Articles by author: Erin Daly

  • My first year in the Sustainability Science and Society program

    Blog Contributor: Alexandra Cotrufo

    Master of Sustainability student Alexandra Cotrufo

    It’s hard to believe that only a few months ago, I logged onto (weird times!) my first class of the Sustainability Science and Society (SSAS) program. As cheesy as it is to say, time really does fly by when you’re having fun! Since that very first class, I have met some amazing individuals, made life-long memories, learned so much about sustainability, gained valuable work experience, and successfully completed my Major Research Paper (MRP) proposal. Whether you’re a student interested in applying to the SSAS program, a student who has been accepted into the program, a student who is currently in the program, or someone who is just interested in learning about it, I hope you enjoy reading this blog about my first year in the SSAS program.

    Let’s start with the courses. Since I am in the MRP and Co-op stream, I took a total of seven courses this school year which focused on a wide range of topics, from Geographic Information System (GIS) Mapping to Water Governance. These courses provided me with a deeper understanding of the many dimensions of sustainability and truly emphasized the program’s goal of being transdisciplinary. One of my favourite courses was SSAS 5P01: Foundations of Sustainability Science and Society. This course introduced me to the main concepts of sustainability science and highlighted ways that society can work to meet current and future needs for both people and the planet. I also really enjoyed SSAS 5P03: Problem Solving in the Environment, which introduced me to project management and provided me with the opportunity to work on an environmental sustainability communication strategy and interpretive plan for The Niagara Parks Commission.

    Alongside my course work, I was also a Research Assistant for The Brock University Project Charter. In this role, I worked on advancing sustainability and awareness on campus through creating social media content, writing blog posts, hosting events, and working on numerous projects. One of these projects included working on a submission for The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, which ranks universities around the world on their progress toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. For the 2021/2022 submission period, Brock University ranked in the top 300 – a very exciting accomplishment! I was also fortunate enough to receive a WWF-Canada Go Wild School Grant with my colleague Madison Lepp, which we used to create The Brock University Seed Library. Working on this project has been one of the highlights of my year and I am so glad we are able to provide the community with free access to seeds and pollinator blends! I will be continuing to work with the charter during my co-op placement this summer.

    Another big part of my year was of course working on my MRP. My research is on the risk of greenwashing in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) communications. It aims to explore the extent to which marketers hesitate to communicate about CSR due to the increasing skepticism of greenwashing among consumers and stakeholders. I successfully defended my proposal in March, and I am looking forward to collecting and analyzing the data I receive from my questionnaire during the upcoming fall term. I am grateful to be supported in my research by my supervisor, Dr. Todd Green, and my second reader, Dr. Kai-Yu Wang.

    Finally, one of my favourite parts of this year is the relationships I have built with my classmates and the SSAS faculty. I have had the honour to work with some of the nicest folks who are all extremely passionate about advancing sustainability and contributing to a healthier environment. I have learned so much from each and every person I have met through this program, and I know the connections I have made will stay with me through the rest of my life. Although COVID-19 has made it difficult to build-in person relationships, I have had a lot of fun meeting with my peers for virtual coffee chats, game nights, and even a field trip to The Niagara Parks Commission!

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

  • Launching Our Newest Open-Access Resource Through eCampus Ontario Funding

    Blog Contributor: Bridget McGlynn

    The ESRC is continuing to expand our educational offerings at Brock University through the creation of an open access undergraduate level course entitled “Building Sustainable Communities: The Impact of Engagement”. This course was built in collaboration with Dr. Derek Armitage and Ella-Kari Muhl from University of Waterloo’s School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability. The course also greatly benefited from the input of Indigenous educator Jodi Johnston.

    Much of the research conducted at the ESRC is operationalized through community partnerships as a mechanism to promote transdisciplinary research and community engagement. Effectively engaging people is essential to navigating contemporary challenges. This course, Building Sustainable Communities: The Impact of Engagement, prepares learners, conceptually and practically, to effectively engage actors as a key aspect of building sustainable communities. The course content encourages a reflective, dynamic, and ethical approach to building sustainable communities at local and global levels. Students will garner a greater understanding of what may characterize a sustainable community; the importance, benefits, and challenges of community engagement; and essential ethical considerations embedded within community engagement.

    The online social sciences course explores theories and practices to engage people for three common and critical purposes: information gathering and sharing; collaboration; and, monitoring and evaluation. The course consists of five modules, each self-contained in Pressbooks:

    Module 1: Introduction to Community Engagement

    Module 2: Information Gathering and Sharing

    Module 3: Collaboration

    Module 4:  Monitoring and Evaluation

    Module 5: Creating Connections for the Future

    Regardless of their major, the content included within each of these modules will provide learners with novel course content, countless ancillary resources, and critical thinking exercises to develop the knowledge and skills to assist in creating a more sustainable future.

     

    Categories: Blog, Collaborations

  • Niagara Parks Field Trip Marks Return of In-Person Experiential Education for SSAS Students

    For the first time in two years, students enrolled in the Master of Sustainability program at Brock University were able to get together for an in-person field trip across the Niagara Region to engage with our community partners at the Niagara Parks Commission.

    The day began at the newly restored and renovated Niagara Power Station, where SSAS students Tyler Thomson and Lauren Patterson presented their final project in their Problem Solving in the Environment course (SSAS 5P03) on behalf of their classmates. As SSAS 5P03 instructor Dr. Ryan Plummer explained, the purpose of the assignment was to “collaboratively understand and resolve an environmental sustainability dilemma or opportunity. Niagara Parks was the client for the course this year and expressed an interest in proposals regarding communications and interpretation”. Dr. Plummer added that “the Niagara Parks Power Station provided an impressive backdrop for the students to present the final deliverables of their project to Ellen Savoia (Senior Manager, Planning and Environmental Sustainability), Corey Burant (Project Manager, Forest Health Planning, Environment and Culture) and colleagues from the ESRC”.

    After the presentation, the students were taken on a tour of the Niagara Power Station building that included a history of the power station from its initial construction in 1905 to today. The tour included multiple displays that covered various aspects of the station’s history, including a look at how the building was constructed with horse and carriage power. We were incredibly grateful to our tour guides for providing such a thorough history of such a fascinating aspect of the Niagara Region!

    From the Power Station, we stopped for a lunch break at Table Rock Market and headed out for the second half of our day, which was a tour of various Niagara Parks stewardship sites. Our first site was the Upper Whirlpool Woods, where Corey Burant spoke about trail management in the Niagara Parks Commission, and how the NPC manages at-risk species and old growth forests. The students then had the opportunity to meet and hear from SSAS alumnus Samantha Witkowski, whose thesis research was based in several Niagara Parks stewardship sites, including the Niagara Glen, and concerned evaluation of environmental management. Hearing from a former SSAS student whose thesis research has been published in several journals since completing the program was a valuable experience for our current students, many of whom will be starting to collect data for their own research projects.

    Following Samantha’s presentation, the students headed to the final two stops on their field trip. The first of these was the Usshers Creek Coastal Wetland Project site, where Corey Burant spoke to the students about the project and explained how the Niagara Parks Commission manages coastal wetlands in their stewardship sites. The final stop of the day was the Chippawa Battlefield, where Corey spoke to the students about the NPC’s Grassland Habitat Restoration Project. The students learned about the history of the site and how the NPC is using controlled burning to maintain the site and restore natural habitats.

    This experience was incredibly valuable for all students, as it provided them with the opportunity to not only meet many of their fellow classmates in person, but to visit the stewardship sites that so many of them are basing their research around. Lauren Patterson, who is currently completing a research assistantship with the Niagara Parks Commission, said that “visiting prominent Niagara Parks sites and seeing their beauty in person for the first time was a reminder of why we are studying Sustainability; We want to continue to experience areas filled with cultural and natural heritage, and safeguard them for future generations”. SSAS student Shannon Heaney, who travelled from Alberta to participate in the field trip, echoed Lauren’s statements, and added that “seeing the work that Niagara Parks is doing is inspiring for the future of sustainability and the beautiful natural areas in which these actions take place”.

    Check out the photos below of some highlights from our trip!

    Categories: Blog, Environmental Stewardship Initiative, Experiential Education, SSAS Program

  • Study Options for Sustainability Science at Brock

    Blog Contributor: Alexandra Cotrufo

    Study abroad education in Global ideas: Graduated cap on top global model on open textbook in library. Concept of studying international educational,reading book bring success degree in life

    Climate change, depletion of resources, increased gas emissions, and poverty are all issues we are currently faced with. These complex problems require integrated and innovative solutions from multiple perspectives that take into consideration the urgency of the climate crisis.

    Studying environmental sustainability provides students with the skills and resources needed to be more environmentally conscious and helps create sustainable solutions to meet the needs of both society and the planet.

    The field of Environmental Sustainability is transdisciplinary in nature and combines theory from economics, social science, and environmental science to protect the natural environment, sustain ecological health, and improve the quality of life.

    Brock University offers many environmental sustainability study options, from a Minor in Sustainability to a brand-new PhD program in Sustainability Science. Keep reading to find out more about each option and what they have to offer!

    1. Minor in Sustainability 

    The Minor in Sustainability program provides students with the core skills necessary to solve complex problems regarding environmental sustainability. These skills are necessary in today’s modern world as businesses and governments adapt to new legislation and society becomes more aware of the impact we have on the environment.

    Through the courses available in the minor, student will have the opportunity to study sustainability issues from a transdisciplinary perspective and gain practical insight into how Canada and the world is moving forward to address environmental issues.

    1. Micro-certificate in Environmental Sustainability

    The certificate program introduces students to conceptual and applied aspects of environmental sustainability. The micro-certificate is designed for people who either already have a degree or who do not wish to pursue a degree and consists of two undergraduate courses.

    1. Master of Sustainability

     The Master of Sustainability program aims to facilitate society’s transition towards sustainability and provides graduate students with a high-quality education. The program offers enriching research, applied experiences, and engagement in problem-solving through innovative pedagogy.

    Students can tailor the program to their specific career and research interests through enriching classroom learning with practical experience in the form of a Co-op, or partake in an intensive research experience.

    Are you interested in applying for 2022/2023? Applications are currently being accepted until February 4th, 2022!

    1. PhD in Sustainability Science

     Brock has recently announced a new PhD in Sustainability Science program, which will launch in Fall 2022. This aim of the program is to cultivate a sustainable and equitable future and offer a state-of-the-art education. The program integrates rigorous scientific practice with an understanding of the unique relationship between humans and the environment. Upon successful completion of the requirements for the program, students will earn the designation of Doctor of Philosophy.

    Reference:

    https://brocku.ca/esrc/study-sustainability/

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

  • Seen & Heard at the ESRC – Faculty of Social Sciences Annual Research Colloquium

    On December 8th, 2021, three members of the ESRC presented at the Faculty of Social Sciences Annual Research Colloquium. Second-year SSAS student Jillian Booth was one of three students chosen to present their research, and discussed her MRP research about a holistic approach to low impact development. After the student presentations concluded, ESRC Faculty Members Drs. Julia Baird and Jessica Blythe presented their research as the co-recipients of the FOSS Early Career Researcher of the Year award. Dr. Baird’s presentation consisted of a discussion about water resilience in a changing world, and an overview of activities going on in the Water Resilience Lab. Dr. Blythe discussed her research on Fostering Ocean Empathy, as well as her work on the Niagara Adapts partnership.

    We are incredibly proud to have been so well represented at this event and to have such a wide variety of research happening in our centre – learn more about each presentation in the photos below!

    Categories: Awards, Blog

  • That’s a Wrap: The Final Speaker Series of 2021! An Insider Look into the International Joint Commission

    Blog Contributor: Shannon Heaney

    Photo retrieved from Environment Canada

    On November 25, 2021, the final Speaker Series of 2021 was hosted by the Niagara Parks Commission in partnership with Brock University’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre. The final session included a presentation from Brock University undergraduate student Kassie and ended with the keynote presentation by Natalie Green from the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, and Raj Bejankiwar from the Interntional Joint Commission.

    Kassie presented her research titled The UN Sustainable Development Goals: From Local to Global. In collaboration with another Brock undergraduate student, Kassie developed a webpage, which can be found here, that provides information about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and local initiatives that are contributing to achieving the SDGs at Brock University and in the Niagara Region. You can also find individual actions related to each goal that can be incorporated into everyday life to contribute to achieving the SDGs. Kassie left us with a note of inspiration reminding us that the Sustainable Development Goals can be daunting; however, looking at the positive changes in your local community and engaging in individual actions makes the SDGs much more attainable!

    Our keynote speakers presented the Evolution of the International Joint Commission (IJC). Raj Bejankiwar outlined an in-depth history of the evolution of the International Joint Commission beginning with the Boundary Water Treaty that was created in 1909 and led to the formation of the IJC, to the present-day Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The IJC consists of 6 commissioners, 3 from Canada and 3 from the United States, that work in collaboration with advisory groups, task forces, and the public to maintain the quality of the transboundary environment between Canada and the United States and is regarded as a revolutionary environmental collaboration.

    Natalie Green discussed the role that the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) plays in maintaining the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and the complementary Canada and Ontario Great Lakes Water Agreement. Guided by the agreements, Areas of Concern, areas that experience environmental harm or degradation, are identified. At all Areas of Concern locally driven Remedial Action Plans are implemented to restore water and ecosystem health with the goal of removing the area from the Areas of Concern list. Working in collaboration with numerous organizations, the NPCA has restored 1.5km of shoreline on the Niagara Peninsula, with 7.5 acres of coastal wetlands restored!

    The NPCA and IJC encourage public engagement; if you would like to get involved you can follow their social media, visit the volunteer page, or sign up for their respective newsletters! As always, if you missed this talk and want to learn more you can watch the talk on the ESRC YouTube Channel.

    We would like to thank all our presenters that have shared their knowledge, research, and time with us throughout the 2021 Speaker Series! We would also like to thank everyone who attended and engaged in the Speaker Series. Remember, if you missed any of the Speaker Series you can find them here!

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

  • Seen & Heard at the ESRC – 3MT Presentations

    On November 22nd, 2021, second-year students in the SSAS program presented their thesis and MRP research to their peers in SSAS 5P04 (Transdisciplinary Seminar). The students were challenged to present their research in the 3 Minute Thesis format, which only allows for one PowerPoint slide and three minutes to explain the subject of their research.

    Overall, these students all did a great job with their presentations – learn more about each presentation in the photos below!

    Categories: Blog, SSAS Program

  • Niagara Parks and Climate Change Readiness Workshop

    Blog Contributor: Savannah Stuart

    On October 8, 2021, the Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Initiative (EESI) team hosted a workshop for Niagara Parks staff. This workshop marked the final stages of a project that the EESI team has been working on which revolves around awareness and preparation for climate change in Niagara Parks. The focus of the workshop was to review results from the Internal Stakeholder Engagement survey, and to engage in two activities to explore and establish next steps for climate change readiness at Niagara Parks.

    The Internal Stakeholder Survey was designed to allow staff of Niagara Parks to contribute their ideas and concerns around climate readiness as well as complete a risk assessment for the EESI team to incorporate into the Niagara Parks Climate Readiness Plan. During the workshop, the EESI team shared the results of the Internal Stakeholder Survey and reviewed the goals and objectives outlined in the Climate Readiness Plan with the Niagara Parks team.

    The second half of the workshop focused on two activities designed by the EESI team to expand on the goals and objectives within the Climate Readiness Plan, and establish next steps for environmental stewardship and climate preparedness in Niagara Parks.

    The first activity invited Niagara Parks staff to visualize what the implementation of the outlined goals and objectives would look like across Niagara Parks; as well as in their specific business units. This activity produced an abundance of indicators for successful implementation of the agreed upon goals and objectives. The second activity, titled Pre-mortem, invited Niagara Parks staff to envision what a failure of climate readiness would look like. After demonstrating what climate readiness failure would look like, the Niagara Parks team was invited to brainstorm actions and next steps to avoid climate readiness failure. From this discussion, the EESI team has indicated potential next steps and actions for climate readiness within Niagara Parks.

    The workshop between the EESI team and Niagara Parks was extremely successful, and provided numerous outcomes for next steps and future ideas for environmental stewardship and climate readiness within Niagara Parks. The EESI team is excited to continue working in partnership with Niagara Parks to implement the great ideas formed within the workshop.

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

  • Restoration in Canada Parks: A Fight Worth Fighting

    Blog Contributor: Shannon Heaney

    “A fight worth fighting”; just one of the impactful statements from the most recent Environmental Speaker Series hosted by the Niagara Parks Commision. The session, held on October 28, 2021, focused on Ecosystem Restoration and perceptions of ecological health within Canada Parks. The three presenters, Angela Mallett, a Brock University Masters graduate, and Tammy Dobbie and Andrew Laforet, from Parks Canada, provided the audience with an extremely educational and inspiring talk!

    Angela Mallett dove into the relationship between visitors and their perceptions of ecological health in the parks in her thesis research titled Understanding Perceptions of the State of the Environment in Relation to Ecological Measures. Angela’s research provided insights into understanding that green does not always mean good, and is a great stepping-stone for shaping future educational and interpretive programs about ecological health within the parks.

    Tammy Dobbie, a Nature Legacy Park Ecologist at Point Pelee National Park headed off the Parks Canada presentation titled Ecosystem Restoration Challenges: It Looks Pretty Green, so it Must Be Healthy, Right?. Tammy provided inspiring insight into the Species at Risk monitoring program at Point Pelee and other national parks, and the amazing work Parks Staff are implementing to protect these species. More information about the species that are being monitored in Point Pelee can be found here.

    Andrew Laforet, a Resource Conservation Project Coordinator at Point Pelee National Park continued the presentation on Restoration Practices within Parks Canada. Andrew focused on alternative practices including prescribed burning, herbicide treatment, and the removal of invasive species. More information on these practices can be found here and here! Andrew enlightened us on the importance of restoration practices, even if they may appear destructive, such as prescribed burning, and the essential role these practices have in maintaining diverse, native species and the beauty of these ecosystems.

    The Parks Canada team left us with steps to take at home, including educating ourselves about invasive species and ensuring we are planting native species in our own backyards.

    If you missed this session and want to learn more about Ecosystem Restoration and what steps you can take to support the ecosystems around you, you can find the link to the talk here.

    The next speaker series will be November 25, 2021 at 7pm. Mark your calendars to join us for another exciting session about the International Joint Commission. Click here to preregister for the event.

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

  • Trail Management through Collaboration: Reflections and Aspirations

    Blog Contributor: John Foster

    The Trail Assets and Tourism Initiative (TATI) is an innovative partnership between Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC), and the Ontario Trails Council (OTC). The purpose of the partnership is to develop and enhance the parks and trails network operated by the NPC through research and collaboration. To date, the partnership team has developed strategies that support the NPC’s ability to manage park and trail assets to provide safe, enjoyable, and sustainable recreation opportunities for all. Most recently, two members of the TATI team, Garrett Hutson (Project Chair, Brock University) and Corey Burant (Program Manager of Forest Health, Niagara Parks Commission) were invited to discuss their experiences working on the partnership to Communities in Bloom, a Canadian non-profit dedicated to the improvement of civic spaces. I had an opportunity to catch up with both Hutson and Burant to further discuss the partnership and their joint presentation to Communities in Bloom.

    When asked about the significance of presenting the work of the TATI partnership to a larger audience, both Hutson and Burant acknowledged the utility and endless impacts of collaboration between agencies. Burant specifically acknowledged the challenges that are facing many parks and trails operators, including those at Communities in Bloom, as a result of increased visitor pressure from COVID-19, and discussed how important it is to share resources to commonly faced challenges for these agencies. Further, Hutson commented on the power of partnerships such as the TATI, musing that participants in similar partnerships are likely to benefit from the insight he and Burant shared about collaborative work during their presentation.

    Switching gears to focus on the TATI partnership itself, I asked both Hutson and Burant about their experiences working together, and what aspect of the partnership they found to be most valuable. For Hutson, the opportunity to work with other agencies such as the NPC and OTC was fulfilling, as was the ability to witness graduate students gain invaluable networking and professional opportunities outside of the traditional graduate program format. For Burant, the opportunity to collaborate with researchers from Brock is highly valuable for the NPC, stating that the quality and professionalism of the Brock contingent has been most impressive to him.

    When asked about which partnership projects have been most impactful, Hutson expressed his excitement for the recent Trail Re-Alignment project, which focussed on visitor wayfinding and experience in the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve. Due to the work of the partnership team, the NPC was able to receive significant grant funding from the TD Friends of the Environment program, and the TATI-recommended work is currently underway.

    Looking forwards to future partnership achievements, Burant indicated he was most excited about the next project for the TATI team, which is to create a Management Strategy for the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve. This strategy will help guide Niagara Parks in ensuring that the environmentally sensitive attributes of the Niagara Glen are protected for generations to come while also providing high quality recreation opportunities for the people of Niagara and beyond.

    As for the future of the partnership? Hutson says: “We have all the right people at the table to continue to get valuable work completed, which will both add recreation vibrancy to Niagara Parks as well as protect trail environments for future generations.”

    Interested in learning more about the Trail Assets and Tourism Initiative? Visit the ESRC’s website here.

    Categories: Blog, Collaborations, Innovative Partnership, Trail Assets and Tourism Initiative