Innovative Partnership

  • Getting to know the ESRC

    Blog Contributor: Shelby McFadden

    Theal House

    Photo: Theal House at Brock University is home to the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre.

    You know that quaint white house by Zone 2 Parking Lot on your way out of Brock? Many of you in the Brock community have no idea what I’m talking about, but take my word for it—there’s a building there alright, and this building in question is known as Theal House. Named after Samuel Theal who is believed to have built the house, where his family then lived for decades, Theal house is the oldest building on campus and one of the oldest in St. Catharines.

    As its been around since the 1800’s, it has served many roles and housed many tenants over the years, but most recently, it became the home of the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC), as they officially settled in by February 2018.

    As a centre within the Faculty of Social Sciences dedicated to environmental sustainability, the building was renovated in a way that incorporated sustainability within its walls. The floors were acquired from Interface, a company known for its commitment to sustainability, which represented 3 tonnes in emissions reductions. Used furniture was acquired from antique stores, and live edge desks produced by Brock carpenters with certified sustainable timber. LED lighting was installed, with dimmer and daylight harvesting light switches, and sensors to save energy. An integrated system that controls HVAC, lighting, and monitors real time energy use is also present in the building.

    But Theal House does so much more for sustainability than its physical features.

    Similar to how there’s many people at Brock who do not know about Theal House, there’s also many people who do not know about the ESRC, or only vaguely understand what it is, and what it does.

    The ESRC is dedicated to research and education advancing environmental sustainability both locally and globally, and runs several initiatives, all made possible by the supportive base that is Theal House.

    As one of five transdisciplinary hubs on campus, the ESRC has had the capacity to do some great work since 2012.

    But what exactly are these great things that the ESRC does?

    Well, the ESRC has created a highly productive research culture and impressive output, with 392 peer-reviewed publications meant to resolve complex environmental/social problems being published between 2012 and 2017.

    They also carry out several projects and programs to support this research, such as their seed grant funding program started in 2013 that supports projects related to the ESRC’s mandate. There is also a postdoctoral fellowship that creates opportunities for faculty and fellows to carry out research. Theu also run a visiting scholars program that brings high level scholars engaged in research on the environment, sustainability, and social ecological resilience to interact with ESRC members and SSAS students.

    They have also formed research partnerships with community groups to pursue projects of mutual benefit, conducting valuable research, while also engaging communities.

    One example of this is the Brock Lincoln Living Lab which was created in 2017, and will continue for the next five years. In this partnership with the Town of Lincoln, students contribute to the community through experiential education, putting more resources into municipal planning and research to investigate local needs and policy development.

    Another important partnership is with the Niagara Parks Commission, which created the Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Initiative in April 2018, which will last until 2020. The partnership is meant to inform and enhance practice, improve the NPC’s capacity to make evidence-based decisions, and advance understanding of environmental stewardship.

    But beyond research, the ESRC also offers academic opportunities within sustainability. This includes a minor program in environmental sustainability that can be recognized in conjunction with any major degree program, and which offers courses in 15 units across campus.

    A Masters program in sustainability science and society was started in 2014, where students can gain problem solving skills through enriching research and applied experiences, in one of the two following schemes:

    Scheme A- Major research project and co-op (16 months)

    Scheme B- Thesis (24 months)

    As a part of this program, transdisciplinary seminars are held bi-weekly, which anyone is welcome to attend.

    Finally, the ESRC also offers a PhD program in sustainability through an agreement with the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia, where a scholarship allows a student to study in both places under the supervision of researchers from both universities.

    All of this is beneficial for Brock, but the ESRC has recently taken on an additional exciting role alongside Facilities Management.

    The two departments signed a charter in February, which outlines their agreement to work together on Sustainability at Brock. The charter provides an important bridge between the academics and operations sides of campus, creating a partnership where the two can collaborate on projects of mutual benefit and create mechanisms to communicate sustainability initiatives and progress with the Brock community.

    The two agreed to contribute cash and in-kind contributions over an initial 5 years, and the ESRC has been working hard on providing administrative support to meet the goals of the charter this summer, partly through the work of summer students hired through the Charter. In fact, these blogs and the Sustainability at Brock social media channels they are posted to are part of this important work!

    So, the next time you’re near Zone 2 parking lot, look for the cottage-like white building that is Theal House, and when you see it, now you’ll know what it’s for and what kind of work is going on inside.

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

  • Meet Brock’s newest commitment to sustainability: The Brock University Environmental Sustainability Plan 2018

    Blog Contributor: Shelby McFadden

    Brock University - Campus LR

    The Environmental Sustainability Research Centre and Facilities Management signed a charter in February, which outlines their agreement to work together to support Sustainability at Brock. One of the major projects worked on this summer was the creation of the Brock University Environmental Sustainability Plan 2018, as required under the Greenhouse Gas Campus Retrofits Program (GGCRP). The completion of this plan has allowed Brock to receive $7.9 Million to put towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions on campus. The funding is being used to complete DEEP 2, which is a project replacing old equipment in Brock’s district energy plant with updated and efficient equipment that will allow Brock to produce 100% of its own energy, while also significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    The plan outlines the current initiatives working towards low emissions and an overall sustainable campus, identifying issues and setting priorities, goals, targets, and strategies to increase sustainability at Brock within the three following areas: 1) energy conservation and greenhouse gas emissions reductions, 2) environmental sustainability management, and 3) education for sustainability (green skills)/co-benefits.

    Along with these initiatives, the plan outlines a commitment to sustainability through Brock’s plans to pursue an emissions target of 20% below 2013 levels by 2023. These efforts will contribute to the provincial emission reduction targets of 37% by 2030 and 80% by 2050, based on 1990 baseline levels.

    The Sustainability plan builds on Brock’s 2016 Sustainability Policy and 2017 Draft Strategic Plan, further strengthening its commitment to uphold sustainability as one of the seven core values of the university.

    The plan is now posted to the Sustainability at Brock website and can be viewed at the following link.

    Categories: Blog, Experiential Education, Innovative Partnership, Sustainability at Brock

  • Lessons in Economic Development with the BL-LL

    Blog Contributor: Ben House

    Benjamin House

    Photo: Ben House, current Master of Sustainability student and summer intern at the Town of Lincoln

    Over the past two months of our co-op placement with the Town of Lincoln, fellow co-worker Zach MacMillan and myself have been working on the preliminary stages of the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab Needs Assessment project focused on improving community-wide sustainability. While this project serves as the backbone and central focus of our co-op work term, Zach and I are lucky to be a part of several “side-projects” occurring throughout the office. Thus far, the projects have helped bring an enjoyable level of variety to the job and have given us a unique glimpse into the wide-range of disciplines and departments covered in municipal work.

    I have personally been lucky enough to work with Lincoln’s Economic Development Officer, Paul Di Ianni, on a variety of projects currently underway. I was first introduced to Paul during winter term in our “SSAS 5PO3” Project Management Course where we collaboratively worked to map some of the Town’s key economic assets and define their contribution to community sustainability. In this regard, the SSAS 5PO3 class has really served as a helpful transition into the work term for Zach and myself. The class provided us with a tremendous amount of foundational knowledge pertaining to the Town’s operational climate and helped to introduce us to some of the analytical tools we would be using on the job. Furthermore, it helped us establish relationships with some of our future colleagues and mentors working in Lincoln which has made for an enjoyable entrance into the workplace.

    With my recently established background knowledge of Lincoln’s economic climate, Paul has kindly taken me “under his wing” and has begun to include me in a variety of ongoing projects within his department. Most recently, I have been researching Community Energy Plans (CIP) which are essentially long-term plans aimed at improving energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and encouraging sustainable energy solutions on a community-wide scale. Specifically, I have been tasked with providing information regarding the policy development necessary to support such a plan, as well as potential financial tools and funding opportunities that will aid in its successful implementation. I recently presented this information to Paul and Gillian Harris, Manager of Environmental Services, and it is likely that continued discussions regarding the development of an energy plan will be taken to council.

    In addition to expanding my knowledge of economics, as well as improving my oral and written communication skills, these projects have reminded me of the strong interconnections between all realms of sustainability. Initiatives such as community energy planning can have profound impacts that extend far beyond financial gains and can contribute to the protection of environmental services and natural assets, amongst many other community-wide benefits. These projects help bridge the gap between economic growth and environmental protection and it is truly refreshing to see how key environmental considerations continue to be integrated into ongoing discussions of future economic development here at Lincoln.

    It is clearly an exciting time for the Town of Lincoln with an abundance of projects and long-term ambitions finally reaching stages of operationalization.  It has been a privilege to lend my support to these projects and I am looking forward to seeing what the remaining months here at Lincoln will have in store.

    Categories: Blog, Brock Lincoln Living Lab, Co-Op, Experiential Education, Innovative Partnership, SSAS Student Contributor

  • Checking out the Cogeneration Plant at Brock

    Blog Contributor: Shelby McFadden

    CUB tour with AVP of Facilities Management, Scott Johnstone.

    Photo: Scott Johnstone, Associate Vice-President Facilities Management, Kaitlin James, Shanen D’Souza and Shelby McFadden

    Working in the ESRC on Sustainability at Brock for the summer has been an enlightening experience, but while one of the things we discuss and do research on is energy, there is only so much you can learn within a typical classroom or office. So, yesterday, geared with our hard hats, ear plugs, and protective glasses, we excitedly followed our guides, Scott Johnstone, Associate Vice-President of Facilities Management, and Drew Cullen, Manager of District Energy, for a tour of the cogeneration plant in the Central Utilities Building. Tucked away at the back of Brock along the escarpment, lies what Cullen refers to as the heart of campus, providing energy, heating, and cooling to the other branches of campus. Seeing all the engines, pumps, and pipes made us realize how much is going on in this building, and how our energy on campus relies on so many coordinating parts. The plant is really amazing, as it produces 85% of Brock’s energy, while also transferring excess heat and cooling across campus.

    As part of a project started in Fall 2016, known as the District Energy Efficiency Project, steps have been taken to make the plant more efficient and sustainable. To date, four of the older engines installed in the 1990’s have been replaced with two high efficiency electrically cooled units that can produce much more energy. The second phase of the project will replace the remaining four engines with two more new units and should be wrapped up by March. These updates will allow the plant to supply 100% of Brock’s energy, while also being 20% more efficient. Furthermore, the annual nitrogen oxide gas emissions will drop from 55 tonnes to 8 tonnes, and non-methane hydrocarbons from 15 tonnes to four. As the plant is currently responsible for over 80% of Brock’s greenhouse gas emissions, these are exciting initiatives to pay attention to.

    Check out the Facilities Management website for more information!

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

  • Focus Group with Niagara Parks Commission

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

    Photo Credit: Brooke Kapeller

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

  • A Co-Op Placement with the Town of Lincoln

    Blog Contributor: Zach MacMillan

    Zach MacMilland and Carrie Beatty

    It is interesting to reflect on my first few weeks working for the Town of Lincoln having now recently passed the halfway point in my co-op position. As someone who has traditionally held customer service type roles in the past, being able to work on sustainability issues in Town Hall was a welcomed change that has since provided limitless learning opportunities and connects perfectly with what we study in the SSAS program.

    Despite my limited experience working in an office setting I was able to have a smooth and successful transition due to the constant support from my supervisor Carrie Beatty who values the unique perspectives of the SSAS students. To ensure that both my co-worker Ben and I were able to get a holistic understanding of the Town of Lincoln, Carrie began our first day by giving us a complete tour of the Town. Growing up in St. Catharines I thought I had a fairly good idea of the Town’s geographical reach as well as its history, although after beginning our tour I realized that was not the case. Carrie had such a wealth of information to share about the Town, from historical facts to the what types of tender fruit trees grew where, demonstrating the uniqueness of the Town which sets it apart from other municipalities of Niagara. This was something I was unable to appreciate before working for the Town. The tour continued once we returned to the office and it was incredibly interesting to see how many individual departments work together to make the Town run smoothly. A Municipality is a complex organization requiring many moving parts to operate successful, although much of this work goes unseen and underappreciated having this understanding has helped me connect with the Town.

    Equipped with a newly developed understanding of the Town, Ben and I have since settled into our work stations located in what has been affectionally named “the fort”. It has been here where we have been working on both our main Brock-Lincoln Living Lab project as well as providing support to other ongoing projects around the office. Currently, our primary project involves developing an environmental and sustainability needs assessment for the Town using the Official Plan, while additional projects include supporting Economic Development and the Town’s Transportation pilot uLinc. This summer has been an exciting learning opportunity and I am excited to see where it leads.

    Categories: Blog, Brock Lincoln Living Lab, Co-Op, Innovative Partnership, SSAS Student Contributor

  • Farmers’ Market at Jubilee Court

    Blog Contributor: Shanen D’Souza

    Brock Farmers' Market

    Want to take a break from a busy day and enjoy your lunch break with some live music, great weather and a chance to buy some fresh produce? The Brock Farmers’ Market at Jubilee Court is the perfect spot to do that!

    Every summer, Brock holds a Farmers’ Market from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm every Thursday in Jubilee Court. There are stalls set up by vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods and handcrafted items. Barbeque lunches can be purchased fresh off the grill, while live music is played at the court. To put it all off, outdoor games such as ladder ball and bag toss are set up to get in some post-lunch fun. Vendors and stalls differ every week, so all attendees have a different experience every Thursday.

    The Farmers’ Market is a great way to build and grow community at Brock. Students, faculty and staff are welcome to enjoy the summer weather at Jubilee Court, while supporting local farmers and businesses. Brock prides itself in buying local whenever possible, especially for raw materials required for the cafeterias around campus. The Farmers’ Market is an added opportunity for the Brock body to help with this cause, while enjoying lunch in the sun!

    Directions to Jubilee Court can be found using Brock’s interactive map.

    Categories: Blog, Innovative Partnership, Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Exploring the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve

    Blog Contributor: Angela Mallette

    Last week, myself and some fellow SSAS students that are still in the area for their co-ops/research, headed to the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve for a hike. My thesis research will be taking place in the Niagara Glen this coming summer, and we had met to go on a hike through a part of the Glen I hadn’t been to yet. Our hike had a productive purpose as well – I needed people to pilot my survey after hiking the trails. It was late in the afternoon, so the Glen wasn’t overly busy. We made our way down Eddy trail and then to Whirlpool trail, along the water and then up the Whirlpool staircase.

    The Niagara Glen is a hidden gem of the Niagara area. Despite living in the GTA my whole life, and visiting Niagara Falls almost annually, I had never even heard of it until this past year. The section of the river that runs along the Glen has bright turquoise-blue waters and intense rapids that are classified as class V rapids on a scale of 1-6. The whirlpool just upriver is class VI. Aside from the amazing sights of the river, I was also very excited to learn about the geology of the Glen (if you like fossils, potholes, or rocks in general, definitely go and check it out). Or, if you prefer plants, the Glen has hundreds of species, some of them rare or even unique to the Glen. If you prefer history, aside from evidence of a fascinating geological history, there is also a century old cobblestone path built when a railway used to run along the river about 100 years ago.

    The Glen is a site that is so unique geologically, ecologically, and historically. As I learn more about it, I’ve come to realize the significance of this site for my research. It is a significant and sensitive ecosystem but is also subject to hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. It is a perfect case study for sustainable ecotourism and its challenges. I am looking forward to beginning my research in the upcoming weeks and spending more time at the Glen. Thanks to Ben, Zach, Brooke, and Branden for coming out for an awesome hike and to pilot my survey!

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

  • Walking Trails located around Brock University!

    Blog Contributor: Kaitlin James

    Bruce Trail - Brock University

    Did you know that Brock is located in the Niagara Escarpment UNESCO Biosphere Reserve?

    UNESCO Biosphere Reserves are ecosystems worldwide that have been recognized by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) as important, and are communities committed to conservation, education, and sustainable development among other things (Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve, n.d). Brock University falls within the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere reserve which stretches over 725 km, one of the 18 found within Canada (UNESCO, 2015).

    Within the beautiful Niagara escarpment that surrounds Brock, is the Bruce Trail, which is the longest and oldest hiking trail in Canada. There are so many different trails, short and long, that surround main campus. Perfect for a break between classes or lunch!

    I personally walk the trail that connects to the bottom of Lockhart Drive, right by the Brock University Research and Innovation Centre, which brings you right outside of Market! Just a quick 10-minute hike up the hill to class. What a great way to see some wildlife and get some fresh air!

    There are many access points to the Bruce Trail from the top of the escarpment! To find out more about the Bruce Trail, and the many access points found across campus, click the link below!

    https://brucetrail.org

    References:

    Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve. (n.d) UNESCO Biospheres. Retrieved from https://www.gbbr.ca/about-us/unesco-biospheres/

    UNESCO. (2015).  Niagara Escarpment. Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/environment/ecological-sciences/biosphere-reserves/europe-north-america/canada/niagara-escarpment/

     

     

    Categories: Blog, Innovative Partnership, Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Exciting Scholarship Opportunity for Brock’s Environmental Sustainability students!

    By: Shanen D’Souza

    Toromont CAT Scholarship Presentation

    Photo: Cheque presentation by ToromontCAT representatives to Scott Johnstone, AVP Facilities Management and Dr.Ingrid Makus, Dean of FOSS at the reopening of Theal House in February 2018.

    The Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) along with Brock Facilities Management is offering $5,000 in scholarships for the upcoming year! ToromontCAT Construction donated these funds to the University to encourage and foster sustainability education and research at Brock.

    For students enrolled in the Master of Sustainability program, three scholarships of $1,000 each will be awarded to students in good academic standing. The three designations are as follows: one current student in Scheme A, one current student in Scheme B and one incoming student who will begin studies in the Fall of 2018. For students who have declared a Minor in Environmental Sustainability, two scholarships of $1,000 each will be awarded to students in good academic standing.

    For more information on the scholarships and applications please visit our website.

    This scholarship is another indicator of the quality research and education that is carried out through these Environmental Sustainability courses. It also displays Brock’s commitment to becoming a national leader in sustainability, while striving to create beneficial educational opportunities for its students. According to Ryan Plummer, Professor and Director of the ESRC, these scholarships recognize as well as support excellence in Environmental Sustainability.

    Applications include an essay question to be answered in 1500 words or less and the applicant’s unofficial transcripts. All completed applications must be submitted via email by August 22, 2018 by 11:59pm to sustainability@brocku.ca. Successful recipients will be notified via email by September 7, 2018.

    Categories: Awards, Innovative Partnership, Minor in Sustainability, SSAS Program, Sustainability at Brock