Articles by author: Amanda Smits

  • Milestones achieved by Facilities Management at Brock!

    Blog Contributor: Shanen D’Souza

    Brock Engine Room at the CUB

    Photo: Engine room at the Central Utilities Building, Brock University

    Facilities Management (FM) is the department responsible for all activities related to the maintenance, operations and development of Brock’s facilities and grounds. The department is heavily focused on sustainable development and the functioning of the campus. FM is always looking to reduce its impact on the environment and community around us. The recent grant of $75,000 awarded to Brock by the Ontario government to install 10 new electric vehicle charging stations is a testament to FM’s continued work towards Brock becoming a more sustainable campus.

    In the past year, the efforts of Facilities Management have reduced the energy consumption of the university as well as its greenhouse gas emissions. These efforts have also created thousands of dollars of yearly savings for the university. Installing new Variable Frequency Drives to two return fans in the Schmon Tower has led to over $86,000 in savings and 456,000 kWh in energy saved! These frequency drives coupled with a new high efficiency motor reduce the energy consumption of the Tower, the most used building on campus. Even a simple change in the LED lighting in both the 1st and 5th floors of the Tower have resulted in annual savings of over $3,000 and 17,000 kWh in energy.

    Another notable initiative by FM was the recommissioning of the Chiller in the Plaza building. A chiller is a machine that is used to cool the various buildings on campus. By using the Central Cooling Loop on campus instead, FM was able to shut down the Plaza chiller, as the Central Loop provided the necessary cooling on its own using innovative engineering methods. This has resulted in over $82,000 in annual savings and 435,000 kWh saved of energy. Subsequently, recommissioning the electric boilers in Decew Residence is now saving the university $140,000 annually and reducing energy consumption by 75,000 kWh!

    These proactive projects, along with several others in the last year, have cumulatively saved 1,750,000 kWh of energy and $332,000 on an annual basis! As the Facilities Management department leads Brock’s structural initiatives towards sustainability, the campus as a whole, can reduce its environmental impact and continue to be a good social citizen in the community.

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

  • SSAS Students Take Stock of Sustainability Initiatives at Brock

    Blog Contributor: Lydia Collas

    SSAS 5P03 Group Photo 2018

    Photo: SSAS Student Presentations in SSAS 5P03 (from left to right) Salima Medouar, Leaya Amey, Zach MacMillan, Ben House, Yuka Kataoka, Quratulain Shahzad, and Sylvia Hussein

    Earlier this year, three Master of Sustainability students got a taste for project management providing a consultancy-type service to Facilities Management at Brock University. Project Manager, Leaya Amey, and her two teammates Sylvia Hussein and Qurat Shahzad, were tasked with carrying out a needs assessment of sustainability initiatives at Brock. The team spent a semester compiling an inventory of current sustainability initiatives whilst identifying areas for improvement. Based on best practices at other universities, the students provided guidance on how best to design initiatives to fill these gaps. In this blog post, Qurat shares how the project transpired and what the group learnt from the experience. Instalment

    1. Qurat, this sounds like quite a large project – how did you go about achieving your goals?

    During the first phase of the project, we held several meetings with our main clients Amanda Smits (ESRC) and Scott Jhonstone (Facilities Management), which were moderated by our Project Co-ordinator Bradley May. This allowed us to understand the needs of the clients and clarified any doubts that we had as a team going forward in the project. The second phase was research intensive and focused on compiling the inventory and identifying any gaps where Brock could be doing more. The third phase included coming up with key recommendations for Brock University; our action plan included targets which can be used to track Brock’s progress with their sustainability endeavors in the coming years. The final phase was to complete a project report and present our findings to our clients.

    2. This must be one of your first experiences of this sort of work – what did you learn about project management?

    This experience allowed us to understand the dynamics within a team project and what project management looks like in the real world. Often, it’s more about getting everyone on the same page and communicating the ideas clearly to avoid misunderstandings. We applied what we’d learnt in class out in the real world which saw us improve several key skills such as professional presentations, handling clients, communication skills, team work and time management. This made the course a really beneficial part of the Sustainability Science & Society (SSAS) Program. While all the other courses are mostly theoretical and research based, this course provided us with an opportunity to experience practical work and also showcase a possible career path in the future.

    3. What impact do you think your work will have?

    Our project is being used as the foundational work to be built on by two co-op positions, Special Project Assistant-Sustainability and Communications Assistant, in the ESRC this summer. These co-op students will work with the ESRC to continue this project in an effort to promote and enhance sustainability on campus.

    4. Is there a moment that stands out as a highlight of this experience?

    Scott was kind enough to take us on a tour of the Central Utilities Building which showed the inner workings of the Facilities Management Department and how they are working to incorporate sustainability into their daily operations. The highlight of the tour was getting to see the generators that produce enough electricity to make Brock energy independent and able to work off the grid.

    Many congratulations to the two groups of SSAS students that completed the Projects Course – you can read about the experience of the other group who worked with the Town of Lincoln here

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

  • Brock biologist named President of Canadian Commission for UNESCO

    Liette Vasseur

    Liette Vasseur’s passion for the environment knows no borders, whether she’s examining crops in Ecuador, helping an Ontario town deal with shoreline flooding or co-writing the first international guidelines on ecosystems governance.

    The Brock University biologist has headed up dozens of conservation and research projects throughout the years, working with farmers, government ministers, students, presidents of global organizations and many others while doing so.

    Now her leadership in the field has been taken to a new level, with Vasseur being named President of theCanadian Commission for UNESCO (CCUNESCO).

    “Dr. Vasseur’s broad knowledge and experience in such areas as the environment, culture, women and communities here and around the world will be a priceless asset to the Commission, an organization dedicated to building a society of peace, equity and shared knowledge,” Simon Brault, Director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts, said June 6 while announcing the two-year appointment.

    CCUNESCO, operating under the Canada Council for the Arts, seeks to connect Canadians to the broader work of the Paris-based UNESCO, whose work “contributes to a peaceful, equitable and sustainable future that leaves no one behind.”

    UNESCO’s more notable initiatives include designating World Heritage Sites, Geoparks and Biosphere Reserves, engaging with youth, encouraging women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and promoting reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

    “I’m quite humbled,” Vasseur said of her appointment. “It is a genuine honour to have been chosen as the new President of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO. The Commission does remarkable work in ensuring that UNESCO’s activities have a real impact in Canada and abroad.”

    Vasseur is no stranger to this international stage. In 2014, she was awarded a UNESCO chair for Community Sustainability: From Local to Global, which was renewed this year. 

    Last year, CCUNESCO appointed Vasseur to head up its Sectoral Commission on Natural, Social and Human Sciences, an 11-member group of Canadian scientists, academics and others providing knowledge and expertise on a range of issues. 

    The group is producing reflection papers on topics important to creating a long-range vision of how Canadians and the federal government can implement various actions related to sustainability. These include social and environmental impacts of climate change; conservation of natural heritage and water resources; inclusion of newcomers and vulnerable groups; reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people; youth engagement; and measures to fight discrimination, racism, violence, bullying and radicalization.

    In her new role as President, a major focus will be the enhancement of Indigenous culture and knowledge in many of CCUNESCO’s activities. Other priorities include advocating for women’s involvement in STEM and engaging youth in UNESCO’s various projects and networks, she said. 

    “This appointment demonstrates the high regard in which Professor Vasseur’s research and strong leadership are held, nationally and internationally,” said Brock’s Vice-President, Research Tim Kenyon.

    “It is also emblematic of the commitment of Brock University’s researchers to have their expertise make a powerful difference in the world. Scholars, evidence-based policy makers, and citizens from around the globe are fortunate to have Professor Vasseur serving in this influential role under the auspices of the United Nations.”

    Vasseur, a member of Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre and the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, covers a range of conservation issues in her work.

    Present and past research projects include: assessing the impacts of climate and environmental changes and examining potential avenues of solutions for future development along the Town of Lincoln’s Lake Ontario shoreline; investigating the roles of biodiversity in agricultural systems in communities in China, Ecuador and Canada; and combining ecological and genomics studies of insect pests such as the diamondback moth and tea green leafhopper in China.

    Vasseur holds a number of high-profile leadership positions, including: Past-President of the Canadian Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science, Trades and Technology; Vice-Chair (North America and Caribbean) of the Commission for Ecosystem Management of the International Union for Conservation of Nature; and lead of the thematic group on Ecosystem Governance.

    Story from The Brock News

  • ESRC Member Marcie Jacklin honoured with Librarian Emeritus status

    Blog Contributor: Lydia Collas

    Marcie Jacklin

    Following her retirement in June 2017, Marcie Jacklin has been awarded the status Librarian Emeritus following her outstanding contribution to the Brock University community over the past 25 years.

    Marcie has been a librarian at Brock for 25 years, and has been involved in the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) since its founding in 2011.

    Speaking on this honour, Marcie said, “I am honoured to receive the designation of Librarian Emeritus. I am grateful for the support I have received over the past 25 years from my colleagues in the library and the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre.”

    The learning experience of so many Brock students has been enhanced by Marcie’s dedication, passion and willingness to help others in their pursuit of knowledge. On this occasion – as on any other – Marcie was full of gratitude to those that have shared this journey, “I’d like to thank the thousands of students who helped me learn how to provide instruction in library research skills. By asking students through evaluation responses what they liked and didn’t like about library instruction, I was able to understand their preference for a collaborative learning environment. It turned my style of instruction and research in an entirely new direction.”

    Marcie’s interest in nature – specifically in birds – coupled with her passion to educate others, led to her becoming a member of the ESRC. Alongside Kerrie Pickering, Marcie established the ‘Wetlands of Sunset: Connecting Memories with Nature’ project to evidence the benefits of long-term care facilities being located in areas of natural beauty where nature is in abundance.

    Of this work, Marcie said “Becoming a member of ESRC in 2011 added a new dimension to my career. This opportunity fit perfectly with my personal experience as a field ornithologist, but more than that it, was an amazing experience to work in a multidisciplinary academic atmosphere where I was challenged, supported and nurtured. The collaborative nature of ESRC led to a new research area for me, and I am delighted to be able to continue with ESRC in the future.”

    Ryan Plummer, the ESRC’s Director, expressed his gratitude for Marcie’s contribution to the Centre. “Marcie Jacklin is the first individual to be awarded the designation of Librarian Emeritus at Brock University. This is a fitting honour and testament to her many successes in the field of library and information science, the high quality of her scholarly activities, and extensive service contributions. Marcie is a gifted person who has the rare ability to combine her personal passion for nature (especially birding) with her professional drive to engage people in meaningful ways with information about science and the environment. She has been integral to the development and functioning of the ESRC as well as environmental sustainability programs at Brock”.

    Marcie will be officially presented with this honour at the Convocation Ceremony on the 4th June 2018. Congratulations Marcie!

    Categories: Blog, SSAS Student Contributor

  • Congratulations to the Master of Sustainability Class of 2018

    2018 Spring Convocation

    Pictured from left to right: Dr. Gary Pickering, Ashton Govan, Nicholas Fischer, Meghan Birbeck, Gala Muñoz-Carrier, Caitlin Garner, Tyler Prince, and Dr. Marilyne Jollineau.  

    On Tuesday, June 5, 2018, the Sustainability Science and Society (SSAS) graduate program celebrated the graduation of six students.

    The Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) would like to extend congratulations to our newest Master of Sustainability graduates. The 2018 graduating class included: Meghan Birbeck, Caitlin Garner, Ashton Govan, Nicholas Fischer, Gala Muñoz-Carrier, and Tyler Prince.

    The ESRC would also like to congratulate Nicholas Fischer, who was named the 2018 recipient of the Distinguished Graduate Student Award – Sustainability Science and Society for achieving the highest overall average in the program.

    “This diverse group of graduate students is particularly special to me since they were admitted into our program while I was Graduate Program Director of SSAS. I have had a unique opportunity to work with them in a variety of contexts along their journey towards graduation. It was an honour to witness the conferring of their degree of Master of Sustainability earlier this 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,” says 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!”

  • Ready, Set, Charge!

    Blog Contributor: Shelby McFadden

    Electrical Vehicle Charging Station - International Centre, Brock University

    Photo: Electric vehicle charging station located at the Brock University International Centre.

    We have exciting news to share, as Brock was just approved for the installation of 10 new level 2 electric vehicle charging stations, which are to be installed by November 2018. Brock was generously given $75,000 through the Ontario Government’s Workplace Electric Vehicle Charging Incentive Program to carry out the project.

    To date, Brock has three electric chargers on campus, all of which are used frequently. The first charging station was installed at International Centre in 2013, through the partial gifting from Sun Country Highway. Then in 2016, two additional stations were added. There is one charger at the Central Utilities Building, and one in Lot H behind the tower.

    These chargers are available to be used by the Brock community, but also by people in the community and visitors to the Niagara Region. Currently, these chargers are free to use for permit holders, with non-permit holders only needing to pay a small amount for parking.

    With the student population sitting at around 18,000 students, and electric vehicles rising in popularity, these new charging stations will make it easier to accommodate electric vehicles on campus.

    This is really exciting, especially as someone who hopes to buy her own electric vehicle one day soon.

    While not perfect, electric vehicles have less impacts on the environment, as the only emissions are associated with electricity production, which is less of an issue with coal having been phased out in Ontario. By driving an electric vehicle, the average Canadian can reduce their car’s gas emissions by 60 to 90% (Plug ‘N Drive, n.d).

    This is a step in the right direction for helping to reach Brock’s emission reduction target of 20% by 2023.

    I am personally quite excited to see these chargers pop up around campus in the upcoming months, and am looking forward to future initiatives contributing to sustainability on campus.


    Plug ‘N Drive. (n.d). Electric vehicle benefits. Retrieved from

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

  • Master of Sustainability Students takes the lead in Brock-Lincoln Living Lab

    Blog Contributor: Lydia Collas

    Each year, Master of Sustainability enrolled in the co-op stream undertake a projects course where they work as a team to provide a consultancy-type service to an external business or an area of the Canadian Government. This year, Ben House, Yuka Kataoka, Zach MacMillan, and Salima Medouar worked with the Town of Lincoln in association with the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab that was set up last year. I met up with Zach to find out more about what his team had got up to and what they’d learnt from the experience.

    SSAS 5P03 Group Photo 2018

    Photo: SSAS Student Presentations in SSAS 5P03 (from left to right) Salima Medouar, Leaya Amey, Zach MacMillan, Ben House, Yuka Kataoka, Quratulain Shahzad, and Sylvia Hussein

     1. So working with the Town of Lincoln, what was the project you were tasked with?

    Our team worked to create a sustainability needs assessment for the Town. This document will be used to highlight focus areas for the subsequent stages of the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab. As we began communicating with the project sponsor, it became apparent that there would be more value in creating a detailed inventory of the Town’s assets relating to sustainability. Such assets are anything that contributes to achieving the Town’s long-term sustainability goals and include local policies, physical structures, natural resources, social resources, and economic institutions.

    2. How did you go about achieving that?

    The first step in the project was to create a framework that we could use to organize our data. We used the Town of Lincoln’s sustainability initiative to highlight four key asset areas that influence sustainability: Natural, Social, Economic, and Built. Each member of the team was in charge of one of the areas based on their interests and experiences. I was both the lead on built assets as well as the project manager for the team.

    Once we had an outlined framework and clear roles for the project we went to Town Hall to retrieve that data we needed. We were also fortunate enough to communicate with Town employees who had specific insights on the four asset areas, which helped us get multiple perspectives on the project. We then synthesized all the material and included it in a final report along with some recommendations for future work, which we presented to both members of Lincoln (including senior management) and the Brock University ESRC.

     3. What did you learn about project management as a result?

    This project demonstrated the importance of creating a detailed yet manageable timeline for projects, particularly when you’ve got multiple commitments to fulfil. I also learned the importance of forming a strong team and drawing on the strengths of each member. While I was the official project manager for the project we took a collaborative approach that allowed each of our skill sets to be utilized to the fullest – an approach I plan to use in future projects.

    4. So how did it go – did you achieve what you set out to?

    Yes, I believe we did achieve our project goals. By the end of the six weeks, we had created a 30-page document which outlined a wide variety of assets that are important to the Town’s sustainability goals. Combining all this information into one document will be very helpful for the next stage of the Brock-Lincoln Living lab.

    5. What do you think the impact of your work will be?

    In the municipal setting, sustainability is an important, though oft misunderstood, concept. This project will help to provide consensus on the topic. The integrated framework that we used will help the Town to move away from understanding sustainability in silos and move toward an integrated approach to sustainability planning. It also creates a strong foundation for future work on the Brock-Lincoln Living lab and the Town more generally. Mainly this project helps the Town to begin incorporating a new perspective on everyday tasks. It also demonstrated that sustainability in this context is more diverse than simply environmental planning.

    6. This course is a bit different to the others that you take as part of the program, how do you feel it has complemented your other studies?

    This course was a perfect complement to the program. Being given the opportunity to implement our knowledge of sustainability into a real organization as a core program requirement is invaluable. It helped me to learn and refine skills, such as project planning and communicating with community stakeholders, and provided an important network opportunity – all of which will help me to secure employment after completing my degree. I am particularly interested in municipal planning: my Major Research Paper will evaluate municipal planning documents and my future career goals lie in the planning profession, so I was very fortunate to work on this project.

    Finally, I’d like to thank some people that we would have been lost without. Carrie Beatty from the Town of Lincoln gave her time and advice during each stage of the project and her genuine interest in incorporating sustainability in the municipal setting was truly valuable. I would also like to thank Dr. Bradley May for offering project management expertise to the team.

    Congratulations to Zach, Yuka, Ben and Salima on completing an informative project that has paved the way for the future work undertaken as part of the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab.  To find out more about the Living Lab, visit For more information about the Master of Sustainability degree program, visit

    Categories: Blog, Experiential Education, Innovative Partnership, SSAS Student Contributor

  • Sustainability Committee Workshop

    Blog Contributor: Kaitlin James

    The Brock Sustainability Coordinating Committee serves as a forum for discussion of sustainability related information, practices, actions and initiatives, with a goal to enhance and promote sustainability at Brock.

    Today we had our first sustainability committee workshop of the new year. It was great to meet everyone and hear about all of the different initiatives going on across the university campus. Bringing together such a diverse group of individuals is integral to be able to facilitate and sustain sustainability campus wide, and allowed for an all-encompassing, active discussion of what we would like the future of sustainability to look like at Brock, including potential challenges in implementation.

    Myself and the other summer interns were excited to share with the group what we have been doing over the last couple of weeks and engaged in meaningful conversation to help build our list of current initiatives taking place across campus, ensuring that our list is as comprehensive as possible. It was great to see all that is being done across the school to make steps towards a more sustainable campus. I’m excited to see what the future of sustainability at Brock has in store for us!

    To learn more about Sustainability at Brock visit:

    Categories: Blog, Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Co-op with MTO inspires master of sustainability student to pursue career in environmental policy

    The next instalment in our series of blog posts about the co-op experiences of Sustainability Science & Society (SSAS) students, we hear from Nicholas Fischer, who will soon be graduating with his Master in Sustainability degree. Last summer, Nich worked for the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) in the Environmental Policy Office.

    Blog Contributor: Nicholas Fischer

    Nicholas Fischer

    In my role as an Assistant Policy Analyst at MTO, I provided support to the Senior Policy Analysts on a variety of projects related to transportation infrastructure and landscape remediation. My principle assignment involved generating a policy brief and supporting house notes to various members of senior management. These briefing materials were the product of background research and communication with various provincial ministries and governing bodies, outlining the impacts which changes to the Environmental Assessment Act of Canada would have on provincial infrastructure delivery and environmental assessments.

    Outside of this project, I supported staff with additional projects and policy amendments, including: pollinator health in provincial right-of-ways, provincial waste management, endangered species protection and best management practices, and biodiversity strategies used across Ontario’s provincial ministries.

    The most interesting project I worked on was developing policy solutions for environmental assessment procedures for Ontario. During the time I was with the MTO, the Federal Government of Canada was undergoing a review of federal environmental assessment legislation which would ultimately impact how infrastructure delivery took place at a federal and provincial level. My project focused on identifying the impacts these legislative changes would have for the Ontario provincial government and identifying avenues of possible policy reform to ensure that infrastructure development and design in the province could continue in a sustainable manner, fitting within the new regulatory framework proposed at the federal level.

    My co-op experience has definitely helped to solidify the idea that I would like to focus my career experiences in the realm of environmental policy. Prior to this experience, I was unsure of working in the policy sector, however working with the MTO has shown me that without policy development and analysis, no real environmental change can take place on a regional or provincial level. Policy creates the avenues for change within a government and within local populations, and without policy avenues, it is difficult to affect real change for the betterment of our shared natural environment.

    I would like to thank the entire Environmental Planning Office for allowing me a breadth of experience on a variety of projects which showed me exactly how the province upholds environmental protection and sustainability within an infrastructure-based ministry. Additionally, I would like to thank Melissa Beamer of the Brock Co-op Office for working continuously with the SSAS students to ensure we found appropriate, challenging and rewarding co-op experiences.

    The ESRC’s SSAS program offers students the option of completing either a major research project and a co-op experience, or a longer research project that culminates in a thesis. Undertaking a co-op provides students with firsthand experience of how important knowledge of sustainability is in creating policy, guiding business development and ultimately helping the community. Graduating students frequently cite their co-op experience as being influential in guiding their future career plans. To find out more about the SSAS program, visit

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

  • In our backyard: ESRC playing a part in Brock’s Community Garden

    Blog Contributor: Shanen D’Souza

    Shelby and Shanen in the Brock community garden.

    Brock’s Community Garden, located opposite Theal House, has received tremendous support and involvement by the Niagara community in recent years. Every year people are encouraged to adopt a plot and grow different plants, whether it is colourful flowers or vegetables for supper. The 12 initial plots were so high in demand that the grounds crew had to make 8 additional plots, and now all 20 plots are assigned.

    The Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) has adopted one plot and will be maintaining it over the summer months. I, along with the other summer interns as well as the staff at the centre, will be growing various plants this summer. Being an international student who grew up in a desert, I never had the opportunity to plant and watch flowers grow and bloom, so this is a very exciting opportunity for me.

    We will be planting cardinal flowers, a native red flower of the Niagara region. The Centre is working to promote sustainability on campus and aims to be an environmentally-friendly community member. Planting a native species promotes the unique flora of Niagara, and the red colour signifies the signature Brock red colour. We will also be planting some red vegetables like tomatoes and red peppers, and hopefully even some cucumbers.

    I am excited to watch these plants grow and bear fruit over the next couple of months. I have heard that deer and bunnies do feast upon fruits of the Brock Garden, but hopefully we will get to enjoy some too!

    Brock Community Gardens

    Categories: Blog, Innovative Partnership, Student Contributor