SSAS Program

  • Master of Sustainability Reflection

    Nolan Kelly

    Blog Contributor: Nolan Kelly

    Background

    It is very hard to believe that it has been 8 months since I started my journey as a Master of Sustainability student at Brock. Although I am all done my in-class portion of the program, I still have the Major Research Paper and co-op placement to look forward to. While this is exciting, it also marks the end of my time attending classes at Brock University after 5 years here. As a result, I have decided to reflect on this time by looking back at how I got to where I am, and the influence that the program has had on me. The route I decided to take in my undergrad and masters was a little bit different, and I think that by highlighting my experience and the pathway I took, I can help other students who don’t know what to do next or need a little guidance. Hopefully this can also give students some perspective on the Master of Sustainability program itself to see if it is the right fit for them. This blog will reflect on my background, how I became interested in sustainability and some of the main takeaways that I have learned.

    Minor in Environmental Sustainability

    One of the most difficult and important decisions a person has to make is deciding what educational path they want to take. I was heavily torn between choosing the Sport Management program at Brock or choosing an environmentally based program elsewhere. I ended up choosing the Sport Management program and although I was happy with my decision, I was unsure of how I was going to have any environmental component to my education. During my first year I was thrilled to find out there was an environmental sustainability minor being introduced. I jumped on the opportunity and was really pleased with the amount of choice and diversity there was amongst these minor credits. The two introductory environmental courses were online and did a great job at building up my base of knowledge and first showed me the transdisciplinary aspect of sustainability. In researching this minor, I discovered that there were aspects of science, history, geography, sociology and political science that all came together to give me a better understanding of sustainability science. In fourth year, the contemporary environmental issues course that was the last mandatory credit needed for the environmental sustainability minor, really drew me in. The course was extremely engaging, informative, and left me feeling inspired every time I left. The combination of all the minor courses and especially this last course paved the way for me committing to the Master of Sustainability program.

    Sport Management

    As mentioned above, I came to Brock for their Sport Management program and I really enjoyed it. As I progressed with each year, I found myself drawing upon the knowledge I learned in my environmental sustainability minor and applying it to sport. By third and fourth year I really became interested in the intersection between sport and the environment and took sport management classes that would let me further explore this topic. There were also professors along the way that highlighted the importance of sustainability and the environment which furthered my interest in the topic. When I told people what I was minoring in most would have the same reaction of thinking it was an interesting topic but very different than my major. While I could see how many would think this, I saw the correlation between the two and wanted to explore the ways in which this gap between sport and the environment could be bridged. As a result, I researched the impact and reliance that sport has on the environment and the opportunities that exist within sustainability in sport. I took this interest into my master of sustainability program and decided to make it the central focus of the major research paper that I am writing this summer. While sport management is just one example, it highlights that sustainability has a place in everything.

    Takeaways

    My experience in the master of sustainability program has only solidified this as the transdisciplinary nature of the program was very evident. This allowed me to develop new perspectives in many different areas and further expand my knowledge in sustainability. At the start of the year I was a little reserved and felt like because my background was not more closely related with sustainability science, that it would be an area of weakness for me. However, this was not the case as I learned that my different background added to the conversation and offered a different perspective. While the imposter syndrome many students feel can be difficult to overcome, the professors did a great job at encouraging our ideas and reinforcing the transdisciplinary nature of sustainability. Collaborating with my cohort on projects and assignments was definitely one of the most enjoyable aspects of the program. Not only were we able to play to our strengths and be creative but it was a great example of how sustainability works in the real world. We were able to further see this firsthand in our transdisciplinary seminars with professionals in the field. Without collaboration and different perspectives, sustainability could not be successful.

    Categories: Blog, Minor in Sustainability, Program Reflections, SSAS Program, SSAS Student Contributor

  • Learning to Learn Remotely

    Blog Contributor: Bridget McGlynn

    Students adjust to SSAS 5P12 in an online format (credit: Jessica Blythe)

    Brock University suspended face-to-face classes Friday, March 13th in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As such, the end of the second semester for SASS Year 1 students was transitioned to a remote learning format. As a student in Scheme B (the thesis stream), I experienced the transition of SSAS 5P12 and SSAS 5P04 to an online platform, both of which were incredibly smooth!  

    SSAS 5P12 is the Climate Change Adaptation & Transformation course is led by Dr. Jessica Blythe and her course heavily emphasises class discussion, both when reflecting on weekly reading assignments and completing adaptation planning workshops. Our weekly seminar was transitioned by using a remote platform and the nature of the small Master of Sustainability program led to productive classes. Dr. Blythe’s smooth transition to delivering the course remotely allowed us to finish our final weeks of climate change transformation discussions and receive guidance on our final deliverables. 

    SSAS 5P04 is our transdisciplinary seminar that normally culminates in Year 1 students presenting research proposals prior to their committee meetings in April. These proposal presentations offer the opportunity to share with your professors and peers the independent work of the previous 3 months and receive feedback. As a student, the exercise is not only valuable because of the feedback received but is also exciting to see how your peer’s project conceptualizations have morphed from the initial ideas presented during whiteboard talks in November. Transitioning these presentations to a remote format involved adding narration to PowerPoint slides. While speaking into headphones is less invigorating then presenting to a live audience and listening to your own recorded voice can be somewhat unpleasant, this transition to sharing recorded presentations was very effective! As questions and comments were communally added to feedback forms, students were able to receive extensive feedback on their presentations – perhaps even more than a normal question period would have allotted for.  

    As a student, these altered class formats have been incredibly helpful as they have allowed me to continue progressing towards my degree despite the immense uncertainty. 

    Categories: Blog, SSAS Program, SSAS Student Contributor

  • Master of Sustainability student chosen to present at national conference

    THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 06, 2020 | by

    Meredith DeCock-Caspell, a master of Sustainability student at Brock University, was one of only three graduate students across Canada chosen to present at a national conference this week.

    DeCock-Caspell participated in the Student Delegate Program as part of the MSA Research and Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ) Connect 2020 conference. The three-day conference, which took place in Toronto from Feb. 3 to 5, brought together industry, academia and government to discuss Canadian natural and human-made catastrophes. The conference is focused on catastrophe management and fostering collaboration before, during and after catastrophic events.

    She said being selected as a student delegate for CatIQ Connect 2020 was a momentous moment in her studies.

    “This opportunity means a great deal to me,” she said. “Not only do I get to share my research and that of my team with a broad national audience, but it is an incredible networking opportunity.”

    Her research analyses how the Town of Lincoln’s shoreline has changed over time and the role that climatic factors and human activities have played in its evolution. This is part of a larger project that is working directly with the community to co-construct adaptation strategies and understand the barriers stopping those communities from acting on climate change.

    DeCock-Caspell is utilizing a combination of historical air photographs, climatic and non-climatic data and land-based photographs submitted from the community to tell the story of shoreline evolution in Lincoln. The photograph comparisons will later be integrated with the coastline analysis maps in an online, accessible web application that will be shared with the public. The technique she is utilizing can also be generalized to other communities interested in disaster risk reduction and adaptation to the increased exposure to natural hazards brought about by climate change.

    “Being selected to speak about my research at an event such as this affirms that what I am doing matters, not only to the residents of the community I am working with, but to all Canadians,” DeCock-Caspell said.

    Story from The Brock News

    Categories: Awards, Conferences, SSAS Program

  • ESRC Faculty, Staff and Students Honoured at Celebration of Excellence

    On Tuesday, January 28, 2020, the Faculty of Social Science at Brock University hosted their annual Celebration of Excellence to honour outstanding Social Science faculty, staff, and students. Among this year’s winners were several ESRC faculty and staff, as well as a number of SSAS students and alumni – all of whom are listed below. On behalf of ESRC Director Dr. Ryan Plummer, and SSAS Graduate Program Director Dr. Marilyne Jollineau, we would like to extend our congratulations to everyone who was recognized this year!

    SSAS Student Awards

    Bluma Appel Graduate Entrance Scholarship for Excellence in Social Sciences – Bridget McGlynn

    Distinguished Graduate Student Award – Emilie Jobin Poirier, Angela Mallette

    Graduate Student Research Excellence Award – Brooke Kapeller

    Joan P. Nicks Graduate Scholarship – Nolan Kelly

    Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship (Masters) – Meredith DeCock, Angela Mallette

    Ontario Graduate Scholarship – Samantha Witkowski, Jessica Zugic

    Rovinelli Family Bursary in Environmental Sustainability – Meredith DeCock, Nolan Kelly

    Student Travel Award – Meredith DeCock

    Faculty and Staff Awards

    Brock SSHRC Explore/Exchange Program Grant – Tim Heinmiller

    Community Engagement Award – Amanda Smits, Centre Administrator

    CRISS Events Award – Michael Pisaric

    NSERC Discovery Grant – Michael Pisaric

    SSHRC Insight Development Grant – Jessica Blythe

    Water Canada’s 2019 National Water’s Next Award (Academic Category Finalist) – Julia Baird

    Categories: Awards, Event, SSAS Program

  • Life in the Thesis Stream of the Sustainability Science and Society program at Brock

    Blog Contributor: Meredith DeCock

    I always assumed I would return to the academic world to pursue a master’s degree. But I resisted this urge for years as it felt like something I should do, not necessarily something I felt a passion to do. If I was going to do a master’s, I wanted it be for a specific purpose and mean something. That is when I found sustainability science.

    I chose Brock, not only because it seemed to be the best sustainability science program in Canada, but I was really interested in a lot of the research being conducted at the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC). I reached out to my now supervisor, Dr. Liette Vasseur, as her work on ecosystem-based adaptation and ecosystem governance interested me. She was just starting a three-year long project with a neighbouring community that will help them co-generate adaptation strategies to combat the impacts of climate change. I was sold. I packed up my essentials and drove across the country to start the program in the fall of 2018.

    Being in either the thesis or MRP stream, your first semester is largely focused on just trying to figure out what grad school is all about. You are in a new school, and in my case, a new province, while trying to balance the seemingly never-ending work loads of classes and trying to understand your area of research.

    The second semester in the thesis stream you have a slightly lighter course load compared to your MRP peers; however, I found second semester busier than the first. I took on an extra course, held a research assistantship position with the ESRC, and took on a few other professional development opportunities that Brock offers such as presenting at the Brock Mapping New Knowledges (MNK) Conference, completing a certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, and submitting an article to a journal for peer-review. But to ensure I did not fall behind, I considered my research proposal its own class. I did not let a week go by without working on my research proposal. It is easy to let your research slide to the backburner in the first two terms of the program; however, if you schedule time into your week dedicated to your thesis, you will be successful.

    I am thankful that I am working with a supervisor on a specific project as I wanted to complete a master’s knowing that my research project is feeding into something larger. However, I know that is not the case for everyone. There is no right way to go about it, but it is great to know that there are options and that you will feel supported by the ESRC regardless of which route you choose.

    Categories: Blog, SSAS Program, SSAS Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Life in the Master of Sustainability Program – Second Semester 2019

    Blog Contributor: Connor Thompson

    The second semester seemed to pick up right where the program left off in December. I think the cohort expected to ease into the winter term, but our hopes were immediately dashed thanks to a few quick deadlines. Such is life in grad school!

    Both of this semester’s courses were taught by Dr. Jessica Blythe. Jessica absolutely loves working in academia and that passion comes through clearly in her lectures. If you have the opportunity to take any of her courses I highly recommend it, her excitement is infectious and she makes coming to class an enjoyable experience every week.

    SSAS 5P03 – Problem Solving in the Environment

    This is the program’s project management course. Our class was kept as a single project team, tasked with creating a sustainable tourism framework for the Town of Lincoln through our Living Lab agreement. You can expect a few bumps along the way, but a strong group dynamic can overcome just about anything 5P03 throws at you.

    SSAS 5P04 – Transdisciplinary Seminar

    If this course sounds familiar it is because I wrote about it last semester too, 5P04 runs in both the fall and winter. The seminar brought researchers and professionals in to speak with us from across disciplines, which was incredibly useful in bridging sustainability research, policy, and practice. These events are open to the public and you can see past seminars here.

    SSAS 5P12 – Climate Change Adaptation & Transformation

    This course was steadily demanding throughout the semester, largely because we were required to read two articles and submit a 500 word critical response each week. We also created climate data projection reports for Walker Industries Inc. and many of their worksites across Canada, then we each read a book on climate change adaptation, wrote a review, and were given the option to submit it for hopeful publication in an academic journal. The weekly deadlines ensured that we had all completed and were able to speak to the readings with a high level of understanding, which lead to some fascinating conversations on how we communicate about climate change as sustainability scientists.

    The Co-op Job Search

    There is no formal course requirement for co-op students in the second semester, as the focus becomes putting those skills to work and securing a job. The co-op hunt is difficult so my only recommendation is to be prepared to search as soon as you start back at Brock in January. Expect to write a lot of cover letters, send many introductory emails, and spend an unreasonable amount of time on job boards. Look at it as preparation for life after the program!

    For more information about the Master of Sustainability program here at Brock, please visit: https://brocku.ca/esrc/ssas/

    Categories: Blog, SSAS Program, SSAS Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • 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

  • Congratulations to the Master of Sustainability Class of 2019

    SSAS Class of 2019

    Pictured from left to right: Dr. Julia Baird, Yuka Kataoka, Ben House, Leaya Amey, Zach MacMillan, Sylvia Hussein, Dr. Ryan Plummer, Alison Feist, Emilie Jobin Poirier, Tasnuva Afreen, and Dr. Marilyne Jollineau.

    On Tuesday, June 11, 2019, the Sustainability Science and Society (SSAS) graduate program celebrated the graduation of ten students.

    The Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) would like to extend congratulations to our newest Master of Sustainability graduates. The 2019 graduating class included: Tasnuva Afreen, Leaya Amey, Ben House, Zach MacMillan, Emilie Jobin Poirier, Alison Feist, Jessica Williams, Sylvia Hussein, Salima Medouar, Yuka Kataoka.

    The ESRC would also like to congratulate Emilie Jobin Poirier, who was named the 2019 recipient of the Distinguished Graduate Student Award – Sustainability Science and Society for achieving the highest overall average in the program.

    “This is the largest group of SSAS students we’ve seen at a single convocation ceremony and I could not have been happier to hood them – it was an honour to witness the conferring of their degree of Master of Sustainability early last week. Their hard work has had impact on scholarship, the environment, and on different communities in Canada, including the Niagara Region. This is an important milestone in their lives and I am extremely proud of them,” said Dr. Marilyne Jollineau Graduate Program Director of SSAS.

    “I am confident that these individuals will continue to make a positive impact on society and the environment as they pursue their future goals. We wish them all great success in their future endeavours!”

     

    Categories: Blog, SSAS Program

  • Mapping the New Knowledges Graduate Student Research Conference: Oral Presentation Session

    Blog Contributor: Connor Thompson

    One of the early issues we discussed in the Master of Sustainability program concerned where we fit within the academic landscape. I contend that this degree is what you make of it, in the sense that we are all able to choose our areas of specialization as we see fit. Education, policy, and environmental science immediately come to mind, but the beautiful thing about sustainability science is that it can (and should!) be incorporated into every facet of modern life. I was reminded of that early discussion after seeing the program for Mapping the New Knowledges (MNK) 2019, Brock University’s graduate student research conference. I found myself delivering a presentation on motivations and barriers to living off-grid, in a session themed “intersections of power and identity negotiations”. It was not exactly a perfect fit but I did my best to keep an open mind.

    MNK was my first opportunity to share my research publicly and it really was a great learning experience. I chose to open with an icebreaker on how my research was substantially different than the presenters who came before me, which drew a laugh across the room and helped set the tone for an engaging 12 minute spiel. By committing my presentation to memory I was able to make eye contact with the audience and play to their non-verbal cues, making sure to emphasize important points and elaborate when confused looks washed over the crowd. Though I initially laughed at my misfortune in being literally the last presenter of the conference, I was enormously lucky to be in that final timeslot. My presentation had all of the academic rigor that this sort of event demands, but I was also able to inject some personality and life into the end of a very long day for everyone in the room. I was told early on at Brock that knowing your audience is critical to your success, and it was absolutely true at MNK. The most successful presenters I saw were those that thoroughly knew their material, engaged with the audience, and were able to smile while discussing their work. Should you find yourself in a presentation room at MNK 2020, leave your PowerPoint slide notes in your bag and really make an effort to show your passion. The audience is there to see you, so make it interesting for them!

    Categories: Blog, Conferences, SSAS Program, SSAS Student Contributor