Blog

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

    Blog Contributor: Shannon Heaney

    Photo retrieved from Environment Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Seen & Heard at the ESRC – 3MT Presentations

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

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

    Categories: Blog, SSAS Program

  • Niagara Parks and Climate Change Readiness Workshop

    Blog Contributor: Savannah Stuart

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Restoration in Canada Parks: A Fight Worth Fighting

    Blog Contributor: Shannon Heaney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Trail Management through Collaboration: Reflections and Aspirations

    Blog Contributor: John Foster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Case Studies: A Step Towards Solving the Climate Crisis

    Blog Contributor: Erica Harper

    Christine Janzen is an instructor within the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre who teaches the Introduction to Environmental Sustainability (ENSU 2P01) and Environmental Sustainability in Practice (ENSU 2P02) courses at Brock University. Despite the challenges of teaching students in an online format during a global pandemic, she got creative and designed a case study for students focused on developing a sustainable community hub in the Town of Lincoln. A Community Hub is a place that offers various integrated services such as social, health, education, business development, and municipal services.

    For context, the Town of Lincoln is in the heart of the Niagara Region on Lake Ontario and includes smaller communities such as Beamsville, Jordan, and Vineland. It is home to nearly 24,000 residents and to over 50 wineries, farms, and heritage sites. The Town of Lincoln has long been committed to creating a sustainable community for all, and their overarching vision to be a place where all residents grow, prosper, and belong. To continue to fulfill this vision, the Town has set to develop a sustainable Community Hub, which represents “Project 1” within the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab Sustainability Action Plan.

    Students were challenged with the task of creating a planning process for the sustainable Community Hub while taking many other factors  into account, such as:

    • Determining who is involved in the planning process
    • Assessing who should be consulted during the planning process
    • Securing a building in an accessible location
    • Creating a framework for the project
    • Return on investment
    • The services that will be offered to residents
    • Implementing sustainable initiatives and making sustainability a priority
    • Ensuring that all residents are informed and buy into the idea of a Community Hub since taxpayer money will help to fund this project

    To help inform their responses to the case study for the Town of Lincoln, students were presented with fictional quotes from various key stakeholders that were “asked whether or not they would support the implementation of a Community Hub in their town”. Some fictional stakeholders included the Mayor, the Manager of Infrastructure and Development, citizens, council members, business owners, and social service providers.

    According to Janzen, the students approached this project and their chosen topics with a variety of interesting ideas. For example, a group of students were tasked with focusing on green infrastructure and low impact design on the community hub property. Their ideas ranged from a green roof, rain gardens, and permeable pavement to allotment of land for community gardens. Another group was asked to propose a communication strategy to promote the Hub to a group of stakeholders who may be hesitant about its implementation where they could apply what they’d learned about best practices in Environmental Communications. This group of students considered what messages would resonate best with the stakeholders they’d chosen based on their values and concerns, and considered best methods of dissemination of messages from in-person group discussions, public participation through social media, local broadcast media to forming a local community hub committee including some of the Town’s citizens.

    Overall, Janzen said that while the steps of this project were new to many students and that the project was challenging, the students rose to the occasion. Janzen also said that she was “pleased to see students using what they had learned about the Town’s values, goals, and objectives to help them determine what voices would be important in the Hub discussion”, adding that “one student even mentioned that she drove through the Town of Lincoln for the first time to get a better idea of the context of the case study”. She also focused on the importance of experiential education, as it “gives students opportunities to see how theory is applied in the “real” world and deepens their understanding of the course material”.

    Experiential education also helps students make connections between theory and practice at a local level. “For example”, said Janzen, “ENSU 2P02 explores how environmental sustainability practices are being implemented in several fields and provides examples from across the globe. Having students work through one of the projects the ESRC is engaged in allows them to see and participate in a project that is happening locally  – what sustainability looks like in Niagara Region”.

     

    Categories: Blog, Brock Lincoln Living Lab, Experiential Education, Town of Lincoln

  • NPC Speaker Series Underway: A Bright Future for Stewardship in Niagara

    Blog Contributor: Lauren Patterson

    The first session of the Environmental Speaker Series was a success! On September 23, the Niagara Parks Commission in partnership with the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre at Brock University hosted their first of 3 lectures. The speakers delivered an inspiring discussion on the importance of Environmental Stewardship within the Niagara Region, and answered pressing questions from the audience.

    Brooke Kapeller, a Brock University Masters student, opened the session with an informative Story Map of her thesis “Exploring environmental stewardship in the Niagara Region of Canada: How do elements of environmental stewardship relate to success?”. Brooke’s research explores what drives success within environmental stewardships initiatives, with a specific focus on the Niagara Region. Her research will be made available to the public sometime in October.

    Following Brooke’s presentation, Dr. Ryan Plummer moderated an enlightening discussion with keynote speakers Ellen Savoia and Corey Burant of the Niagara Parks Commission. The session highlighted the vibrant history of stewardship in Niagara region and gave a glimpse into what the future holds.

    Ellen, the lead of the Environmental Planning team with NPC, oversees 1,325 hectares of Niagara Parks land. Ellen emphasized the honour and tremendous responsibility the NPC holds in preserving the natural environment of the Region and outlined how planning and policy sets the framework in which stewardship works. She shared with us the organizations focus on preservation and promotion of natural and cultural heritage, as well as the unique habitats that make prosperity and restoration in Niagara so important.

    Corey, the Program Manager of Forest Health with NPC, described the balancing act of simultaneously showcasing and preserving Niagara’s natural beauty. Corey expressed NPC’s commitment to being leaders in stewardship, and ensuring the lands are sustainably managed. According to Corey, stewardship at Niagara means being resilient and keeping the parks intact as they face threats such as climate change and invasive species. He highlighted the significance of restoration and rehabilitation, and the important role collaboration plays in making projects successful.

    The lecture left both the speakers and the audience feeling excited about NPC’s ongoing and future projects, including an Urban Forestry Management Plan, Climate Change Adaptation Plan, and the continued commitment to the recently approved Environmental Stewardship Action Plan.

    Mark your calendars for Thursday, October 28, at 7pm. Our next lecture “Ecosystem restoration challenges faced by Parks Canada”, will feature keynote speakers Tammie Dobbie and Andrew Leforet from Parks Canada.

    If you missed this session, do not fret! All Environmental Speaker Series sessions are being recorded, and you can click here to watch right now. To make sure you do not miss out on future lectures, click here to register for free and a link will be emailed to you directly.

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

  • The Niagara Parks Commission Stewardship Speaker Series Returns for Fall 2021

    Blog Contributor: Lauren Patterson

    This fall, the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre at Brock University and the Niagara Parks Commission will once again be partnering to host the Environmental Speaker Series. The series consists of three, free sessions all available online. Each session will spotlight one Brock student and their research, as well as enthralling discussion from environmental professionals.

    The series will kick off this Thursday, September 23rd at 7pm, with a panel discussion on “Environmental Stewardship in Niagara”.  We will hear from Brooke Kapeller, a Brock University Masters student who will be discussing her research “Exploring environmental stewardship in the Niagara Region of Canada: How do elements of environmental stewardship relate to success?”. Our keynote panel discussion will be moderated by Dr. Ryan Plummer, Director of the ESRC and Professor of Sustainability here at Brock. Joining Dr. Plummer will be our panelists: Ellen Savoia and Corey Burant. Guided by their respective expertise in environmental planning and forest health, Ellen and Corey will discuss what it means to be Environmental Stewards in Niagara, and what we can expect for the future of environmental stewardship in the region. There will be opportunities for Q&A following the discussion.

    The second session will take place October 28th, where we will hear from Parks Canada stewards Tammie Dobbie and Andrew Leforet on “Ecosystem restoration challenges faced by Parks Canada”, as well as SSAS alumni Angela Mallette. On November 25th our topic will be “The Evolution of the International Joint Commission”, and we will be joined by keynote speakers Natalie Green from The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, and the International Joint Commission’s Rej Bejankiwar, in addition to undergraduate student Kassie Burns.

    All events will take place online and are free to attend. If you are interested in attending Environmental Speaker Series sessions, please register here, where you can sign up to receive links to join the live streams.

     

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

  • SSAS Student Spotlight: Mikellena Nettos’ Co-op Experience

    Blog Contributor: Erica Harper

    After Mikellena Nettos graduated from her undergrad at Brock with a Minor in Environmental Sustainability as well as Dramatic Arts, she began her journey in the Master of Sustainability program’s co-op stream. Mikellena successfully secured a summer co-op at Canada Post Corporation in Real Estate, Facilities Management, Environment and Sustainability.

    Fun fact: She is the first Brock co-op student to work at Canada Post!

    Throughout the summer months, Mikellena has been busy working on many interesting projects, including:

    • Engaging local post office staff across the country to improve awareness and execution of environmental and sustainability responsibilities related to building maintenance.
    • Collecting, coding, and analyzing primary data to inform management decision making.
    • Successfully presenting research results and practical recommendations to the national Real Estate team and senior management.
    • Collaborating with other departments to develop and present potential solutions and a business case to improve rural recycling in Alberta, displaying active problem-solving skills and communication skills. 
    • Researching various ESG reporting software for user friendly, comprehensive waste data management purposes.

    Since Mikellena’s projects have included data analysis, she says that the Research Methods course she took in the Master of Sustainability program really helped her to organize and communicate her findings. She also added that “excel tips will become your best friend in the professional field” and that “the critical thinking skills I learned from my master’s program are very effective for problem solving in the real world”.

    In terms of how her co-op role enriched her understanding of sustainability, Mikellena states,

    “I have really learned so much about the environmental side of sustainability. For example, how important building maintenance can be, not only for the environment but also for human health. If a fuel storage tank isn’t serviced or inspected frequently and has a leak – that could significantly damage the surrounding environment and even pollute drinking water. It is very interesting to see how connected our buildings, including our homes, are to the well-being of humans and the environment.”

    Congratulations to Mikellena on securing a great co-op experience – we can’t wait to see all the great things you achieve within and beyond the Master of Sustainability program!

    Categories: Blog, Co-Op, SSAS Program

  • SSAS Student Spotlight: Edward Anyan’s Co-op Experience

    Blog Contributor: Erica Harper

    Edward Anyan began his journey in the SSAS program in September of 2020 in the co-op stream. Although the past academic year hasn’t been easy for students, Edward successfully secured a co-op placement at the City of St. Catharines as a Community, Recreation and Culture Services (CRSC) administrator.

    During his co-op, Edward has been specifically working for the Parks Design and Development Department under the Development Horticulture Technician on the following tasks:

    • Urban Tree Inventory data management.
    • Research on urban Tree Canopy measurement/assessment strategies and practices.
    • Field inspection of city planted trees
    • Tree inventory data capture and reports
    • Liaise with tree planting contractors for tree planting
    • Respond to public/resident needs relating to tree planting

    Edward explained that a workshop and a presentation he participated in as part of the Master of Sustainability program contributed to his success in his role at the City of St. Catharines.

    “Undertaking a climate change adaptation workshop has enhanced my understanding and experience in response to climate change-related issues.  My role in the department is directly related to sustainability and climate adaptation through urban forestry/greening that has a huge impact on the environment and the local economy. Additionally, a seminar presentation on geospatial technology was a refresher for me to leverage GIS in environmental sustainability solutions.”

    Throughout his enriching co-op experience, Edward has been inspired to do more work related to urban forestry.

    “The co-op has given me an insight into urban forestry which is critical for urban ecology yet not popular. I am currently considering creating a niche in that aspect of urban development given that most municipalities are now focusing on urban forestry as a climate change mitigation effort.”

    Lastly, Edward’s understanding of sustainability deepened throughout his co-op placement as it has broadened his understanding about “about how cities are investing and putting many resources to ensure sustainability is maintained amidst the growing needs of developmental projects.”

    Congratulations to Edward and all SSAS co-op students on their successful placements and we look forward to seeing all that you continue to achieve in the Master of Sustainability program and beyond!

    Categories: Blog, Co-Op, SSAS Program