Geography - Theses, Dissertations, and other Required Graduate Degree Essays

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Exploring deep learning methods for analyzing land use change

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-07-03
Abstract: 

The process of land use change (LUC) results from human interactions with the natural environment to meet the needs from societal development. Growing population leads to the depletion of the land resource which entails environmental consequences from local to global scales. Advanced analytical methods can help with the understanding of the complexity of LUC process. They can further benefit sustainable land development. The main objective of this thesis research is to evaluate the deep learning (DL) methods such as convolutional neural networks (CNN) and recurrent neural networks (RNN) for classifying and forecasting LUC. The results demonstrated that the CNN-based LU classification models achieved the model accuracy of above 95%, while the RNN-based models for short-term LUC forecasting had 86% forecasting accuracy. This thesis contributes to advancing the methods for LUC analysis and improving the understanding of LUC process for sustainable land management.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Suzana Dragicevic
Department: 
Environment: Department of Geography
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.

Bedrock structural influences on river morphology

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-04-16
Abstract: 

Bedrock rivers largely set the pace for landscape evolution in unglaciated terrain and yet little is known about what controls their morphologies. I examine the role that geologic structure plays in the alignment and morphology of bedrock canyons at different scales. At the watershed scale, I examine the striking alignment of the Fraser River with the Fraser River Fault zone and its largely unmapped secondary fault structures. I explore how large sediment inputs affect bedrock canyons alignment and their morphological characteristics. At the reach scale, I investigate how geological structure influences bedrock canyon width. I find that width constrictions coincide with dominant sub-horizontal joint sets whereas widenings coincide with dominant sub-vertical joint sets. I consider this in the context of sequential constrictions and widenings and propose a conceptual model where sub-vertical jointing makes canyon walls more susceptible to failure due to river undercutting than horizontal jointing.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Jeremy Venditti
Department: 
Environment: Department of Geography
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.

Towards the integration of complex systems theory, geographic information science, and network science for modelling geospatial phenomena

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-06-19
Abstract: 

A complex systems approach conceptualizes spatial systems from the bottom-up to better understand how local spatial interactions generate emergent system-level behavior and spatial patterns at large spatial extents. This approach can be applied to examine ecological, urban, and social systems within contexts of geographic space and time. Geographic automata systems (GAS) including cellular automata (CA) and agent-based models (ABM) are spatio-temporal modelling frameworks that are rooted in complex systems theory. In a similar manner, network theory uses a complex systems approach to represent and analyze spatial systems as sets of georeferenced nodes and links that form measurable spatial networks. Separately, GAS and network-based approaches offer unique advantages in exploring and analyzing complex systems, however the two approaches are rarely integrated. Therefore, the purpose of this dissertation is to explore the intersection of complex systems theory, geographic information science, and network theory to leverage the advantages of each field for better understanding a variety of complex spatial systems. The main objective is to develop a suite of novel network-based automata modelling approaches that simulate complex dynamic spatial systems as measurable, evolving, spatial networks. Three novel modelling approaches are developed including: a geographic network automata (GNA) model that uses spatial networks, network-based transition rules, and network analysis for the representation of complex spatial systems; a network-based ABM (N-ABM) that integrates networks not as inputs for the ABM, but as a novel way to conceptualize, analyze, and communicate the model and model results; and a network based validation approach for the testing of ABMs. Obtained results demonstrate that the integration of complex systems theory, geographic information science, and network theory offers new means for the representation, analysis, communication, and testing of GAS and the complex systems they represent, thus helping to thus helping to "open the black box". Furthermore, the presentation of modelling results in application to insect infestation and disease transmission contribute to the enhancement of decision-making processes by providing tools that can be used in forecasting and scenario testing. This dissertation contributes new methodological frameworks to the fields of geographic information science, GAS, and network theory.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Suzana Dragicevic
Department: 
Environment: Department of Geography
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Access, equity, and ethics: A qualitative exploration of Rwanda’s maternal community health worker program

Date created: 
2020-04-28
Abstract: 

Improving maternal health outcomes is one of the main health concerns in Rwanda, a country that was shaken by the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. As part of the rebuilding process, the health sector focused on using community participation to promote access to maternal healthcare. One such initiative was the creation of the maternal community health worker role as part of the community health worker program. Maternal community health workers are volunteer women elected by their communities to provide basic maternal health services while encouraging the utilization of formal healthcare services for antenatal care, delivery, and postpartum care. Using a qualitative case study approach, my dissertation research explores some of the facilitators and barriers to access to the community-based services offered by maternal health community health workers. I draw on the findings from in-depth interviews with maternal community health workers and women who have used their services in five Rwandan districts to pursue three distinct, yet related, analyses. First, I highlight the different aspects of access to maternal health care at the community level in Rwanda: availability, accessibility, affordability, acceptability, and accommodation. Second, I identify specific strategies employed by these volunteer health workers to facilitate equitable access to maternal health services while operating in a low resource setting. Third, through the lens of an ethics of care framework, I examine why women decide to become maternal community health workers and how they are selected in their communities to take on this responsibility. Overall, this research suggests that community participation is valuable for promoting maternal health outcomes but raises health equity concerns for the nature of the maternal community health worker role. Such concerns shape the program’s sustainability and may impact the overall efforts to enhance positive maternal health outcomes in Rwanda. Further research is needed to explore other aspects of community participation in maternal health, such as the involvement of local leaders who work closely with maternal community health workers to enhance the success of this program.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Valorie Crooks
Department: 
Environment: Department of Geography
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

The potential of emerging interfaces to transform engagement with historical narratives in geographic space

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-04-16
Abstract: 

Twenty-first century technological advancements are supporting collaborations between social science and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as well as GIS and emerging geovisual interface technologies. The capabilities of GIS have led historical scholars to adopt GIScience methodologies, emerging as the evolving field of ‘historical GIS’ (or HGIS). This work explores the intersection of spatial interface technologies and HGIS, to identify new opportunities for connecting audiences with ‘narratives’, ‘experiences’, or ‘emotions’ of historical events and places. Through a review of HGIS literature, and the development of several working prototypes, driven by the research focus of the Landscapes of Injustice project, this work aims to create a bridge between HGIS research and human narrative approaches with 3D and across a continuum of mixed- reality technologies, and identify the opportunities these connections offer to create experiential, emotional spaces, rich with narrative and empathic potential for HGIS scholarship and historical pedagogy.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Nick Hedley
Department: 
Environment: Department of Geography
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.

Land use, planning, and private property: Waste and improvement in early 20th century Winnipeg and Vancouver, Canada

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-04-14
Abstract: 

Land use control, in the context of the liberal democratic state, signifies a suite of legal and technical tools for regulating social and material elements of the city. Over the past 120 years in Canada, such controls have become omnipresent within urban planning practice across jurisdictions. Ideas of land use have become ubiquitous within contemporary planning discourse and can appear as apolitical in the classification of urban space, often going unnoticed by the general public and uncontested within planning itself. Yet land use is political, and geographers, legal scholars, and critical planners have recently paid renewed attention to the power-laden features of land use control, particularly as they relate to the regulation of people and private property. In this article-based dissertation, I build and expand on this recent work and look to early 20th century planning in Canada (ca. 1910-1945), in the cities of Winnipeg and Vancouver, to look at then-emerging relationships between land use planning, people, and private property. I use archival methods and discourse analysis to outline case studies of local land use planning relative to broader planning discourses at the national scale. Specifically, I ask 1) how land use has been shaped in relation to urban planning and property in key early moments of Canadian planning history 2) how discourses of waste and improvement have been used to spatialize particular land use arrangements, and 3) how land use controls aimed at eliminating waste and facilitating improvement can subject people and things to exclusion/marginalization. In doing so, I expose land use planning as a political tool for orienting people and private property toward normative ways of being, while also classifying certain forms of land and life as deviant, aberrant, and wasteful – meant to fall away under schemes of improvement. I conclude by offering possible directions for future scholarship and show how a deeper understanding of land use planning history and procedure can help transform and dismantle entrenched liberal formulations of land use.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Nicholas Blomley
Department: 
Environment: Department of Geography
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Medical crowdfunding and the communication of health-related financial needs in digital environments

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-12-19
Abstract: 

Thousands of Canadians have turned to medical crowdfunding to ask for financial support from others for health-related needs. The popularity and high visibility of medical crowdfunding does not come without criticism that has drawn attention to ethical and equity issues inherent to this practice. In this thesis I present two qualitative analyses that explore how health-related financial needs are communicated in these new digital and online environments. First, a thematic analysis of the campaign narratives written by Canadians seeking funds to diagnose, treat, or manage Lyme disease reveals what is written about their health and financial needs to encourage others to donate. Second, interviews with 14 Canadian print news journalists explores three types of responsibilities they hold when writing stories based on medical crowdfunding campaigns. Both analyses contribute to the growing literature on crowd studies and how digital environments are evolving as dynamic spaces for communicating about health.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Valorie Crooks
Department: 
Environment: Department of Geography
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Projected changes in Northern Hemisphere permafrost in temperature stabilization and overshoot scenarios

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-01-20
Abstract: 

Achieving the Paris Agreement goal of “holding the increase in global temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels” is increasingly challenging. Overshoot trajectories, which assume that a temperature target is reached after temporarily exceeding it, are becoming prominent in policy discussions. This thesis explores the long-term response of northern permafrost in temperature overshoot and stabilization scenarios used for the 6th Phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6). The University of Victoria Earth System Climate Model, an Earth System model of intermediate complexity, is forced with a range of CMIP6 scenarios. Results suggest that permafrost recovery lags the decrease in surface air temperature associated with overshoot scenarios. Depending on the scenario, 15-30% of permafrost area is lost at the time temperature is restored to the level prior to the overshoot. Furthermore, in high temperature stabilization scenarios permafrost continues to thaw after global mean temperature is stabilized.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Kirsten Zickfeld
Department: 
Environment: Department of Geography
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.

Spatial distribution of soil class and soil pH in the Thompson-Okanagan region, British Columbia

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-09-24
Abstract: 

Soils are facing great threats from climate change and anthropogenic activities. It is essential to understand the characteristics of soils, such as class and pH, especially when it comes to the issue of evaluating soil quality. In the Thompson–Okanagan region, previous soil surveys covered most parts of the region in polygon data form; however, it would be beneficial if soil data were available at a finer resolution and with uniform soil categories. The digital soil mapping (DSM) approach has shown promising results over various landscapes with limited available data. The main objective of this study was to use an ensemble learning approach to map the spatial distribution of soil classes and soil pH at 25-meter resolution in the Thompson-Okanagan region, BC. Random Forest (RF) was used to map 16 soil subgroups. Overall prediction accuracy was 65.4% with an independent validation dataset. The study of spatial patterns of soil pH was tested with a combination of multiple base learners, which included a Multilinear Regression (GLM) learner, Stepwise Regression (STEP) learner, Lasso and Elastic-Net regularized Generalized Linear Regression (GLMNET) learner, a Kernel-based Support Vector Machine (KSVM) learner, and RF. Base learners with higher prediction accuracy were used to develop a Super Learner (SL). The fitted SL was then used to predict soil pH for three depth intervals (0 – 5cm, 5 – 15cm, and 15 – 30cm) at 25–meter resolution. For all three depth intervals, the SL proved to have the lowest MSE value and better prediction accuracy than was obtained from just using one of the base learners.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Margaret Schmidt
Department: 
Environment: Department of Geography
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.

Regulating in the public interest? Canadian energy regulation as an institutional fix for sovereign legitimacy

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-08-22
Abstract: 

Perhaps the most visible and pressing pipeline conflict in Canadian history, the proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion has yet to see shovels break ground as the project is bound up in a web of legal challenges and political controversy. At the centre of the debate is the National Energy Board (NEB)—Canada’s energy regulator—responsible for regulating interjurisdictional pipelines. Recently, the NEB’s legitimacy has been called into question amid criticisms of being an untrustworthy, industry-captured regulator. In this thesis, I argue that the NEB operates as an institutional fix for state sovereignty, primarily through its mandate to determine if a proposed project is in the “public” or “national interest”. By aggregating benefits and localizing consequences, the NEB’s “public interest” mandate has become a means of circumventing the thorny politics of deliberative consultation—especially regarding Indigenous jurisdiction—to capture legitimacy and ensure projects proceed.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Geoff Mann
Department: 
Environment: Department of Geography
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.