Collaborations

  • 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

  • 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

  • Building better research through community partnerships

    Blog Contributor: Erica Harper

    On January 26th, 2020 Brock hosted a workshop called “Building better research through community partnerships”, which was the 11th event in the Building Better Research series – a collaboration between Brock’s Office of Research Services and the Library. The panelists included the following faculty and staff members:

    • Meaghan Rusnell – Director, Government and Community Engagement
    • Julie Rorison – Manager, Community Relations
    • Madelyn Law – Associate Provost, Teaching and Learning; Professor of Health Sciences
    • Sid Segalowitz – Professor Emeritus and Director, Centre for Lifespan Development Research
    • Ryan Plummer – Professor and Director, Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC)

    All panelists detailed their experiences of conducting research through community partnerships, including Dr. Plummer who discussed the benefits of collaborating with the ESRC’s partners. The Centre now has over eight formalized agreements with partners such as the Trail Assets and Tourism Initiative with the Niagara Parks Commission, the Partnership for Freshwater Resilience with World Wildlife Fund-Canada, and the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab, to name a few.

    According to Dr. Plummer, here are three main benefits of working with community partners:

    • The ability to co-create knowledge in a way that honours and gives a voice to the partners in the community and bridges the gap between scientific knowledge and the needs of the local partners and communities. Dr. Plummer provided a recent example of how collaborating with partners is the key to meeting the needs of the community. He explained that the ESRC’s partners at Niagara Parks were dealing with a dramatic increase in tourism at the start of the pandemic due to the public wanting to get out of their homes and explore local greenspaces.

    Instead of having around 220,000 people visit the Niagara Glen per season, the added need for greenspaces led to over 300,000 visitors during the 2020 season. Dr. Plummer mentioned it was important to quickly pivot within the partnership to start responding to an acute community need to support people’s wellbeing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.  This was possible due to a good working relationship with the partners at the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC), and they were able to create a video that showcased best practices for trail safety amid COVID-19 and beyond.

    • Every year (pre-pandemic), Master of Sustainability students go on a field trip to visit the ESRC’s community partners such as NPC, the Town of Lincoln, and Vineland, to name a few. During this trip, students have the ability to meet with partners and receive an incredible hands-on experience. This important fieldtrip can even inspire students to take on research related to the partners, which brings us to our last main benefit of engaging in community partnerships. To learn more about this engaging experience and how learning outside the classroom is beneficial for students, read this blog post.
    • Through meeting with partners and attending partnership events, thesis students within the MS program are able to look at concerns and needs that partners have and can tailor their research to address these needs. For example, Angela Mallette, a past graduate student, presented her research regarding Niagara Parks. Within two weeks of successfully defending her thesis, two Niagara Parks managers at the partnership’s bi-annual roundtable were able to implement her recommendations. Ultimately, student research related to partnerships has the power to impact hundreds of thousands of people in the community and beyond.

    All in all, engaging in community partnerships can lead to a number of impactful research projects and help our community by making a difference in the environment while also enhancing the student experience.

    Categories: Blog, Collaborations, Event, Innovative Partnership, Town of Lincoln

  • Assessing Higher Education Institutions (HEI) – Community Partnerships Performance, Monitoring & Evaluation

    Blog Contributor: Erica Harper

    Partnerships between HEIs and communities are becoming increasingly important worldwide. More focus is therefore being placed on how these partnerships are created, how they transform over time, and they can achieve. Assessing the performance of HEI-community partnerships is essential for understanding their value (social, economic, and environmental value), accountability and transparency.

    Brock researchers carried out a national study to understand HEI-community partnerships and their performance in Canada. All HEIs in Canada with an explicit mandate related to community relationships were identified. A questionnaire was distributed to their offices, with the results illuminating the present state of partnership efforts. The key findings of this first part of this study include:

    • 25% of HEIs do not employ any monitoring or evaluation of their community partnerships
    • 67% of HEI community-focussed offices have an operating budget of $50,000 or more
    • 67% reported having over 30 active partnerships at their institutions

    A second questionnaire, sent to individuals at HEIs who are involved in HEI-community partnerships, as well as community partners, looked at how performance of partnerships should be assessed. A three-fold framework (inputs, process, outcomes) of indicators and measures was validated. The key findings of this second part of the study include what the most important inputs, processes, and outcomes are for effective partnership performance:

    • Motivation is the most important input
    • Communication is the most important process
    • Learning is the most important outcome

    These results bridge an important gap in the literature and you can learn more by accessing the Assessing Partnership Performance, Monitoring, & Evaluation webpage or by the reading the most recent publication by the ESRC research team in the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, The issue of performance in Higher education institution – Community partnerships: A Canadian perspective.

    To learn more we included some helpful links below:

    Categories: Applied Research, Blog, Collaborations, Innovative Partnership

  • NPC Speaker Series Wrap Up

    Blog Contributors: Allison Clark & Savannah Stuart

    NPC Webinar Screenshot

    Dr. Adam Shoalts was the last guest in the NPC Stewardship Speaker Series, and what an adventurous note to end on! Adam is well known for his novels and storytelling, detailing his incredible solo adventures through the Northern Canadian Wilderness. He brings with him a rare understanding and view of the vast landscape of the Arcticone of the largest untouched wilderness areas left in the entire world. With a PhD in history from McMaster University and extensive experience orienteering and navigating wilderness settings, Adam has a keen sense of natural history and geography. Through his humorous and compelling talk, Adam translated knowledge and experiences to the viewers in a tangible way. 

    Adam’s most recent exploration was a solo adventure through the Canadian Artic, from East to West. He began this trip by foot in the spring, as rivers were still ice covered. His canoe was shipped to the Mackenzie River Delta and by then, the ice had melted and he was able to continue his journey by paddling and portaging. Near the end, he was racing to arrive at his destination before the Arctic winter took hold of the land again. Many questions were brought forth from viewers at home, such as food inquiries, how he was able to spend so much time in solitude, preparation, and lots of gear questions. Specific details of the trip are found in his novel, “Beyond the Trees”, which can be purchased on the Niagara Parks website. Judging by the captivity and engagement of the crowd, we can only assume that the novel will keep you on the edge of your seat!  

    With this last presentation, we are saddened to wrap up our speaker series. It has been a joy to come together (virtually) and learn about different aspects of the environment, stewardship, and sustainability. Our diverse selection of speakers brought an array of teachings to us and visited topics such as: Traditional ecological knowledge, adaptive capacity of communities, the current state of fresh water in Ontario, and the importance of wild spaces and connecting with nature. We feel that this series captured the transdisciplinary nature of environmental stewardship and sustainability and are hopeful that our audience took away inspiration and new ideas. Thank you to all who were able to join us! 

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

  • Dr. Jessica Blythe’s presentation and an introduction to our next speaker, Elizabeth Hendriks

    Blog Contributor: Allison Clark 

    Niagara Parks and Brock University were delighted to have Dr. Jessica Blythe lead the second session of October’s Speaker Series. Dr. Blythe is an Assistant Professor at Brock University and her research is centered around transformations in sustainability, equitable ocean governance, and climate change adaptation. Dr. Blythe’s talk encouraged the audience to think critically about resilience and climate change at a local and global scale. Dr. Blythe explained that transformations towards a more sustainable future will require focus on both environmental systems and social systems. For example, the costs of environmental change are distributed unevenly across geographic location, race, income, class, and age. Therefore, resilience to climate change will require social and environmental action. 

    Dr. Blythe explained how transformation towards a more sustainable and equitable future occurs in three phases: diagnose, imagine, and action. The diagnose phase includes identifying the root causes of climate change, for example, increased greenhouse gas emissions. The imagine phase includes imagining a more just, fair, inclusive world, where people can work together towards an environmentally sustainable future. The action phase includes the actions needed to address climate change from a sustainable lens. Action will require people from every sector and every part of society and will involve both bottom up and top down interventions. The key take-away from Dr. Blythe’s talk was that a transformation – towards a more sustainable and equitable future – is already underway. Dr. Blythe concluded by stating that we each have a role to play in creating a more sustainable future and that while doing so, we must engage with compassion, care, and collaboration. 

    The next session in this speaker series will be led by Elizabeth Hendriks, and is titled: Connecting the Land, Water and Climate Impact to the Region. Ms. Hendriks is the Vice President of WWF Canada’s freshwater program, where she works in water policy. In 2017, Ms. Hendriks led the release of the Watershed Reports, which is a program assessing freshwater ecosystem health. Additionally, Ms. Hendrik’s leads Canada’s Freshwater team, working to address declines in freshwater ecosystems through innovative remediation techniques. In Ms. Hendrik’s talk, she will discuss impacts and threats to Canada’s freshwater resources. This talk will highlight some of the ways we, as citizens of Canada and the Niagara region, can help address and fight biodiversity loss and climate change across Canada, and in the Great Lakes. We hope you can join us on October 21st at 7pm for this online session. 

    To learn more about this speaker series, and Brock’s partnership with the Niagara Parks Commission, please click here 

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

  • NPC Stewardship Series: Teachings from Brian Kon, and an Introduction to Dr. Jessica Blythe

    Blog Contributor: Savannah Stuart

    Jessica Blythe

    The Environmental Sustainability Research Centre was thrilled to have our fall speaker series commence with Brian Kon, the chair of the Niagara Region Métis Council, renowned artist, and storyteller, among many other things. Brian offered the audience a change to engage with a different perspective of understanding and knowing the earth. He shared teachings and stories from his culture and explained how the translation of many words within the Métis language beautifully illustrate a deep connection with the earth. For example, “dancing” could be translated to “the Northern Lights”. 

    Brian also reminded us of the recent history of residential schools within Canada, the last one closing in 1996. He shared some of his journey in reconnecting with his culture- one that was taken away from many. Brian highlighted that it is important to educate on this history, as we can learn from the past to ensure a better future. Resources to further educate yourself on the discussed history include “Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Issues in Canada” by Chelsea Vowel and the “Indigenous Canada”- a free course available through the University of Alberta.  

    The evening ended with a call to action right in our very own backyards and neighbourhoods. Brian introduced us to different plants that are commonly found in our region and invited us to research further into the uses and characteristics of these plants. Having an awareness and understanding of the different organisms around us can have an impact on the way we relate to place and further, care for it.  

    The next speaker in the series is Dr. Jessica Blythe, a professor and researcher here at Brock University in the ESRC. Her background spans through disciplines as she connects social and ecological issues within her work. She is interested in resilience within communities and how resilience may relate to adaptation and transformation. Pulling from the grassroots film “Resilience: transforming our community”, Dr. Blythe will discuss resilience and climate change here in the Niagara Region.  Click here to register for the event!  

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

  • Introduction to the NPC Stewardship Speaker Series

    Blog Contributor: Allison Clark

      Brock University and the Niagara Parks Commission are pleased to announce the upcoming Environmental Speaker Series, happening this October. This series will be entirely free and will take place online, every Wednesday at 7pm. Throughout this series, four speakers will discuss topics such as: traditional ecological knowledge, sustainability, climate change, and anthropogenic impacts on the natural environment. To register, please click here. You will be taken to the Niagara Parks Speaker Series website, where you can enter your name and email to receive your weekly links for the live stream sessions. 

    The first speaker of this series will be Brian Kon. Mr. Kon is a leader within the Indigenous Community, acting as the Chair of the Niagara Region Métis Council and sitting on the Niagara Indigenous Community Advisory Board, focused on reducing homelessness of Indigenous people. Mr. Kon is an ambassador for the St. Catharines annual Celebration of Nations and is the owner of a diversity management consulting company (Sterling Frazer Associates), dedicated to helping organizations better understand disabled and minority populations. Currently, Mr. Kon is a member of the organizing committee for the Landscape of Nations, dedicated to re-writing the history of the War of 1812 through an Indigenous lens to be incorporated in Canadian school curriculums. Furthermore, Mr. Kon volunteers his time in local schools, helping to educate students and staff on Métis culture and heritage. Mr. Kon is also a visual artist, internationally recognized for his Dot Art, which is a modern version of traditional  artwork created by Métis people. 

    On Wednesday, October 7th, Mr. Kon will lead his talk titled: Mother Earth – We Need Her, She Doesn’t Need Us. Here, Mr. Kon will explain how, for thousands of years, the Indigenous people of Turtle Island followed the notion of respecting and caring for Mother Earth. As modern day people grow aware of environmental and climatic changes, many are looking back on traditional knowledge and ways of life. We hope you can join Mr. Kon as he discusses this topic next week. 

    To learn more about the partnership with the Niagara Parks Commission, please click here 

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