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Spirit of inquiry

Who We Are, What We Do: Department of Geography

Student Life

By Janet Harron

To be clear, university level geography is not about maps and memorizing place names.

It’s about climate change, resource management, landscapes and seabeds, regional development, natural hazards and risk management, meteorology, domestic and industrial pollution, electronic waste, sustainability, globalization, immigration and diversity, and coastal communities.

Dr. Rodolphe Devillers
Dr. Rodolphe Devillers

“While knowing places is important in order to understand them, there is so much more to geography,” said Dr. Rodolphe Devillers. “From historical and cultural geography to the study of landforms in geomorphology or geospatial technologies used for modern mapping, geography crosses the social sciences, natural sciences and engineering in its approach to looking at the Earth, its people and its landscapes.”

A cartographer himself, Dr. Devillers’ research looks at how geospatial technologies like Google Earth can help those who are studying oceans. His current research includes a Marine Environmental Observation
Prediction and Response (MEOPAR) project looking at the impact of
noise on whales (https://nemesproject.com) and he is also part of NSERC’s Canadian Healthy Oceans Network (CHONe) working on marine projected areas planning and effectiveness.

Diverse discipline

Other recent examples of the discipline’s diversity include Dr. Trevor Bell’s work as the academic program lead for the Lake Melville: Our Environment, Our Health Project, initiated by the Nunatsiavut Government, which explores the human health risks associated with methylmercury exposure in Labrador from the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.

On the other side of the spectrum, Dr. Alistair Bath, a specialist in human dimensions in wildlife management who last year was in East Africa helping to turn lion killers into lion guardians, is in India this summer working with locals to encourage them not to poison watering holes in order to kill tigers.

Departmental focus

The department’s teaching and research focuses on five major areas: society, knowledge and values; climate and environmental change; sustainable communities and values; globalization, economy and resources; and health and well-being. Its mission is to foster a spirit of inquiry about the geography of the world through teaching and research, and to provide students with the analytical tools needed to explore the questions that arise and the skills with which to communicate their findings.

Dr. Devillers appears with student Kyekue Mweemba in Who We Are, What We Do: Geography, the latest in a series of teaser videos produced by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and created by multihyphenate writer/videographer/rapper/producer and recent Memorial graduate Timo Sargent.

From Zambia by way of Scotland

Born in Zambia, Ms. Mweemba moved to St. John’s from Scotland in 2014 to attend Memorial University.

“I initially took GEOG 1050 and found that geography could combine my interest in political science, economics, society and world issues,” said Ms. Mweemba, who particularly enjoyed her cultural geography class with Dr. Dean Bavington and Dr. Yolande Potti-Sherman’s course in urban geography.

In demand

Graduates of the department are working in a variety of environments, including the provincial and federal government, private industry, non-governmental organizations and universities.

Dr. Devillers’ former students include a mapping research professional at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the owner of a consulting firm specializing in terrestrial conservation and another entrepreneur whose business creates aerial imagery using drones.

“[Geography] is also one of the areas with the highest employment rate in North America.” –Dr. Rodolphe Devillers

“My field of expertise, geo-mapping, is similar to computer science as it is used across most sectors,” said Dr. Devillers. “It is also one of the areas with the highest employment rate in North America.”

Memorial students interested in exploring geography for the first time can visit Geography in the Fall for All, a comprehensive list of courses for geography newbies offered on the department’s website.

For more information, please see the geography degree map, visit the department’s website or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Who We Are, What We Do is a summer series from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences featuring faculty and students discussing their discipline. The next installment of Who We Are, What We Do: History, launching July 27features Dr. Justin Fantauzzo and student Sarah Hannon.


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