March 15, 2011

My day @ The Western Division of the Canadian Association of Geographers

On Saturday, March 12 I attended an interesting conference, the Western Division of the Canadian Association of Geographers, with plenty of excellent presentations that both faculty and grad students from a multitude of BC universities. There were plenty of interesting topical presentations to choose from, and with only an 8 hour stretch to fit in nearly 80 presentations, I had to choose 1 out of a possible 6 for every 20 minute time slot. Thus I'm having to send a lot of follow-up emails to those presenters I missed but wanted to hear their findings. One regret is that I wasn't able to catch much of the presentations on BC cordilleran glaciation, but luckily the lunch intermission allowed me to chat with some students on their findings and field experiences.
Figure showing hydrologic response in a coastal western hemlock
watershed. John Martin's investigations found that infiltration of
precipitation is excellent, as the nature of the soil allows for a high
hydraulic conductivity & porosity. Thus heavy rainfall doesn't result
in much overland flow, at least not until the subsurface reaches
saturation, and shallow depressions overtop.

I was able to catch presentations on GIS modeling of landslides, soil loss, and slope mapping of rugged terrain, in addition to my boss's talk on the decrease of agricultural land in Surrey, BC. He showed some maps I digitized, contrasting 30 years of shifting and merging agricultural lots and their tangible erosion in favor of RCI development. Most of the others I attended were on wetland hydrology and lotic ecosystems. The hydro presentations were quite technical in terms of highlighting their results, and quite advanced in terminology, but amazingly I found myself understanding most of what was said. That I attribute to my excellent Hydrology professor (who was one of the presenters), plus the presenters ability to define the important elements in their work. The only one that threw me for a loop was the aeolian physics of sand particles of a vegetated dune, and the subsequent quadrant mapping of their behavior during microclimate wind eddies & gusts.

Thanks to my university's geography department, the cost of the conference was covered, and I will direct the reimbursement to relief of the earthquake/tsunami disaster in Japan. Below is a list of the presentations I attended with, of course, my university profs in bold (gotta represent the alma mater):
  • Connie Chapman (University of Victoria) - Turbulent airflow and sediment transport over a vegetated foredune, PEI National Park
  • Parthiphan Krishnan (Kwantlen Polytechnic University) - A GIS for Municipally Enabled Sustainable Agriculture
  • Terence Lai (Simon Fraser University) - Simulation of Urban Landslides: Cellular Automata approach
  • Laurens Bakker (Simon Fraser University) - Spatial disaggregation of the Universal Soil Loss equation using Cellular Automata approach
  • Brandon Heung (Simon Fraser University) - Automated procedure for digital landscape classification based on DEM data
  • Sarah Howie (Simon Fraser University) - Vegetation variation across lagg forms of raised bogs in coastal BC 
  • John Martin (Kwantlen Polytechnic University) - The Hydrologic response of a small forested swamp complex, North Vancouver BC
  • Yue-Ching Cheng (Simon Fraser University) - Ins and Outs of Burns Bog: A look into the water balance of a large ombrotrophic bog in the Fraser Valley
  • Jan Thompson (Kwantlen Polytechnic University) - Management of small water storages: A case study of small farm dams in New Zealand
  • Steven Marsh et al (University of the Fraser Valley) - Variation of Fraser River, Kanaka Creek, and Silver Creek geochemistry
  • Maureen Attard (Simon Fraser University) - Progress towards acoustic suspended sediment transport monitoring: Fraser River
  • Jessica Craig (University of Victoria) - Dendroglaciological investigations at South More glacier, northern BC coast mountains
The study area in Jan Thompson's research into small farm dams in New Zealand (North Island). 39°58.218'S 176°19.850'E in Google Earth will place you around the highlighted watersheds, and by adjusting aspect you can see the drainage regime ultimately has its headwaters in the Ruahine Range foothills. Farmers with small dams (under 4m depth) gather their water mostly from first order streams, and Jan's investigations attempt to ascertain the cumulative effect these volumes will have on the larger whole downstream within the dendritic network, how they will alter the hydrology in regards to water quantity, water quality, downstream sediment transfer, and channel morphology.
I learned lots of new things, not only about technical terminology and equipment used in the field, but also on the sociopolitical state of the environment on scales small and large. With food prices increasing worldwide, food security is coming to the forefront as an increasingly acute issue. In regards to equipment I saw utilized by researchers, I had never heard of using a pharmaceutical device called a Wenglor sensor to count grains of sand, or a device called the ADCP (Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler); nor had I heard of certain equations, such as the Fernandez-Luque and van Beek equation. In essence, attending this conference has given me some extra homework to do, but that is all welcome cuisine for the cranium of this geo information junkie.

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