Brock prof, 12 alumni among Niagara’s 40 Under Forty

Jessica Blythe, Assistant Professor in Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC), and a dozen of the University’s alumni are among the young professionals being recognized with a Niagara 40 Under Forty Business Achievement Award.

Although Blythe’s name will be on the award when it’s presented later this month, she said the honour would not have been possible without team collaboration and innovative partnerships.

For the past two years, she has been working in partnership with seven of Niagara’s 12 municipalities on a climate adaption project called Niagara Adapts.

ESRC Director Ryan Plummer nominated Blythe for the honour to recognize her collaborative efforts on the project and her continued dedication to community outreach and engagement.

“I’m really proud of the Niagara Adapts partnership because I think it epitomizes the work universities should be doing, which is responding to societal need,” Blythe said.

A few years ago, Amanda Smits, the ESRC’s Centre Administrator, recognized that multiple municipalities in Niagara were developing their own climate adaption plans simultaneously and proposed the University collaborate with them.

“We had expertise in climate adaptation research. The municipalities had climate leadership and the decision-making power, and they had risen to the challenge of developing climate adaptation plans,” said Blythe, a sustainability scientist whose primary research areas are climate adaption and community resilience. “We’ve been able to pool our resources, share expertise, conduct research, talk to thousands of people across the region and support the development of robust evidence-based climate adaptation plans for municipalities in Niagara.”

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, several public events were hosted to gather feedback and opinion from the community. Online surveys asked Niagara residents about their vulnerability to climate change, including, for example, what impacts they were experiencing and how they were managing them. A common concern was flooding in people’s homes. Survey results helped inform the climate adaption plans for each municipality, drafts of which were then shared publicly to solicit additional comments from the community.

Some of the shared goals of the climate adaption plans included updating infrastructure to withstand the current climate and raising climate literacy across the region so residents could prepare for erratic weather and make their homes more resilient.

“The collaborative nature of Niagara Adapts is really important at all levels,” Blythe said. “As a university researcher, it’s critical to what I do. For municipalities, it’s important they’re engaging with their citizens. For the region, broadly, I think it’s been really cool we’ve been able to talk to so many people.”

An added positive outcome of the partnership has been experiential learning opportunities for Brock students. Municipality partners have taught in Blythe’s classes, students have helped produce plans for partners and several students have been hired into climate positions after graduating.

“I attribute my students’ success to the close professional working experiences they’ve received as a result of this partnership,” Blythe said.

Along with a dozen Brock alumni, Blythe will be formally recognized as a Niagara 40 Under Forty Business Achievement Award recipient on Wednesday, June 23 at 8 p.m. during a livestreamed event hosted by Business Link Media Group, the organization responsible for distributing the awards.

“I’m honoured to be recognized for the collaborative work of the ESRC team and our municipal partners,” Blythe said. “I’m grateful for my colleagues and for the mentorship I’ve received since I started at Brock three years ago.”

The award “celebrates the innovative and excellent work happening in Niagara,” she said.

“It’s important to pause from our busy lives to reflect on the accomplishments taking place in the region.”

Brock University alumni and employee recipients of the 40 Under Forty Business Achievement Awards 2021

  • Caitlin Armstrong (BA ’09), Meridian Credit Union
  • Jessica Blythe, Brock University, ESRC
  • Amanda Braet (BA ’03), Women’s Place of South Niagara Inc.
  • Krystle Caputo (BA ’06), Ontario’s Public Service
  • Samantha Hoodless (BA ’09), General Motors
  • Alexis Kleiman (BA ’15), DSBN ihub
  • Stephanie Lakeit-Hall (BBA ’14), SH Consulting Group and Leadership Niagara
  • Clayton Letourneau (BA ’07), Custom Sign Lab
  • Marc MacDonald (BA ’08), Town of Pelham
  • Sean Pratt (BBA ’10), Meridian Credit Union
  • Amanda Riley (BA ’08), Amanda R. Riley Professional Psychotherapy Services
  • Christopher Raimondo (BA ’07, MA ’08), Law Office of Christopher A. Raimondo
  • Christopher Yendt (BEd ’15, BEd ’20), Brock University Graduate Students’ Association

A full list of this year’s recipients is available here.

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