An excerpt from the award-winning aerial documentary Over Canada: An Aerial Adventure, a millennium project sponsored by RBC and produced in 1999 by Gary McCartie, which depicts the Canadian landscape from Newfoundland and Labrador to British Columbia.
Geography is divided into numerous subfields with varying emphases. PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY describes and analyses the distribution and process relationships among elements in the physical environment, eg, landforms, CLIMATE, VEGETATION, SOILS and drainage. Some of its major subfields are GEOMORPHOLOGY, CLIMATOLOGY, HYDROLOGY and BIOGEOGRAPHY.
Human geography places more emphasis on people and is concerned with the reasons for the location of human activities, and the implications of those activities for social well-being and the quality of life. Some of its subfields are social, cultural, historical, economic, political and urban geography. Geography also serves as a crucial link between the physical and SOCIAL SCIENCES, particularly in terms of environmental studies. The discipline is taught both "topically," ie, as subfields (geomorphology, economic geography, etc) and "regionally," ie, by studying the interactions of patterns and processes within defined regions or localities.
New areas or subfields of specialization have also developed, for example in spatial policy analysis, marketing geography, gender studies and methodology (eg, GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS or GIS). Collaborative programs have also been established in planning, ethno-cultural studies, foreign area studies and in earth and environmental studies.
Development as a Discipline
Geography is one of the oldest disciplines, originating with Greek scholars over 2000 years ago [geo, "earth"; graphos, "to write"]. The concepts of modern geography were developed in Germany in the last half of the 19th century, and the subject was well known in France and Britain early in the 20th century. Geography was mainly an academic discipline in most countries until about 1940. The application of knowledge about the world's human and physical environments and resources became much more significant during WWII, and applied geography became more of a career possibility after 1945. Much of the philosophy and methods of modern geography came to Canada through Canadians trained in geography departments in American and British universities during the 1950s and 1960s. Other geographers came from Germany and France, the Netherlands and Scandinavia.
In 1922 the University of British Columbia became the first Canadian university to have a partial geography department, when a department of geology and geography was established. Courses were taught by professors trained in geology. The first academic geographers came from France in the mid-1920s and lectured at Université de Montréal. The first full dept of geography was established at the University of Toronto in 1935, headed by T. Griffith TAYLOR, a British geographer who had lectured in Australia and done research in Antarctica. Most large Canadian universities established geography departments during the 1950s; over 45 universities and colleges now have geography departments or geography programs.
The term "geographer" was used as an occupational category by provincial and federal governments before 1940, usually when referring to a person engaged in map production (see CARTOGRAPHY) and often trained in drafting or SURVEYING. The federal government engaged its first professional geographer, J. Lewis Robinson, in 1943, and geographers were carrying on studies in RESOURCE USE and planning in most provincial governments by the early 1950s.PUTNAM of U of T. The association, which now has over 1000 members, publishes 2 quarterly periodicals, The Canadian Geographer and The CAG Newsletter/Bulletin. Geographical societies, which are not strictly professional organizations but are open to the public, operate in some parts of Canada. The oldest is the Société de géographie de Québec (founded 1877); the largest is the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (1929), which publishes the popular magazine CANADIAN GEOGRAPHIC.
Geographers are employed in an increasingly diverse range of occupations. For many students, geography is still part of a general education which permits them to become involved in matters such as people's use of the natural environment and natural-resource analysis, or to study about people and their activities in cities or in local regions. Many students, however, continue into fields such as urban and regional planning, environmental studies, architecture, law, business and commerce, public administration and teaching. By the mid-1970s increasing numbers of geography students were finding employment in government and industry in such growing fields as retail marketing, ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT, local economic development and industrial location. Others work where their technical skills, for example, reading spacial data and in the design, preparation and reading of maps, are useful, and where knowledge of GIS and statistical methods, are required.
Canadian universities grant over 200 master's degrees in geography each year. Most of these geographers become lecturers in community colleges; planners, research scientists and administrators in consulting firms and governments; or applied geographers in business and industry. Doctoral degrees in geography are awarded each year to about 45 people, about half of whom become university professors.
Author J. LEWIS ROBINSON AND LARRY S. BOURNE
Links to Other Sites
Library and Archives Canada
The website for Library and Archives Canada. Offers searchable online collections of textual documents, photographs, audio recordings, and other digitized resources. Also includes virtual exhibits about Canadian history and culture, and research aids that assist in locating material in the physical collections.
Canadian Geographic Online
An electronic version of the magazine. Offers articles and special features about geography and the environment from a Canadian perspective.
Royal Canadian Geographical Society
The Royal Canadian Geographical Society is dedicated to imparting a broader knowledge and deeper appreciation of Canada — its people and places, its natural and cultural heritage and its environmental, social and economic challenges.
Canada: Places to Go
Click on the interactive map of Canada to explore photogenic tourist spots in every region of the country. From the Canadian Tourism Commission.
Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre
Explore the history, culture, and ecology of Canada's North at the website for the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. Check out "Inuvialuit Place Names" for interactive maps and interesting historical details about numerous sites throughout this vast region.
"Western Geography" is the official journal of the Western Division of the Canadian Association of Geographers. Features online articles about geographical topics that emphasize western Canada and adjacent areas.
This site offers links to the very comprehensive Atlas of Canada and other sites related to geographic, geoscience, and spatial data. From Natural Resources Canada.
Perspective Earth through the eyes of an astronaut
View a striking collection of photographs of Canada's national parks taken from space and at ground level by Roberta Bondar. Also includes an interview with the acclaimed Canadian astronaut and photographer. A Kodak.com website.
The Canadian Council for Geographic Education
An organization dedicated to promoting geographic literacy. Check out the extensive online teaching resources and interesting profiles of professionals working in various geographic disciplines.
The GeoConnections Discovery Portal is your gateway to millions of geospatial data products. Browse metadata records or search by subject, coverage or product type to find, evaluate, visualize and access the geospatial data you need.
Glossary: The Canadian Atlas Online
A bilingual glossary of terminology commonly used in the study of geography. From the website for Canadian Geographic magazine.
Ten Reasons Why Every Student Should Study Geography
Top ten reasons to study geography, the daily news that determines our future. From the Canadian Council for Geographic Education.
An extensively illustrated guide to wildlife species found in British Columbia. Covers bats, birds, beetles, bugs and much more. Also features an insect glossary and notes about invasive species. A biogeographic initiative of the Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, UBC.
Check out this extensive information source about physical geography. Offers an online textbook "Fundamentals of Physical Geography," a glossary of terms, animated graphics, and much more. Created by Dr. Michael Pidwirny, University of British Columbia Okanagan.
Glossary: Terrain Classification
Glossary of technical terms related to terrain features in the landscape. A Government of British Columbia website.
National Air Photo Library
NAPL On-Line allows clients to search and retrieve metadata for over three million air photos. Click on "Revised NAPL On-Line" to access their interactive map of Canada. From Natural Resources Canada.
The Canadian Atlas Online
An extensive online resource about Canadian geography. Also provides related lesson plans. From the website for the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.
Cahiers de géographie du Québec
This website offers abstracts in English of selected article from the journal "Cahiers de géographie du Québec." Click on the cover image to access content.
A biography of Canadian-born anthropologist, ethnobotanist, and author Wade Davis. From the National Geographic website.
British Columbia Receives Award for Exceptional Application of Geospatial Technology
An article about award-winning spatial data infrastructure deployed by the Government of British Columbia. Click on the links in the article to view their online geographical data resources. From Directions Magazine.