Environmental Stewardship Initiative

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

    Blog Contributor: Shannon Heaney

    Photo retrieved from Environment Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 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

  • 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