Faculty Contributor

  • 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

  • Meet the Faculty of the ESRC: Dr. Jessica Blythe

    Blog Contributor: Kaitlin James

    For our second instalment of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessica Blythe, an Assistant Professor at the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) to learn more about her new role at the Centre, and the journey she took to get to where she is today. Her research engages in issues related to resilience, climate change adaptation, and transformation. She is particularly interested in how societies both create and respond to change. Her numerous publications demonstrate her immense contributions to the field of sustainability science. It was a pleasure to interview her to learn more about all of the great research she does!

    Photo: Dr. Jessica Blythe, Assistant Professor, Environmental Sustainability Research Centre

    Q1: What excites you most about working at Brock University in the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre? 

    Everything!  But honestly, I’m really excited about two big things.  First, the research going on at Brock was the biggest draw for me.  Faculty within the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre are engaged in research at the frontiers of sustainability science.  It’s the kind of solution-oriented research that gets me out of bed in the morning.  Second, I find the applied, experiential nature of research and teaching at Brock really inspiring.  From the innovative partnerships with municipalities and parks in the area to the co-op options for students, Brock is leading the way building healthier, happier, and more sustainable futures.

    Q2: What are your research areas of focus? 

    Broadly, my research tries to understand how communities experience global environmental change and what explains their different capacities to respond to this change.  Specifically, I use a social-ecological systems perspective and resilience thinking to think critically about vulnerability, adaptation, and transformation.  I also examine how processes like decentralization and place attachment shape people’s relationship with their environment.

    Q3: What was your journey like in getting to your current research area of focus? 

    I grew up in Newfoundland during the collapse of the Northern cod stocks.  I think that watching how the moratorium impacted coastal communities around the province influenced my interest in becoming a researcher that focuses on coupled social-ecological systems.  It also sensitized me to that fact that vulnerable systems – that are close to a tipping point – can appear strong from the outside.  This experience drove home the fact that for me, sustainability has to be equally about healthy biosphere and thriving human communities.

    Q4: How are you complementing the existing strengths of ESRC faculty members?

    We all approach sustainability research through a social-ecological systems lens and draw on resilience thinking to frame our questions and analysis – so in that way the fit is really seamless.  My research explores adaptation in coastal systems and transformation in social-ecological systems, which will hopefully some new focal area to the ongoing research at the ESRC.

    Q5: As a sustainability scientist, how do you view the world? 

    For me, being a sustainability scientist and being a parent go hand in hand – I’m constantly thinking about what the future holds and how we can find sustainable pathways.  Fortunately, I get to work along side some of the world’s leading climate change and sustainability scientists and I am happy to report that for the most part, the scientists I know are optimistic.  The Paris Agreement was a huge step for us as a global community.  I draw comfort from the fact that so many engaged and innovative scientists and students are tackling our big sustainability challenges from so many different angles.  From where I’m sitting, the future of sustainability looks really bright!

    Categories: Applied Research, Blog, Faculty Contributor, Student Contributor

  • Meet the Faculty of the ESRC: Dr. Julia Baird

    Blog Contributor: Kaitlin James

    Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Julia Baird, an Assistant Professor at the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) to find out more about her research and role at the ESRC. Her research interests centre around water. She agrees with the notion that water issues are ultimately issues of governance, and so her research focuses on the human dimensions of water resources. She has numerous publications that exemplify her vast amount of research within the field of sustainability science. It was great to learn more about her and the journey she took to get to where she is today.

    Julia Baird

    Photo: Dr. Julia Baird, Canada Research Chair & Assistant Professor, Environmental Sustainability Research Centre

    Q1:  What path did you take to end up where you are today, and how did you end up doing research for the ESRC? 

    I started as an undergraduate student in agriculture – crop science to be exact – and I think that was due to an increasing appreciation for the farm I grew up on and realizing just how much I didn’t know about how agriculture works. I had an excellent professor in my final year that guided me toward an opportunity to undertake a master’s degree in soil science at the University of Saskatchewan, where I developed a real love of research and realized that I wanted to continue on. I pursued an interdisciplinary PhD in the School of Environment and Sustainability at the U of S. Around the time I was completing my dissertation, my husband and I made the decision to move to Ontario for him to start graduate school. Our plan was to spend one year here and I contacted Ryan Plummer on the advice of one of his colleagues about a potential short term post-doc. It’s almost eight years later and I’m thrilled to still be here!

    Q2: What are your research areas of focus? 

    I have a range of research interests that reflect my path to this position, but all of them share the common threads of decision-making about our environment and environmental sustainability. I have a keen interest in water resources, agriculture, and resilience, and bring a social-ecological systems perspective to all of them.

    Q3:What do you want to achieve with your research? 

    Save the world, of course! It’s really important to me that my research contributes to both theory and practice, and what’s really great about the ESRC is that it supports that goal in an explicit way through its emphasis on transdisciplinarity and community engaged research. I hope to make an impact on real-world decision making and enhance the resilience of governance of water resources, whether it be in urban or rural settings.

    Q4: What is it like being one of Brocks’ 11 Canadian Research Chairs? 

    It’s an honour to hold a CRC, and there are benefits in terms of being able to focus more of my time on research which I appreciate and truly enjoy. I’m also working very hard to ensure that I make the most of this position and building a program of research that will have an impact locally, in Canada and internationally well past the tenure of this position.

    Q5: Could you please share a turning point or defining moment in your work as a sustainability scientist? 

    This is an easy one – it was during the second year of my master’s degree at the U of S. I was doing my fieldwork, collecting weed densities, probably. My project was focused on identifying appropriate seeding rates for organic production of two legumes using a range of variables. I remember wondering how my research findings would be received and how you actually get farmers to change their practices based on the scientific knowledge I was generating. That was it for me – a short time later I decided to transition to an interdisciplinary social science doctorate and start to investigate these types of questions. My desire to focus on real-world ‘problems’ and use scholarly research as a mechanism to contribute to solutions was the foundation upon which this and all my research that followed was and is built (though I didn’t know that there was a term for it back then!).

     

    Categories: Applied Research, Blog, Faculty Contributor, Student Contributor

  • RECL 4P16 – Advanced Wilderness Program Planning

    Blog Contributor: Garrett Hutson

    RECL 4P16 Group Photo

    The RECL 4P16 (Advanced Wilderness Program Planning) 10-day wilderness backpacking trip returns from the Bruce Peninsula on a high note. The trip was co-led by an ESRC research assistant and RECL alumna (Liz Peredun, second from the left standing), an ESRC participating faculty member (Garrett Hutson, second from the right standing) and a RECL graduate student (Chris Falcioni, not pictured). From April 25 to May 5 the group hiked from the town of Lion’s Head, Ontario to the Bruce Peninsula National Park through deep snow and challenging terrain along the Bruce Trail. Fourth year RECL students worked in leadership teams and taught extensive environmental studies curricula while in the field. Completing the trip represented the final requirement for many of these students who will be graduating from Brock this coming June.

    Categories: Blog, Experiential Education, Faculty Contributor

  • St. Catharines Launch for Adam Dickinson’s Anatomic

    Blog Contributor: Dr. Adam Dickinson

    I have just published a book of poetry that involves the results of chemical and microbial testing on my body in order to look at how the “outside” writes the “inside.” Structured like a hormone, the book, Anatomic, is in part about the link between the metabolic processes of human and nonhuman bodies and the global metabolism of energy and capital. I looked into my blood, urine, and poop, and saw the Anthropocene staring back at me.

    Please spread the word to others you think might be interested. I have included some more information below about the book.

    As part of the launch, I will read from the book and talk a bit about how it was created.
    I hope to see you there!

    —————————————-

    Saturday, April 14 at 4 PM – 6 PM
    Niagara Artists Centre (NAC)
    354 St. Paul St. E, St. Catharines L2R 3N2
    We talk a lot about what we’re doing to our environment, but what is our environment doing to us? 

    Adam Dickinson decided to find out. He drew blood, collected urine, swabbed bacteria, and tested his feces to measure the precise chemical and microbial diversity of his body. To his horror, he discovered that our ‘petroculture’ has infiltrated our very bodies with pesticides, flame retardants, and other substances. He discovered shifting communities of microbes that reflect his dependence on the sugar, salt, and fat of the Western diet, and he discovered how we rely on nonhuman organisms to make us human, to regulate our moods and personalities. The outside writes the inside, whether we like it or not.


    The result is a book of poetry called ANATOMIC, an ambitious, autobiographical, and anxious plea for us to consider what we’re doing to our world – and to our own bodies.


    Free event | Books for sale 

    More info about ANATOMIC here:

    https://chbooks.com/Books/A/Anatomic
    Categories: Blog, Faculty Contributor

  • Outdoor Research Symposium

    Blog Contributor: Dr. Garrett Hutson

    Liz Peredun

    Brock alumna Liz Peredun (pictured above) and participating ESRC faculty member, Dr. Garrett Hutson, presented findings from the first comprehensive NOLS sense-of-place outcomes study at the Coalition for Education in the Outdoors Research Symposium in Martinsville, Indiana on January 13, 2018. The NOLS mission is to be the leading source and teacher of wilderness skills and leadership that serve people and the environment. NOLS leads wilderness expeditions for a variety of age groups worldwide with a focus on teaching leadership, outdoor skills, environmental studies, and risk management. One of the core environmental studies learning objectives at NOLS is for students to develop a “sense of place” by experiencing wilderness and exploring relationships with their surroundings. In the NOLS context, sense of place is defined as the personal relationship students develop with areas travelled during NOLS experiences. Sense of place is important to NOLS because articulating an environmental ethic and supporting students’ abilities in connecting with the natural world beyond NOLS is a goal of every course.

    The purpose of this study was to explore how NOLS course participants report developing a sense of place after completing a course at NOLS Rocky Mountain in Lander, Wyoming. Data were analyzed from 511 NOLS students who answered the open-ended question: Did NOLS help you develop a personal relationship to the places you visited? If so, how? Overall, 72% responded affirmatively and responses ranged from general feelings of nature appreciation to specific curriculum-driven learning mechanisms. Learning mechanisms included the chance to engage in environmental studies, developing familiar rituals, participating in authentic experiences, time for reflection, and discussions on natural history and indigenous awareness.

    Additional analysis is underway to explore links between sense-of-place development and other aspects of the NOLS environmental studies curriculum such as foundations in ecology, Leave No Trace environmental ethics, climate change, and transfer of learning. NOLS was a participating member of this study and plans to utilize these findings both to better understand the impacts of its programs and to improve the environmental studies curriculum.

    Liz Peredun is a graduate of the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies undergraduate program with the Outdoor Recreation concentration. Liz currently works as an instructor for NOLS in the Yukon Territory, Wyoming, and Utah and as a Program Director for Outward Bound Canada. Additionally, Liz works as a research assistant for this ongoing ESRC funded study.

    Categories: Applied Research, Blog, Conferences, Faculty Contributor