Environmental Stewardship 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

  • 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

  • Earth Day: Robyn Bourgeois, Acting Vice-Provost, Indigenous Engagement at Brock

    Blog Contributors: Savannah Stuart and Allison Clark

    On Earth Day especially, we must look to and honor Indigenous People’s traditional knowledge, ways of knowing, and relationship with the land. Indigenous Peoples were the first stewards of this land and far before colonization, they lived sustainably and in harmony with the land and continue to do so. As the climate crisis unfolds, people across the world are attempting to understand what sustainability truly means and how we can shift our societies towards more sustainable ways of living. There is much that can be learned from Indigenous Peoples, and their voices must be lifted and followed. This Earth Day, the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) asked Dr. Robyn Bourgeois, Vice-Provost Indigenous Engagement and Associate Professor for the Centre for Women’s and Gender Studies, to present her work surrounding the intersection of environmental and social justice.

    Preceding Dr. Bourgeois’ talk was a presentation from a group of undergraduate students taking part in a directed readings course. As Applied Health Science students, they focused their course on decolonizing health and cultural safety. The students created an experiential learning experience, where they were able to engage with Indigenous communities and Elders. The students built their own learning objectives and course culture which revolved around the “four R’s”: respect, responsibility, reciprocity, and relationships. These students found that the relationships they formed together and with Elders, enhanced their understanding of Indigenous issues in Canada, while also allowing them to take part in a transformative learning experience.

    Dr. Bourgeois continued the Earth Day event with a presentation on the intersection between violence against the environment and violence against Indigenous women. She began with a welcoming song from the Mi’kmaq Territory in Nova Scotia, which helped create a safe space for the heavy discussion that was to follow. Dr. Bourgeois is a mixed-race Cree woman and a professor within the department of Women and Gender Studies at Brock. She studies Indigenous feminism, violence against Indigenous women and girls, and Indigenous women’s political activism and leadership.

    Using traditional Indigenous knowledge, Dr. Bourgeois described how Indigenous women face dangers associated with colonialism, systemic racism, and sexism. One perspective that may be new to many is how the environment is related to these issues. Meaningfully addressing gender-based violence offers a resilient pathway to solve the genocidal climate change issue we are facing. As Dr. Bourgeois said in her presentation, “people will not respect the land until they respect women”, reminding us that environmental issues and Indigenous issues are very much connected and should be addressed together.

    For decades, people have been requesting investigations into missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. The “Highway of Tears”, a remote highway in northern British Columbia, has been the location of many missing and murdered Indigenous women, beginning in the 1970s. This highway is the gateway to much of northern British Columbia’s extractive industries. Only recently, this highway was provided with secure cellphone service. Moreover, those following Indigenous rights and recent pipeline protests may be familiar with red dresses hung throughout sites of proposed developments. These red dresses pay tribute to missing and murdered Indigenous women and act as a reminder that the extraction of natural resources has been associated with increased violence and harm against Indigenous women.

    Social justice issues can transcend boundaries and manifest in both physical and non-physical ways. Dr. Bourgeois explained that colonialism is no exception, and pulling from examples of her own experiences, informed the audience on how harmful conditioned colonial perspectives influence the way in which Indigenous women are treated in society.

    To begin addressing gender-based violence and environmental violence, further awareness and education is needed.  At the end of her presentation, the audience asked Dr. Bourgeois for additional resources to further educate themselves and raise awareness of the issues she discussed. This list will be provided in the coming weeks on our blog and on our social media channels. To watch Dr. Bourgeois’ talk, please click here.

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

  • 2020 Innovative Partnership Year-in-Reviews

    As 2020 comes to an end, we are reflecting on the accomplishments that have been made and important goals that have been achieved through our innovative partnerships. This year was full of ups and downs for the global community and the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre at Brock was not immune to these turbulent times.

    However, we are proud that we were still able to launch three innovative partnerships to assist in moving forward issues of global importance. We worked with our existing partners to achieve important goals in order to showcase the importance of sustainability in our constantly changing world. We believe that the work put in by our partners this year is a true testament to their resilience and willingness to persevere through the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Click on each partnership year-in-review below to learn more about what we’ve all been up to this past year!

    Brock-Lincoln Living Lab

    Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Initiative

    Charter with Facilities Management

    Niagara Adapts

    Trails, Assets, and Tourism Initiative

    Partnership for Freshwater Resilience

    The Prudhommes Project

     

    Categories: Blog, Brock Lincoln Living Lab, Environmental Stewardship Initiative, Innovative Partnership, Niagara Adapts, Prudhommes Project, Sustainability at Brock

  • EESI Partnership Roundtable Event

    Blog Contributor: Allison Clark

    Greenspaces, such as those found within Niagara Parks, have great ecological and social importance. For example, connecting with nature can provide benefits to physical and mental health. ThCovid-19 pandemic has increased the need for people to get outside and connect with nature. As a result, human activity in greenspaces has increased substantially, which has in turcreated challenges for parks management. To ensure ecological integrity is being upheld while also protecting visitor safety, new trail management strategies should be considered. 

    To discuss how Niagara Parks can navigate the increased use of greenspaces, a roundtable event was held on October 20th, 2020. This event brought together individuals from the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) and Brock University. This event was made possible by the Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Initiative (EESI) – a partnership between NPC and Brock. During this event, Brock University’s master’s students, Samantha Witkowski and John Foster, presented their research pertaining to greenspaces within Niagara Parks. Implications of these research findings were discussed with regards to the management of greenspaces. 

    Samantha’s presentation was titled: Examining Stakeholder Perceptions in Monitoring and Evaluation of Environmental Management. Samantha presented two different studies. The first study examined inter-group differences in the perceptions of key performance indicators (KPIs) for viewpoints. Results showed that stakeholders, tourists, local residents, and environmental managers perceived KPIs differently in Niagara Parks. For example, stakeholders perceived view quality and vegetation as the most important KPIs, whereas environmental managers perceived viewpoint KPIs more critically. The second study explored the influence of engaging in a collaborative, or participatory monitoring and evaluation process on stakeholder perceptions of KPIs for trails. For this study, Samantha had stakeholders rank KPIs from what they perceived as most important to least important in terms of trail management. Stakeholders were then required to take a KPI workshop and re-rank KPIs. Results from this study showed that stakeholders perceptions of important KPIs for trail management differed significantly following the KPI workshop. Furthermore, it was noted that discussion, communication, and learning opportunities contributed to perception change. A main takeaway from Samantha’s research was that the NPC should move away from strictly expert-led, ecologically focused trail management approachesand move towards the inclusion of stakeholder perceptions in environmental management, monitoring and evaluation. 

    John’s presentation was titled: Niagara Glen Trails Assessment, Summer 2020. John’s research highlighted some challenges associated with increased human traffic in the Niagara Glen, as well as some short-term and long-term solutions to address increased traffic along the trail. John outlined challenges associated with social trails (networks of unauthorized trails), and visitor safety and communication. To protect ecological and human health at the Niagara Glen, John proposed that the NPC implements visitor education sessions, increases signage, and creates effective trail maps. 

    Overall, this roundtable event worked to successfully discuss how the NPC should navigate increased usage of greenspaces. The research findings presented by Samantha and John were received very well by members of the EESI, and the NPC were very receptive to suggestions for improved environmental and trail management.  

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

  • 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

  • Elizabeth Hendriks’ Presentation and an Introduction to our Next Speaker, Adam Shoalts

    Blog Contributor: Savannah Stuart

    The Niagara Parks Commission and Brock University’s ESRC were thrilled to have Elizabeth Hendriks join us on October 21st to discuss connecting the land and water to regional climate change impact. Elizabeth is the Vice President of the WWF Canada’s freshwater program and led the release of the 2017 Watershed Reports. These reports were the first national assessment of the health and stressors of Canada’s freshwater. During her talk, Elizabeth highlighted that the reports do not include 100% of our freshwater systems, as we do not have data to report on all our freshwater resources and there is still much to be investigated within our freshwater systems. You can view the Great Lakes watershed reports on the WWF website to check in with different watersheds’ health and threats. Lake Ontario and the Niagara Peninsula currently have “fair” health, but also have very high levels of threat.

    Overall, Elizabeth said the watershed reports gave evidence of moderately healthy systems. This can give us hope for the future, but she also stated that we need to do better. She encouraged us to become involved in local initiatives to protect our freshwater systems. With the dual crisis of climate and biodiversity loss, freshwater highly impacts life on land, above water, and below water. Freshwater systems do not have the same level of protection and conservation that some land masses do, which could be a prominent issue in ensuring their health in the future. Additionally, freshwater systems are inextricably connected with ecosystem health and the ecosystem services that the land graciously provides

    Our next speaker in the series will bring with him a great sense of adventure! Named one of the “greatest living explorers” by CBC and Canadian Geographic, Adam Shoalts will speak about incredible adventures in the great Canadian wilderness. A previous student at Brock University, Adam went on to complete his master’s and PhD at McMaster University, focusing on history, natural history, geography, and archeology. Adam is now an accomplished author with multiple books that have reached best-seller lists. Adam will share with us the value of the wild places he has explored and how important they are to our future. We hope you can join us on October 28th 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, 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