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  The American Surveyor     

Geomatics Research Helps Settle Property Disputes Around the World Print E-mail
Written by Schulich School of Engineering   
Tuesday, 09 September 2008

September 10, 2008 - The Schulich School of Engineering has launched a research chair to help settle property disputes around the world
Michael Barry knows all about the risks of working in certain developing countries and political hot spots. He needs to be aware of cultural sensitivities and civil unrest. It’s a necessary part of his job.

Barry is a professor in geomatics at the Schulich School of Engineering, University of Calgary. He develops methods and technology to improve the way land information is gathered and stored. It requires field work such as land surveying and recording discussions with residents.
 
“Most of geomatics provides a technical service for land and resource management. My work involves understanding very complex problems before you start providing services,” explains Barry, whose work crosses of range of disciplines including social science, law, engineering and planning.
 
As part of his research, Barry is developing a unique software system called Talking Titler to store complex information as it relates to the sometimes contentious issue of property rights. Talking Titler is useful in informal settlements and post-conflict situations. The software could be used by international organizations to improve the lives of people around the world by helping to resolve boundary issues.

The Schulich School of Engineering has launched the Holmlund Research Chair in Land Tenure and Cadastral Studies to further the work of Michael Barry. It was created with a personal gift of $500,000 from John and Jane Holmlund and family of Leduc, Alberta. Mr. Holmlund is Chairman of the Board of Focus Corporation, a provider of land surveying, engineering and project management services.

“We recruit a lot of people from the Schulich School of Engineering, so it’s important for us to have a strong program there,” explains John Holmlund. “If you want to see a program evolve the way you’d like it to, you have to get involved and have some influence.”

The Department of Geomatics Engineering is known around the world as a leader in many research areas.

“We want to build upon our strengths in land tenure and cadastral studies,” says Dr. Elizabeth Cannon, dean of the Schulich School of Engineering. “The generous gift from the Holmlund family will enhance our program and contribute immensely to our dynamic research environment.”

Barry will travel to South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria in the coming months to gather more information for the Talking Titler project.

About the Holmlund Chair in Land Tenure and Cadastral Studies
The Holmlund Research Chair in Land Tenure and Cadastral Studies was created with a personal gift of $500,000 from John and Jane Holmlund and family of Leduc, Alberta. This gift will further the research of Dr. Michael Barry, Associate Head, Undergraduate Studies, in the Department of Geomatics Engineering at the Schulich School of Engineering. One aspect of Dr. Barry’s work is developing a unique software system, Talking Titler, for storing complex land tenure information. It offers a mix of records of paper-based documents such as land titles, deeds and survey plans as well as digital evidence such as video clips of discussions with local residents. Talking Titler is useful in situations where conventional land registration and surveying systems are insufficient to support land tenure security. This is often the case in informal settlements, post-conflict situations and rural developments around the world. Dr. Barry’s research crosses a range of disciplines including social science, law, engineering and planning. His work involves the theory and practice of land tenure and land administration, land surveying, development of land and survey law, modern forms of evidence relating to boundaries and land ownership, and data structures and algorithms for storing, manipulating and retrieving land information. He works with systems and technology to improve the legitimacy and effectiveness of land records. The gift from the Holmlund family consists of $100,000 per year for five years. The Schulich School of Engineering will contribute an additional $20,000 annually.

About Dr. Michael Barry 
Dr. Michael Barry is a professional land surveyor from South Africa and a Canada Lands Surveyor. He has been a private surveyor and project manager in Iraq, Indonesia, Zambia, Botswana and South Africa. He was Principal Land Surveyor for the Cape Town City Council. In 1992, Dr. Barry moved on to a career in academia in geomatics at the University of Cape Town. Dr. Barry has served on several government working groups in South Africa and Canada, sub-committees and working groups of the International Federation of Surveyors, and he was vice president of the Council of the Institute of Professional Surveyors of the Western Cape. He is one of Canada’s representatives to the International Federation of Surveyors Commission 7. As a consultant, Dr. Barry has formulated a GIS education strategy for the South African Development Community Environment and Land Management Systems Programme based on a network of institutions in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.  Since moving to Canada he has done work for the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on peri-urban land management in South Africa, for the Canada Centre for Cadastral Management on applying the Talking Titler methodology in Canada, for UN-Habitat developing a land administration strategy for Somaliland, and for the British Council on alternative forms of land registration and land records in Nigeria using multimedia. In 2002, Dr. Barry joined the Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary. He teaches land law, land tenure and cadastral systems, and land surveying in the Department of Geomatics Engineering.

About Mr. John Holmlund
Mr. John Holmlund is Chairman of the Board of Focus Corporation. He founded the company in 1977 and quickly established a reputation in Alberta’s oil patch. The company has experienced phenomenal growth and appeared on Alberta Venture’s 2008 list of Alberta’s fastest growing companies. Focus Corporation is a provider of land surveying, engineering and project management services. Mr. Holmlund is a former chair of the Geomatics Engineering Advisory Committee at the University of Calgary. Focus Corporation contributes to an annual geomatics bursary established in 1994. Throughout his career, Mr. Holmlund has held positions of leadership in professional organizations including the Canadian Council of Land Surveyors and the Alberta Land Surveyors’ Association (ALSA). In 2002, Mr. Holmlund received the Professional Recognition Award from the ALSA for his contributions to the profession. He was named Entrepreneur of the Year in 2004 in the Oilfield Services category.
 
About the Schulich School of Engineering 
The Department of Geomatics Engineering was created in 1979 and is the only geomatics engineering department in Western Canada. It is the largest school of its kind in the country. The department aspires to enhance and grow its research strengths in the areas of geospatial information systems and land tenure and cadastral studies. The Schulich School of Engineering has nearly 2,500 undergraduate students and 1,000 graduate students, the largest work internship program of its kind in the country and an annual $500,000 Schulich Student Activities Fund. The Schulich School of Engineering offers the best undergraduate scholarships in Canada at $60,000 over three years. The school has 35 internationally recognized research chairs and offers unique specialization degree programs in energy and the environment, environmental engineering and reservoir characterization, biomedical engineering and project management. In 2008, Corporate Knights magazine ranked the Schulich School of Engineering number one out of 37 engineering schools in Canada for integrating environmental sustainability into its programs. For more information: http://www.schulich.ucalgary.ca 

 
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