Town of Lincoln

  • Building better research through community partnerships

    Blog Contributor: Erica Harper

    On January 26th, 2020 Brock hosted a workshop called “Building better research through community partnerships”, which was the 11th event in the Building Better Research series – a collaboration between Brock’s Office of Research Services and the Library. The panelists included the following faculty and staff members:

    • Meaghan Rusnell – Director, Government and Community Engagement
    • Julie Rorison – Manager, Community Relations
    • Madelyn Law – Associate Provost, Teaching and Learning; Professor of Health Sciences
    • Sid Segalowitz – Professor Emeritus and Director, Centre for Lifespan Development Research
    • Ryan Plummer – Professor and Director, Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC)

    All panelists detailed their experiences of conducting research through community partnerships, including Dr. Plummer who discussed the benefits of collaborating with the ESRC’s partners. The Centre now has over eight formalized agreements with partners such as the Trail Assets and Tourism Initiative with the Niagara Parks Commission, the Partnership for Freshwater Resilience with World Wildlife Fund-Canada, and the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab, to name a few.

    According to Dr. Plummer, here are three main benefits of working with community partners:

    • The ability to co-create knowledge in a way that honours and gives a voice to the partners in the community and bridges the gap between scientific knowledge and the needs of the local partners and communities. Dr. Plummer provided a recent example of how collaborating with partners is the key to meeting the needs of the community. He explained that the ESRC’s partners at Niagara Parks were dealing with a dramatic increase in tourism at the start of the pandemic due to the public wanting to get out of their homes and explore local greenspaces.

    Instead of having around 220,000 people visit the Niagara Glen per season, the added need for greenspaces led to over 300,000 visitors during the 2020 season. Dr. Plummer mentioned it was important to quickly pivot within the partnership to start responding to an acute community need to support people’s wellbeing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.  This was possible due to a good working relationship with the partners at the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC), and they were able to create a video that showcased best practices for trail safety amid COVID-19 and beyond.

    • Every year (pre-pandemic), Master of Sustainability students go on a field trip to visit the ESRC’s community partners such as NPC, the Town of Lincoln, and Vineland, to name a few. During this trip, students have the ability to meet with partners and receive an incredible hands-on experience. This important fieldtrip can even inspire students to take on research related to the partners, which brings us to our last main benefit of engaging in community partnerships. To learn more about this engaging experience and how learning outside the classroom is beneficial for students, read this blog post.
    • Through meeting with partners and attending partnership events, thesis students within the MS program are able to look at concerns and needs that partners have and can tailor their research to address these needs. For example, Angela Mallette, a past graduate student, presented her research regarding Niagara Parks. Within two weeks of successfully defending her thesis, two Niagara Parks managers at the partnership’s bi-annual roundtable were able to implement her recommendations. Ultimately, student research related to partnerships has the power to impact hundreds of thousands of people in the community and beyond.

    All in all, engaging in community partnerships can lead to a number of impactful research projects and help our community by making a difference in the environment while also enhancing the student experience.

    Categories: Blog, Collaborations, Event, Innovative Partnership, Town of Lincoln

  • Green Infrastructure and Low Impact Development: Expert Perspectives

    Blog Contributor: Erica Harper

    On October 22nd, the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre hosted their second Sustainability Seminar Series event of the term. The event consisted of a panel discussion with three professionals in the green infrastructure and low impact design space with decades of rich experiences and knowledge bases. The panelists were: Safdar Abidi, Principal, Practice Leader at Perkins and Will, Dr. Janani Sivarajah, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, Brock University and Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, and Paul Leitch, Director, Environmental Sustainability Services at Blackstone Energy Services.

    The panel kicked off with an important question – “what do ‘low impact’ and ‘sustainability’ mean to you?”. This question allowed the panelists to provide the audience members with their perspective and lens when it comes to working in the low impact development and green infrastructure industry. The responses varied greatly, but one common theme was that sustainability and low impact design need to be synonymous with social, ecological, and economical resilience. Another key aspect of sustainability that Dr Sivarajah, Mr. Abidi, and Mr. Leitch pointed out was that buildings and designs must be “low impact” not only for humans, but animals, plants, and all other ecological systems for us all to thrive.

    The second questions asked panelists to identify challenges that they perceive as roadblocks to implementing low impact development and green infrastructure. Mr. Leitch highlighted that many facilities and organizations have conflicting priorities that get in the way of integrating green infrastructure and low impact development, but that we must properly communicate the benefits of sustainable design for it to be implemented “from the boiler room to the board room”. Additionally, Mr. Abidi stated that as long as we see sustainability as an optional choice instead of a priority, we will not be able to move forward in terms of green infrastructure and low impact development and we must debunk the myth that “climate change is a subjective issue”. Lastly, Dr. Sivarajah mentioned that sustainable design is often an afterthought and we try to fit it in after the “grey” infrastructure is set. Dr. Sivarajah also stated that we need to go back to our roots, making sure that low impact development and green infrastructure are planned from the onset of a development with transdisciplinary perspectives as stakeholders must work together to implement radical green infrastructure.

    The event’s last question allowed the audience to get a glimpse into how the experienced panelists view the future of low impact development and green infrastructure. To begin, Mr. Abidi explained that the pandemic has provided humans with a strong signal to take a step back and reflect on the value of being part of a community. For a thriving community, we must have the following: healthier and active lifestyles, equity in terms of access to public spaces, and community building. Dr. Sivarajah drove home the importance of planning urban spaces with intention and in a holistic manner that accounts for accessibility, equity, and sustainability for all living beings. Lastly, Mr. Leitch believes that although the transition towards prioritizing low impact development and green infrastructure will be a gradual one, as behavioural changes expand, green infrastructure and low impact development will become expected standards that offer great benefits tied to wellbeing.

    The panel discussion concluded with each professional’s closing statement for audience members. Mr. Leitch stated the importance of generating solutions for complex issues in a “people-oriented way” and to hold strong when it comes to our path with sustainability in school and in our careers. Additionally, Dr. Sivarajah told the students in the audience that they were the future of sustainability and that it is crucial to prioritize your values as they will guide you in the professional world. Lastly, Mr. Abidi left us with the fact that we are in a position of privilege to even have the knowledge to find solutions to climate change and reverse the damage that humans have done to our planet. Mr. Abidi also asked students to think of themselves as “healers of the Earth” as they go on to pursue different career paths in sustainability, low impact development, and green infrastructure.

    All in all, this was an inspiring event that helped students gain a deeper understanding of the major current challenges that professionals face in the space of green infrastructure and low impact design, while also being exposed to ways in which we can overcome them with transdisciplinary solutions.

    This panel was live-streamed – a recording is available on our YouTube channel.

    Categories: Blog, Brock Lincoln Living Lab, Experiential Education, Prudhommes Project, SSAS Program, SSAS Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock, Town of Lincoln