News

  • Geography student studies why some people live on the road

    STORY FROM THE TORONTO STAR | DEC 6, 2018

    Graduate student in the driver's seat of a van she bought for research

    Brock University graduate student Stephanie Murray studied movible communities in a van she bought on Kijiji. Photo by Stephanie Murray.

    When Stephanie Murray, a Geography master’s student at Brock University, set out on a two-month long journey across North America to study nomads and vanlife culture, she didn’t expect to find herself learning to surf, contributing to a documentary film, or being surrounded by a pack of angry stray dogs. But she quickly learned that life on the road is full of unexpected twists and turns.

    An avid traveller, Murray stumbled onto vanlife culture. She was fascinated by the people she met, and quickly realized that although nomads living in vans had been around for years, no one had studied them yet.

    “I knew there was a gap in academia that I could fill,” Murray says. “But if I wanted to truly study this culture, I needed to be able to live and move like they did.”

    “Lola” in the field during her two-month research journey across North America. Photo by Stephanie Murray.

    Using funding from Brock and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant, she purchased a used van on Kijiji. Naming it Lola, she converted the vehicle into 66 square feet of living space. Then, over the summer of 2017, she drove to the west coast of the United States to attend “van gatherings,” events where people who live and travel in their vans get together to socialize and support one another. It’s a diverse group, says Murray. “One of the couples I spoke to worked remotely in IT, another couple ran a blog, and one of the other vanlifers was making money from a book he’d written. They’re a pretty talented bunch.”

    She was out to discover their motivation for giving up conventional lives and instead choosing a highly mobile lifestyle. “Our society is oriented towards people who stay in one place, and van nomads help to call that way of thinking into question.”

    “I have encountered so much kindness on the road,” Murray added. “People have welcomed me into their homes and helped me with my van, with no expectation of anything in return. And while the vanlifers I interviewed took up this lifestyle for a variety of reasons, they were united by a desire to choose their own path, rather than the one that’s handed down to them.”

    Murray was thankful that she received the full backing of the University during her time on the road.

    “Brock supported me fully from day one. And that support meant that I was able to do this research in the way it needed to be done — in person, on the road. I lived and moved alongside the people I was studying, and never once did I have to make any compromises that would have hurt the quality of my research. The University made sure I had the resources to do it right.”

    Master's student in the field during trip across north america. Standing in the foggy mountains.

    Research doesn’t have to happen in the lab. Photo by Stephanie Murray.

    Murray’s faculty supervisor and the Graduate Program Director of Geography at Brock,  Dr. David Butz, believed her research was novel and important, given today’s mobile society. Becoming a van nomad herself was pivotal.

    “This research strategy — and life choice — gives her research an unusually strong experiential and autobiographical component, which is rare in ‘mobilities’ research, and which adds to the distinctiveness and potential significance of her research,” says Butz. “We also felt Stephanie’s unusual research project, while logistically complicated, was worth supporting. We were confident about her capabilities based on her history with the University. At Brock, we encourage applications from good students and we’re willing to put funding behind that — and provide them with mentoring to apply for external funding.  Brock can offer lots of personalized attention to students.”

    Research doesn’t have to happen in a lab. There are interesting and exciting things going on around us everywhere, and at Brock University, unique postgraduate research projects in the community are encouraged.

    For her part, Murray is grateful for the support she received from Brock. “This research changed the course of my life, and it showed me that it’s possible to turn your passion into a ground-breaking research project,” she said. “If you have a clear vision of what you want to discover, Brock can help you on that pursuit.”

    Story reposted from The Toronto Star

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  • New research by geography alumnus looks at fire history in southwest Yukon Territory

    Student in forest taking a tree core sample

    Tyler Prince taking a tree core sample in southwest Yukon Territory. Photo by Kevin Turner.

    New research by Tyler Prince (Brock Geography and Master of Sustainability alumnus), Michael Pisaric, and Kevin Turner was published this week in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. Read more below.

    Abstract:

    Previous research suggests climate warming during the current century is likely to lead to an increase in the frequency and severity of wildfire. Recent wildfire seasons in northern Canada generally support these studies, with some of the worst fire seasons on record occurring during the past decade. While we can readily track the spatial and temporal distribution of these events during recent decades using satellite-derived data, historical records of past fire activity are relatively short. Proxy records of past fire activity are needed to fully understand how fire regimes may be shifting in response to changing climatic conditions. A high-resolution fire record, dating back to the early-Holocene, has been reconstructed using a 512-cm sediment core collected from a small lake in southwest Yukon Territory, Canada. Macroscopic charcoal was counted throughout the core at contiguous 0.5-cm intervals. The core was also analyzed for loss-on-ignition and magnetic susceptibility. Fossil pollen preserved in the lake sediment was analyzed to determine vegetation change throughout the Holocene. Macroscopic charcoal analysis indicates an active fire history throughout the record, with 90 fires occurring throughout the Holocene. CharAnalysis indicates an average signal to noise index of 6.2, suggesting the peaks are significant and detectable from the slowly varying background level. Results suggest the fire regime in this region responds to both top-down (climate) and bottom-up (vegetation) factors. Fire return intervals changed in response to shifts in precipitation and temperature as well as the expansion of lodgepole pine into the region. The shifts in precipitation and temperature were attributed to the oscillation of the Aleutian Low pressure system and fluctuations in climate associated with the Medieval Climate Anomaly and the Little Ice Age.

    Access the full paper online.

    Prince, T., Pisaric, M., and Turner, K. (2018). Postglacial reconstruction of fire history using sedimentary charcoal and pollen from a small lake in southwest Yukon Territory, Canada. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, online.

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  • GoGeomatics interview: Associate Professor Kevin Turner

    STORY REPOSTED FROM GOGEOMATICS | NOVEMBER 22, 2018

    Kevin Turner working on field research in northern Canada. Image by Brent Thorne

    This installment of our ongoing series on GIS and education in Canada features Associate Professor Kevin Turner from Brock University’s Department of Geography and Tourism Studies.

    Jonathan Murphy: Hi Kevin, and thank you for taking the time to chat with us about your career and your program at Brock. How did your passion for geography start?

    Kevin Turner: I was drawn to nature at an early age. I can trace my interests in geography and the natural sciences to various times starting in Grade 6 when Mr. Wayne Graham (Hamlet Public School, Stratford) put the class in contact with Daphne Sheldrick, the operator of an elephant orphanage in Kenya. While it may not have been geography-focused at the time, I became quite aware of the negative influence people can have on the world and the animals within it. My interest in Geography grew during my grade 11 geography class with Mr. Al Vredeveld at Stratford Central Secondary School. I also had the interests of a couple family members rub off on me. Add in a number of nature documentaries, family camping, a couple David Suzuki books, and some great advice from my high school academic advisor (Mrs. Heather Jesson), and soon I was off to Trent for my undergraduate joint major in physical geography and biology. I had some fantastic profs at Trent who continued to lure me into the natural sciences.

    I was a tree planter during summers in northern Ontario, Alberta, and BC, which continued to build my appreciation for the outdoors. I knew that I wanted to study nature in some way and somehow set myself up to have a career that included working outside in a remote landscape. The motivation for this continued after graduation while hiking and mountaineering in Ecuador and Peru.

    I decided that I wanted to learn more about landscape-scale systems and that building skills in digital mapping and spatial analysis was needed. I received a post-grad certificate in the GIS Applications Specialist program at Sir Sandford Fleming College and got my first ‘career’ job at a geophysical exploration firm out of Guelph, Ontario. I found myself designing projects and surveying in nice places around eastern Canada and the US. In addition to coordinating and conducting the field surveys, I wrote scripts in VBA to design the projects and quality check the data coming in, which I reported to clients.

    I wanted more involvement on the research side of things, especially with water resources, and decided to begin graduate studies in 2007 at Wilfrid Laurier University. The timing was right considering that my new supervisor at the time (Dr. Brent Wolfe) and many other colleagues were beginning a multidisciplinary research program in Old Crow Flats, Yukon, supported by the Government of Canada International Polar Year. It was an incredible experience that presented many opportunities to travel to the north for fieldwork and interact with people of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, who were the driving force of the program. Fast-forward 6.5 years and I’m beginning a position at Brock University where I secured external funding to build on my research in northern Yukon and also Northwest Territories.

    Jonathan Murphy: You were recently promoted to associate professor at Brock–congratulations! What do you teach there and what is your research focus?

    Graduate Research Assistant Brent Thorne, Image by Kevin Turner

    Kevin Turner: My teaching focus in the Department of Geography and Tourism Studies at Brock is mostly geomatics. We offer a suite of geomatics courses spanning introduction and advanced remote sensing, GIS, cartography, and quantitative research design and methodology. Once students learn to grasp the various concepts, I encourage them to implement creative and critical analysis with datasets and topics that interest them most. I also strive to make them comfortable with using computer programming for automating tasks so they can accomplish more by generating useful customized tools of their interest. We’ve been lucky to have some very strong students come through our programs and it has been rewarding to see them enjoy and take a lot away from our programs.

    Jonathan Murphy:  What is the geography and tourism program like at Brock?  What makes the program unique?

    Kevin Turner: Within the Department of Geography and Tourism Studies, we have a diverse set of streams that students can pursue, which include the following:

    • BA Geography (focus on human geography)
    • BSc Geography (focus on physical geography)
    • Concurrent BA or BSc (Honours) – Geography/ Education
    • Combined Geography majors (e.g., Geography + Biology, Child and Youth Studies, Computer Science, Earth Sciences, Economics, History Labour Studies, and more)

    We offer seven geomatics-focused courses as well as a fourth-year co-op course where students can gain additional hands-on experience in a position of their choosing. The wide-ranging options available provide students with the ability to shape their studies according to their interests. I take this approach with the four geomatics (i.e., mostly GIS and spatial analysis and statistics) courses that I teach. Students learn essential GIS/RS skills for evaluating spatial patterns throughout my courses and have opportunities to implement them within the context of their choice. The aim is to build their knowledge of geography and related fields through enhancing their analytical capabilities. We are lucky to work with the Brock University Map, GIS, and Data Library, which is conveniently located beside our department where students can have access to necessary resources for building their skills in geomatics. I pull a lot from my private sector and ongoing academic research experiences when updating and implementing my courses. I’m happy to report that following graduation, many students who have taken our courses have been quite successful at finding employment and/or additional research programs in their fields of interest.

    Jonathan Murphy:  What geomatics classes or skills are students acquiring by the time they graduate from Brock?

    Kevin Turner. Image by Brent Thorne

    Kevin Turner: Students learn to use many GIS/RS software for their analytical needs and interests. We have many computer labs throughout Brock University with site licenses for ESRI products including ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro as well as ENVI for remote sensing analyses. My courses also include a lot of content focused on open source solutions including R, QGIS, and various integrated development environments. In addition to utilizing databases for spatial analyses (3D, network, spatial statistical, etc.) and geoprocessing, my courses bring in application development so that they can learn to automate or customize their workflow in an effort to eliminate redundancies. This comes from using Python and R programming languages.

    Jonathan Murphy: The program has some interesting aspects to it.  Can you tell us a bit about the weeklong experiential learning exercise in central Ontario for the fourth year students?

    Kevin Turner: We have several ‘experiential learning’ opportunities within our programs. It is geography after all and it is important to get students into the field to get hands-on experience. The Peterborough field course is the longest running one in the department where physical and human geography students get a chance to conduct their research of interest. We offer additional field courses for geography and tourism students to other national and international destinations that have included Croatia, Vancouver, and Chicago. London, England is on the list for next year. I take graduate and undergraduate students who are working on their theses for Geography and Tourism Studies or Earth Science with me to my northern study sites including Old Crow, Yukon, and Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

    Jonathan Murphy: I understand that 40% of your job is focused on research. Can you describe your research program and how you and the students working with you accomplish it?

    Research Assistant Brent Thorne. Image by Kevin Turner

    Kevin Turner: My research program focuses on tracking climate-induced landscape changes and the associated responses of lakes and rivers in northern Canada. For example, the changes that myself and the people of Old Crow, Yukon have observed include an increased frequency of lake drainage, shoreline permafrost thaw slumping (i.e., landslides), shrub vegetation proliferation, and fire. Taking inventory of these phenomena requires the use of available remotely sensed data products and multispectral imagery we collect using unmanned aerial vehicles. Other datasets are coming from airborne campaigns of the NASA Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment, which I am affiliated with. We also sample water and sediment from lakes and rivers, which undergoes a suite of water chemistry and isotope analysis. This information provides an indication of how the landscape changes have impacted water quality, hydrology and carbon export over multiple temporal scales.

    Geomatics tools are essential at all stages of the research process including data acquisition, processing, analysis and integration of final catchment map layers (e.g., ground conditions, land cover type, ground temperatures, etc.). We also identify where lakes and rivers across the study sites are more vulnerable to being impacted by changing climate and landscape features. The overall aim is to provide key insight required for predicting how these places will respond to future change and how that will impact downstream environments.

    Managing a northern research program in a southern Canada university can be a challenge. However, it is a chance of a lifetime for the students to venture out to important remote Canadian landscapes and work with stakeholders, including those who want to learn about the spatial patterns we see in their traditional territories.

    Jonathan Murphy: Thanks for taking the time to talk to the GoGeomatics community.  We hope to see you and your students at our monthly GoGeomatics socials in Niagara!

    STORY REPOSTED FROM GOGEOMATICS

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  • Master of Arts in Geography student helps to curate exhibit on Niagara’s historical theatres

    The history of entertainment in Niagara is now in the spotlight at Brock University thanks to the hard work of two local high school students.

    The work of Beamsville District Secondary School students Emma McDonald (daughter of History Professor Andrew McDonald) and Keerthana Srikanth is on display in the University’s Archives and Special Collections.

    The opportunity to create an exhibit about historical theatres in Niagara came about after the pair of 15-year-old students devoted hours of their spare time volunteering at the Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre.

    Now Playing exhibit

    Beamsville District Secondary School students Keerthana Srikanth and Emma McDonald were joined for the installation of their exhibit Now Playing: Evolution of Entertainment by Brock’s Head of Archives and Special Collections David Sharron and Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre curator and Brock Master of Geography student Lisa Marie Mercier.

    Having seen the girls’ passion for history, the museum’s curator, Brock Master of Geography student Lisa Marie Mercier, invited the duo to curate an exhibit of their own, Now Playing: Evolution of Entertainment.

    “The exhibit connected the girls to history in a way that would not otherwise be possible,” she said. “It allowed them to engage with historic material on a very personal level.”

    After deciding to focus their exhibit on entertainment, the Grade 10 students met with David Sharron, Brock’s Head of Archives and Special Collections, to examine some of the University’s collection and narrow their focus.

    “Once they chose their topics, we provided access to information and materials that would show well in an exhibit,” he said of the photographs, maps and programs on display. “They filtered through everything and did all the research and selections.”

    The two young curators were appreciative of the expansive resources on offer in the archives.

    “It was really interesting and overwhelming,” said McDonald. “There were lots of cool things to choose from.”

    Having a wealth of resources from the museum and Brock’s archives made the task of choosing the most appropriate items to display at Lincoln Town Hall and the University a little tougher.

    “We needed to figure out what we wanted to focus on,” said Srikanth. “We narrowed it down to the Beam Theatre, the Prudhommes Garden Centre Theatre and the Shaw Festival, and then spent four months getting our materials together.”

    Upon finishing the display’s assembly at Brock on Friday, Nov. 16, McDonald summed up the pair’s feelings about seeing the final product on show.

    “We are really excited,” she said. “Seeing our work in such a large establishment is insane.”

    For Sharron, the display is a welcome addition to the Archives and Special Collections display cases.

    “I saw pictures of what they did at the Lincoln town hall and it looks fantastic,” he said. “The fact that they can do another project here shows the wealth of information they put together. They are two impressive young women.”

    Sharron said the project aligns with Brock’s ongoing commitment to engage with the community while also encouraging young people like McDonald and Srikanth to consider the University in a few years.

    “I think it’s a great opportunity to reach out to the community, share our collections with young people and get them interested in what we do here,” he said. “We hope that when they are considering an institution for post-secondary studies, they will think of us.”

    Now Playing: Evolution of Entertainment can be viewed in the Archives and Special Collections display cases on the 10th floor of the James A. Gibson Library until the end of March 2019.

    Story from The Brock News.

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  • Alumni profile: Sarah Lepp

    Geography alumna, Sarah Lepp (BSc Physical Geography ’13), was recently featured in Niagara College’s Research and Innovation News. Read more below.

    Profile: Sarah Lepp

    Sarah Lepp:Profile

    Like many, Sarah Lepp was bored in her high school geography class – not realizing until university that it did not have to be all about memorizing capital cities and world atlases.

    While the St. Catharines native had always hiked in Short Hills Provincial Park, the discipline of Physical Geography at Brock gave her fresh eyes and a renewed appreciation for how the landscape was defined tens of thousands of years ago by glaciers and today by the physiographic variations.

    She’s the type always inspired by both peculiarities and patterns so it wasn’t surprising she became involved in the study of fluviomorphology, the phenomena of how water carves out a new natural integrity. It would be the first of many proficiencies to come.

    “Being out in nature has always and still does make me happy and peaceful; I always wanted everyone to have experiences like this.” It was in an effort to help keep the integrity of the environment that drew her initially to Niagara College some 15 years ago for a diploma in Environmental Technician Field/Lab before her foray into geography for a Bachelor of Science degree.

    Yet geographers are a curious bunch; they need to make sense of the world, understand how things change over time and how this knowledge could help others. Still looking to find her own place in the world, Sarah arrived back at NC’s Research & Innovation division a decade ago and worked her way to Senior Research Associate while cultivating her own path.

    Through her work at the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre (AETIC), she has become highly valued in the agricultural industry for her expertise in geographic information systems (GIS), field topography dataset analysis, precision agriculture data quality, and something called phytogeomorphometrics, the study of how plants interact with the land surface (the research team has done extensive work with quantifying landforms and how crop and crop health changes with landform types).

    Continue reading Sarah’s profile here.

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  • Geography alumna Diana Aquino wins Niagara Young Professional Award

    Diana Aquino (Geography Alumni) wins Women in Business award from GNCC

    Photo from Women In Niagara (@GNCC_WIN) on Twitter.

    The Department of Geography and Tourism Studies is pleased to congratulate Geography alumna Diana Aquino, Walker Environmental Group, on winning the 2018 Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce Women in Business Young Professional Award.

    The Women in Business Awards (WIBA) is an annual event to recognize the leadership and success of women in the Niagara business community.

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  • Brock student wins two awards in national science photo competition

    Dana Harris calls Nov. 9 her “special day.”

    It was on that day last week that the Master of Sustainability student became a first time aunt, and also the day she was told, in the strictest of confidence, that she had captured two top prizes in a national science research photo competition.

    Harris had to keep the secret of her achievement under wraps until Nov. 14, when the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) announced the winners of its Canada-wide Science Exposed competition.

    The competition showcases images taken during scientific research being conducted in all fields by faculty and student researchers in post-secondary institutions and researchers in public and private research centres.

    Dana Harris photo submission

    Dana Harris’ submission to the NSERC Science Exposed competition
    featuring cells of the jack pine tree.

    Harris received the People’s Choice Award and a Jury Prize for her photo, “Exploring the Jack Pine Tight Knit Family Tree.”

    “It’s a super huge honour to have people sharing my photo, voting on it and just enjoying it,” says Harris. “And, to get that mention from the NSERC jury members was really gratifying.”

    Diane Dupont, Dean of Graduate Studies, said the Faculty is “so proud of Dana and her success in the NSERC Science Exposed photography contest.”

    “To win the People’s Choice Award is an outstanding achievement,” Dupont said. “This award is a testament to the cutting-edge research she is pursuing involving the globally-relevant topic of climate change.”

    Harris’ photo shows phases of developing xylem cells, stained in different colours, that are found in a wood sample cored from the outermost part of a jack pine tree in the Northwest Territories, where she is from.

    The image, shot from a microscope, shows the jack pine tree’s phloem, cambial and xylem cells (blue dye) and mature xylem cells (red dye) in a thin slice of the wood. It is one of a series of images taken weekly over the past year to track the growth of the jack pine tree’s various cells.

    “This type of information is useful for researchers who create climate reconstructions using tree rings as a source of historical climate data,” explains Harris.

    She thanked her supervisor, Professor of Geography and Tourism Studies Michael Pisaric, and her fellow student researchers in Brock’s Water and Environment Laboratory (WEL) for their support.

    “Dana’s research is helping to understand how important tree species in the boreal forest are affected by climate change,” says Pisaric. “Her research also helps to inform larger questions concerning carbon uptake by the boreal forest.

    “Northern regions of Canada are being impacted by changing climatic conditions, including warmer temperatures, changing precipitation regimes and altered frequency and intensity of forest fires and other disturbance agents.”

    The WEL lab is co-directed by Pisaric and Associate Professor of Geography and Tourism Studies Kevin Turner, with the aim to explore how terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in Canada’s North are changing in response to climatic and environmental change.

    Harris says she is happy that research on climate change and environmental conditions in the North were acknowledged with awards in the competition.

    Earlier this year, the photos of 20 researchers from across Canada, including Harris’s entry, were shortlisted and posted on NSERC’s website. People viewing the 20 photos were given the chance to vote for their favourite image. A panel of judges also chose three images that won jury prizes.

    Harris was also a competitor in NSERC’s Science, Action! research video contest,making the first cut of the three-round competition with her video “Jack Pine Growth, NT.”

    NSERC is Canada’s federal funding agency for university-based research, supporting faculty and students through a number of awards. In the most recent round of funding, 18 faculty researchers and nine students received a total of $3.2 million.

    Story reposted from The Brock News.

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  • Jeff Boggs participates in the 2018 Niagara Economic Summit panel on Tomorrow’s Reality

    Profesor Jeff Boggs (third from left) participates in the Niagara Economic Summit 2018 panel on Tomorrow’s Reality. Photo by Brock NCO.

    On November 2, 2018, professor Jeff Boggs joined five other panelists to discuss “Tomorrow’s Reality — Trends to Watch For”. The panel explored the contemporary global demographic and economic trends and considered their implications for Niagara, most importantly their effects on our competitiveness in the global market.

    The Niagara Economic Summit brings together individuals from across the Region to celebrate shared successes, strategize the way forward for our regional economy, and increase collaboration. Participants from academy, senior ranks of government, economists, organizational leaders and business owners explore the importance and opportunities presented by diversification.

    More information about the event can be found at gncc.ca/economicsummit/.

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  • Mapping Wins and Losses on the Rink: A GIS Approach to Ice Hockey Analytics

    Story from the Esri Canada Blog, November 1, 2018

    Contributed by Kyle Rankin (Brock GEOG ’18), Associate GIS Analyst, Esri Canada

    Like many Canadians, I like to watch Hockey Night in Canada every week, which is where I got the idea of applying GIS to analyze hockey. In the months that followed, not only did I apply spatial analysis to hockey games, but I also submitted this analysis to apply for the Esri Canada Higher Education GIS Scholarship at Brock University.  Find out what made this a winning project.

    November 14 is GIS Day, celebrated by geographers, cartographers and GIS users everywhere. At Brock University, GIS students celebrate with a project competition sponsored by Esri Canada. The winner receives an Esri Canada Higher Education GIS Scholarship, which includes funding, software, training and networking opportunities to help students continue to develop their GIS skills and interests. I decided to work on a project applying GIS analysis to hockey games and submit it for the competition.

    As Canadians, we all know what hockey means to us: passion, athleticism, power and toughness––a hockey player is as Canadian as the maple syrup. For many people, myself included, the game of hockey doesn’t mean advanced regression models and mathematical formulas. However, this changed for me when I realized there was an opportunity to apply the power of GIS and Esri’s spatial analysis tools to analyze hockey.

    Every hockey team wants to understand how they can score more goals than their opponent and win more hockey games. If you are a hockey player, you’d more than likely agree this has as much to do with location on the ice during a game as an individual player’s talent. As a young hockey player, I was constantly taught where to skate to, where to shoot from and where to defend from. That’s applying the science of where to hockey!

    Locational understanding on the hockey rink is clearly evident. So, I formulated the basic question for applying spatial analysis to player and team performance: what datasets are needed and can be analyzed to help hockey teams increase their goal-scoring and ultimately improve their chances of winning a match?

    To expand on this, three questions came to mind:
    a) What kind of data would be easiest to collect and yield the best quality result? (Shot locations, player locations, puck location, etc.)
    b) How could I define areas on the ice that are associated with higher likelihoods of scoring?
    c) How can the fast and fluid game of hockey be analyzed using hard-defined areas?

    Armed with these questions, I approached the Brampton Beast professional hockey team’s manager of hockey operations, who showed great interest in my project and agreed to collaborate with me. Together, we set out to study the location where shots were taken on the ice to conduct statistical analysis. The report I created were not only easy to read and understand, but also provided meaningful insight into the team’s games.

    Data-Driven, Evidence-Based Reports

    Using data collected from the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) online game centre , I digitized 705 points representing the location of shots for and against Brampton during 10 of their games. I relied on ArcGIS ModelBuilder to create a repeatable workflow for querying and analyzing the data. This allowed for reports to be created with ease, as the model pulled data that matched certain criteria and then performed analyses, such as kernel density, to highlight hot spots in shot-activity on the ice. I created several reports that were based on individual player performance, single games, certain opposing goalies and comparison charts of games won versus games lost.

    The team’s staff used these reports to gain a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of their strategy and to adjust their game-day strategy accordingly. Such reports can enhance coaching practices with data-driven and evidence-based strategies. Especially knowing how fast-moving and fluid hockey is––for example, while nobody can tell Sidney Crosby the exact coordinates of where he should shoot from, if you give him a map showing that he scores more often from the middle section of the ice than anywhere else, then he’ll be out there in the next shift doing just that. Using these reports to interact with players can help them better understand their statistics and the analysis of their play––looking at a cool map is a lot easier to understand than numbers on a spreadsheet.

    The home plate is right at the centre of the ice in the attacking zone, where most goals and high-quality scoring opportunities occur. Shots from the home plate are more likely to result in goals, which implies that if teams focus on shooting from here, they are more likely to win. The Beast’s staff identified this as a significant revelation––they decided to concentrate on making offense from the home plate, while also channelling their defensive strategies on preventing opponent shots within this area inside the blue line.

    Continue reading Kyle’s post on the Esri Canada Blog.

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  • Student-led Datathon dives deep into growing industry

    Big data is big business — and where big career opportunities lie.

    To introduce their peers to the growing field of data analytics, a group of Brock University students has created an event that dives into the data phenomenon.

    Now in its second year, the Datathon Educational Conference takes place at Brock University on Saturday, Nov. 10 and features a series of presentations and workshops from industry experts.

    “We’re bigger and better in almost every regard,” said third-year Political Science student Nour Hage, who co-founded the event alongside Conrad Lipiec and Thomas Lillo. “We have a lineup of great executives coming in from some of the biggest and best companies in Canada, including Microsoft, RBC, CIBC, Deloitte and BMO.”

    The event’s roster includes speakers from a variety of backgrounds, such as health sciences, finance, law and digital humanities, as well as experts from several “up-and-coming startups who have big contracts with multinational firms like Apple,” said Lipiec, a third-year Economics student.

    The Datathon, which sold out in its inaugural year, is about connecting students with industry leaders and helping to guide them on a path to data proficiency, he said.

    Workshops held throughout the day were developed through discussions with industry insiders about what they look for in workers in terms of preferred skills.

    By developing those applicable skills, the goal is to help students gain co-op opportunities and “hit the ground running,” Lipiec said.

    Hage stressed there’s “no experience required” to take the Datathon plunge, as it caters to beginners as well as those who have a keen interest in the topic.

    “In university, all we do is analyze information; we manipulate it, make use of it and create new information with existing information,” said Lillo, a third-year Geography and Computer Science student, who encouraged students not to shy away. “That’s all analytics is, but with technology added into the mix.”

    Datathon organizers hope to open the eyes of students from various programs to the possibilities that exist with analytics.

    “We want to show people this is not just for Computer Science and Business students,” Lipiec said. “There are new data case studies coming out every day in fields you wouldn’t expect, like human resources and accounting. It’s such an innovative field.”

    Lillo said analytics, especially the tools being focused on at the conference, are “really applicable to every domain.”

    “It’s only going to become more important as technology continues to improve.”

    The Datathon’s main sponsor is Brock’s Goodman School of Business. The event, held in Sean O’Sullivan Theatre, will include opening remarks by University President Gervan Fearon.

    Combined tickets for the conference and related workshops are $29, and conference-only tickets are $19.

    For more information and a full list of workshops and speakers, visit datathon.ca.

    Story reposted from The Brock News.

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