Blog

  • 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

  • USC-Brock PhD Sustainability Scholarship awarded to Lisa McIlwain

    PhD student Lisa McIlwain has been awarded the University of the Sunshine Coast- Brock University PhD scholarship in Sustainability for 2019. This is the 2nd offering of this prestigious scholarship, which developed from ongoing collaboration between the Sustainability Research Centre (SRC) at the University of the Sunshine Coast (Australia) and the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) at Brock University, and was developed to enable research on sustainability issues affecting both the northern and southern hemispheres.

    Lisa’s research will explore opportunities to strengthen social-ecological resilience as a strategy of climate change adaptation, under a supervisory panel of Dr Claudia Baldwin from SRC, and Drs Gary Pickering and Julia Baird from ESRC. Originally from Belzig, Germany, Lisa is relocating to the Sunshine Coast (SRC) from New South Wales in Australia, where she has been living and working recently. This is not Lisa’s first academic experience in Australia. During her Bachelor studies in Geographical Science at the Freie University Berlin, she completed a CSIRO traineeship at the eco-science precinct in Brisbane, and returned to Brisbane in 2016 for an exchange semester at the University of Queensland during her Masters studies in Environmental Policy and Planning. Her PhD research will focus on social change as a vehicle to build adaptive capacity in all sectors of society and aims to identify ways to reduce vulnerability without compromising sustainable transition. 

    University of Sunshine Coast Sustainability Research Centre Newsletter – Summer 2018

    Categories: Blog

  • Thinking Sustainably is Thinking Strategically

    Blog Contributor: Connor Thompson

    Brock Strategic Plan 2018 to 2025

    Brock University closed out 2018 by unveiling a new Strategic Plan titled “Brock University: Niagara Roots – Global Reach”. Meant to serve as a guide to planning and decision-making processes through 2025, you should not be surprised to see environmental sustainability as a focal point of the Plan!

    “Sustainable, accountable, transparent stewardship” is listed as the eighth and final guiding value that the University is committing to over the next seven years. Brock recognizes its position as a steward of public and private resources, which is especially important as the school exists within a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO) Biosphere Reserve on the Niagara Escarpment. Understanding how the institution operates and the effect it has on human, financial, and environmental resources will be critical to achieving sustainable outcomes across all three categories.

    Additional focus is given to environmental sustainability in regard to meeting societal expectations and demands. As Brock is a publicly-supported institution, the University is obligated to meet and ideally exceed all legislative requirements including those pertaining to environmental protection and sustainability. The University is in a prime position to serve as a benchmark for other institutions to try and meet, and this new Strategic Plan affirms a willingness and desire to improve our sustainability efforts across campus and into the greater community.

    You can read through the entirety of Brock’s new Strategic Plan: “Niagara Roots – Global Reach: Brock University Institutional Strategic Plan 2018-2025”

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

  • Life in the Master of Sustainability Program – First Semester

    Blog Contributor: Connor Thompson

    While trying to write the opening to this post on a snow-covered December morning, Dr. Jessica Blythe visited our space on the second floor of Theal House to say hello. After a brief chat on how things were going that week, she shared the following:

    “I realized I was working from four different to-do lists and I needed to amalgamate them.”

    That sentence accurately depicts life in the program. I can confirm that scheduling is a juggling act, the readings are complex, assignments are intense, and new tasks fall in your lap just as you become comfortable with your impending deadlines.

    I would also wager that any grad student on campus can relate.

    The Master of Sustainability program will challenge you, but you can handle it if you keep your head down and an agenda in your bag at all times. With the first semester in the books, here is a quick recap of the courses I took within the co-op stream:

    SSAS 5P01 – Foundations of Sustainability Science and Society

    Dr. Plummer’s course set the tone for the program by broadening our understanding of sustainability science through interesting readings, thought-provoking discussion, and an extraordinarily demanding research paper. 5P01 also had an experiential education component that helped connect our research to real-world outcomes.

    SSAS 5P02 – Methods for Environmental Inquiry

    The focus of Dr. Baird’s course was a multi-submission group research project that cumulated in the individual writing of a research note. Building a strong group dynamic was a critical part of the class, and I particularly liked how well my group and I got to know each other over the semester.

    SSAS 5P04 – Transdisciplinary Seminar

    5P04 brought researchers and professionals in to speak with us from across disciplines, which was incredibly useful in bridging sustainability research, policy, and practice. These events are open to the public and you can see past seminars here:

    https://brocku.ca/esrc/transdisciplinary-seminars/

    SSAS 5P11 – Water Resource Economics, Management and Governance

    Dr. May’s lectures drew on his vast career experience and were supplemented with presentations from outside experts, which made for an interesting class every week. Students were also given the opportunity to facilitate a seminar and discussion during the semester. The class had five total students, so calling it intimate would be an understatement.

     SSAS 5N90 – Co-op Education Professional Preparation Course

    As a co-op student I also took 5N90, which was a refresher course on the entire process of seeking employment. I can honestly say that my interviewing skills and resume have never looked better, and I have this course to thank.

    As much as I am enjoying the holiday break, I cannot wait to get back on campus and dig into my research. How many students can say that and mean it?

    For more information about the Master of Sustainability program here at Brock, please visit:

    https://brocku.ca/esrc/ssas/

    Categories: Blog, SSAS Program, SSAS Student Contributor