Anthropocene research among Brock projects to receive $965,000 in SSHRC funding

It’s being called the “bomb pulse,” the sharp spike of carbon-14 in the Earth’s atmosphere arising out of fallout from nuclear bomb testing in the 1950s and ’60s.

This fallout has changed the Earth so much that the international geologic community is poised to formally declare a new epoch in Earth’s history, the Anthropocene.

Through their work, Brock University Professor of Philosophy Christine Daigle and her team are taking scientific evidence found in Brock-led geologic research to the next level.

“What does the Anthropocene teach us about ourselves and the various entangled temporalities of past, present and future humans and non-humans?” says Daigle, Director of Brock’s Posthumanism Research Institute.

Daigle is among seven Brock researchers awarded Insight Grants from the federal government’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), announced Tuesday, Aug. 29 by Canada’s Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Official Languages Randy Boissonnault, on behalf of François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and Mark Holland, Minister of Health.

Brock received $965,636 in Insight Grant funding, which supports research excellence and sees projects judged worthy of funding by fellow researchers and/or other experts. The research can be conducted individually or by teams.

Also included in the Aug. 29 announcement was other federal government funding for Brock, including:

“The wide range of research funded through these competitive awards shares something important,” says Brock Vice-President, Research Tim Kenyon. “It reflects expert engagement with the critical issues of our community, country and world.”

Daigle’s project, “Bomb Pulse: Cultural and Philosophical Readings of Time Signatures in the Anthropocene,” focuses on interpreting layers of sediment in Halton’s Crawford Lake collected by Brock Professor of Earth Sciences Francine McCarthy and her team.

The sediment layers contain evidence of a wide range of recent human activity, including nuclear fallout, fertilizers, fly ash, plastics and greenhouse gases. Further back in time are traces of pollen, an early sign of cultivation, which led to archaeological digs unearthing the remains of a 15th-century Indigenous village close to the lake.

Daigle’s team, which includes McCarthy and Professor of English Adam Dickinson, is exploring how philosophical thinking, creative writing and artistic explorations can help society reflect on how human activities have impacted the Earth and provoke discussions on environmental sustainability, extinction and the collective future.

The team’s partners include Conservation Halton, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Canadian Museum of Nature and an Indigenous Elder and knowledge-keeper, among others.

“Our transdisciplinary research into cores of sedimented layers and their meanings will help us establish the understanding that beings — organic and non-organic — are entangled and their agencies inflect each other,” says Daigle. “This has profound ethical and social implications for our future.”

Brock University’s 2023 SSHRC Insight Grant recipients are:

  • Gregory Betts, Professor, English Language and Literature, Faculty of Humanities, “How to Speak to Aliens: bpNichol and the Cosmic Other”
  • Alison Braley-Rattai, Associate Professor, Labour Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, “Union Responses to Workplace Vaccine Mandates in the Wake of COVID-19”
  • Christine Daigle, Professor, Philosophy, Faculty of Humanities: “Bomb Pulse: Cultural and Philosophical Readings of Time Signatures in the Anthropocene”
  • Hannah Dyer, Associate Professor, Child and Youth Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, “Drawing Queer and Trans Kinship: Learning about Family through Children’s Art”
  • Kyle Rich, Associate Professor, Recreation and Leisure Studies, Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, “A Regional Analysis of Sport Policy Implementation”
  • Samir Trabelsi, Professor, Accounting, Goodman School of Business, “The Determinants and Impacts of Social Washing”
  • Louis Volante, Professor, Faculty of Education, “The impact of the pandemic on socioeconomic inequality and student learning outcomes: A pan-Canadian analysis with policy implications”

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