Environmental Stewardship Initiative

  • My Experience in the Master of Sustainability Program

    Bani Maini

    Blog Contributor: Bani Maini

    It is a daunting task to get up and leave the only way of life you’ve known to move to a new country. In my case, I left India to come to Brock and pursue sustainability science. I enrolled in the Master of Sustainability program in the MRP stream. The past eight months have been filled with academic and experiential engagement with sustainability and have exceeded all my expectations. Through classes, a research assistantship, and a Major Research Paper (MRP) project, I was able to explore my interests and develop my research skills. All the while I have been here, I have had tremendous support from the ESRC department.

    The Fall and Winter semesters included courses on foundations of sustainability, research methods, climate change transformation and adaptation, opportunities to learn project management skills, and engage with wonderful speakers and their work through transdisciplinary seminars. The breadth and depth of the academic courses introduced me to sustainability science in the most exciting way possible.

    As a graduate research assistant, I received constant support from Dr. Ryan Plummer and Amanda Smits in their research work. I had a great opportunity to work on an environmental stewardship project through Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Initiative (EESI) partnership between the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) and Brock University. The project was supervised by Dr. Sherman Farhad, who has been a great mentor. Through additional support from Dr. Julia Baird and Dr. Plummer, the project has been a major learning experience which I thoroughly enjoyed.

    In the pursuit of studying marine environments, I was given the full opportunity to explore my research interests. Dr. Jessica Blythe, who is supervising my research, supported all the MRP development phases while also being a constant source of motivation for me. While working on my MRP on area-based conservation in marine environments, I have built on my knowledge, and my determination to address some of the most challenging problems that affect the oceans has grown deeper.

    Despite how daunting it was, the ESRC provided the support and opportunity I needed to assimilate myself into a new environment. It has been inspiring to see everyone at the ESRC working tirelessly towards the common goal of betterment of the environment and society. This turned me into an optimist, and I have decided to follow their footsteps to work towards the common goal. Now, I look forward to developing my MRP research. ​

     

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

  • Affirming Stewardship in Niagara Parks

    Blog Contributor: Bridget McGlynn

    This past week on March 12th, 2020, the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) ratified the stewardship plan “Nurturing environmental stewardship in the Niagara Parks: Strategic plan 2020-2030”. The ratification of the stewardship plan at the recent Commission meeting marks another accomplishment for the Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Initiative (EESI), a 5-year partnership between the NPC and Brock University. The co-creation of the stewardship plan by NPC and Brock University’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) began in April 2018 when the Memorandum of Understanding creating the EESI was signed. The goals and objectives in the 2020-2030 Stewardship Action Plan dovetail with the overarching NPC Strategic Plan. The stewardship action plan also incorporates operationalizing monitoring and evaluation strategies and will continue to push forward efforts for the co-creation and mobilization of knowledge.  

    At the commission meeting, both NPC’s Steve Barnhart, Senior Director, Parks, Environment & Culture, and the ESRC’s Dr. Ryan Plummer spoke to the ongoing success of the partnership. To date, the partnership has been invaluable for furthering quality environmental stewardship research and for closing the research to action gap. Multiple Master of Sustainability students have completed thesis research within the partnership and a SSHRC Insight Development Grant (Drs. Julia Baird, Marilyne Jollineau, Ryan Plummer) was secured to investigate approaches in monitoring and evaluating and the effectiveness of environmental stewardship initiatives in Niagara Parks. The partnership is committed to ensuring academic research is transformed into action, as demonstrated by the inaugural EESI partnership round table in Fall 2019, where Angela Mallette, a Master of Sustainability graduate, discussed her research findings with NPC staff and leadership. The partnership also seeks to broaden engagement with stewardship initiatives through continuing to enhance student learning through experiential education opportunities and increasing community participation and learning opportunities.  

    This commission meeting also included the signing Memorandum of Understanding between NPC, Brock University and Ontario Trails Council, demonstrating a continued commitment to innovative partnerships.  

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

  • Student Research Highlight: Participation in Trail Monitoring & Evaluation

    Blog Contributor: Bridget McGlynn

    On March 5th Samantha Witkowski, a current Master of Sustainability student at Brock, led a workshop in partnership with the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) to continue her research on participatory monitoring and evaluating processes. This workshop was made possible by the Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Initiative (EESI), a partnership between the NPC and Brock University. Hosted at the beautiful Niagara Glen Nature Centre, the workshop included a variety of stakeholders, such as community members, Niagara Parks staff, and ecology experts, who discussed management possibilities for the trails in the Niagara Glen. 

    The day began with coffee and a guided walk though trails in the Niagara Gorge for participants to enjoy and observe the trails prior to considering management practices. Our Niagara Parks guide spoke about the history of the Glen, current management practices, recent site improvements, and usage patterns. Upon completion of the hike, participants returned to the Nature Centre and the exciting discussions began! The Niagara Glen received an unprecedented number of visitors in Summer 2019, and as such much of the discussion revolved around ways in which Niagara Parks can manage the trails in the Niagara Glen while upholding their mandate of “Preserving and promoting the natural and cultural heritage along the Niagara River corridor”. Through their vision, Niagara Parks also aims to be an “innovative example of sustainability” and a “welcoming, accessible and inspiring place”. Consequently, brainstorming regarding management practices revolved around maintaining and improving current trail quality, encouraging visitor stewardship through education, and promoting alternative Niagara Parks trails. The varied backgrounds of the participants presented multiple perspectives on the current needs of the Glen, management priorities, and relevant key performance indicators. The workshop provided an excellent example of the transdisciplinary research being conducted at the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) as it brought together diverse stakeholders to address a local, solution-based research question.

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

  • Brock and Niagara Parks expand partnership to study trail network

    A partnership built on the mutual goal of environmental stewardship is taking another step forward.

    Two years after signing an initial Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the Niagara Parks Commission and Brock University signed an additional collaboration agreement on Thursday, March 12 at Niagara Parks’ public Commission Meeting that will help the Parks assess and sustainably grow its extensive trail network.

    To be known as the Trails Assets and Tourism Initiative, the new partnership involves Brock and Niagara Parks, along with the Ontario Trails Council.

    Trails are an important natural asset of Niagara Parks. From the world-renowned Niagara Glen, which houses some of the province’s most sensitive plant and animal species, to the Niagara River Recreation Trail, which provides 53 kilometres of paved trails along the Niagara River from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Fort Erie, trail networks allow guests to connect with nature, learn about the unique environment here in Niagara and embrace healthy physical activities.

    “Over the past few years, we have seen a huge growth in trail use and demand for trail and cycle tourism in Niagara Parks,” said Niagara Parks Chair Sandie Bellows. “This initiative will allow us to work together with our community partners to respond to that growth and demand while respecting our shared commitment to the environment.”

    The agreement will include a needs assessment to help Niagara Parks with the trails master planning process, as well as experiential education opportunities for Brock students and initiatives led by Brock faculty members and grad students. Annual public events are also being planned to help pass along the results of the partnership to the community.

    Ontario Trails Council (OTC), a not-for-profit organization that promotes the development, preservation, management and use of recreational trails in Ontario, will bring its expertise in managing and operating recreational trails to the project.

    “The Ontario Trails Council is very excited to be working with the Niagara Parks Commission and Brock University, two national leaders in outdoor recreation and conservation,” said Wayne Terryberry, President of the Ontario Trails Council. “These organizations have a very successful history of cooperation, and the OTC can add it’s trail management expertise in a joint effort to enhance and develop the trail economy and healthy active living in Niagara Parks and the Niagara Peninsula.”

    The Trails Assets and Tourism Initiative builds on both the current MOU between Niagara Parks and Brock University, as well as the recent initiative to establish a binational trail network within the Niagara River corridor. In an MOU signed in August 2019, Niagara Parks joined the Niagara River Greenway Commission and the Buffalo Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority to officially connect the recreational trail networks on both sides of the border.

    This second MOU between Niagara Parks and Brock University is also part of Brock’s ongoing commitment to being a good community partner. In the past two years, it has signed similar collaborative agreements with Niagara Health, the Town of Lincoln, Community Care of St. Catharines and Thorold, Niagara Folk Arts, Pathstone Mental Health and others.

    Brock Vice-President, Academic Greg Finn said the partnerships meet Brock’s Strategic Plan priorities of expanding research capacity, offering a transformational academic experience for students and enhancing the life and vitality of the local region and beyond.

    “These collaborations are not just photo opportunities — they make a difference to people and the planet every day,” said Finn. “We are particularly pleased that Brock and Niagara Parks are working together in an area that is crucial to us all — the sustainability of our environment.”

    The 2018 MOU between Brock and Niagara Parks has been an unquestionable success, with highlights noted in the infographic attached to this media release.

    Known as the Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Initiative, the partnership has allowed Niagara Parks to access Brock researchers to further improve its sustainability and environmental stewardship goals, while giving Brock faculty and students an iconic landscape to actively engage in sustainability science.

    “We had high hopes when entering into the MOU with Niagara Parks two years ago and those expectations have continually been exceeded,” said Ryan Plummer, Director and Professor of the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre. “We’ve had a vibrant and engaging partnership with meaningful impacts for both parties. It is exciting to see this second collaboration taking shape with a broader constellation of partners and I have every confidence it will be equally successful.”


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    Categories: Collaborations, Environmental Stewardship Initiative, Innovative Partnership

  • Inaugural EESI Partnership Roundtable

    Blog Contributors: Bani Maini & Bridget McGlynn

    On October 23, 2019, individuals from the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) and Brock University gathered at Legends on the Niagara Golf Course for an inaugural roundtable event. The roundtable is the first in a series of events made possible via the Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Initiative (EESI), a partnership between the NPC and Brock University. The meeting provided an orientation to EESI, allowed for the sharing of recently completed research findings, discussion the implications of the findings, and allowed for progress to be shared on projects associated with the partnership. Corey  Burant  from the NPC and Dr. Ryan Plummer from Brock co-chaired the event.  

    Angela Mallette, a recent Master of Sustainability graduate from Brock, presented her research on “Understanding Perceptions of the State of the Environment in Relation to Ecological Measures: Intergroup Differences and the influences of Environmental Interpretation”. Through ecological assessments, and visitor and expert surveys, Angela observed ecological health as well as perceptions of ecological health. Her research provides a holistic approach to environmental assessment which includes ecological measurements as well as social perspectives.  

    The discussion Angela’s presentation provoked stimulated not only more research questions but also suggestions for potential NPC initiatives to better achieve their stewardship goals. Her research has important ecological and cultural implications for the NPC and the sentiment resonated with everyone present at the meeting. One of the aims of the partnership is to mobilize evidence-based research and suggestions in order to help with the management of resources at the NPC. These findings not only help with immediate resolution of existing concerns, but also open avenues for other potential areas of research and collaboration.   

    After Angela’s presentation and a stimulating discussion on the outcomes and implications of her research, faculty and students from Brock shared updates on the ongoing projects which are a part of the partnership. Samantha Witkowski, a current Master of Sustainability student at Brock shared her ongoing research on monitoring and evaluation approaches. Brock University Assistant Professor Dr. Julia Baird presented the early findings of the her latest research, made possible through an Insight Development Grant, which aims at assessing four different methods for evaluating ecological outcomes of environmental stewardship. Dr. Baird and Post-Doctoral Fellow Dr. Sherman Farhad also shared updates on an ongoing social network analysis project which aims at understanding the modes and extent of environmental stewardship knowledge sharing networks at the NPC. Updates were also shared on Dr. Jessica Blythe’s project related to the public’s perception of the NPC.  

    The outcomes of completed and ongoing partnership projects provide insights and opportunities that influence future environmental stewardship goals and objectives. The roundtable was a true reflection of the commitment and the level of engagement that individuals from both the organizations bring to the table. The event perfectly captured the essence of the partnership and underscored the importance of current and future roundtables.  

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

  • Niagara Adapts Holds First Three Workshops

    Earlier this summer, representatives from seven local municipalities in Niagara and members from Brock University’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC), met for the inaugural Niagara Adapts workshop at Brock University. The morning began with presentations from Dr. Ryan Plummer and Dr. Jessica Blythe on climate change in Niagara. Next, each municipality gave a presentation on some of the climate change impacts previously experienced in their community as well as some of the actions taken so far. This portion of the day was especially interesting and valuable. It became apparent just how much we can learn from our neighbours. Throughout the entire workshop, there was a recognition of the novelty of the partnership, as well as an appreciation for the fact that we are more effective when we work collaboratively. “Why reinvent the wheel?”, as put by one workshop attendee.

    The second Niagara Adapts workshop, titled “Climate change impacts analysis”, was held on Friday, August 16th. We were joined by Dr. Brad May, a Canadian expert in climate change adaptation and risk assessment. It was a jam-packed, but very informative day. In the morning, we explored key climate change concepts, climate models, and climate change trends and projections (from global to local). Using a new tool (climatedata.ca), we accessed climate scenarios and recorded some projections for 2050 and 2100. Some of the findings were shocking. For example, under one high emissions scenario, it is projected that by the end of the century there could be up to 123 days per year above 30C (City of St. Catharines). That is more than one third of the year, with extreme heat days! In the afternoon, we identified potential climate change impacts and ran through a preliminary risk assessment exercise. Having members from a range of backgrounds (from engineering to environmental services) was exceptionally valuable, and enriched the brainstorming process.

    Most recently, on Wednesday, September 18th, the ESRC hosted the third Niagara Adapts workshop, called “Climate change vulnerability assessment”.  The workshop began with a lecture by Dr. Ryan Plummer, which was designed to provide an overview of the concepts of climate change vulnerability. Dr. Plummer also provided an introduction to climate vulnerability assessments, including how they can be implemented, the data that can be obtained, and the importance of such assessments to informing climate change adaptation actions. Following the lecture, we conducted a working session on ranking vulnerability indicators. This type of participatory approach is important for creating a context-specific vulnerability assessment.

    The outputs from all three workshops are essential components to begin the climate change adaptation process, and we are excited at all that we have learned about climate change in Niagara in such a short amount of time!

    To learn more about this exciting initiative please join us on November 27, 2019 at the official launch of Niagara Adapts at the Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines – tickets are FREE!

     

    Categories: Blog, Collaborations, Environmental Stewardship Initiative, Innovative Partnership

  • SSHRC IDG: Brock University Partners with Niagara Parks Commission to Compare Environmental Stewardship Evaluation Methods

    Student Contributor: Seyi Obasi

    It’s no longer news that human actions are seriously affecting the ecological health of our environment. Humans have become such a powerful force on the earth that our choices can make or mar the future health of most, if not all ecosystems on the earth. However, despite being a power broker on the earth, we still depend on it’s environment for our wellbeing. This too, is no longer news. Because of our realization that we need to take care of the earth in order to assure the continued existence of both, the concept of environmental stewardship was born!

    Environmental stewardship includes all the choices and actions people make to care for and protect the environment in order to continue to enjoy it and make it sustainable for future generations. Such choices and actions include everything from individual actions like recycling, to community and organizational efforts to conserve and restore the environment. The number of environmental stewardship initiatives has been growing steadily, with several organizations, communities, groups and residents committing and engaging in stewardship initiatives and practices ranging from habitat restoration to reforestation projects and even to river restoration initiatives. The list is endless.

    But the important question is, are those stewardship initiatives working? Are they meeting the objectives for which they were implemented? Are there any changes that need to be made? These questions are hard to answer because although the number of environmental stewardship initiatives is growing, there are a range of reasons why it may not be possible to carefully and effectively evaluate the outcomes of these efforts after they have been implemented, especially using traditional expertise evaluation methods (e.g., access to financial or human resources).

    Evaluation is key in environmental stewardship, as it is the only way to know if the initiatives are working or not! In a bid to explore solutions to this issue, faculty from Brock ESRC in partnership with Niagara Parks received a SSHRC IDG award to investigate how alternative methods for evaluation such as using citizen scientists, stakeholders and remote sensing, compare with expert evaluation.

    The aim of the project is to compare field data evaluations about both the ecological health and the presence of two at-risk bird species (Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark) at the Chippawa bird habitat grassland site and the Lilac garden site, two recent Niagara Parks stewardship initiatives in the Niagara Region. The evaluations from the expert, citizen scientists, stakeholders and remote sensing will be compared based on accuracy, cost, expertise requirement, and ease of data collection. It promises to be an exciting project.

    The data collection phase of the project was divided into four parts: First, the expert did his field evaluations, followed closely by the citizen scientists and then stakeholders consecutively. The final remote sensing component will be undertaken in the next few weeks. The project characterized stakeholders as people who use the sites or may have a vested interest in the sites (i.e., bird watchers, nature club members, etc.) but were not given further training specific to the project, whereas citizen scientists received resources and training specific to the sites/initiatives we are investigating.

    Data collection for the citizen scientists and stakeholder volunteers happened on two different days in the first week of July, just after the expert data collection. The project’s call for data collection volunteers received remarkable responses from residents of Niagara and members of different nature groups in Niagara. They showed such amazing enthusiasm to be involved, which was surprising given that they were expected to gather at the Niagara Parks office at 6am for data collection – yes, 6 AM! In addition to the volunteers for being ready bright and early, the researchers would also like to extend their gratitude to the Niagara Parks and their staff for their amazing support in recruiting volunteers, site preparation and support in other wonderful ways.

    On the collection day, both the citizen scientists and stakeholder volunteers were introduced to the project, expectations were clarified and questions answered at the Niagara Parks office. The citizen scientists received training and detailed manuals that had pictures of the vegetation and birds they were likely to find on both sites. And as the project team silently hoped that it would not rain, volunteers were excitedly driven to the sites to start data collection.

    The entire data collection process on both days was fun, engaging, exciting, educative and successful. At the Chippawa site, volunteers assessed the presence of the two at-risk bird species (as well as other bird species), while both vegetation and bird species were assessed at the Lilac garden site. Volunteers superbly engaged as they watched and listened to identify birds, and used sight and touch to identify the vegetation. They were deliberate and focused; they came with instruments and tools ranging from binoculars, powerful cameras and bird apps. There were even a few volunteers referring to hard copy vegetation and bird books! Added to that, friendships were struck and phone numbers were exchanged. It was so exciting and refreshing to see!

    And then there were ticks… or not. While the team came tick-prepared with protective suits and bug spray, there was hardly any tick drama, leading the whole team to breathe massive sighs of relief! 

    In addition to the satisfaction of contributing to an amazing project, one lucky volunteer from each group went home with a $500 gift card to Bass Pro Shops in a raffle draw done on the bus ride back from the research sites – another highlight of the day! All in all, it was a very successful, fun-filled two days of data collection. Now comes the fun part – analyzing the data!

    As environmental stewardship initiatives become increasingly important in Canada and worldwide, it is also important to explore a variety of methods to evaluate the success of these initiatives. The findings from this project will help decision-makers and stewards make informed decisions about appropriate, economical, and accurate methods for doing research.

     

    Categories: Blog, Environmental Stewardship Initiative, Innovative Partnership

  • Meet the Faculty of the ESRC: Dr. Ryan Plummer

    Blog Contributor: Kaitlin James

     

    Ryan Plummer

    Photo: Dr. Ryan Plummer, Professor and Director of the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre

    As the final instalment of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ryan Plummer, Director of the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) to learn more about his research, and role as the Director of the ESRC.  His multi-faceted program of research broadly concerns the governance of social-ecological systems. In striving to advance knowledge of collaboration and adaptation within complex systems, he has focused on exploring their theoretical underpinnings and ethical implications, modelling their processes, examining the roles of social capital, and investigating the influences of social learning. His multitude of publications in research journals such as Ecological Economics, Ecology and Society, Environmental Management and Frontiers in Ecology and Society to name a few, exemplify his scholarly quality of research, and vast amount of contributions to the field of sustainability science. It was a pleasure to interview him, and learn more about his research and role at the ESRC.

     Q1: What does your role as the Director of the ESRC look like?

    I feel privileged that colleagues put my name forward to serve as Director of the ESRC and made this recommendation to Dean Makus.  The nominal workload of a faculty member is adjusted with the role of Director to permit additional administrative responsibilities. Those administrative responsibilities include scheduling of courses, budgeting, overseeing staff and ensuring the operation of our Centre. I attend meetings and events as well as interact with governments, organizations and other institutions on behalf of the Centre.

    Q2: What are your research areas of focus? 

    My program of research broadly aims to advance environmental stewardship. I have three main areas of focus: resilience of social-ecological systems; management and governance of the environment (adaptive capacity; adaptive co-management; collaboration, learning, evaluation of outcomes); and, water resources management and governance.

    Q3: Why is your research important? What are some possible real-world applications? 

    While conventional approaches to management and governance had some noteworthy successes in the past, their limitations are increasingly apparent in the contemporary era (and future) characterized by complexity, uncertainty and contested/conflict values. We must figure out how to manage human behaviours and make decisions (individually and collectively) in this context with positive outcomes (social-ecological).

    I am energized by my research because of the breadth of applicability in terms of real-world applications. For example, my research on adaptive co-management – a strategy bringing together collaboration and adaptation for making decisions and taking actions about an aspect of the environment – has been applied in contexts such as biosphere reserves, climate change adaptation and risk-management rivers, small-scale fisheries, and sustainable tourism. The launch of the Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Initiative involving the Centre and the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) in April of 2018 is an exciting local example. Here a team of faculty and students from our Centre are leveraging knowledge of stewardship in partnership with our NPC colleagues to address challenges and realize opportunities in an iconic Canadian landscape that is ecologically significant and under considerable pressures.

    Q4: What does sustainability science mean to you and why is it important? 

    Sustainability science for me is a ‘different’ type of science. It is premised on an integrative perspective of humans and Nature, consistent with our contemporary understanding of how the world operates; takes a transdisciplinary and problem-solving approach; extends beyond the academy and embraces pluralism of knowledges and knowledge co-creation; emphasizes the need for collaboration; and, aspires to advance knowledge and action for sustainability – understood as an ongoing iterative process as opposed to an end state.

    Sustainability science is important to me because it recognizes the scholarship that has been done in the past and needs to be done in the future. It provides a rubric for individuals to situation their scholarship and legitimizes/encourages breaking with some past entrenched academic conventions. It is a different science – and an approach critically important to our society and planet.

    Categories: Blog, Environmental Stewardship Initiative, Faculty Contributor, Student Contributor

  • NPC holds public sessions to showcase environmental stewardship efforts

    Blog Contributors: Alicia Goddard & Samantha Witkowski

    NPC Stewardship Event

    Photo: Master of Sustainability students (left to right) Brooke Kapeller, Angela Mallette & Alicia Goddard.

    Have you heard? Brock University’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) and the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) have formed a partnership called the Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Initiative (EESI). On September 26th and 27th, the NPC held public information sessions to showcase environmental stewardship efforts in the Niagara Region, including the work of the EESI. The sessions proved to be a beneficial experience for graduate students involved in the EESI, and the public. Samantha Witkowski, a first-year student in the Masters of Sustainability program at the ESRC, said, “The experience was valuable for me as it was my first time meeting NPC staff, and my first public information session.  It was fascinating to see all the engagement taking place between collaborators and the public.”

    At the session, participants had the opportunity to learn about a variety of stewardship projects that are underway in the Niagara Region. For instance, the NPC has a two-year plan that aims to restore two kilometers of shoreline with native vegetation that will increase diversity while stabilizing the shoreline banks.  Alicia Goddard, another incoming graduate student with the Masters of Sustainability program stated, “I am impressed with the stewardship of the NPC. They are recycling hazardous trees that needed to be removed after they died from Emerald Ash Borer infestation by incorporating them into the Niagara River at select locations, increasing fish habitat.  That’s awesome!”

    Since the discovery of Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) beetle on NPC property in 2012, the park has lost a significant number of ash trees.  The park has responded by planting upwards of 20 different species of native trees, which will assist them in reaching their goal of having 75% of the species found in the park returned to the native condition.

    Another unique project began in 2004 when NPC partnered with Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program. Since that time, six hectares of turf grass on the Niagara Parks’ Legends on the Golf Complex is now returned to a more naturalized state.  An additional four hectares of previous agriculture fields are reforested.  The chemical use continues to be reduced, and water consumption by the golf course has significantly reduced, with 14 hectares removed from irrigation and annual upgrades occurring on the remaining infrastructure.  The Ussher’s Creek habitat is also improving with the addition of nest boxes and monitoring of water quality underway.  The golf course is now a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.

    Meanwhile at the Chippawa Grassland Bird Habitat management plans call for enhancing the existing grasslands by ensuring a variety of mixed native grasses that will not only increase habitat for grassland birds but other species including native pollinators, reptiles, and amphibians.

    In addition to these NPC-driven projects, the work of the joint partnership between the NPC and the ESRC was on display. ESRC students and faculty have been assisting the NPC with the development of a ten-year Environmental Stewardship Plan.  The ESRC has conducted an inventory of past stewardship projects allowing the NPC and partners to look back so informed discussions and decisions can be made within a common framework.  This framework has allowed for focus groups to meet and develop stewardship goals and objectives. Check out an interactive map of past and ongoing stewardship efforts.

    Additionally, 2nd year ESRC Master’s student Angela Mallette is currently studying how the public views the natural health of the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve, as compared to scientific data in the same area. Concurrently, 2nd year ESRC Master’s student Brooke Kapeller is investigating how the various parts of stewardship across the Niagara Region relate to positive outcomes and success.  As you can see, the EESI partnership between has many benefits, including giving graduate students the opportunity for hands-on work experience and unique research opportunities that further enhance the partnership.

    As the NPC works hard at preserving the Niagara Region corridor from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario we hope that you check out their projects and, if you have any suggestions or would like more information, reach out to them!  The initiatives underway will make up NPC plans from 2019 and beyond.

     

    Categories: Blog, Environmental Stewardship Initiative, Experiential Education, SSAS Student Contributor

  • Focus Group with Niagara Parks Commission

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

    Photo Credit: Brooke Kapeller

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