Moose Strolls Through Downtown Calgary

A moose on the run in downtown Calgary.

Unusual urban animal sightings abound in Canada this month. Last week I wrote about the grey whale that visited Vancouver’s False Creek, the first to be seen in the vicinity of the city in living memory. Canada’s increasingly complicated relationship with wild animals in urban environments continues this week in Calgary, Alberta where a wild moose took a stroll through the city yesterday afternoon.

According to the Calgary Sun the wayward moose made its way up from the Bow River and began to wander into the city. At one point, the moose walked down 9th Avenue against the traffic!

Thankfully, Fish and Wildlife officers safely tranquilized the beast and and released it back into the wild. These kind of encounters today are certainly not commonplace and they highlight the careful boundaries humans have erected between cities and nature, domestic space and wilderness space. Whales in False Creek in Vancouver and Moose on 9th Avenue in Calgary disrupt those intellectual boundaries and remind us that we share urban habitats with many other species.

Thanks to @theMapleTap for passing along this story.


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.

A Quick Look at Copyright: Mini-Documentary

Cory Doctorow recently posted a link to a great short documentary called “When Copyright Goes Bad”. It explores, in brief, some of the implications of modern copyright law for consumers, artists, and educators. I thought this served as a pretty good resource for explaining some of the current debates surrounding copyright reform. It also touches of many of the challenges for educators.

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.

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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


Saskatchewan’s Uranium History

To wrap up the post-war years on my course in Western Canadian history since 1885, I’ve decided to focus on the impact of northern mining on the economies and societies of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Since the 1940s, both provinces transitioned from agricultural-based economies with predominantly rural populations to more diversified economies led by services and northern mining activity with majority urban populations.

This is one of the most significant transformations of the Canadian prairies in the second half of the 20th century. For Alberta, petroleum commodities have led the northern mining industry, especially the current exploitation of the province’s bitumen resources in the Athabasca region. For Saskatchewan, northern mining activity is dominated by the extraction of crude oil, potash, and uranium. Both cases pose important questions about the relationships between the state, natural resource exploitation, energy consumption, and the environmental consequences of rapid industrial mining activities. Although this course began with a lot of talk about wheat and farms, the history of the Canadian prairies since the end of the Second World War is decidedly different.

We’ll be looking at the history of uranium mining in Saskatchewan and the Canadian Northwest since the 1940s and how that industry has transformed the economy, society, and environment of northern Saskatchewan. For a closer examination of the impact of Canada’s uranium mining industry, I’ll be showing some clips from Magnus Isacsson’s 1990 NFB film Uranium.

Uranium by Magnus Isacsson (1990) 47:59

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Reaching a Popular Audience Workshop: Wrap-Up

Last week, we hosted a writing workshop for history and geography graduate students at the University of British Columbia called “Reaching a Popular Audience” sponsored by the Network in Canadian History & Environment and The History Education Network. The intent of the workshop was to introduce graduate students to some core skills for writing newspaper op-ed articles and magazine queries. We brought in an excellent group of students from Western Canada, including students from BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

Tina Loo, Laura Madokoro, and Mary Lynn Young came in to sit on a Q&A panel about their own experiences as writers and editors for magazines and newspapers. Tina writes a bi-monthly column for Canada’s History (formerly The Beaver), Laura is an occasional op-ed contributor to Globe & Mail, and Mary Lynn is the director of UBC’s journalism school as well as a former newspaper reporter and editor. This session was especially useful for our discussion of some of the bigger issues surrounding academia and popular publishing as well as some really important “nuts and bolts” issues about newspaper and magazine writing.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I led an afternoon session on academic blogging. I wanted to thank everyone who sent me comments in advance of the session (thanks Shane!). Hopefully I laid out a convincing case for the place of academic blogging for history and geography scholars. I know I convinced some of the participants to start up new blogs and further develop existing blogs. Here are links to a couple of the participants’ blogs:

Can Enviro Rock?

Merle Massie, A Place in History

We hope that some of the participants will eventually publish an op-ed or magazine article in the future. At the very least, we started an excellent conversation about scholarly communication and the ways in which academics can mobilize their research to reach new audiences and perhaps serve a broader public interest.