Town of Lincoln

  • 2022 Summer Research Assistantship – All Things Trees

    Blog Contributor: Baharak Razaghirad

    The Brock-Lincoln living lab (BL-LL) partnership assists the Town of Lincoln in better managing urban forests and improving the services provided by the urban tree canopy. Trees are natural assets that provide us with many different socio-environmental benefits and services. They also serve as green infrastructure with low to zero-impact, affordable, sustainable solutions that are valuable to many small communities with limited financial resources. Increasing resilience to climate change using urban forests (e.g., in better controlling water runoff, increasing air quality, and preventing erosion) has become critical as small communities face unprecedented challenges related to climate change.

    Protecting the urban tree canopy for its intrinsic value or using them to achieve sustainability in urban areas requires knowledge of the location and distribution of the urban tree canopy. Over the summer, I worked as a research assistant (RA) with Dr. Marilyne Jollineau, faculty lead for the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab partnership to examine the urban tree canopy in the Town of Lincoln, Ontario, and help the Town in achieving its goal of a sustainable urban tree canopy.

    This RA opportunity was well timed as I had just completed my thesis research on urban tree canopy (UTC) assessment using geospatial technologies for the Town of Lincoln, which had been conducted under Dr. Jollineau’s supervision in 2021. UTC assessment is essential for managing urban trees, especially in the context of climate change. The canopy, as well as its composition and distribution across different geographical boundaries reveals information about the condition and gaps in the canopy. It can also be used to assess the equity of access to this natural asset across different urban communities within the Town.  Assessing the canopy is also the first step in defining a canopy goal for municipalities.

    The primary work undertaken for this RA position included:

    1. Evaluation of the ecosystem services and benefits of urban forests, especially regarding mitigation of negative impacts of climate change. Familiarity with the monetary value of these services encourages the preservation of the current canopy and its development in the community. The monetary evaluation of services and benefits was based on the canopy coverage for any specific area and the dollar value of providing each service per square meter of the canopy. The evaluation of the monetary benefits of the trees of Rotary Park in Beamsville can be found here as an example.
    2. Preparation of a field and laboratory guide to urban tree inventory. A comprehensive guide was developed in this RA to assist the Town in inventorying its trees. To correctly manage the urban tree canopy, tree inventories are essential. All of the steps involved in collecting spatial and non-spatial tree-related data, managing data and making them compatible with other geospatial software types were provided in this guide.
    3. While providing the Town’s staff with a practical field and lab training guide on conducting a tree inventory was provided, this RA position included collecting vital information about 270 trees in Rotary Park, Beamsville, as a test site. An essential deliverable from this work is that the Town is now able to collect and manage its own tree canopy data.
    4. Determining the canopy goal is a very important next step after completing a UTC assessment. This goal is calculated for each community based on its environmental and geographical limitations, needs, and suitability analysis. The canopy goal is a canopy to achieve that sustains urban forests and enhances environmental equity. During this RA, we prepared an evidence-based report on the next steps for the Town to determine its urban tree canopy goal.
    5. Lastly, municipalities across Canada are increasingly interested in communicating with the community. Municipal websites are powerful tools for providing information to local residents and other stakeholders. It can also provide opportunities for community members to express opinions and gain knowledge. To increase awareness, promote conservation, and efficiently communicate information about the services provided by the Town, BL-LL assisted the Town in making decisions about their website content regarding urban trees. Suggestions for content included information on the current state of the Towns urban forests, guidelines on how to plant and preserve trees, as well as by-laws and permits related to public and private trees.

    In the Master of Sustainability program, the courses and extra curriculum training opened doors to understanding the area of urban forestry that I hope to pursue and develop in future. During my study, in addition to lessons on sustainability science, I had the opportunity to be directly trained in the remote sensing field by Dr. Jollineau, which was necessary for my thesis project. I also had access to numerous virtual training provided by Brocks’ Map, Data & GIS Library.

    Throughout this summer research assistantship with the Town of Lincoln, I witnessed the necessity of effective communication with the community and giving constructive suggestions that benefit both the environment and the communities. Considering social needs, environmental conditions, and economic possibilities in a community in a holistic manner is one of the cornerstones of sustainable planning.

    Categories: Blog, Brock Lincoln Living Lab, SSAS Alumna Contributor, SSAS Program, Town of Lincoln

  • Resilience and Sustainable Community Development within the Prudhommes Project

    Blog Contributor: Bridget McGlynn

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

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

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

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

    What criteria ideally capture social-ecological resilience in multifunctional landscapes

    in the Town of Lincoln?

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

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

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

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

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

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

    References

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

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

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

  • Case Studies: A Step Towards Solving the Climate Crisis

    Blog Contributor: Erica Harper

    Christine Janzen is an instructor within the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre who teaches the Introduction to Environmental Sustainability (ENSU 2P01) and Environmental Sustainability in Practice (ENSU 2P02) courses at Brock University. Despite the challenges of teaching students in an online format during a global pandemic, she got creative and designed a case study for students focused on developing a sustainable community hub in the Town of Lincoln. A Community Hub is a place that offers various integrated services such as social, health, education, business development, and municipal services.

    For context, the Town of Lincoln is in the heart of the Niagara Region on Lake Ontario and includes smaller communities such as Beamsville, Jordan, and Vineland. It is home to nearly 24,000 residents and to over 50 wineries, farms, and heritage sites. The Town of Lincoln has long been committed to creating a sustainable community for all, and their overarching vision to be a place where all residents grow, prosper, and belong. To continue to fulfill this vision, the Town has set to develop a sustainable Community Hub, which represents “Project 1” within the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab Sustainability Action Plan.

    Students were challenged with the task of creating a planning process for the sustainable Community Hub while taking many other factors  into account, such as:

    • Determining who is involved in the planning process
    • Assessing who should be consulted during the planning process
    • Securing a building in an accessible location
    • Creating a framework for the project
    • Return on investment
    • The services that will be offered to residents
    • Implementing sustainable initiatives and making sustainability a priority
    • Ensuring that all residents are informed and buy into the idea of a Community Hub since taxpayer money will help to fund this project

    To help inform their responses to the case study for the Town of Lincoln, students were presented with fictional quotes from various key stakeholders that were “asked whether or not they would support the implementation of a Community Hub in their town”. Some fictional stakeholders included the Mayor, the Manager of Infrastructure and Development, citizens, council members, business owners, and social service providers.

    According to Janzen, the students approached this project and their chosen topics with a variety of interesting ideas. For example, a group of students were tasked with focusing on green infrastructure and low impact design on the community hub property. Their ideas ranged from a green roof, rain gardens, and permeable pavement to allotment of land for community gardens. Another group was asked to propose a communication strategy to promote the Hub to a group of stakeholders who may be hesitant about its implementation where they could apply what they’d learned about best practices in Environmental Communications. This group of students considered what messages would resonate best with the stakeholders they’d chosen based on their values and concerns, and considered best methods of dissemination of messages from in-person group discussions, public participation through social media, local broadcast media to forming a local community hub committee including some of the Town’s citizens.

    Overall, Janzen said that while the steps of this project were new to many students and that the project was challenging, the students rose to the occasion. Janzen also said that she was “pleased to see students using what they had learned about the Town’s values, goals, and objectives to help them determine what voices would be important in the Hub discussion”, adding that “one student even mentioned that she drove through the Town of Lincoln for the first time to get a better idea of the context of the case study”. She also focused on the importance of experiential education, as it “gives students opportunities to see how theory is applied in the “real” world and deepens their understanding of the course material”.

    Experiential education also helps students make connections between theory and practice at a local level. “For example”, said Janzen, “ENSU 2P02 explores how environmental sustainability practices are being implemented in several fields and provides examples from across the globe. Having students work through one of the projects the ESRC is engaged in allows them to see and participate in a project that is happening locally  – what sustainability looks like in Niagara Region”.

     

    Categories: Blog, Brock Lincoln Living Lab, Experiential Education, 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