The SSAS 5P01 course description describes experiential education as “a critical vehicle to enable exploration of the enactment of genuine sustainability science”. On Thursday, November 7th, this year’s cohort of Master of Sustainability students took part in the third and final experiential education component of the course – travelling across the Niagara region to see first-hand how Brock is involved in a number of environmental sustainability initiatives.
We were welcomed to the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre by Dr. Darby McGrath, Nursery & Landscape research scientist and ESRC Adjunct Professor. Dr. McGrath gave an overview of the research that happens at the Vineland institute, including environmental impact. She then took the students to one of the new greenhouses at the Centre, where everyone was required to put on biosafety gear – including covers for our shoes and sanitizer for our hands. Here, the students learned about biocontrol and how it’s used in the greenhouses at Vineland Research and Innovation. We left the greenhouse with a new appreciation for sustainable pest control, and some souvenir tomatoes! Our last stop at Vineland was the Potting Shed, where we heard from a few researchers about their soil-related projects and how this research affects the Canadian landscape. The students left Vineland with an appreciation for all of the research happening within one centre, and hopeful that their own research could have similar impacts.
From Vineland, we headed to Charles Daley park, where second year SSAS student Meredith DeCock and Brock adjunct professor and ESRC co-founder Dr. Brad May discussed their work on the MEOPAR-Town of Lincoln Research Community Sustainability Project. MEOPAR stands for the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network, and the collaboration with Lincoln is meant to help the community understand how to deal with the impacts of climate and environmental changes. DeCock’s research involved examining the Lake Ontario shoreline at Charles Daley park, and she shared her experiences with the students.
Our final stop of the day took us to the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab. There, we met Lincoln Mayor Sandra Easton, who officially welcomed us to Lincoln, and spoke to the students about education and professional development. Following this, we heard from Dr. Marilyne Jollineau and Mike Kirkopoulos, who spoke to the students about living labs and what they are, as well as an overview of the Town of Lincoln and their current environmental sustainability initiatives. After a day full of guest speakers and presentations, it was time for us to reflect on what we’d learned. Carolyne Finlayson led us through a reflective practice exercise in which the students addressed their feelings towards environmental sustainability research prior to the trip, and then revisited those feelings at the end. They did this through photos and group discussion, and they all had some very insightful things to say about the day!
Needless to say, we were all pretty tired when we returned to Brock at the end of the day – but we were also excited for the future of environmental research and the role we all have in these exciting initiatives!