Jon Cooper on Conservation and Education

Jon Cooper reviewing map data

Jon Cooper is a recent graduate of Mount Royal University's Bachelor of Science program. Jon's interest in geographic information systems (GIS), and how they can be applied to conservation, has led him to pursue a Masters on GIS.

Q: Tell a bit about your area of study and your history with it. Why are you passionate about it?

Jon: While in the General Science program I had a general interest in earth systems and conservation. During my second and third year I was unsure of what I wanted to do with my degree and just wanted to be done. In my last year I took a second year geographic information systems (GIS) course which, at the time, was something I had never heard of. From there I took the advanced GIS course with Dr. Lynn Moorman, and she opened my eyes to the amazing world of GIS. The seemingly unlimited applications of GIS across various disciplines excited me. I realized that I could use GIS to address conservational issues. This excitement led me to apply, and later accepted, to the Masters of GIS program (MGIS) where I will be looking at mapping sensitive Bull Trout habitat in the South Saskatchewan River Basin.

Q: What are your goals for the future?

J: In the short term my goal is to gain as much knowledge as I can from the MGIS program. From there I hope to apply my GIS knowledge in a conservation organization.

Q: Describe your research

J: I am working on a report to determine how the Faculty of Science can incorporate a Visualization Wall into their teaching and research to display and analyze geospatial information. The Visualization Wall is a large, high resolution display which is part of the new Riddell Library and Learning Centre. The Visualization Wall can be used for virtual field trips, geospatial analysis, interactive models and student presentations. This research is ongoing and will be used to ensure that the Visualization Wall is effectively used to enhance the learning experience of students and to help Faculty with research and presentations.

Q: What impact does this research have? Why do you, personally, feel it is important?

J: This research will have the greatest impact on future students of MRU. I think there is great potential for the Visualization Wall to enhance the student learning experience. I am most excited about the idea of virtual field trips. The virtual field trips can be used to mimic field work and incorporate that aspect of learning earlier in their degree. The virtual field trip would not replace real world field work, but rather, it would enhance it by increasing students experience with field notes and observations.

Jon Cooper

Q: Who is working with you on the project (faculty, supervisory, fellow students, colleagues?)

J: My supervisor is Dr. Lynn Moorman. I have also received input form the Faculty of Science staff. Additionally, I will be conducting interviews in the fall to gain more detailed information of how those who are interested in utilizing the Visualization Wall can use the wall to enhance their geospatial visualizations.

Q: What are some of the challenges you have faced during your research? How have you overcome them?

J: One of the main challenges I have found with the particular project is that the Visualization Wall at MRU is still under construction. This is challenging because I cannot test ideas that I have or see how the faculty use the wall. To address this challenge I have been looking into how other Universities and Colleges are using their visualization walls. I also went for a tour of the Visualization Studio at the University of Calgary to gain experience of how they are using it and to really get a sense of what working with a visualization wall is like. It is much more than just a large screen.

Q: Can you tell about an interesting experience you had while conducting your research?

J: Going to the Visualization Studio at the University of Calgary was very exciting. This experience really made me realize the possibilities of the Visualization Wall. Through this experience I discovered first hand that the ability to view data at a large scale can really enhance ones capability to interpret data and information.