Blog

  • SSHRC IDG: Brock University Partners with Niagara Parks Commission to Compare Environmental Stewardship Evaluation Methods

    Student Contributor: Seyi Obasi

    It’s no longer news that human actions are seriously affecting the ecological health of our environment. Humans have become such a powerful force on the earth that our choices can make or mar the future health of most, if not all ecosystems on the earth. However, despite being a power broker on the earth, we still depend on it’s environment for our wellbeing. This too, is no longer news. Because of our realization that we need to take care of the earth in order to assure the continued existence of both, the concept of environmental stewardship was born!

    Environmental stewardship includes all the choices and actions people make to care for and protect the environment in order to continue to enjoy it and make it sustainable for future generations. Such choices and actions include everything from individual actions like recycling, to community and organizational efforts to conserve and restore the environment. The number of environmental stewardship initiatives has been growing steadily, with several organizations, communities, groups and residents committing and engaging in stewardship initiatives and practices ranging from habitat restoration to reforestation projects and even to river restoration initiatives. The list is endless.

    But the important question is, are those stewardship initiatives working? Are they meeting the objectives for which they were implemented? Are there any changes that need to be made? These questions are hard to answer because although the number of environmental stewardship initiatives is growing, there are a range of reasons why it may not be possible to carefully and effectively evaluate the outcomes of these efforts after they have been implemented, especially using traditional expertise evaluation methods (e.g., access to financial or human resources).

    Evaluation is key in environmental stewardship, as it is the only way to know if the initiatives are working or not! In a bid to explore solutions to this issue, faculty from Brock ESRC in partnership with Niagara Parks received a SSHRC IDG award to investigate how alternative methods for evaluation such as using citizen scientists, stakeholders and remote sensing, compare with expert evaluation.

    The aim of the project is to compare field data evaluations about both the ecological health and the presence of two at-risk bird species (Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark) at the Chippawa bird habitat grassland site and the Lilac garden site, two recent Niagara Parks stewardship initiatives in the Niagara Region. The evaluations from the expert, citizen scientists, stakeholders and remote sensing will be compared based on accuracy, cost, expertise requirement, and ease of data collection. It promises to be an exciting project.

    The data collection phase of the project was divided into four parts: First, the expert did his field evaluations, followed closely by the citizen scientists and then stakeholders consecutively. The final remote sensing component will be undertaken in the next few weeks. The project characterized stakeholders as people who use the sites or may have a vested interest in the sites (i.e., bird watchers, nature club members, etc.) but were not given further training specific to the project, whereas citizen scientists received resources and training specific to the sites/initiatives we are investigating.

    Data collection for the citizen scientists and stakeholder volunteers happened on two different days in the first week of July, just after the expert data collection. The project’s call for data collection volunteers received remarkable responses from residents of Niagara and members of different nature groups in Niagara. They showed such amazing enthusiasm to be involved, which was surprising given that they were expected to gather at the Niagara Parks office at 6am for data collection – yes, 6 AM! In addition to the volunteers for being ready bright and early, the researchers would also like to extend their gratitude to the Niagara Parks and their staff for their amazing support in recruiting volunteers, site preparation and support in other wonderful ways.

    On the collection day, both the citizen scientists and stakeholder volunteers were introduced to the project, expectations were clarified and questions answered at the Niagara Parks office. The citizen scientists received training and detailed manuals that had pictures of the vegetation and birds they were likely to find on both sites. And as the project team silently hoped that it would not rain, volunteers were excitedly driven to the sites to start data collection.

    The entire data collection process on both days was fun, engaging, exciting, educative and successful. At the Chippawa site, volunteers assessed the presence of the two at-risk bird species (as well as other bird species), while both vegetation and bird species were assessed at the Lilac garden site. Volunteers superbly engaged as they watched and listened to identify birds, and used sight and touch to identify the vegetation. They were deliberate and focused; they came with instruments and tools ranging from binoculars, powerful cameras and bird apps. There were even a few volunteers referring to hard copy vegetation and bird books! Added to that, friendships were struck and phone numbers were exchanged. It was so exciting and refreshing to see!

    And then there were ticks… or not. While the team came tick-prepared with protective suits and bug spray, there was hardly any tick drama, leading the whole team to breathe massive sighs of relief! 

    In addition to the satisfaction of contributing to an amazing project, one lucky volunteer from each group went home with a $500 gift card to Bass Pro Shops in a raffle draw done on the bus ride back from the research sites – another highlight of the day! All in all, it was a very successful, fun-filled two days of data collection. Now comes the fun part – analyzing the data!

    As environmental stewardship initiatives become increasingly important in Canada and worldwide, it is also important to explore a variety of methods to evaluate the success of these initiatives. The findings from this project will help decision-makers and stewards make informed decisions about appropriate, economical, and accurate methods for doing research.

     

    Categories: Blog, Environmental Stewardship Initiative, Innovative Partnership

  • Dr. Jessica Blythe, 2019 SSHRC IDG Recipient

    Student Contributor: Noah Nickel

    Dr. Jessica Blythe is an Associate Professor at Brock University with the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre. Below is the transcript of an interview that I had with her in regards to the recent announcement of the 2019 SSHRC IDG recipients, which included Dr. Blythe.

    Q1: It was just announced that you were the recipient of one of the 2019-2020 Insight Development Grants. Can you tell us a bit about the significance of research grants, in regards to the facilitation of social science research?

    I’m thrilled to have received this grant.  Funding plays an essential role in enabling academics to undertake high-quality research.  Research grants support a range of research activities, such as field costs, support for graduate students, and dissemination of research findings. 

    Q2: More specifically, what does the IDG mean for your research project in particular?

    This IDG grant means we can take an idea that we’re really passionate about and bring it to life.  Without the grant, this project would not be possible.

    Q3: According to the release from the Government of Canada about your new SSHRC IDG, the title of your research project is “The Role of Virtual Scenarios in Realizing Ocean Transformations” can you elaborate on this, what exactly is the scope of the project?

    Our oceans are running out of time.  Climate change and overfishing, among other stressors, are pushing the oceans past their breaking point.  So, we need solutions (or transformations of current systems) and we need them quickly.  Realizing the kind of transformations that are required to secure safe and fair futures requires radically new ways of thinking.  Based on this idea, we will use our grant to bring future ocean scenarios to life.  Then, we’re going to measure whether experiencing the virtual futures changes the way people think about protecting our oceans. 

    Q4: What further or “real world” applications or implications could your research potentially have? Will it leave questions unanswered? Future avenues for research/questioning? Etc.

    This project represents a first step in exploring how virtual reality might change the way people think about the future of our oceans.  The next step is to explore whether changing the way we think changes the decisions we make about ocean governance.  If we can show that VR changes the way people think – and make decisions – the research applications are endless. 

    Categories: Applied Research, Blog

  • Summer 2019 SSAS Student Spotlights

    Blog Contributor: Noah Nickel

     

    Jocelyn Baker, Master of Sustainability Candidate.

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

     

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

     

     

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

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

     

     

    Master of Sustainability Candidate, Connor Thompson, pictured left.

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

     

     

    Master of Sustainability Candidate, Emma Baker.

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

     

     

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

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

     

     

     

     

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

  • Launch of the Resilience Collaborative

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

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

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

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

    Resilience Collaborative - June 2019 Resilience Collaborative - June 2019

    Categories: Blog, Collaborations

  • Congratulations to the Master of Sustainability Class of 2019

    SSAS Class of 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

    Categories: Blog, SSAS Program

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

    Blog Contributor: Connor Thompson

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

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

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

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

    Blog Contributor: Connor Thompson

    Marilyne I Walker Building

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

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

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

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

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

  • Earth Day: a time for reflective action

    Blog Contributor & Artist: Meredith DeCock

    Earth in Watercolour

    Earth Day has been observed by millions and now billions of people worldwide since the 1970’s. Back then, people were starting to see and feel the impacts of the industrial revolution and they wanted to do something about it. It’s because of courageous activists that took a stand and fought for the health of their people and their planet that brought about change.

    The fight is far from over. Our western idea of economic growth and our consumer culture continues to be a driver of environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity, effecting the health of our planet. What people often forget is that we are an intricate part of this planet, and when the Earth is unhealthy, our systems become unhealthy.

    I understand the people who reject Earth Day, as the common phrase notes: “every day is Earth Day”. However, I choose to use Earth Day as a time to reflect on my current life choices and consider how, in the upcoming year, I can make personal changes in my life to live more sustainably. You may have noticed that North America is not the focus of either world map shown in my painting. As part of my reflective practice this year, I wanted to shift my perspective, highlighting that this is a global issue and how each decision I make does not only affect the people in my immediate surroundings.

    Reflection is an important practice and increasing your awareness is a crucial step to inspire action. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

    • If you love to read, check out When the Rivers Run Dry by Fred Pearce, Wolf Nation by Brenda Peterson, or The Song of Trees by David Haskell.
    • If you love documentaries, there are a wide range of informative films from The True Cost, Virunga, Cowspiracy, to Plastic Paradise, and the list goes on.
    • Consider carpooling more, flying less, or buying items in bulk.
    • Try to buy items second hand, and if you do buy new, buy local, fair trade, and ethically sourced items.

    Happy Earth Day everyone, and I hope that this post has encouraged you to reflect on how you might make changes in your personal, family, or work life to better take care of our planet.

    Until the next Earth Day.

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

  • Meet SSAS Alumnus: Nicholas Fischer

    Blog Contributor: Meredith DeCock

    For our first instalment of the ‘Meet SSAS Alumni’ series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicholas Fischer, a former Sustainability Science and Society (SSAS) master’s student who entered the program in September of 2016. As a current student in the program, it was a pleasure to hear about where he came from, his time in the program, and what he is up to now.

    Nick Fisher

    Photo: Nicholas Fisher, SSAS Alumnus who is now working as a Policy and Planning Officer for Conservation Ontario.

    Q1: What path did you take to end up in the Brock SSAS Master’s Program?

    I decided to attend Trent University for International Development Studies and Political Studies. I really wanted to take the opportunity to participate in an interdisciplinary field of education, which broadened my understanding of the social, economic, and political dynamics of our modern world. In my third year, I was given the opportunity to study abroad in Ecuador, and I jumped on it! While our first semester was regular classes, the second involved an intensive four-month placement with a local agency. Luckily, I was accepted to work with an incredible organization named Kallari (Kay-yar-ri) (best chocolate of my life, Google them!). Deep in the Amazon, I worked with local communities who participated in a cooperative-structured chocolate company and I received a great education in polyculture crops, community sustainability, effective resource management and overall respect for shared natural systems. Upon my return to Trent for my fourth year, I made sure to fill my timetable with as many environmental courses as I could to further develop my knowledge and passion for the sector. The SSAS program at Brock seemed like a natural next step to further develop my knowledge and passion for the environmental sector in an interdisciplinary setting.

    Q2: What stream of the SSAS program did you complete and what was the focus of your MRP or Thesis?

    I decided to enter the Co-op and Major Research Paper option at Brock. It is hard enough for a young graduate out of school to be competitive in the environmental field, so I knew I wanted to take advantage of the work experience during my education. As for my MRP, I was lucky enough to work with Dr. Tim Heinmiller and Dr. Marilyne Jollineau. With Dr. Heinmiller’s guidance, we settled on assessing the impacts of the Greenbelt Plan to the Niagara Region agricultural community and support network. I have always enjoyed local advocacy work and wanted my MRP to be reflective of my time in Niagara, hence focussing the impact assessment to the Region. I set out to identify key impacts or barriers posed to the agricultural community in Niagara as a result of the Greenbelt legislation and used my project as a means to identify potential areas of improvement to future iterations of the Plan to protect the agricultural industry, a cornerstone in many rural economies. Both Dr. Heinmiller and Dr. Jollineau were incredible mentors to me throughout the process. Both encouraged me to use completely new methods of analysis for my project and provided me with the resources I needed to succeed.

    Q3: How would you describe your overall experience in the SSAS Master’s Program at Brock? And is there a particular highlight that comes to mind during your time in the program?

    I would say my overall experience in the SSAS program at Brock was positive, although challenging at times. The incredible nature of an interdisciplinary program is that you are exposed to members of your cohort who come from vastly different educational backgrounds. This diverse mix allows you to have some really interesting conversations and address environmental issues from an array of angles, but also poses challenges when you are asked to work in a group setting. Of course, this is a mirror to the realities of the workforce, so I came to appreciate the practical application of this style of education. There were many highlights during my time with the SSAS program; however, the one in particular which stands out is being able to present my Three Minute Thesis in from of the staff and students of the ESRC. In the MRP stream, you don’t defend your final body of work, so the 3MT gave me a small taste of an academic defense. Don’t get me wrong, it was the most vulnerable I had felt during my whole time at Brock since I was putting my research out in the open for criticism and comments, but at the end I was so proud of how it went.

    Q4: What is your current job? Please provide a job description of what you get to do in your current role.

    I currently work at Conservation Ontario as a Policy and Planning Officer, and I am absolutely loving it! I have been in my position for 8 months now and have learned so much along the way. Conservation Ontario is a not-for-profit environmental association which represents Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities. In my capacity, I am responsible for advocating on behalf of the Conservation Authorities on all applicable provincial proposals, such as those related to Climate Change, Development, Provincial Growth, Drinking Water, Great Lakes Protection, and Endangered Species and Fisheries. I work with Conservation Authorities to develop key messaging to the province to ensure that the core mandate (to ensure the conservation, restoration and responsible management of Ontario’s water, land and natural habitats) can be effectively achieved. In addition, I work with Conservation Authorities to address questions related to our Class Environmental Assessment process and represent Conservation Ontario at a number of conferences and on provincial working groups. The most interesting thing about my job is that I get to work alongside some of the brightest people in the environmental sector who are challenged with balancing population growth with protection for natural resources and drinking water across Ontario.

    Q5: How do you feel the SSAS program helped prepare you for this position?

    Aside from the interdisciplinary setting which I already spoke to, my co-op placement is most likely largely responsible for my success in this new role. I was fortunate enough to complete my work placement with the Ministry of Transportation’s Environmental Policy Office in St. Catharines. There, I worked on files related to Environmental Assessment reform, and assisted on a number of other projects and initiatives, such as the provincial biodiversity strategy and road ecology. Much like my team now, the team with the MTO needed to incorporate planning decisions into their policy work, which allowed me to gain an understanding of the interrelated nature of the two fields. I will always be thankful to the SSAS program for this opportunity because, not only was able to apply my education in a practical context, but I have maintained some amazing professional and personal relationships with the staff from my co-op placement.

     

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

  • Blue Flag eco-label demonstrates the holistic nature of sustainability science

    By: Kelsey Scarfone

    Kelsey is a Master of Sustainability alumna and the acting Program Manager for Blue Flag Canada. Blue Flag is an international eco-label for beaches marinas and sustainable tourism boats, operated in Canada by Environmental Defence.

    One of the first things I learned in the Sustainability Science and Society (SSAS) graduate program was that true sustainability is holistic and multi-faceted, and calls on a wide range of disciplines. This could not be truer in practice.

    In my first career position after the Master of Sustainability program, the Blue Flageco-label has exemplified the concepts of sustainability learned through the graduate degree. Blue Flag began in Europe 30 years ago, created and fostered by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE).  Today, 46 countries have adopted the Blue Flag program and there are over 4,000 beaches, marinas and sustainable tourism boats flying the prestigious flag. In Canada, there are 27 beaches and 8 marinas flying the flag, and the program is operated by Environmental Defence.

    In order to be awarded a Blue Flag, criteria in four main categories must be met. These categories are: environmental education, safety, water quality and environmental management. In the case of beaches, for example, there are 33 criteria in total that are evaluated first by a National Jury, then by an International Jury. This process re-occurs annually, meaning that even if a beach has been certified for 20 years they are still submitted to this rigorous and thorough evaluation. The process lends to the legitimacy of the Blue Flag certification.

    Imbedded into the Blue Flag award is the concept of sustainability science. If one of the four components are not being met to the highest standard, the beach, marina or sustainable tourism boat is failing not only to achieve Blue Flag, but also in the overarching goal of sustainable management. In order to operate to the highest environmental standard, Blue Flag sites need to have swimmable clean water, environmental education programs and management committees, lifeguards and/or safety equipment, and robust emergency response plans.

    In my position as the acting manager for this program, I’ve learned how to be agile between these core concepts of beach, marina and tourism sustainability. Of course, the environment is at the heart of my role, but I’ve also had to integrate the perspectives of public health, waterfront safety and rescue, and tourism development into my decision-making and program management. The SSAS program prepared me well for this and taught me how to bring these classically separate disciplines together in the goal of a truly sustainable tourism product.

    Blue Flag beaches and marinas are among some of the most popular in the world. However, due to the strict and holistic criteria of the program, these tourism destinations are protected against overuse, misuse and environmental degradation. The success of this program lends itself to the same view of sustainability that the ESRC and SSAS hold: that it will take all disciplines and a multitude of approaches in order to achieve sustainable societies. The opportunity to apply this approach and see it mirrored in international environmental programming is a testament to the SSAS program and its ability to prepare students for the sustainability science field in practice.

    Photo of Blue Flag

    Photo by: Environmental Defence Canada

    Photo of Blue Flag

    Photo by: Environmental Defence Canada

    Categories: Blog, SSAS Alumna Contributor, SSAS Program