Canadian Environmental History on the Radio

You can now listen to Nature’s Past, the Canadian environmental history podcast, on the radio (in Prince George)! The kind folks at CFUR 88.7, the campus radio station at the University of Northern British Columbia will be broadcasting the full series of Nature’s Past this summer. This will be the first time that the podcast will make the jump to radio.

I’m obviously very pleased to have the podcast aired on CFUR and I’d love to get it out to more campus radio stations. If you are looking for content to air on your campus radio station, please get in touch with me and let me know. You can contact me through the Nature’s Past Twitter account @naturespast or via email.

If you happen to be in Prince George over the summer, tune in to 88.7 on your FM dial at noon on Wednesdays to catch Nature’s Past. Thanks CFUR!


Nature’s Past Canadian Environmental History Podcast Episode 15 Available

NiCHE_Podcast_Logo1smallEpisode 15 Forestry Education in Canada: May 26, 2010

In 1907, the University of Toronto opened Canada’s first forestry school to undergraduate students. This was the beginning of formal forestry education in Canada and great step forward for the profession. However, the history of the Faculty of Forestry reveals a troubled past filled with struggles to balance the interests of the provincial government, private industry, and the university administration. Mark Kuhlberg joins us for an extended interview about his new book One Hundred Rings and Counting: Forestry Education and Forestry in Toronto and Canada, 1907-2007 in which he chronicles the first century of this foundational institution and fills a significant gap in the literature on the history of the development of professional forestry.

Also, Lauren Wheeler, from the New Scholars in Canadian History and Environment Group discusses an upcoming virtual environmental history workshop for graduate students called Place and Placelessness.

Please be sure to take a moment and review this podcast on our iTunes page.

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Works Cited

Music Credits


A Different Kind of Environmental History Workshop

The Network in Canadian History & Environment New Scholars group will be hosting its own graduate student workshop this October, but it’s a different kind of workshop.

If you visit the Place and Placelessness website at you’ll see that this is no ordinary workshop. There’s no conference centre and hotel. There are no three-paper panels followed by questions and comments sessions. There are no travel costs. This is a virtual workshop hosted online through Skype conference calls and the Place and Placelessness website.

This model was derived from the success of the NiCHE New Scholars Reading Group, a monthly workshop where graduate students submit works in progress for review by a group of 4-5 peers who submit written comments and then participate in a live Skype conference call to discuss the given paper. For the past eight months, this group has reviewed draft essays, articles, and chapters from graduate students across Canada (and the world) with great results. This virtual workshop will expand that model and bring together a much larger group of graduate students.

The Place and Placelessness virtual workshop has now released a call for participants. They are looking for graduate students “in any related discipline on topics that address, complicate, or illustrate the local, regional, and transnational ecologies that bind us together.” If you have a work in progress you would like to submit or you just want to participate as a peer reviewer, please sign up for this exciting and novel workshop. This is a great opportunity to connect with graduate students from across Canada and other parts of the world.

State of the Park: Report on the Ecological Integrity of Stanley Park

The Stanley Park Ecological Society (SPES) has released its 2010 State of the Park Report for the Ecological Integrity of Stanley Park. This project emerged following the 2006-07 windstorms. As the Park Board and other community stakeholders began to sort out how to respond to the freshly wind-torn landscape, they realized that there was very limited information on the ecological conditions of the peninsula.

SPES undertook this collaborative project to help fill in this knowledge gap. The report includes a bevy of scientific information about the ecology of Stanley Park, courtesy of a number of different research partners, including the Vancouver Park Board, UBC Forest Sciences Department, Parks Canada, and many others. I was pleased to have the opportunity to contribute some environmental history research to the report from my own work on Stanley Park.

Oxypoda stanleyi, a new species of beetle first discovered in Stanley Park.

The report constitutes the most comprehensive scientific study of the environment of Stanley Park and has vastly expanded our knowledge of this place. The extent of this inventorial scientific research is best illustrated by the discovery of two previously unknown species of beetles: Oxypoda stanleyi and Sonoma squashorum.

With this new knowledge, however, comes the challenge of applying the findings from this study to future park policy and planning. SPES hopes that the report will “serve as the sound basis for a future Stanley Park Master Plan and provide a step towards the long-term maintenance and restoration of the Park’s ecological health and biodiversity.” This is not the first time in the history of Stanley Park that scientific research has guided park policy, but hopefully this report provides a base of knowledge to help inform better decisions about how we can live, work, and play in this environment.

Click here to read the full report.

Urban Animal Field Research: Whale Watching in Vancouver

One of the most exciting things about environmental history research is the opportunity to do field research. It’s fun to get away from the desk and get outdoors. I did just that this afternoon when I heard that a grey whale had wandered into False Creek. After running down to the seawall we were fortunate enough to catch this video of the whale spouting beneath the Cambie Street bridge on its way back out to English Bay:

You really don’t see something like this every day in Vancouver, but as Lani Russwurm’s recent post on Past Tense Vancouver reminds us, False Creek does have a history of peculiar aquatic visitors.


Beached grey whale at Sooke in April.

As it turns out, the grey whale that visited Vancouver this afternoon may be one of many distressed whales migrating northward. Several grey whales have beached and died along the coasts of Washington and Vancouver Island in the past month. As the grey whales migrate north, many struggle to find enough food to survive the journey and occasionally wander along the shores and inlets of the Northwest Coast in search of something to eat. Most of the beached grey whales discovered this past month died of starvation. One beached whale in West Seattle was found to have been feeding on human-made garbage.

This is troubling news given the presence of the grey whale in False Creek today. Late this evening there were reports that the whale had returned. Let’s hope the whale finds a food source soon so it can complete its northern migration.

Read more about the beached grey whales here:

Understanding Past Environments through Historical Photographs

David Brownstein from the Department of Geography at UBC has posted an excellent interview with Jill Delaney from the Library and Archives of Canada about the use of historical photography in scholarly research. Dr. Delaney is involved in the Mountain Legacy Project, an interdisciplinary repeat photography and archival research project that examines landscape and ecological change in the mountain ranges of Western Canada.

This kind of project highlights the significance of historical photographs to scholarly research in the humanities and sciences. It is one of best examples of the intersection between environmental history research and scientific research. Historical photographs, as demonstrated in repeat photography, can provide invaluable information to both humanists and scientists about ecological change that might not otherwise be known through other research methods. It underlines the limits of scientific research methodologies and the broader significance of historical research methodologies to understanding past environments. Professor Eric Higgs, one of the project leaders, recently published an essay detailing some of this work in repeat photography in Culturing Wilderness in Jasper National Park: Studies in Two Centuries of Human History in the Upper Athabasca River Watershed.

Dr. Delaney’s reflections on the importance of historical photography and the challenges of maintaining such archival collections are insightful and certainly worth a read.

Nature’s Past Canadian Environmental History Podcast Episode 14 Available

NiCHE_Podcast_Logo1smallEpisode 14 Management of the Newfoundland Cod Collapse: April 20, 2010.

North American environmental history is punctuated by notorious episodes of species extinctions, most notably the cases of the passenger pigeon and the bison. In both cases, humans exhausted what they believed were unlimited resources in the absence of any scientific management or regulations.

The collapse of the Newfoundland cod fishery in the 1990s stands out from these previous events because of the industry’s dependence on scientific management. This month, we speak with Professor Dean Bavington from Nipissing University about his research and the publication of his new book Managed Annihilation: An Unnatural History of the Newfoundland Cod Collapse.

Also, Marco Armiero, a senior researcher from the Italian National Research Council, tells us more about EMiGR, the Environment and Migration Group of Research.

Please be sure to take a moment and review this podcast on our iTunes page.

Visit the main page at


Works Cited

Sean Kheraj, Canadian History & Environment

Bavington, Dean L.Y. Managed Annihilation: An Unnatural History of the Newfoundland Cod Collapse. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2010.

Crosby, Alfred. The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 1973.

Crosby, Alfred W. Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

Environment and Migration Group of Research (EMiGR)

Music Credits

“Test Drive” by Zapac

“Kids” by Pitx

“Baby Me” by Glenn Miller