Students travel to WDCAG 2017 conference
Western Division, Canadian Association of Geographers
Every year a select number of Environmental Studies students pile in a bus, van or plane and head to the Western Division Canadian Association of Geographers (WDCAG) to represent The King’s University. This year the conference was supposed to be held in Bellingham Washington at the Western Washington University, (WWU) but in a heartfelt move to allow for inclusiveness following the USA travel ban, it was moved to Abbotsford, British Columbia and held at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV). This year’s conference was attended by Drs. Harry Spaling and Joanna Moyer, fourth years Sean Adams, Kathryn Binnema, Kara Letain, and Justin Wagenaar, and third years Kendra Hutchison, Joel Knoop and Kailyn Wiebe.
The co-hosting universities put on a fantastic conference that started off on Friday with a day of field trips in the Abbotsford area. The King’s students chose to go on a self-directed field trip to A Rocha Canada’s Brooksdale Environmental Centre located in Surrey, where they were treated to a lovely, garden-grown lunch. After, they braved the lower-mainland winter rain with their host Steve Kroeker for a tour of the property and projects. While there, the King’s students witnessed A Rocha’s dedication to science, conservation, food, and faith.
That day ended with a keynotes talk from the co-director of Greenpeace International’s Climate and Energy Unit, Tzeporah Berman, titled “This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge.” The focus of her talk was the impact of climate change, power, and the future. She noted that Canada has a lot of catching up to do regarding international climate policies, including putting our money where our mouth is and stated that “those who feel the effects [of climate change] are the least equipped to deal with it.” Ending on a positive note, she encouraged citizen engagement and open discussion and noted the improvement the world has seen in renewable energy technologies.
Saturday got off to a good start for King’s students, with four presentations in the first session. The session, titled “Geographies of Agriculture,” included Sean Adams and Kendra Hutchison’s presentation “Finding Food: Urban Agriculture Strategies for Edmonton’s Food Deserts,” a talk that outlined how community gardens and farmer’s markets can provide solution to mitigating food deserts in the city of Edmonton.
Following them was a joint, two-part presentation from Justin Wagenaar and Dr. Harry Spaling with “How Sustainable is Conservation Agriculture in Kenya: Questioning the Claims and Comparing the Claims to the Literature,” a presentation that investigated the practice of Farming God’s Way in Kenya.
In the second session, “Environmental Management,” Kara Letain’s presentation “What A Catch! The Effects of Commercial Gillnet Fisheries in Major Manitoban Bodies of Water,” explained the current Walleye and Northern Pike stock status in Lake Manitoba, Winnipegosis and Winnipeg, and the organization ‘Conservation Manitoba’s’ efforts to mitigate the effects of commercial fishing.
In the same session, Kathryn Binnema presented on the topic “Fire Management in American and Canadian National Parks: Fire in Protected Places,” outlining the changing role of national parks and fire management strategies in Yellowstone and Banff National Parks while comparing their current fire policies.
Between sessions, Joel Knoop and Kailyn Wiebe presented their poster, “Uncertainty in the Athabasca: Something Fishy in the Water,” which looked at pollution in the Northern Alberta Athabasca watershed due to the oil sands.
At the Annual general meeting, Dr. Harry Spaling received “The William C. Wonders Award for Scholarly Distinction,” a well-earned research award.
“I’m honoured and humbled to have received this award for scholarly distinction in geography,” said Spaling, “My scholarly work has focused on training and developing students and serving communities in Africa in creation care and sustainable livelihoods.”
Students reflection from Four Years of Westerns Division, Canadian Associate of Geographers Experience
I have had the pleasure of attending WDCAG conferences every year of my 4 year Environmental studies degree. The conferences have provided me a venue to present both academic posters and also to speak about my chosen topics within academic presentations to my WDCAG peer group. As with any research project, these experiences allowed me to delve into a subject that interested me, but with added benefits. Showcasing my excitement and knowledge with students and faculty from other universities, within an academic setting, gave me experience and confidence that cannot be replicated in a regular classroom. The experience will continue to benefit me as I further my education. King’s students have an exemplary award record in regards to the student posters and presentations.
Beyond this, spending time with my fellow Environmental Studies students and professors allowed time outside the classroom, for bonding as we shared in each others’ growth, accomplishments, fun and the occasional awkward, but inevitable, presentation fumble. Participating in these conferences has assisted junior environmental studies students to learn from, senior students in an academic setting, and also enjoy the fun of travelling with a group of peers. I am not alone with my appreciation of the conferenced, fellow fourth year ENVS student Kara Letain says “Going to the WDCAG has been an amazing opportunity for me to network with people from other universities, gain experience presenting academic research, and building strong relationship with my peers.
Favorite experiences include participating in scavenger hunt in Victoria, an all night bus ride to Kamloops, slipping through the snow on a trail through the Ancient Rainforest on route to Prince George, and most recently panicking over connecting flights when leaving Abbotsford. Though my WDCAG career is at an end, as I will be graduating in April, participating King’s University students will have the unique experience of co-hosting the 60th anniversary conference in 2018. I believe that the WDCAG will continue to be a cornerstone of the ENVS degree experience.