Geospectives (Archives)


Seminar Series Archives

GeoSpectives is the lecture series hosted by the Department of Geography. Talks will take place using the Zoom video conferencing platform Burnside Hall, Room 426, normally on Fridays, 12 noon to 1 p.m. unless stated otherwise.

Winter 2022

Date: January 28, 2022, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Supporting Sustainable Permafrost-agroecosystems by Co-producing Knowledge with Alaskan and Siberian Farmers with the Permafrost Grown Project
Dr. Melissa Ward Jones
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Zoom Link
Abstract: A warming Arctic is benefitting the northern expansion of agriculture. Suitable land area within the discontinuous permafrost zone is expected to increase with opportunity to grow globally important crops. A warming Arctic is also driving the rapid degradation of near-surface permafrost that impacts ecosystems, communities, economies, and industry sectors. Understanding the interactions between permafrost and cultivation practices within permafrost-agroecosystems, has received little attention to date. The following presentation will discuss the evolution of high-latitude agriculture with a focus on the Greater Fairbanks Area, Alaska, USA and provide an overview of the recently funded Permafrost Grown Project.
Bio: Melissa Ward Jones is a Permafrost Geomorphologist in the Water and Environmental Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She is interested in the causes, consequences and significance of geomorphic change and the resulting system responses within permafrost environments. She completed her B.Sc. (2012), M.Sc. (2016) and Ph.D. (2020) in the Department of Geography at McGill University and was heavily involved in outreach activities including six years as a co-organizer for the McGill Sustainability Research Symposium. She has conducted fieldwork on Axel Heiberg and Ellesmere Islands, Canada, Svalbard, Norway, and throughout Alaska, USA.

Date: February 18, 2022, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Quality matters for water scarcity
Prof. Michelle van Vliet
Utrecht University
Zoom Link
Abstract: Water scarcity threatens people in various regions, and has predominantly been studied from a water quantity perspective only. In this presentation I will discuss global water scarcity driven by both water quantity and water quality issues, involving water temperature, salinity, organic pollution, nutrients and faecal coliform. In addition, I will show to what extent expansions in water technologies can reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity as required by UN’s SDG6. Our results show that expanding desalination and treated wastewater reuse can potentially strongly reduce water scarcity especially in hotspot regions such as eastern China and India, although the side effects (e.g. brine, energy demand, cost) should be considered.

Date: February 25, 2022, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
SNAp-ping for answers – How to study the migration of phosphorus through the soilscape
Dr. Christoph Weihrauch
University of Wuppertal
Zoom Link
Abstract: Elements (e.g. phosphorus) migrate vertically through soil profiles, but also laterally through the soilscape. This can result in spatial patterns of element distribution across the landscape that influence vegetation patterns and environmental quality. This is of particular interest for soils at the land-water interface, whose element contents may contribute to pollution of aquatic ecosystems. However, studying the migration of elements through the soilscape is methodologically difficult. We are often unable to identify element distribution patterns at the soilscape level and their potentially detrimental effects. I introduce the Soilscape Network Approach (SNAp) as a potential solution to this methodological-analytical challenge.

Date: March 18, 2022, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Six Challenges for Cities in Africa
Prof. Garth Myers
Trinity College, Hartford, CT USA
Watch Zoom Recording
Abstract: Cities in most African countries continue to grow in size and population. Cities on the continent are major engines for economic growth and wellsprings of cultural innovation. Their vibrancy is palpable. The myriad strengths of urban life in Africa are often discounted in the global discourse of African development, and many everyday attributes confound the region’s urban planners. Urban Africa still faces a set of enduring challenges that defy simple solutions or planning formulas. This lecture highlights six significant and thorny challenges, which I characterize as follows: Infrastructures, Inclusion, Politics, Poverty, Climate Change, and COVID-19. I use examples from my research, with emphases on cities in Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia, highlighting positive efforts to combat these challenges alongside a clear-eyed assessment of shortcomings.
Bio: Garth Myers is Director of the Center for Urban & Global Studies and Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor of Urban International Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. His publications focus on African urban studies, comparative urbanism, and urban environments. His books include Verandahs of Power (2003, Syracuse University Press), Disposable Cities (2005, Ashgate Publishing), African Cities (2011, Zed Books), Urban Environments in Africa (2016, Policy Press), and Rethinking Urbanism (2020, Bristol University Press).

Date: April 1, 2022, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Modelling Biogeochemical Cycles in Terrestrial Ecosystem: an Overview
Honxing He
McGill University
Zoom Link
Abstract: How terrestrial ecosystems respond to the ongoing global change is one of the key challenges of our society. Global change, ranging from extractive use, climatic and land-use change impacts biogeochemical cycles and threatens ecosystem function. This talk aims to give an overall view of my previous and ongoing work, with a special focus on greenhouse gas (CO2, N2O, and CH4) fluxes from various managed ecosystems: pristine peatland, forests on drained peatland, peatland extraction, and agricultural systems. This is done by combining process-based ecosystem models with empirical data. The model I developed is CoupModel ( In this talk, I will also give some recent model developments, i.e. incorporation explicitly plant-fungi interactions in terrestrial ecosystem models and more recently incorporation the phosphorus cycle into the model structure to explicitly simulate the carbon-nitrogen-phosphorus interactions. These works provide insights into our understanding of the processes and better management and stewardship of our land.

Date: April 8, April 15, 2022, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Contesting Race and Citizenship: Diasporic Politics in Italy and the Black Mediterranean
Prof. Camilla Hawthorn
Brown University
Zoom Link
Abstract: Why and how have Black Italian activists taken up national citizenship as a privileged terrain of struggle over race and membership in Italy? What new forms of differentiation and exclusion are emerging in these efforts to reformulate and expand Italian citizenship? In this talk, I argue that citizenship—and specifically, longstanding debates about the legal inclusion of Black subjects within European polities—is key to understanding the connection between subtler, late-twentieth century “colorblind” or “cultural racisms” and the increasingly overt racial nationalisms of the last decade. I also trace the more capacious, transnational Black Mediterranean politics possibilities that emerge when activists confront the ethical and political limits of citizenship as a means for securing meaningful, lasting racial justice—formations that are centered on shared critiques of the racial state, as well as shared histories of racial capitalism and colonialism.

Fall 2021

Date: October 1, 2021, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Smart mobile maps for wise spatial learning
Sarah Fabrikant
University of Zurich
Zoom Link
Abstract: We make time critical and societally relevant decisions daily on the go, using smart, mobile assistive geographic information displays (GIDs). How should the GIDs of the future look like, to avoid what others have coined “the technological infantilizing of society”, that is, the reduction of our capacity to still make wise decisions without smart technological assistance? Prof. Fabrikant will highlight ongoing empirical research on human and context responsive GIDs used in the lab and in the wild, capitalizing on ambulatory human behaviour sensing methods (i.e., eye tracking and EEG measurements). Based on collected empirical evidence and supported by cognition and vision theories, her group is guiding the process of designing smart human, task, and context responsive geographic information interfaces supporting wise navigation decisions of smart urban wayfinders.

Date: October 15, 2021, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
The Challenges and Opportunities of GeoAI Ethics
Renee Sieber
McGill University
Watch Recording
Abstract: We have a long history of GIS ethics, primarily focused on codes of conduct, for example, to follow best practices in spatial data handling. With increased integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into methods for geographic analysis, it becomes important to revisit ethics. Prof. Sieber will present a few geographic examples of why we should be concerned about ethics (including the infamous trolley problem). She will then clarify what is meant by ethics (e.g., to be ethical does not equal to be moral) and review GIS codes of conduct as they relate to ethics and AI. She will pair this review with research activities in the Fairness, Accountability and Transparency in AI (FAccT), for instance why the FAccT community has moved from data handling (e.g., debiasing training data for classification algorithms) to addressing AI harm (e.g., predictive policing, facial recognition technology).

Date: October 29, 2021, 12:00pm - 1:00pm Canceled
Fragments of the City: Making and Remaking Urban Worlds
Colin McFarlane
Durham University
Abstract: Cities are becoming increasingly fragmented materially, socially, and spatially. From broken toilets and everyday discards, to art and forms of writing, fragments are signatures of urban worlds and provocations for change. In this presentation, I consider how such fragments come to matter in the experience, politics, and expression of cities. Drawing on fieldwork and examples from different contexts, Prof. McFarlane argues that attending to the role of fragments can help us to understand how urban worlds are made, revealed, written, and changed.

Date: November 05, 2021, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
A 'Darn Good Stream': Competing Visions of Driftless Area (USA) Streams Shape Management, Geomorphology, and Life in the Floodplain
Caroline Druschke
University of Wisconsin
Zoom Link
Abstract: The Kickapoo River watershed in southwestern Wisconsin (USA) hosts one of the most popular salmonid fisheries in the United States, with over 400 km of designated coldwater trout streams serving as a major driver of the local economy in this rural, underresourced region, alongside pasture-based, organic, and row crop agriculture. This flood-prone corner of the Midwest, which escaped glaciation throughout the Pleistocene, is cited as one of the last best hopes for protecting native brook trout at the western edge of their range in the face of increasing water temperatures associated with climate change. But the science is unsettled about how best to protect the Kickapoo's coldwater streams, with no clear answer in the published literature, and intense debates among stream managers across the region. This presentation builds from interviews with more than 20 area stream managers, alongside field-based studies of geomorphic change pre- and post-restoration and floods, to explore the ways that long-term arguments about restoration serve as a proxy debate about competing ontologies of stream stability and impermanence.

Date: November 12, 2021, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
How to Track Corporations Across Space and Time
Benjamin Goldstein
McGill University
Zoom Link
Abstract: TBA

Date: December 03, 2021, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
The effect of global change on biogeochemical processes and greenhouse gas fluxes in coastal wetlands
Sophie Comer-Warner
McGill University
Zoom Link
Abstract: Coastal wetlands sequester large amounts of “blue carbon” helping to mitigate climate change. This negative climate feedback, however, may be partially offset by increases in emissions of the potent greenhouse gases CH4 and N2O from wetland soils. Additionally, these ecosystems may have the capacity to remove reactive nitrogen, therefore, reducing nutrient pollution in coastal zones. Coastal wetlands face multiple threats such as land-use change, sea level rise, nitrogen pollution and climate change, which affect rates of biogeochemical cycling and fluxes of greenhouse gases. This presentation considers the effect of global change on rates of greenhouse gas fluxes and denitrification from coastal wetlands in Vietnam, Canada and the U.S. 15N tracers are a powerful tool to investigate biogeochemical processes and are used here to determine rates of denitrification and the proportion of N2O versus N2 released during this process. This is crucial to determine if coastal wetlands can reduce nutrient pollution without producing large greenhouse gases emissions.

Winter 2021

Date: January 22, 2021, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Urban ecological commons as palimpsest: a creative look at fishing villages in Mumbai
Aparna Parikah
Dartmouth College
Zoom Link

Date: February 26, 2021, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Soil microbial feedbacks on soil organic matter accumulation and transformations
Cynthia Kallenbach
McGill University
Zoom Link

Date: March 12, 2021, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Linking plant traits and ecosystem processes across the changing tropics
Fiona Soper
McGill University
Zoom Link

Date: April 09, 2021, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Using movement as a marker to trace human activity and contact patterns
Somayeh Dodge
University of California, Santa Barbara
Zoom Link

Fall 2020

Date: October 16, 2020, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Short talks by Geography faculty
Mylène Riva, Grant McKenzie, Yann le Polain de Waroux , and Bernhard Lehner
Department of Geography, McGill University
View Recording

Date: November 13, 2020, 11:47am - 1:00pm
For Peat’s Sake: Northern peatlands, carbon cycling, and climate & land-use change
Dr. Nigel Roulet
Department of Geography, McGill University
View Recording

Date: December 4, 2020, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Black Refugees and the Canadian Myth of Racial Tolerance: The Politics and Geographies of Slave Escape on the Canada-USA Border
Dr. Charmaine A. Nelson
Professor of Art History and Tier I Canada Research Chair in Transatlantic Black Diasporic Art and Community Engagement, Department of Art History and Contemporary Culture, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) University (Halifax, Nova Scotia, CANADA)


A consideration of black refugees within Canadian history generally evokes images of enslaved African Americans whose northward flight allowed them to gain liberty in their adopted homeland. The compulsive recitation of such narratives is essential to deep-seated Canadian notions of racial tolerance, and the ideal of a nation made up of the good, northern white populations who “saved” black Americans from the tyrannical slavery of our southern neighbours. However, the configuration of this idealized Canadian narrative can only be built upon selective memory.

My talk will consider what differences existed between the worlds of the refugee and that of the fugitive, within the context of enslaved Africans in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Canada (Nova Scotia and Quebec). To the extent that a refugee is someone who attains a protected status in a new nation or region, an elsewhere, their new status also signals their otherness in the place from which they fled. In contrast, the state of being a fugitive speaks to a flight which, for the enslaved within the context of Transatlantic Slavery, was construed as a criminal state through which the slave, as property, was engaged in the act of “self-theft” (Wood, 2000). Through an analysis of fugitive slave advertisements, I will explore the tenuous connections between mobility, geography, and political status which enslaved fugitives navigated and consider how our current racial fiction of the Canada-USA border defies histories of Canadian Slavery.


Charmaine A. Nelson is a Professor of Art History and a Tier I Canada Research Chair in Transatlantic Black Diasporic Art and Community Engagement at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) University in Halifax, CANADA where she is also the founding director of the first-ever institute focused on the study of Canadian Slavery. Prior to this appointment she worked at McGill University (Montreal) for seventeen years. Nelson has made ground-breaking contributions to the fields of the Visual Culture of Slavery, Race and Representation, and Black Canadian Studies. Nelson has published seven books including The Color of Stone: Sculpting the Black Female Subject in Nineteenth-Century America (2007), Slavery, Geography, and Empire in Nineteenth-Century Marine Landscapes of Montreal and Jamaica (2016), and Towards an African Canadian Art History: Art, Memory, and Resistance (2018). She is actively engaged with lay audiences through her media work including ABC, CBC, CTV, and City TV News, The Boston Globe, BBC One’s “Fake or Fortune,” and PBS’ “Finding your Roots”. She blogs for the Huffington Post Canada and writes for The Walrus. In 2017, she was the William Lyon Mackenzie King Visiting Professor of Canadian Studies at Harvard University.

View Recording

Date: December 11, 2020, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Geo-Social Determinants of Health in the Time of COVID-19
Dr. Nancy Ross
Department of Geography, McGill University
Zoom Link

Winter 2020

Date: January 31, 2020, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Advances and challenges in Blue Carbon science and policy
Prof. Gail Chmura
Department of Geography
McGill University

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
Concordia University

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
McGill University

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
Dartmouth College

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
Duke University

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
Universitéde Montreal

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.

Fall 2019

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.

Date: 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
McGill University

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
Mount Allison

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
Georgia Tech

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
Human-Environment Systems
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.

Winter 2019

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
Western University

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
Rutgers University

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
Clark University

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.

Fall 2018

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
Concordia University

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.

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