Blog

  • Reflections on my summer at the ESRC

    Blog Contributor: Kaitlin James

    ESRC Summer Students at the CUB

    Photo: Scott Johnstone, AVP Facilities Management with ESRC summer interns Kaitlin James, Shanen D’Souza, Shelby McFadden

    This summer I had the pleasure of working as a summer intern at the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre. I am super excited and proud of all of the work we’ve accomplished thus far and feel as though myself and the other interns created documents and reports that will be of great assistance to the Research Assistants in the fall when continuing to develop Sustainability at Brock.

    This experience has really helped solidify some of the ideas I had in terms of next steps in my career and academics. I’ve been interested in environmental sustainability for as long as I can remember, but a real-life experience in the field has really been beneficial for me.

    In April of this year, I decided to declare a minor in environmental sustainability to complement my major in Public Health. The two really do go hand in hand, and impact each other in more ways than many people realize! What a better way to start my path in sustainability than by immersing myself in sustainability all summer.

    This summer, myself and the other interns helped create several reports, plans and documents, whilst conducting background research in different areas of sustainability. I really got to immerse myself in all things sustainability, examining areas such as communications, sustainability indicators and rating systems, and helped collect information on Brock’s current state of sustainability on campus which was really interesting—In fact, I actually learnt a lot about initiatives that are ongoing that I’ve never even heard of in my four years at Brock!

    Overall, it was a great experience and allowed me to meet and work with some amazing people and researchers! I definitely appreciate the opportunity I was given and am glad I took it! The Charter allowed for what I think is some great progress towards a more sustainable Brock! I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for what is yet to come in terms of sustainability during my last semesters here at Brock this year!

     

    Categories: Blog, Co-Op, Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Meet the Faculty of the ESRC: Dr. Julia Baird

    Blog Contributor: Kaitlin James

    Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Julia Baird, an Assistant Professor at the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) to find out more about her research and role at the ESRC. Her research interests centre around water. She agrees with the notion that water issues are ultimately issues of governance, and so her research focuses on the human dimensions of water resources. She has numerous publications that exemplify her vast amount of research within the field of sustainability science. It was great to learn more about her and the journey she took to get to where she is today.

    Julia Baird

    Photo: Dr. Julia Baird, Canada Research Chair & Assistant Professor, Environmental Sustainability Research Centre

    Q1:  What path did you take to end up where you are today, and how did you end up doing research for the ESRC? 

    I started as an undergraduate student in agriculture – crop science to be exact – and I think that was due to an increasing appreciation for the farm I grew up on and realizing just how much I didn’t know about how agriculture works. I had an excellent professor in my final year that guided me toward an opportunity to undertake a master’s degree in soil science at the University of Saskatchewan, where I developed a real love of research and realized that I wanted to continue on. I pursued an interdisciplinary PhD in the School of Environment and Sustainability at the U of S. Around the time I was completing my dissertation, my husband and I made the decision to move to Ontario for him to start graduate school. Our plan was to spend one year here and I contacted Ryan Plummer on the advice of one of his colleagues about a potential short term post-doc. It’s almost eight years later and I’m thrilled to still be here!

    Q2: What are your research areas of focus? 

    I have a range of research interests that reflect my path to this position, but all of them share the common threads of decision-making about our environment and environmental sustainability. I have a keen interest in water resources, agriculture, and resilience, and bring a social-ecological systems perspective to all of them.

    Q3:What do you want to achieve with your research? 

    Save the world, of course! It’s really important to me that my research contributes to both theory and practice, and what’s really great about the ESRC is that it supports that goal in an explicit way through its emphasis on transdisciplinarity and community engaged research. I hope to make an impact on real-world decision making and enhance the resilience of governance of water resources, whether it be in urban or rural settings.

    Q4: What is it like being one of Brocks’ 11 Canadian Research Chairs? 

    It’s an honour to hold a CRC, and there are benefits in terms of being able to focus more of my time on research which I appreciate and truly enjoy. I’m also working very hard to ensure that I make the most of this position and building a program of research that will have an impact locally, in Canada and internationally well past the tenure of this position.

    Q5: Could you please share a turning point or defining moment in your work as a sustainability scientist? 

    This is an easy one – it was during the second year of my master’s degree at the U of S. I was doing my fieldwork, collecting weed densities, probably. My project was focused on identifying appropriate seeding rates for organic production of two legumes using a range of variables. I remember wondering how my research findings would be received and how you actually get farmers to change their practices based on the scientific knowledge I was generating. That was it for me – a short time later I decided to transition to an interdisciplinary social science doctorate and start to investigate these types of questions. My desire to focus on real-world ‘problems’ and use scholarly research as a mechanism to contribute to solutions was the foundation upon which this and all my research that followed was and is built (though I didn’t know that there was a term for it back then!).

     

    Categories: Applied Research, Blog, Faculty Contributor, Student Contributor

  • Lessons in Economic Development with the BL-LL

    Blog Contributor: Ben House

    Benjamin House

    Photo: Ben House, current Master of Sustainability student and summer intern at the Town of Lincoln

    Over the past two months of our co-op placement with the Town of Lincoln, fellow co-worker Zach MacMillan and myself have been working on the preliminary stages of the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab Needs Assessment project focused on improving community-wide sustainability. While this project serves as the backbone and central focus of our co-op work term, Zach and I are lucky to be a part of several “side-projects” occurring throughout the office. Thus far, the projects have helped bring an enjoyable level of variety to the job and have given us a unique glimpse into the wide-range of disciplines and departments covered in municipal work.

    I have personally been lucky enough to work with Lincoln’s Economic Development Officer, Paul Di Ianni, on a variety of projects currently underway. I was first introduced to Paul during winter term in our “SSAS 5PO3” Project Management Course where we collaboratively worked to map some of the Town’s key economic assets and define their contribution to community sustainability. In this regard, the SSAS 5PO3 class has really served as a helpful transition into the work term for Zach and myself. The class provided us with a tremendous amount of foundational knowledge pertaining to the Town’s operational climate and helped to introduce us to some of the analytical tools we would be using on the job. Furthermore, it helped us establish relationships with some of our future colleagues and mentors working in Lincoln which has made for an enjoyable entrance into the workplace.

    With my recently established background knowledge of Lincoln’s economic climate, Paul has kindly taken me “under his wing” and has begun to include me in a variety of ongoing projects within his department. Most recently, I have been researching Community Energy Plans (CIP) which are essentially long-term plans aimed at improving energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and encouraging sustainable energy solutions on a community-wide scale. Specifically, I have been tasked with providing information regarding the policy development necessary to support such a plan, as well as potential financial tools and funding opportunities that will aid in its successful implementation. I recently presented this information to Paul and Gillian Harris, Manager of Environmental Services, and it is likely that continued discussions regarding the development of an energy plan will be taken to council.

    In addition to expanding my knowledge of economics, as well as improving my oral and written communication skills, these projects have reminded me of the strong interconnections between all realms of sustainability. Initiatives such as community energy planning can have profound impacts that extend far beyond financial gains and can contribute to the protection of environmental services and natural assets, amongst many other community-wide benefits. These projects help bridge the gap between economic growth and environmental protection and it is truly refreshing to see how key environmental considerations continue to be integrated into ongoing discussions of future economic development here at Lincoln.

    It is clearly an exciting time for the Town of Lincoln with an abundance of projects and long-term ambitions finally reaching stages of operationalization.  It has been a privilege to lend my support to these projects and I am looking forward to seeing what the remaining months here at Lincoln will have in store.

    Categories: Blog, Brock Lincoln Living Lab, Co-Op, Experiential Education, Innovative Partnership, SSAS Student Contributor

  • Checking out the Cogeneration Plant at Brock

    Blog Contributor: Shelby McFadden

    CUB tour with AVP of Facilities Management, Scott Johnstone.

    Photo: Scott Johnstone, Associate Vice-President Facilities Management, Kaitlin James, Shanen D’Souza and Shelby McFadden

    Working in the ESRC on Sustainability at Brock for the summer has been an enlightening experience, but while one of the things we discuss and do research on is energy, there is only so much you can learn within a typical classroom or office. So, yesterday, geared with our hard hats, ear plugs, and protective glasses, we excitedly followed our guides, Scott Johnstone, Associate Vice-President of Facilities Management, and Drew Cullen, Manager of District Energy, for a tour of the cogeneration plant in the Central Utilities Building. Tucked away at the back of Brock along the escarpment, lies what Cullen refers to as the heart of campus, providing energy, heating, and cooling to the other branches of campus. Seeing all the engines, pumps, and pipes made us realize how much is going on in this building, and how our energy on campus relies on so many coordinating parts. The plant is really amazing, as it produces 85% of Brock’s energy, while also transferring excess heat and cooling across campus.

    As part of a project started in Fall 2016, known as the District Energy Efficiency Project, steps have been taken to make the plant more efficient and sustainable. To date, four of the older engines installed in the 1990’s have been replaced with two high efficiency electrically cooled units that can produce much more energy. The second phase of the project will replace the remaining four engines with two more new units and should be wrapped up by March. These updates will allow the plant to supply 100% of Brock’s energy, while also being 20% more efficient. Furthermore, the annual nitrogen oxide gas emissions will drop from 55 tonnes to 8 tonnes, and non-methane hydrocarbons from 15 tonnes to four. As the plant is currently responsible for over 80% of Brock’s greenhouse gas emissions, these are exciting initiatives to pay attention to.

    Check out the Facilities Management website for more information!

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

  • Focus Group with Niagara Parks Commission

    On July 25th, members from the ESRC headed to the beautiful and historic Oak Hall in Niagara Falls for a focus group with key representatives from the Niagara Parks Commission. This productive meeting focused on developing our shared vision for environmental stewardship going forward. The development of this vision is one of the many expected outputs of the exciting new Excellence in Environmental Stewardship partnership between the ESRC and Niagara Parks.

    Photo Credit: Brooke Kapeller

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

  • Please join us in welcoming Dr. Jessica Blythe to the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre!

    Dr. Jessica Blythe

    Photo: Dr. Jessica Blythe, Assistant Professor, Environmental Sustainability Research Centre

    Dr. Jessica Blythe holds a B.Sc. in Biology from Memorial University, a M.A. in Geography from York University, and Ph.D. in Geography from the University of Victoria. Following the completion of her PhD, she was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at WorldFish and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reed Studies at James Cook University.

    Dr. Blythe joins the ESRC as an Assistant Professor after leaving her SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow role in the School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability at the University of Waterloo. Dr. Blythe is an environmental social scientist with expertise in resilience and sustainability science. Broadly, her research aims to understand how communities perceive and respond to social-ecological change (including climate change), and their differential capacities for adaptation and transformation. Her empirical work has taken place with communities in Australia, Canada, Malawi, Mozambique, and Solomon Islands. Findings from her research have appeared in a wide diversity of journals, such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Sustainability Science and Regional Environmental Change. She is recipient of the Andy Farquharson Award for Teaching Excellence form the University of Victoria as well as the Three Minute Thesis Early Career Research winner at the ARC Centre for Coral Reef Studies.

    “We welcome an exceptional scholar to the ESRC and Brock University” said Dr. Ryan Plummer, Director of the Environmental Sustainably Research Centre. “Jessica will make an indelible mark on the field of sustainability science and catalyze the trajectory of the ESRC as an international Centre of excellence”.

    Link to Full Faculty Profile

    Categories: Blog

  • A Co-Op Placement with the Town of Lincoln

    Blog Contributor: Zach MacMillan

    Zach MacMilland and Carrie Beatty

    It is interesting to reflect on my first few weeks working for the Town of Lincoln having now recently passed the halfway point in my co-op position. As someone who has traditionally held customer service type roles in the past, being able to work on sustainability issues in Town Hall was a welcomed change that has since provided limitless learning opportunities and connects perfectly with what we study in the SSAS program.

    Despite my limited experience working in an office setting I was able to have a smooth and successful transition due to the constant support from my supervisor Carrie Beatty who values the unique perspectives of the SSAS students. To ensure that both my co-worker Ben and I were able to get a holistic understanding of the Town of Lincoln, Carrie began our first day by giving us a complete tour of the Town. Growing up in St. Catharines I thought I had a fairly good idea of the Town’s geographical reach as well as its history, although after beginning our tour I realized that was not the case. Carrie had such a wealth of information to share about the Town, from historical facts to the what types of tender fruit trees grew where, demonstrating the uniqueness of the Town which sets it apart from other municipalities of Niagara. This was something I was unable to appreciate before working for the Town. The tour continued once we returned to the office and it was incredibly interesting to see how many individual departments work together to make the Town run smoothly. A Municipality is a complex organization requiring many moving parts to operate successful, although much of this work goes unseen and underappreciated having this understanding has helped me connect with the Town.

    Equipped with a newly developed understanding of the Town, Ben and I have since settled into our work stations located in what has been affectionally named “the fort”. It has been here where we have been working on both our main Brock-Lincoln Living Lab project as well as providing support to other ongoing projects around the office. Currently, our primary project involves developing an environmental and sustainability needs assessment for the Town using the Official Plan, while additional projects include supporting Economic Development and the Town’s Transportation pilot uLinc. This summer has been an exciting learning opportunity and I am excited to see where it leads.

    Categories: Blog, Brock Lincoln Living Lab, Co-Op, Innovative Partnership, SSAS Student Contributor

  • Farmers’ Market at Jubilee Court

    Blog Contributor: Shanen D’Souza

    Brock Farmers' Market

    Want to take a break from a busy day and enjoy your lunch break with some live music, great weather and a chance to buy some fresh produce? The Brock Farmers’ Market at Jubilee Court is the perfect spot to do that!

    Every summer, Brock holds a Farmers’ Market from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm every Thursday in Jubilee Court. There are stalls set up by vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods and handcrafted items. Barbeque lunches can be purchased fresh off the grill, while live music is played at the court. To put it all off, outdoor games such as ladder ball and bag toss are set up to get in some post-lunch fun. Vendors and stalls differ every week, so all attendees have a different experience every Thursday.

    The Farmers’ Market is a great way to build and grow community at Brock. Students, faculty and staff are welcome to enjoy the summer weather at Jubilee Court, while supporting local farmers and businesses. Brock prides itself in buying local whenever possible, especially for raw materials required for the cafeterias around campus. The Farmers’ Market is an added opportunity for the Brock body to help with this cause, while enjoying lunch in the sun!

    Directions to Jubilee Court can be found using Brock’s interactive map.

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

  • Waste Not, Worry Not—Brock’s Got it Covered

    Blog Contributor: Shelby McFadden

    Battery Recycling

    Sitting in the basement of Mackenzie Chown’s G-Block, I scribbled like crazy, trying to document all of the current initiatives and associated numbers for waste collection here on campus. Sitting next to me was Kevin Lawr, supervisor of the day-to-day operations of the Central Shipping/Receiving, Maintenance Stores, and Mail Services departments.

    Though initially confusing to find the office tucked away in the belly of Mackenzie Chown, the meeting was extremely interesting and enlightening, and I ended up walking away with a hopeful feeling.

    The fact is that there are already a lot of great opportunities for recycling and diverting waste on campus, managed by a skilled team of staff and faculty who are enthusiastic about sustainability at Brock.

    But there is still a lot of room to increase our usage of these programs, and it begins by becoming aware of existing opportunities, and spreading the word on to our friends, roommates, and fellow Badgers.

    Batteries, ink cartridges, cell phones, and other electronics are all collected and recycled at Brock, helping to reduce waste and keep dangerous toxins out of our landfill.

    In 2017, Brock recycled approximately 4800 pounds of used batteries! Many departments already have pails, but if you are looking to order a pail for your department, make sure to contact Kevin at klawr@brocku.ca

    Students can also participate by accessing a pail in the nearest department or the North and South Service desks in Decew and the Lowenberger lobby.

    Another opportunity for recycling is with ink cartridges, of which an estimated 500 pounds were recycled last year.

    Faculty and staff can place their cartridges in a box labelled “used cartridge,” and send it to Central Shipping and Receiving through interoffice mail. Students can make use of the pail on the help desk in Computer Commons or in the Campus Store.

    No discussion on recycling programs would be complete without addressing electronics, as they play an increasingly large role in our lives.

    An overwhelming number of items are accepted, from cell phones, tablets, laptops, computer cables and monitors, routers, cameras, speakers, gaming consoles, fans, power tools, etc. Make sure to check Sustainability at Brock’s website to view the list of all accepted items.

    Departments can fill out the following form to send to klawr@brocku.ca, before contacting custodial services to pick up the desired item(s). At this time, there are no collection points for e-waste, but students are encouraged to bring their items down to Central Shipping and Receiving (MC G207). It’s a little bit confusing to find at first, but let’s face it—as students, sometimes we need a mini adventure and excuse to wander around.

    To make it easier, if it’s a cell phone you’re looking to recycle, they can be dropped off at the ITS desk.

    There’s definitely room for improvements in waste management at Brock, but we have to start somewhere, and it’s important to support the existing programs that are already working to do good work. By taking an extra few minutes out of our day, we can demonstrate our commitment to waste reduction, and do a little bit of good.

    To do a lot of good, share this with other Brock students, staff, and faculty, so we can all do our part!

    Look forward to a future blog article on food waste initiatives at Brock!

    Categories: Blog, Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Exploring the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve

    Blog Contributor: Angela Mallette

    Last week, myself and some fellow SSAS students that are still in the area for their co-ops/research, headed to the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve for a hike. My thesis research will be taking place in the Niagara Glen this coming summer, and we had met to go on a hike through a part of the Glen I hadn’t been to yet. Our hike had a productive purpose as well – I needed people to pilot my survey after hiking the trails. It was late in the afternoon, so the Glen wasn’t overly busy. We made our way down Eddy trail and then to Whirlpool trail, along the water and then up the Whirlpool staircase.

    The Niagara Glen is a hidden gem of the Niagara area. Despite living in the GTA my whole life, and visiting Niagara Falls almost annually, I had never even heard of it until this past year. The section of the river that runs along the Glen has bright turquoise-blue waters and intense rapids that are classified as class V rapids on a scale of 1-6. The whirlpool just upriver is class VI. Aside from the amazing sights of the river, I was also very excited to learn about the geology of the Glen (if you like fossils, potholes, or rocks in general, definitely go and check it out). Or, if you prefer plants, the Glen has hundreds of species, some of them rare or even unique to the Glen. If you prefer history, aside from evidence of a fascinating geological history, there is also a century old cobblestone path built when a railway used to run along the river about 100 years ago.

    The Glen is a site that is so unique geologically, ecologically, and historically. As I learn more about it, I’ve come to realize the significance of this site for my research. It is a significant and sensitive ecosystem but is also subject to hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. It is a perfect case study for sustainable ecotourism and its challenges. I am looking forward to beginning my research in the upcoming weeks and spending more time at the Glen. Thanks to Ben, Zach, Brooke, and Branden for coming out for an awesome hike and to pilot my survey!

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