Our Department

Department Photo 2022

Department History

The Department of Geography was formally established in 1963 when Victoria College (est. 1903) became the University of Victoria. Introductory Geography courses had been taught at the College since the late-1940s, but the significant expansion of a Liberal Arts program in Human and Physical Geography awaited the 1960s and 1970s. Since then, the department has focused on several areas of specialization, including Resources, the Human Environment, Biophysical, Geomatics, and most recently, Coastal Studies.

The growth and development of the department was nurtured on the old Lansdowne campus during the College and early-University eras by Charlie Howatson (1949-63), Bryan Farrell (1963-69), and Charlie Forward (1969-79). Considerable expansion in numbers of students, faculty, undergraduate courses, and a graduate program followed quickly after the department moved to the Cornett Building on the new Gordon Head campus in 1966.

Since then, the department has flourished under the leadership of Derek Sewell (1979-84), Colin Wood (1984-89), Mike Edgell (1989-99), Larry McCann (interim 1999-2000), Dan Smith (2000-08), and Phil Dearden (2009-13). See a full listing of our emeritus faculty.

From teaching a few hundred undergraduate and several honours students in the early 1960s, at present, faculty members teach and mentor some 1,250 undergraduates and nearly 100 MA, MSc, or PhD students. In 2008, the department moved into expansive facilities in the newly-built Social Sciences and Mathematics Building, a great boon to its teaching and research activities.

Reflecting its diversity and leadership, the department has spawned several multi-disciplinary units on campus, for example, Environmental Studies (1974) and Pacific and Asian Studies (1975). It founded a Co-operative Education program in the late 1970s. Faculty members have developed strong inter-disciplinary teaching and research ties to departments in the Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Humanities, and participate in a growing number of research centres, including the Institute for Coastal and Oceans Research and the Centre on Aging.

In 2002, Environment Canada joined with the department to create the Water and Climate Impacts Research Centre. Other specialized centres, laboratories, and research groups are a distinguishing feature of the department's recent growth and global outreach in the early 21st century.


Our faculty members publish with some of the most prestigious university presses, such as Les Presses de l'Université Laval, McGill-Queen's University Press, Oxford University Press, Sir Wilfrid Laurier Press, University of California Press, University of Toronto Press, and UBC Press.

Examples of internationally recognized, peer reviewed journals that have published articles by Geography faculty include: American Journal of Public HealthAtmospheric EnvironmentBiological ConservationClimatic ChangeEcography, Environmental ConservationEpidemiologyGeologyEcologyHealth and PlaceJournal of BiogeographyJournal of Geophysical ResearchMarine Ecology Progress SeriesQuaternary Science Reviews, and Remote Sensing of the Environment.

Western Geographical Press

In 1969, the Western Geographical Series was designed as a forum for the expression of contemporary North American geographical thought and the presentation of the results of recent research activities.

Published by the Department of Geography at the University of Victoria and edited by Harold D. Foster, it included monographs and articles written by prominent scientists from a variety of disciplines.

In the summer of 1995, the Department of Geography at the University of Victoria established the Western Geographical Press. After negotiating with both John Wiley & Sons Ltd. and UBC Press, the Western Geographical Series was split into two components: the International Western Geographical Series, published and distributed by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. and the Canadian Western Geographical Series distributed by UBC Press. Both series are produced by the Western Geographical Press.

Western Geographical Press is a member of the Association of Canadian University Presses.