Articles by author: Amanda Smits

  • Did you know that Brock offers a car sharing program?

    Blog Contributor: Kaitlin James

    ZipCar at Brock University

    BUSU has partnered with Zipcar to offer car rentals by the hour, right from campus. This gives students an opportunity to rent out a car for the day, or for a couple hours. Gas and insurance are included! This is perfect for students without their own vehicle who want an easy way to get around the city, or take a road trip for the day without the stress of car ownership!

    To join, students/faculty/staff need to get a membership. Rates vary depending on your affiliation with the school, meaning whether you are a student, faculty/staff or Brock Alumni. Currently, Students pay $20 per year, and Faculty, Staff and Alumni pay $35 dollars per year.

    To particpate in this program, individuals apply to join. Once approved, Zipcar will mail you your Zipcard. This is your key to unlock the cars; all you have to do is hold your card to the windshield and the doors will unlock. Reserve a Zipcar online or through the mobile app, and  once finished for the day, return the car to the reserved parking spot on campus and that’s it, it’s that easy!

    Driving rates fall between $8-11 dollars per hour, and $72-79 dollars for the day–rates vary depending on the day of the week. Rentals between Friday-Sunday are on the higher end of this range. Additionally, although their website highlights free gas, insurance and kilometers, only up to 200 km are included per day within a 24 hour or shorter reservation, so be sure to plan your trip accordingly!

    Categories: Blog, Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Let’s Talk About Waste

    Blog Contributors: Kaitlin James & Shelby McFadden

    Guernsey Market

    Did you know that the most waste on campus comes from Schmon Tower? The area otherwise referred to as “Tower” produces almost double the amount of waste as the area ranked second in waste contributions on campus.

    This is something to think about when you’re eating your meals in Market. A way to help reduce this is by using the conveyor belt system in Market properly. In fact, many Brock students don’t know how this system works, and as a result do not use it.

    Did you ever notice that there are no garbage bins in Market? This is because all “garbage” products are to be placed on the conveyor belt. The only items to not be placed on the belt are plastic recyclables, or containers that can be recycled in the blue bins which are located adjacent to the conveyor belt.

    This means all leftover food, napkins, and paper products can be left on your plate and placed on the conveyor belt without having to think about what bin to place them in. These products are then sorted properly in the back, with food and paper waste being put through a pulper, before being sent to be composted. The pulper reduces ten bags of garbage down to one, reducing the amount of waste Brock is sending to landfills, and reducing the frequency of waste pick-ups.

    Brock’s current Master of Sustainability students recently toured the kitchens in Market and got to see the sorting operations and pulper in action, to better understand the current sustainability initiatives taking place at Brock.

    “It’s really cool to see such a simple but effective process being utilized to reduce waste, especially considering that organics represent the largest category within Brock’s waste stream. That being said, the system only works if people use it properly, and it seems like there’s a lot of students, staff, and faculty who are unaware of the proper process,” reflected Shelby McFadden, one of the students on the tour.

    So next time you’re in Market, dispose of your waste using the system that is meant to divert items from going to the landfill, which will help increase our diversion rate from 67% to even higher!

    This system is meant to ensure proper sorting of all products into their appropriate streams; landfill, compost and recyclables. Be conscious of this and read the signs in place to help you dispose of your products properly!

    Categories: Blog, SSAS Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Brock student wins two awards in national science photo competition

    Dana Harris calls Nov. 9 her “special day.”

    It was on that day last week that the Master of Sustainability student became a first time aunt, and also the day she was told, in the strictest of confidence, that she had captured two top prizes in a national science research photo competition.

    Harris had to keep the secret of her achievement under wraps until Nov. 14, when the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) announced the winners of its Canada-wide Science Exposedcompetition.

    The competition showcases images taken during scientific research being conducted in all fields by faculty and student researchers in post-secondary institutions and researchers in public and private research centres.

    Dana Harris photo submission

    Dana Harris’ submission to the NSERC Science Exposed competition featuring cells of the jack pine tree.

    Harris received the People’s Choice Award and a Jury Prize for her photo, “Exploring the Jack Pine Tight Knit Family Tree.”

    “It’s a super huge honour to have people sharing my photo, voting on it and just enjoying it,” says Harris. “And, to get that mention from the NSERC jury members was really gratifying.”

    Diane Dupont, Dean of Graduate Studies, said the Faculty is “so proud of Dana and her success in the NSERC Science Exposed photography contest.”

    “To win the People’s Choice Award is an outstanding achievement,” Dupont said. “This award is a testament to the cutting-edge research she is pursuing involving the globally-relevant topic of climate change.”

    Harris’ photo shows phases of developing xylem cells, stained in different colours, that are found in a wood sample cored from the outermost part of a jack pine tree in the Northwest Territories, where she is from.

    The image, shot from a microscope, shows the jack pine tree’s phloem, cambial and xylem cells (blue dye) and mature xylem cells (red dye) in a thin slice of the wood. It is one of a series of images taken weekly over the past year to track the growth of the jack pine tree’s various cells.

    “This type of information is useful for researchers who create climate reconstructions using tree rings as a source of historical climate data,” explains Harris.

    She thanked her supervisor, Professor of Geography and Tourism Studies Michael Pisaric, and her fellow student researchers in Brock’s Water and Environment Laboratory (WEL) for their support.

    “Dana’s research is helping to understand how important tree species in the boreal forest are affected by climate change,” says Pisaric. “Her research also helps to inform larger questions concerning carbon uptake by the boreal forest.

    “Northern regions of Canada are being impacted by changing climatic conditions, including warmer temperatures, changing precipitation regimes and altered frequency and intensity of forest fires and other disturbance agents.”

    The WEL lab is co-directed by Pisaric and Associate Professor of Geography and Tourism Studies Kevin Turner, with the aim to explore how terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in Canada’s North are changing in response to climatic and environmental change.

    Harris says she is happy that research on climate change and environmental conditions in the North were acknowledged with awards in the competition.

    Earlier this year, the photos of 20 researchers from across Canada, including Harris’s entry, were shortlisted and posted on NSERC’s website. People viewing the 20 photos were given the chance to vote for their favourite image. A panel of judges also chose three images that won jury prizes.

    Harris was also a competitor in NSERC’s Science, Action! research video contest, making the first cut of the three-round competition with her video “Jack Pine Growth, NT.”

    NSERC is Canada’s federal funding agency for university-based research, supporting faculty and students through a number of awards. In the most recent round of funding, 18 faculty researchers and nine students received a total of $3.2 million.

    Story from The Brock News

    Categories: Applied Research, SSAS Program

  • Keeping up with the Kindergarten Kids!

    Blog Contributor: Kaitlin James

    Rosalind Blauer Centre for Child Care Kinder Program

    Photo Credit: Rosalind Blauer Centre for Child Care Kinder Program

    Did you know that the Rosalind Blauer Centre for Child Care Kinder Program is found on the campus of Brock University adjacent to the Lowenberger Residence?

    The Kinder Program is an alternative to Junior Kindergarten that has run for the past four years. It uses research, observation, documentation and communication between children, parents and educators. Additionally, it allows children to develop skills through experiences in the natural environment by exploring the forest, making choices and solving problems with limited adult intervention.

    The children spend two mornings each week from September to June in an “Outdoor Classroom”, which is the forest that surrounds and is located on campus.

    The students still explore more traditional topics such as literacies, math, science, arts, and social sciences, which allows for the perfect balance. This past year, the class consisted of eight children and one Registered Early Childhood Educator, which is an added bonus as kids are able to engage with the educator on a one on one basis.

    Brock University is the perfect location for this program as it is located within a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with a vast amount of wildlife and vegetation to explore! This program allows children to have a voice in what and how they do things, whilst exploring the great outdoors and learning at the same time!

    The class and their educator made a stop by the ESRC in the summer to tell us about their discovery of a snapping turtle laying eggs on campus to see how they could help! It is even these small day to day discoveries that show what a unique learning experience this school offers!

    Categories: Blog, Experiential Education, Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Getting to know the ESRC

    Blog Contributor: Shelby McFadden

    Theal House

    Photo: Theal House at Brock University is home to the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre.

    You know that quaint white house by Zone 2 Parking Lot on your way out of Brock? Many of you in the Brock community have no idea what I’m talking about, but take my word for it—there’s a building there alright, and this building in question is known as Theal House. Named after Samuel Theal who is believed to have built the house, where his family then lived for decades, Theal house is the oldest building on campus and one of the oldest in St. Catharines.

    As its been around since the 1800’s, it has served many roles and housed many tenants over the years, but most recently, it became the home of the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC), as they officially settled in by February 2018.

    As a centre within the Faculty of Social Sciences dedicated to environmental sustainability, the building was renovated in a way that incorporated sustainability within its walls. The floors were acquired from Interface, a company known for its commitment to sustainability, which represented 3 tonnes in emissions reductions. Used furniture was acquired from antique stores, and live edge desks produced by Brock carpenters with certified sustainable timber. LED lighting was installed, with dimmer and daylight harvesting light switches, and sensors to save energy. An integrated system that controls HVAC, lighting, and monitors real time energy use is also present in the building.

    But Theal House does so much more for sustainability than its physical features.

    Similar to how there’s many people at Brock who do not know about Theal House, there’s also many people who do not know about the ESRC, or only vaguely understand what it is, and what it does.

    The ESRC is dedicated to research and education advancing environmental sustainability both locally and globally, and runs several initiatives, all made possible by the supportive base that is Theal House.

    As one of five transdisciplinary hubs on campus, the ESRC has had the capacity to do some great work since 2012.

    But what exactly are these great things that the ESRC does?

    Well, the ESRC has created a highly productive research culture and impressive output, with 392 peer-reviewed publications meant to resolve complex environmental/social problems being published between 2012 and 2017.

    They also carry out several projects and programs to support this research, such as their seed grant funding program started in 2013 that supports projects related to the ESRC’s mandate. There is also a postdoctoral fellowship that creates opportunities for faculty and fellows to carry out research. Theu also run a visiting scholars program that brings high level scholars engaged in research on the environment, sustainability, and social ecological resilience to interact with ESRC members and SSAS students.

    They have also formed research partnerships with community groups to pursue projects of mutual benefit, conducting valuable research, while also engaging communities.

    One example of this is the Brock Lincoln Living Lab which was created in 2017, and will continue for the next five years. In this partnership with the Town of Lincoln, students contribute to the community through experiential education, putting more resources into municipal planning and research to investigate local needs and policy development.

    Another important partnership is with the Niagara Parks Commission, which created the Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Initiative in April 2018, which will last until 2020. The partnership is meant to inform and enhance practice, improve the NPC’s capacity to make evidence-based decisions, and advance understanding of environmental stewardship.

    But beyond research, the ESRC also offers academic opportunities within sustainability. This includes a minor program in environmental sustainability that can be recognized in conjunction with any major degree program, and which offers courses in 15 units across campus.

    A Masters program in sustainability science and society was started in 2014, where students can gain problem solving skills through enriching research and applied experiences, in one of the two following schemes:

    Scheme A- Major research project and co-op (16 months)

    Scheme B- Thesis (24 months)

    As a part of this program, transdisciplinary seminars are held bi-weekly, which anyone is welcome to attend.

    Finally, the ESRC also offers a PhD program in sustainability through an agreement with the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia, where a scholarship allows a student to study in both places under the supervision of researchers from both universities.

    All of this is beneficial for Brock, but the ESRC has recently taken on an additional exciting role alongside Facilities Management.

    The two departments signed a charter in February, which outlines their agreement to work together on Sustainability at Brock. The charter provides an important bridge between the academics and operations sides of campus, creating a partnership where the two can collaborate on projects of mutual benefit and create mechanisms to communicate sustainability initiatives and progress with the Brock community.

    The two agreed to contribute cash and in-kind contributions over an initial 5 years, and the ESRC has been working hard on providing administrative support to meet the goals of the charter this summer, partly through the work of summer students hired through the Charter. In fact, these blogs and the Sustainability at Brock social media channels they are posted to are part of this important work!

    So, the next time you’re near Zone 2 parking lot, look for the cottage-like white building that is Theal House, and when you see it, now you’ll know what it’s for and what kind of work is going on inside.

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

  • Meet the Faculty of the ESRC: Dr. Ryan Plummer

    Blog Contributor: Kaitlin James

     

    Ryan Plummer

    Photo: Dr. Ryan Plummer, Professor and Director of the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre

    As the final instalment of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ryan Plummer, Director of the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) to learn more about his research, and role as the Director of the ESRC.  His multi-faceted program of research broadly concerns the governance of social-ecological systems. In striving to advance knowledge of collaboration and adaptation within complex systems, he has focused on exploring their theoretical underpinnings and ethical implications, modelling their processes, examining the roles of social capital, and investigating the influences of social learning. His multitude of publications in research journals such as Ecological Economics, Ecology and Society, Environmental Management and Frontiers in Ecology and Society to name a few, exemplify his scholarly quality of research, and vast amount of contributions to the field of sustainability science. It was a pleasure to interview him, and learn more about his research and role at the ESRC.

     Q1: What does your role as the Director of the ESRC look like?

    I feel privileged that colleagues put my name forward to serve as Director of the ESRC and made this recommendation to Dean Makus.  The nominal workload of a faculty member is adjusted with the role of Director to permit additional administrative responsibilities. Those administrative responsibilities include scheduling of courses, budgeting, overseeing staff and ensuring the operation of our Centre. I attend meetings and events as well as interact with governments, organizations and other institutions on behalf of the Centre.

    Q2: What are your research areas of focus? 

    My program of research broadly aims to advance environmental stewardship. I have three main areas of focus: resilience of social-ecological systems; management and governance of the environment (adaptive capacity; adaptive co-management; collaboration, learning, evaluation of outcomes); and, water resources management and governance.

    Q3: Why is your research important? What are some possible real-world applications? 

    While conventional approaches to management and governance had some noteworthy successes in the past, their limitations are increasingly apparent in the contemporary era (and future) characterized by complexity, uncertainty and contested/conflict values. We must figure out how to manage human behaviours and make decisions (individually and collectively) in this context with positive outcomes (social-ecological).

    I am energized by my research because of the breadth of applicability in terms of real-world applications. For example, my research on adaptive co-management – a strategy bringing together collaboration and adaptation for making decisions and taking actions about an aspect of the environment – has been applied in contexts such as biosphere reserves, climate change adaptation and risk-management rivers, small-scale fisheries, and sustainable tourism. The launch of the Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Initiative involving the Centre and the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) in April of 2018 is an exciting local example. Here a team of faculty and students from our Centre are leveraging knowledge of stewardship in partnership with our NPC colleagues to address challenges and realize opportunities in an iconic Canadian landscape that is ecologically significant and under considerable pressures.

    Q4: What does sustainability science mean to you and why is it important? 

    Sustainability science for me is a ‘different’ type of science. It is premised on an integrative perspective of humans and Nature, consistent with our contemporary understanding of how the world operates; takes a transdisciplinary and problem-solving approach; extends beyond the academy and embraces pluralism of knowledges and knowledge co-creation; emphasizes the need for collaboration; and, aspires to advance knowledge and action for sustainability – understood as an ongoing iterative process as opposed to an end state.

    Sustainability science is important to me because it recognizes the scholarship that has been done in the past and needs to be done in the future. It provides a rubric for individuals to situation their scholarship and legitimizes/encourages breaking with some past entrenched academic conventions. It is a different science – and an approach critically important to our society and planet.

    Categories: Blog, Environmental Stewardship Initiative, Faculty Contributor, Student Contributor

  • Researcher offers words of encouragement on Fall Convocation day

  • Meet Brock’s newest commitment to sustainability: The Brock University Environmental Sustainability Plan 2018

    Blog Contributor: Shelby McFadden

    Brock University - Campus LR

    The Environmental Sustainability Research Centre and Facilities Management signed a charter in February, which outlines their agreement to work together to support Sustainability at Brock. One of the major projects worked on this summer was the creation of the Brock University Environmental Sustainability Plan 2018, as required under the Greenhouse Gas Campus Retrofits Program (GGCRP). The completion of this plan has allowed Brock to receive $7.9 Million to put towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions on campus. The funding is being used to complete DEEP 2, which is a project replacing old equipment in Brock’s district energy plant with updated and efficient equipment that will allow Brock to produce 100% of its own energy, while also significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    The plan outlines the current initiatives working towards low emissions and an overall sustainable campus, identifying issues and setting priorities, goals, targets, and strategies to increase sustainability at Brock within the three following areas: 1) energy conservation and greenhouse gas emissions reductions, 2) environmental sustainability management, and 3) education for sustainability (green skills)/co-benefits.

    Along with these initiatives, the plan outlines a commitment to sustainability through Brock’s plans to pursue an emissions target of 20% below 2013 levels by 2023. These efforts will contribute to the provincial emission reduction targets of 37% by 2030 and 80% by 2050, based on 1990 baseline levels.

    The Sustainability plan builds on Brock’s 2016 Sustainability Policy and 2017 Draft Strategic Plan, further strengthening its commitment to uphold sustainability as one of the seven core values of the university.

    The plan is now posted to the Sustainability at Brock website and can be viewed at the following link.

    Categories: Blog, Experiential Education, Innovative Partnership, Sustainability at Brock

  • Meet the Faculty of the ESRC: Dr. Jessica Blythe

    Blog Contributor: Kaitlin James

    For our second instalment of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessica Blythe, an Assistant Professor at the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) to learn more about her new role at the Centre, and the journey she took to get to where she is today. Her research engages in issues related to resilience, climate change adaptation, and transformation. She is particularly interested in how societies both create and respond to change. Her numerous publications demonstrate her immense contributions to the field of sustainability science. It was a pleasure to interview her to learn more about all of the great research she does!

    Photo: Dr. Jessica Blythe, Assistant Professor, Environmental Sustainability Research Centre

    Q1: What excites you most about working at Brock University in the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre? 

    Everything!  But honestly, I’m really excited about two big things.  First, the research going on at Brock was the biggest draw for me.  Faculty within the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre are engaged in research at the frontiers of sustainability science.  It’s the kind of solution-oriented research that gets me out of bed in the morning.  Second, I find the applied, experiential nature of research and teaching at Brock really inspiring.  From the innovative partnerships with municipalities and parks in the area to the co-op options for students, Brock is leading the way building healthier, happier, and more sustainable futures.

    Q2: What are your research areas of focus? 

    Broadly, my research tries to understand how communities experience global environmental change and what explains their different capacities to respond to this change.  Specifically, I use a social-ecological systems perspective and resilience thinking to think critically about vulnerability, adaptation, and transformation.  I also examine how processes like decentralization and place attachment shape people’s relationship with their environment.

    Q3: What was your journey like in getting to your current research area of focus? 

    I grew up in Newfoundland during the collapse of the Northern cod stocks.  I think that watching how the moratorium impacted coastal communities around the province influenced my interest in becoming a researcher that focuses on coupled social-ecological systems.  It also sensitized me to that fact that vulnerable systems – that are close to a tipping point – can appear strong from the outside.  This experience drove home the fact that for me, sustainability has to be equally about healthy biosphere and thriving human communities.

    Q4: How are you complementing the existing strengths of ESRC faculty members?

    We all approach sustainability research through a social-ecological systems lens and draw on resilience thinking to frame our questions and analysis – so in that way the fit is really seamless.  My research explores adaptation in coastal systems and transformation in social-ecological systems, which will hopefully some new focal area to the ongoing research at the ESRC.

    Q5: As a sustainability scientist, how do you view the world? 

    For me, being a sustainability scientist and being a parent go hand in hand – I’m constantly thinking about what the future holds and how we can find sustainable pathways.  Fortunately, I get to work along side some of the world’s leading climate change and sustainability scientists and I am happy to report that for the most part, the scientists I know are optimistic.  The Paris Agreement was a huge step for us as a global community.  I draw comfort from the fact that so many engaged and innovative scientists and students are tackling our big sustainability challenges from so many different angles.  From where I’m sitting, the future of sustainability looks really bright!

    Categories: Applied Research, Blog, Faculty Contributor, Student Contributor

  • Finding the green in our own backyard

    Blog Contributor: Shelby McFadden

    Everyone’s been there. Waking up to your alarm and knowing you have to get out of bed to go to work or school and dreading every moment of it. This is a rather normal occurrence for me as I am definitely not a morning person. But of course, I get up anyway, yawning and entering autopilot mode as I force myself to walk to work. I used to walk down Sir Isaac Boulevard North, staring at pavement and Zone 1 Parking lot, until I crossed Flora Egerter Way and up the grass to Theal House. But I never felt content taking this route, and so often switched it up a little bit each day, crossing at a different spot, walking across Lot V and U instead, or walking through the grass between the North and South boulevards. One day after crossing the intersection at Sir Isaac Brock Blvd and Merritville Highway, I decided to walk along the unpaved bit of grass and dirt beside the tree line framing Lots V, U, and T. Since then, this has become my morning ritual, and one of the best parts of my day.

    We often think about nature as this pristine, large-scale, and untouched wilderness, but the reality is that things are always changing and evolving, alongside other species, including humans. We need to start seeing these small patches of plants and animals as nature too, and to appreciate them just as much as the larger ecosystems. Walking through the shade, I feel myself slip back together like a completed puzzle, feeling alive and safe and revitalized as I breathe in and take in the sights. It’s so quiet and peaceful, listening to the occasional bird sing or the tall plants bend in the breeze, and it never fails to bring a smile to my face.

    One day as I was approaching Theal House, I noticed a plaque hidden amidst the greenery at the edge of the line of trees. Stopping for a moment to read the inscription, I learned that this line of trees I walk beside each day, is actually one of the remaining hedgerows of Osage orange trees on campus that predates the university, lining some of the historical property boundaries. The trees are native to Arkansas and Texas, but brought over by settlers and used as natural fences to keep livestock in fields. These trees are extremely rare to South-Western Ontario, and the ones at Brock represent one of the last known locations in South-Western Ontario. These trees are a living tribute to the Niagara Region’s cultural heritage and agricultural history, which makes them that much more of a special feature at Brock.

    But more than their history and rarity, they are lovely friends that give me strength in the mornings when I need it most. Being surrounded by the striking green and reaching trunks, hearing the soft crunch of dirt under my shoes, and having my focus taken by spots of colour in the form of wildflowers, gives me that extra bit of time I need in the morning to wake up and pull myself together. We can all benefit from spending a little bit of time outdoors, and Brock provides a perfect opportunity for this. There are little pockets of nature all around campus, from the Healing Garden, Pond Inlet, Jubilee Court, the Bruce Trail with different access points around campus, the courtyards with picnic tables and trees, to the hedgerows of Osage orange that have captured my heart. I encourage everyone to take a few minutes out of their day to explore the nature right here at Brock and to enjoy the small gems hidden in our own backyard!

    Categories: Blog, SSAS Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock