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Spring 2019: A Voyage of Discovery
Associate Professor & Geography Coordinator

M. Troy Burnett

Mount Royal University

After earning a doctorate in geography from UCLA, California native Troy Burnett moved to the Canadian Rockies and has never looked back. Currently, he is a Professor of Geography in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta. Though he studied economics and environmental studies as an undergraduate at UCSB he migrated to geography after discovering a profound curiosity for the world’s people and places. This discovery occurred primarily during a two-year stint as a peace corps volunteer in the Slovak Republic.

Dr. Burnett’s teaching and scholarship run the gamut of geography. Indeed, never satisfied with limiting his pedagogic scope he has taught many of the courses found within a geography discipline—from urban geography to biogeography to geopolitics to European regional geography to his all-time favorite the science and geography of SCUBA—a course that actually involved hooking students up to regulators and dunking them in a pool.

In terms of research, he has published numerous articles and essays on topics such as China’s One Child Policy; the Conflict in Kashmir; Post-socialist transformation in East Central Europe; and Canadian Sovereignty in the Northwest Passage. In 2016 he wrote and edited a two-volume book on natural resource conflicts. The award-winning book examines the role the environment and natural resources play in both causing conflict in certain situations as well as cultivating cooperation in others. More recently, he dusted off his former research as a graduate student to write a book on nationalism—the thesis of which explores the evolution of national identity and its expression, nationalism, in the context of a globalizing society.

In the summer, Dr. Burnett teaches a wilderness field school in Banff National Park; the objective of which is to study wildlife corridors and issues of biogeographical connectivity in one of our planet’s most visited world heritage sites and conservation areas. As former students like to observe: It is a semi-glamorous field school that involves both magnificent jaunts across glaciated ridges and inelegant forays through mosquito-infested riparian woody shrubs in search of bear scat, cougar kill sites, and elk bones.

Troy lives with his photographer extraordinaire wife (Shirleen), two children (Beren and Isis), two dogs, and two cats in what can best be described as a rustic hay-bale cottage on the outskirts of Banff National Park—a home that friends affectionately compare to a hobbit hole.  When he’s not busy collecting wood to keep his family from freezing to death in the long Canadian winter, he can be found skiing or venturing deep into the backcountry on his mountain bike.

To understand Dr. Burnett’s general view of life and rationale for joining a voyage at sea one only has to glance at Walt Whitman’s ‘Song of the Open Road.’ Like Whitman, Troy can’t help but believe that real knowledge—wisdom even— is found not in a library or classroom, but on the open road…or in our case the open sea.