by Choyce Chappell, UPEI
29 May, 2019
The poster that I produced at the UPEI GeoREACH Lab in the 2019 winter semester offers a unique glimpse into PEI’s past. Nick Scott, another GeoREACH lab member, found and scanned a map detailing the approximate property boundaries of almost all of PEI in the 1960s. We called this map the Beaulieu Map, after Andrée Beaulieu, a federal researcher with the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. The Beaulieu map was based on aerial photos from the early 1960s, so while the plot sizes were not exactly accurate, they were extremely close for a hand-drawn map. This was a fascinating find. The map was created to support the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP), one of the central research subjects of Dr. MacFadyen’s GeoREACH Lab at UPEI.
I began this part of the project began by exploring avenues to try and use processes that would automatically digitize the map into a format that would work with the GIS softwares that the lab uses. Unfortunately, due a number of factors, such as limitations with GIS tools, creases in the map from folding, and inaccuracies in the map, we were unable to do so. As a result, I switched over to sampling six townships, and manually digitizing them. The result initially contained small errors in geometry, so we tried to minimize those using several GIS tools and by excluding slivers and small parcels from the analysis.
Getting the poster and preliminary analysis ready the Environmental Science Atlantic Conference was a real time crunch, and the first version of the poster had little quantitative data and little in the way of visual supplements. Over the following few weeks, the final poster (see above) was refined and presented to members of the GeoREACH Lab and other members of the UPEI community. I added added and rearranged new information, I completed additional quantitative analysis, and I added and edited more images to accurately reflect the research process and the story we uncovered.
To perform the quantitative analysis, we categorized properties by the size of the parcel (a smallest size, three mid-sizes, and a largest size), and analysed land use by five dominant categories (cleared land, forested land, harvested clear-cuts; harvested partial cuts; and reverting land). Using this data, we were able to make some generalizations about ongoing trends among farms according to their property size, location, and land use. This is a unique glimpse into the lives of Prince Edward Islanders in the 1960s, finding many stories that could not have been told with other forms of historical analysis.
The true success of this work is knowing how much further it can go, and what it means for the future. This work is preliminary to digitizing the whole map, and can be used as a template for such a project. Additionally, the work can be used to see how much the CDP affected the land use and cover change, and the soil quality, of PEI over time, or to analyse the land use of properties by water shed, county, topographic features, and more. Even though I am no longer with them, I’m excited to see what the GeoREACH lab does with this work!