Experiential Education

  • Experiential Education in a Virtual Year

    Blog Contributor: Shannon Ruzgys

    2020 orientation

    In an academic year quite unlike any other, the first year Master of Sustainability students experienced experiential education in a very different form, the virtual kind. Three virtual experiential education components took place in SSAS 5P01 (Foundations of Sustainability Science and Society), focusing on sustainability at Brock, UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, and the ESRC’s innovative partnerships.

    Sustainability at Brock usually would have involved a tour of Brock’s Central Utilities Building, but instead involved Mary Quintana (Director, Asset Management & Utilities) and Amanda Smits (ESRC Centre Administrator) virtually joining the class to discuss how Brock is committed to sustainability through management of facilities. The students were virtually walked through Brock’s District Energy Efficiency Project (DEEP), which involved replacing old co-generation engines with state-of-the-art energy efficient units. The students were walked through how this project had increased energy efficiency and lowered Brock’s carbon emissions, helping the university stay on track with their sustainability targets. The students were also introduced to the sustainability initiatives on campus through BU Sustainable, including the @busustainableInstagram and other social media platforms. Even though the students couldn’t walk the underground tunnels of Brock instead, they still got to learn and experience all of the ways in which Brock is currently enacting sustainability every single day through a virtual presentation.

    The second experiential education component focused on UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, including the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve, a reserve in which Brock University is situated. The students were virtually joined by Dr. Liette Vasseur who is a faculty member at Brock University and Lisa Grbinicek, a Senior Strategic Advisor at the Niagara Escarpment Commission. Through their presentations we were taught about the Ontario’s Greenbelt, UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, and natures contributions to people. The discussion was kicked off by highlighting the vast expanse that is the Greenbelt, which is 1.8 million acres of protected land spread across Ontario, including the Niagara Escarpment. The unique biodiversity within the Niagara Escarpment was discussed, including thousand-year-old trees, rare flora, and multitudes of mammals, birds, and reptiles. The students learned about the early plans put in place to protect the greenbelt and its designation as a biosphere reserve in 1990. From there, new developments in UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserves were discussed, including the ongoing conversation around the colonial implications of the term and the aim to change the term to Biosphere Region. The students also got to learn about ongoing developments in the field of biodiversity, including the differences between ecosystem services and natures contribution to people. Overall, the students got to hear from two professionals who have spent years in the field, protecting and researching biodiversity, and got to learn about the natural wonders that surround Brock.

    The final educational component highlighted the innovative community partnerships in the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC). While in any other year this would have involved the students visiting these partnerships in person through an interactive field trip, instead this course component took place virtually this year. The students were joined by Ryan Plummer (Director of the ESRC), Amanda Smits (ESRC Centre Administrator) and Erica Harper (a second year SASS student and ESRC co-op student). The students were walked through each of these partnerships and learned how the ESRC is actively integrating transdisciplinary research into the surrounding community. The ESRC is currently involved in 8 community partnerships, including the Brock Lincoln Living Lab, Niagara Adapts, Trail Assets and Tourism, and a new Living Planet @ Campus partnership with WWF. As transdisciplinary research is a pillar of the SASS program and the ESRC, it was very important for the students to experience how the centre is integrating the transdisciplinary approach into their own partnerships. So, while the students did not get to visit these partnerships, they were still able to experience and learn about all of the work that the ESRC is doing within the community and learn about these partnerships.

    In a virtual year, experiential education can be a difficult thing to accomplish but the SASS students were still able to learn about and experience all of the ways in which sustainability is lived out at Brock, including through the facilities management, Brock’s place in a Biosphere Reserve, and the ESRC’s innovative partnerships.

    Categories: Blog, Experiential Education, Innovative Partnership, SSAS Program, SSAS Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Implementing Experiential Education in a Virtual World

    Blog Contributor:  Erica Harper  

    Jess tweet

    Dr. Jessica Blythe is an assistant professor in the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre who teaches courses to Minor in Environmental Sustainability (undergraduate) and Master of Sustainability (graduate) students who are keen to learn more about climate change, environmental policy, and how to achieve transformational change within our societies’ systems. To take on the challenge of engaging her students in a virtual world, Dr. Blythe has continued to implement experiential education into course work through the Fall 2020 semester.

    Dr. Blythe has used social media to get ideas for assignments before, but this time she inspired others on Twitter with her creativity to further her students’ understanding of climate change adaptation. Dr. Blythe posted about an assignment related to climate change adaptation that she gave her students enrolled in the capstone course of the Minor of Sustainability program, Contemporary Environmental Issues (ENSU3P90). Her Twitter post explains that she asked her students to generate tools to create workshops that would help people find solutions for climate change adaptation and transformation using Rob Hopkins and Rob Shorter’s Imagination Sundial. Dr. Blythe’s Twitter post received attention online and even managed to reach both the creators of the Imagination Sundial who were impressed by her creativity and ability to implement their Imagination Sundial into her course work.

    The Imagination Sundial acts as a design tool for rebuilding the imaginative capacity of people, organizations, or countries to help generate solutions for adapting to climate change. This tool resonated with Dr. Blythe because her research investigates how we can achieve transformational change in society and the Sundial is a great tool to help catalyze this type of change. Dr. Blythe approaches the ENSU390 course with the expectation that many of her students are finishing their degrees at Brock, and the course is therefore designed to help them become sustainability professionals or implement sustainability into their careers after graduation. Although her experiential assignments usually consist of working with real partners within the university, Dr. Blythe still wanted to provide her students with experiential learning opportunities in a virtual world. Using the Sundial, students had to explain who they would target for their climate adaptation workshop (e.g., farmers, residents, organizations, etc.), the purpose of their workshop such as what transformation they would like to walk participants through, and finally, students had to map out the logistics of their workshop.

    Dr. Blythe emailed both Rob Hopkins and Rob Shorter to explain the assignment in more depth and provide some examples from the students in her class. They were inspired that she had been using their Imagination Sundial for experiential education during this challenging time and they thought it was novel to be using their tool at the undergraduate level. All in all, Dr. Blythe has demonstrated a great example of how to implement experiential education in a virtual world and has surely inspired many of her colleagues online to do the same.

    To learn more about the Minor in Environmental Sustainability at Brock, please visit: https://brocku.ca/esrc/minor-in-sustainability/

    Categories: Blog, Experiential Education, Minor in Sustainability

  • Green Infrastructure and Low Impact Development: Expert Perspectives

    Blog Contributor: Erica Harper

    On October 22nd, the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre hosted their second Sustainability Seminar Series event of the term. The event consisted of a panel discussion with three professionals in the green infrastructure and low impact design space with decades of rich experiences and knowledge bases. The panelists were: Safdar Abidi, Principal, Practice Leader at Perkins and Will, Dr. Janani Sivarajah, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, Brock University and Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, and Paul Leitch, Director, Environmental Sustainability Services at Blackstone Energy Services.

    The panel kicked off with an important question – “what do ‘low impact’ and ‘sustainability’ mean to you?”. This question allowed the panelists to provide the audience members with their perspective and lens when it comes to working in the low impact development and green infrastructure industry. The responses varied greatly, but one common theme was that sustainability and low impact design need to be synonymous with social, ecological, and economical resilience. Another key aspect of sustainability that Dr Sivarajah, Mr. Abidi, and Mr. Leitch pointed out was that buildings and designs must be “low impact” not only for humans, but animals, plants, and all other ecological systems for us all to thrive.

    The second questions asked panelists to identify challenges that they perceive as roadblocks to implementing low impact development and green infrastructure. Mr. Leitch highlighted that many facilities and organizations have conflicting priorities that get in the way of integrating green infrastructure and low impact development, but that we must properly communicate the benefits of sustainable design for it to be implemented “from the boiler room to the board room”. Additionally, Mr. Abidi stated that as long as we see sustainability as an optional choice instead of a priority, we will not be able to move forward in terms of green infrastructure and low impact development and we must debunk the myth that “climate change is a subjective issue”. Lastly, Dr. Sivarajah mentioned that sustainable design is often an afterthought and we try to fit it in after the “grey” infrastructure is set. Dr. Sivarajah also stated that we need to go back to our roots, making sure that low impact development and green infrastructure are planned from the onset of a development with transdisciplinary perspectives as stakeholders must work together to implement radical green infrastructure.

    The event’s last question allowed the audience to get a glimpse into how the experienced panelists view the future of low impact development and green infrastructure. To begin, Mr. Abidi explained that the pandemic has provided humans with a strong signal to take a step back and reflect on the value of being part of a community. For a thriving community, we must have the following: healthier and active lifestyles, equity in terms of access to public spaces, and community building. Dr. Sivarajah drove home the importance of planning urban spaces with intention and in a holistic manner that accounts for accessibility, equity, and sustainability for all living beings. Lastly, Mr. Leitch believes that although the transition towards prioritizing low impact development and green infrastructure will be a gradual one, as behavioural changes expand, green infrastructure and low impact development will become expected standards that offer great benefits tied to wellbeing.

    The panel discussion concluded with each professional’s closing statement for audience members. Mr. Leitch stated the importance of generating solutions for complex issues in a “people-oriented way” and to hold strong when it comes to our path with sustainability in school and in our careers. Additionally, Dr. Sivarajah told the students in the audience that they were the future of sustainability and that it is crucial to prioritize your values as they will guide you in the professional world. Lastly, Mr. Abidi left us with the fact that we are in a position of privilege to even have the knowledge to find solutions to climate change and reverse the damage that humans have done to our planet. Mr. Abidi also asked students to think of themselves as “healers of the Earth” as they go on to pursue different career paths in sustainability, low impact development, and green infrastructure.

    All in all, this was an inspiring event that helped students gain a deeper understanding of the major current challenges that professionals face in the space of green infrastructure and low impact design, while also being exposed to ways in which we can overcome them with transdisciplinary solutions.

    This panel was live-streamed – a recording is available on our YouTube channel.

    Categories: Blog, Brock Lincoln Living Lab, Experiential Education, Prudhommes Project, SSAS Program, SSAS Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock, Town of Lincoln

  • Brock-Lincoln Living Lab Year-in-Review

    BL-LL Year-in-Review 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • SSAS Experiential Learning Field Trip Takes Students Across Niagara

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

  • Summer 2019 SSAS Student Spotlights

    Blog Contributor: Noah Nickel

     

    Jocelyn Baker, Master of Sustainability Candidate.

    We wanted to check in with our SSAS Students to see how their co-op work terms were going this summer, and what exactly it is that they were up to. In their own words, here is what they are doing!

     

    For her co-op work term this summer, Masters of Sustainability Candidate Jocelyn Baker is working with the Niagara Restoration Council in collaboration with the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority on the finalization of the procedural process for securing a global wetland designation for the Niagara River Corridor called a Ramsar designation.

     

     

    A call for photos of the Lincoln Shoreline from Meredith DeCock, Master of Sustainability Candidate.

    Master of Sustainability Candidate Meredith DeCock is in the thesis stream of the program and is spending her summer working on her thesis research and data collection. “My name is Meredith DeCock. My thesis research is focused on using historical photographs to help us tell the story of the evolution of the Lincoln coastline over time. I have made a few trips out to the shoreline to get a better sense of the system. The other day I went out to 16 Mile Creek with a local resident Brian Jaworsky, who photographed our kayak trip. The shoreline analysis will reveal areas and time frames of the shoreline where there was a higher change rate. From there I will look at climatic and non-climatic data to help provide a possible explanation of why some of these changes may have occurred. In addition, I am just getting ready to launch my call for photographs to the public! This is an opportunity for the community to participate in the research project by submitting historical photographs of the shoreline that I will then replicate to create photograph comparisons along the shoreline.“

     

     

    Master of Sustainability Candidate, Connor Thompson, pictured left.

    For Master of Sustainability Candidate Connor Thompson this summer has included a work placement in Toronto with the Great Canadian Shore Cleanup. “I’m a co-op student working as an Educator with the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, a national conservation partnership by Ocean Wise and WWF-Canada. My primary job is to engage in outreach at local events. We’ve set up tables, and in one case gave a speech, at farmers markets, delivered programming to youth summer camps, and I’m on my way down to West Virginia to present and facilitate discussion at World Scout Jamboree. We’ve been told that there will be around 50,000 Scouts age 14-17 from around the world in attendance.” – Connor Thompson

     

     

    Master of Sustainability Candidate, Emma Baker.

    Another Master of Sustainability Candidate, Emma Baker, was successful in securing a unique co-op experience in Hamilton. “My name is Emma Baker. My research is in urban water resilience and policy, but currently I am in co-op as the Camp Director at the Royal Botanical Gardens Discovery Camp in Hamilton, Ontario. The RBG Discovery camp is a nature-based camp for children ages 3-15, where we see approximately 1,800 campers through the summer. We emphasize experiential, outdoor learning and write our programs to focus on various elements of environmental education, biodiversity and conservation. Some of our weekly themes include dendrology, ethology, geology and ornithology as well as developmental aspects of leadership, communication and creativity. I absolutely love the time I have spent at camp with the campers and staff and think the RBG’s mission,connecting people, plants and place for the purpose of nurturing and preserving healthy growing life on our planet,perfectly aligns with why I am pursuing further education.”

     

     

    Master of Sustainability Candidate, Jessica Zugic, completing field work.

    Lastly, summer for Master of Sustainability Candidate Jessica Zugic has included thesis research. Jessica recently completed her field work at a red pine plantation in the St. Williams Conservation Reserve, where she and several field assistants collected tree core samples from 600 trees. The goal of this research is to determine how carbon sequestration has changed over time as well as in response to a harvesting technique called variable retention harvesting. Currently, she is working to process and analyze these cores in Brock’s Water and Environment Lab under the supervision of Dr. Michael Pisaric.

     

     

     

     

    Categories: Blog, Co-Op, Experiential Education, SSAS Program, Student Contributor

  • Marilyn I. Walker – A Sustainable Gem in Downtown St. Catharines

    Blog Contributor: Connor Thompson

    Marilyne I Walker Building

    The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts(MIWSFPA) is an absolutely gorgeous building full of natural light and art, located off Brock’s main campus, in the downtown core of St. Catharines. Having been renovated from the Canada Hair Cloth Company building in 2015, its construction offered Brock University the ability to do what it does best – research! Facilities Management took the opportunity after renovations to install a piece of software called the Earthright Energy Dashboard. Earthright monitors water, gas, and electricity trends and charts them on a public-facing dashboard for all to see.

    Earthright serves two purposes, the first of which is to inform students, staff, and visitors about utility consumption rates at Marilyn I. Walker. There are a couple of screens that display statistics in relatable and interesting terms, like how many swimming pools worth of water have been saved from one month to the next. By showing people how utilities are consumed over time, it may influence them to change their habits as a group and see what impact they can make!

    The second function is to provide feedback to staff on how the building is operating. Facilities Management has been able to tailor automated systems around occupancy and seasonality requirements, which ensure that utilities are only used as they are actually needed. For example the lights are generally shut off at 11:00 pm and turned back on around 6:00 am, but there are also offices on motion sensor systems, and photocells are used to ensure that lights automatically dim as sunlight becomes available.

    The Earthright Energy Dashboard is a simple way to inform the public about how consumption habits impact the spaces where they learn and work. Newer buildings like MIWSFPA are sustainable by design, but we as occupants have the final say on how much water, gas, and electricity gets used. The next time you are walking along St. Paul Street, stop in and check out part of what Brock is doing to carry out its commitment to stewardship and environmental sustainability!

    Categories: Blog, Experiential Education, Innovative Partnership, SSAS Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Student researcher explores future of electric buses in Canada

    Master’s student Tasnuva Afreen (right) and her supervisor, Associate Professor of Geography and Tourism Studies Christopher Fullerton (left), stand in front of a demonstration electric bus displayed at a conference. Afreen and Fullerton, along with the Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium, set up an internship with the non-profit funding agency Mitacs for Afreen to research the adoption of electric buses across Canada.

     

    It’s a simple, logical way to cut down on air and noise pollution.

    Electric buses don’t emit carbon or use fossil fuels, are low cost to maintain and, by the silent way they operate, reduce noise pollution compared to conventional buses.

    But replacing current buses with electricity-powered ones is easier said than done, says master’s student Tasnuva Afreen.

    Afreen recently wrapped up an eight-month internship with the Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC) to collect and interpret information related to transit authorities’ transition to electric buses.

    “Now we’re trying to connect the dots,” says Afreen, who is in Brock’s Sustainability Science and Society program. “We hope to bring out what Canadians think of electric buses and identify the main barriers to bringing electric buses to transit authorities’ fleets.”

    Afreen, Associate Professor of Geography and Tourism Studies Christopher Fullerton and CUTRIC created the internship through the not-for-profit national research organization Mitacs.

    Mitacs partners with academics, private industry and governments to conduct research and training programs related to industrial and social innovation. The organization funds a number of research projects at Brock University.

    During her internship, Afreen organized consultations with industry representatives, transit authorities, government officials and academic researchers.

    She and her CUTRIC colleagues asked participants a series of questions about transit authorities’ experiences and challenges of experimenting with electric buses and the knowledge they need to acquire and integrate hydrogen fuel cell vehicles into their fleets.

    Afreen also asked transit riders to share their opinions on and experiences with electric buses.

    She then transcribed the consultation sessions and analyzed the comments. Afreen also gathered information on how to test electric buses in nine municipalities that expressed interest in becoming demonstration trial sites.

    Although she and Fullerton are still analyzing the data, Afreen says her preliminary results show that there’s much interest in putting electric buses on the road.

    But there are a number of barriers to overcome, she says.

    “Municipalities have to redesign their infrastructure to provide electric lines so that buses can recharge very quickly,” says Afreen. “Also, the upfront expense is huge — a lot of transit agencies don’t have the money in their pocket to go for this.”

    Fullerton, Afreen’s supervisor, says the research she conducted will lay the groundwork for CUTRIC’s efforts to encourage the adoption of electric buses across Canada.

    “While it has already demonstrated clear environmental, social and economic benefits in other parts of the world, electric bus technology is still relatively new and adopting it represents a major funding commitment,” says Fullerton.

    “Public transit agencies and other stakeholders, such as the various levels of government that provide subsidies for transit infrastructure, want to make sure that the technology is reliable and that their money is well spent,” he says, adding that Afreen’s work helps identify stakeholders’ concerns and information needs.

    Afreen will share her Mitacs-supported internship experience at Brock’s Shift Conference Tuesday, April 30 and the Launch Forum Wednesday, May 1. Mitacs Director Rebecca Bourque and Office of Research Services staff will be join Afreen at Launch in the 10 to 11:30 a.m. session in the Cairns Atrium to explore how faculty member and graduate student teams can navigate Mitacs internship opportunities.

    “Mitacs internships offer graduate students a valuable experience working with industry or community organizations,” says Industry Liaison and Partnership Officer Iva Bruhova. “It is a chance to apply their research skills and gain employment-ready skills.”

    In addition to the Mitacs session, the Launch event offers two other sessions on how faculty and staff can support graduate students through designing individual development plans.

    For more information, contact ibruhova@brocku.ca or kperry@brocku.ca

    Categories: Applied Research, Co-Op, Experiential Education, SSAS Program

  • Meet SSAS Alumnus: Nicholas Fischer

    Blog Contributor: Meredith DeCock

    For our first instalment of the ‘Meet SSAS Alumni’ series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicholas Fischer, a former Sustainability Science and Society (SSAS) master’s student who entered the program in September of 2016. As a current student in the program, it was a pleasure to hear about where he came from, his time in the program, and what he is up to now.

    Nick Fisher

    Photo: Nicholas Fisher, SSAS Alumnus who is now working as a Policy and Planning Officer for Conservation Ontario.

    Q1: What path did you take to end up in the Brock SSAS Master’s Program?

    I decided to attend Trent University for International Development Studies and Political Studies. I really wanted to take the opportunity to participate in an interdisciplinary field of education, which broadened my understanding of the social, economic, and political dynamics of our modern world. In my third year, I was given the opportunity to study abroad in Ecuador, and I jumped on it! While our first semester was regular classes, the second involved an intensive four-month placement with a local agency. Luckily, I was accepted to work with an incredible organization named Kallari (Kay-yar-ri) (best chocolate of my life, Google them!). Deep in the Amazon, I worked with local communities who participated in a cooperative-structured chocolate company and I received a great education in polyculture crops, community sustainability, effective resource management and overall respect for shared natural systems. Upon my return to Trent for my fourth year, I made sure to fill my timetable with as many environmental courses as I could to further develop my knowledge and passion for the sector. The SSAS program at Brock seemed like a natural next step to further develop my knowledge and passion for the environmental sector in an interdisciplinary setting.

    Q2: What stream of the SSAS program did you complete and what was the focus of your MRP or Thesis?

    I decided to enter the Co-op and Major Research Paper option at Brock. It is hard enough for a young graduate out of school to be competitive in the environmental field, so I knew I wanted to take advantage of the work experience during my education. As for my MRP, I was lucky enough to work with Dr. Tim Heinmiller and Dr. Marilyne Jollineau. With Dr. Heinmiller’s guidance, we settled on assessing the impacts of the Greenbelt Plan to the Niagara Region agricultural community and support network. I have always enjoyed local advocacy work and wanted my MRP to be reflective of my time in Niagara, hence focussing the impact assessment to the Region. I set out to identify key impacts or barriers posed to the agricultural community in Niagara as a result of the Greenbelt legislation and used my project as a means to identify potential areas of improvement to future iterations of the Plan to protect the agricultural industry, a cornerstone in many rural economies. Both Dr. Heinmiller and Dr. Jollineau were incredible mentors to me throughout the process. Both encouraged me to use completely new methods of analysis for my project and provided me with the resources I needed to succeed.

    Q3: How would you describe your overall experience in the SSAS Master’s Program at Brock? And is there a particular highlight that comes to mind during your time in the program?

    I would say my overall experience in the SSAS program at Brock was positive, although challenging at times. The incredible nature of an interdisciplinary program is that you are exposed to members of your cohort who come from vastly different educational backgrounds. This diverse mix allows you to have some really interesting conversations and address environmental issues from an array of angles, but also poses challenges when you are asked to work in a group setting. Of course, this is a mirror to the realities of the workforce, so I came to appreciate the practical application of this style of education. There were many highlights during my time with the SSAS program; however, the one in particular which stands out is being able to present my Three Minute Thesis in from of the staff and students of the ESRC. In the MRP stream, you don’t defend your final body of work, so the 3MT gave me a small taste of an academic defense. Don’t get me wrong, it was the most vulnerable I had felt during my whole time at Brock since I was putting my research out in the open for criticism and comments, but at the end I was so proud of how it went.

    Q4: What is your current job? Please provide a job description of what you get to do in your current role.

    I currently work at Conservation Ontario as a Policy and Planning Officer, and I am absolutely loving it! I have been in my position for 8 months now and have learned so much along the way. Conservation Ontario is a not-for-profit environmental association which represents Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities. In my capacity, I am responsible for advocating on behalf of the Conservation Authorities on all applicable provincial proposals, such as those related to Climate Change, Development, Provincial Growth, Drinking Water, Great Lakes Protection, and Endangered Species and Fisheries. I work with Conservation Authorities to develop key messaging to the province to ensure that the core mandate (to ensure the conservation, restoration and responsible management of Ontario’s water, land and natural habitats) can be effectively achieved. In addition, I work with Conservation Authorities to address questions related to our Class Environmental Assessment process and represent Conservation Ontario at a number of conferences and on provincial working groups. The most interesting thing about my job is that I get to work alongside some of the brightest people in the environmental sector who are challenged with balancing population growth with protection for natural resources and drinking water across Ontario.

    Q5: How do you feel the SSAS program helped prepare you for this position?

    Aside from the interdisciplinary setting which I already spoke to, my co-op placement is most likely largely responsible for my success in this new role. I was fortunate enough to complete my work placement with the Ministry of Transportation’s Environmental Policy Office in St. Catharines. There, I worked on files related to Environmental Assessment reform, and assisted on a number of other projects and initiatives, such as the provincial biodiversity strategy and road ecology. Much like my team now, the team with the MTO needed to incorporate planning decisions into their policy work, which allowed me to gain an understanding of the interrelated nature of the two fields. I will always be thankful to the SSAS program for this opportunity because, not only was able to apply my education in a practical context, but I have maintained some amazing professional and personal relationships with the staff from my co-op placement.

     

    Categories: Blog, Co-Op, Experiential Education, SSAS Alumni Contributor, SSAS Student Contributor

  • Students experience sustainability science in the field

    THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2018 | by 

    As a group of Brock students recently learned, sustainability science is all around us.

    It can be found along the Niagara Escarpment, in the waste-sorting stations of Guernsey Market and on the properties of the Niagara Parks Commission.

    Students in the Sustainability Science and Society graduate program got a taste of sustainability initiatives in action during a series of field trips in October.

    The Master of Sustainability program has always encouraged students to think critically about the theories behind sustainability science. Developing a sound theoretical understanding is essential, but practical application also plays a major role, said Ryan Plummer, Director of the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) and Professor of Foundations of Sustainability Science and Society.

    “We train students to be leaders in sustainability. They need more than just classroom instruction to prepare them to take on leadership positions when they graduate,” Plummer says.

    A series of three field trips added an experiential education component to the program this year, giving students a first-hand look at how sustainability science is implemented on Brock’s main campus and in the wider Niagara community.

    “Sustainability science extends beyond the classroom and the University campus,” says Plummer. “Modifying the curriculum in our foundational course to include an ‘experiencing sustainability’ module enables new ways to connect theory and practice.”

    On the first trip, Liette Vasseur, Professor of Biology and Environmental Science and UNESCO Chair of Community Sustainability, led an outdoor education-based exploration of the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Lisa Gribinicek, Senior Strategic Advisor with the Niagara Escarpment Commission, also spoke with students about the area.

    The second trip focused on sustainability efforts at higher learning institutions and included a tour of Brock’s Central Utilities Building. Scott Johnstone, Associate Vice-President of Facilities Management, and Ryan Stewart, Energy Manager of Maintenance and Utilities Services, demonstrated how current University initiatives contribute to the Brock University Project Charter on environmental sustainability. Students learned how Brock is working towards its goals of low emissions and an overall sustainable campus.

    At Guernsey Market, students visited the waste-sorting area to see what happens behind the scenes to the scraps and recyclable containers left behind after a cafeteria meal. Bryan Boles, Associate Vice-President of Ancillary Services, and Malcolm Dale, Associate Director of Operations, described the sustainability challenges faced in Dining Services.

    The final trip focused on the ESRC’s innovative partnerships with the Town of Lincoln and the Niagara Parks Commission, and included a tour of the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre.

    “Seeing how the world works outside of the classroom is an invaluable experience,” says Meredith DeCock, a candidate in the Master of Sustainability program.

    Each field trip in the series was “unique and engaging” according to DeCock. “I even presented my research to the Town of Lincoln,” she says.

    Readings and assignments took precedence but, beyond the serious work of learning, there was also time for some fun. In Niagara Falls, students enjoyed the famed Journey Behind the Falls.

    “When an experiential learning session includes a trip to Niagara Falls, you really can’t go wrong,” says DeCock.

    “The thoughtful development and execution of the field study modules is a perfect example of why Brock is such a leader in experiential education,” says Carolyn Finlayson, Experiential Education Co-ordinator for the Faculty of Social Sciences. “Bringing to life course theories and concepts outside the classroom is what we do best.”

    The trips were organized with financial support from a Teaching Learning and Innovation grant.

    Story originally published in The Brock News.

    Categories: Experiential Education, Innovative Partnership, SSAS Program, Sustainability at Brock