University of Calgary

Spotlight on Sustainability: Dianne Draper, geography professor

UToday HomeJune 17, 2013

By Jennifer Allford

Dianne Draper, professor in the Department of Geography, Faculty of Arts, researches in the areas of water resources, tourism growth, protected areas, and community sustainability.Dianne Draper, professor in the Department of Geography, Faculty of Arts, researches in the areas of water resources, tourism growth, protected areas, and community sustainability. Photo by Riley BrandtFrom studying cruise ships in the Arctic, fisheries and offshore oil development in Newfoundland and water resources in Banff, Dianne Draper helps people make “decisions that will ensure that we have the best quality resources available for the longest time.”

The geography professor in the Faculty of Arts also teaches students in the Faculty of Environmental Design and is a research fellow with the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies on campus.

After years working with fisheries management through Memorial University of Newfoundland, she came to Calgary where her research includes water resources, tourism growth management, parks and protected areas and community sustainability, mostly in Canada.

“As a geographer, I have a very broad perspective on the world and how it operates,” Draper says. “I try to understand how people can make more effective decisions so that use of our natural resources results in environmentally, socially and economically sustainable outcomes.”

For example, she is exploring the growing number of tourists visiting the Arctic on cruise ships. “How can communities ensure that tourism growth is managed effectively so that negative effects on the environment are minimized, and communities are healthy and sustainable in the long run?”

She says geography offers students “a number of different ways” to be involved in making decisions about environmental sustainability. To illustrate that point, Draper invites former students back into the class to discuss how they’ve used geography to build successful careers. “It doesn’t matter whether they become a park warden or a writer or an ecotourism consultant,” she says.” “There are many ways to employ the background and understanding that a contemporary geographical education provides.”

Draper also likes to give her students plenty of experiences outside the classroom, from examining outfalls in the Bow River, to studying visitor experiences in the mountain national parks, to collaborating with city of Calgary officials to develop a sustainable food plan for Calgary.

She and her students strive to answer some pretty big questions. “What’s this world really like and how does it operate on a sustainable basis? How do people interact with it and how do we show that using maps and various other kinds of cool tools?”

And to tackle all those questions, geographers like Draper like to be out in the field. “We like the hands-on experience, we want to know what’s going on in this city, in this park, in this place we call home.”

Spotlight on Sustainability is an ongoing series profiling the work of students, faculty and staff. To submit story ideas please contact the Office of Sustainability.


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