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Margaret Johnston


Phone Number: 
+1 (807) 343-8377
Office Location: 
SN 2001
Office Hours: 
Mon-Fri 8:30 am - 4:30 pm
Academic Qualifications: 
  • PhD (Geography) University of Canterbury, New Zealand, 1989
  • HBSc (Geography and Environmental Studies) Trent University, 1984
Research Interests: 

My background is in Geography and Environmental Studies, with an emphasis on the interactions of people and the environment as they are experienced through recreation and tourism. Much of my work has examined these relationships in northern areas and communities.

Currently, I am involved in research that examines the interaction of tourism change and climate change in the Arctic. Climate change, along with other influences such as global economic shifts and increasing security concerns, are having major consequences for tourism in the Canadian north. Communities and individuals who rely on the sector are being affected in many ways, some negative and some positive, such as new opportunities for development. Given the nature and scale of the changes, there is a need for management strategies to provide support for growth in the sector, while ensuring that human safety and environmental protection is ensured.  The research asks questions such as:

  • What is the nature of tourism change and how is this being experienced in Arctic communities?
  • What are the management needs that arise from changes in tourism?
  • How are local and non-local stakeholders in the tourism industry responding to new conditions and uncertainty related to climate change?
  • What strategies will help communities and residents adapt to the interactions of tourism change and climate change?
  • What governance approaches will help stakeholders achieve desired and feasible strategies?

The project has examined change in the expedition cruise industry in the Canadian Arctic and is now examining pleasure craft tourism, a category that includes sailing and motor yachts, rowboats and all small, non-commercial vessels. Publications and community reports related to the research program are available here:

I have also undertaken projects on tourism regulation and on the social economy in the north, and various topics related to change in northern Ontario.

Publications related to these themes are listed below:

In addition to northern research, I have been involved in southern polar activities. I have led tourism-focused student field trips to the Antarctic a number of times since 1998 in which a major part of the field learning involves students reflecting upon their experiences in a critical way in order to understand the concepts and issues of Antarctic tourism. I am a strong believer in enabling students to apply their theoretical knowledge to something concrete – a field experience, a case study, a problem.  In 2010, along with a faculty member in Geography, I took upper year students on a field trip to Fennoscandia to examine sustainable tourism and agriculture. In spring of 2012, I co-led a northern tourism trip to northern Norway that included a dogsled/skiing expedition on Svalbard.

In recent years my teaching has included core courses, field and upper year courses, along with one Master level course. In introductory classes I aim to encourage interaction and discussion with students using their own experiences and knowledge as a foundation for understanding the concepts and ideas we are exploring. In more advanced study I expect students to use a variety of resources to build on this foundation and develop a more sophisticated understanding of the behaviour of individuals in our field and related management issues.