Posted in New thinking

A Canadian University of Geographic Sciences.

My last blog looked at the Smart ICE project and its implications for other parts of Canada. This has led to a number of realizations, concerning the role of post-secondary educational institutions and today’s technology in a global context.

In 1986, we redefined the Nova Scotia Land Survey Institute as the College of Geographic Sciences. We dropped the provincial epithet and expanded from land surveying to geographic sciences. Geographic Sciences included Cartography, Remote Sensing, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Community Planning, as well as the associated computer programming and technology (the story of COGS )

By 1996, COGS had become a part of the autonomous Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC). COGS was redefined at a Centre of Geographic Sciences. In this same time frame, in the United States, with NSF funding, Drs Goodchild, Marble and Frank had established the National Centre for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA). It was a network structure including UC Santa Barbara, SUNY, Buffalo and University of Maine, Orono. Elsewhere, in Europe, UNIGIS was offering online programs in the Geographic Sciences.

CanadaNetworkImagine the following scenario, COGS could have been expanded to form a network of campuses of the University of Geographic Sciences (UGS). This would permit technical resources to be applied to a wide range of geographic issues across the country. It would build on Canada’s history of innovation in Remote Sensing and GIS. Today, we could use the network to understand a wide range of geographic issues by monitoring and modelling different conditions. Smart ICE would be one example. We can imagine other contributions to our understanding of the boreal forest, or ocean management. Because of the geographic extent of the country, there are many opportunities to observe changes in land, sea and air. This natural laboratory, supported by a network of technical institutes could provide insight and offer solutions to a number of pressing global issues: climate change, urbanization, alternative energy sources.

On the cultural front, Canada has access to a multitude of views of the land, sea and their associated resources. This can be generalized, as a diversity of interest in community mapping.

It is not too late to build a National University of Geographic Sciences (UGS). Part of the network would include campuses in the Arctic and Boreal Forest.

What would be the technologies today ?

  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Remote Sensing
  • Sensor networks
  • UAV’s (drone technology)
  • Cartography
  • Community Mapping
  • Survey Engineering
  • Information Technology
  • Place-based Artificial Intelligence

What would be the sciences/systems today ?

  • Climatology
  • Geomorphology
  • Biogeography
  • Oceanography
  • Computer Sciences


Canada, with its geographic extent, diversity of landscapes and cultures, continues to offer the opportunity to study and understand the condition of our global systems. By investing in a National post-secondary technical education network, the country would be making a major contribution to our understanding of these global systems, but also, be supporting the well-being of its citizens in this dynamic global environment. It would be efficient in terms of costs, speed/catalyst of innovation and degree of ingenuity.

Time to step up to the plate.


4 thoughts on “A Canadian University of Geographic Sciences.

  1. Some years ago,when I was the Vice-President of Arctic College responsible for the western Arctic out of Inuvik, NWT we tried to build support for an Arctic University. Not only was it a disgrace that Canada was the only Arctic county without an Arctic University, but it was a disservice to the people of the North, especially Indigenous People.
    The impressive number of excuses and roadblocks we encountered amply demonstrated why our species is named sapiens. The most discouraging response from some academics was that we wouldn’t be able to recruit qualified faculty because they (and their families) wouldn’t put up with the weather, isolation, and lack of services.
    But, perhaps things have changed now that the Arctic has become a focal point for the effects of climate change. Perhaps a broad collaborate approach, including the Arctic institutions can have some political traction. I wish you the best of luck.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You and I have talked about this; I am totally in favour of the idea. Would this be federally funded, or a combination of authorities?



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