Michael Pidwirny

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User Profile

Name: Michael Pidwirny
Member Since: September 21st, 2006
Member Name: Michael.pidwirny
Last Logged In: November 12th, 2015
Location: Kelowna, British Columbia, AL

Michael Pidwirny studied Physical Geography at the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba. He received his PhD from the Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia in 1994. He currently is an Associate Professor of Physical Geography at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan Campus. Pidwirny’s research interests include climate change, the influence of land-use change on biodiversity, and the use of technology in education. He publishes regularly in encyclopedias, various journals and scientific websites, e.g. Encyclopaedia of Earth. He is currently developing the website www.our-planet-earth.net to provide educational information dealing with Earth Science and Physical Geography. This website supersedes his very popular site www.physicalgeography.net.

Research Interests

I have general research interests in the following areas of study:

  • Species interactions in wetland plant communities.
  • Spatial patterns and community structure in vegetation.
  • Climate change and its influence on the distribution of species and communities.
  • Land-use and environmental change in the Thompson-Okanagan region of British Columbia, Canada.
  • Land-use change and biodiversity issues in the southern Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada.
  • Computer applications, education technology, and modeling in physical geography.
  • Climate change and its influence on recreational skiing in Western Canada.

Current Research Projects

1) The Effect of Land Use/Cover Change on Biodiversity in the Okanagan Valley

The Southern Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, Canada is home to 23 species of plants and animals that have been identified as being either: threatened, endangered, or vulnerable. Further, the Southern Okanagan Valley's desert grassland/shrub, Ponderosa Pine forest, and wetland/riparian habitat types are some of Canada's most endangered ecosystems. The main factor contributing to species and ecosystem diversity decline in this region of Canada is the conversion of the natural habitats to various types of human land-use. Over the past 100 years, the amount of natural landscape that has been modified into urban, agricultural, and recreation land-use types has progressively increased because of human population growth and economic progress. Future population and economic growth is predicted to degrade the biodiversity resources further in this region of British Columbia. This research project documents the nature of human-mediated land-use conversion in the Southern Okanagan Valley and will examine this modification of the environment in terms of biodiversity reduction.

2) The Effect of Global Warming on Ski Resorts in Western Canada

Average global temperatures of our planet have increased by about 1° Celsius since the pre-industrial era. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) believes the continued emission of greenhouse gases by human activity will further increase average global temperatures by 1.1 to 6.4° Celsius by the end of the 21st century. This change in the Earth’s climate is predicted to have profound effects on many components of human systems. Being able to predict how global warming will modify human systems is important for developing adaptation and mitigation strategies. One human system that will be detrimentally influenced by warmer temperatures and changes in precipitation is recreational skiing. To date, research on the effect of global warming on recreational skiing has been rudimentary. The reason for this is the lack of quality climate data for analysis. This research project will use newly available climate data to determine the effect of global warming on selected ski resorts in Western Canada. The main goal of the research will be to answer the following two questions. How did 20th century global warming affect ski resorts in Western Canada? How will global warming in the 21st century affect these same ski resorts?


My website www.physicalgeography.net has received about 14 million page visits in five years and is the foremost web portal on the Internet for educational information dealing with Physical Geography. I plan on enhancing the information found on this site over the next few years. The content of the online textbook Fundamentals of Physical Geography found at this website is used in many university courses for reference. It has been very positively reviewed by several educational agencies and the journals Science and New Scientist. This freely available information source has also been cited about 40 times as a general source of information for “enhanced” online articles in the journal Science. Searching my name on Google reveals that my online resources are linked to well over 2000 web pages on the Internet. Over the next few years I plan on developing a second web portal this time dealing with environmental science and related issues. This site will be very similar to www.physicalgeography.net providing freely available information for general public consumption and enhancing the educational experience of university students seeking knowledge in this area of study.

My two self published electronic books have been quite successful. The e-book Physical Geography Glossary of Terms has been downloaded about 15,000 times. The two editions of World Geography Factbook (2000 and 2001) have been downloaded about 35,000 times. Both of these works are free. I plan continuing work on these two items in the future.


B.Sc., 1980 - University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
B.A. (Hon.), 1982 - University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
M.A., 1984 - University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Ph.D., 1994 - Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.

Teaching Interests

  • GEOG 108: Introduction to Physical Geography I - A first year course dealing with the study of the Earth's atmosphere, biosphere and hydrosphere.
  • GEOG 213: Introduction to Environmental Issues - A second year course introducing students to environmental issues and science.
  • GEOG 271: Geographic Data Analysis - A second year course introducing students to statistical techniques involving geographic data.
  • GEOG 310: Environment and Resources - A third year course analyzing and discussing the academic literature dealing with resource and environment issues.

Contact Information

Associate Professor, Physical Geography
Unit 2: Biology and Physical Geography
Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences
University of British Columbia, Okanagan Campus
Science Building, 1177 Research Road
Kelowna, British Columbia

Email: Michael Pidwirny