Mountain Research and Initiatives

Mountain studies are part of the core identity of the University of Alberta. We are dedicated specifically to understanding mountains, mountain cultures, and mountain activities in relation to one another, and to bringing students, faculty members, and community together through the study of mountains.

Latest News

Glacier to table: Understanding the effects of melting glaciers on drinking water

Project takes a multifaceted look at water sources in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

Mountain Courses

Mountains 101 MOOC

Mountains 101

Mountains 101 is a 12-lesson MOOC teaching a comprehensive overview of mountains and their environmental and human impact.

This course is an introduction to mountain environments, peoples and contemporary issues through interdisciplinary study. 

Learn more 


Why mountain studies matter(horn)

  • Mountain study is integral to policy decisions about natural resource management;
  • Our knowledge of Cambrian life forms depends in large part on what we have learned from mountain environments, as does scientific advance in the area of global warming;
  • Especially in Western Canada, mountain study is foundational to our understanding of how leisure and recreational activities, like alpine skiing, hiking, and mountaineering, intersect with park management principles, and with the rights and prerogatives of indigenous communities;
  • World religions revere mountain regions for their proximity to the sacred.

UAlberta's unique connection to the mountains

The University of Alberta's proximity to the Rocky and Columbia Mountains gives it hands-on access to our object of study.

The University’s long history in mountain study extends from the establishment of the Banff Centre in 1933 to present work on glacier biochemistry, for example, or the Mountain Cairns monograph series on Rockies’ history and culture from the University of Alberta Press. The University Library, Canada's second largest, has unequalled strengths in Canadian mountain history and literature, in mountain cartography, and in glacial science.

In 2009, the University hosted the “Summit Series” of public lectures, which showcased interdisciplinary mountain studies to the wider community. Two international Thinking Mountains Conferences (in 2012, 2015, and 2018) brought together scholars, community members, and land managers from across Canada and the world.

The UAlberta Mountain Initiative seeks to elevate our existing strengths in and about mountains to a world-class level. To this end, the University of Alberta also led the development of the Canadian Mountain Network (CMN), which launched in 2019.

The CMN benefits from the expertise of many UAlberta researchers, including Stan Boutin (President & co-Research Director), Rolf Vinebrooke (Professor & Principal Investigator), David Coltman (Professor, Chair of Biological Sciences, and Investigator), and more, and the network offers research, training, and knowledge mobilization programs and funding. For more information, visit the CMN website.