McMaster University

McMaster University

School of Geography & Earth Sciences News

Mapping success: McMaster geographers dominate global competition

Mapping success: McMaster geographers dominate global competitionA group of McMaster Geography and Earth Sciences students has proven it really knows its way around, taking five of nine top places in an international contest that tested competitors’ creative use of geographic information systems, or GIS.

The Esri Global Content Challenge competition drew more than 500 entries from nearly 60 countries around the world in three categories: Land, Ocean and Population. In each category there were cash prizes for the three top finishers, for nine prizes in all.

Students in Patrick DeLuca’s course, Special Topics in GIS, managed to take second and third in Land, second and third in Ocean, and third in Population, dominating the competition, plus one honourable mention.

Competitors were presented a list of authoritative data and, using their backgrounds and imaginations, developed compelling scientific stories using Esri’s Story Map Journal app.More.. More

McMaster experts join major Canadian initiative on the future of the world’s water

McMaster experts join major Canadian initiative on the future of the world’s water

A major national research initiative on the future of Canadian and global water resources features leading McMaster researchers from several disciplines.

Water research is a particular area of expertise for McMaster, which has strength in a wide range of research fields, including hydrology, climate change, the Great Lakes, flood forecasting, groundwater pollution, environmental contamination and public policy. The recently formed McMaster Water Network works to bridge research and policy both within the university and externally with other researchers, practitioners, policy makers, industry and communities.

The Global Water Futures project, announced today, will see senior McMaster researchers working in partnership with colleagues from across Canada in a $143-million program led by the University of Saskatchewan, and also including University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University.More.. More

Searching for insight: Students conduct research at Hidden River Cave

Searching for insight: Students conduct research at Hidden River Cave

Students from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario have spent the past week at Hidden River Caveconducting research that involves looking at the cave’s sediment with hopes of gaining insight on how to protect it and other caves.

This past week was not the first time McMaster students had visited Hidden River Cave. They have been coming to the cave for more than a decade to do reports on caves and karst, but didn’t begin their research project until last year when they began working with the university’s micropaleontology lab.

“What we are trying to do is a get a good look at the history of Hidden River Cave. We’re talking about going back thousands of years,” said Peggy Nims, educational director for Hidden River Cave / American Cave Museum, adding that the McMaster students are adding to the cave and museum staff’s base knowledge and understanding of the cave, which will help with the protection of it and other caves. More.. More

As Peat Bogs Burn, a Climate Threat Rises

As Peat Bogs Burn, a Climate Threat Rises

Kristyn Housman grabbed the end of a sampling auger, a steel tube that twocolleagues had just drilled into amoss-covered hummock in a peat bog, and poked through a damp, fibrous plug of partly decomposed peat.

Peat has been building up for centuries in this bog, where the spongy moss is interspersed with black spruces and, on a late spring morning, the air is teeming with mosquitoes. The sample, taken from three feet down, is at least several hundred years old, said Ms. Housman, a graduate researcher at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.“There’s literally tons of carbon here,” she said, looking around the bog, which covers several acres off a muddy oil-company road amid the vast flatness of northern Alberta. More.. More

LRT can ‘activate’ downtown Hamilton: McMaster study concludesLRT can ‘activate’ downtown Hamilton: McMaster study concludes

A new McMaster study concludes the controversial LRT plan is the catalyst needed to ignite downtown economic development.

Chris Higgins, the post-doctoral fellow who authored the paper, told a transit seminar sponsored by the McMaster Institute for Transportation and LogisticsTuesday morning that the much-debated light rail line is proposed to run through the most densely populated part of the city – exactly the kind of neighbourhood needed to get the best economic result from the system. More.. More

Pavlos Kanaroglou, professor, scholar and esteemed researcher was good friend of HamiltonPavlos Kanaroglou, professor, scholar and esteemed researcher was good friend of Hamilton

Hamilton, by all accounts, has lost a dear friend who cared so much for its residents.

Although his was not a household name, Pavlos Kanaroglou was that friend.

Kanaroglou, an urban transportation expert who also used spatial analysis to study issues from child care and housing to health care, was a McMaster University geography professor emeritus, and director and a founder of the McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics (MITL). More.. More

Pavlos Kanaroglou

Visitation for Pavlos Kanaroglou

Geography and Earth Sciences Professor Pavlos Kanaroglou passed away this weekend.

Visitation will take place starting at 10 AM on Tuesday May 17th at the Bay Gardens Funeral Home (1010 Botanical Drive, Burlington) which is near the Royal Botanical Gardens.  Service starts at 11 AM and burial to follow at nearby Woodland Cemetery.  Reception following service and this is back at the funeral home.  In lieu of flowers and in honour of Pavlos' lifetime passion, donations to the McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics can be made at the funeral home.  There is an online Book of Condolences at

More.. More

Electric mobility

Demand for electric vehicles will increase – if the price is right

According to a new McMaster-led survey, there’s pent up consumer demand for electric vehicles- if the price is right.

That was a key finding from aCanada-wide research survey of 20,000 households that looked at consumer attitudes toward electric vehicles. The survey is an important component of a five-year research project:  the Social Costs and Benefits of Electric Mobility in Canada*  led by Principal Investigator Pavlos Kanaroglou, Director of the McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics (MITL). More.. More

climate Change

Glen Murray: A serious conversation needed on climate change

How can we move toward zero emissions? How can we restore ecosystems and keep our planet intact for future generations?

Although the problems are complex, Glen Murray, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change says there are tangible actions both cites and individuals can take to protect the environment and address the threat posed by climate change.

Murray made these remarks at the Low Carbon, Climate Resilient Cities Symposium, part of Climate Change and Environment: Navigating from Risk to Resilience (April 18-22), the final set of events in the Big Ideas, Better Cities series. More.. More

PovertyLow Carbon, Climate Resilient Cities

How can cities respond and adapt to the threat of climate change?
Join McMaster researchers and renowned experts as they explore this question and more at this special event hosted by the McMaster Centre for Climate Change. TUESDAY, APRIL 19, 2016, McMaster University, David Braley Health Sciences Centre, 100 Main Street West, 2rd Floor, Hamilton, ON.

This event will feature keynote speaker The Honourable Glen Murray, M.P.P, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Ontario who will focus on some of the climate-related initiatives currently underway in the province. Website

Electric Mobility

How could electric vehicles transform cities?

How are advances in electric vehicles helping to build clean, sustainable and more livable cities? How are consumer attitudes towards electric vehicles changing?

On Wednesday April 20, learn more about these questions and more at The Critical Role for Electric Mobility, part of Climate Change and Environment: Navigating from Risk to Resilience (April 18-22), the next series of events in the Big Ideas, Better Cities series. More.. More


Impacts of climate change too grave to ignore

By Altaf Arain

Whether it's 1.5 or 2 degrees C, it's not only about the numbers. It's about the commitment and starting to take serious action.

We should all be heartened by the level of participation, engagement and seriousness we have seen at the Paris climate-change talks. More.. More



Researchers link poverty and shorter life expectancy

McMaster statistician digs deep into Code Red data and uncovers some startling relationships. There's been something gnawing away at Patrick DeLuca for the past five years, an itch he hadn't been able to scratch.

DeLuca is a statistical whiz and geographic information specialist at McMaster University and one of two researchers who helped put together The Spectator's highly acclaimed Code Red projects, first launched in 2010. More.. More

Strange Fish

Studying strange visitors from an ecosystem far, far away

The results of the iClimate Video completion, spearheaded by Katey Daly and Rachel Skubel with funding from SPICES, is featured in The Daily News.

The video, “Visitors from the Deep,” won first prize from the iClimate video competition. More.. More


'When a business bikes, the business benefits'

Start the Cycle and the campus bike library, created by Charles Burke and Justin Hall, is featured in the Daily News. More.. More


McMaster projects win big global health grants

Corinne Schuster-Wallace, a McMaster environmental studies prof, is leading an international team that's planning a sanitation system for Uganda that would turn human excrement and byproducts from fish farming into biofuel.

"It's exciting that we can move forward with the project because we can see a huge potential for changing lives in Uganda," she said. More.. More


Poverty Project: Not all gain from Hamilton’s economic recovery

Income inequality has increased in Canada and internationally in recent years, according to a 2015 paper co-authored by McMaster University's Richard Harris. But Hamilton has fared worse than most cities, because of deindustrialization coupled with large numbers of refugees, low-income immigrants and the welfare poor. More.. More


Hamilton housing prices see biggest jump in Canada

Richard Harris, a geography professor at McMaster University, says spiking prices have implications for renters as well. "In one sense, it's unquestionably good news. But then there's all the people who aren't part of the story," he says. "It's not good for the people trying to get into the market … and there's no good news for renters at all. As house prices go up, so do rents — taking home ownership that much farther out of reach for many renters" More.. More


Why employers are caring for the caregivers

Statistics Canada shows that 8.1 million Canadians are caregivers, and of those, 6.1 million are in the work force. Most of the caregivers are aged 45 to 64, a group that also comprises the most experienced workers, says Allison Williams, a professor at McMaster University in Hamilton and research chair for the Canadian Institute of Health Research.More.. More


What is it like working at McMaster University?

McMaster University staff and faculty are being invited to participate in an online survey about the workplace culture at McMaster University. The research is being led by Dr. Allison Williams, who holds a Chair in Gender, Work & Health at McMaster University ( More..More



Undergrad research will shed light on basement apartments, in-law suites and more

Fourth-year Geography and Environmental Science student Ashleigh Patterson is trying to get a handle on just how many rental apartments exist within private Hamilton homes – and how many of them are properly registered. More..More



James Street North's LRT surprise: What will it mean for street's revival?

One of the city's most-heralded grassroots street transformations is about to undergo another massive overhaul. But McMaster PhD student Chris Higgins – who lives in the James North area – says ideally, he'd like to see a streetcar-like approach on James North similar to what's used on King Street in Toronto. More..More


Housing boom can help bring affluence to the inner city

A new study of the history of Hamilton neighbourhoods says the city has become one of Canada's most segregated cities by income.

But the study, led by McMaster geographer Richard Harris suggests Hamilton's housing boom and the new desirabilty of older neighbourhoods can help change that.

Ironically, it is the sustained decline and poverty of those central and lower city neighbourhoods over several decades that has turned them into housing bargains — in urban settings that are now seen as attractive to more affluent buyers. More..More

2OC3 CanadaGeography 2OC3 Online Course Offered this Summer

Geography 2OC3 is a fully online course taught by Dr. Walter Peace, brought to McMaster via Ontario's Online initiative. It will run over the spring-summer semester from May to July. Now you can finally learn about the regional geography of Canada, wherever you happen to be!

“The purpose of Geography 2OC3 is to provide an understanding of Canada by studying its geographical diversity in terms of the physical environment, society, economy and culture.  By the end of the course you will have a greater appreciation of Canada's regions, physical resource base, economic history and current issues. These themes are crucial to understanding Canada’s ‘essence’ and its mosaic of regional landscapes." View the Introduction Video

Justin Hall- Charles Burke

McMaster students hope to bring bike lending to Ottawa Public Library

Libraries are usually about teaching kids how to read, but two McMaster University students are hoping the Ottawa Public Library will soon be a place to learn how to ride a bike.

Justin Hall and Charles Burke are avid cyclists who launched a Hamilton-based bike library program aimed at children. More..More


McMaster helping to reimagine Hamilton’s streetscape

McMaster is working with community and city partners to reimagine the streetscape of Hamilton. McMaster’s Network for Campus-Community Partnerships recently collaborated with the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and the McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics to host a dialogue to inform the complete streets policy currently being developed by the City of Hamilton. More..More

Traffic Relief

Hold on, traffic relief is coming to Hamilton – in a year

The city expects to be able to control the lights at about 100 intersections from a central traffic centre a year from now. But Matthias Sweet, who studies traffic congestion at McMaster University, says a remotely controlled traffic system wouldn't entirely solve the traffic mess of the last few days. McMaster geography professor Darren Scott says generally, the city's road network is well-connected, but that stretch of the 403 where Friday's mudslide occurred is highly problematic. "There is no worse place to have this happen." More..More


Bike Library makes getting around campus a little easier

Books aren’t the only thing you can check out of Mills Library; bikes have just been added to the list.

McMaster University Library has partnered with Start the Cycle,* a McMaster student start-up initiative, to create the Mills Bike Library, a bike-lending service meant to provide students with equal access to sustainable transportation on campus. More..More



David Sweet: 'McMaster is at the forefront of so many innovations'

Coulibaly, a McMaster professor jointly appointed in the School of Geography & Earth Sciences and Department of Civil Engineering, will work with University of Guelph, Université Laval, University of Manitoba, Université de Moncton, University of New Brunswick, University of Saskatchewan, Trent University, University of Waterloo and University of Western to fill this gap by developing flood forecasting systems. More..More

Hamilton HouseHamilton housing market hot

Hamilton’s house prices are up more than 7 per cent over the past year, and bidding wars abound, even in the central core. Hamilton housing prices are on average 40 percent cheaper than in the GTA. But Richard Harris from McMaster University says don’t be surprised if homes around the core are priced higher than you expected. Richard Harris, Geography Professor, McMaster University: “The area in and around the downtown, the residential properties in and around the downtown have seen believe it or not the highest rate of increase in prices of any neighbourhood or area in Hamilton.” More..More

Susan Cunningham

Leading alumna to speak about being a woman in the oil patch.

Business executive and philanthropist Susan Cunningham will kick off a new lecture series Nov. 6 with her talk “Leadership and the Oil Patch: How I Got There and What is Needed.”

In 2010 Cunningham made a $1-million gift to McMaster to establish the Susan Cunningham Research Chair in Geology. Janok Bhattacharya, who received his PhD from McMaster in 1989, is the current chair holder. More..More
Chris Higgins

Chris Higgins Sets the Record Straight on Cable 14's Trending

Chris Higgins Sets the Record Straight on Cable 14's Trending, the inaugural episode of Cable 14's new current affairs program. The topic for this episode was Hamilton's rapid transit debate: light rail transit (LRT), bus rapid transit (BRT) and the ongoing confusion over technologies, routes, funding and viability. The program featured Chris Higgins, McMaster PhD student in geography and the lead author of a few reports on LRT in Hamilton More..More

Mac study: LRT no magic bullet

Hamiltonians should tone down their expectations about the city-building powers of LRT, according to the co-author of a new study by McMaster University researchers.

PhD student Chris Higgins, the study's lead hand, says there's been "a bit of an oversell" in positioning the project as a catalyst for economic development. More..More

Kennewick ManWhy was the Kennewick Man such a seafood lover?

From the moment the Kennewick Man was discovered along the banks of Washington’s Columbia River, nearly 20 years ago, the prehistoric remains have been the subject of both fascination and controversy. Scientists from around the world, including McMaster’s Henry Schwarcz, have studied the skeleton, piece by piece. More..More


ESRIESRI selects McMaster as GIS Centre of Excellence

ESRI Canada has selected McMaster University’s School of Geography and Earth Sciences (SGES) as a Centre of Excellence in Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

SGES has a long history of teaching and research using the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) suite of products. McMaster was one of the first universities in Canada to sign an annual license agreement with the Institute, was the first Canadian university to collaborate with a college to offer a certificate in GIS, and was the first Canadian university to earn the designation of ESRIsri More..More



Waste not, want not: Students examine how we use and abuse fresh water

For those who like to begin their day with a piping-hot shower, adding a few extra minutes can seem like a harmless indulgence.

Unfortunately, the cost of relaxation is high. According to new research from a team of McMaster students, the average household in Hamilton spends roughly $1,200 per year on costs related to regular 10-minute showers. More..More


Special delivery

Special delivery

A high-tech piece of machinery in Hamilton may help researchers understand why a young girl fell to her death in a Mexican cave some 13,000 years ago.

The x-ray fluorescence machine, recently installed in Ed Reinhardt’s lab, analyzes more core samples at a much faster rate – and a much higher resolution – than was previously possible. More..More


Eric Windhorst

Natural approach to health care

Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark will benefit our overall well-being by Eric Windhorst. Health care is costing Ontarians a fortune. A 2013 study by the not-for-profit C.D. Howe Institute states that 50 cents of every dollar spent on provincial programming is allocated to the health-care sector. And projections suggest our dire financial situation will not be getting better any time soon. TD Economics estimates that, by the year 2030, health-care costs could eat up 80 cents of every dollar allotted to provincial programs. More...More


John MaclachlanPresident’s Award winner says best classrooms are in caves

A week in Iceland, a week in the classroom, a week in Kentucky, a week in the classroom.

For John Maclachlan, that’s an ideal month of teaching – and not for the reasons you might think. “Students relate to what is practical around them, so I get them out there to see it,” he says. “It’s not a vacation for them, it’s a learning experience.” More...More


Grim discovery sheds new light on when humans came to the Americas

“This is a bonanza find,” said Eduard Reinhardt, a micropaleontologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. “The quality of the data that we’re getting is exceptional.”

An experienced diver, Dr. Reinhardt is one of the scientists directly involved in examining the site where the Naia skeleton was first discovered in 2007.


The mapmaker's dilemma: How do you solve a problem like Crimea?

Most of the time, maps help you get from point A to point B. But when it comes to geopolitics, maps have long been used as much more than way finders.

“Changing the maps makes things seem official,” says geographer Walter Peace, McMaster’s map expert. “It’s also a way of promoting what you’ve done. More people will see the changes, and more people will accept this new, ‘official’ version.”

meteoritesRare meteorites offer new clues about mysterious Red Planet

Geography & Earth Sciences professor Sang-Tae Kim has never been to Mars, but Mars has come to him.

Kim and a team of international researchers from the University of Maryland, NASA and several other institutions had the rare opportunity to study Martian meteorites — precious extraterrestrial materials of which there are only a few dozen here on Earth. More...More


Climate Change

Experts quiet climate-change skeptics: Warming leads to longer cold snaps

Climate-change skeptics -- and everyone else in Canada -- had better bundle up. Research shows extended cold snaps like we’ve seen this winter could be a direct result of climate change. “When people see one month of extreme cold, they say ‘What happened to global warming?’” said Arain, a professor in McMaster University’s School of Geography and Earth Sciences. “But if you look globally, it’s -23 C in our region, but in Australia, in Europe the temperatures are much warmer than usual.” More...More

3MT AwardsMacSMS puts local weather in the palm of your hand

Want to know the exact temperature in Faculty Hollow before you even set foot on campus? Just send a text.

A trio of McMaster engineering students have created a brand new messaging service, MacSMS, that offers real-time weather updates generated by the McMaster Weather Station. More...More


3MT Awards

Michelle Reid crowned McMaster 3MT champion

Graduate student Michelle Reid will be representing McMaster at the upcoming Ontario Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition in April.

Reid, an Environmental & Earth Science student, took the top prize for her presentation on wetlands reclamation in the Alberta oil sands, besting a diverse field of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from all faculties. More...More


For Rent

Why Canada’s cult of home ownership is in trouble.

Despite all the financial obstacles they face, young adults have been eager believers in home ownership. Now, they’re thinking more critically about houses.

That’s the sense you get from the twentysomethings in Richard Harris’s fourth-year urban housing class in the geography program at McMaster University in Hamilton. For the second year in a row, Prof. Harris has given his students a fall assignment to construct an argument for either buying a home or renting.“Last year, in a class of 29 students, a clear majority said they would buy,” Prof. Harris wrote me in an e-mail.More...More

Ice Storm

$3.7M to fund research partnerships and leading-edge facilities

McMaster is starting off 2014 with good news from both the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). Nineteen researchers from five faculties are leading projects and research programs awarded funding boosts from the CFI’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund and NSERC’s Strategic Project Grants (SPG). One of the NSERC-funded grants – led by Altaf Arain, director of the McMaster Centre for Climate Change – is particularly timely, given the latest wallop of weather and the resulting severe damage to tree canopies across the country. More...More

Kellly Biagi

Mac student returns from Antarctic expedition

Hamilton's chilly temperatures are nothing to Kelly Biagi, who has just returned from a 10-day expedition through Antarctica.

The 23-year-old McMaster student was one of a handful of master's students aboard the Students on Ice ship. When she spoke to The Spectator from the vessel on Sunday, Jan. 5, they were travelling through the Drake Passage.

"It's pretty cold," she laughed at the time. "We spent a lot of the days outside, and I had at least three pairs of pants on and six layers on top plus a down coat and a raincoat." Still, she said the experience has been life-changing. . More...More

CaveSumatra coastal cave records stunning tsunami history

A cave on the northwestern coast of Sumatra holds a remarkable record of big tsunamis in the Indian Ocean.The limestone opening, close to Banda Aceh, retains the sandy deposits washed ashore by huge, earthquake-induced waves over thousands of years. Scientists are using the site to help determine the frequency of catastrophes like the event of 26 December 2004.

This is being done by dating the cave's tsunami-borne sediments, which are easy to see between layers of bat droppings. "The tsunami sands just jump right out at you because they're separated by guano layers. There's no confusing the stratigraphy (layering)," explains Dr Jessica Pilarczyk. More...More


Moon pictureChina takes aim at moon in landmark lunar mission

For the first time in nearly 40 years, a man-made rover is en route to the moon.
On Monday, China launched the ambitious Chang'e-3 exploration mission — a first for the country's space program, and a key piece of the overall Chinese Lunar Exploration Program. The lander spacecraft and its on-board rover, known as "Jade Rabbit," will touch down on the moon Dec. 16. 
Li He, a PhD candidate and lunar researcher in the School of Geography & Earth Sciences, sheds some light on the Chang'e-3 Moon mission, and what it means for the future of the space race: More...More

Image placeholderMcMaster receives more than $24M in major
partnerships with the federal government, Chrysler and industry

The University has entered into major partnerships with Chrysler, the federal government and other auto industry leaders, to develop energy-efficient, high-performance electrified and lighter weight vehicles.

The $24-million partnership includes federal funding for several McMaster projects through Automotive Partnership Canada (APC). More...More


Geographer honoured by 'the people who know my work best'

Image placeholderRichard Harris, a professor in the School of Geography and Earth Sciences, has been awarded the Canadian Association of Geographers' Award for Scholarly Distinction in Geography.

“This is meaningful because I am being recognized by my peers,” said Harris. “These are the people who know my work best, so it really is an honour.”

To know Harris’ work is to be familiar with nearly three decades of work. He has published six books, nearly 100 peer reviewed articles and more than 150 book reviews.

Harris has also received Fulbright, Guggenheim and Canada Research fellowships and was recently elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. More...More

Image placeholderHelp put climate change on the map

What are you doing to help mitigate climate change? Have you noticed the impacts of our changing climate?

The McMaster Centre for Climate Change has created a website where you can share the actions you are taking and the impacts you notice.  Submissions will appear on interactive maps and you may find out about interesting projects that you never knew existed. 

Connect with your community and help put climate change on the map —

Image placeholder

Billion-year-old water could hold clues to life on Earth, Mars

A team of Canadian and UK researchers has discovered what may be some of the oldest pockets of water on the planet – and they may contain life.

The team, which included McMaster’s Greg Slater, analyzed water pouring out of boreholes in a mine nearly 2.5 km below the ground in Timmins, located in northern Ontario.

Their findings, published May 15 in the journal Nature, could force us to rethink which parts of Earth are fit for life.

The researchers used isotopes of helium, neon, argon and xenon to demonstrate that the water was isolated deep beneath the Earth for an average of 1.5 billion years and possibly up to 2.6 billion years, making it some of the oldest water ever observed. More...More

Image placeholderNew research chairs to put gender differences under the microscope

Two McMaster researchers are probing the links between gender, work and health.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research has awarded Chairs to Allison Williams and Joy MacDermid, who will explore gender issues from very different perspectives.

Williams, an associate professor in geography and earth sciences and Chair in Gender, Work and Health – Implementation Systems, will investigate how workplaces can better accommodate employees who act as caregivers at home. More...More


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