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

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Human-fire interactions in British Columbia: varying constraints of human-caused wildfire occurrence and geography of the wildland-development interface

Date created: 
2015-12-14
Abstract: 

Human-caused wildfires are controlled by human and natural influences, and determining the key drivers is critical for wildfire ecology and management. I examined an array of variables to determine the constraints on contemporary human-caused wildfire ignitions among fire-prone biogeoclimatic zones of British Columbia (BC). Fires in zones with high human development were strongly controlled by biophysical variables explaining conditions conducive to burning, while fires in remote zones were controlled by metrics of human activity. A coarse metric representing wildland-urban interface (WUI – areas of urban development intermingled with wildlands) was a key factor explaining human-caused ignitions, but fails to capture non-residential human development. I developed a simple-but-accurate method to map an area I define as the wildland-development interface (WDI). The WDI characterizes a broad class of human development intermingled with wildlands across BC. The WDI explains more variability in human-caused fire than does WUI, and quantifies a new geography of the human-fire interface.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Meg Krawchuk
Anders Knudby
Department: 
Environment: Department of Geography
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.

The effects of disturbance history on the taxonomic and functional composition of ground-layer plant communities

Author: 
Date created: 
2015-11-12
Abstract: 

Plant communities are sensitive to external perturbations and may display alternative recovery pathways depending on disturbance history. In central interior British Columbia, fire and logging are two widespread landscape disturbances that overlap in many regions and little is known about how these cumulative, short-interval disturbances affect ecological communities. Using field-collected data, I compared the taxonomic and functional trait composition of communities that were either logged or unlogged prior to being burned in a large stand-replacing fire. The taxonomic composition diverged between the two treatments, driven primarily by differences in a few key indicator species. The functional diversity of these plant communities did not differ overall between the two treatments. Most species in these communities shared many of the same life-history traits though some species exhibited differences in competition-related morphological traits. My data suggest that pre-fire logging leaves a subtle footprint on post-fire ground-layer plant communities at early stages of succession.

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

Modelling of Exposed Bedrock and Soil Depth in the Critical Zone of Southern British Columbia

Date created: 
2015-09-30
Abstract: 

The Critical Zone (CZ) is the complex interaction of the hydrosphere, atmosphere, lithosphere, biosphere and pedosphere. It is in the CZ where most biological activity on earth can be found. At the centre of the CZ, the pedosphere is the medium in which all other regions of the CZ interact. The main objective of this study was to model two aspects of the CZ: the presence of exposed bedrock (EB) areas and the depth of the pedosphere (soil depth) in the Tulameen region of Southern British Columbia. Random Forest (RF) a classification tree method was used to predict the presence of EB. Prediction accuracy was found to be 88% with an independent validation dataset. The top three predictors of EB presence, which are a Landsat 7 PCA, Topographic Ruggedness Index (TRI), and a Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) were further explored with modified partial dependence plots (PDPs) to determine the probability of EB presence. The depth of the pedosphere was predicted with a Generalized Linear Model (GLM), Random Forest (RF) and Residual Kriging (RK). Depth measurements came from the predicted EB layer which acted as a proxy for 0 m depth. In addition well water and soil pit information were used to define deeper depths for the region. GLM with RK was determined to produce the best model to measure depth, with an RMSE of 0.9 m in the 0 to 2 m range for depth measurements. EB proved to be a reliable and efficient proxy in addition to conventional soil depth measurements which are time consuming and costly to generate. The obtained results indicate that GLM with RK and the use of EB layers can aid in further studies of the CZ.

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

Expanding and comparing GIS-based multi-criteria decision making methods: a soft computing logic for agricultural land suitability evaluation

Date created: 
2015-06-01
Abstract: 

The Logic Scoring of Preference (LSP) method is a multi-criteria evaluation (MCE) method that expands the commonly used multi-criteria decision making approaches. The LSP method is used to determine various evaluation objectives; it is based on soft computing logic and provides enhanced human decision-making. As a result, the LSP method is flexible and has the ability to incorporate a larger amount of evaluation criteria. The main objective of this research is to integrate the LSP method with geographic information systems (GIS) for agricultural land suitability evaluation. In addition, the LSP method has been compared with commonly used MCE methods within the GIS framework. Geospatial datasets for Boulder County, Colorado, USA were utilized for this study to determine various scenarios for agricultural land suitability evaluation. The obtained results indicate that the LSP method can be used as a useful tool to assist land use planning and the decision making process.

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

Governing Homo Subprimicus: Essays on the Financial Regulation of Poverty After the Subprime Crisis

Date created: 
2015-07-16
Abstract: 

This thesis explores the landscape of experimentation in non-prime financial products, services and institutions that has taken form since the financial crisis. Since the financial crisis, the premise that poor families can be made “self-sufficient” through the educated use of well-designed and regulated for-profit financial instruments has given rise to a variety of new financial practices that are reshaping the US financial landscape in ways that few geographers have studied. The thesis is composed of four primary chapters (chapters 2, 4, 6 and 8) with secondary linking chapters in between (chapters 3, 5 and 7). Chapter 2 challenges extant framings of the relationship between financially marginalized groups and the financial system as one of either discriminatory exclusion or usurious inclusion. It argues for a reframing of financial exclusion as a problem of financial government. From this perspective, financial exclusion is a problem of how to regulate the conduct of risky populations through the sale of financial products and services. It argues that apparatuses designed to overcome barriers to the extension of financial government have produced tiered processes of financial subject formation. Chapter 4 explores recent amendments of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, showing how the (re)production of financial relations at a national level can reshape financial relations at other scalar levels. It argues that the rescaling(s) that have attended the amendment of FCRA have reworked the relationship between individuals and their virtual financial selves (i.e. credit reports and scores) in ways that have created new tensions, contradictions and sites of struggle in the nascent post-crisis politics of financialization. Chapters 6 and 8 explore this nascent politics on the ground, drawing on interviews and 1.5 years of ethnographic work with nonprofits in the San Francisco Bay Area. These chapters examine how informal financial practices are being repurposed and formalized to make the risks of financially excluded groups legible, tractable and priceable for “mainstream” financial service providers. I show that formalization is used to achieve a variety of often-contradictory ends, including the valorization of fallow stocks of social capital, the making of new markets, and a redistribution of calculative agency in the credit scoring process.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Geoff Mann
Department: 
Environment:
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Spatial Epidemiology of Child and Youth Injury

Author: 
Date created: 
2015-08-18
Abstract: 

Injury is one of the leading causes of death amongst Canadian children. Every year, it is estimated that approximately 25000 children will be hospitalized because of unintentional injuries – of these 25000, nearly 400 are likely to die. However, not all children are equally at risk. Studies have shown that children from socio-economically deprived families are at higher risk of morbidity and mortality as a result of injuries. In fact, despite a steady decrease in total rates of injury within the Western world, the difference in rates of pediatric injury between rich and poor has actually broadened in recent decades. In addition, injury has been shown to have a geographical gradient, whereby populations residing in rural areas experience worse outcomes compared to urban dwellers. This is primarily attributable to the reduced access to pediatric trauma centres amongst rural populations, as rapid access to pediatric trauma centres have been shown to produce superior outcomes with severely injured patients. This dissertation encompasses an analysis of pediatric trauma centre access and socioeconomic status within specific regions of Canada and Israel. Its two principal objectives involve: 1) an analysis of the geographical distribution of major traumas within the child and youth population; and 2) an assessment of the effectiveness of pediatric trauma systems in dealing with these injuries within both of the countries under observation. On a more granular level, the project aims to describe the hotspots for child and youth injury, to identify disadvantaged populations and high risk injury mechanisms and patterns, and to explore the barriers that impede access to appropriate care in both of the study regions. It is also intended to improve the methodology available to researchers in dealing with locational error within injury data. The results will assist decision makers in prioritizing the delivery of health care services and will help direct scarce prevention-related public health resources to high risk populations.

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

Policy frontiers: city-regional politics of poverty and drug policy mobility

Date created: 
2015-07-15
Abstract: 

As service-dependent groups are increasingly located outside established inner cities, this thesis examines the territorial and relational politics associated with suburban and city-regional geographies of poverty, drug policy, and addiction services. Drawing on a mixed-methods case study of Surrey, BC, this thesis explains the politics of suburban social marginality through drug policy mobility, specifically the regional mobilization of harm reduction, a public health approach to drug use and an alternative to criminalization. By conceptualizing Surrey as a policy frontier where competing drug policy approaches are mobilized, I map the constrained mobility of harm reduction as it encounters resistance. The political-institutional barriers to harm reduction include 1) redevelopment pressures and policy responses to constrain and displace harm reduction services for marginalized people who use drugs, and 2) a burgeoning private recovery house sector which is a key site of provincial abstinence-based social policy experimentation.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Eugene McCann
Department: 
Environment:
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Towards four-dimensional modeling of geospatial phenomena: An integration of voxel automata and the geo-atom theory

Author: 
Date created: 
2015-06-15
Abstract: 

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are widely used in both the management of spatial data as well as in the study and analysis of spatiotemporal processes. However, contemporary spatial data models are based on the principles of traditional two-dimensional cartography that simplify space to the horizontal Cartesian plane. This is partly due to the limitations in the way spatial phenomena are generally conceptualized and represented in GIS databases using the vector and raster geospatial data models. Over the last two decades, various methods of modeling the third dimension, incorporating the temporal component, and linking the field and object perspectives have been proposed but they have received little integration in GIS software applications. The main objective of this dissertation is to develop modeling approaches that can represent dynamic spatial phenomena in the four-dimensional (4D) space-time domain (three-dimensional space plus time) using a theoretical geospatial data model and the principles of complex systems and geographical automata theory. Using the theory of complex systems and the geo-atom concepts, this dissertation proposes and implements a voxel-based automata modelling approach for the study and analysis of 4D spatial dynamic phenomena. The data are structured using the geo-atom model, a theoretical geospatial data model that links the object and field perspectives of space and explicitly models the four dimensions of the space-time continuum. The results from implementing voxel-based automata indicate their usefulness in simulating dynamic processes, the management of geographic data, and the development of three-dimensional landscape indices and spatiotemporal queries. The significance of the study is that it provides a robust platform that demonstrates the potential of the voxel automata and geo-atom spatial data model to represent spatial dynamic phenomena in 4D.

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

Geographic Automata Systems Approaches for Simulating Forest Insect Infestation: A Case Study of the Emerald Ash Borer

Date created: 
2015-05-26
Abstract: 

Ecological phenomena like insect infestation behave as complex systems, where spatial patterns at larger scales emerge from interactions among individuals at the local level. The complexity is difficult to capture using conventional top-down approaches such as statistical or equation-based models which can be limiting in representing individual interactions, non-linearity, local dynamics, spatial heterogeneity and variation. The main objective of this study is to develop a suite of geographic automata approaches including cellular automata (CA) and agent-based modeling (ABM) to model insect infestation outbreaks over space and time. The proposed approaches were developed using emerald ash borer (EAB) infestation in Ontario as a case study. Obtained results indicate that the developed approaches capture local complex spatio-temporal EAB behavior and reproduce larger scale spatial patterns of infestation. This research advances insect infestation modeling and provides a tool to aid in the surveillance, eradication, and biosecurity to EAB infestation.

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

From Spaces of Marginalization to Places of Participation: Indigenous Articulations of the Social Economy in the Bolivian Highlands

Date created: 
2015-05-14
Abstract: 

This dissertation seeks to understand the conceptualization, structure, main benefits and challenges, and institutional environment for the Social Economy (SE) and Community Economic Development (CED) in Bolivia. In particular, the research seeks to understand if and how the SE and CED support shifts of indigenous peoples from spaces of marginalization to places of participation in economic, political, and socio-cultural terms. Bolivia provides a relevant context for exploring the intersections between questions of indigenous-led development, CED and the SE. A new constitution, adopted in February 2009, enshrines indigenous rights to traditional territories and self-governance; decentralization of resources and decision-making to local levels; and an economic development model that includes ‘social and community forms of economic organization’. Field research explored three cases of collective economic initiatives in rural indigenous communities in the Bolivian highlands within the context of changing local and national governance relationships. The research shows that the particularities of SE conceptualization and practice in Bolivia relate to the country’s indigenous and colonial heritage. There is significant variation in the structures, activities, and scales between the three cases, indicating heterogeneity in indigeneity and a corollary need to move past the traditional-modern dichotomy that shapes much discourse about indigenous peoples. The case studies demonstrate that SE and CED approaches can support improvements in local well-being, measured in social, economic, and cultural terms. Local institutions such as campesino unions and municipal governments are actively supporting the SE but are hindered by national policies and lack of capacity. Finally, place matters to the potential, form, and agency of development, since the culture, history, and institutions and web of interactions in each place can shape, support or impede efforts to foster the SE and CED. The Bolivian examples provide learnings that can be generalized to development theory and practice in general. Although the SE manifests in different forms in different places, it emerges for similar reasons – to address uneven development caused by the social and economic exclusion of particular places and groups of people at the local, national, and international levels. Previously colonized people can use SE and CED approaches to foster increased independence and collective well-being.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Sean Markey
Department: 
Environment:
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.