University of Calgary

Conference marks 50 years of grad excellence in geography

UToday HomeFebruary 28, 2013

By Heath McCoy

Geography grad students (from left) Bin Cheng, Adrienne Tivy and Stephen Howell dragged a sled 16 kilometres to take measurements on a patch of multi-year sea ice in Nunavut in 2006. Photo by John YackelGeography grad students (from left) Bin Cheng, Adrienne Tivy and Stephen Howell dragged a sled 16 kilometres to take measurements on a patch of multi-year sea ice in Nunavut in 2006. Photo by John YackelDepartment of Geography head John Yackel has seen his graduate students in action on Arctic expeditions, monitoring shrinking sea ice from icebreaker ships.

Associate professor Darren Bender, whose research includes habitat mapping and conservation of endangered wildlife, has made strides thanks to his students. They’ve helped locate and study various species, aiding in capturing the animals and implanting microchips so their movements can be tracked.

It’s no wonder that both researchers refer to geography’s graduate students as invaluable.

That crucial contribution will be celebrated on March 8 at the Department of Geography’s 50th Annual Graduate Students Conference.

“It’s an event that showcases the outstanding research of our graduate students,” explains Bender, the organizer of the conference. “A lot of our students literally work side by side with professors out in the field. They help with the design of experiments, data collection and analyzing results . . . . As a prof, I might not have the ability to do all these things myself. To see these students take on a project and produce such amazing results is really impressive, and there’s a lot of two-way learning that occurs.”

Indeed, Yackel stresses that the work of the graduate students has often been instrumental in furthering the research of the department’s professors. “They’re vital to moving forward a faculty member’s research agenda and mandate,” he says.

This is a tradition in the Department of Geography that predates the very existence of the University of Calgary, notes Bender. The department was established back in 1961 when this university was a Calgary satellite of the University of Alberta. The work of graduate students was essential to the department even then. In acknowledgement, the first Graduate Students Conference was held in 1964.

There are currently about 130 graduate students in the Department of Geography, Bender says. Many are lab-based, working in the Earth Sciences building, while others – probably 40 to 50 – join their professors “out in the field.”

The conference on March 8 will feature keynote speaker Roger Keil, director of The City Institute at York University. Keil is internationally known for his projects in the areas of urban planning and urban political ecology. Following Keil’s address, graduate students will be presenting their research throughout the day.

To find out more about the Department of Geography’s 50th Annual Conference phone 403-220-5584 or go online at http://geog.ucalgary.ca.

 

Follow UToday on Twitter.
Check the UToday website for news about events, people and trends at University of Calgary.
Follow what’s happening on campus using our interactive calendar.