Geographic Education and Research

Geography is a spatial science that seeks to understand why phenomena are located where they are and how they interact with one another in a spatial context. It is a discipline with practical application in fields such as geomatics, rural and urban planning, resource management, and many others. Although the social science and science components of K-12 education have significant geographic content, geography as a discreet discipline is not currently taught as part of the core curriculum in Saskatchewan schools; it is, however, chosen by about 2% of students as a high school elective. Both of the provincial universities have departments of geography in which they train graduates able to work in a wide range of careers.

The teaching of geography began at the University of Saskatchewan in 1959 with the appointment of J.H. Richards. In 1960-61, 257 students were enrolled in a total of three geography classes. Currently, thirteen full-time faculty teach fifty different classes in the general areas of physical, human, technical, and regional geography. More than 3,500 students a year take classes in geography through the department, including off-campus students. Geography instruction at the Regina campus of the University of Saskatchewan began in 1965 when Victor Dojcask was employed to teach an evening class. Currently, the Department of Geography at the University of Regina has eight full-time faculty members and three half-time instructors, teaching a total of fifty-two classes. In 2004,1,350 students were registered in geography courses offered by the department. Classes are taught around four basic themes: physical, environmental, human, and regional geography. Both provincial departments offer graduate studies, including a PhD program at the University of Saskatchewan. In addition to teaching, each faculty member is free to follow individual research interests. At the University of Regina these are as varied as the geography of business and industry, the reconstruction of paleo-environments, cartographic semiotics, or the study of Canadian-American borderlands. The research activities of faculty at the University of Saskatchewan are reflected in the more than 120 Masters and twenty-five PhD candidates who have successfully defended thesis topics in areas such as regional science, spatial modeling, environmental science and management, geomatics, and social geography.

Linkages with other institutions, faculties and organizations are an essential part of geographic education and research at both universities. Geographers at the University of Saskatchewan have developed strong links with Environment Canada's National Water Research Institute, while researchers at the University of Regina are affiliated with a number of provincial and federal government departments through the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative (PARC). Geographers at the University of Regina are playing a major role in investigating rural sustainability and social cohesion in order to help communities in southern Saskatchewan survive and prosper in an era of globalization. The Department of Geography at the University of Saskatchewan, by contrast, has placed particular emphasis on problems of northern development. This includes an association with the University of the Arctic, which attracts students from as far afield as Greenland, Scandinavia and Russia.

In addition to numerous scholarly publications by faculty members at both universities, the Department of Geography at the University of Saskatchewan must be especially recognized for its commitment to portraying the geography of the province through the Atlas of Saskatchewan. Published in 1968, and edited by J.H. Richards and K.I. Fung, this provided a comprehensive portrait of the physical, historical, population, economic, and urban geography of the province at a time of dramatic social and economic transformation. In 1999 a new edition of the Atlas was published. While the Atlas provides two distinct snapshots of the province taken some thirty years apart, geographers at the University of Regina are currently developing a book that will provide a broader perspective on the province's geography. It will not only examine present-day spatial organization, but also explore the way in which the province has changed over time. Authors from both departments have contributed chapters for this book.

Marilyn Lewry, W.O. Archibold, Randy Widdis