Western University GeographyWestern Social Science


The graduate degree programs in the Department of Geography are strongly research oriented, and the completion of a thesis is the main focus at both the Masters and PhD levels. The Department offers several different programs leading to MA, MSc, and PhD degrees.

We have specific strengths in the areas of:

Environment, Development and Health

A new and growing focus in the department is on the linked themes of environment, development and health. Within this cluster, “environment” is defined in the broadest sense, including aspects of both physical and social environments. Research on the health geography of Canada includes work on environmental hazards and risk perception, environmental inequity, health effects of air pollution, and childhood obesity and urban form. Research in international contexts, with regional specialization in Africa and the Caribbean, is examining peasant agriculture, food security and nutrition, HIV-AIDS, and the connections between gender, migration and development.

Faculty members in this cluster are also involved in research on water resources, climate change, and other aspects of environmental policy and management. The EDH cluster has collaborative links with the physical geography, urban studies and Geographical Information Science clusters within the department, as well as with researchers in other departments and faculties across the university and at other universities inside and outside of Canada. Several of its members work closely with government, private sector and community-based organizations.

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Geographic Information Science (GIS)

Theoretical and applied studies of geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing and cartography. Interests in GIS include: spatial modeling and visualization, database structures and pattern recognition. Application of GIS to: urban land use, locational analysis, wildlife habitat, wetlands, arctic soils and vegetation, glacier dynamics, and landscape. Planetary cartography and mapping of asteroids. Applications of remote sensing to resource management, cartography, and earth surface processes (including vegetation patterns, river channel form, and urban surface temperatures).

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Physical Geography

Studies of earth surface processes in hydrology, geomorphology, climatology, biogeography and pedology using instrumented field sites, terrain analysis, remote sensing and GIS. Current projects include urban heat island, forest fragmentation, subglacial hydrology, and fluvial sediment transport.

Environmental change studies include: paleoenvironmental reconstructions using dendrochronology and dendrogeomorphology, paleolimnology and environmental archeology, the response of river and vegetation systems to environmental change, and modified climates in urban areas.

Regional emphases include the Rocky Mountains, Canadian High Arctic, southwestern Ontario and the Boreal Plains.

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Urban Studies

Cities are confusing places: in some locales, we find rapid economic growth, with an infusion of firms and high-paying jobs; in others, we find clusters of dilapidated housing and high crime rates. The range of issues across the social and economic landscape is also perplexing. What causes these phenomena to occur? Urban Studies research focuses on phenomenon and societal issues in the context of cities. The research topics include urban development, urban land and real estate economics, urban morphology, planning, housing, health, history, culture and geomatics. Current projects by members of the Department of Geography include research on: recent decline in the downtown quaternary functions in North American cities; spatial demographics of educational demand; urban opportunities for youth gambling; urban environmental influences on childhood obesity; geographic studies of paediatric trauma; urban forms for seniors' independence and mobility; property acquisition and social mobility; spatial patterning of urban crime; geographies of personal networks; urban demographics and housing choices; uncertainty and household mobility; and the Imag(in)ing London historical GIS project.

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We also have joint degrees in Environment and Sustainability and Migration and Ethnic Relations.

The Department has excellent research, analytical and computing facilities. Our large and active group of graduate students and faculty conduct research in locations all over the world - see the brochure link on our research opportunities page.

We invite you to explore this website and to contact Lori Johnson, our Graduate Program Administrator, or Professor Jeff Hopkins our Graduate Chair, for more information on our program. We also invite applicants to visit Western, tour the university and the department's facilities, and meet possible supervisors and current graduate students. Please contact Lori Johnson to make arrangements.