpsest layer that make visible the environmental and livelihood damage that is otherwise absent in the dominant urban narrative. Through the palimpsest, embodied associations of the environment and of loss are uneasily juxtaposed with narrower neoliberal conceptions of sustainability that frame service sector development. I argue that a palimpsestic analytic can represent the power nexus embroiled in transforming urban environments and resultant erasures in embodied associations of indigenous communities.
Date: March 27, 2020, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Biogeochemical, Microbial and fire controls on carbon Storage and cycling in Peatlands
Prof. Curt Richardson
Distinguished Professor of Resource Ecology
The primary mechanisms responsible for peatland formation in boreal regions are typically attributed to cool and uniformly wet soil conditions that limit microbial respiration. However, peatlands are widespread outside of boreal regions and continue to accrete carbon despite higher temperature, seasonal drying of root-zone soil strata and recurring patterns of wildfire. This implies additional regulatory mechanisms constrain rates of organic matter decomposition and are often one of the primary controllers of carbon accretion in subtropical and tropical peatlands. Biogeochemical and biological mechanisms that down-regulate decomposition rates in peatlands to be discussed are: (1) higher production of polyphenolic and aromatic compounds in the litter of low-latitude shrub/tree communities than found in northern Sphagnum/Carexcommunities and (2) selective removal of labile carbon and buildup of recalcitrant pyogenic OM (hydrochar) produced by frequent low-intensity wildfires in the native-fire-adapted wetland communities, (3) dominance of slow-growing vs fast growing microbial populations and related decomposition rates. These often overlooked factors greatly influence carbon cycles in peatlands, which is relevant to global carbon budgets as climate-change alters peatlands worldwide.
Date: April 17, 2020, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Simulating and understanding forest landscapes as complex ecological systems: opportunities and challenges
Prof. Liliana Perez
Department of Geography
An important ecological, cultural, and commercial natural resource, forests landscapes are shaped by important disturbance processes. Natural disturbances such as wildfires and forest insect outbreaks can have a significant impact on forest age structure and species composition, influencing timber supply, habitat availability for many plant and animal species, and the potential for future disturbances. Dynamic modelling and simulation of the spatial behaviour of these disturbances are important when designing adaptive management strategies. Although forest landscapes are prime examples of complex systems, less than a decade ago, complex systems science was seldom invoked in forest ecology or forestry. During my presentation, I will talk about how forest ecosystems have been started to be framed in terms of complex adaptive system properties, and I will present some study cases to illustrate the opportunities and challenges researchers face when using complex systems modelling approaches to understand the complexities of forest landscapes.
Date: September 20, 2019, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
The Unforeseen Metabolic Constraints on Carbon Storage in Soils
Prof. Marco Keiluweit
Stockbridge School of Agriculture
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Soils represent the largest and most dynamic carbon reservoir within terrestrial ecosystems. Mechanisms controlling the amount of carbon stored in soils and its feedbacks to the climate system, however, remain poorly resolved. Global carbon models assume that carbon cycling in upland soils is entirely driven by aerobic heterotrophic respiration; the impact of anaerobic microsites prevalent even within well-drained upland soils is missed within this conception. In this presentation, I will show that anaerobic microsites, ubiquitous in even well-drained upland soils, are important regulators of soil carbon storage. I will demonstrate that microbial metabolism in anaerobic microsites shifts to less efficient anaerobic respiration, thereby protecting otherwise bioavailable, reduced organic compounds from decomposition. I will further explain how such metabolic constraints may be responsible for the selective preservation of microbially-derived compounds in upland soils globally. Finally, I will discuss the vulnerability of anaerobically protected soil carbon to future climate or land use change and argue that it constitutes a yet unrecognized positive soil carbon-climate feedback mechanism that should be quantitatively incorporated into earth system models.
September 27, 2019, 12:00pm - 1:00pm (Cancelled)
Contesting the Vietnam state’s imaginary: Slow mobilities and survival strategies on Hanoi’s city streets.
Prof. Sarah Turner
Department of Geography
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam’s central government and Hanoi’s municipal authorities are currently conceiving a capital city replete with orderliness, cleanliness, and security. This state imaginary privileges ‘modern’ mobilities with highways, expressways, and an elevated metro all being championed, while so called ‘traditional’ means of movement such as motorbikes, bicycles, or handcarts are being strongly discouraged and increasingly marginalised. Specific policies now threaten the livelihoods of thousands of informal workers including street vendors and motorbike taxi drivers (locally known as xe ôm). Drawing on mobilities and everyday politics literatures, and ethnographic fieldwork in Hanoi with street vendors, xe om drivers, and other relevant actors, I unpack the critical resistance strategies and negotiations vendors and drivers now draw upon as they strive to maintain mobile livelihoods despite threats of state sanctions and exclusion.
Date: October 18, 2019, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Towards Sustainable Mobility
Prof. Harvey Miller
Department of Geography
The Ohio State University
Modern humans enjoy mobility levels that are unprecedented in history. For example, in 1919 it would take a trip of 5 to 10 days to make the journey from London to New York city, a trip that today takes only 7 hours. Also, in the 17th century the citizens of The Netherlands traveled only 40 kilometers per year on average. In the 21st century, they travel that much per day. While the mobility revolution has benefits, it also has enormous social, health and environmental costs. In this lecture, I will discuss how resolving these costs is crucial if civilization is to survive the 21st century — a world that will see 10 billion people, most of whom will crowd into cities. I will also show examples from our research on new measures and methods for evaluating and understanding the benefits and costs of mobility technologies and services.
Date: October 25, 2019, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Location: Redpath Museum (Not Burnside Hall)
Biological stoichiometry of nutrient limitation in ecology, evolution, and sustainability
Prof. Jim Elser
Flathead Lake Biological Station
University of Montana
Biological stoichiometry is the study of the balance of energy and multiple chemical elements in living systems. This talk will introduce some of the basic principles of stoichiometric theory and apply them to understanding the occurrence and impact of nutrient limitation in ecological and evolutionary settings using examples from both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Finally, the talk will deal with how nutrient limitation might itself shape the long-term sustainability of human society, focusing on issues related to phosphorus and its role in agriculture and water quality.
Date: November 1, 2019, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Optimizing democracy: An experiment in civic engagement across Los Angeles
Prof. Michael Shin
Geography & Geospatial
University of California, Los Angeles
Civic engagement is an important feature of democracy. Voter turnout is often used as a proxy for civic engagement, a barometer of the quality of a democracy, or an indicator of the legitimacy of an election. This project evaluates the potential of text messaging to increase levels of voter turnout across Los Angeles, a city that is famous for its weather, traffic, and political apathy. A geographic perspective is used to frame and evaluate the results from a field experiment designed to mobilize voters across Los Angeles. By offering insights into political indifference and mobilization across Los Angeles, fundamental questions surrounding civic engagement and democratic practice are addressed. Moreover, the experiment raises numerous ethical questions surrounding the convergence of technology, data, and democracy.
Date: November 8, 2019, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Feminist City: A Field Guide
Prof. Leslie Kern
Geography & Environment and Women's & Gender Studies
Dr. Leslie Kern will read from her new book, Feminist City. This book focuses on gendered experiences of the city, grappling with the challenge of claiming urban space amongst barriers designed to keep women “in their place.” From the geography of rape culture to the politics of snow removal, the city is an ongoing site of gendered struggle. Yet the city is perhaps also our best hope for shaping new social relations based around care and justice. Taking on fear, motherhood, friendship, activism, and the joys and perils of being alone, Feminist City maps the city from new vantage points, laying out a feminist intersectional approach to urban histories and pathways towards different urban futures. Feminist questions about safety and fear, paid and unpaid work, and rights and representation prompt us to dismantle what we take for granted about cities and open space to ask how we can build more just, sustainable, and care-full cities together.
Date: November 12, 2019, 1:00pm - 2:00pm (Different Location: Burnside Hall 511)
GIS Day Keynote: Prospects for Geo-spatial Data on Interpersonal Relationships
Prof. Clio Andris
City and Regional Planning and Interactive Computing
Like people, relationships between people are embedded in geographic space. Studying these relationships may be complicated due to the different ways we maintain and create ties via everyday interactions, long-distance travel and digital communications. Nevertheless, it is important to include this crucial data layer in our GISystems. Prof. Andris will review five geometric data structures representing (1) vectors of relationships between individuals; (2) ego-based and extensibility configurations and metrics; (3) points of interest and their suitability for fostering relationships; (4) administrative units; and (5) social regionalization & cost surfaces. She will use these to answer the following questions: How can we inventory geographic spaces now and in the future with relationships in mind? How can we create metrics that better reflect the human experience and quality of life? Which kinds of spaces and places successfully support social ties? What are the natural boundaries of social groups? What kinds of relationships are sewing together segregated parts of a city?
Date: November 22, 2019, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Local sustainability challenges of a global fungus trade
Prof. Kelly Hopping
Boise State University
Rural areas throughout the Himalayan region are being transformed by distant demand for caterpillar fungus (Ophiocordyceps sinensis), a parasitic, alpine fungus that has become one of the most valuable biological commodities in the world due to its use in Chinese medicine. Its skyrocketing value has created lucrative new livelihood opportunities for harvesters, but also raised concerns over whether this resource is being harvested sustainably. Here, I will present results from my interdisciplinary investigation of the sustainability of the caterpillar fungus trade, including evidence that climate change and natural resource management institutions are key factors in determining which areas are most vulnerable to overexploitation.
Date: January 25, 2019, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Sulphate and mercury methylation in northern peatlands: 20 years of insights and applications
Prof. Brian Branfireun
Department of Biology and Centre for Environment and Sustainability
Although processes governing the formation of methylmercury in the environment are conceptually well understood, understanding mercury methylation at the landscape scale continues to present both scientific and management challenges. This seminar will present recent work linking sulphate supply to methylmercury formation in northern peatlands, focussing on the role of groundwater-surface water interactions, wastewater discharges, and mine rock leaching on mercury methylation. Prof. Branfireun will show that in profoundly sulphate limited peatlands like those in the far north, even small additions of sulphate rapidly stimulate methylmercury production, raising questions about threats to aquatic ecosystems due to both climate and land-use change in the north.
Date: March 15th, 2019, 12:00pm - 1:00pm (Rescheduled from Feb 22)
Producing Space: Urban Agriculture and its Contradictions in Portland and Vancouver
Prof. Nathan McClintock
Urban Studies & Planning
Portland State University
In this talk, Prof. McClintock will provide an overview of a collaborative book project culminating from a three-year study of urban agriculture in Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, BC, two cities renowned for their innovations in urban sustainability. This comparative study of food production in the two cities reveals how formal policymaking and the everyday governance and politics that produce urban agricultural spaces can both reproduce and contest the entrepreneurial logics of so-called sustainable cities and the eco-gentrification that has become a defining characteristic of green urbanism.
Date: March 29, 2019, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Environmental Rule and Ecological Restoration in the Anthropocene: Lessons from Vietnam
Prof. Pamela McElwee
Department of Human Ecology, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences
In a recent book, Forests are Gold: Trees, People and Environmental Rule in Vietnam (U of Washington Press, 2016), I used a history of forest policy in Vietnam to develop and conceptualize the idea of environmental rule, whereby states, organizations, or individuals use environmental or ecological reasons as justification for what is really a concern with social planning. In this talk, I zero in on how environmental rule relates to ecological restoration, using case studies from both Vietnam and elsewhere, to examine how political and social factors often play a more important role in where restoration is attempted than ecological or edaphic ones. I will conclude with a discussion of what challenges restoration in the Anthropocene faces, and how we can overcome the influences and impacts of environmental rule.
Date: April 12, 2019, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
The New, the Same and the Ugly: Extractivism in Latin America and beyond
Prof. Anthony Bebbington
Graduate School of Geography
Over the last two decades, extractive industries and extractivism have become increasingly transformative components of Latin American social, political, economic and cultural landscapes, albeit in ways that differ among countries. Indeed, nature, its governance and its exploitation, should be a central concern in contemporary political economy of the region as well as in thinking about alternatives. Given this centrality, it is important to understand the conditions under which political innovations can emerge that foster ways of governing extractive industry such that it is less likely to lock countries into particularly exclusive and destructive forms of elite politics and development. This explanatory challenge goes well beyond Latin America, and indeed there are striking similarities between processes unfolding in Latin America and elsewhere. This talk first elaborates these claims, and then explores two “cases” that offer differing insights into the forms and consequences of extractivism in the region, and ways in which a range of social and political actors have responded to these. Prof. Bebbington uses the cases to develop a simple framework for conceptualizing the emergence of (progressive) innovations in the governance of extractivism.
Date: September 14, 2018, 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
Commons, Co-ops and Corporations: Indonesia's 21st Century Land Reform
Prof. Tania Li
Department of Anthropology
University of Toronto
In Indonesia, as elsewhere in the global south, twentieth century land reform hinged on the figures of the landlord and the peasant, whose interests were understood to be opposed. Twenty-first century land reform is assembled from different elements, notably commons, co-ops, and corporations, and diverse actors with interests that conveniently seem to align. For different reasons, commons and co-ops are favoured by indigenous land rights activists, World Bank land experts, climate scientists, and advocates of the "peasant way" seeking non-capitalist alternatives. Corporations are eager to be re-positioned as benevolent partners and champions of the poor. Yet the promise of egalitarian, co-operative communities, nurtured by corporations and a reform-producing state is disrupted by class differentiation among the people, and the crony-corporate cabals that reach into every layer of Indonesian society. In Indonesia and elsewhere, attempts to render land reform technical and non-political run into serious limits, and underlying injustice remains unresolved.
Date: October 12, 2018, 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
Discourse and practices of a “digital sovereignty"
Prof. Georg Glasze
Institute of Geography
Friedrich-Alexander University, Erlangen-Nuremberg
Until very recently, digitization was predominantly seen as an element and driver of globalisation, of de-territorialisation and of a more and more borderless world. However, since a few years there are also other voices. In Germany and some other European countries, but for example also in Canada, in Brasilia or in Russia, there are voices calling for “digital sovereignty”. The presentation will discuss this discursive shift on the basis of an analysis of political and public debates in Germany. Two central narratives can be differentiated: voices calling for more digital sovereignty in the sense of territorial delineation thus breaking with the globalisation narrative as well as voices calling for more digital sovereignty in the sense of a strengthening of “digital competencies” within the global economic competition.
Date: October 19, 2018, 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
DisplacingBlackness: Planning, Power, and Race in Twentieth-Century Halifax
Prof. Ted Rutland
Department of Geography, Planning, and the Environment
Urban planning has long been seen as a way of improving human life through spatial means. But what if planning's commitment to human life is the cause of, rather than solution to, the destruction that it often causes? What if the human being, as planning conceives it, is more limited and race-specific than it might seem?This presentation examines a century of planning history in the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Focusing on a series of planning initiatives that sought to protect or improve human life, is shows how planning's conception of the human being relied on particular distinctions between the normative and the pathological, and how Black life – and, thus, Halifax's longstanding Black population – was continually placed outside planning's vision of human flourishing. Drawing connections between the history of urban planning and emerging scholarship on anti-blackness, this presentation locates an anti-Black conception of the human being at the core of modern planning practice. Displacing blackness, expelling blackness from the sphere of the human, is integral to the operation of modern planning – not just in black neighbourhoods, but across the urban terrain.
Date: October 26, 2018, 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
Reclaiming the Oil Sands: Can We Put the Peatlands Back?
Prof. Maria Strack
Department of Geography and Environmental Management
University of Waterloo
Oil sands deposits in Alberta cover over 142,000 km2 of boreal forest and represent one of the largest oil reserves in the world. Many of these oil sands deposits are located in areas rich in peatland cover, often account for over 50% of the landscape. Open pit mining completely removed all surface materials (up to 75 m) such that reclamation requires reconstruction of entire landscapes, but covers only 3% of oil sand surface area. Deeper deposits can be recovered using in site methods that involve the construction of a network of roads, pipelines and well-pads. In either case, large areas of peatland are disturbed and several projects are now investigating construction and restoration methods to return functioning peatland ecosystems to the post-extraction landscape. Using case studies from around the province of Alberta, reclamation methods will be discussed. Overall, wetland and peatland plants can be established on reclaimed peatland ecosystems and sites quickly act as growing season C sinks; however, shifts in peat chemistry related to oil sands specific disturbance result in novel biogeochemical conditions on site.
Date: November 2, 2018, 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
Title: “But how do you position yourself in your research?”: Gendering the politics of positionality in Geography.
Prof. Yvonne Te Ruki-Rangi-O-Tangaroa Underhill-Sem
Development Studies and New Zealand Institute for Pacific Research
University of Auckland
The concept of positionality is deeply embedded in feminist geography, in geographies of indigeneity, and in development geography. It has provided for the close scrutiny of the long history of knowledge being created by “all-knowing, all-seeing, disembodied researchers”. So, why is there are need to still be asking the question of positionality in 2018? By understanding positionality, it is possible to see how the world comes to be understood and known from different social locations. This is not a problem except that more work is needed to ensure a diversity of positions – at present the positions are too narrow. And this is not an innocent narrowing, I argue that it is part of a particular gendering of the politics of positionality. As a scholar of Pacific heritage, development is my context and indigeneity is my compass. Working with the concept of positionality, and associated concepts of intersectionality, assemblage and embodiment, I seek to explain the gendering of diverse spaces of development geographies in the Pacific. In the process I traverse issues including climate change, labour mobility, and gender inequality.
Date: November 23, 2018, 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
Title: Inclusive growth in cities: A sympathetic critique
Dr. Neil Lee
Department of Geography and Environment
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
The concept of “Inclusive Growth” – a concern with the pace and pattern of growth – has become a new mantra in local economic development. Despite enthusiasm from some policymakers, others argue it is a buzzword which is changing little. This talk, summarises and critiques this agenda. There are important unresolved issues with the concept of Inclusive Growth, which is conceptually fuzzy and operationally problematic, has only a limited evidence base, and reflects an overconfidence in local government’s ability to create or shape growth. Yet, while imperfect, an Inclusive Growth model is better than one which simply ignores distributional concerns.