Articles by author: Erin Daly

  • EESI Partnership Roundtable Event

    Blog Contributor: Allison Clark

    Greenspaces, such as those found within Niagara Parks, have great ecological and social importance. For example, connecting with nature can provide benefits to physical and mental health. ThCovid-19 pandemic has increased the need for people to get outside and connect with nature. As a result, human activity in greenspaces has increased substantially, which has in turcreated challenges for parks management. To ensure ecological integrity is being upheld while also protecting visitor safety, new trail management strategies should be considered. 

    To discuss how Niagara Parks can navigate the increased use of greenspaces, a roundtable event was held on October 20th, 2020. This event brought together individuals from the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) and Brock University. This event was made possible by the Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Initiative (EESI) – a partnership between NPC and Brock. During this event, Brock University’s master’s students, Samantha Witkowski and John Foster, presented their research pertaining to greenspaces within Niagara Parks. Implications of these research findings were discussed with regards to the management of greenspaces. 

    Samantha’s presentation was titled: Examining Stakeholder Perceptions in Monitoring and Evaluation of Environmental Management. Samantha presented two different studies. The first study examined inter-group differences in the perceptions of key performance indicators (KPIs) for viewpoints. Results showed that stakeholders, tourists, local residents, and environmental managers perceived KPIs differently in Niagara Parks. For example, stakeholders perceived view quality and vegetation as the most important KPIs, whereas environmental managers perceived viewpoint KPIs more critically. The second study explored the influence of engaging in a collaborative, or participatory monitoring and evaluation process on stakeholder perceptions of KPIs for trails. For this study, Samantha had stakeholders rank KPIs from what they perceived as most important to least important in terms of trail management. Stakeholders were then required to take a KPI workshop and re-rank KPIs. Results from this study showed that stakeholders perceptions of important KPIs for trail management differed significantly following the KPI workshop. Furthermore, it was noted that discussion, communication, and learning opportunities contributed to perception change. A main takeaway from Samantha’s research was that the NPC should move away from strictly expert-led, ecologically focused trail management approachesand move towards the inclusion of stakeholder perceptions in environmental management, monitoring and evaluation. 

    John’s presentation was titled: Niagara Glen Trails Assessment, Summer 2020. John’s research highlighted some challenges associated with increased human traffic in the Niagara Glen, as well as some short-term and long-term solutions to address increased traffic along the trail. John outlined challenges associated with social trails (networks of unauthorized trails), and visitor safety and communication. To protect ecological and human health at the Niagara Glen, John proposed that the NPC implements visitor education sessions, increases signage, and creates effective trail maps. 

    Overall, this roundtable event worked to successfully discuss how the NPC should navigate increased usage of greenspaces. The research findings presented by Samantha and John were received very well by members of the EESI, and the NPC were very receptive to suggestions for improved environmental and trail management.  

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

  • NPC Speaker Series Wrap Up

    Blog Contributors: Allison Clark & Savannah Stuart

    NPC Webinar Screenshot

    Dr. Adam Shoalts was the last guest in the NPC Stewardship Speaker Series, and what an adventurous note to end on! Adam is well known for his novels and storytelling, detailing his incredible solo adventures through the Northern Canadian Wilderness. He brings with him a rare understanding and view of the vast landscape of the Arcticone of the largest untouched wilderness areas left in the entire world. With a PhD in history from McMaster University and extensive experience orienteering and navigating wilderness settings, Adam has a keen sense of natural history and geography. Through his humorous and compelling talk, Adam translated knowledge and experiences to the viewers in a tangible way. 

    Adam’s most recent exploration was a solo adventure through the Canadian Artic, from East to West. He began this trip by foot in the spring, as rivers were still ice covered. His canoe was shipped to the Mackenzie River Delta and by then, the ice had melted and he was able to continue his journey by paddling and portaging. Near the end, he was racing to arrive at his destination before the Arctic winter took hold of the land again. Many questions were brought forth from viewers at home, such as food inquiries, how he was able to spend so much time in solitude, preparation, and lots of gear questions. Specific details of the trip are found in his novel, “Beyond the Trees”, which can be purchased on the Niagara Parks website. Judging by the captivity and engagement of the crowd, we can only assume that the novel will keep you on the edge of your seat!  

    With this last presentation, we are saddened to wrap up our speaker series. It has been a joy to come together (virtually) and learn about different aspects of the environment, stewardship, and sustainability. Our diverse selection of speakers brought an array of teachings to us and visited topics such as: Traditional ecological knowledge, adaptive capacity of communities, the current state of fresh water in Ontario, and the importance of wild spaces and connecting with nature. We feel that this series captured the transdisciplinary nature of environmental stewardship and sustainability and are hopeful that our audience took away inspiration and new ideas. Thank you to all who were able to join us! 

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

  • Dr. Jessica Blythe’s presentation and an introduction to our next speaker, Elizabeth Hendriks

    Blog Contributor: Allison Clark 

    Niagara Parks and Brock University were delighted to have Dr. Jessica Blythe lead the second session of October’s Speaker Series. Dr. Blythe is an Assistant Professor at Brock University and her research is centered around transformations in sustainability, equitable ocean governance, and climate change adaptation. Dr. Blythe’s talk encouraged the audience to think critically about resilience and climate change at a local and global scale. Dr. Blythe explained that transformations towards a more sustainable future will require focus on both environmental systems and social systems. For example, the costs of environmental change are distributed unevenly across geographic location, race, income, class, and age. Therefore, resilience to climate change will require social and environmental action. 

    Dr. Blythe explained how transformation towards a more sustainable and equitable future occurs in three phases: diagnose, imagine, and action. The diagnose phase includes identifying the root causes of climate change, for example, increased greenhouse gas emissions. The imagine phase includes imagining a more just, fair, inclusive world, where people can work together towards an environmentally sustainable future. The action phase includes the actions needed to address climate change from a sustainable lens. Action will require people from every sector and every part of society and will involve both bottom up and top down interventions. The key take-away from Dr. Blythe’s talk was that a transformation – towards a more sustainable and equitable future – is already underway. Dr. Blythe concluded by stating that we each have a role to play in creating a more sustainable future and that while doing so, we must engage with compassion, care, and collaboration. 

    The next session in this speaker series will be led by Elizabeth Hendriks, and is titled: Connecting the Land, Water and Climate Impact to the Region. Ms. Hendriks is the Vice President of WWF Canada’s freshwater program, where she works in water policy. In 2017, Ms. Hendriks led the release of the Watershed Reports, which is a program assessing freshwater ecosystem health. Additionally, Ms. Hendrik’s leads Canada’s Freshwater team, working to address declines in freshwater ecosystems through innovative remediation techniques. In Ms. Hendrik’s talk, she will discuss impacts and threats to Canada’s freshwater resources. This talk will highlight some of the ways we, as citizens of Canada and the Niagara region, can help address and fight biodiversity loss and climate change across Canada, and in the Great Lakes. We hope you can join us on October 21st 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, Collaborations, Environmental Stewardship Initiative, Innovative Partnership, SSAS Student Contributor

  • Congratulations to our Fall 2020 Graduates!

    The ESRC is proud to announce that three students have officially completed the SSAS program and are graduating on October 16th, 2020! Emma Baker, Meredith Caspell, and Seyi Obasi made important contributions to the field of sustainability science through their research projects while also engaging in other scholarly activities during their time in the SSAS program. We are very proud of them; it’s been an honour to be a part of their academic journey.

    Emma Baker joined the SSAS program in 2018 after receiving an Honours BA in Environmental Governance and Geography from the University of Guelph. Her research project, entitled “Resilience in the City: An Analysis of Urban Water Resilience in Strategic Documents for Toronto, Canada” was supervised by Dr. Julia Baird. In addition to this research work, Emma also completed a co-op position as a Camp Director at the Royal Botanical Gardens Discovery Camp in Hamilton. In this position, Emma helped to emphasize experiential, outdoor learning and write programs to focus on various elements of environmental education. Emma was also recently featured on CHCH News for her work at Royal Botanical Gardens!

    Meredith Caspell joined the SSAS program in 2018 from Pincher Creek, Alberta. Meredith’s thesis project, titled “Visualizing climatic and non-climatic drivers of coastline change in the Town of Lincoln, Ontario, Canada” was supervised by Dr. Liette Vasseur, and successfully defended by Meredith on June 9th, 2020. Meredith has presented her research at numerous conferences throughout her time in the program, including the CatIQ Connect 2020 conference, for which she was one of only three Canadian graduate students chosen to present. Meredith was recently named recipient of the Esri Canada GIS Scholarship for an interactive ArcGIS StoryMap she created as part of her thesis research. She has also been named recipient of the 2020 Fall Distinguished Graduate Student Award.

    Seyi Obasi travelled all the way from Lagos, Nigeria, to join the SSAS program in 2018. Along with fellow graduate Emma Baker, she joined Dr. Julia Baird’s Water Resilience Lab and began her thesis research. She successfully defended her thesis, titled “Determining Individual Endorsement Levels for Water Resilience Principles – A Case Study of the Town of Lincoln, Ontario” on May 26th, 2020. In addition to her work in the SSAS program as a student and a research assistant, Seyi was also very active with Brock International and the Brock University Graduate Student Association (GSA). She was also a recipient of the International Student Ambassador scholarship for the 2019-20 academic year.

    In addition to these three SSAS graduates, we would also like to acknowledge two undergraduate students, Ekamjot Dhillon and Jessica Marlow, who will be graduating with the Minor in Environmental Sustainability. All five of our graduates have worked exceedingly hard to reach this important academic milestone, and we hope you’ll join us in expressing our heartfelt congratulations!

    Categories: Blog, Event, SSAS Program

  • NPC Stewardship Series: Teachings from Brian Kon, and an Introduction to Dr. Jessica Blythe

    Blog Contributor: Savannah Stuart

    Jessica Blythe

    The Environmental Sustainability Research Centre was thrilled to have our fall speaker series commence with Brian Kon, the chair of the Niagara Region Métis Council, renowned artist, and storyteller, among many other things. Brian offered the audience a change to engage with a different perspective of understanding and knowing the earth. He shared teachings and stories from his culture and explained how the translation of many words within the Métis language beautifully illustrate a deep connection with the earth. For example, “dancing” could be translated to “the Northern Lights”. 

    Brian also reminded us of the recent history of residential schools within Canada, the last one closing in 1996. He shared some of his journey in reconnecting with his culture- one that was taken away from many. Brian highlighted that it is important to educate on this history, as we can learn from the past to ensure a better future. Resources to further educate yourself on the discussed history include “Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Issues in Canada” by Chelsea Vowel and the “Indigenous Canada”- a free course available through the University of Alberta.  

    The evening ended with a call to action right in our very own backyards and neighbourhoods. Brian introduced us to different plants that are commonly found in our region and invited us to research further into the uses and characteristics of these plants. Having an awareness and understanding of the different organisms around us can have an impact on the way we relate to place and further, care for it.  

    The next speaker in the series is Dr. Jessica Blythe, a professor and researcher here at Brock University in the ESRC. Her background spans through disciplines as she connects social and ecological issues within her work. She is interested in resilience within communities and how resilience may relate to adaptation and transformation. Pulling from the grassroots film “Resilience: transforming our community”, Dr. Blythe will discuss resilience and climate change here in the Niagara Region.  Click here to register for the event!  

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

  • Introduction to the NPC Stewardship Speaker Series

    Blog Contributor: Allison Clark

      Brock University and the Niagara Parks Commission are pleased to announce the upcoming Environmental Speaker Series, happening this October. This series will be entirely free and will take place online, every Wednesday at 7pm. Throughout this series, four speakers will discuss topics such as: traditional ecological knowledge, sustainability, climate change, and anthropogenic impacts on the natural environment. To register, please click here. You will be taken to the Niagara Parks Speaker Series website, where you can enter your name and email to receive your weekly links for the live stream sessions. 

    The first speaker of this series will be Brian Kon. Mr. Kon is a leader within the Indigenous Community, acting as the Chair of the Niagara Region Métis Council and sitting on the Niagara Indigenous Community Advisory Board, focused on reducing homelessness of Indigenous people. Mr. Kon is an ambassador for the St. Catharines annual Celebration of Nations and is the owner of a diversity management consulting company (Sterling Frazer Associates), dedicated to helping organizations better understand disabled and minority populations. Currently, Mr. Kon is a member of the organizing committee for the Landscape of Nations, dedicated to re-writing the history of the War of 1812 through an Indigenous lens to be incorporated in Canadian school curriculums. Furthermore, Mr. Kon volunteers his time in local schools, helping to educate students and staff on Métis culture and heritage. Mr. Kon is also a visual artist, internationally recognized for his Dot Art, which is a modern version of traditional  artwork created by Métis people. 

    On Wednesday, October 7th, Mr. Kon will lead his talk titled: Mother Earth – We Need Her, She Doesn’t Need Us. Here, Mr. Kon will explain how, for thousands of years, the Indigenous people of Turtle Island followed the notion of respecting and caring for Mother Earth. As modern day people grow aware of environmental and climatic changes, many are looking back on traditional knowledge and ways of life. We hope you can join Mr. Kon as he discusses this topic next week. 

    To learn more about the partnership with the Niagara Parks Commission, please click here 

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

  • Meet the Post-Docs: Janani Sivarajah

    Janani Sivarajah

    Dr. Janani Sivarajah joined the ESRC in July as a post-doctoral fellow with the Prudhommes Project working with Dr. Ryan Plummer. Janani’s transdisciplinary research explores the ecosystem services of urban trees and public green spaces, and finds greening solutions to improve the socio-ecological resilience of cities.

    What are your research areas of focus, and what was your journey like in getting to that area of focus?

    My research focus is based on urban ecology and finding greening solutions to improve the socio-ecological resilience of cities. I am particularly interested in building multifunctional landscapes and proposing nature-based solutions to global environmental and urban challenges. My journey here is a long road.  I started in Forestry and completed my Master of Forest Conservation at UofT and then went on to do a Ph.D. in Forestry at UofT.  My Ph. D. dissertation paved my way into transdisciplinary research to understand urban trees’ environmental services for human well-being.  While completing my Ph.D., I worked in non-profits and urban forest consulting, and these experiences further shaped my research focus. 

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

    As a sustainability scientist, I believe we have a unique ability to use a transdisciplinary lens to see the future and find solutions to evolving and challenging problems.  We also have a responsibility to communicate science with the broader community and work together with other stakeholders to solve problems.

    What excites you the most about working with the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre?

    The most exciting aspect is the people at ESRC.  Even during unprecedented times, I felt welcomed and greeted warmly by all faculty and staff. I am excited to build friendships, foster a supportive environment, and collaborate on exciting projects. They are all superstars in their fields, and I’m eager to learn from their expertise and share my experiences.

    Categories: Applied Research, Blog, Innovative Partnership

  • Meet the Post-Docs: Jennifer Holzer

    Dr. Jennifer Holzer joined the ESRC in February 2020 as a post-doctoral fellow in the Water Resilience Lab working with Dr. Julia Baird and has recently been appointed as an Adjunct Professor in the ESRC. Jen’s doctoral work evaluated the research-implementation gap in social-ecological research in Europe using case studies in Spain, Scotland, and Romania, and provided recommendations that fed directly into enhancing European research infrastructures.

    What are your research areas of focus, and what was your journey like in getting to that area of focus?

     In my current position, I am developing the following areas of focus:

    • Developing and applying a decision support framework for ecosystem services governance at the landscape level
    • Designing effective participatory processes for environmental governance
    • Using social network analysis to understand knowledge flows, decision-making processes, and power dynamics of environmental governance
    • Using agent-based modeling to uncover links between attitudes about resilience and pro-environmental behaviors
    • Developing a tool to assess ‘sense of place’ globally

    My previous (and ongoing) research focused on:

    • Evaluation of transdisciplinary environmental research
    • Bridging the gap between environmental / sustainability science and policy
    • Integration of social sciences with natural science research

    It’s been a winding road from being a teenage environmental activist to where I am today. After some years as an environmental project manager, I returned to academia for a PhD that I hoped would bring me closer to conservation. As a project manager, I had become focused on energy efficiency, which is a crucial aspect of climate work, but I wanted my focus to be closer to the natural world.

    My PhD project was linked to a four-year EU grant to audit social-ecological research platforms in Europe. So the project was an interesting confluence of social ecology, conservation, sustainability, and science and technology studies. I had the opportunity to work with scientists from the European Long-Term Ecological Research network, and to be hosted by some of these colleagues for field research in Europe. It was fascinating, and I was hooked! I also learned a lot about what it means to manage an international environmental research network, so when the opportunity came up to work within a similar research network in Canada (ResNet) – in its startup phase — I jumped at the opportunity.

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

     Everything is connected. A person’s mood or outlook can influence whether they decide to spend time in nature, and whether they spend time in nature can influence whether they want to help protect nature. Also, I’m a book person and I love learning for the sake of learning, but it’s important to me that what we learn be applied in the real world. The gap between science and practice is a deep concern, especially in these strange times where there is a strong anti-science movement.

    I also worry about whether taking care of the environment is a luxury. We are human first, paying bills, taking care of our families, and safety and security will always come first. Sometimes I lament that as long as we don’t feel completely reliant upon and intertwined with the natural world, we’ll never be able to prioritize taking care of it.

    Perhaps most importantly, I think optimism is a prerequisite to being a sustainability scientist. The bad news about environmental degradation and predictions about the future can be overwhelming. So, there is a moral aspect to a sustainability view of the world. I do believe that we, as humans, are obligated to care for our planet, both as a collective and as individuals. What this looks like is going to be different for everyone, depending on where and how you live and the resources available to you.

    What excites you the most about working with the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre at Brock University?

    I am excited about working in a context where ideas like sustainability and resilience are the starting point! And I’m excited about working with such great people — both in terms of their scholarship and being enjoyable to work with. Everyone seems to have their own quirky sense of humor!

    This is my first time working at a dedicated centre for environmental sustainability, so there are built-in applications to our research. The ESRC has made great efforts to build partnerships with local governments and environmental organizations. I’m looking forward to having results from my first studies and figuring out if we can take it a step further and find a way to apply our findings in the real world. Finally, it’s fascinating for me to work in Canada. From an environmental perspective, the Middle East (where I did my PhD) is a place of scarcity when it comes to water and other key natural resources, and Canada is so rich in natural resources that it’s bound to imbue me with quite a different perspective.

     

     

    Categories: Applied Research, Blog, Faculty Contributor

  • Understanding Public Perceptions of Niagara Parks

    Blog Contributors: Bani Mani & Dr. Jessica Blythe 

    (L-R) Samantha Witkowski, Seyi Obasi, Angela Mallette, and Dr. Jessica Blythe get ready to collect research in Summer 2019

    Public perceptions of Niagara Parks – the project is being led by Dr. Jessica Blythe. Her research aims to understand how residents and visitors value Niagara Parks. This project emerged from the ongoing Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Initiative (ESSI), which is a five-year partnership between ESRC and Niagara Parks that aims to use expertise and resources from both organizations to increase environmental stewardship. During a team meeting, both NPC and ESRC teams realized that there was an opportunity to explore how people value Niagara Parks. The research part of the project is being conducted by Dr. Jessica Blythe, Dr. Julia Baird, Dr. Ryan Plummer and Dr. Gillian Dale.  The communication side of the project is being led by Amanda Smits and Erin Daly. Here is a brief interview with her on the progress of the project: 

    Please tell us more about the project  

    The project aims to provide park managers and decision-makers with data on the ways that residents, domestic and international tourists value and connect with Niagara Parks ecosystems.   

    Could you highlight the importance of the project? 

    Effective management of iconic ecosystems – like Niagara Parks – requires more than a comprehensive understanding of ecological components of the system.  Understanding the human dimensions is also essential for long-term planning, adaptive management and successful environmental stewardship.  Through this project, we hope to highlight some of the human dimensions of Niagara Parks. 

    Could you briefly outline your approach?  

    In the late summer and early fall 2019, more than 220 people were surveyed by myself, Angela Malette, Seyi Obasi, and Samantha Witkowski. Using tablets, we survey people in Niagara Parks.  We talked to a range of visitors from residents to international tourists. 

    What are the implications of research outcomes for the NPC? 

    We hope that this research will support park managers and decision-makers in incorporating the human dimensions of Niagara Parks into their planning and management. We also aim to contribute to ongoing research about the importance of people’s connections to nature for leveraging sustainability outcomes. 

    Click to view an infographic of this research

    Categories: Applied Research, Blog, Environmental Stewardship Initiative, Innovative Partnership, Student Contributor

  • Congratulations to our Spring 2020 Graduates!

    The ESRC is very proud to announce that three students have officially completed the SSAS program and are graduating on June 19th, 2020. Jocelyn Baker, Qurat Shahzad, and Connor Thompson have all worked exceedingly hard throughout their time in the program, and we are so proud to have been a part of each of their academic journeys.

    Jocelyn Baker joined the SSAS program in 2018 and brought with her a number of previous degrees and certifications, including a BA in Geography and Fine Art (Guelph University), a certificate in Terrain and Water Resources (Sir Sanford Fleming College), and a certified Project Management Professional. Jocelyn’s research was supervised by Dr. Liette Vasseur and investigated Management in Canadian Ramsar sites and sustainability through adaptive governance. Jocelyn’s interest in Canadian Ramsar sites was also reflected in her co-op placement, where she worked as a Project Manager, Niagara River Ramsar Designation for the Niagara Restoration Council.

    Qurat Shahzad travelled to St. Catharines all the way from Dubai, UAE to join the SSAS program in 2017. Her research was supervised by Dr. Marcel Oestreich and built on the knowledge she had through her Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science from the American University of Sharjah, UAE. Qurat’s final research investigated the dynamics between the current economic system and sustainability goals.

    Connor Thompson joined the SSAS program in 2018 with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Political Science (Western University). His research interests aligned with those of Dr. Todd Green, who supervised Connor’s MRP research about the attitude/behaviour gap in low-impact housing development. In addition to his work on his MRP research project and as a research assistant on the ESRC’s Charter with Facilities Management partnership, Connor spent his co-op placement working as an Educator with the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.

    In addition to these three SSAS graduates, we would also like to congratulate our 10 undergraduate students who have completed the Minor in Sustainability. All 13 of our graduates have worked extremely hard to reach this important academic milestone, and we hope you’ll join us in expressing our heartfelt congratulations!

    Categories: Blog, Minor in Sustainability, SSAS Program