On May 4th Edward Wedler ( former RS instructor)  and I (former SCP instructor, Head of Department of Computer Programming) coordinated the Road to Georgetown Conference event at COGS in Lawerncetown. It was a one day event designed to help share ideas about rural economic development in the Annapolis Valley.

We collaborated together with David MacLean (current GIS faculty) to prepare a web application that will map the registered attendees. Philip Milo (ex-Survey instructor) presented a monologue on Major Church and the history of the Survey School in Lawrencetown. Please check bit.ly/road2georgetown if you would like to hear a podcast of Phillip’s presentation or listen to any of the other story tellers from the event.

Earlier this year Kathleen Stewart (current IT faculty) and her students developed a searchable online web application that features COGS alumni and their co-operative projects. The material in the database dates back to the early ’80s, when these types of projects were a major component of the diploma programs. She has been coordinating with Ted MacKinnon to create a similar database and add the functionality on the web site here for interested alumni to make use of.


Jonathan  Murphy has published ‘The Myth of COGS’ on his web site (www.gogeomatics.ca) . It includes an interview with Gary Gaul, a report on a meeting in Annapolis Royal with a group of retired SCP instructors, and a contribution by Val Thomas, COGS graduate and now RS faculty at Virginia Tech. It is interesting that the ‘myth’ is in fact a description of the ‘reality’ of COGS in the 1980’s. This was thirty years ago: before Internet, before the stores closed in Lawrencetown, before students all had their own transportation. The fun part was talking to the instructors and reminiscing about the freedom and flexibility for designing technical education with the new computers and software.

logo Georgetown, PEI conference Rethinking RuralOn the local front, we continue to look at the role of COGS in rural economic development.  The regional newspaper chain, Newspapers Atlantic, is sponsoring the Georgetown, PEI conference in October 2013, entitled ‘Rethinking rural’. (www.thegeorgetownconference.ca ). For our contribution, we are hosting a one day event at COGS on May 4th , called ‘The Road to Georgetown’ (bit.ly/road2georgetown). It will include stories by local residents on our unique economic geography. This project is a collaboration between myself, Dave MacLean (COGS faculty) and Edward Wedler (ex-RS instructor at COGS). Check out the web site above. It maps registrants for the conference.

Last week in Halifax, I met up with Gwen MacNairn. Gwen was a graduate of the GIS program. She later telecommuted to Redlands before becoming the Librarian, Computer Sciences at Dalhousie University. Her partner, Bill Jones was also a COGS graduate. Bill has contributed maps to a new book by Trudy Sable and Bernie Francis, entitled The Language of this Land, Mi’kma’ki. This book presents a perspective of a time when people moved about the landscape without roads or vehicles travel was by foot or canoe. Again, check it out if you are interested the pre-European perspective on the Nova Scotia landscape.

Last month, we completed an article on the Story of COGS for Jon Murphy, which he published on the GoGeomatics web site. This led him to ask me to clarify the ‘myth of COGS’, which has taken up some of my time in March.

We interviewed Gary Gaul, Head of Maintenance at Lawrencetown and asked him about his recollections of student life in the 1980’s. This was followed by a gathering in Annapolis Royal. We invited Bill Power, Marlin Gould, Roger Mosher and David Colville to discuss their time at NSLSI when they were students. Subsequently, they became instructors in the various Computer Programming programs. Thirdly, I contact Val Thomas at Virginia Tech. She was a student at COGS in the late 1990’s.
The end result of these conversations has been a better understanding of the COGS reality. You can look forward to another GoGeomatics article in early April. While it tries to address the myth, it, in fact, offers more content for the story.

In attempts to reach out to graduates of COGS, this month I have been in contact with Karen Reinhardt, Harold Hunt, Daniel Munroe, Gwen MacNairn, Jeff Tracey, Bert Seely, Edward Wedler, as well as all of the instructors mentioned above.

Please keep passing on the word, and look out for my next contribution to GoGEomatics, on the ‘myth of COGS’.

Meet Bob, a research scientist who hails from England

Bob’s Blog – the Story of COGS – February 7/13 update

 1)   Why Lawrencetown ? Why the Survey school ?

Downtown Lawrencetown, Nova ScotiaHeather and I have been inspired by the hard work of JB Hall and Major Church. Together, these visionaries over a hundred years developed and implemented the concept of a technical training institution in Annapolis County.

Lawrencetown was selected because it was the birthplace of JB Hall. Hall recognized the need for this type of education in rural Canada based on his experience of technical education in Germany. He set aside funds for the establishment and operation of this type of facility.

Major Church, who retired to Lawrencetown as a gentleman farmer, after a career in the military and as a civil engineer, recognized the need to train surveyors after the Second World War.

He leveraged the JB Hall funds to set up the ‘Survey School’. These actions led to the Nova Scotia Land Survey Institute in its present location in 1975.

Subsequently renamed the College of Geographic Sciences in 1986.

2)   Article submitted to GoGeomatics

logo GoGeomaticsJon Murphy of GoGeomatics was seeking an opinion piece on Geomatics leadership in Canada for his online publication. So I contributed an article that I wrote in January titled ‘Thinking about GIS or whatever happened to the Geography teacher’.

The title of the article leans on the book of the same title written by Roger Tomlinson, as well as the forthcoming book by Donald Savoie ‘ Whatever happened to the Music teacher’.

The article received several comments and feedback and I recommend you read the comments from The Hill Times, if you want to fully appreciate the Savoie reference in the article.

3)   Scrapbooks and photographs in the Library

As a result of a conversation with Trish Leblanc, COGS Librarian, we have discovered scrapbooks and photographs compiled by Donna Eisner (previous Librarian before Terri Milton). Theses include many newspaper clippings from  1979  to 1999.  We are in the process of determining the best mechanism to use for sharing this rich resource with everybody.

GIS Summer Institute 1987 lobster boil4)   Slides of GIS Summer Institute 1987

Simeon Roberts provided me with slides from the 1987 GIS Summer Institute, that I have included on the web site. The photos depict a canoe trip down the Annapolis River, as well as the traditional lobster boil on the Bay of Fundy.

In the photos I can identify Roger Tomlinson, Michael Goodchild, Peter Keller, Tat Ma. If we compare the photos to the GIS87 class list, there will be more. I also have photographs contributed by David Woolnough that I must revisit. They include the visit by Paul Martin to COGS.

5)   Georgetown Letters

The Annapolis Valley Spectator is seeking letters from the public leading to the Georgetown conference, ‘Rural redefined’. (www.georgetownconference.ca). If you want to submit a letter, contact [email protected] Bob is formulating his thoughts on the role that COGS can play in the creative rural economy.

6)   Kings County Cultural map

Genevieve Allen and Ed Symonds (COGS) unveiled an online cultural map for Kings County last night (Feb 6) (www.kingsculturalmap.ca). It is based on open source GIS software. The strength of the web –based product is its ability to tell stories about the people in the county. Each story is geo-referenced.  The methodology follows the work of Greg Baeker, cultural consultant with MBD. (www.millierblaisdickinson.com)

Well until next month,





The Road to Redlands

Esri LogoI recently received an email from Cathy Mueller of Esri confirming that the first COGS graduate that took the road to Redlands was indeed Julie Hutching in 1986. Other early COGS graduates that followed were Mark Harris and Jamil Alvi. Mark is still working with ESRI, however Julie and Jamil both left Esri in 2011. Jamil with his wife, Jonelle (COGS 1995) moved to Portland, Oregon.

While Esri does not keep records by institution, Cathy does reckons that they currently have sixty COGS graduates working there with roughly another sixty that have come and gone over the years. So over a thirty year span, an average of four per year. Not so shabby.  Esri and Esri Canada continue to come to COGS every Spring interviewing and recruiting graduates.

logo CCA

GIS Summer Institute 1985 and 1987

Mike Goodchild has confirmed that two Canadian Cartographic Association (CCA) sponsored workshops were held at COGS during the Summer of 1985 and 1987. This involved Roger Tomlinson and many university faculty from across Canada. He not only gave me the dates, he also remembered the social events – John Wightman’s lobster boil on the Bay of Fundy, the boat trip down the Annapolis River, picnic at my house in Clarence. Plus a participant hitting a deer coming back over North Mountain.

GIS/RS Newsletter 1993

1993 GIS-RS Alumni Newsletter v2Sally O’Grady discovered the first (and only) COGS Alumni Newsletter created in 1993. She has provided us with a copy of it witch we have added to the web site. It contains many various contributions from different staff members. It is amazing that twenty years have gone by.

A Design for GIS training 1985

Over Christmas, with help from my son, I have tracked down a paper written by myself and John Wightman, in The Operational Geographer. It will be posted to the web site soon.

Alumni Network

There have been several alumni class lists generated by David Raymond, David MacLean and my self which we will include on the site. I have also been working with Kathleen Stewart to see if we can build a web application that will allow searching and maintenance of these lists. I have also been working with Jon Murphy who runs GoGeomatics out of Ottawa to help reach past COGS Alumni.

My interest is to support a vibrant alumni network. Anyone with interests and skills in this area, please contact me. This is an important component of the project.


Before Christmas, Heather and I had interviews with David Woolnough and David Colville to help try and get a better handle on the period between 1988 -1999 at COGS, when I was away from the valley.


writingWhile I have been distracted by family vacation, and also trying to get the web site working well, this Spring I hope to start the substantive writing, beginning with the ‘survey school’ days.

PLEASE FORWARD any photographs, articles, items of interest or comments to me. We will acknowledge all contributions.


The new Principal of  the Annapolis Valley campus is Isabel Madeira-Voss. She replaced Jim Stanley last Summer.

The New Chair of Geomatics at COGS is Dennis Kingston, he replaces Bruce Hicks this month (January 2013).

Enough for my first blog update.