Innovative Partnership

  • Stories of Sustainability: Experiential Education for SSAS Students in Niagara Parks

    Blog Contributor: Norievill Espana

    SSAS students and Environmental Sustainability Research Centre staff boarded a big yellow bus to visit Niagara Parks as part of the 5P01 Foundations in Sustainability Science and Society course, which was instructed by Dr. Jessica Blythe throughout the Fall 2022 semester. This experiential learning was designed to reinforce knowledge exchange beyond the four walls of the classroom.

    Dr. Ryan Plummer, Director of the ESRC and team lead of the Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Initiative (EESI), joined the class and shared information on the EESI, a partnership between Brock University’s ESRC and the Niagara Parks Commission. He added that the EESI aims to enhance environmental stewardship, knowledge sharing, and capacity development through the partnership. Dr. Plummer then introduced Corey Burant, Project Manager for Forest Health Parks, Planning and Properties,from Niagara Parks who facilitated the tour for the SSAS students.

    The first stop was the Niagara Gorge, overlooking the whirlpool and surrounded by a 10,000-year-old rock formation. Corey explained how Niagara Parks employees used prescribed burning to remove and control invasive plant species and maintain the native population. He also shared how forest rangers installed gates and signage and have rerouted trails to protect endangered species. However, vandalism and intrusion remain a challenge within the park.

    The group then proceeded to the Niagara Glen Nature Centre. The Centre is a key location where Niagara Parks fosters knowledge and awareness through nature-based experience. Here, visitors can take part in a point-based trading system by sharing photos of plants and animals that they encountered around the area during their hikes and visits. The staff working at the Centre showed the SSAS students’ items and their corresponding points such as rocks, fossils, taxidermy, shells, and others.

    Before proceeding to the next stop, Samantha Witkowski, SSAS Alumnus, joined the students and shared an overview of her research on monitoring and evaluation of tourist perception and behavior in Niagara Parks. She also shared how the outputs of her research assisted Niagara Parks in identifying sustainable tourism strategies to improve tourist awareness and engagement. After her presentation, the SSAS students made a quick round of sharing their proposed topics of research which included improving awareness on climate change, biodiversity conservation, and environmental restoration.

    The next stop on the tour was the Chippawa Battlefield Park where Corey shared about the history of the grassland, and how the conservation efforts undertaken by Niagara Parks have led to a flourishing ecosystem and thriving population of important bird species.

    Last was a short walk to Ussher’s Creek, one of the shoreline restoration sites in Niagara Parks.  Corey shared that Niagara Parks has adopted a method of piling and dropping fallen trees into the water. The fallen trees provide habitat and feeding areas for diverse species of fish. At the onset, they were worried the method would go against the aesthetic plan of the shoreline but gained support from the surrounding community and saw success in their use of fallen trees. Corey highlighted that NPC continues to find sustainable ways in maintaining Niagara Parks establishments and amenities.

    The experiential learning at Niagara Parks was a beneficial way to wrap up the Fall 2022 term. SSAS students learned first-hand information about how sustainability is embedded in corporate actions and the importance of transdisciplinary initiatives, where academe and partners work hand-in-hand to achieve environmental sustainability goals.

    Categories: Blog, Collaborations, Environmental Stewardship Initiative, Experiential Education, Innovative Partnership, Student Contributor

  • A Lunch and Learn on Climate Readiness at Niagara Parks

    Blog Contributor: Shannon Heaney

    On November 24th, 2022, the Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Initiative (EESI), a partnership between the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) and the Niagara Parks Commission, held a lunch and learn at the Legends on Niagara Golf Course. The lunch and learn afforded an opportunity to share information about the Niagara Parks Climate Readiness Plan, developed by the EESI, and discuss implementation actions for the future.

    Ryan Plummer welcomed everyone and Steve Barnhart, Senior Director for Planning, Environment, and Culture, opened the event with a land acknowledgment. Ryan Plummer and Shannon Heaney then presented an overview of the Niagara Parks Climate Readiness Plan. Their presentation described the development of the plan, illustrated climate scenarios in the Niagara Region, and identified climate related threats specific to Niagara Parks.

    The presentation also set out the three overarching goals which are the foundation of the plan. The three goals are to: 1) ensure public safety, 2) minimize risk to infrastructure, and 3) reduce net environmental, human and infrastructure costs of climate impacts.

    Corey Burant, Project Manager for Forest Health Parks, Planning and Properties, shared information about the many current initiatives by Niagara Parks which address climate change such as native shoreline rehabilitation, the completion of the Feast on Certificate, and incentivizing sustainable travel among others.

    Following the presentation, the EESI team next posed the following open-ended questions to over 25 attendees:

    1. How can you implement the climate readiness plan in your individual role?
    2. How can you implement the climate readiness plan in your business unit?
    3. How can Niagara Parks implement the climate readiness plan on an organization level?
    4. What can Niagara Parks do to build capacity to support implementation of the climate readiness plan?

    Members of Niagara Parks carefully considered these questions and discussed them with their colleagues and were invited to record their ideas on sticky notes.

    The discussion resulted in various interests and ideas from attendees. The first three questions, which asked about implementation of the Climate Readiness Plan, yielded similar themes. These themes included an interest in continual education and knowledge sharing about the Climate Readiness Plan, identifying ways to integrate and implement the Climate Readiness Plan including actions at the individual, business unit, and organizational level. Further, there was a strong interest regarding collaboration within Niagara Parks, as well as with external partners, and fostering motivations and ideas at all levels related to climate readiness. The discussion also generated excellent ideas on specific actions that could be implemented across Niagara Parks related to climate readiness.

    The final question asked attendees to reflect on how Niagara Parks could build capacity to support implementation of the Climate Readiness Plan. Attendees echoed the themes above, identifying education and awareness as an important way to build capacity, as well as expanding collaboration both internally and externally, with partnerships that align with Niagara Parks mandate and mission.

    Steve Barnhart, Senior Director for Planning, Environment and Culture, concluded the event by discussing next steps related to the Climate Readiness Plan within Niagara Parks. As participants left the event with an infographic in hand, requests were made for similar events in the future. The lunch and learn was a huge success, and sparked conversations about the Climate Readiness Plan which will continue beyond the 1-hour lunch and learn event.

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

  • Social-Ecological Resilience: What is it and why is it important?

    Blog Contributor: Madison Lepp

    Recent years have seen an explosion of research and policies using the term resilience. Yet, the word means many things to many people, and is used to evoke a variety of actions. As uses of the term resilience continue to grow, there is value in clarifying the meanings of resilience.

    The Rise of Social-Ecological Resilience Thinking 

    The notion of ‘social-ecological resilience’ has roots in the field of ecology and aims to describe the complex system dynamics in the context of social-ecological systems (Folke, 2006). From this perspective, humans and the environment are understood as inextricably linked (Walker et al., 2004). This linking of ecosystems and people is vital to the field of social-ecological resilience. In our globalised society, there are virtually no ecosystems that are not shaped by people and no people who do not rely on ecosystems and the services they provide.

    In 2005, the United Nations Millennium Ecosytsem Assessment providedthe first global assessment of the world’s ecosystems and introduced the notion of ecosystem services to the global community. Ecosystem services is a term that describes the benefits that humans derive from nature. The report showed that our consumption of  food, freshwater, timber, fibre, and fuel have changed the Earth’s ecosystems. In many cases, the demand for provisioning services such as freshwater, crops, or meat has undermined the delivery of other essential ecosystem services such as climate regulation or cultural heritage. Seven principles for building resilience have been proposed to enhance ecosystem services that support human social and economic well-being (Biggs et al., 2012; Biggs et al., 2015).

    Today, the Stockholm Resilience Centre defines social-ecological resilience as: “the capacity of a system, be it an individual, a forest, a city or an economy, to deal with change and continue to develop. It is about how humans and nature can use shocks and disturbances like a financial crisis or climate change to spur renewal and innovative thinking.”

    Applying Resilience Thinking

    The impacts of humankind on the world’s ecosystems have increased the likelihood of large, nonlinear, and irreversible changes (IPCC, 2021). Occurrences such as sea level rise, melting ice sheets, and flooding have devastating impacts on ecosystem services and human well-being. To minimize the negative impacts of climate change, many are calling for strategies to ensure a sufficient, dependable, and equitable flow of essential ecosystem services (IPCC, 2014). Resilience thinking is an important part of the solution, as it is an approach that strives to build flexibility and adaptive capacity rather than attempting to achieve stable optimal production and short-term economic gains.

    Resilience thinking aims to strengthen our capacity to deal with the stresses caused by climate change and other aspects of global change. It is about finding ways to deal with unexpected events and crises and identifying sustainable ways for humans to live within the Earth’s boundaries. The sixth IPCC Assessment Report also notes that the concept of resilience to climate change overlaps with concepts of vulnerability, adaptive capacity, and risk, while resilience as a strategy overlaps with risk management, adaptation, and transformation (IPCC, 2022). Notably, social-ecological system research emphasizes the significance of the social, institutional, and cultural contexts in social-ecological systems. This type of thinking represents a shift towards appreciating diverse values and the role of culture in guiding human actions (rather than instruments and incentives), closing the gap between science and society (Reyers et al., 2018).

    However, the term and theory are not without their critiques. Various scholars have cautioned that sometimes actions aimed to increase social-ecological resilience can fail to address issues of equity, justice, and power (Cote and Nightingale, 2012). Other critiques include the various misconceptions of the theory and the lack of agreement on applying resilience principles (Walker et al., 2020).

    Moving Forward

    Given the rapid rate of climate change, biodiversity loss, and rising social inequality there is a pressing need to operationalize in the context of social-ecological systems (Rocha et al. 2022). The IPCC Sixth Assessment Report highlights the need for “effective, feasible, and just means of reducing climate risk, increasing resilience, and pursuing other climate-related societal goals” (IPCC, 2022, p. 41, emphasis added). It is imperative that policies create space for flexible and innovative collaboration and highlight the interrelationships between the biosphere and society (Folke et al., 2021). So, while resilience may not be the only solution, resilience thinking offers a pathway to a building a more equitable and sustainable future.

    References

    Biggs, R., Schlüter, M., & Schoon, M. L. (Eds.). (2015). Principles for building resilience: Sustaining Ecosystem Services in social-ecological systems. Cambridge University Press.

    Biggs, R., Schlüter, M., Biggs, D., Bohensky, E. L., BurnSilver, S., Cundill, G., Dakos, V., Daw, T. M., Evans, L. S., Kotschy, K., Leitch, A. M., Meek, C., Quinlan, A., Raudsepp-Hearne, C., Robards, M. D., Schoon, M. L., Schultz, L., & West, P. C. (2012). Toward principles for enhancing the resilience of Ecosystem Services. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 37(1), 421–448. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-environ-051211-123836

    Cote, M., & Nightingale, A. J. (2012). Resilience thinking meets social theory: situating social change in socio-ecological systems (SES) research. Progress in human geography36(4), 475-489.

    Fitzgibbons, J., & Mitchell, C. L. (2019). Just urban futures? exploring equity in “100 resilient cities.” World Development, 122, 648–659. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2019.06.021

    Folke, C. (2006). Resilience: The emergence of a perspective for social–ecological systems analyses. Global environmental change16(3), 253-267.

    Folke, C., Carpenter, S., Elmqvist, T., Gunderson, L., & Walker, B. (2021). Resilience: Now more than ever. Ambio, 50(10), 1774–1777. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-020-01487-6

    IPCC, 2014: Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Core Writing Team, R.K. Pachauri and L.A. Meyer (eds.)]. IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland, 151 pp

    IPCC, 2021: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis.

    Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, A. Pirani, S.L. Connors, C. Péan, S. Berger, N. Caud, Y. Chen, L. Goldfarb, M.I. Gomis, M. Huang, K. Leitzell, E. Lonnoy, J.B.R. Matthews, T.K. Maycock, T. Waterfield, O. Yelekçi, R. Yu, and B. Zhou (eds.)]. In Press.

    IPCC, 2022: Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, M. Tignor, E.S. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, A. Alegría, M. Craig, S. Langsdorf, S. Löschke, V. Möller, A. Okem, B. Rama (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press. In Press.

    Meerow, S., & Newell, J. P. (2016). Urban resilience for whom, what, when, where, and why? Urban Geography, 00(00), 1–21. https://doi.org/10.1080/02723638.2016.1206395

    Categories: Blog, Innovative Partnership, SSAS Student Contributor, Sustainability Definitions

  • Governance: what is it and why does it matter?

    Blog Contributor: Lyndsay Bott

    This blog is part of a series where we will focus on unpacking terminology commonly used by sustainability scientists. Today we begin with the term governance. Governance is a broad, all-encompassing term that is understood in a range of ways. We are pleased to provide our interpretation here.

    Background of Governance

    Governance is the coordination of groups or “actors” that use both formal and informal processes to work towards a shared goal. This concept includes both governments and non-governmental groups, such as non-governmental organizations, industry, and the public.

    Governance differs from ‘government’ in that it involves a shift from government-centered decision-making and direction setting approaches to those where power and engagement is more widely distributed; therefore, governance requires coordination between society and the government. Governance is essential to integrate the varying interests and knowledge of actors into decision-making, which is important for addressing contemporary environmental problems that are complex and interacting with other factors and issues at a range of scales (biophysical, jurisdictional, time) and levels (from local to global).

    Governance differs from management in that it is a broader range of activities and processes with direction-setting outcomes, where management is focused on analyzing, monitoring, and developing and implementing measures that have a direct impact on the system.

    Key Features of Good Governance

    Here we focus on ‘good governance’ approaches. Important conditions for good governance include:

    • Inclusiveness: providing equal opportunity for all relevant actors to engage in governance processes
    • Participation: engaging all relevant actors in decision-making
    • Transparency: clarity in how decisions are made
    • Accountability of all actors: all relevant actors
    • Polycentricity: Connectedness within and across levels that various actors work in
    • Collaboration: working together among relevant actors in governance processes

    Since governance of the environment involves many and complex interactions between natural and social systems (called a ‘social-ecological system’), there are additional considerations for good governance. Other key features of governance that support social-ecological systems are the consideration for the diverse needs of systems, fit between the scales of the problem and the actors that govern it, as well as remaining flexible, adaptive, and active to address the complexity and uncertainty inherent in these systems.

    Types of Governance for the Environment

    Various ways of thinking about governance have developed over time to address governance needs in specific contexts. Some examples of forms of governance related to our interest in the environment and social-ecological systems are environmental governance, adaptive governance, and water governance.

    Environmental governance focuses on governing environmental issues, including the physical ecosystems humans and other species rely on for survival and wellbeing. Environmental governance focuses on shared decision-making among the state (e.g., governments), community (e.g., non-governmental societal actors) and the market (e.g., industry) across scales. It emphasizes decentralization through new organizational entities (e.g., community-based groups) with authority and corresponding responsibility distributed more widely than in a government-centered approach. Within the realm of governance types, environmental governance is primarily aimed at influencing environmental actions and outcomes.

    Adaptive governance, a type of environmental governance, was developed to better manage the uncertainty and complex interactions in social-ecological systems. The focus of adapting is on managing, or coping with, change including known and unknown disturbances. Adapting, and adaptive governance, happens through a range of mechanisms, including monitoring, experimenting, and learning together with others who bring diverse knowledge and perspectives. Overall, adaptive governance is an approach that recognizes the need for flexibility and capacity for change in response to unpredictable change at levels from local to global.

    Finally, governance approaches for specific natural resources have also been developed. A good example of this is water governance – a range of systems that include social, economic, and administrative aspects to manage water resources at various levels of society. The importance of water governance has been emphasized due to climate change and its uneven impacts on water quality and availability, as well as extreme events including flooding and droughts. For more information regarding climate change impacts on water from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), click here.

    The study of governance approaches to environmental issues is a focus of the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre at Brock University, and through transdisciplinary partnerships such as the Partnership for Freshwater Resilience.

    Enacting Environmental Governance Through Innovative Partnerships at Brock University

    The Partnership for Freshwater Resilience between the Environmental Sustainability and Research Centre (ESRC) at Brock University and WWF-Canada works to advance the understanding and applications of freshwater resilience and stewardship. Beginning in 2019, this 5-year partnership works to understand how to build resilience in Canada, during times of climate change and increasing threats. Specifically, in the context of governance, this partnership looks to generate innovative and evidence-based approaches to freshwater governance and management within the Wolastoq/St. John River basin. Key outputs from this partnership so far include a ‘map’ of the governance network of flood planning in the basin, and assessments of the fit of flood governance to the scope of the issue. Overall, this partnership works to harness the shared expertise in research and practice between WWF-Canada and the ESRC for practical and policy impact.

    References

    Ansell, C. (2002). Debating Governance: Authority, Steering, and Democracy. Edited by

    Jon Pierre. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. 251p. The American Political Science Review, 96(3), 668–669. https://doi.org/10.1017/S000305540281036X

    Booth, J. (2021, April 5). The Brock-WWF Partnership for Freshwater Resilience. Brock

    University. Retrieved March 13, 2022, from https://brocku.ca/esrc/2021/04/05/the-brock-wwf-partnership-for-freshwater-resilience/

    Chaffin, B. C., Gosnell, H., & Cosens, B. A. (2014). A decade of adaptive governance

    scholarship: synthesis and future directions. Ecology and Society, 19(3), 56–. https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-06824-190356

    Chaffin, B. C., & Gunderson, L. H. (2016). Emergence, institutionalization and renewal:

    Rhythms of adaptive governance in complex social-ecological systems. Journal of Environmental Management, 165, 81–87. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2015.09.003

    Farhad, S., & Baird, J. (2021). Freshwater governance and resilience⁎. Reference Module 

    in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-12-819166-8.00109-2

    Garmestani, A.S., & Benson, M. H. (2013). A Framework for Resilience-based Governance of    Social-Ecological Systems. Ecology and Society, 18(1), 9. https://doi.org/10.5751/ES- 05180-180109

    Hall, A. W., & Rogers, P. (2003). Effective Water Governance. In TEC Background Papers

    (Vol. 7, pp. 1–49). essay, Global Water Partnership.

    Hasselman, L. (2017). Adaptive management; adaptive co-management; adaptive 

    Categories: Blog, Innovative Partnership, SSAS Student Contributor, Sustainability Definitions

  • Master of Sustainability Class Helps with Tree Inventory at Charles Daley Park

    Blog Contributor: Kassie Burns

    A class trip contributed to an ongoing Brock-Lincoln Living Lab research project  assisting the Town of Lincoln with research to inform management strategies for their urban tree canopy. Dr. Marilyne Jollineau and Master of Sustainability alumnus, Baharak Razaghirad, have continued Baharak’s thesis work that included an urban tree canopy assessment for the Town. While in the field, the class collected global positioning system (GPS) data of individual trees and recorded information including  tree species type, diameter at breast height, tree condition, and other characteristics used to calculate the dollar value to the ecosystem benefits provided by each tree. Ecosystem benefits are ones that naturally occur in the environment that provide some service to improve human quality of life, such as air and water quality. Students collected data on approximately 30 trees representing total annual benefits of approximately $2,000 saved in ecosystem benefits! This information is available on a collaborative crowd-sourced platform for tree inventory, ecosystem service calculation, and community engagement called OpenTreeMap. This platform can be accessed by the public to add and/or view these trees and to calculate their eco-benefits.

    I was fortunate to be able to help with this project through the graduate class (SSAS 5P13) entitled Landscape Ecology and Ecosystem Management, instructed by Dr. Marilyne Jollineau. On a field trip taken to Charles Daley Park (CDP), the class was able to help contribute to the OpenTreeMap database by conducting similar field research observations as mentioned above. The exposure to working in the field left me with so many learning opportunities and positive memories.

    1. Helped contribute to a project that helps a municipality evaluate its tree canopy resources.
    • Increased tree inventory data in an area vulnerable to climate change.
    • Provided field work data that can help determine tree location and new sites to plant trees.
    • Obtained data on tree size to assess extent of ecosystem services provided for the Town.
    1. Gained practical experience in the field.
    • Used equipment such as GARMIN eTrex 30 GPS device to map precise location of trees.
    • Acquired knowledge on proper techniques to measure tree diameter.
    • Identified species, reported tree characteristics/observations, and tagged trees analyzed.
    • Appreciated the time required to plan and gather materials prior to conducting field work.
    1. Learned more about the location, landscape, and shoreline issues.
    • In 2017 the Town of Lincoln had a flooding event leading to a voluntary evacuation of the shoreline residents at CDP (DeCock-Caspell, 2020).
    • The remnants of foundations of homes can still be seen in the water.
    • Construction of the QEW narrowed both sides of the creek that could have led to a bottleneck effect that impacted water flow (DeCock-Caspell, 2020).
    • A wetland now resides off the shoreline.

    References

    DeCock-Caspell, M. (2020). If Coastlines Could Talk…A Story of Lincoln, Ontario. Retrieved November 5, 2022, from https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/8997ca2440e24be4881612411ff6bf95

    Categories: Blog, Brock Lincoln Living Lab, Experiential Education, Innovative Partnership, SSAS Student Contributor, Town of Lincoln

  • Resilience and Sustainable Community Development within the Prudhommes Project

    Blog Contributor: Bridget McGlynn

    Building resilience into sustainable community development is the core aim of The Pruhommes Projects, a partnership between The Town of Lincoln, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, and the Environmental Sustainable Research Centre. An essential component to enhancing resilience is finding a meaningful way to measure the impact of different sustainable development strategies. The current phase of the project is focusing on developing a tool to assess the social-ecological resilience of multifunctional landscapes in the Town of Lincoln.

    Social-ecological resilience refers to a way of thinking that recognizes the complex interactions between society and ecosystems. Resilience is an approach that encourages broad and meaningful participation by stakeholders, learning from feedback, and taking action for biosphere stewardship. Resilience, in the context of social-ecological systems, is the ability to maintain and persist in light of changing conditions, to adapt when needed, and to transform when persistence and adaptation are no longer feasible for a desirable future. It embraces the idea of change and acknowledges uncertainty. Social-ecological resilience can be framed as the capacity of the system to maintain the desired ecosystem services in the face of change.

    Furthermore, multifunctional landscapes are essentially just that – landscapes that provide people with a variety of services (Pauleit et al., 2011). Multifunctional landscapes are characterized by multiple land uses and landscape structures and are seen as a possible mechanism to meet societal demands for competing for land use needs. Ashby Park, Vineland’s Tree Culture Research Park, and Prudhommes Development are examples of different multifunctional landscapes in the Town of Lincoln.

    To develop a tool to assess social-ecological resilience, the research team first had to address this question:

    What criteria ideally capture social-ecological resilience in multifunctional landscapes

    in the Town of Lincoln?

    To address this research question, the research team held a priority-setting workshop to prioritize criteria for assessing multifunctional landscapes for the Town of Lincoln. A priority-setting workshop captures a variety of perspectives and provides a safe space to voice and explore ideas among various stakeholders. Furthermore, the collaborative activities provide an opportunity for each participant to develop a more concrete understanding of their own perspectives and priorities as well as hear from others with differing opinions. Priority-setting workshops have been shown to aid in gaining consensus among a group of different stakeholders (Witkowski et al., 2022).

    The workshop was held Friday, June 17 at the Vineland Campus in Lincoln, Ontario. There was a total of 12 participants present at the workshop and two facilitators. This workshop brought together Town of Lincoln staff and relevant subject experts to come to a consensus on appropriate criteria for the assessment tool. At the start of the workshop, the facilitators delivered a presentation to explain the background of the project, social-ecological resilience, and workshop activities. The presentation was followed by three activities: individual Q-sort and questionnaire, consensus building, and group discussion and brainstorming.

    For the Q-sort activity, participants were given a list of 30 criteria. Participants sorted the criteria into a forced 28-item distribution ranking system, ranging from +4 (most important) to -4 (least important). The Q-sort activity assisted each participant in identifying the types of criteria which were most and least important for assessing social-ecological resilience.

    Following the Q-sort activity, participants grouped together for a consensus-building activity. Initially in pairs, the participants co-developed a new prioritized list of criteria. Following the first round, pairs joined together to once again co-develop a new prioritized list of criteria.

    Following the consensus-building activity, all participants rejoined for a group brainstorming activity.  The three groups presented their final co-developed priority criteria lists. The discussion that followed highlighted the need for criteria to capture essential topics, such as: provision of recreation infrastructure; accessibility; water quality and quantity; soil quality and quantity; biodiversity and vegetation; the economic case; and air quality.

    During the discussion, many participants reflected upon how current stressors, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent May 2022 windstorm had influenced participants’ prioritized criteria. Furthermore, the fruitful discussion highlighted the various data collection initiatives in the Niagara region in relation to multifunctional landscapes. Overall, the workshop provided the essential insight needed to progress the development of an assessment tool for the social-ecological resilience of multifunctional landscapes in the Town of Lincoln, as well as developed the groundwork for broader collaboration moving forward.

    References

    Pauleit, S., Liu, L., Ahern, J., and Kazmierczak, A. (2011). Multifunctional green infrastructure planning to promote ecological services in the city. In Handbook of urban ecology. Oxford University Press.

    Witkowski, S., Plummer, R. and Hutson, G. (2022) Influences of Engaging in a Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation Process on Stakeholder Perceptions of Key Performance Indicators for Trails.  Journal of Park and Recreation Administration, 40. doi: 10.18666/JPRA-2021-10953

    Categories: Blog, Collaborations, Innovative Partnership, Prudhommes Project, SSAS Alumni Contributor, Town of Lincoln

  • Study Options for Sustainability Science at Brock

    Blog Contributor: Alexandra Cotrufo

    Study abroad education in Global ideas: Graduated cap on top global model on open textbook in library. Concept of studying international educational,reading book bring success degree in life

    Climate change, depletion of resources, increased gas emissions, and poverty are all issues we are currently faced with. These complex problems require integrated and innovative solutions from multiple perspectives that take into consideration the urgency of the climate crisis.

    Studying environmental sustainability provides students with the skills and resources needed to be more environmentally conscious and helps create sustainable solutions to meet the needs of both society and the planet.

    The field of Environmental Sustainability is transdisciplinary in nature and combines theory from economics, social science, and environmental science to protect the natural environment, sustain ecological health, and improve the quality of life.

    Brock University offers many environmental sustainability study options, from a Minor in Sustainability to a brand-new PhD program in Sustainability Science. Keep reading to find out more about each option and what they have to offer!

    1. Minor in Sustainability 

    The Minor in Sustainability program provides students with the core skills necessary to solve complex problems regarding environmental sustainability. These skills are necessary in today’s modern world as businesses and governments adapt to new legislation and society becomes more aware of the impact we have on the environment.

    Through the courses available in the minor, student will have the opportunity to study sustainability issues from a transdisciplinary perspective and gain practical insight into how Canada and the world is moving forward to address environmental issues.

    1. Micro-certificate in Environmental Sustainability

    The certificate program introduces students to conceptual and applied aspects of environmental sustainability. The micro-certificate is designed for people who either already have a degree or who do not wish to pursue a degree and consists of two undergraduate courses.

    1. Master of Sustainability

     The Master of Sustainability program aims to facilitate society’s transition towards sustainability and provides graduate students with a high-quality education. The program offers enriching research, applied experiences, and engagement in problem-solving through innovative pedagogy.

    Students can tailor the program to their specific career and research interests through enriching classroom learning with practical experience in the form of a Co-op, or partake in an intensive research experience.

    Are you interested in applying for 2022/2023? Applications are currently being accepted until February 4th, 2022!

    1. PhD in Sustainability Science

     Brock has recently announced a new PhD in Sustainability Science program, which will launch in Fall 2022. This aim of the program is to cultivate a sustainable and equitable future and offer a state-of-the-art education. The program integrates rigorous scientific practice with an understanding of the unique relationship between humans and the environment. Upon successful completion of the requirements for the program, students will earn the designation of Doctor of Philosophy.

    Reference:

    https://brocku.ca/esrc/study-sustainability/

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

  • 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

  • Trail Management through Collaboration: Reflections and Aspirations

    Blog Contributor: John Foster

    The Trail Assets and Tourism Initiative (TATI) is an innovative partnership between Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC), and the Ontario Trails Council (OTC). The purpose of the partnership is to develop and enhance the parks and trails network operated by the NPC through research and collaboration. To date, the partnership team has developed strategies that support the NPC’s ability to manage park and trail assets to provide safe, enjoyable, and sustainable recreation opportunities for all. Most recently, two members of the TATI team, Garrett Hutson (Project Chair, Brock University) and Corey Burant (Program Manager of Forest Health, Niagara Parks Commission) were invited to discuss their experiences working on the partnership to Communities in Bloom, a Canadian non-profit dedicated to the improvement of civic spaces. I had an opportunity to catch up with both Hutson and Burant to further discuss the partnership and their joint presentation to Communities in Bloom.

    When asked about the significance of presenting the work of the TATI partnership to a larger audience, both Hutson and Burant acknowledged the utility and endless impacts of collaboration between agencies. Burant specifically acknowledged the challenges that are facing many parks and trails operators, including those at Communities in Bloom, as a result of increased visitor pressure from COVID-19, and discussed how important it is to share resources to commonly faced challenges for these agencies. Further, Hutson commented on the power of partnerships such as the TATI, musing that participants in similar partnerships are likely to benefit from the insight he and Burant shared about collaborative work during their presentation.

    Switching gears to focus on the TATI partnership itself, I asked both Hutson and Burant about their experiences working together, and what aspect of the partnership they found to be most valuable. For Hutson, the opportunity to work with other agencies such as the NPC and OTC was fulfilling, as was the ability to witness graduate students gain invaluable networking and professional opportunities outside of the traditional graduate program format. For Burant, the opportunity to collaborate with researchers from Brock is highly valuable for the NPC, stating that the quality and professionalism of the Brock contingent has been most impressive to him.

    When asked about which partnership projects have been most impactful, Hutson expressed his excitement for the recent Trail Re-Alignment project, which focussed on visitor wayfinding and experience in the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve. Due to the work of the partnership team, the NPC was able to receive significant grant funding from the TD Friends of the Environment program, and the TATI-recommended work is currently underway.

    Looking forwards to future partnership achievements, Burant indicated he was most excited about the next project for the TATI team, which is to create a Management Strategy for the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve. This strategy will help guide Niagara Parks in ensuring that the environmentally sensitive attributes of the Niagara Glen are protected for generations to come while also providing high quality recreation opportunities for the people of Niagara and beyond.

    As for the future of the partnership? Hutson says: “We have all the right people at the table to continue to get valuable work completed, which will both add recreation vibrancy to Niagara Parks as well as protect trail environments for future generations.”

    Interested in learning more about the Trail Assets and Tourism Initiative? Visit the ESRC’s website here.

    Categories: Blog, Collaborations, Innovative Partnership, Trail Assets and Tourism Initiative