• Brock-Lincoln Living Lab research project to examine Lake Ontario shoreline flooding

    The flooding of coastal communities along Lake Ontario last year caused major damage and made people realize that century floods aren’t nearly as rare as the name implies.

    A new research collaboration between Brock University and the Town of Lincoln is aimed at helping the community understand how to deal with the impacts of climate and environmental changes and examining potential avenues of solutions for future development along the shore. It’s the first externally funded project as part of the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab partnership announced in October 2017.

    Brock UNESCO Chair in Community Sustainability Liette Vasseur is leading the three-year research study for the Ontario component of a larger project by Université du Québec à Rimouski, which is examining how various coastal communities can deal with and share ideas on the impacts of climate and environmental changes.

    Brock UNESCO Chair in Community Sustainability Liette Vasseur

    “Communities are becoming more and more exposed to different hazards,” said Vasseur, who has been involved in similar research initiatives in other communities in Atlantic Canada and Ecuador. “With climate change, these types of events are coming faster and more often.”

    The project has received $280,000 in funding from the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR), with additional support from the Town of Lincoln and Brock. MEOPAR is an independent, not-for-profit organization funded by the federal government as a National Centre of Excellence that supports research and trains students in the area of marine risk and resilience.

    Lincoln suffered around $1 million in damage as a result of back-to-back spring storms in 2017 that caused massive flooding from Lake Ontario. The storms led to the Town’s first-ever voluntary evacuation notice for residents living near the Lake Ontario shoreline, and caused significant damage to Charles Daley Park and sewer systems in Jordan Station and Campden.

    Vasseur said climate change scenarios over the next decade are projecting continuous sea level rise and increases in extreme weather events. This will amplify the severity and frequency of flooding in coastal communities like Lincoln, which is continually growing with more people living near the Lake Ontario waterfront.

    “People were always talking about 100-year events. Now it’s more like one every five years,” she said. “It shows that we need to be more prepared. When we’re planning things like residential developments, we need to plan in a way that we’re going to survive with these types of events.”

    For the Town of Lincoln, the research will provide crucial information about current and future risks.

    “In 2017, Lincoln experienced the real and harsh effects of severe weather on critical infrastructure in our community,” said Lincoln CAO Mike Kirkopoulos. “As another benefit of the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab, this research is grassroots to our community, helping us better understand the conditions for collective ownership of adapting to climate change as an organization and community.”

    Vasseur said the research team will include a postdoctoral fellow and a master’s student, who will collect data in Lincoln, and share information and ideas with other researchers and communities along the St. Lawrence Seaway.

    “It will be a very good learning experience for the students, while helping the communities at the same time,” she said. “We’re hoping that by the end, the data we’re going to get can be used by communities all along the coastline.”

    Lincoln Mayor Sandra Easton said municipalities like hers are learning that more frequent smaller floods — not just rare major flooding events — can have a big impact on resources.

    “Climate change and the impact on municipal infrastructure is top of mind for our council,” Easton said. “With the growing municipal infrastructure funding gap, municipalities have a responsibility for long-term planning and mitigation of the effects of climate change. This research is critical for council to understand how we can better identify actions toward climate change adaptation.”

    Story originally published in The Brock News

  • Environmental sustainability is the theme as Brock teams up with Niagara Parks

    The longstanding relationship between Brock University and the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) has entered a new era after the two institutions inked an agreement to work more closely in developing knowledge and practices in protecting the environment.

    In a ceremony Friday (April 20) at the NPC’s School of Horticulture, Brock Provost and Vice-President Academic Tom Dunk joined Niagara Parks Chair Janice Thomson in signing a Memorandum of Understanding designed to enhance the conservation practices of both organizations, while creating educational and research opportunities for Brock students and faculty through their work with Niagara Parks staff.

    Addressing members of the Parks Commission, Dunk praised the agreement as a reassuring sign of two organizations sharing a commitment to benefit people in the surrounding region, and far beyond.

    “We are both significant Niagara institutions that share a responsibility to use our resources and abilities for the greater good of our own community, and indeed of the whole planet,” said Dunk.

    A central player in this rekindled relationship is Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, whose Director, Ryan Plummer, was a key architect in developing the MOU and encouraging the collaboration behind it.

    The MOU calls for creating an Environmental Stewardship Initiative (EESI) that uses the expertise and resources of both organizations to increase environmental stewardship through public events and, in the case of students, through co-op education opportunities, course work and research.

    Plummer said an example of the potential for this MOU can be seen at the Niagara Glen Nature Area, where some 130,000 visitors a year hike down trails through the forested Niagara Gorge to the edge of the rushing Niagara River. Staff and researchers from both organizations can study public perceptions of the environment in a setting like that, to better understand which stewardship activities work best and which can be improved upon.

    “The MOU will advance the understanding and practice of environmental stewardship,” said Plummer. “Our partnership with the NPC addresses this two-fold challenge and does so in an iconic landscape. Engaging Brock faculty and students directly with staff from the NPC is sustainability science in action.”

    NPC Chair Thomson said the timing of the new agreement with is ideal.

    “This partnership reflects Niagara Parks’ steadfast commitment to the environment,” said Thomson, “and we look forward to continuing to work closely with Brock University and its team at the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre in further advancing and promoting our shared goals.”

    Brock’s ESRC, a part of the Faculty of Social Sciences, is one of Canada’s leading environmental research units, encouraging research excellence in environmental sustainability and engaging in knowledge mobilization that impacts the environment.

    Niagara Parks in an agency of the Ontario government, entrusted to preserve and protect the lands surrounding the Niagara River. Besides managing millions of visitors each year to its Niagara Falls attractions, the Commission operates a wide range of facilities along the Niagara River between Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake, including historic sites, golf courses, nature trails, restaurants and its renowned School of Horticulture.

    Story originally published in The Brock News

  • Brock and Niagara Parks to sign MOU Friday

    Brock University’s history of collaboration with the Niagara Parks Commission will add another chapter this Friday (April 20) when officials sign a Memorandum of Understanding designed to support the stewardship and conservation practices of both organizations.

    The agreement aims to benefit both Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, which advances environmental sustainability through excellence in research and education, and the important stewardship programs that Niagara Parks undertakes.

    A signing ceremony will be held during a public Commission meeting at 10 a.m. in the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture in Niagara Falls. More details on the MOU will be released following Friday’s event.

    A self-financed agency of the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Niagara Parks is entrusted to preserve and protect the land surrounding Niagara Falls and the Niagara River.

    The partnership comes on the heels of the ESRC unveiling its new home in the renovated Theal House on Brock’s campus. A grand opening was held Feb. 28 for the revamped space, which is now a focal point for the University’s sustainability efforts.

  • Brock research examines messaging to encourage less red meat consumption

    With the beef industry acting as a major contributor to greenhouse gasses, Brock University researchers are examining what can be done to cut down on the consumption of red meat by Canadians.

    Brock food scientist Gary Pickering and graduate student Samantha Stea are examining what type of messaging works to encourage people to either lessen their red meat consumption or stop eating it all together.

    The duo asked 593 red-meat eaters from across Canada why they eat beef, pork, lamb and other red meat, as well as how much they know about the environmental impacts of red meat farming.

    “Taste and quality are the most important motivators when it comes to consuming red meat,” says Stea, who recently completed a Master of Sustainability degree.

    Interestingly, the fourth-highest motivation for eating red meat was for health reasons, going against “traditional wisdom” that consuming too much red meat is actually bad for human health, says Pickering, a Professor of Biological Sciences and Psychology, as well as in Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre.

    “Concerns around the ethics and morality of eating red meat were very low,” he says.

    Participants read a list of 13 environmental impacts — including global warming, deforestation, overuse of land, acid rain, soil contamination and others — and ticked off those they thought were associated with red meat consumption.

    Pickering and Stea then presented the red meat eaters with one of six message types that contained information about the environmental impacts of red meat production.

    The first type was a simple control: a factual statement of several negative environmental impacts of red meat production such as “The amount of corn and grain needed to feed one cow could feed 10 to 15 people.”

    The second and third version of the statements contained subtle variations that framed the facts in different ways. For instance, the “Canadian place identity” frame changed the earlier sentence to “In Canada, the amount of corn and grain needed to feed one cow could feed 10 to 15 people.”

    The “social norm” frame added, “People are making dietary choices to reflect their feelings towards these impacts,” while other messages contained combinations of the place identity and social norm frames.

    The researchers then asked participants several questions about their intended future red meat consumption.

    Almost half of the participants said they would reduce their red meat consumption after reading the control statement. The social norm statement also motivated participants to say they intended to eat less red meat. Place identity had no impact on changes in future consumption.

    Participants also re-read the list of 13 environmental impacts and once again ticked off those they thought were associated with red meat consumption. In all 13 categories, the red meat eaters’ knowledge and awareness of the environmental impacts of red meat farming increased.

    The researchers say several important lessons can be drawn from their study, “Optimizing Messaging to Reduce Red Meat Consumption,” which was published earlier this year in the journal Environmental Communication, and won the Best Paper Award at the International Conference on Food and Agriculture Technologies in Bali, Indonesia last year.

    Stea says the results paint a hopeful picture of what can be done to protect the environment.

    “It can be easy and simple to incorporate eco-friendly ideals and choices into our day-to-day lives,” she says. For example, by thinking about how we can make slight adjustments to our diet, like eating red meat less often, we can help reduce the environmental impacts created by the red meat industry.

    Many studies have outlined the severe environmental impacts of red meat farming that contribute to climate change, such as significant methane emissions, the global warming impact of nitrogen in fertilizers and manure, deforestation for pasture, and the huge water requirements used in farming.

    Story originally published in The Brock News.

  • Brock announces recipients of Co-op’s highest honour

    There’s no set mould for co-op excellence.

    Meghan Birbeck and Jake Berec are from different hometowns, studying different programs and at different points in their Brock careers. But they share a common bond — winning Co-op Student of the Year.

    The prestigious Brock honour will be awarded to both students on Thursday, March 22 at the Co-op Recognition and Celebration Luncheon where the above-and-beyond effort the winners put in while completing their work terms will be highlighted.

    For Birbeck, a 24-year-old Master of Sustainability student originally from Guelph, the journey to co-op success required determination from the outset.

    “To get to my work term at the Town of Lincoln, I had to use public transit or ride my bike,” she said. “The trip took me nearly two hours each way.”

    However, once she arrived on the job, Birbeck made the most of every opportunity she was given as the Town’s master of sustainability intern.

    As well as completing the tasks assigned to her by the Town’s planning, development and public works department, she pursued additional projects and exceeded expectations.

    “I was invested in learning from those around me and contributing to what they were doing as well,” she said. “The council meetings I went to were not something I had to attend, but it showed the managers and directors that I was dedicated to learning what was going on and what we needed to do.”

    The extra effort led to the chance to make a real impact in the community.

    “The mayor mentioned that she wanted a bylaw on trees,” said Birbeck. “So I looked at other bylaws and then wrote one about tree removal. My success on that project led me to be included in the public transit working group and eventually to present my findings on public transit to town council.”

    While Birbeck was excelling at the Town of Lincoln, Berec, a 21-year-old Bachelor of Business Administration student in Brock’s Goodman School of Business, was making similar waves during his work term in RBC’s Caribbean Banking digital team in Toronto.

    The team was tasked with building the online platform that all of RBC’s clients in the Caribbean now use.

    To best contribute to the project’s success, Berec knew that he needed to bring a fresh set of eyes to the task at hand.

    “I think what led to my success was being able to dive in and take the lead on projects while not being afraid of breaking old processes and causing a little bit of disruption,” said the Simcoe native. “I brought value by giving a new perspective to old problems.”

    Berec used his co-op experience as an opportunity to improve his interpersonal skills.

    “I was not the most outgoing person, but co-op has helped me break out of my shell and make my opinion heard when I can add value to a conversation,” he said.

    Having received the highest honour the University can bestow on its co-op students, the pair hope to continue the legacy of the program by employing co-op students of their own some day.

    “I would definitely hire co-op students and I would try to make sure they were from Brock,” said Berec.

    Hiring students offers employers the chance to build bonds with prospective hires in the early days of their career, he said.

    Though neither winner is currently in a position to hire students themselves, they have learned from experienced leaders who will also be honoured by the University this year.

    Berec’s RBC supervisor, Daniel Caplan, Senior Manager, Mobile Banking, and Birbeck’s Town of Lincoln supervisor, Carrie Beatty, Senior Communications Advisor, will both receive formal recognition for their efforts as co-op supervisors during the Summer and Fall terms respectively.

    Berec attributes his success to support from the management teams as well as those who oversee co-op programming at Brock. “I couldn’t have done it without all of the support I had,” he said.

    While she will cherish the co-op award, Birbeck said it’s the experience she received that is truly invaluable. She hopes to inspire others at the University to choose a co-op route.

    “It’s great to have the theoretical background from your undergrad or master’s, but if you want to get into a professional job or career you need to be able to show employers what you are able to actually do,” she said. “Co-op gives you the chance to get that professional experience.”

    The Co-op Student of the Year presentation will take place Thursday, March 22 during the Co-op Recognition and Celebration Luncheon. The celebration will also recognize the Spring/Summer and Fall terms distinguished co-op supervisors.

    Story originally published in The Brock News

  • Brock unveils a new showcase and a new era for environmental sustainability

    It was built nearly two centuries ago, but the oldest structure on Brock’s campus has been given new life and a new purpose as a focal point for the University’s sustainability efforts.

    Theal House, an original farm cottage that dates to 1837, has been transformed into the home of Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC), which produces world-class research and educates students in topics relating to environmental sustainability.

    Unveiled during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday, Feb. 28, the revamped space features sustainable flooring and furniture, as well as an integrated system that controls heating, cooling and lighting, and monitors real-time energy use for the entire campus.

    Environmental Sustainability Research Centre Director Ryan Plummer, left, reads over a new project charter with Tom Dunk, Interim Provost and Vice-President, Academic, and Brian Hutchings, Vice-President, Administration. The agreement will see the ESRC work with Brock’s Facilities Management team on upcoming sustainability initiatives.

    LED lighting has also been installed throughout the heritage building, with dimmer and daylight harvesting switches in place to reduce energy consumption.

    In addition to highlighting the space, Wednesday’s ceremony was an opportunity to solidify a new collaboration between the ESRC and Brock’s Facilities Management team. The collaboration is enshrined in a formal charter that brings together the academic and operations units on various sustainability initiatives on campus. It is also an important step forward for Brock’s new integrative approach to environmental sustainability, and deepens the University’s commitment to sustainability — one of the seven core values listed within its strategic plan.

    Also announced Wednesday was $5,000 in new scholarship funding provided by Toromont CAT that will support students studying sustainability.

    Professor and ESRC Director Ryan Plummer said the partnership signals a new era in the University’s journey to be a national leader in sustainability.

    “The charter enables rich opportunities for experiential education relating to environmental sustainability, and the scholarships recognize as well as support excellence in this area of study,” said Plummer. “They will have a profound and positive impact by enhancing student experience, promoting innovative approaches for learning excellence and furthering engagement with sustainability.”

    Brock has been dedicated to improving energy and operational efficiency on campus with dozens of energy projects and green initiatives completed over the years, said Scott Johnstone, the University’s Associate Vice-President, Facilities Management.

    “Moving forward, we want to further our partnership with staff, students, faculty members and the larger Brock community to enhance, challenge and maintain a campus culture of sustainability.”

    Sean Goodman and Ron Cocking, of Toromont CAT, presented Scott Johnstone, Brock’s Associate Vice-President, Facilities Management, and Ingrid Makus, interim Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, with $5,000 to support students in sustainability programming at Brock.

    Hands-on experiential learning opportunities that contribute to sustainability at the University will be made available to students through co-op placements, research assistant opportunities, independent research and course-based projects.

    This week’s announcements reinforce the University’s values around sustainability, while also taking into consideration Brock’s role in a global context, said President Gervan Fearon. “We’re part of the broader ecosystem and as such, we need to think about the impact our footprint has and what our actions in support of sustainability mean.”

    Brock recognizes its distinction as one of only a few universities within a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and intends to continue pushing forward with its environmental sustainability initiatives, he said.

    Brock’s programs concentrating on sustainability are growing quickly. The Master of Sustainability program was introduced in 2014 and continues to receive considerable uptake from across Canada and around the world. In 2017, the ESRC launched the Minor in Environmental Sustainability and early signs suggest it is following a similar positive trajectory.

    Theal House is now the home of Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre.


  • Brock researchers create groundbreaking DNA reader for disease detection

    MONDAY, JANUARY 22, 2018 | by

    A chemist and a parasite expert at Brock University have teamed up to produce and test out a simple device that can detect diseases from DNA samples. It’s a scaled-down version of what is normally an expensive and complicated DNA laboratory technique, yet it’s fast, inexpensive and accurate, making it ideal for use in developing countries.

    Brock University Assistant Professor of Chemistry Feng Li’s device consists of a strip of paper attached onto a glass slide. The paper contains several rows of what look like thermometers, lines with markings projecting out of bulb-like circles.

    DNA samples are loaded onto the circles and move up the lines, much like mercury rises in a thermometer.

    “Different concentrations of the genetic disease biomarkers in the samples would migrate different distances,” says Li. “So, all you need to do is read the distance they penetrate, just like you’d read a ruler.”

    Known as the quantitative paper-based DNA reader, each device costs only about 10 cents. They work with a scaled-down version of a traditionally expensive and complex DNA laboratory technique.

    While testing for the presence of disease markers, health-care workers use a technique called polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which makes millions of copies of a particular section of DNA.

    The PCR technique normally requires highly specialized equipment and expensive molecular probes. But Li’s device is able to read DNA samples through a PCR technique using simple technology and low-cost chemicals.

    “This is going to be extremely useful in resource-limited settings where you don’t have a lot of facilities to interpret the results,” says Li.

    One such setting is the National Autonomous University of Honduras, where Brock University Professor of Health Sciences Ana Sanchez runs an internationally-renowned research program focusing on parasites.

    She and her research team collected worms that had been expelled by children suspected of having soil-transmitted helminth infection, a disease affecting about 1.5 billion people worldwide and a major cause of childhood malnutrition and physical impairment.

    The researchers used the quantitative paper-based DNA reader to test the worms for helminth infection.

    “The results are beautiful; there’s no doubt that the system works,” says Sanchez.

    She applauds the speed and sensitivity of the device, saying that diagnostic techniques in developing countries are traditional, basic and rely on the expertise of the person observing the sample.

    Sanchez says the device goes beyond just a yes or no result by measuring the amount of genetic disease biomarkers in the DNA sample.

    “How many parasites is this child harbouring?” she says. “That tells you maybe their immune response and nutrition are impaired, that we’d need to consider if treatment needs to be ramped up, even if there could be a possibility of parasitic resistance.

    “The knowledge of parasitic burden of individuals and community will directly lead to public health interventions. What Feng has proven is that his invention works. We’re ready to bring it to the field.”

    Both Sanchez and Li say they are happy with their research partnership, which evolved from casual conversations as they worked next to one another in their labs in Brock’s Cairns Family Health and Bioscience Research Complex.

    “I think it’s a really nice thing that we talked and realized we could collaborate. There’s a lot of mutual interest between us,” says Li. “It’s a very fruitful collaboration. We match perfectly in the research field.”

    The research team’s results are in their study “Paper-Based DNA Reader for Visualized Quantification of Soil-Transmitted Helminth Infections,” published Tuesday, Jan. 16 in the journal ACS Sensors. PhD student Alex Guan Wang and master’s student Tianyu Dong are the study’s first authors.

    Li says he is working with Brock’s business incubation facility BioLinc to create a plastic container that will house the paper-based DNA reader.

    Story from The Brock News

  • First female Associate Dean for Math and Science

    Cheryl McCormick is no stranger to the road less travelled.

    Her passion for STEM research (science, technology, engineering and math) has driven her forward in the once male-dominated field, and recently led her to a new position at Brock after more than two years as Director of the University’s Centre of Neuroscience.

    McCormick began her three-year term as Associate Dean, Research and Graduate Studies for the Faculty of Mathematics and Science on Jan. 1, becoming the first female appointed to the role.

    In her new position, she hopes to inspire other women to pursue a career in STEM research, particularly at Brock.

    McCormick’s main goal is to help promote the success of research at the University.

    Along with primary thesis supervision, she has supervised the research training of 13 graduate students and more than 70 undergraduates. Passionate about helping and recognizing the research of students, McCormick works with Science Without Borders research interns, participates in the Faculty’s Science Mentorship Program and assists with Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council-funded (NSERC) research.

    She has been with Brock’s Department of Psychology and Centre for Neuroscience since 2004, participating in various Department committees and speaker series. She also remains part of the Behavioural Neuroscience Committee, which she has served on for the past 14 years.

    McCormick is an associate member of the Department of Biology and has been a member of the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre since 2013.

    Along with departmental, faculty and University committees, McCormick has also served on numerous national and international research committees during her time at Brock. Most recently, she was a presenter for an NSERC grant workshop through the Office of Research Services and helped complete an internal review of graduate student scholarships for the Dean of Graduate Studies.

    She is the recipient of several awards, scholarships, internal and external grants and has been an invited symposia and colloquia speaker across Canada, the U.S. and abroad.

    Story from The Brock News 

  • Talented SSAS students recognised with prestigious scholarships

    By: Lydia Collas

    2017 Scholarship Award Winners

    In photo (from left to right): Lyn Brown, Emilie Jobin Poirier, Lydia Collas, Alison Feist, and Dana Harris

    As we near the end of the calendar year, we would like to highlight the success of our students in the Sustainability: Science and Society program and bring attention to the awards and scholarships that they have received. Francine McCarthy, acting Graduate Program Director, is tremendously proud of the students, “We have a terrific group of talented young people interested in a wide variety of projects related to sustainable development. It is great to see that formally recognized with these awards”.

    First year student, Lyn Brown, received the Ontario Paper Thorold Foundation Graduate Award which is awarded to a student at Brock University who is pursuing a degree with a focus on environmental studies. Lyn said “This award has allowed me to be able to focus on my studies, and not have to have a part-time job during my schooling. This extra time has let me get fieldwork experience volunteering for different local conservation groups like going electrofishing with the Ministry of Natural Resources, and doing water analysis with the Niagara Peninsular Conservation Authority.”

    Lydia Collas, a second year student, was awarded the Brock University Guernsey Postgraduate Scholarship which provides full coverage of fees. Lydia explained, “This scholarship is awarded annually to a resident of Guernsey, in tribute to the island being the birthplace of Sir Isaac Brock. This scholarship has enabled me to have the unforgettable experience of pursuing my Master’s degree in Canada! I was also awarded the Dean of Graduate Studies Spring Fellowship for the Faculty of Social Sciences which is awarded to support research completed in the Spring semester. During this time, I researched and wrote a review paper which I have submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.”

    The Ontario Graduate Scholarship is a merit-based award that provides funding for Master’s and doctoral level students at a number of institutions across Ontario. Alison Feist was one of the recipients of this award, “This year 52 students at Brock University received this scholarship based on academic excellence, communication and leadership ability, and research potential. Receiving this scholarship has enabled me to enhance my thesis research in the SSAS program and have the wonderful opportunity of conducting fieldwork outside the province, learning more about collaborative climate change adaptation on the ground.”

    Dana Harris’ hometown is Yellowknife, NWT, where she lived before moving to Brock University for the duration of her university studies. Now a second year student in the SSAS program, awards from the Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies (ACUNS) have enabled her to conduct research closer to home. Dana explains, “I was awarded the ACUNS Scholarship which serves to promote and assist in the continuation of northern research by northern graduate students. In 2016, I was awarded the Northern Resident award to support the fieldwork I completed that summer. And in 2017, I was awarded a grant by the Northern Scientific Training Program to assist with the transportation expenses I faced travelling to and from my research site. These awards have allowed me to pursue academic research and promote scientific knowledge in my hometown, Yellowknife.”

    Emilie Jobin Poirier was awarded the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council. Emilie said, “This 12-month funding enables me to entirely focus on my transdisciplinary research on climate change adaptation in the Canadian wine industry. Through SSHRC’s support, I have also traveled to other provinces to promote my research and gain a better understanding of the impacts climate change has on grape and wine production in Canada.”

    The Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) at Brock University launched the SSAS program in September 2014. The program has consistently attracted exceptional students, with an increasing number coming from other provinces and other countries. The ESRC’s Director, Ryan Plummer, reflects on the impact and importance of such scholarships, “Graduate school is about pursuing academic excellence and these scholarships enable opportunities for the recipients to enrich their experience and catalyze their research. The high number and diversity of awards and external scholarship bodes extremely well for the calibre of our relatively young program and I have every confidence this trajectory will continue for years to come”.

    The SSAS program is now accepting applications for 2018 entry. For more information and  to apply please visit https://brocku.ca/esrc/ssas/.

  • New ESRC research examines environmental governance

    Experience, process and both social and ecological outcomes are at the heart of new research out of the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) on effective environmental governance.

    The study, funded by the Swedish Research Council, looked at individuals involved with environmental governance in two UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in Canada and two in Sweden.

    The subjects came from different backgrounds including government and non-government organizations, private businesses and landowners, but all were active within their local Biosphere Reserve.

    “We found the experiences that individuals have when they engage in stewardship matter,” says researcher Julia Baird, Assistant Professor in ESRC and Tier 2 Canada Research Chair on Water Resilience.

    “There’s an important relationship between how engaged they are, their perceptions of the social processes that occur when they participate in stewardship activities and to what extent they believe outcomes — both ecological and social or well-being — are being realized.”

    By assessing participation, learning and collaboration as factors in how these individual stakeholders viewed the results of their stewardship efforts, the study provides statistical evidence of their importance — something which, as the study authors point out, is “often presumed, but rarely proven.”

    Co-author Ryan Plummer, Professor and Director of the ESRC, says the study gives rise to several new questions related to both theory and practice of advancing environmental stewardship and resilience.

    Baird agrees.

    “We are actively pursuing several research questions as a result of our findings, including transferability to other contexts, the psychological questions around engagement in stewardship, and closer and more nuanced understandings of the key variables that we are interested in,” she says.

    Transferability to other contexts could have future implications in many different environmental governance contexts, including here at Brock.

    As Plummer points out, “Brock University is uniquely positioned in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Our research may inform the approach to management and governance of our very own Biosphere Reserve.”

    Plummer, Baird and Brock post-doctoral fellow Angela Dzyundzyak worked with researchers from Stockholm University and the University of Waterloo to complete the study.

    Several graduate students associated with the Sustainability Science and Society program, including Alison Feist, Brooke Kapeller, Katrina Krievins and Angela Mallette, were also actively involved throughout the project in data collection, analysis, and reporting.

    A paper detailing the study, “How do environmental governance processes shape evaluation of outcomes by stakeholders? A causal pathways approach,” appeared in the jounral PLOS ONEearlier this fall.