Thursday, September 5, 2019

Collection Connection with Alex McPhee

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Students and staff use the library on the daily, in person and online. This is how...

Alex McPhee is a fourth-year geophysics undergraduate and self-taught open GIS specialist. In his spare time, he's been systematically visiting every county in Alberta. If you know anybody who has the security clearance to get visitors into Improvement District #349, he'd love to meet you!

Photo of Alex McPhee in the Maps Collection

What is your "go to" resource for research in the UAlberta collection? and what do you like about it?The whole 4th floor of Cameron is a delight. The map cabinets and the wonderful Canadian Circumpolar Library will, if you have even a passing interest in what the parts of our country you've never seen are like, take weeks of your time.

What draws you to GIS and all things spatial?I've always suffered from geography brain, but I didn't realize it until I found out that I remembered people's hometowns more easily than their names. If you want to do artwork and analysis at the same time, digital cartography is probably the best discipline in the world.

What kind of information does a map tell you that you can't get from other resources?
The human mind excels at finding patterns in space. When it comes to their ability to be intuitively understood, maps have a huge advantage over other data.

How are you using maps (or air photos) in your research?Right now I'm working with the U of A's Quaternary geology lab, investigating how climate change is damaging the Canadian North. A lot of things are available online these days, but tens of thousands of 20th century air photos of Northern Alberta aren't one of them. Without the University's enormous collection of black-and-white government surveys, we'd have no historical context for any of the massive changes that are happening in our frozen landscapes.

Close up of Globe in UAlberta Map Collection

Any "end of summer" reading suggestions?
Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God is Within You. Who knew the War and Peace guy also wrote the seminal work of Christian anarchism?

Check out the electronic version of The Kingdom of God is Within You here.

The French version of this article is available here:

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