SSAS 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

  • What are Social-Ecological Systems?

    Blog Contributor: Lyndsay Bott

    Defining Social-Ecological Systems

    Social-ecological Systems (SES) can be described as a “system of people and nature”. While this may seem intuitive, the close connection between people and nature hasn’t always been central in environmental thinking.

    This term social-ecological system was originally coined in the 1970s and is now used within many disciplines, such as the environmental sciences, social sciences, economics, business, and medicine, among others. Other authors have described SES as a system that connects two subsystems of social (human) and ecological (biophysical). These two subsystems are inherently interdependent. A more complex definition of SES is an “Integrated system in which human society and its multiple cultural, political, social, economic, institutional, and technological expressions interact with ecosystems (p.1). tend to identify a close relationship between two systems: the social and the ecological. The social component of SES typically deals with politics, history, economics, and ethics, among other institutions. The ecological component of SES deals with the natural habitats, animals, aquatic health, and changes in climate.

    The Adaptive Capacity of Social-Ecological Systems

    A social-ecological systems perspective provides a framework for understanding the complex dynamics occurring between environmental and societal changes. It highlights the intense dependency that society has on the natural environment. From a social-ecological systems perspective, uncertainty is an inherent part of all systems. A systems’ adaptive capacity describes its ability to respond to potential damage, take advantage of opportunities, or respond to consequences. The adaptive dynamics of social-ecological systems allow for the creation and success of governance systems. Click here to learn more about governance. The marking of a sustainable and long-term SES is the ability to adapt to many variables that arise over periods of time.

    In 2009, Elinor Ostrom (winner of the Nobel prize) introduced the social-ecological systems framework. Based on decades of Ostrom’s empirical work on the commons, the framework provides guidance on how to assess the social and ecological dimensions that contribute to sustainable resource use and management across scales and contexts. SESs come in many different shapes and sizes, varying in scale and focus. According to the SES framework, the subsystems that make-up SESs can function independently, such as governance systems, users of a system, and the units produced by the system, but then join to produce complex social-ecological systems. When using fisheries as an example, the governance systems would be organizations that manage fishers, the users would be the fishermen, and the units would be the number of lobsters caught. All aspects of this social-ecological system example can act independently and have their own role to play, but then come together to produce a complex SES of fisheries. This example also illustrates the varying scale of SESs, as individually fishers and lobsters are small, but together form a large-scale system of fisheries. Therefore, all subsystems must collaborate and adapt to one another to effectively produce a sustainable SES. Understanding the complex nature of social-ecological systems can lead to ensuring their long-term resilience. To read more about the term resilience, click here.

    References

    Berkes, F. (2017). Environmental Governance for the Anthropocene? Social-Ecological Systems, Resilience, and Collaborative Learning. Sustainability (Basel, Switzerland), 9(7), 1232–. https://doi.org/10.3390/su9071232

    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., Quinland, A., Raudseep-    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

    Colding, J., & Barthel, S. (2019). Exploring the social-ecological systems discourse 20 years later. Ecology and Society, 24(1), 423–. https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-10598-240102

    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

    Fischer, J., Gardner, T. A., Bennett, E. M., Balvanera, P., Biggs, R., Carpenter, S., Daw, T., Folke,      C., Hill, R., Hughes, T. P., Luthe, T., Maass, M., Meacham, M., Norstrom, A. V., Peterson, G., Queiroz, C., Seppelt, R., Spierenburg, M., & Tenhunen, J. (2015). Advancing sustainability through mainstreaming a social–ecological systems perspective. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 14, 144–149. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cosust.2015.06.002

    Categories: Blog, SSAS Student Contributor, Sustainability Definitions

  • 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

  • My First Year Reflection

    Blog Contributor: Madison Lepp

    Madison Lepp presenting her research at the Mapping New Knowledges Conference. Photo credit: Alexandra Cotrufo

    Imagine this: standing in a room full of academics waiting for you to give a presentation on your research. Apprehensively awaiting the commentary that will follow. Unsure of whether those listening will find your research topic intriguing. Now imagine the opposite, and that is what presenting at the Brock Mapping New Knowledge (MNK) Graduate Research Conference was like. Presenting one’s ideas can be a daunting task at any stage in their academic career, especially at the beginning of one’s academic journey. In April I decided to participate in Brock’s 17thannual MNK Graduate Research Conference. The conference is aimed at showcasing the different research happening on the Brock campus. The space was inclusive, welcoming, and ultimately allowed me to improve my skillset and thesis.

    A bit of a background: I just completed my second semester of the Masters of Sustainability Science and Society (SSAS) program at Brock. I am currently researching my thesis titled building climate resilience and climate equity in Canadian municipalities. For me, presenting at this conference was the first big step in my graduate degree where I would put my ideas on the line. Through the experience of both finishing my first two semesters of the program and presenting at my first conference I learned a few things…

    A level of uncertainty is okay.

    It can be easy to compare yourself to others, doubt your abilities, and feel like you are not good enough to be where you are – hello imposters syndrome. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have this feeling in the past year but, one thing that drew me to the SSAS program was the level of openness the program offers. Through countless discussions on the topic, I have concluded that feeling uncertain should not make you an imposter and is completely normal. The supportive culture of the program has helped me channel this self-doubt into positive motivation. When presenting at the MNK conference I used this positive outlook, knowing that many other students presenting at the conference were in the same place as I.

    Only practice makes perfect.

    Odds are the first time you present something it will not be perfect, but that’s okay. Preparing to defend my research by presenting at this conference was a great way for me to prepare. After two years of presenting online, the MNK conference provided opportunity to brush up on my in-person presentation skills. I can only hope that the next time I present it will go even better than the first. Being comfortable with being uncomfortable is important in improving performance. I am glad that my first experience of being uncomfortable in my masters was in such an inclusive space.

    Avoiding (constructive) criticism gets you nowhere.

    Let’s be honest, no one truly likes receiving criticism and although being confident in your work is important, accepting criticism is an opportunity to improve your work. Through multiple applications and presentations of my ideas to colleagues, the first draft of my thesis proposal has changed a great deal – and for the better. The MNK conference was yet another opportunity to get feedback on my thesis. Through the engagement of the audience, I came to improve my thesis proposal once again. Using critiques of your work can be an important step to improve ideas.

    Although daunting, the experience of presenting at the MNK conference was highly beneficial and gave me a chance to elaborate on my thesis research proposal while providing me with the space to enhance skills I will use in the future. I am excited to see how my work will evolve over the next year and am eager to participate in next year’s MNK conference.

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

  • My first year in the Sustainability Science and Society program

    Blog Contributor: Alexandra Cotrufo

    Master of Sustainability student Alexandra Cotrufo

    It’s hard to believe that only a few months ago, I logged onto (weird times!) my first class of the Sustainability Science and Society (SSAS) program. As cheesy as it is to say, time really does fly by when you’re having fun! Since that very first class, I have met some amazing individuals, made life-long memories, learned so much about sustainability, gained valuable work experience, and successfully completed my Major Research Paper (MRP) proposal. Whether you’re a student interested in applying to the SSAS program, a student who has been accepted into the program, a student who is currently in the program, or someone who is just interested in learning about it, I hope you enjoy reading this blog about my first year in the SSAS program.

    Let’s start with the courses. Since I am in the MRP and Co-op stream, I took a total of seven courses this school year which focused on a wide range of topics, from Geographic Information System (GIS) Mapping to Water Governance. These courses provided me with a deeper understanding of the many dimensions of sustainability and truly emphasized the program’s goal of being transdisciplinary. One of my favourite courses was SSAS 5P01: Foundations of Sustainability Science and Society. This course introduced me to the main concepts of sustainability science and highlighted ways that society can work to meet current and future needs for both people and the planet. I also really enjoyed SSAS 5P03: Problem Solving in the Environment, which introduced me to project management and provided me with the opportunity to work on an environmental sustainability communication strategy and interpretive plan for The Niagara Parks Commission.

    Alongside my course work, I was also a Research Assistant for The Brock University Project Charter. In this role, I worked on advancing sustainability and awareness on campus through creating social media content, writing blog posts, hosting events, and working on numerous projects. One of these projects included working on a submission for The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, which ranks universities around the world on their progress toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. For the 2021/2022 submission period, Brock University ranked in the top 300 – a very exciting accomplishment! I was also fortunate enough to receive a WWF-Canada Go Wild School Grant with my colleague Madison Lepp, which we used to create The Brock University Seed Library. Working on this project has been one of the highlights of my year and I am so glad we are able to provide the community with free access to seeds and pollinator blends! I will be continuing to work with the charter during my co-op placement this summer.

    Another big part of my year was of course working on my MRP. My research is on the risk of greenwashing in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) communications. It aims to explore the extent to which marketers hesitate to communicate about CSR due to the increasing skepticism of greenwashing among consumers and stakeholders. I successfully defended my proposal in March, and I am looking forward to collecting and analyzing the data I receive from my questionnaire during the upcoming fall term. I am grateful to be supported in my research by my supervisor, Dr. Todd Green, and my second reader, Dr. Kai-Yu Wang.

    Finally, one of my favourite parts of this year is the relationships I have built with my classmates and the SSAS faculty. I have had the honour to work with some of the nicest folks who are all extremely passionate about advancing sustainability and contributing to a healthier environment. I have learned so much from each and every person I have met through this program, and I know the connections I have made will stay with me through the rest of my life. Although COVID-19 has made it difficult to build-in person relationships, I have had a lot of fun meeting with my peers for virtual coffee chats, game nights, and even a field trip to The Niagara Parks Commission!

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

  • 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

  • That’s a Wrap: The Final Speaker Series of 2021! An Insider Look into the International Joint Commission

    Blog Contributor: Shannon Heaney

    Photo retrieved from Environment Canada

    On November 25, 2021, the final Speaker Series of 2021 was hosted by the Niagara Parks Commission in partnership with Brock University’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre. The final session included a presentation from Brock University undergraduate student Kassie and ended with the keynote presentation by Natalie Green from the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, and Raj Bejankiwar from the Interntional Joint Commission.

    Kassie presented her research titled The UN Sustainable Development Goals: From Local to Global. In collaboration with another Brock undergraduate student, Kassie developed a webpage, which can be found here, that provides information about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and local initiatives that are contributing to achieving the SDGs at Brock University and in the Niagara Region. You can also find individual actions related to each goal that can be incorporated into everyday life to contribute to achieving the SDGs. Kassie left us with a note of inspiration reminding us that the Sustainable Development Goals can be daunting; however, looking at the positive changes in your local community and engaging in individual actions makes the SDGs much more attainable!

    Our keynote speakers presented the Evolution of the International Joint Commission (IJC). Raj Bejankiwar outlined an in-depth history of the evolution of the International Joint Commission beginning with the Boundary Water Treaty that was created in 1909 and led to the formation of the IJC, to the present-day Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The IJC consists of 6 commissioners, 3 from Canada and 3 from the United States, that work in collaboration with advisory groups, task forces, and the public to maintain the quality of the transboundary environment between Canada and the United States and is regarded as a revolutionary environmental collaboration.

    Natalie Green discussed the role that the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) plays in maintaining the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and the complementary Canada and Ontario Great Lakes Water Agreement. Guided by the agreements, Areas of Concern, areas that experience environmental harm or degradation, are identified. At all Areas of Concern locally driven Remedial Action Plans are implemented to restore water and ecosystem health with the goal of removing the area from the Areas of Concern list. Working in collaboration with numerous organizations, the NPCA has restored 1.5km of shoreline on the Niagara Peninsula, with 7.5 acres of coastal wetlands restored!

    The NPCA and IJC encourage public engagement; if you would like to get involved you can follow their social media, visit the volunteer page, or sign up for their respective newsletters! As always, if you missed this talk and want to learn more you can watch the talk on the ESRC YouTube Channel.

    We would like to thank all our presenters that have shared their knowledge, research, and time with us throughout the 2021 Speaker Series! We would also like to thank everyone who attended and engaged in the Speaker Series. Remember, if you missed any of the Speaker Series you can find them here!

    Categories: Blog, Environmental Stewardship Initiative, Event, SSAS Student Contributor

  • 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