Brock Lincoln Living Lab

  • A Student’s Perspective of the Master of Sustainability Graduate Program at Brock University

    Blog contributor: April Sorenson

    My name is April Sorenson and I am currently a Master of Sustainability Science and Society (SSAS) Co-op graduate student at Brock. I am from Reno, Nevada and am a dual citizen in the U.S. and Canada. I received my undergraduate degree from Colorado State University in Landscape Architecture in 2016. After graduation, I worked for Stantec Consulting for two and a half years and earned my LEED GA accreditation. Throughout my studies and work experience, I quickly became aware of the impact that we are having on the earth. As a result, I became increasingly interested in sustainability and began looking into grad programs. I chose this program because of its location on a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, its scholarship and fellowship opportunities, and its experiential education components.

    I have recently completed the coursework for the program and defended a proposal for my Major Research Paper (MRP). My MRP is titled, What is a sustainable city? An analysis of the current sustainable urban rating systems and cities that are leading the way. I am very excited to learn more about sustainable urban design, and I plan on sharing the findings of my research with local municipalities.

    The SSAS program has been an enriching experience that has answered many of the questions I had about sustainability and climate change. This program provides well-rounded coursework that focuses on a transdisciplinary perspective to sustainability science. The curriculum provides a good balance of theory and practice. In addition to coursework, I had the opportunity to work as a Research Assistant for the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab. I was able to expand my knowledge on green infrastructure, low impact development, community improvement plans and knowledge mobilization. This position also helped me gain valuable professional development skills by allowing me to work directly with sustainability professionals at the Town of Lincoln. Working closely with partners at Brock University and the Town of Lincoln was a very rewarding experience because I learned how to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a real-world setting.

    Perhaps the most rewarding part of my experience in the SSAS program is the relationships I have with my fellow peers. Our conversations have expanded my thinking to new levels, and we have supported each other through every obstacle. I know that each of them will contribute to a greener world through their sustainability efforts. The knowledge I gained in this program, along with lifelong friendships, have provided me with a foundation for a rewarding career in sustainability.

     

    Categories: Blog, Brock Lincoln Living Lab, SSAS Program, SSAS Student Contributor

  • Interview with Shannon Fernandes, the Climate Change Coordinator at the Town of Lincoln, Ontario

    Shannon Fernandes – Climate Change Coordinator at the Town of Lincoln

    Blog Contributor: April Sorenson 

    I would like to introduce all of you to Shannon Fernandes, the Climate Change Coordinator at the Town of Lincoln. Shannon is helping Lincoln become a more resilient community by developing and implementing a climate change adaptation plan for the Town. Shannon graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Environmental Studies in Sustainability Management. She has experience in environmental consulting, community outreach and sustainable supply chain management. She is passionate about social and environmental sustainability, community engagement and making a positive impact on the world. In the questions below, Shannon explains her goals for the Town of Lincoln, the challenges she faces in her role, and the climate change adaptation progress in the Town 

    What are your main responsibilities as the Climate Change Coordinator? 

    My main responsibility as the Climate Change Coordinator is to focus on the planning and implementation of municipal climate change priorities. Primarily, this involves working closely with staff to develop the Town’s climate adaptation plan. Additionally, I contribute to several projects such as developing Green Infrastructure / Low-Impact Development Design Standards, participating in Niagara Adapts, and conducting community outreach. 

    What is your primary goal for the Town of Lincoln? 

    My primary goal for the Town of Lincoln is to build the Town’s capacity to adapt to climate change and extreme weather and to continue Lincoln’s efforts to develop a sustainable and livable community. In order to strengthen our ability to adapt and respond, it is important that we collaborate on innovative approaches for climate change adaptation, ground those approaches in municipal and academic expertise, and build relationships across sectors.  

    What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your role?  

    The biggest challenge I face in my role is encouraging climate change literacy. It is important that staff and citizens understand the science, risks, vulnerabilities, and opportunities associated with climate change impacts in Lincoln.  

    To address this challenge, Lincoln partnered with Niagara municipalities and Brock University (through Niagara Adapts), which allows us to leverage resources and expertise, enable collaborative adaptation planning, reach out to residents and staff through surveys, and promote climate change awareness and action. It has been an incredible opportunity for Lincoln to be a part of this initiative and I look forward to continuing to work and learn alongside our communities, academic partners, and neighbours. 

    What are the greatest challenges Lincoln faces as a Town in regard to climate change? 

    Given the local nature of many climate impacts, like floods, extreme weather, heat alerts, or drought conditions, the Town’s greatest challenge is being the front line to manage risks, protect community safety, and promote economic, social, and environmental sustainability. To ensure the plan is robust enough to address the varied impacts of climate change, the climate adaptation plan will be primarily informed by diverse subject matter experts comprising the Adaptation Steering Committee. It is important that every department – Public Works, Community Services, Planning, Emergency Management, and Tourism and Economic Development is involved in the process. 

    What is the most important thing citizens of the Town can do to alleviate climate change? 

    There is a lot that Lincoln citizens can do to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  

    Firstly, installing green infrastructure to prevent stormwater from running down driveways and into storm drains is a great way to prevent flooding on your property; collecting water in rain barrels and water gardens also saves money on water bills. Disconnecting downspouts and planting rain gardens or trees are great ways to both mitigate and adapt to climate change. 

    Small actions include reducing singleuse plastics, conserving water, upgrading bulbs to LEDs, eating more plant-based meals, or taking public transit. In Niagara we have an abundance of growers and shopping locally is an excellent way to reduce environmental and water footprints. 

    Lastly, stay engaged! Talk to family members, friends, and neighbours about climate change, participate in community events, visit lincoln.ca to participate in surveys, public information nights, and council meetings about climate change. Elected officials need to know that climate change action is important to you. 

    Can you tell us more about the climate change adaptation plan that is underway at the Town of Lincoln? 

    The purpose of a climate adaptation plan is to prepare the Town of Lincoln to adapt to anticipated climatic change and extreme weather, thereby minimizing the severity of the resulting impacts. This will be achieved in the following manner: identification of the potential impacts related to climate change and extreme weather in Lincoln and the risk they pose to the Town, prioritized adaptation actions to reduce risk and vulnerability associated with climate change and extreme weather impacts, and the development of a detailed implementation plan.

    Input will be gathered from staff, Niagara Adapts, Council, the Stakeholder Advisory Group, and Lincoln citizens and businesses on an ongoing basis. 

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

  • Green Infrastructure/Low Impact Development in the Town of Lincoln

    Blog Contributor: April Sorenson

    Increased rainfall in the Town of Lincoln is stressing existing infrastructure 

    Due to climate change, increasing storm severity is causing more frequent flooding in Ontario. The traditional infrastructure designed to handle rainwater is unable to handle the increasing volumes. As a result, municipalities are looking for new and sustainable ways to handle the excess water and prevent flooding. A type of Green Infrastructure, called Low Impact Development (LID), is one solution. Green Infrastructure includes all of the natural vegetative systems and innovative development practices that restore natural processes. LID is a development strategy that strives to mimic the natural hydrologic cycle. In contrast to conventional infrastructure such as curbs, gutters and sewers that move stormwater out of the city as soon as possible, LID works to mimic the natural hydrologic cycle by allowing stormwater to infiltrate on site. This allows for increased groundwater recharge, reduced flooding and reduced pollutants in the water supply. Types of LID include: rain gardens, bioswales, green roofs, permeable pavement and rainwater harvesting. LID is one way to increase social and ecological resiliency because it decreases vulnerability to climate change and contributes to human and ecological health by reducing flooding, improving water quality and providing greenspace for people and wildlife. 

     The Town of Lincoln plans to develop a Green Infrastructure/Low Impact Development Design Standard with funds awarded from the Great Lakes Emerging Champions Mini-Grant. The Emerging Champions Mini-Grants are part of the Great Lakes Green Infrastructure Champions Program being undertaken by the Great Lakes Commission with financial support from the Erb Family Foundation. The grants help mid-sized communities develop strategies to overcome barriers and increase LID implementation in the Great Lakes Basin by providing mentorship and financial support. In addition to this grant, the Town will be hiring a consultant and working with Brock University’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre to create the Design Standard. This Standard will provide staff, developers, residents, and property owners with direction on landscape-based LID stormwater management planning and design. It will encourage the installation, operation, and maintenance of LID in the town. The Design Standard will be a big step towards a more resilient and sustainable future for the Town of Lincoln. 

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

  • Creating Connections with the Community through the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab

    Blog Contributor: April Sorenson 

    Photo: Faculty members from the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre lead a workshop for the members of the Senior Management Team at the Town of Lincoln to assist in the development of a Brock-Lincoln Living Lab Action Plan. 

    What happens with the abundance of knowledge and research generated by universities? Usually, it stays within academic spheres for years or decades before reaching the communities that would benefit from it. In this way, the knowledge is not “mobilized” efficiently. Brock University’s Environmental Sustainability Research Center (ESRC) is attempting to change this through their innovative community partnerships. The Brock-Lincoln Living Lab is one of five partnerships that the ESRC has undertaken over the past several years in order to mobilize knowledge in the community. Living labs are user-centered, open innovation systems that integrate research and innovation processes in reallife communities. The Brock-Lincoln Living Lab is a fiveyear partnership between Brock University and the Town of Lincoln that strives to bridge the gap between theory and practice in order to solve complex sustainability challenges. 

    Both Brock University and the Town of Lincoln benefit from this partnership. Students in the Master of Sustainability graduate program are able to gain work experience through research assistant opportunities, co-op work placements and through hands-on projects in a graduate  course called Problem Solving in the Environment (SSAS 5P03) where they are taking on consulting projects for the Town in Winter 2020. The Town also benefits from these types of experiences because the research that students complete can better guide policy decisions and provide evidencebased solutions to ongoing sustainability challenges 

    In 2019, one of the specific projects undertaken by this partnership involved working with the Senior Management Team to create an Operational Action Plan for the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab. So far, the partnership has produced a report of the existing assets in the Town and a needs assessment was also conducted to help guide future action. Overall, this partnership is an opportunity to improve the local community through collaboration and innovation. The Brock-Lincoln Living Lab is one of the first partnerships of its kind and is leading the way towards effective sustainability action in the local community.  

    Categories: Brock Lincoln Living Lab, Innovative Partnership, SSAS Student Contributor

  • Brock-Lincoln Living Lab Year-in-Review

    BL-LL Year-in-Review 2019

    Photo (left to right): Meredith DeCock, Mike Kirkopoulos, Liette Vasseur, Mayor Sandra Easton, Marilyne Jollineau, Jessica Blythe

    On Thursday, December 12th the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre welcomed both Mayor Sandra Easton and CAO of the Town of Lincoln, Mike Kirkopoulos, to Brock to provide them with a summary of the work done through the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab (BL-LL) partnership in 2019 – including opportunities for Brock students and knowledge mobilization activities!

    Developing an Operational Plan (OP) for the work of the Brock Lincoln Living Lab (BL-LL) was an important priority this year. The purpose of the OP is to provide actionable items that allow the Town to move forward in an integrated way toward the goal of becoming a sustainable community. The plan includes specific actionable items constructed over the next four years for five priority projects, as identified by the Town’s Senior Management Team. Three additional projects led by ESRC researchers are also being included under this OP.

    Brock University students have also had the chance to learn more about the BL-LL through experiential education opportunities including Master of Sustainability student projects in SSAS 5P03 (Problem Solving in the Environment) and a field trip to the Town of Lincoln for the SSAS 5P01 (Foundations of Sustainability Science and Society) student cohort in November 2019. In terms of knowledge mobilization, those involved in leading the BL-LL have been busy throughout the year presenting at various conferences, Brock Board meetings and courses at the university.

    The 2019 year was very productive for the BL-LL team, led by Dr. Marilyne Jollineau, and all are looking forward to another exciting year in 2020!

    Categories: Blog, Brock Lincoln Living Lab, Conferences, Experiential Education, Innovative Partnership

  • SSAS Experiential Learning Field Trip Takes Students Across Niagara

    The SSAS 5P01 course description describes experiential education as “a critical vehicle to enable exploration of the enactment of genuine sustainability science”. On Thursday, November 7th, this year’s cohort of Master of Sustainability students took part in the third and final experiential education component of the course – travelling across the Niagara region to see first-hand how Brock is involved in a number of environmental sustainability initiatives.

    We were welcomed to the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre by Dr. Darby McGrath, Nursery & Landscape research scientist and ESRC Adjunct Professor. Dr. McGrath gave an overview of the research that happens at the Vineland institute, including environmental impact. She then took the students to one of the new greenhouses at the Centre, where everyone was required to put on biosafety gear – including covers for our shoes and sanitizer for our hands. Here, the students learned about biocontrol and how it’s used in the greenhouses at Vineland Research and Innovation. We left the greenhouse with a new appreciation for sustainable pest control, and some souvenir tomatoes! Our last stop at Vineland was the Potting Shed, where we heard from a few researchers about their soil-related projects and how this research affects the Canadian landscape. The students left Vineland with an appreciation for all of the research happening within one centre, and hopeful that their own research could have similar impacts.

    From Vineland, we headed to Charles Daley park, where second year SSAS student Meredith DeCock and Brock adjunct professor and ESRC co-founder Dr. Brad May discussed their work on the MEOPAR-Town of Lincoln Research Community Sustainability Project. MEOPAR stands for the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network, and the collaboration with Lincoln is meant to help the community understand how to deal with the impacts of climate and environmental changes. DeCock’s research involved examining the Lake Ontario shoreline at Charles Daley park, and she shared her experiences with the students.

    Our final stop of the day took us to the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab. There, we met Lincoln Mayor Sandra Easton, who officially welcomed us to Lincoln, and spoke to the students about education and professional development. Following this, we heard from Dr. Marilyne Jollineau and Mike Kirkopoulos, who spoke to the students about living labs and what they are, as well as an overview of the Town of Lincoln and their current environmental sustainability initiatives. After a day full of guest speakers and presentations, it was time for us to reflect on what we’d learned. Carolyne Finlayson led us through a reflective practice exercise in which the students addressed their feelings towards environmental sustainability research prior to the trip, and then revisited those feelings at the end. They did this through photos and group discussion, and they all had some very insightful things to say about the day!

    Needless to say, we were all pretty tired when we returned to Brock at the end of the day – but we were also excited for the future of environmental research and the role we all have in these exciting initiatives!

     

    Categories: Blog, Brock Lincoln Living Lab, Collaborations, Experiential Education, SSAS Program

  • 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

  • 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