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

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Walkability and connectivity: unpacking measures of the built environment

Date created: 
2017-12-07
Abstract: 

The creation and replication of walkability indices uses geographic information systems (GIS) and warrants exploration of assumptions made implicit by different research disciplines. Most methods of measuring walkability variables – residential density, street connectivity, and land-use mix – lack contextual rationale for inclusion in walkability indices. Furthermore, walkability indices used in contemporary literature themselves are in conflict not only with each other, but also with human spatial behavior. This thesis first compares three walkability indices to make explicit the various ontologies that result as a consequence of choices and calculation of walkability variables. The second article then explores ontological distinctions between connectivity measures and their subsequent effects on methodology and interpretation. Given non-linear patterns of human mobility in activity spaces, this last part explores granular scales of connectivity measures that can better represent the built environment.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Nadine Schuurman
Meghan Winters
Department: 
Environment: Department of Geography
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.

Regional classification using gradients of marine species assemblages: a data-driven approach to modelling marine ecosystems

Date created: 
2017-11-14
Abstract: 

Marine management and conservation efforts often rely on predictive modelling of species observations, the output of such models can be influenced by their regional extent. This study proposes a data-driven classification of marine regions by clustering modelled gradients of species assemblages. Two clustering methods are considered, the CLARA algorithm and mean-shift segmentation, and compared with depth and geographically stratified regions. Regional classification was applied to models using three methods: Regional indices as categorical predictors, regional ensemble models, and a pre-calibration regional data-filter. Regional influence was measured in changes of MSE and R2 values. Large changes in model output were restricted to a small number of anomalous species models. Mean-shift clustered regions produced moderately improved MSE and R2 values compared to the other methods. Regional influence in the species distribution models were shown to be species dependent, necessitating an assessment of relevant species included in regional classification.

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

A Qualitative GIS for Social Media and Big Data

Date created: 
2017-12-11
Abstract: 

Since the 1990's geographers have called for a qualitative GIScience. While several attempts have been made to achieve a qualitative GIS, limiting factors such as data volume and methods have held the realization of such a system back. However, important changes in the last decade have made it possible to achieve this goal. Social media datasets are available for download that contain coordinate metadata and qualitative data about the experiences of individuals. Big data infrastructures make it possible to harvest, store, and find data expressed on specific phenomena researchers wish to study. Natural language processing methods make it possible to understand the context in which a post or group of posts are authored and extract the geospatial insights therein. GIScience has taken notice of these synergies and is beginning to engage with the data and is producing new insights from social media landscapes. In this dissertation, three articles are presented: 1) a method for producing area based topic models from social media; 2) a methodology for geospatial social media exploration and research, and; 3) a software that implements the methods and methodologies of geospatial social media. These three papers make up a body of research that presents a qualitative GIS from data to analysis to output. In the process, the research reflects critically on the ways in which geospatial social media and big data methods in GIScience are created.

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

Impossible places: The aesthetic unconscious and post-migrant Iranian subjectivity in Los Angeles

Author: 
Date created: 
2017-10-27
Abstract: 

This dissertation contributes to the geographical literature on migration, aesthetics, and psychoanalysis by examining the social and psychical spaces of Iranian-American artists, migrants, and cultural producers in Los Angeles, California. Attending to the dynamic formations of the unconscious during fieldwork, data analysis, and the writing phase of the research, the dissertation explores the emergence of a distinctive Iranian aesthetic in Los Angeles, which since the 1979 Islamic Revolution has become home to the largest Iranian population outside of Iran. I conceptualize such an aesthetic using the psychoanalytic works by (and associated with) Jacques Lacan, especially his concept of “the Real,” which defines how people’s senses of reality are threatened by the inconsistencies of language, blind spots in the field of vision, antagonisms that permeate social bonds, and intense affects such as anxiety and shame that threaten a coherent sense of the self. The study asks what are the main symptoms that accompany the experiences of Iranian-American migrants and artists? How do art and aesthetic experiences produce and inform encounters with the traumatic dimensions of migration? What role do images play in the discourses of cultural organizations, film festivals, and other art events? To answer these questions, I conduct ethnographic research consisting of empirical observations of Iranian-American artists, art institutions, art and film festivals, and members of my own immediate and extended family in Los Angeles through participant observation, psychoanalytic listening, semi-structured interviews, and autobiographic insights. I argue that much of Los Angeles’ Iranian aesthetic can be understood as an attempt to creatively respond to the painful and unspeakable aspects of migration. Crucial here are the life trajectory disruptions and displacements that comprise the Real of migrant experiences in their new home city: a fraught yet productive conflict that emerges out of the potentialities of the past (what could have been but never happened) and the immediacies of the present (life as it is currently lived). My study reveals that while some actors and communities seek to harness the artistic energies of the Real, others attempt to avoid it altogether.

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

Geosurveillance, Biometrics, and Resistance

Date created: 
2017-12-11
Abstract: 

Geosurveillance is continually evolving to achieve a wider reach and finer granularity. This thesis has two objectives: to understand (1) how biometric technologies could shape the evolution of geosurveillance, and (2) how we can begin resisting geosurveillance before this evolution occurs. The former is based on new second-generation biometrics, which analyze physiological traits, often wirelessly, to calculate stress levels, emotions, and health conditions. Because they work on the body itself from a distance, they hold the potential to both intensify and extend geosurveillance, making it more difficult to resist. The latter objective takes up this topic of resisting geosurveillance, which is otherwise absent within the geographical literature. It surveys tactics and strategies that would enable meaningful resistance to geosurveillance as it operates today. Finally, it concludes that both short-term tactics and long-term strategies are integral to resistance, but that biometrics will require a more strategic approach in the future.

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

Acoustically derived suspended sediment concentrations and flux in the Fraser River, Canada

Author: 
Date created: 
2017-10-25
Abstract: 

In Canada, there is no existing systematic sediment data collection program for river systems and limited resources are available to mount manual measurement programs. Yet, there is a pressing need to understand and predict sediment fluxes because the quantity and caliber of transported sediment controls river channel stability, influences river ecology and should be considered in river management. In the Lower Fraser River, British Columbia, Canada conventional methods for estimating sediment flux are based on historical data that are no longer reliable due to the river's ongoing adjustment to land use practices, climate change, sea level variation and dredging. This research establishes methods to monitor suspended sediment delivery to the Fraser Delta using hydroacoustic signals as a surrogate of suspended sediment concentration (SSC) and grain size. Both single- and multi-frequency sediment detection approaches are evaluated. Acoustic signals from an array of three horizontally-mounted acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCPs) are coupled with physical bottle samples within the acoustically ensonified volume. Bottle samples are analyzed for SSC and for grain size distribution. Discharge, channel-average SSC and flux are measured. Twenty-five sampling campaigns were carried-out in the Fraser River at Mission between 2012 and 2014. I develop data processing methods for acoustic signals near the ADCP noise-floor and establish threshold concentrations below which attenuation measured in-situ is unreliable. A single-frequency, two-stage acoustic inversion is developed for application in large rivers where the ADCPs cannot penetrate the full channel width. The method involves calibration of ADCPs and a correlation between ADCP SSC and the channel-averaged SSC. Strong calibrations for total SSC, sand SSC and silt/clay SSC are obtained. Good correlations between acoustically derived SSC and channel-average SSC allow for continuous SSC and flux estimates. Annual flux fell within the same order of magnitude as historical flux from the same location, computed with traditional methods, supporting the robustness of the method. Explicit and implicit multi-frequency inversions are explored. Comparisons between the inversion results and sample data show that the implicit method tends to perform best for estimating concentration at all flows. Realistic estimates of particle size are obtained for high flows only using this method.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Dr. Jeremy Venditti
Department: 
Environment: Department of Geography
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Lines that Matter: Reading the Charter at the Canada-U.S. Border

Date created: 
2017-08-08
Abstract: 

Border studies and critical geographies of the border have been influential at calling attention to the structures of power and limits to rights at border sites. In North America, significant research has been conducted investigating the US Department of Homeland Security and its role in the securitization of migration within the United States. In Canada, border studies has enjoyed a long history within academic discourse, but the border too often becomes simply a stand in for the US-Canada relationship. This thesis emerges from a desire to look at the border from the North, and to consider the processes and institutions undergirding border work in Canada. Specifically, I take as my focus Canadian courtrooms where judges and lawyers frame arguments and write decisions that place individuals in or out of a particular legal framing. I look to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as an important re-centering of the role of the judiciary. I ask: How do judges and lawyers make sense of the border as a legal space? And, what role does the Charter serve in that legal space-making? To answer these questions, I consider how judges and lawyers make brackets to organize and make sense of information that then defines a field of possible action. I look to three cases at the border that have been heard by the Supreme Court of Canada since the adoption of the Charter in 1982. Each of these cases represent a constitutional question based in the Charter. I use these three cases to offer a thorough accounting of border work considering customs work at the port of entry, and deportations that occur well within Canada. I argue that far away from public scrutiny, laws are dusted off, legal acrobatics are performed in courtrooms, and judges are making decisions that quietly change how borders function and how we understand borders as a legal space. My study of these courtrooms reveals that judges and lawyers are implicated in the work of making and effectuating borders.

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

Exploring the reversibility of marine climate change impacts under CO2 removal from the atmosphere

Author: 
Date created: 
2017-08-11
Abstract: 

Artificial carbon dioxide removal (CDR) from the atmosphere, also referred to as “negative CO2 emissions”, has been proposed as a measure for mitigating climate change and restoring the climate system to a target level (e.g., 2 C) after overshoot. Previous studies have demonstrated that the changes in surface air temperature due to anthropogenic CO2 emissions can be reversed through negative CO2 emissions, while some oceanic properties, for example thermosteric sea level rise, show a delay in their response to net-negative emissions. This research aims to investigate the reversibility of changes in ocean conditions after the implementation of CDR on centennial timescales with a focus on ocean biogeochemical properties. We use RCP2.6 and its extension until year 2300 as the reference scenario and design a set of temperature and cumulative CO2 emissions “overshoot” scenarios based on other RCPs. The University of Victoria Earth System Climate Model (UVic ESCM), a climate model of intermediate complexity, is forced with these emission scenarios. We compare the response of select ocean variables (seawater temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen) in the overshoot scenarios to that in the reference scenario at the time the same amount of cumulative emissions is achieved. Our results suggest that the overshoot and subsequent return to a reference CO2 cumulative emissions level would leave substantial impacts on the marine environment. Although the changes in global mean sea surface variables (temperature, pH and dissolved oxygen) are largely reversible, global mean ocean temperature, dissolved oxygen and pH differ significantly from those in the reference scenario. Large ocean areas exhibit temperature increase as well as pH and dissolved oxygen decrease relative to the reference scenario without cumulative CO2 emissions overshoot. Furthermore, our results show that the higher the level of overshoot, the lower the reversibility of changes in the marine environment.

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

Generating 3D data, simulations, and geovisual interfaces for 21st century risk assessment and communication in multilevel space

Date created: 
2017-08-14
Abstract: 

Modern methods of spatial data capture, analysis and representation signify new opportunities for emergency managers to reduce the risk of and increase the resilience to natural and manmade hazards. This thesis explores the development of a progressive emergency management strategy in a complex institutional space, combining the spatial veracity of GIScience with an innovative approach for simulating and communicating emergency egress. The impact that spatial resolution and representation have on emergency evacuation calculations is examined in an analysis of 2D and 3D GIS based network analyses, and 3D game-engine based simulations. The implications of space are further examined in situated mixed reality simulations that enable the visual analysis of virtual evacuees in real-world spaces. Finally, this research introduces mixed reality geovisualizations of multilevel space as a method to communicate evacuation plans and increase locational cognizance. These interfaces challenge the status quo and encourage a 21st century approach to emergency management.

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

Caribbean offshore medical schools and the international mobility of medical education

Author: 
Date created: 
2017-06-09
Abstract: 

Caribbean offshore medical schools are private, for-profit institutions that provide medical education to international students, including from the US and Canada, who intend to leave the region to practice medicine. Offshore medical schools are distinct from regional medical schools because they do not principally serve a local population. This offshoring industry contributes to the movement of health workers across international borders, and should considered alongside other global healthcare mobiltiies. This thesis uses three datasets to reveal the narratives that surround offshore medical schools. First, a content analysis of institutional websites shows how offshore medical schools promote themselves to prospective students. Second, a qualitative media analysis exposes dominant themes and ideologies that frame discussion of offshore medical schools, and the Canadians they graduate, in the Canadian print media. Finally, perceptions of offshore medical schools held by stakeholders involved with Canadian medical education and the physical workforce are revealed using qualitative interviews.

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