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Fellows Journal

Winter 2018/2019

RCGS Annual College of Fellows Dinner

Photo: Ben Powless/Can Geo

The vibe was electric as more than 500 people gathered at the newly renovated National Arts Centre in Ottawa on Nov. 1 to celebrate what will be remembered as a milestone year for The Royal Canadian Geographical Society.

2018 saw the Society move into a historic new headquarters in the political and ceremonial heart of Ottawa on Sussex Drive, complete work on a groundbreaking educational resource in partnership with First Nations, Métis and Inuit organizations, and take part in the recommissioning of the RCGS Resolute, the first vessel to be flagged as a “Royal Canadian Geographical Ship.” With all that and more going on, it’s no wonder attendance at this year’s College of Fellows Dinner was the highest ever.

Prominent guests included David Johnston, the former governor general of Canada, and his wife Sharon; Her Excellency Anne Kari Hansen Ovind, ambassador of Norway to Canada; actor Jared Harris of Mad Men, The Crown and The Terror fame; Johnny Issaluk, the Inuit Games great and The Terror actor; Philip Hatfield, head of the British Library’s Eccles Centre for American Studies; visual artist Chris Cran; and mountaineer Charles “Chic” Scott.

Not only did the Society add a new Honorary Vice-President (underwater exploration legend Joe MacInnis), a new annual award (the Louie Kamookak Medal, in memory of the oral historian, who died in March) and a new Explorer-in-Residence (ultramarathon runner and adventurer Ray Zahab), the 2018 addition of 85 Fellows brings the total number to more than 1,000 for the first time in the Society’s history.

Clockwise from bottom left: Former governor general David Johnston and Sharon Johnston; The Terror actors Johnny Issaluk and Jared Harris with RCGS CEO John Geiger; a full table, including Bernier Medal winner Laureen Harper (third from left); Algonquin drummer Awema Tendesi opens the evening; Andrew Prossin speaks about One Ocean Expeditions’ new RCGS Resolute; legendary ocean explorer and new Honorary Vice-President Joe MacInnis with RCGS President Gavin Fitch; Valerie Pringle of the Trans Canada Trail; Josephine Kamookak receives the medal named for her late husband, oral historian Louie Kamookak. (Photos: Ben Powless and Lindsay Ralph/Can Geo)

The 2018 RCGS medallists

Photo: Ben Powless/Can Geo

This past year saw awards presented to a diverse group that included actors, artists, scientists, teachers and philanthropists. Seventeen medals were awarded in a ceremony at the outset of the evening, while the Trans Canada Trail, national Indigenous leaders and actor Jared Harris, of AMC’s The Terror, were awarded later in the evening. Here is the full list of 2018 award winners:

Gold Medal
Perry Bellegarde
Clément Chartier
Roberta Jamieson
Ry Moran
Natan Obed
On behalf of The Great Trail:
Deborah Apps
Dr. Pierre Camu
Valerie Pringle
Hartley Richardson

Louie Kamookak Medal
Gregory Copley
Jared Harris
Josephine Kamookak
Her Excellency Anne Kari Hansen Ovind, Ambassador of Norway
Michael Palin
Kim Wallace

Lawrence J. Burpee Medal
Chris Cran
André Préfontaine
Peter Suedfeld

Capt. Joseph-Elzéar Bernier Medal
Laureen Harper
Béatrice Martin (Coeur de Pirate)

Charles Camsell Medal
Élisabeth Nadeau

Sir Christopher Ondaatje Medal for Exploration
Charles “Chic” Scott

Martin Bergmann Medal for Excellence in Arctic Leadership and Science
James Drummond

Geographic Literacy Award
Rob Langston

Innovation in Geography Teaching Award
Breanna Heels

Fellows Neck Badges
Johnny Issaluk
Gerda Hnatyshyn

For a special story about Kamookak Medal-winner Jared Harris, who has received critical acclaim for his portrayal of Capt. Francis Crozier in AMC’s Franklin expedition psychodrama The Terror, click here.

The RCGS welcomes 85 new Fellows

Some of the RCGS’s 85 new Fellows. (Photo: Ben Powless/Can Geo)

The addition of 85 Fellows in 2018 brings the total number of Fellows to more than 1,000 for the first time in the Society’s history. Among the distinguished individuals joining the ranks this year are former Deputy Prime Minister of Canada John Manley, The Terror actor and much-decorated Inuit Games athlete Johnny Issaluk, explorer and writer Jeff Fuchs, documentary filmmaker Brandy Yanchyk, artist David McEown, wildlife photographer Todd Mintz and curator and polar historian Claire Warrior.

Indigenous leaders panel discussion

From left: National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation director Ry Moran, Indspire president and CEO Roberta Jamieson, Métis National Council president Clément Chartier, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed and Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde with panel host David Gray. (Photo: Ben Powless/Can Geo)

The Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada, a first-of-its-kind educational resource that explores the stories and perspectives of First Nations, Métis and Inuit, was completed by the RCGS this year. The leaders of the Indigenous partner organizations that led its development — National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation director Ry Moran; Indspire president and CEO Roberta Jamieson; Métis National Council president Clément Chartier; Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde; and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed — were presented with RCGS Gold Medals at the RCGS Annual College of Fellows Dinner, and participated in a discussion moderated by David Gray, host of CBC Radio’s The Calgary Eyeopener.

Each of the leaders reflected on the importance of telling the story of Canada through an Indigenous lens. “I hated geography when I went to school,” said Jamieson. “Like so many of the courses I took, we [First Nations] were not there. This was an opportunity to tell Canadians but also our own people that our relationship to this land is sacred and important.”

Added Moran, “This project represents such a powerful opportunity ... to simply be honest with ourselves as a country. This is the hard work of reconciliation in front of us.”

Order the Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada four-volume set here.

Governor General Julie Payette grants patronage to the RCGS

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada. (Photo: Sgt. Johanie Maheu/Rideau Hall)

The Royal Canadian Geographical Society is pleased to announce that Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, has accepted the role of Society Patron. Viceregal patronage of the RCGS is a longstanding tradition that began with Viscount Willingdon in 1929, the year the RCGS was founded. As the former Chief Astronaut for the Canadian Space Agency (with experience on two space missions), an engineer, scientific broadcaster and corporate director, Payette is eminently suited to act as Patron of Canada’s Centre for Geography and Exploration.


Students from across Canada celebrate at 50 Sussex after completing the fieldwork portion of the 2018 Canadian Geographic Challenge, one of the RCGS’s longest-running educational programs. (Photo: Tanya Kirnishni/Can Geo)

Thanks to our donors, 2018 was a standout year for the RCGS.

In addition to the many successes celebrated at the College of Fellows Annual Dinner, the Society grew Canadian Geographic Education to 22,000 educators, supporting them with national, bilingual student contests (above), by circulating more than 40 Giant Floor Maps among Canadian schools free of charge, and by hosting a geography teachers’ institute. We funded 10 graduate projects, helping budding researchers pursue their passion for geography. We funded 13 Canadian expeditions, among them one that discovered the most northerly whaling wreck in the world, the Nova Zembla (see story, below). We also featured two exceptional exhibits in our new home at 50 Sussex, including a new collection of paintings by renowned Canadian artist and RCGS Fellow Chris Cran.

In 2019, the RCGS will celebrate its 90th anniversary. And while we look forward to honouring this important milestone, we also recognize that the work has just begun. It is more important than ever that Canadians understand our country and our place in it. With your support, the RCGS will be able to help prepare Canadians for the challenges ahead by equipping them with a deeper understanding of Canada’s people, places and environment. Your donation to the Society will ultimately be part of charting a successful future for Canada.

We would love to be able to share the news that 100 per cent of the RCGS College of Fellows supports the Society’s important work in this way. Please consider helping the RCGS keep its momentum through 2019. Donate now!

As a registered Canadian charity, all donations to the RCGS over $25 will be issued a tax receipt.


Grade 7/8 students from Ottawa’s Bell High School take part in the “Feel the Heartbeat” stomp dance workshop led by Aboriginal Experiences at 50 Sussex on Dec. 6. (Photo: Ben Powless/Can Geo)

Three Ottawa-area classes and their teachers came to the RCGS headquarters on three separate days in early December for the first-ever “GeoSchool” events. The pilot program brought Grade 5 and 7/8 students to 50 Sussex for geography-packed days hosted by the Can Geo Education teaching staff that included interactive mapping exercises, speakers such as urban planners and representatives from Ottawa’s Aboriginal Experiences, fieldwork in the riverside environs, hangouts with Can Geo editors and more. The aim of GeoSchool is to combat the loss of geography in school curricula, to help youth reconnect with their natural environment and to empower them to think geographically while they learn about and engage with issues from climate change to reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

The continuation of the GeoSchool program is contingent on sponsorship.

Michael Palin and Margaret Atwood MAKE the U.K.’s 2019 New Year’s Honours List

“Sir” Michael Palin and Margaret Atwood, a new member of the Order of the Companions of Honour. (Photos: (left) PA/John Swannell; (right) Mark Hill Photography)

Michael Palin can now add “Sir” to his titles and accolades. His knighthood in the Order of St. Michael and St. George — for services to travel, culture and geography including his work as a travel documentary presenter and author — was announced as part of the U.K. government’s 2019 New Year’s Honours List, which recognizes the achievements and service of extraordinary people across the United Kingdom. He was taken aback, he said, adding in his famously droll fashion that “I have been a knight before in Python films. I have been several knights including Sir Galahad and the knight who said ‘ni’.”

In the same diplomatic and overseas category of the New Year’s Honours List, Margaret Atwood (author of The Handmaid’s TaleAlias GraceOryx and Crake and numerous other works) was invested as a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour of the British Empire. Her induction recognized her services to literature as “a huge figure in the literary world” and her lifelong contribution to the English language.

Michael Palin wows audiences with tales of HMS Erebus, accepts RCGS Louie Kamookak Medal

Michael Palin speaks about his new book, a history of the polar exploration vessel HMS Erebus, at the RCGS’s new headquarters at 50 Sussex Dr. in Ottawa on Oct. 19. (Photo: Ben Powless/Can Geo)

On Oct. 19, Michael Palin, the famed British comedian, author, actor and globetrotting explorer, wove a spellbinding tale of nautical history for the nearly 300 people who packed the RCGS’s Alex Trebek Theatre at 50 Sussex in Ottawa to hear him talk about his new book, Erebus: One Ship, Two Epic Voyages, and the Greatest Naval Mystery of All Time.

The book traces the history of HMS Erebus from its launch from a dockyard in Wales in 1826 to its groundbreaking sighting (along with HMS Terror) of the Antarctic continent in 1841 to its final — and fateful — voyage into the Canadian Arctic as part of Sir John Franklin’s expedition to find the Northwest Passage in 1845.

Palin’s Ottawa appearance capped the two-city Canadian leg of his North American promotional tour for Erebus. Two nights before, 400 people had lined up around the block to see him at an RCGS event at The Opera House in Toronto. 

Palin spoke for more than an hour in Ottawa before fielding audience questions on everything from how he came to write about Erebus (he became intrigued while researching a talk on Joseph Hooker, who was the assistant surgeon and botanist on the ship when it sailed to the Antarctic in 1839) to what he thought about a forensic artist reconstructing the faces of crew members of the Franklin expedition (in a word, brilliant).

After the question-and-answer session, Palin got a surprise when he became the inaugural recipient of the RCGS’s newest honour — the Louie Kamookak Medal. “This medal is awarded for a noteworthy deed that has served to advance the discipline of geography,” said John Geiger, the Society’s CEO. “Michael, by your decision to tell the story of Erebus, you have shared with your immense audience your own fascination with these remote places of the Earth. For your achievement of this brilliant book, and for the many gifts you have given to geography, I am honoured to announce that you are the first-ever recipient of the Louie Kamookak Medal.”

Tastes, Sights and Sounds of Canada goes to Calgary

On Nov. 13, the RCGS held its third successful “Tastes, Sights and Sounds of Canada” fundraising gala dinner of 2018, this time at Calgary’s McDougall Centre. Hosted by the Honourable Lois E. Mitchell, Lt.-Gov. of Alberta, and MCed by CBC Eyeopener host David Gray, the evening featured a keynote address by RCGS Explorer-in-Residence Adam Shoalts. Seven new Fellows were also inducted into the Society, including Great Trail explorer Sarah Jackson and members of the Bisaro caves project expedition team, Kathleen Graham and Christian Stenner.

Nova Zembla wreck discovered by RCGS-flagged expedition off Baffin Island coast

Michael Moloney and Matthew Ayre return to One Ocean Expedition’s Akademik Sergey Vavilov after discovering the wreckage of Nova Zembla on Aug. 31. (Photo: Dave Sandford)

The wreckage of a Scottish whaling ship has been discovered in the Canadian High Arctic by researchers from the University of Calgary’s Arctic Institute of North America. The Nova Zembla, which hit a reef and went down near Buchan Gulf off the east coast of Baffin Island in 1902, stands to offer significant historical insight into life in an industry that dominated Canadian waters for centuries.

Michael Moloney and Matthew Ayre, post-doctoral fellows who received support for the expedition from the RCGS, made the discovery on August 31 in just eight hours using drone footage and SONAR imaging deployed on a remote-operated underwater vehicle in a targeted five-square-kilometre search area identified through months of historical research. They had reached the search area thanks to support from One Ocean Expeditions, who brought them through the Northwest Passage and up the Greenland coast aboard the research vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov

“This is a previously unknown archeological site, and the first High Arctic whaling ship ever discovered,” says John Geiger, CEO of the RCGS. “It is a remarkable story of historical sleuthing supported by fieldwork and adds considerably to the historical record by shedding new light on that treacherous, once great industry.”

Read the story of the discovery here.

RCGS Fellows confirm presence of huge unexplored cave in B.C.

The entrance to the massive cave that was spotted earlier this year in British Columbia’s Wells Gray Provincial Park. Two members of the Canadian team that conducted a preliminary exploration of the site in September are circled in red to give an idea of the size of the entrance of the cave, which measures 100 metres long by 60 metres wide. (Photo: Catherine Hickson)

A massive pit that was spotted in a remote high alpine valley in British Columbia’s Wells Gray Provincial Park earlier this year is the entrance to a previously unexplored cave of “national significance,” say two members of a Canadian team that helped conduct a preliminary exploration of the site in September.

The cave “has a number of features that when combined indicate a cave of national significance” and constitutes “a major new find in Western Canada, and promises a dramatic new chapter in the story of Canadian cave exploration,” say John Pollack, chair of the RCGS Expeditions Committee, and Fellow Chas Yonge in a document they co-wrote that summarizes the significance of the find.

Pollack, who is an archeological surveyor, further explained the significance of the cave in an exclusive interview with Canadian Geographic. “I’ve been in some of the biggest caves in the world, and this thing has an entrance that is truly immense, and not just by Canadian standards,” he said. “The opening is 100 metres long by 60 metres wide, and when you’re standing on the edge looking down into it, your line of sight is nearly 600 feet [183 metres]. You don’t get lines of sight of 600 feet in Canadian caves — it just doesn’t happen. And this is a shaft. It goes down quite precipitously, it had a large amount of water flowing into it and is wide open for as far down it that we’ve gone. The scale of this thing is just huge, and about as big as they come in Canada.”

The team that made preliminary exploration of the cave included RCGS Fellows Pollack, Yonge and Catherine Hickson, as well as Ken Lancour, Lee Hollis and Tod Haughton. Read the full story here.

Award and Fellowship nominations

To recognize outstanding achievements, the Society presents annual awards to deserving individuals. We encourage you to submit nominations to the following.

Gold Medal
Established in 1972, the Society’s Gold Medal recognizes achievements in geography by an individual or organization. Recent recipients include Canada’s Indigenous leaders, the Great Trail, Sir David Attenborough, Margaret Atwood, and the Canadian Space Agency and the nation’s astronauts. Make a nomination for the 2019 Gold Medal by March 14 at

Camsell Medal
Named after RCGS founder Charles Camsell, the Camsell Medal expresses the Society’s appreciation for individuals who have given outstanding service to the RCGS over an extended period of time. Nominations for this award will be accepted until March 15 at

Canada’s astronauts and the CSA received the RCGS Gold Medal in 2014. (Photo: Bonnie Findlay/Can Geo)

Call for research grant applications
The Society’s Research Grant Program helps facilitate the field work of the country’s brightest minds in geography and natural sciences. In the last 20 years, we have supported more than 130 research projects covering topics such as melting permafrost, saving Indigenous artifacts and the impact of climate change on habitat and species. Planning a research project? Apply for funding by Feb. 14 at

Photo: Andrea Reid

A search for RCGS artifacts

Photo: Ben Powless/RCGS

The RCGS is asking its Fellows for donations of artifacts to be showcased in the new Sir Christopher Ondaatje Reading Room at 50 Sussex Drive. This effort to enrich the Society’s collections, to be permanently housed in Canada’s Centre for Geography and Exploration, depends on your help locating a few very special artifacts related to the RCGS Fellowship, exploration or Indigenous history. Please note that the room is not large, with space for only a small, select number of portraits, rare books and artifacts. For more information about this effort to celebrate notable past Fellows and others and to help consolidate the Society’s collections, please email Sandra Smith:


PETER ADAMS (1936-2018)

Photo: The Hill Times

Peter Adams grew up in the small village of Ellesmere Port, England, during the Second World War. After completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Sheffield, he moved to Montreal in 1959 on a Carnegie Arctic Scholarship to attend McGill and complete his PhD in geography and glaciology. His work in the Arctic with Fritz Muller on the Axel Heiberg Expedition inspired a lifelong passion for Northern research on snow and ice. After a three-year research period at the McGill Subarctic Research Station in Labrador and brief periods in Britain and France, Peter and his wife, Jill, settled in Peterborough, Ont., where they would live for more than 50 years, and where he was involved in numerous events and organizations as a both volunteer and politician. He was always a dedicated runner, completing races such as the Boston Marathon and the Midnight Sun Marathon, in Nunavut.

Peter was the founding chair of the Trent University Geography Department, where he involved many students in his Arctic research projects. In addition to being a Fellow of the RCGS, Peter belonged to the International Glaciological Society, the Royal Canadian Institute and the Arctic Institute of North America, and spent several years in Ottawa working for the Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies. His passion for field-based research, combined with his determination to communicate the results of his work, led to more than 60 peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals, several books, dozens of reviews, newspaper and magazine articles. The glaciological work he initiated on Axel Heiberg Island, Nunavut, continues today, and represents the world’s longest continuous study of its kind in the High Arctic.

Peter got into politics when he became a public school board trustee in the ’80s, and it wasn’t long before he was an MPP (1987-1990) and eventually a Member of Parliament (1993-2006) and member of the Privy Council of Canada. While in federal politics, he was proud to serve under Prime Ministers Jean Chretien and Paul Martin, and he had a leading role in the area of post-secondary education — in particular the creation of the Millennial Scholarships Foundation and the Canada Research Chairs.


NED FRANKS (1936-2018)

Photo: Queen’s University

During his 35 years teaching at Queen’s University in the department of political studies and the school of physical and health education, C.E.S. “Ned” Franks’ scholarship and public service covered public administration, government accountability, Canadian parliamentary government, Indigenous self-government, canoeing, Canada’s North and political issues related to sport, nuclear energy and India. As the Globe and Mail reported following his passing, “he was for decades Canada’s commanding academic voice on parliamentary rules, procedures and morality. His advice was sought by House of Commons committees, government and parliamentary agencies, Royal Commissions, governors-general and every major media outlet in the country.” Once introduced as “the rock star of Canadian political studies,” he was an inspiring teacher and mentor to generations of students.

Ned was a member of the RCGS Expeditions Committee for many years, and when the financial crisis of 2008-09 led to RCGS program cutbacks, he persuaded some of his fellow committee members to join him in making significant financial contributions to allow the RCGS to continue to support expeditions until the Society’s financial situation improved. He truly believed that the type of expeditions supported by the Society were worth contributing to.

He loved outdoor activities including cross-country skiing, camping, and above all, wilderness white water canoeing, particularly in the Far North. His keen artistic sense was apparent in his stunning photographs, haunting watercolours and his deep appreciation of food, wine, painting, prints, pottery, architecture and the treasures of his East Indian heritage.

JIM LIGHTBODY (1945-2018)

Photo: Greg Southam/Edmonton Journal

Originally from Winnipeg, Jim Lightbody earned his master’s degree at Carleton University, in Ottawa, and his PhD at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. He joined the University of Alberta faculty in 1971, where he taught political science for 47 years, serving as chair of the political science department from 2012 to 2015. His contribution and devotion to the discipline will be remembered for generations to come, and his works on municipal government will last forever. Throughout his career, Jim worked with and garnered respect from politicians of all stripes, and his innate ability to mentor the leaders of tomorrow will be deeply missed — as will his deep knowledge of Alberta provincial and municipal politics, which made him a go-to commentator for media in Edmonton. Jim became a Fellow of the RCGS in 2016, an honour in which he took great pride.

Jim will be remembered for his gentle, benevolent nature and quick wit. He spent his leisure time sharing world adventures with his wife, Lisa, watching movies, enjoying nature and, of course, cheering on his beloved Minnesota Vikings each Sunday. He also cherished many deep and lasting friendships: the “Thursday Night Gang,” his second family at the University of Alberta Tory Building, old friends from his youth, former students who became dear friends, and many more individuals whose lives were enriched by crossing paths with Jim, and who remained a valuable part of his life. 


JOHN STAGER (1928-2018)

Photo: UBC

John Kimberley Stager, geography professor emeritus of the University of British Columbia, died in Vancouver on Oct. 10, 2018. Born in Preston, Ont., John was Harold Kimberley and Mary Elizabeth Stager’s first child. Family fishing and camping trips led to his lifelong love of outdoor pursuits and fieldwork in the Arctic. John has been described as a “quintessential geographer.” His PhD thesis, undertaken in Edinburgh, Scotland, was a classical historical geography of the Mackenzie River Valley (1750-1850), and his main findings were published as chapters in influential books. He engaged in fundamental permafrost research that he published in refereed journals such as Biuletyn Periglacalny, The Canadian Geographer and Geographical Bulletin. His understanding of the physical and historical aspects of the Canadian North produced some highly influential and lengthy technical reports on the implications of resource development in the Canadian Arctic. John’s expertise was greatly sought after for his understanding of the local Northern experience but also because of his unusual ability to synthesize disparate pieces of information and elegant writing style. A Fellow of both the RCGS and the University of Calgary’s Arctic Institute of North America, John was a master teacher and a consummate administrator, serving as assistant dean of graduate studies (1969-75) and associate dean of arts (1975-90), and excelled as director of ceremonies (1985 until retirement in 1993).

Remembered for his wit, humour and gentle irreverence, he is survived by his wife Joan Elizabeth. Married in Vancouver in 1964, their life together included extensive travels, visits to family in Ontario and close relationships with many nieces, nephews and children of dear friends.


ROBERT “BOB” WILSON (1948-2018)

Still: Little League Canada

Bob Wilson was a tireless volunteer who served as a Governor of the RCGS (from 2009-2014) and an annual judge of the Canadian Geographic Challenge. He was a national/international student exchange coordinator, president of the Carleton Athletics Association, a founding member of the South Nepean Autism Group, devoted many years of service to the Nepean Museum and coordinated a veteran’s recognition program to thank more than 1,000 veterans.

Bob spent more than nine years volunteering for the Ontario Trillium Foundation and helped grant more than $1 billion to charitable and not-for-profit organizations in Ontario. He served as a volunteer with the City of Nepean’s Park and Recreation, the Nepean Sports Hall of Fame Board, the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame Selection Committee and the Ottawa Sports Awards Committee, helping to shape the history of amateur sport in Ottawa and recognize more than 5,000 amateur athletes. Bob spent six years organizing a very successful Canadian Little League Baseball Championship in Ottawa, and the winning team went on to represent Canada at the World Little League Championship.

In November, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson posthumously invested Bob Wilson in the Order of Ottawa, which recognizes exceptional residents who have made a significant contribution in a professional capacity in many areas of city life, including arts and culture, business, community service, education, public service, labour, communications and media, science, medicine, sports and entertainment, or other fields that benefit the city’s residents.

Obituaries have been drawn from various news and academic sources



Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Manila, Philippines, 1945. (Photo: Public domain)

What would the Korean Peninsula — indeed, East Asia’s borders and politics on the whole — look like today if things had gone differently for General Douglas MacArthur in 1950? After the UN force commanded by the legendary general had handily defeated the North Korean army that had invaded South Korea that year, and they had advanced all the way to the North’s border with China, they were overwhelmed by hundreds of thousands of Chinese communist troops, forced to retreat to South Korea.

MacArthur’s instinct was to strike back. Few understood post-Second World War Asia and the future importance of the continent better than he: MacArthur had supervised the creation of a Philippine army in the 1930s, and after the Second World War, during which he commanded all U.S. forces in the Pacific, he been named Supreme Allied Commander for the region. He led the occupation of Japan, overseeing the rebuilding and democratization of the country and playing a part in the creation of a new constitution that outlawed war and gave Japanese women the right to vote.

Certainly, regional stabilization and unification were MacArthur’s goals. But he openly advocated using military might (possibly including the use of atomic weapons) to achieve them, and in 1951 went as far as inviting Chinese leadership to meet with him, independently, to discuss the situation. MacArthur’s willingness to repeatedly and publicly challenge U.S. President Harry S. Truman and U.S. policy — which was to at all costs avoid war with the powerful Chinese, potentially pulling the Soviets into a new conflict and risking a third World War — proved reason enough for Truman to relieve him of his command for insubordination.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur (centre) wading ashore during landings at the island of Leyte, Philippines, in October of 1944. (Photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps officer Gaetano Faillace/Public domain)

MacArthur returned to the United States at odds with the president, criticized by some for his egotism and unwillingness to consider the implications of an all-out-war strategy, but was also given a hero’s homecoming, widely worshipped for his give-no-quarter approach to Communism. Standing before a joint session of Congress in 1951, he delivered the renowned “Old soldiers never die; they just fade away” address: “I know war as few other men now living know it,” he explained, “and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition, as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a means of settling international disputes … But once war is forced upon us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end.”

Gen. MacArthur had been serving overseas since before the Second World War, and the public’s adulation of the enigmatic Arkansas-born, corncob pipe-smoking, khaki and gold-braided cap-wearing general had only grown — at home and abroad. When The Royal Canadian Geographical Society conferred a Fellowship upon MacArthur in 1961, the commander had been back in the U.S. for a decade, turning down Republican efforts to have him run for president but accepting a position as board chairman of Remington Rand and advising both President Eisenhower and (by 1961) President Kennedy on military operations.

Fellows in the news

NOTE: Contributions from the Fellows are published in the language in which they are submitted.

YOUNG, Andrew

Photo: Andrew Young

This past summer Andrew Young was selected by the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society as the only Canadian to participate in the Maury Project. The Maury Project is a two-week institute at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis Maryland run by the American Meteorological Society and the United States Naval Academy. It is designed to give science teachers and science supervisors an in-depth study of various oceanographic and meteorological subjects including waves, tides, density and wind-driven oceanographic circulations and ocean-atmosphere interactions. The workshop equips teachers with training and teaching materials that can be used in their classrooms through participation in lectures, tutorials, research cruises, hands-on laboratory exercises and field trips. In the fall, Andrew conducted a professional development workshop on wind-driven ocean circulation and coastal upwelling for both science and social studies teachers on Vancouver Island and a workshop on wind-driven ocean circulation and El Niño at the British Columbia Social Studies Teachers Conference.

WOLF, Frank

Photo: Rocky Mountain Books

Frank Wolf’s new book, Lines on a Map: Unparalleled Adventures in Modern Exploration, was published in late August by Rocky Mountain Books. The book is a collection of 16 previously published and eight new stories about his adventures of the past 20 years. It opens with an overview map of his self-propelled wilderness journeys by canoe, ski, pack raft, kayak, foot and bike in North America, Asia and Scandinavia — with each numbered “line on a map” representing a story about the adventure, landscape and culture he experienced there. The book features a foreword by John Vaillant, 77 full-colour images from Wolf’s various trips, and each chapter begins with a detail and overview map.


Hap Wilson and wife Andrea hold the RCGS Flag atop a drumlinoid behind Samuel Hearne’s campsite on Shethanie Lake, northern Manitoba. (Photo: Hap Wilson)

Hap Wilson was contracted by Travel Manitoba and Gangler’s Lodges to map out the North Seal River to provide a chart for adventurers. This 300-kilometre river travels through incredible esker country, including the famous Robertson esker — the longest in the world. For more information, go to Wilson’s Facebook Page “River of Fire.”


Marc St-Onge in Greenland. (Photo: Marc St-Onge)

After 37 years as an officer and project leader at the Geological Survey of Canada, Dr. Marc St-Onge has retired and become senior emeritus scientist at the venerable Canadian institution. During the course of his career, St-Onge led field science expeditions to study unknown or little-known destinations and phenomena in remote parts of the world, from the Coppermine River area in the western Canadian Arctic (where he and colleagues discovered the oldest rocks in the world) to Banks Island, the Keewatin, northern Quebec, southern, southeastern, southwestern, central and northern Baffin Island, western Greenland, northwest Scotland, the Himalaya of Pakistan, India and Nepal, and the Tibetan Plateau in China. His documented contributions to scientific exploration and geological field research are evidenced by the publication of over 60 peer-reviewed scientific papers in international journals (including Nature), 63 technical reports, 119 geological maps (a record at the Geological Survey of Canada), and more than 140 conference abstracts.

The Royal Canadian Geographical Society recognized Marc as one of Canada’s “100 greatest modern-day explorers” in 2015. He received the Florence Bascom Geologic Mapping Award from the Geological Society of America the following year, and the Gold Medal from The Royal Canadian Geographical Society in 2016. 


Rob Stimpson has spent years working toward having a section of Highway 60 dedicated as Tom Thomson Parkway. Sept. 18, 2018 (Photo: Roland Cilliers/Metroland)

Rob Stimpson was the catalyst for the 2018 renaming of part of Highway 60 to the Tom Thomson Parkway — from Highway 11 to the western boundary of Algonquin Park. Thomson, famed for his prolific work as landscape painter, first came to Algonquin Provincial Park in 1912.

Stimpson also provided the keynote at the George Luste Lecture/Wilderness Symposium talk at the Canadian Canoe Museum, in Peterborough, Ont., on October 28. The event invited attendees to “Come on a visual journey with photographer Rob Stimpson as he takes us down rivers, paddles across lakes, sweating over portages with tales and musings of the great outdoors.”


St. Germain after completing his seventh summit on Dec. 31, 2018. In his announcement posts he wrote, “Proudly carried the @rcgs_sgrc flag to the top of Antarctica, Mt. Vinson & the summit of the continent’s third highest summit, Mt. Shinn.” (Photo: Laval St. Germain)

On Dec. 31, 2018, Laval St. Germain completed a 10-day ascent of Mount Vinson, at 4,892 metres Antarctica’s tallest peak. The ascents were part of a major expedition he embarked on in November that took him on a 50-day, 1,200-kilometre solo ski from Hercules Inlet, Antarctica, to the South Pole. Scaling Vinson was St. Germain’s seventh top summit, as he had already claimed the world’s tallest peaks on every other continent, including a climb to the top of Mount Everest without oxygen.

St. Germain — one of Canada’s most prolific adventurers — was aiming to raise $140,000 for the Alberta Cancer Foundation, or “unfinished business” as he calls it. In 2016, St. Germain rowed across the Atlantic, breaking a record in the process. While he achieved his goal of safely reaching France’s shores, he fell short of his fundraising goal of $200,000 for cancer research. He hopes to make up the difference in Antarctica, this time with a 110-kilogram sled in tow. He’s no stranger to challenges — in addition to the Atlantic row and Everest (where he lost three fingers due to frostbite), St. Germain has climbed (and sometimes skied down) the highest peaks of more than a dozen nations. His attention to detail has kept him alive — as a full-time airline pilot, checklists and risk management are a natural part of his psyche.

REID, David

Photo: Arctic Return

In the spring of 2019, expedition leader David Reid and the other members of the Arctic Return Expedition will leave Naujaat (Repulse Bay), Nunavut, and embark upon a 650-kilometre trek across the Boothia Peninsula to Rae Strait. The route will be the same taken by Orcadian explorer John Rae in 1854. Travelling on skis, the Arctic Return Expedition will pay tribute to and raise awareness of Rae, one of the greatest explorers who ever lived. Rae’s success was due in large part to his willingness to learn from the Indigenous people and culture of the region he explored. It was during his 1854 expedition that Rae and his companions discovered the final missing link to the first navigable Northwest Passage and the most salient facts pertaining to the fate of the failed Franklin expedition. The goal of the 2019 expedition, with accompanying book and film, is to raise awareness and appreciation of Rae and of Indigenous knowledge, and to help generate interest in the restoration and conversion of his family home in Orkney, Scotland, into an interpretive Arctic history centre.  

RAY, D. Michael

In September 2018, Michael Ray’s paper “The elusive quest for balanced growth from Barlow to Brexit: Lessons from partitioning regional employment growth in Britain,” appeared in Growth and Change: A Journal of Urban and Regional Policy. Ray, professor emeritus of geography and environmental studies at Carleton University, in Ottawa, co-authored the paper with Peter G. Hall, and Daniel P. O’Donaghue.

POLK, Milbry

Photo: Milbry Polk

Milbry Polk, explorer, author and co-founder of Wings World Quest (an organization that recognizes and supports women explorers and scientists), will be receiving the Sweeney Medal at the next Explorers Club Annual Dinner on, in March 2019 in New York City. First struck in 1968 in the name of the club’s past president, Edward C. Sweeney Jr., the medal is awarded annually to a club member in recognition of his or her outstanding contributions to the welfare and objectives of The Explorers Club.


Photo: Carol Patterson

Carol Patterson won second place in the Travel Media Association of Canada’s annual Best Environmental/Sustainable Feature category for a story about the Great Bear Rainforest — “Where the Wild Things Are” — which she wrote for BC Ferries’ OnBoard Magazine.

She was also among the very first summer tourists to drive the new highway from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk, and published stories about the experience in Canadian Geographic Travel online and

PANEK, Natalie

Photo: Natalie Panek

The small film Space to Explore, a collaboration between Natalie Panek and Filmmaker Katherine Dubois, was selected as an official 2018 Banff Mountain Film Competition finalist. The documentary premiered on Nov. 2 at the Banff Mountain Film Festival. The film follows Natalie, who has spent her life focused on a very big dream: becoming an astronaut and exploring beyond the boundaries of Earth. But in the sky-high arches, breathtaking views and a canopy of stars in Moab, Utah, it is easy to believe that all the adventure you need is right here on Earth.


Photo: DE | Design + Environment

In late October, DE | Design + Environment announced that it will be teaming up with its Caribbean regional partner and project lead, the Mona Geoinformatics Institute (MGI), to work on an environmental data-sharing protocol for a select group of Eastern Caribbean States.

The DE-MGI team was awarded the contract to work with the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (5Cs) who are the executing agency on this USAID-funded project. The project is part of a broader initiative to improve adaptation to climate change in the Caribbean. “Data needs are evolving rapidly,” says the MGI’s Ava Maxam. “With the severe impacts of storm events experienced by the Caribbean Region in 2017, our SIDS now demand greater access to climate information. Through this DE-MGI partnership, the 5Cs will significantly improve data sharing.”

“In order to really understand regional environmental change you need good data and it must be geographically representative,” adds David Oswald, DE President. “The challenge is to have different nations see the value in collaborative efforts to share data so everyone can make better decisions. This is how the ‘open data’ paradigm can really work.”


Photo: Gordon Osinski

Gordon “Oz” Osinski was promoted to full professor at Western University in July 2018, and celebrated by leading an expedition to the Dundas Harbour region of Devon Island, Nunavut. This expedition had several objectives, but the main focus was on investigating the ancient Precambrian Shield rocks of Devon Island, which are exposed around the edges of the Devon Island ice cap along the shore of Lancaster Sound, part of the infamous Northwest Passage. These rocks, thought to be between two and three billion years old, have only been mapped at the reconnaissance level — and not since the 1970s. Without the support of a helicopter, Osinski and his team conducted some long 30 kilometre-plus treks into the interior and used a small zodiac boat to map more than 50 kilometres of coastline. They also had to deal with the local wildlife, which included seven polar bears in their camp in the first 24 hours! Other highlights of this expedition included a visit to the former RCMP outpost at Dundas Harbour and the discovery of numerous Thule sites dating back to more than 800 years ago. In other news, earlier this year, Osinski was awarded the W.W. Hutchison Medal of the Geological Association of Canada and named a faculty scholar at Western.


Photo: Bruce Mitchell

Integrated Water Management in Canada: The Experience of Watershed Agencies was published in June 2018 by Routledge (in London and New York) as one volume in the Routledge Special Issues in Water Policy and Governance series. Bruce Mitchell, Dan Shrubsole, Dan Walters and Barbara Veale were co-editors on the work.

The 11-chapter book’s contributors, many of whom are practitioners, share experiences related to the history, successes, challenges and lessons learned from implementing integrated water management in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.


Photo: Pacific Wild

For the past three years, Pacific Wild’s executive director Ian McAllister has been directing an IMAX film about the Great Bear Rainforest. Great Bear Rainforest tells the story of one of the rarest animals on Earth — the fabled all-white Spirit Bear.

These remarkable creatures live in the lush temperate rainforests of Canada’s West Coast, where they hold almost mythic status among the region’s Indigenous people. Shot exclusively for the giant screen, Great Bear Rainforest will offer a remarkable journey into one of the planet’s most spectacular wildernesses — a land of wolves, grizzly bears, humpback whales, sea lions, sea otters and others — as it explores the secret world of the Spirit Bear. The film is set for release in February 2019. Watch the trailer.


Photo: TA Loeffler

TA Loeffler and Marian Wissink paddled 3,080 kilometres by canoe from Jasper to Tuktoyaktuk this summer on the Athabasca, Slave, Riviere des Roches and Mackenzie Rivers. The Paddling North expedition began in mid May and finished just as the season was turning in mid August. Loeffler made daily updates from the field via sat phone and SPOT so many classrooms in Newfoundland and the Northwest Territories could follow along and learn about the geography of this most important and historically significant waterway. The team made significant connections along the route and hopes to return in future seasons to pursue several collaborative research inquiries. This was the 30th community-engaged expedition that Loeffler has led. They have spanned all seven continents and every Canadian province and territory.

Over the course of the Paddling North expedition, Loeffler and Wissink weathered severe storms, met several bears, muskox, wolves and even a curious lynx. Trip highlights include reaching the Athabasca Delta just as thousands of Canada geese were using the flyway to migrate North, and pushing through storms, wind, rain and even a bit of snow as winter threatened to come early as the pair paddled from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk. The last paddling day of the expedition was an epic 16 hours, which brought Loeffler and Wissink to the base of a pingo at 1:30 a.m., just as the sun was setting and the winds were rising to gale force.


Photos: (left) The Office of the Governor General of Canada; (right) MCpl Mathieu Gaudreault, Rideau Hall.

Renowned arctic explorer and ExplorersWeb editor Jerry Kobalenko was invested with the Canadian Polar Medal by Governor General Julie Payette at a ceremony in Regina in October. The medal celebrates Canada’s northern heritage and recognizes extraordinary services in the polar regions and Canada’s North. During the investiture, the Governor General noted that “Jerry Kobalenko has skied, hiked, sledded and kayaked more than 16,000 kilometres through the High Arctic over the course of 30 separate expeditions. A professional writer, photographer and ardent arctic adventurer, he has brought his love, passion and knowledge of Canada’s north to a broad national and international audience through his many publications and lectures.”

KINGSLEY, Jennifer

Photo: Eric Guth

Jennifer Kingsley began a new chapter of her cultural storytelling work in 2018. After three years spent visiting six Arctic nations for her project called Meet the North, she has begun working in the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia. South Pacific Stories, sponsored by the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic alliance, is an ongoing investigation of modern culture in island communities.

“We are travelling to a world defined by the ocean,” writes Kingsley. “It’s the home of great navigators and artists, and the site of both historic oppression and modern resurgence. We will learn about life from the people who live here, where islands are so far-flung they rarely appear together on one map. We will listen, follow, and ask the people we meet to choose new sources and locations. The stories you find here will come from those experiences.” 

KEOUGH, Rosemarie

Delegates representing SCAR National Committees from countries worldwide acknowledge the Keoughs’ ANTARCTICA as an important legacy. (Photo: Stephen Curtain)

This past June at POLAR2018, the international scientific community officially acknowledged Pat and Rosemarie Keoughs’ tome ANTARCTICA “as a unique, thoroughly researched and illustrated document of immense contemporary value, one which will be all the more important with the passage of time; and a compelling and magnificent time capsule of the Antarctic.”

The Keoughs presented a well-received talk about their internationally awarded work to the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), and custom-dedicated copies of the hand-bound, limited-edition, 14 kilogram ANTARCTICA were presented by SCAR to the science academy or Antarctic research institution of each of the 43 member countries that support Antarctic research. Held in Davos, Switzerland, POLAR2018 was attended by 2,500 polar scientists.


Photo: Other Press

In October, the book The Long Path to Wisdom (Other Press) was launched at The Explorers Club in New York. Written by Lorie Karnath and colleagues Jan-Philipp and Jonathan Sendker and published in several languages, the book is a collection of a number of the fables and legends that make up Burma’s tribal oral history. Since the early ’90s, Karnath has been visiting Burma’s remote tribal communities, witnessing their traditions and collecting their stories and, recently, completing the building of a school in the country’s Bago region. Her photos of the country were exhibited at the Museum in Cascais, and will be soon be on display in Berlin, Germany. 

Lorie serves as managing editor of The Molecular Frontiers Journal, an open-source scientific magazine published by World Scientific, and she is the editor of The Promise of Science (also World Scientific), which will be out in February 2019. Lorie is also co-chairing a symposium in Stockholm on May 9-10 on Planet Earth: A Scientific Journey. A number of the Nobel laureates and other renowned scientists and explorers will be participating. As part of the program, high school students are being asked to submit their entries for Solutions for Future Earth. For more information, please visit; RCGS Fellows who know a high school or home school student who might be interested in submitting entries to the Future Earth competition before Feb. 28, 2019, can visit

JACOB, George


On Oct. 5, — one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s largest non-profit watershed conservation groups, which includes the Smithsonian affiliated Aquarium of the Bay — unveiled it’s plan for the first-of-its-kind Bay Ecotarium. This will be an immersive, sustainability-driven and multi-disciplinary education, research and climate leadership facility that envisions a future in which the protection of the San Francisco Bay and its watershed is a priority.

The vision, planning and design of this landmark institution, which will transform the Aquarium of the Bay at PIER 39, has brought together an international team of experts from across the U.S., Canada, France, Germany and the U.K. under the leadership of president and CEO George Jacob. At the heart of this transformation will be the Climate Literacy and Ocean Conservation Living Museum, with free education for all children and experiential learning opportunities that include regional environmental challenges, Indigenous cultures, bio-mimetics and clean-tech energy alternatives. Drawing on the iridescence of fish scales, ocean geometry, ohlone shell-mounds and rippling waves, the design elements on the ecotarium incorporate elements such as bio-mimetic facades, an unusual micro-grid that utilizes fish waste, native plant palettes, wet-labs, a deep ocean exploration “learn and launch” centre, an enhanced aquarium experience with 30,000 animals and much more. Visit


Photo: John Houston

John Houston is in the editing stages of his next film — Atautsikut/Leaving None Behind. This important story about the Inuit of Nunavik focuses in part on a group of Inuit and Cree who in 2017 travelled south from Arctic Quebec to celebrate the 50th anniversary of La Fédération des coopératives du Nouveau Québec (FCNQ), a Montreal-based federation that supports the operations and development of 14 member co-operatives around Nunavik. It is the story of how a patchwork of co-operatives banded together in the mid-20th century to throw off colonialist Hudson’s Bay Company bosses and build a better future — one that “leaves none behind” — and relates how Indigenous people have fused ancient values and co-op principles into a quiet revolution.

Houston and his team travelled to eight Nunavik communities in two seasons to gather testimony from the Inuit who founded the co-ops and the federation that supports them, and to explore these questions: Have the Inuit and Cree of Nunavik really found a way to navigate the modern business world without surrendering their traditional values? Are they truly leaving none behind? What wisdom can they share with a world where profit is increasingly placed before people? Atautsikut is set for release in March of 2019.

HARRIS, Gordon

Photos: (left) SFU Community Trust; (right) International Living Future Institute

Gordon Harris’s new book, Building Community: Defining, Designing, Developing UniverCity was published in early November. It explores the question, “How do you build a complete, livable and highly sustainable community, from scratch, that both makes money and changes the world?” That was the challenge that British Columbia’s Simon Fraser University set in the mid-1990s when it created SFU Community Trust with directions to create a community that would complement the university’s operations and raise money for teaching and research while becoming “a model community that integrates residential, commercial and academic uses in a manner worthy of local and international acclaim.”

Welcome to UniverCity, a community of 5,000 (on its way to 10,000) on a forested mountaintop in Burnaby that has won awards and accolades the world over as a model of sustainable planning and practice. With a high street brimming with shops and services, as well as an elementary school and a childcare centre that is about to be certified as the first Living Building in Canada, UniverCity has met most of its goals, but (until now) has not yet shared its story.

In Building Community, the secret is out. This useful, readable book could stand as a professional planning guide: it’s filled with tips and insights about how to build a complete, walkable community that achieves profitable sustainability while ultimately helping to sustain the environment. Harris, who has led the development of UniverCity as president and CEO of SFU Community Trust since 2007, is an urban planner, development strategist, real estate market analyst and a pillar in the sustainable building community with more than 30 years of experience working with public and private sector clients in Canada, Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Central America.


Photo: Joe Grabowski

In November, educator and Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants founder Joe Grabowski spent two weeks aboard maritime archeologist Robert Ballard’s ship, the Expedition Vessel Nautilus, as a National Geographic science communication Fellow. They spent the time using the remotely operated vehicles Hercules and Argus to explore Davidson’s Seamount, an extinct underwater volcano in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and dove on previously unexplored regions of the sea floor at depths of more than three kilometres for up to 40 hours at a time. All dives were broadcast live for viewers around the world, who tuned in as the team shared what they were seeing and answered questions in real time. A real highlight was discovering the world’s largest deep-sea octopus nursery.


Photo: Daisy Gilardini

Daisy Gilardini’s video on Antarctica and the Subantarctic islands has been selected as “Highly Honored” in the Video/Nature in Motion category of the Windland Smith Rice International Awards. Chosen from more than 26,000 images and videos from photographers in 59 countries, the finalists will be published in the 2018 Fall/Winter Special Awards Edition of Nature’s Best Photography magazine and displayed in the Awards Exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

Gilardini also received honorable mentions in the 2018 International Photography Awards’ Nature-Wildlife category (for the image “Baboon”) and Moving Images category (for the video The Spirit of the forest).


Photo: Tacy Piper Quirico

Photographer Debra Garside travelled to remote Sable Island National Park Reserve in Nova Scotia for two weeks in the autumn to capture images for her upcoming book The Seasons of Sable Island. A highlight of the expedition was an open-door aerial shoot in a Britton Norman Islander, during which Garside circumnavigated the 40-kilometre island at an altitude of 500 feet. She also captured imagery of the iconic wild horses as they changed from their fall to winter habitats, enduring sand and rainstorms with near hurricane-force winds, rain, snow and ice pellets. This is Garside’s sixth overnight expedition to the island since 2009, which makes her the only professional photographer to have spent more than 60 days and nights there in total. Part of the proceeds from Garside’s images support The Sable Island Institute in Halifax.


Photo: Highway of Heroes

In 2014, a group of tree-loving people were inspired to transform the Highway of Heroes (a 170 kilometre portion of Highway 401 stretching from CFB Trenton to the Don Valley Parkway in Toronto) into a living tribute that honours Canada’s war dead — 117,000 since Confederation — by planting trees along the route. In addition to honouring our troops, the commemorative trees would clean the atmosphere, cool the environment and provide an inspired drive down an otherwise dreary stretch of asphalt. The Highway of Heroes Tree Campaign, co-founded by Michael de Pencier, Mark Cullen and Tony DiGiovanni, was developed to make this a reality.

Since that time, support has grown, as have the project’s ambitions. The 117,000 most prominent trees will be planted in honour of those who lost their lives, and in addition, a total of two million trees will be planted to also recognize all Canadians who have served during times of war. Already underway, tree planting events educate volunteers about sacrifices that have been made. Military personnel and veterans frequently attend these events themselves. Watch the campaign video.

COOKE, Steven

Photo: Steven Cooke

Steven Cooke, a Carleton University professor and Canada Research Chair in fish ecology and conservation physiology, was selected as the 2018/2019 TD Walter Bean Visiting Professor in the Environment at the University of Waterloo. Cooke delivered a public presentation on the state of inland fish and fisheries in November, and will be visiting various schools in the Waterloo Region during the spring of 2019 to interact with the next generation of problem solvers.


Photo: Allen Clarke

Allen and Jacquie Clarke just returned from One Ocean Expedition’s Spitsbergen Expedition, during which they experienced stunning scenery and historic places and had up-close encounters with birds, walruses, reindeer, polar bears, blue whales and other wildlife. The trip, they say, was a special sort of photography symposium. This part of their excursion had been preceded by a visit to Bergen, Norway, and the famous train ride from Bergen to Oslo, from where they flew up the Longyearbergen to meet on One Ocean’s ship Academic Sergey Vavilov. During an extra few days in Iceland at the end of the trip, they bumped into Jane and Callum Sproull-Thomson, who are also Fellows of the RCGS.

CANO, Catherine

Photo: Kelly Urban

“Our students were so excited to take what they had already learned from the map and the website and connect it to Canadian government,” said Kelly Urban, a teacher at Unsworth Elementary School in Chilliwack, B.C. Urban was referring to Route 338, the innovative program, developed by CPAC and Canadian Geographic Education, she used to introduce her students to the democratic process.

First, she challenged her students to explore Canada’s federal electoral ridings virtually through the special microsite. Then, using the giant, 8-by-11-metre floor map laid out on the school gymnasium floor, she took her students on a road trip across the country’s ridings.

She didn’t want her class to be the only one benefiting from this opportunity, so she brought the whole school on board by creating a “Democracy Day” in which more than 150 Grade 5 and 6 students took part. Students had to prepare a little presentation about a person, place, event or symbol that helped frame the country, and even dress up for the occasion. “We had student delegates enter the gym to place a flag on each of our 13 provinces and territories,” added Urban. “The walls were lined with all of their projects.” Parents, teachers, and even the Mayor took the time to tour the room and talk to the students about their projects.

Route 338 also comes with 11 lesson plans designed to help teachers at all levels introduce concepts such as the various levels and branches of government, the rights and responsibilities of citizens, the legislative process and more. The idea is that the more students understand our system of democracy, the more empowered they will be to participate in the political process. The map, website and lesson plans are available for free visit to learn more.

CAMERON, Silver Donald

Photo: Silver Donald Cameron

If you’re a Canadian or an American, you don’t have a right to a clean breath of air or a drink of pure water. Your body contains a pound of plastic and traces of 700 toxic chemicals — and you can’t sue the polluters responsible. But elsewhere (in more than 180 of the UN’s 193 member nations), citizens actually do have a legal right to a healthy environment.

In January, noted author and educator Silver Donald Cameron and Cape Breton University will offer a course called Green Rights: The Human Right to a Healthy World, featuring stories from Dr. Cameron’s award-winning documentary film Green Rights and the companion book Warrior Lawyers. From Ecuador, New Zealand and the Philippines to Argentina, India, Colombia and the Netherlands, citizens are winning big battles against corporate polluters and complacent governments by exercising their environmental rights. This “3-C” course can be taken for credit (on-site), for a certificate (online) or just out of curiosity (also online, and free). Click here for the course trailer, details and to enroll.

BURN, Chris

Photos: (left) The Office of the Governor General of Canada; (right) Sgt Johanie Maheu, Rideau Hall.

Carleton University’s Chris Burn, a professor in the department of geography and environmental studies and a former RCGS Vice-President, has been awarded the Governor General of Canada’s Canadian Polar Medal, which celebrates Canada’s northern heritage and recognizes extraordinary services in the polar regions and Canada’s North.

Burn received the honour for his extraordinary contributions to scientific knowledge, deep-rooted contributions to collaborative projects with northern agencies, engaged advisory contributions and dedicated training of the next generation of northern researchers.

“This great personal honour could not have been achieved without important northern partnerships and friendships,” said Burn. “The most significant of these includes the help of Douglas Esagok of Inuvik, and the continuing interest of the community of Mayo, central Yukon, in our work. I have been fortunate to have the support of my department, and to have worked with talented graduate students, 17 of whom now live and work north of 60.”

Burn has dedicated his professional life to increasing the understanding of permafrost environments through pioneering research carried out mostly in western Arctic Canada, particularly in northern Yukon and in the outer Mackenzie Delta area. He has been instrumental in solving and managing developmental, environmental and social issues through his involvement with northern communities and agencies and through his advisory work for regulatory boards.


Photo: Rocky Mountain Books

Northern Light: The Arctic and Subarctic Photography of Dave Brosha — a giant coffee table book showcasing the magic of our planet’s northern lands and its people — was released in October through Banff’s Rocky Mountain Books. The book, Brosha’s first and 15 years in the making, features remarkable landscapes and powerful portraits that transport the viewer to stunning Arctic and Subarctic locations. As the publisher’s blurb states, “This remarkably original portfolio will amaze viewers and inspire everyone to reconsider the nature of these sometimes forgotten landscapes.”


Photo: Pierre Bergeron

In late October, Saint Paul University, in Ottawa, continued in its tradition of social engagement by awarding honorary doctorates to two committed individuals: Pierre Bergeron, a well-known journalist and ardent defender of francophone rights, and Vivian Labrie, an ethnographer and social justice champion par excellence. Bergeron, an alumnus of SPU, made his mark especially as a journalist with the daily newspaper Le Droit in Ottawa, and as publisher of Novalis Publishing. For 40 years, he has been dedicated to developing quality journalism, to la francophonie and to volunteer work.


Photo: Pierre Bergeron

On Nov. 1, Diana Beresford-Kroeger delivered the 9th Annual Haig Brown Lecture at the Tidemark Theatre in Campbell River, B.C. The lecture, titled The Medicine of Trees, was presented by the Campbell River Arts Council, the Museum at Campbell River and the Haig-Brown Institute. A series of articles, beginning with this one by journalist Andrew Nikiforuk, appeared in the Tyee, a Vancouver paper.

The Man Booker Prize shortlisted novel, The Overstory, by Richard Powers, which is conceived “from the standpoint of trees,” features a character named Dr. Patricia Westerford, who is partly based on Beresford-Kroeger. This Boston Public Radio show Radio Open Source had a long feature on Powers and his book that included an interview with Beresford-Kroeger.

N.B.: Items for “Fellows in the News” are welcomed and should be sent to Nick Walker at

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