The Back 50 Project: Mapping Rural Land Use Change in PEI

The UPEI GeoREACH Lab’s Back 50 project was a participatory mapping project where people were asked to tell stories about how land on PEI with which they are familiar has changed over the last 50 years. We were interested in local knowledge and perspectives, to help develop a better understanding of how and why land use on PEI has changed. 

The survey has now closed. You may still access the historical maps using the survey for an unknown period of time (as of January 2022), however please note that survey responses are no longer being monitored. Please do not enter pins and answers to survey questions on the map as this phase of the research is now over. Thank-you to all who participated. We hope you will participate in similar GeoREACH Lab projects in the future. If you have questions about responses you contributed prior to January 2022 please contact the project team at the information below.

The Back 50 Project Survey on Maptionnaire
Note: The Survey Has Concluded as of December 2021
Visit GeoPEI for continued access to historical maps.

New: Introducing the GeoPEI Prince Edward Island Historical Map Viewer!

GeoPEI is a continuation of the map interface originally developed for The Back 50 Project. Users may continue to use it to explore the same layers that were presented during the Back 50 project survey, as well as some newly developed layers. Click the “eye” in each layer on the top right to toggle between seven historical maps and aerial photo layers, as well as the 2020 aerial photos and a number of basemaps in the ArcGIS Online viewer. The full url to GeoPEI is

The Back 50 Project background

The Back 50 Project (active 2020-2021) sought volunteers to participate in an interactive mapping exercise about agricultural land use change on PEI over the past 50 years. We were interested in how members of the agricultural community value land that is important to them and how they have seen this land change over time. 

For more information about The Back 50 Project’s first phase (2020-2021), please see the participant welcome, the project introduction video, and other details below.

To be eligible to participate, you must be at least 18 years of age, be a member of PEI’s agricultural or other rural communities (e.g., farmer, farmer’s family member, member of an agricultural association, woodlot owner, seasonal resident, etc.), and have a connection to or interest in a particular area of land on PEI.

We encourage any members of the community to participate, so that our research is inclusive of people of all genders and all ages over 18. 

The mapping exercise is available online through the following link: 

A screenshot of a page of the survey.

Participants will be asked to answer basic demographic questions, and then they will map out land of importance to them. They will be asked to describe how land use changed on this land by comparing a current map with a map from 1968. Then, they will be asked to describe why they think land use changed and whether they observed any effects of these changes. The mapping exercise may take anywhere between one hour and four hours, depending on how many places the participant would like to map, and how many detailed stories the participant would like to share about the land.

Participants in the mapping exercise will also be asked whether they would like to be contacted for a short follow-up phone call. Participants who consent to this phone call will only be contacted if the researchers would like to clarify some of their responses. 

If you are interested in participating, you may follow the link provided above. Also, please feel free to contact the primary researcher, Dr. Joshua MacFadyen of the University of Prince Edward Island,  to discuss any questions or concerns you may have. Please contact Dr. MacFadyen by email at or by phone at 902-620-5142. Thank you for your interest in this study!

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