Articles by author: Amanda Smits

  • Green Infrastructure and Low Impact Development: Expert Perspectives

    Blog Contributor: Erica Harper

    On October 22nd, the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre hosted their second Sustainability Seminar Series event of the term. The event consisted of a panel discussion with three professionals in the green infrastructure and low impact design space with decades of rich experiences and knowledge bases. The panelists were: Safdar Abidi, Principal, Practice Leader at Perkins and Will, Dr. Janani Sivarajah, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, Brock University and Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, and Paul Leitch, Director, Environmental Sustainability Services at Blackstone Energy Services.

    The panel kicked off with an important question – “what do ‘low impact’ and ‘sustainability’ mean to you?”. This question allowed the panelists to provide the audience members with their perspective and lens when it comes to working in the low impact development and green infrastructure industry. The responses varied greatly, but one common theme was that sustainability and low impact design need to be synonymous with social, ecological, and economical resilience. Another key aspect of sustainability that Dr Sivarajah, Mr. Abidi, and Mr. Leitch pointed out was that buildings and designs must be “low impact” not only for humans, but animals, plants, and all other ecological systems for us all to thrive.

    The second questions asked panelists to identify challenges that they perceive as roadblocks to implementing low impact development and green infrastructure. Mr. Leitch highlighted that many facilities and organizations have conflicting priorities that get in the way of integrating green infrastructure and low impact development, but that we must properly communicate the benefits of sustainable design for it to be implemented “from the boiler room to the board room”. Additionally, Mr. Abidi stated that as long as we see sustainability as an optional choice instead of a priority, we will not be able to move forward in terms of green infrastructure and low impact development and we must debunk the myth that “climate change is a subjective issue”. Lastly, Dr. Sivarajah mentioned that sustainable design is often an afterthought and we try to fit it in after the “grey” infrastructure is set. Dr. Sivarajah also stated that we need to go back to our roots, making sure that low impact development and green infrastructure are planned from the onset of a development with transdisciplinary perspectives as stakeholders must work together to implement radical green infrastructure.

    The event’s last question allowed the audience to get a glimpse into how the experienced panelists view the future of low impact development and green infrastructure. To begin, Mr. Abidi explained that the pandemic has provided humans with a strong signal to take a step back and reflect on the value of being part of a community. For a thriving community, we must have the following: healthier and active lifestyles, equity in terms of access to public spaces, and community building. Dr. Sivarajah drove home the importance of planning urban spaces with intention and in a holistic manner that accounts for accessibility, equity, and sustainability for all living beings. Lastly, Mr. Leitch believes that although the transition towards prioritizing low impact development and green infrastructure will be a gradual one, as behavioural changes expand, green infrastructure and low impact development will become expected standards that offer great benefits tied to wellbeing.

    The panel discussion concluded with each professional’s closing statement for audience members. Mr. Leitch stated the importance of generating solutions for complex issues in a “people-oriented way” and to hold strong when it comes to our path with sustainability in school and in our careers. Additionally, Dr. Sivarajah told the students in the audience that they were the future of sustainability and that it is crucial to prioritize your values as they will guide you in the professional world. Lastly, Mr. Abidi left us with the fact that we are in a position of privilege to even have the knowledge to find solutions to climate change and reverse the damage that humans have done to our planet. Mr. Abidi also asked students to think of themselves as “healers of the Earth” as they go on to pursue different career paths in sustainability, low impact development, and green infrastructure.

    All in all, this was an inspiring event that helped students gain a deeper understanding of the major current challenges that professionals face in the space of green infrastructure and low impact design, while also being exposed to ways in which we can overcome them with transdisciplinary solutions.

    This panel was live-streamed – a recording is available on our YouTube channel.

    Categories: Blog, Experiential Education, Prudhommes Project, SSAS Program, SSAS Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock, Town of Lincoln

  • Elizabeth Hendriks’ Presentation and an Introduction to our Next Speaker, Adam Shoalts

    Blog Contributor: Savannah Stuart

    The Niagara Parks Commission and Brock University’s ESRC were thrilled to have Elizabeth Hendriks join us on October 21st to discuss connecting the land and water to regional climate change impact. Elizabeth is the Vice President of the WWF Canada’s freshwater program and led the release of the 2017 Watershed Reports. These reports were the first national assessment of the health and stressors of Canada’s freshwater. During her talk, Elizabeth highlighted that the reports do not include 100% of our freshwater systems, as we do not have data to report on all our freshwater resources and there is still much to be investigated within our freshwater systems. You can view the Great Lakes watershed reports on the WWF website to check in with different watersheds’ health and threats. Lake Ontario and the Niagara Peninsula currently have “fair” health, but also have very high levels of threat.

    Overall, Elizabeth said the watershed reports gave evidence of moderately healthy systems. This can give us hope for the future, but she also stated that we need to do better. She encouraged us to become involved in local initiatives to protect our freshwater systems. With the dual crisis of climate and biodiversity loss, freshwater highly impacts life on land, above water, and below water. Freshwater systems do not have the same level of protection and conservation that some land masses do, which could be a prominent issue in ensuring their health in the future. Additionally, freshwater systems are inextricably connected with ecosystem health and the ecosystem services that the land graciously provides

    Our next speaker in the series will bring with him a great sense of adventure! Named one of the “greatest living explorers” by CBC and Canadian Geographic, Adam Shoalts will speak about incredible adventures in the great Canadian wilderness. A previous student at Brock University, Adam went on to complete his master’s and PhD at McMaster University, focusing on history, natural history, geography, and archeology. Adam is now an accomplished author with multiple books that have reached best-seller lists. Adam will share with us the value of the wild places he has explored and how important they are to our future. We hope you can join us on October 28th at 7pm for this online session.

    To learn more about this speaker series, and Brock’s partnership with the Niagara Parks Commission, please click here.

     

    Categories: Blog, Environmental Stewardship Initiative, Event, Innovative Partnership, SSAS Student Contributor

  • Brock-Lincoln Living Lab Year-in-Review

    BL-LL Year-in-Review 2019

    Photo (left to right): Meredith DeCock, Mike Kirkopoulos, Liette Vasseur, Mayor Sandra Easton, Marilyne Jollineau, Jessica Blythe

    On Thursday, December 12th the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre welcomed both Mayor Sandra Easton and CAO of the Town of Lincoln, Mike Kirkopoulos, to Brock to provide them with a summary of the work done through the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab (BL-LL) partnership in 2019 – including opportunities for Brock students and knowledge mobilization activities!

    Developing an Operational Plan (OP) for the work of the Brock Lincoln Living Lab (BL-LL) was an important priority this year. The purpose of the OP is to provide actionable items that allow the Town to move forward in an integrated way toward the goal of becoming a sustainable community. The plan includes specific actionable items constructed over the next four years for five priority projects, as identified by the Town’s Senior Management Team. Three additional projects led by ESRC researchers are also being included under this OP.

    Brock University students have also had the chance to learn more about the BL-LL through experiential education opportunities including Master of Sustainability student projects in SSAS 5P03 (Problem Solving in the Environment) and a field trip to the Town of Lincoln for the SSAS 5P01 (Foundations of Sustainability Science and Society) student cohort in November 2019. In terms of knowledge mobilization, those involved in leading the BL-LL have been busy throughout the year presenting at various conferences, Brock Board meetings and courses at the university.

    The 2019 year was very productive for the BL-LL team, led by Dr. Marilyne Jollineau, and all are looking forward to another exciting year in 2020!

    Categories: Blog, Brock Lincoln Living Lab, Conferences, Experiential Education, Innovative Partnership

  • The Climate Strike: A Student’s Perspective

    Blog Contributor: Erica Harper

    Climate March - September 2019

    Photo: Master of Sustainability students taking part in St.Catharines Climate Strike on Friday, September 27, 2019.

    Global Week for the Future took place from September 20th-27th internationally and featured strikes and marches around the globe to bring awareness to the climate crisis.  The attendees included people from all ages who came in impressive numbers to show their disapproval with the direction in which citizens, governments and corporations have taken our planet.  Most had signs made from recycled pizza boxes and Amazon packages with slogans such as “There is no planet B” and Greta Thunberg’s famous “How dare you?” line.  Reading the signs was entertaining, intriguing and sometimes disturbing, but what really captivated me were the speeches at the St. Catharines strike.

    This was my first march, protest or strike of any kind and I truly did not know what to expect, but I was excited to be attending with peers from my cohort in the Master of Sustainability program.  On Friday morning we took our signs and made our way downtown to the St. Catharines library and were surprised by the number of people who came to rally together.  It was a well-organized event with wonderful speeches from Indigenous women, community leaders, young students and people who felt compelled to speak up in the moment.  With each speech that was delivered, I got more and more emotional about the challenges that we and future generations will face.  That being said, the main message throughout the day was to look inwardly and do what you can in your own life to make small differences each and every day.

    Although it can be quite overwhelming, climate strikes are an opportunity to have our voices heard by politicians and large organizations to prioritize our planet in their various agendas.  That being said, a system change unfortunately takes longer than a personal change and it is important to self-reflect and see what we can alter in our personal lives to make our planet a greener place.

    After my experience at my first Climate Strike, I am even more motivated to learn as much as possible about Sustainability Science to make my positive mark on this planet.

    Categories: Blog, SSAS Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Summer 2019 SSAS Student Spotlights

    Blog Contributor: Noah Nickel

     

    Jocelyn Baker, Master of Sustainability Candidate.

    We wanted to check in with our SSAS Students to see how their co-op work terms were going this summer, and what exactly it is that they were up to. In their own words, here is what they are doing!

     

    For her co-op work term this summer, Masters of Sustainability Candidate Jocelyn Baker is working with the Niagara Restoration Council in collaboration with the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority on the finalization of the procedural process for securing a global wetland designation for the Niagara River Corridor called a Ramsar designation.

     

     

    A call for photos of the Lincoln Shoreline from Meredith DeCock, Master of Sustainability Candidate.

    Master of Sustainability Candidate Meredith DeCock is in the thesis stream of the program and is spending her summer working on her thesis research and data collection. “My name is Meredith DeCock. My thesis research is focused on using historical photographs to help us tell the story of the evolution of the Lincoln coastline over time. I have made a few trips out to the shoreline to get a better sense of the system. The other day I went out to 16 Mile Creek with a local resident Brian Jaworsky, who photographed our kayak trip. The shoreline analysis will reveal areas and time frames of the shoreline where there was a higher change rate. From there I will look at climatic and non-climatic data to help provide a possible explanation of why some of these changes may have occurred. In addition, I am just getting ready to launch my call for photographs to the public! This is an opportunity for the community to participate in the research project by submitting historical photographs of the shoreline that I will then replicate to create photograph comparisons along the shoreline.“

     

     

    Master of Sustainability Candidate, Connor Thompson, pictured left.

    For Master of Sustainability Candidate Connor Thompson this summer has included a work placement in Toronto with the Great Canadian Shore Cleanup. “I’m a co-op student working as an Educator with the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, a national conservation partnership by Ocean Wise and WWF-Canada. My primary job is to engage in outreach at local events. We’ve set up tables, and in one case gave a speech, at farmers markets, delivered programming to youth summer camps, and I’m on my way down to West Virginia to present and facilitate discussion at World Scout Jamboree. We’ve been told that there will be around 50,000 Scouts age 14-17 from around the world in attendance.” – Connor Thompson

     

     

    Master of Sustainability Candidate, Emma Baker.

    Another Master of Sustainability Candidate, Emma Baker, was successful in securing a unique co-op experience in Hamilton. “My name is Emma Baker. My research is in urban water resilience and policy, but currently I am in co-op as the Camp Director at the Royal Botanical Gardens Discovery Camp in Hamilton, Ontario. The RBG Discovery camp is a nature-based camp for children ages 3-15, where we see approximately 1,800 campers through the summer. We emphasize experiential, outdoor learning and write our programs to focus on various elements of environmental education, biodiversity and conservation. Some of our weekly themes include dendrology, ethology, geology and ornithology as well as developmental aspects of leadership, communication and creativity. I absolutely love the time I have spent at camp with the campers and staff and think the RBG’s mission,connecting people, plants and place for the purpose of nurturing and preserving healthy growing life on our planet,perfectly aligns with why I am pursuing further education.”

     

     

    Master of Sustainability Candidate, Jessica Zugic, completing field work.

    Lastly, summer for Master of Sustainability Candidate Jessica Zugic has included thesis research. Jessica recently completed her field work at a red pine plantation in the St. Williams Conservation Reserve, where she and several field assistants collected tree core samples from 600 trees. The goal of this research is to determine how carbon sequestration has changed over time as well as in response to a harvesting technique called variable retention harvesting. Currently, she is working to process and analyze these cores in Brock’s Water and Environment Lab under the supervision of Dr. Michael Pisaric.

     

     

     

     

    Categories: Blog, Co-Op, Experiential Education, SSAS Program, Student Contributor

  • Launch of the Resilience Collaborative

    Earlier in June, a group of influential researchers gathered at Theal House for the inaugural meeting of the Resilience Collaborative. The Resilience Collaborative is an initiative of the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC). The primary goal of the collaborative is to develop insights about resilience and build the capacity of individuals, organizations, and communities to navigate complexity and change.

    The collaborative brings together scholars who share a deep commitment to resilience as essential for sustainable futures. Resilience, in the context of social-ecological systems, is the ability to maintain and persist, to adapt when needed to changing conditions, and to transform when persistence and adaptation are no longer feasible. Resilience is a way of thinking that recognizes the complex interactions between society and our ecosystems. It embraces the idea of change and acknowledges uncertainty.

    This new group includes researchers from the ESRC as well as partner organizations including the Vineland Research & Innovation Centre and the Healthy Headwaters Lab at the University of Windsor. Given that resilience is an approach that encourages broad and meaningful participation by stakeholders, learning from feedbacks, and taking action for biosphere stewardship, the inaugural meeting included the development of a vision for the first community-based project to be executed in the Town of Lincoln.

    Stay tuned for exciting updates on the Resilience Collaborative and the inaugural collaborative project!

    Resilience Collaborative - June 2019 Resilience Collaborative - June 2019

    Categories: Blog, Collaborations

  • Congratulations to the Master of Sustainability Class of 2019

    SSAS Class of 2019

    Pictured from left to right: Dr. Julia Baird, Yuka Kataoka, Ben House, Leaya Amey, Zach MacMillan, Sylvia Hussein, Dr. Ryan Plummer, Alison Feist, Emilie Jobin Poirier, Tasnuva Afreen, and Dr. Marilyne Jollineau.

    On Tuesday, June 11, 2019, the Sustainability Science and Society (SSAS) graduate program celebrated the graduation of ten students.

    The Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) would like to extend congratulations to our newest Master of Sustainability graduates. The 2019 graduating class included: Tasnuva Afreen, Leaya Amey, Ben House, Zach MacMillan, Emilie Jobin Poirier, Alison Feist, Jessica Williams, Sylvia Hussein, Salima Medouar, Yuka Kataoka.

    The ESRC would also like to congratulate Emilie Jobin Poirier, who was named the 2019 recipient of the Distinguished Graduate Student Award – Sustainability Science and Society for achieving the highest overall average in the program.

    “This is the largest group of SSAS students we’ve seen at a single convocation ceremony and I could not have been happier to hood them – it was an honour to witness the conferring of their degree of Master of Sustainability early last week. Their hard work has had impact on scholarship, the environment, and on different communities in Canada, including the Niagara Region. This is an important milestone in their lives and I am extremely proud of them,” said Dr. Marilyne Jollineau Graduate Program Director of SSAS.

    “I am confident that these individuals will continue to make a positive impact on society and the environment as they pursue their future goals. We wish them all great success in their future endeavours!”

     

    Categories: Blog, SSAS Program

  • Mapping the New Knowledges Graduate Student Research Conference: Oral Presentation Session

    Blog Contributor: Connor Thompson

    One of the early issues we discussed in the Master of Sustainability program concerned where we fit within the academic landscape. I contend that this degree is what you make of it, in the sense that we are all able to choose our areas of specialization as we see fit. Education, policy, and environmental science immediately come to mind, but the beautiful thing about sustainability science is that it can (and should!) be incorporated into every facet of modern life. I was reminded of that early discussion after seeing the program for Mapping the New Knowledges (MNK) 2019, Brock University’s graduate student research conference. I found myself delivering a presentation on motivations and barriers to living off-grid, in a session themed “intersections of power and identity negotiations”. It was not exactly a perfect fit but I did my best to keep an open mind.

    MNK was my first opportunity to share my research publicly and it really was a great learning experience. I chose to open with an icebreaker on how my research was substantially different than the presenters who came before me, which drew a laugh across the room and helped set the tone for an engaging 12 minute spiel. By committing my presentation to memory I was able to make eye contact with the audience and play to their non-verbal cues, making sure to emphasize important points and elaborate when confused looks washed over the crowd. Though I initially laughed at my misfortune in being literally the last presenter of the conference, I was enormously lucky to be in that final timeslot. My presentation had all of the academic rigor that this sort of event demands, but I was also able to inject some personality and life into the end of a very long day for everyone in the room. I was told early on at Brock that knowing your audience is critical to your success, and it was absolutely true at MNK. The most successful presenters I saw were those that thoroughly knew their material, engaged with the audience, and were able to smile while discussing their work. Should you find yourself in a presentation room at MNK 2020, leave your PowerPoint slide notes in your bag and really make an effort to show your passion. The audience is there to see you, so make it interesting for them!

    Categories: Blog, Conferences, SSAS Program, SSAS Student Contributor

  • Marilyn I. Walker – A Sustainable Gem in Downtown St. Catharines

    Blog Contributor: Connor Thompson

    Marilyne I Walker Building

    The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts(MIWSFPA) is an absolutely gorgeous building full of natural light and art, located off Brock’s main campus, in the downtown core of St. Catharines. Having been renovated from the Canada Hair Cloth Company building in 2015, its construction offered Brock University the ability to do what it does best – research! Facilities Management took the opportunity after renovations to install a piece of software called the Earthright Energy Dashboard. Earthright monitors water, gas, and electricity trends and charts them on a public-facing dashboard for all to see.

    Earthright serves two purposes, the first of which is to inform students, staff, and visitors about utility consumption rates at Marilyn I. Walker. There are a couple of screens that display statistics in relatable and interesting terms, like how many swimming pools worth of water have been saved from one month to the next. By showing people how utilities are consumed over time, it may influence them to change their habits as a group and see what impact they can make!

    The second function is to provide feedback to staff on how the building is operating. Facilities Management has been able to tailor automated systems around occupancy and seasonality requirements, which ensure that utilities are only used as they are actually needed. For example the lights are generally shut off at 11:00 pm and turned back on around 6:00 am, but there are also offices on motion sensor systems, and photocells are used to ensure that lights automatically dim as sunlight becomes available.

    The Earthright Energy Dashboard is a simple way to inform the public about how consumption habits impact the spaces where they learn and work. Newer buildings like MIWSFPA are sustainable by design, but we as occupants have the final say on how much water, gas, and electricity gets used. The next time you are walking along St. Paul Street, stop in and check out part of what Brock is doing to carry out its commitment to stewardship and environmental sustainability!

    Categories: Blog, Experiential Education, Innovative Partnership, SSAS Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Student researcher explores future of electric buses in Canada

    Master’s student Tasnuva Afreen (right) and her supervisor, Associate Professor of Geography and Tourism Studies Christopher Fullerton (left), stand in front of a demonstration electric bus displayed at a conference. Afreen and Fullerton, along with the Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium, set up an internship with the non-profit funding agency Mitacs for Afreen to research the adoption of electric buses across Canada.

     

    It’s a simple, logical way to cut down on air and noise pollution.

    Electric buses don’t emit carbon or use fossil fuels, are low cost to maintain and, by the silent way they operate, reduce noise pollution compared to conventional buses.

    But replacing current buses with electricity-powered ones is easier said than done, says master’s student Tasnuva Afreen.

    Afreen recently wrapped up an eight-month internship with the Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC) to collect and interpret information related to transit authorities’ transition to electric buses.

    “Now we’re trying to connect the dots,” says Afreen, who is in Brock’s Sustainability Science and Society program. “We hope to bring out what Canadians think of electric buses and identify the main barriers to bringing electric buses to transit authorities’ fleets.”

    Afreen, Associate Professor of Geography and Tourism Studies Christopher Fullerton and CUTRIC created the internship through the not-for-profit national research organization Mitacs.

    Mitacs partners with academics, private industry and governments to conduct research and training programs related to industrial and social innovation. The organization funds a number of research projects at Brock University.

    During her internship, Afreen organized consultations with industry representatives, transit authorities, government officials and academic researchers.

    She and her CUTRIC colleagues asked participants a series of questions about transit authorities’ experiences and challenges of experimenting with electric buses and the knowledge they need to acquire and integrate hydrogen fuel cell vehicles into their fleets.

    Afreen also asked transit riders to share their opinions on and experiences with electric buses.

    She then transcribed the consultation sessions and analyzed the comments. Afreen also gathered information on how to test electric buses in nine municipalities that expressed interest in becoming demonstration trial sites.

    Although she and Fullerton are still analyzing the data, Afreen says her preliminary results show that there’s much interest in putting electric buses on the road.

    But there are a number of barriers to overcome, she says.

    “Municipalities have to redesign their infrastructure to provide electric lines so that buses can recharge very quickly,” says Afreen. “Also, the upfront expense is huge — a lot of transit agencies don’t have the money in their pocket to go for this.”

    Fullerton, Afreen’s supervisor, says the research she conducted will lay the groundwork for CUTRIC’s efforts to encourage the adoption of electric buses across Canada.

    “While it has already demonstrated clear environmental, social and economic benefits in other parts of the world, electric bus technology is still relatively new and adopting it represents a major funding commitment,” says Fullerton.

    “Public transit agencies and other stakeholders, such as the various levels of government that provide subsidies for transit infrastructure, want to make sure that the technology is reliable and that their money is well spent,” he says, adding that Afreen’s work helps identify stakeholders’ concerns and information needs.

    Afreen will share her Mitacs-supported internship experience at Brock’s Shift Conference Tuesday, April 30 and the Launch Forum Wednesday, May 1. Mitacs Director Rebecca Bourque and Office of Research Services staff will be join Afreen at Launch in the 10 to 11:30 a.m. session in the Cairns Atrium to explore how faculty member and graduate student teams can navigate Mitacs internship opportunities.

    “Mitacs internships offer graduate students a valuable experience working with industry or community organizations,” says Industry Liaison and Partnership Officer Iva Bruhova. “It is a chance to apply their research skills and gain employment-ready skills.”

    In addition to the Mitacs session, the Launch event offers two other sessions on how faculty and staff can support graduate students through designing individual development plans.

    For more information, contact ibruhova@brocku.ca or kperry@brocku.ca

    Categories: Applied Research, Co-Op, Experiential Education, SSAS Program