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

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Permaculture as a driver of social change? A textual analysis of permaculture with perspectives from coastal British Columbia

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-12-16
Abstract: 

My research aims to develop a deeper academic understanding of how permaculture contributes to alternative sustainability politics, focusing on how permaculture is envisioned and enacted as social change. Drawing on textual analysis, semi-structured interviews with permaculture practitioners, and feminist political ecology and critical food studies literatures I argue that while permaculture design is critical of industrial modes of production it remains rooted in universalized ideals of sustainability found in Western society. The creators of permaculture’s focus on apocalyptic narratives of peak oil, resource scarcity, and middle-class, individual-scale transformation positions sustainability as an issue universal to everyone while failing to account for global social, economic, and political inequalities. If permaculture’s goal is truly social change, practitioners need to look beyond permaculture towards more radical traditions that centre intersectional social justice. Without these critical interventions, permaculture risks becoming a white middle-class space that reproduces capitalist and colonial social relations.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Rosemary Collard
Department: 
Environment: Department of Geography
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Physics-based satellite-derived bathymetry for nearshore coastal waters in North America

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-11-13
Abstract: 

Accurate bathymetric information is fundamental to safe maritime navigation and infrastructure development in the coastal zone, but is expensive to acquire with traditional methods. Satellite-derived bathymetry (SDB) has the potential to produce bathymetric maps at dramatically reduced cost per unit area and physics-based radiative transfer model inversion methods have been developed for this purpose. This thesis demonstrates the potential of physics-based SDB in North American coastal waters. First the utility of Landsat-8 data for SDB in Canadian waters was demonstrated. Given the need for precise atmospheric correction (AC) for deriving robust ocean color products such as bathymetry, the performances of different AC algorithms were then evaluated to determine the most appropriate AC algorithm for deriving ocean colour products such as bathymetry. Subsequently, an approach to minimize AC error was demonstrated for SDB in a coastal environment in Florida Keys, USA. Finally, an ensemble approach based on multiple images, with acquisitions ranging from optimal to sub-optimal conditions, was demonstrated. Based on the findings of this thesis, it was concluded that: (1) Landsat-8 data hold great promise for physics-based SDB in coastal environments, (2) the problem posed by imprecise AC can be minimized by assessing and quantifying bias as a function of environmental factors, and then removing that bias in the atmospherically corrected images, from which bathymetry is estimated, and (3) an ensemble approach to SDB can produce results that are very similar to those obtained with the best individual image, but can be used to reduce time spent on pre-screening and filtering of scenes.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Nick Hedley
Department: 
Environment: Department of Geography
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Investigating the importance of methane for future climate change: wetland methane emissions, the permafrost carbon feedback, and methane mitigation

Date created: 
2021-01-18
Abstract: 

Methane (CH4) is a major greenhouse gas (GHG), second only to carbon dioxide (CO2) in the contribution to historical climate forcing. Yet, the level of understanding of how CH4 will influence the future climate remains low because CH4 processes are generally not represented in Earth system models used for future climate projections. The objective of this thesis is to investigate the importance of CH4 for future climate change with a focus on CH4 mitigation as well as wetland CH4 emissions from thawing permafrost soils, and their respective impact on global warming. The thesis includes a description of a new model for wetland CH4 emissions implemented in an Earth system model of intermediate complexity (EMIC) and applications of the EMIC (including a simplified representation of the CH4 cycle) to: (i) investigate the importance of CH4 mitigation to comply with stringent global warming limits, and (ii) project the additional warming due to wetland CH4 emissions from previously frozen carbon following gradual permafrost thaw over the next three centuries. Salient results of this thesis are: (i) immediate cuts in anthropogenic CH4 emissions, alongside CO2 mitigation, are needed to increase the likelihood of limiting global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels; (ii) the warming due to wetland CH4 emissions from thawing permafrost soils is projected to be small (<0.05°C) throughout the 21st century independent of the future anthropogenic emission scenario, (iii) the warming due to such permafrost CH4 emissions has the potential to increase substantially beyond the 21st century, reaching 0.09 (0.01-0.24) °C in the year 2300 under a scenario of high anthropogenic emissions. Overall, by incorporating a simplified representation of the CH4 cycle in Earth system model simulations, this thesis suggests that (i) delaying CH4 mitigation to after the year 2040 will constitute a challenge for limiting global warming to 2°C even if anthropogenic CO2 emissions were reduced aggressively, (ii) reducing anthropogenic GHG emissions will allow to limit the warming due to wetland CH4 emissions from thawing permafrost soils to well below 0.1°C over the next three centuries.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Kirsten Zickfeld
Department: 
Environment: Department of Geography
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Mixed reality interfaces in flood risk management

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-08-18
Abstract: 

Visualizations play a key role in analysing, understanding, and communicating risks of flooding and possible mitigation options. In particular, 3D visualizations are becoming increasingly prominent for risk communication. At the same time, there is a growing ecosystem of mixed reality interfaces that have potential to transform our interaction with 3D data and visualizations. This thesis outlines the potential of these tools and develops a set of mixed reality flood visualization prototypes that utilize capabilities of the state-of-the-art HoloLens 2 mixed reality system. By leveraging the representational and interactive capabilities provided by hand and eye-tracking, 3D displays, spatial mapping of user environment and positional tracking, these tools provide distinct and compelling experiences of 3D flood visualizations. To illuminate the potential of these tools to support meaningful practice, this thesis reflects on the user experience, hardware performance and usability of MR visualizations.

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

High-resolution digital soil mapping for managed forests using airborne LiDAR data

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-07-14
Abstract: 

A goal of sustainable forest management using digital soil mapping (DSM) is to ensure that current and future generations have the best soil information so they can use forest resources wisely. This goal can be achieved using new technologies of generating digital soil maps and high-resolution light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data. Uncertainty in digital soil maps can be quantified using quantile regression (QR). The overall objective of this study is to generate several digital soil maps using different machine learning (ML) methods for forest management purposes and use a QR method to estimate their uncertainty. The study area is the Eagle Hill Forest (95 km2), located west of Kamloops, BC, Canada. Five soil properties were mapped and locations with soil erosion, displacement, and compaction and puddling hazards were displayed on maps and discussed. 90% prediction interval (PI) maps were produced and the performance of the QR method in uncertainty quantification of different ML models was illustrated by producing Prediction Interval Coverage Probability (PICP) plots.

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

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): 
Supervisor(s): 
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): 
Supervisor(s): 
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): 
Supervisor(s): 
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): 
Supervisor(s): 
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): 
Supervisor(s): 
Nick Hedley
Department: 
Environment: Department of Geography
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.