Department of Geography and Environmental Studies

Graduate Theses


The Master of Arts in Geography provides opportunities for advanced study in both human and physical geography. The graduate program in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies commenced in 2012. In addition to the MA in Geography, the department supervises graduate students in the Master of Applied Science, Master of International Development Studies, and Atlantic Canada Studies. A profile of current and alumni graduate students is listed below.

Shawn McEachern
M.A. Geography Candidate
B.A. Honours Geography, Mount Alison University

Regional Variations of Agricultural Decline in the Maritime Provinces, 1981-2011
Supervisor: Dr. Hugh Millward

This research attempts to present a more recent timeline describing the effects of continued agricultural restructuring in the Canadian Maritime provinces. The period of 1981-2011 is addressed on three different geographic scales of inquiry. First, the entire Maritime region is statistically analysed on a county basis, for regional variations of agricultural activity that have occurred in the last thirty years. Next, a number of selected Nova Scotia counties are addressed utilizing GIS software to determine the levels of farmland abandonment that have occurred over the last thirty years. This level of analysis utilizes forest cover data from Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources and addresses the specific forest cover types associated with farmland abandonment. The third step will address localities where various levels of abandonment are indicated to have occurred. The end goal of this research is to both describe the regional variations of agricultural activity that have occurred recently and to suggest ways in which government policy can be better implemented to address the regions chiefly affected by farmland abandonment.

Jodi-Ann Francis
M.A. Geography, SMU, 2017
B.E.S. (Bachelor of Environmental Studies), SMU, 2015
B.Ed, St. Joseph's Teachers' College, 2008

Thesis: To stay or to leave? An assessment of the social, economic, and political factors that influence international students when deciding to remain in, or leave Nova Scotia, upon graduation
Supervisor: Dr. Ryan Gibson


This research examines the critical factors graduating international students or recent international graduates from universities in the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) encounter when deciding whether to remain in Nova Scotia, move to other provinces, or return to their home countries. The 2014 “Now or Never” report identified high rates of educated international students leaving Nova Scotia. This research fills the gap regarding the factors that influence this phenomenon using Lee’s theory of migration, specifically the push-pull factors that operate in areas of origin and destination.

Two research methods were employed: an online survey that gathered information from 94 respondents on source country of origin, ethnicity, gender, and social and economic situations they face; and a focus group hosted at Saint Mary’s University to gather case-by-case information on experiences and expectations from a mixed group of international students. The results of the research indicate that international students face both a series of push factors encouraging them to leave Nova Scotia and pull factors encouraging them to stay in Nova Scotia. In both instances, factors may be related to social, political, and/or economic reasons. The research shed light on the fact that these push and pull factors do not remain static. These situations will aid in understanding how political actors can move forward.


Patrick Larter
M.A. Geography, SMU, 2016
B.E.S. (Bachelor of Environmental Studies), SMU, 2014

Thesis: Does Time Heal All Wounds? The Restoration of Place Attachment after Loss of Place: The case study of Point Pleasant Park after Hurricane Juan
Supervisor: Dr. Jason Grek-Martin


On September 29th, 2003, Hurricane Juan destroyed 75% of the beloved Point Pleasant Park. Park users were struck with grief and developed solastalgic feelings as they mourned the loss of a place that held such natural, cultural, and historical significance. Since 2005, the park has been under-going restoration. Drawing upon well-being, sense of place, place attachment and solastalgia literature, this study utilizes a placed-based approach to determine if long-term users have re-established positive place attachments. Results from interviews and online surveys (n=90) indicate that participants overcame their solastalgic feelings, feel a positive sense of well-being, and have re-established positive place attachments. Interestingly, results suggest that most long-term users have place attachments that are potentially as positive as their pre-disaster attachments, and potentially stronger than those who never experienced the traumatic event. This study concludes that, given enough time to adjust to the rebuilt place, time heals all wounds. 

Kevin Neatt 
M.A. Geography, SMU, 2016 
B.A. Geography, SMU

Thesis: Built-environment variables influencing aggregate walking: a multivariate analysis of Halifax Neighbourhoods
Supervisor, Dr. Hugh Millward


Some neighbourhoods can be described as “walkable”, in that their built environment incorporates variables presumed to promote walking, such as sidewalks, mixed land-use, high residential density, and street connectivity.  However, neighbourhoods characterized as highly walkable are not necessarily those where most walking occurs. This research aims to identify the extent to which walkability and walking are spatially related at the neighbourhood level, in urban and suburban areas of Halifax, Nova Scotia. 

Using data from the unique Halifax STAR Project, time-diary survey results and associated GPS tracking will be employed to map the location of many individual walking events. These data will then be aggregated to determine aggregate distances, durations, and densities of walking in each census tract. A quantitative investigation will be conducted to determine if the built-environment variables presumed to promote walking result in neighbourhoods where people, in fact, walk. Qualitative inquiry will examine geographic and design features which help to account for discrepancies between spatial patterns of walking and walkability.

Peter Andrew Horne
M.Sc. in Applied Science (Geography), SMU, 2013
Advanced Diploma in Remote Sensing - COGS, 2006
B.Sc. Geography, SMU, 2005 

Thesis: Characterization of intertidal geomorphology based on multi-scael analysis of airborne LiDAR data
Supervisor: Dr. Cristian Suteanu 


Coastal environments are influenced by geomorphic processes operating at different temporal and spatial scales (wave action, tides, vegetation, ice, tectonic changes, etc.). Characterizing coastal environments often relies on the use of multi-scale analysis methods. However, these methods have been usually applied to coastal environments by intersecting them with a plane at a certain elevation, or by interpreting a coastline from aerial imagery, without specifying the selected elevation. This practice relies on the assumption that one studies a 3D self-similar isotropic system for which the results are independent of the elevation chosen. With the use of LiDAR derived Digital Elevation Models (DEM) the present study showed the elevation dependence of the results of multi-scale analysis on the Avon Estuary and subsections within it. The thesis also assessed the implications that interpolation methods have for multi-scale analysis and highlighted the importance of specifying the interpolation method used in such studies.