Where will UVic Geography take you?
Geography spans and integrates physical, social, biological sciences, and humanities. New theories and technologies energize geography, and the discipline has changed enormously over the past few decades. Geography careers run the gamut:
- remote sensing
- geographic information systems
- environmental sciences
- resource management
- urban planning
- medical geography
Geography graduates find themselves well equipped with broad backgrounds and deeper understanding.
Our graduates work with new and complex challenges as they emerge, in the environment, the community, and in the world around us.See our latest Newsletter to find out about the inspirational activities of our graduate and undergraduate students, and to learn about our new department members...page 1...page 2...page 3...page 4.
Geography at UVic
Geography is an integrative, environmental discipline with one foot in the physical sciences and the other in the social sciences, while also drawing on relevant material from the humanities. There is a balance of social science and physical geography within the department. A basic aim is to offer a balanced program within the discipline, as well as several areas of specialization.
As well as providing an understanding of how human beings interact with each other and their environment, both natural and built, a degree in Geography can lead to a multiplicity of career opportunities depending on the focus of the courses chosen.
The Department of Geography was formally established in 1963 when Victoria College (est. 1903) became the University of Victoria. Introductory Geography courses had been taught at the College since the late-1940s, but the significant expansion of a Liberal Arts program in Human and Physical Geography awaited the 1960s and 1970s. Since then, the department has focused on several areas of specialization, including Resources, the Human Environment, Biophysical, Geomatics, and most recently, Coastal Studies.
The growth and development of the department was nurtured on the old Lansdowne campus during the College and early-University eras by Charlie Howatson (1949-63), Bryan Farrell (1963-69), and Charlie Forward (1969-79). Considerable expansion in numbers of students, faculty, undergraduate courses, and a graduate program followed quickly after the department moved to the Cornett Building on the new Gordon Head campus in 1966.
Since then, the department has flourished under the leadership of Derek Sewell (1979-84), Colin Wood (1984-89), Mike Edgell (1989-99), Larry McCann (interim 1999-2000), Dan Smith (2000008), and Phil Dearden (2009-13). From teaching a few hundred undergraduate and several honours students in the early 1960s, at present, faculty members teach and mentor some 1,250 undergraduates and nearly 100 MA, MSc, or PhD students. In 2008, the department moved into expansive facilities in the newly-built S
ocial Sciences and Mathematics Building, a great boon to its teaching and research activities.
Reflecting its diversity and leadership, the department has spawned several multi-disciplinary units on campus, for example, Environmental Studies (1974) and Pacific and Asian Studies (1975). It founded a Co-operative Education program in the late 1970s. Faculty members have developed strong inter-disciplinary teaching and research ties to departments in the Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Humanities, and participate in a growing number of research centres, including the Institute for Coastal and Oceans Research and the Centre on Aging. In 2002, Environment Canada joined with the department to create the Water and Climate Impacts Research Centre. Other specialized centres, laboratories, and research groups are a distinguishing feature of the department's recent growth and global outreach in the early 21st century.
Harry Foster of the Department of Geography passed away on August 15, 2009, succumbing to cancer, one of the diseases for which he had done so much to increase understanding. It was an enormous shock to the department, who had so recently and exuberantly roasted Harry on his retirement just a few short months earlier.
Harold Douglas Foster was born in Yorkshire, something that might account for his direct manner and well-known sense of humour. He attended University College, London, where he obtained his PhD in 1968, and was appointed to the Department of Geography at the University of Victoria in that same year.
In 2008, he received his 40-year service commendation from the university. Harry was ostensibly a geomorphologist, but soon expanded his interests into a wide variety of applied topics, often working in concert with W.R. Derrick Sewell. Harry went on to author early books on solar power, climate change, resilience, water management, disaster planning, and many other areas that are now looked on as much more mainstream than in the years when he wrote them. Over 30 years ago he was writing books on renewable energy and 25 years ago warning of water shortages in Canada, seemingly impossible in those days.
However, Harry will be best remembered for his contributions to medical geography, where he developed many early concepts regarding the spatial distribution of diseases and environmental causality behind certain diseases long before such relationships were recognized. He wrote books on schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, AIDS, and cancer, to name a few. He was enormously productive, with some 400 articles and over 16 books published. He was also the series editor for the department's well known Western Geographical Series of book publications.
Harry also developed and sponsored programs that implemented some of the measures that he suggested to "make things better," such as AIDS initiatives in Africa. He will be sorely missed.
Professor Charles H. Howatson was the pioneer of both geography and geology at Victoria College. He joined the faculty in 1949 and was acting head of the Department of Geography from then until 1963. During his first decade he accepted heavy teaching loads in order to offer, single-handedly, a variety of geography courses, along with one in geology. Beginning in 1960, he was able to expand the department, adding a new faculty member each year until 1963 when Victoria College became the University of Victoria. In subsequent years, he concentrated on teaching his special fields of physical geography, remote sensing, geology, and the geography of Western Canada. After setting a longevity record as a geography faculty member, Professor Howatson retired in 1983 to pursue his many other interests.
David Chuenyan Lai received his BA (First Class Honours) in Geography in 1960, and MA in Geography in 1964 from the University of Hong Kong. He was awarded a British Commonwealth Scholarship and entered the London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London, and received his PhD in Geography in 1967. He joined the Department of Geography in 1968 after he came to Canada as a landed immigrant. He retired in 2003, having taught at UVic for 35 years, and was named Professor Emeritus of Geography. He is a Research Affiliate at the Centre on Aging. After he joined UVic, he concentrated his research on the Urban Development of Chinatowns and History of Chinese Canadians. Over half of his 300 publications are related to these two areas. He has surveyed over 30 Chinatowns across North America and has been an honorary consultant to the Chinatown gateway projects of Victoria, Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, and Portland.
David started developing the Asia-Pacific program with other faculty members at UVic in 1970. His film program on the Pacific Rim countries in 1971 was so successful that it was brought to the attention of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at its meeting on 18 February 1972. With the support of the Chinese community in Victoria, David set up 9 undergraduate course awards and travel grants, and 4 graduate awards and scholarships to promote the study of China, Overseas Chinese, and Chinatowns. He received the UVic Faculty of Social Sciences Award for Excellence in Teaching in April 2002, UVic Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching in November 2002, and Asia-Pacific Service Award in April 2003.
David has received 30 awards in recognition of his scholarship and community service. Notable academic awards are Applied Geography Citation Award by Association of American Geographers; Award of Merit by American Association for State and Local History, and Award of Merit by Education Foundation of Chinese Canadian Professionals (Ontario). Significant non-academic awards are Member of the Order of Canada by Government of Canada, Honorary Citizen by City of Victoria, Gabrielle Leger Award by Heritage Canada Foundation, and Heritage Award by British Columbia Government. On 5 April 2003, the Development Office of UVic honoured David by initiating the Dr. David Chuenyan Lai Scholarship. The scholarship fund will provide a lasting legacy to support ongoing researchers in the field of aging.
Steve Lonergan was a member of the faculty from 1989 until his retirement in 2011. He holds a BSc from Duke University and an MA and PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Lonergan began his academic career at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and has held visiting posts at the University of Auckland (New Zealand), the University of Malaysia, and Monash University (Australia). From 2003 to 2005, he was Director of the Division of Early Warning and Assessment (DEWA) at the United Nations Environment Programme in Nairobi, Kenya. Dr. Lonergan’s research is on water resources and conflict in the Middle East, environmental change and population movement, and assessing the impacts of climate change, and he is the author of two books and over 60 journal articles and reports. He continues to work in the environment and development field, and now focuses on mediating disputes over natural resources in countries emerging from conflict.
William M. Ross joined the Geography department in 1974. He died in 1989 when he was only 43 years old. Bill was dedicated to his discipline and his students, and the department lost a true friend and respected colleague when he died. Students, perhaps, suffered the greatest loss. As teacher, advisor, co-op education coordinator, and member of various academic and curriculum committees, Bill was completely and energetically committed to their academic and personal well-being. That commitment is reflected in the Ross Geography Scholarship Fund that he bequeathed in his will for the benefit of Geography undergraduate majors and honours students.
W.R. Derrick Sewell served as a member of faculty of the Geography department from 1966 until his untimely death in December 1987. He was Departmental Chair from July 1979 to June 1984. Derrick was one of Canada's best known and most widely travelled geographers; the author or editor of some 180 books and articles. Much of his research dealt with environmental management, especially water resources. In addition, he made major theoretical contributions to benefit/cost analysis, public participation and perception studies and to energy policy design. Derrick 160 times on national and international environment committees. In 1985, for example, he was the dynamic Vice-Chairman of the BC Wilderness Advisory Committee, set up to help resolve a multiplicity of environmental conflicts.
Gil Sherwin came to the Geography department in 1969, and within a year she became Senior Laboratory Instructor. She held that position until 1991, when her failing health at last forced her retirement. In large part, the department's present lab program is a legacy to Gil's energy, organizational skills, personality, and professionalism. A true friend to TAs and undergraduates, Gil was an important role model at a time when there were few women in the University's departments. She fought a long and inspirational battle against cancer, a battle that she lost in 1992. Two weeks before Gil's death, the department decided to establish an annual Gil Sherwin Teaching Workshop in honour of her life and work. The Gil Sherwin Excellence in Teaching award, recognizing TA teaching endeavour, grew from that workshop.
Colin J. B. Wood graduated in Geography and Anthropology from the University of Wales in 1963, obtained his MA (1966) and PhD from McMaster University (1970). He joined the Department in 1969 and retired in 2001. He taught in the area of human geography with a particular focus on economic and cultural geography - specifically innovation diffusion, resources management and decision making. He was also very active in the Graduate program.
He authored many articles published in a range of international scholarly journals, proceedings, chapters in books, and several monographs. The topics ranged from Land Ownership in 19th Century Wales, Forest Management and the Miang (Tea) industry in Northern Thailand, to Simulation Gaming as applied to Disaster Management. He served as Chair from 1985-1990, helped establish the GIS and Remote Sensing specialities in the Department and promoted the expansion of the COOP Program. He was a member of the Department’s CIDA funded team that worked in North Thailand 1988-1992.
He is currently working on the analysis of crime data.
- Mike Edgell (Chair, 1989-1999)
- Bryan Farrell (Chair, 1963-1969)
- Charlie Forward (Chair, 1969-1979)
- Larry McCann
- Mick Micklewright
- Doug Porteous
- Stanton Tuller
- Rudy Wikkramatileke
- Tree Ring Lab Fieldwork 2012 Photo Essay
- India Field School blog here
- New MPARG publications here andhere
- View all events on the UVic calendar