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We have several graduate research opportunities at the Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University in (1) Web-based GIS and community environmental monitoring and (2) Complexity science and modeling of coupled human and natural systems.

(1) Web-based GIS and community environmental monitoring: Opportunities to research aspects of community environmental monitoring, information sharing, social capital, open source software and web-based GIS systems exist at the Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University.  This work is associated with a project sponsored by the Ontario Ministry of Environment to develop and implement a web-based geographic information system (GIS) to support information sharing and collaboration for environmental monitoring in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).  This is an Open Source prototype system that provides online tools for experts and lay users to support water quality monitoring within the GTA.  We are seeking excellent Masters candidates with combinations of skills in GIS, computer programming, web development and interests in issues such as community based monitoring, water quality, information sharing and interoperability, social capital and public participation.

[Contact: Dr. Martin Bunch.  See below for financial support and other information]

(2) Complexity science and modeling of coupled human and natural systems. We are seeking excellent Masters and PhD candidates to explore the modeling of complex coupled human and natural systems, and the application and uses of such models in the context of (e.g.) watershed management, climate change adaptation and risk management, adaptive management and ecosystem approaches, and human health and well-being (ecohealth).  Successful applicants will be associated with a collaborative initiative (with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Canada) to develop capacity in spatially explicit modeling of complex adaptive systems at the Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University.  Applicants should speak to their background and skills in GIS, modeling, computer programming as well as their substantive interests in applying these skills.

[York faculty: Dr. Martin Bunch, Dr. Peter Victor, Dr. Justin Podur. Environment Canada researchers: Dr. Kaz Higuchi, Dr. James MacLellan. See below for financial support and other information]

Financial support for graduate students at York University

York provides competitive student funding to our top full-time students. The following typical amounts are offered to graduate students in the form of scholarships and assignments such as graduate assistantships, teaching assistantships or research assistantships. We expect to able to increase this amount by an additional $2500 for Graduate students associated with the projects above.


Master’s Student Funding

A   Y1: $14,000 Y2:$10,000
B+ Y1: $10,000 Y2:$10,000

Doctoral Student Funding

A** $22,400
B+** $19,400

** Years 2 to 4 at least $19,400 per year

Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University: Information on the Faculty of Environmental Studies and its Masters and PhD programs can be found at

Contact: Interested applicants should contact Dr. Martin Bunch [, 416.736.2100 x:22630]

Inuit Trails Represent Complex Social Network Spanning Canadian Arctic

ScienceDaily (Feb. 15, 2009)
— Inuit trails are more than merely means to get from A to B. In reality, they represent a complex social network spanning the Canadian Arctic and are a distinctive aspect of the Inuit cultural identity.

And what is remarkable is that the Inuit’s vast geographic knowledge has been passed through many generations by oral means, without the use of maps or any other written documentation. These findings are by Dr. Claudio Aporta from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.

Using a combination of historical documents, ethnographic research, geographic tools including GPS, GIS and Google Earth, as well as a recent journey following Inuit along a traditional trail, Dr. Aporta shows the geographic extent of the Inuit’s sophisticated network of routes.  He describes how the Inuit have made use of the Arctic environment and how their trails represent significant channels of communication and exchange across the territory.  To the Inuit, the Arctic is a network of trails, connecting communities to their distant neighbors, and to fishing lakes and hunting grounds in between.

What is remarkable is that although the trails are not permanent features of the landscape, their locations are remembered and transmitted orally and through the experience of travel.  They do not use maps to travel or to represent geographic information.  Rather the journey along the trail, or the story of the journey, becomes one of the main instruments for transmitting the information.

The memory of the trail is intertwined with individual and collective memories of previous trips, as well as with relevant environmental information - the conditions of the snow and ice, the shape of snowdrifts, the direction of winds - and place names in the Inuktitut language.  The trails are not permanent, but disappear when the sled tracks get covered after a blizzard and as the snow and ice melt at the end of each spring.  Nevertheless, the spatial itinerary remains in people’s memory and comes to life again when individuals make the next trip.  The trails are ‘lived’ rather than simply travelled.

By mapping the trails with modern geographic tools, Dr. Aporta is able to show that complex and intricate knowledge can be precisely and accurately transmitted from generation to generation orally for centuries.  He comments that “oral history should not be a priori dismissed as unreliable and inaccurate.”

Journal reference:

  1. Aporta et al. The Trail as Home: Inuit and Their Pan-Arctic Network of Routes. Human Ecology, 2009; DOI: 10.1007/s10745-009-9213-x

First nations look to the environment

Deals made on economy, resource management have achieved more than B.C. treaty process