University of Calgary

New Geomatics Centre

Jan. 16, 2009

New research centre devoted to natural resource care

Naser El-Sheimy

Naser El-Sheimy. / Photos: Ken Bendiktsen

Improving the management of natural resources in Alberta, Canada and around the world is the goal of a new research centre announced Jan 15 by Minister of State (Science and Technology) Gary Goodyear. Funded under the federal Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR) program and industry/government partners, the new Centre of Excellence for Integrated Resource Management will be the first of its kind in the world to focus geomatics engineering expertise towards the complex problems of large-scale resource and environmental management. The centre will be led by Naser El-Sheimy, holder of a Canada Research Chair and the head of the Department of Geomatics Engineering in the Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary.

The centre is a partnership involving the University of Calgary, the University of Alberta, the University of Lethbridge and other Canadian universities, the Province of Alberta and industry partners.

VP (Research) Rose Goldstein, Minister of State (Science and Technology) Gary Goodyear and Naser El-Sheimy, holder of a Canada R

VP (Research) Rose Goldstein, Minister of State (Science and Technology) Gary Goodyear and Naser El-Sheimy, holder of a Canada Research Chair.

“This is a research and development centre that will lead to the commercialization of geomatics tools that will help ensure the responsible maintenance and management of resources in Canada and in countries across the globe,” U of C’s Vice-President (Research) Rose Goldstein said. “A centre of this calibre will undoubtedly attract some of the leading researchers in the field to our province and reinforce our position as a leading centre of geomatics research and commercialization.”

Goodyear announced $11.6 million in funding for the centre as part of a nationwide announcement of $62.3 million for CECR projects at universities across the country. The CECR program was launched in May 2007 to encourage more private sector investment in research and development.

The new centre enhances the work already underway in the U of C’s Department of Geomatics Engineering, which is one of the largest geomatics departments worldwide and the only one in Western Canada. Geomatics is the science and technology of gathering, analyzing, interpreting, distributing and using geographic information in real-time applications. Emerging as one of Canada’s fastest growing technology sectors, geomatics encompasses a broad range of disciplines that results in a variety of practical applications including tracking wildlife, monitoring forest fires, discovering underground oil reservoirs and aiding ships, aircraft and vehicles to navigate safely.

“Alberta is a recognized world leader in geomatics engineering, with 40 percent of the country’s industry here,” said Schulich School of Engineering Dean Elizabeth Cannon. “This centre will provide an important link between the geomatics industry and the academic community and help create jobs in this exciting new sector of the global information technology economy that already contributes more than $1 billion a year to the Canadian economy.”

Geomatics is playing an increasingly important role in natural resource management as global positioning systems (GPS), satellite imagery, remote sensing and geospatial information systems (GIS) lead to innovative new methods of observing and monitoring vast landscapes with amazing accuracy. El-Sheimy and his colleagues are currently working on a real time, Internet-based forest fire detection system and cutting-edge wildlife tracking devices to keep tabs on Alberta’s grizzly bear populations.

"We are a resource-based province and without the proper tools we won’t be able to maintain and manage these resources in an effective manner," El-Sheimy said. “Proper management of resources is critical to the sustainable development of our economy. Through the Integrated Resource Management centre, we will have the opportunity to proactively manage the increasingly complex and interrelated issues confronting the key sectors of energy, forestry, agriculture and the environment.”