News

  • Seen & Heard at the ESRC: Convocation Day!

    We were so thrilled to be able to celebrate convocation in person after two years of virtual celebrations, and we were even more excited to meet several of our students in person for the first time!

    Congratulations again to the Spring Class of 2022, we can’t wait to hear more about your future successes!

    Categories: Blog, SSAS Program

  • Congratulations to the Spring Class of 2022!

    Top Row (L-R): Edward Anyan, Jillian Booth, Gavin Esdale Middle Row (L-R): Brooke Kapeller, Bridget McGlynn, Mikellena Nettos Bottom Row: Baharak Razaghirad

    On June 14th, seven of our students will receive their Master of Sustainability (MS) degrees and move on to the next phase of their careers, whether it be the pursuit of another degree, or beginning a new job in the field. For the first time in two years, we will be celebrating our graduates in-person – for many of our graduates who entered the program in 2020, this will be their first time meeting our faculty, staff, and fellow cohort members!

    We are incredibly proud of these students, and it’s been an honour to be a part of their academic journeys!

    Edward Anyan joined the program in 2020. His previous degree in Geography and Resource Development from the University of Ghana and a Certificate in GIS geospatial management from Niagara College provided a solid foundation for his MRP research, titled “More Than a Green Roof: An Analysis of Low Impact Development Policies and Practices” and supervised by Dr. Marilyne Jollineau. During his time in the program, Edward secured a two-term co-op position in the Community, Recreation and Culture Services department of the City of St. Catharines. Edward recently secured a full-time position in the Office of the Auditor General.

    Jillian Booth joined the program in 2020. She has a degree in Environmental Geoscience from Brock University and used the skills from this degree to inform her MRP, titled “A Holistic Approach to Mapping Priority Sites for Low-Impact Development”. Jillian’s research was supervised by Dr. Julia Baird, and she was a member of Dr. Baird’s Water Resilience Lab throughout her time in the program and worked as a Research Assistant for the Partnership for Freshwater Resilience. Jillian was a recipient of the FOSS Student Research Award in 2021 and presented her MRP research at the FOSS Research Colloquium in December 2021. She also completed her co-op work term as a Research Assistant at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre and has now secured full-time employment with Vineland as a Research Associate.

    Gavin Esdale joined the program in 2020 and will be visiting the Brock campus for the first time at the Spring convocation ceremony, as he joined the program from Vancouver, BC! Gavin has a degree in General Science from Thompson Rivers University. His knowledge was further developed in his MRP, titled “The Forest and its Trees: A Critical Inquiry into the Use of Nature-based Solutions in Canada’s A Healthy Environment and A Healthy Economy Plan” and supervised by Dr. Liette Vasseur.

    Brooke Kapeller joined the program in 2017 from Medicine Hat, Alberta. Brooke’s thesis research was supervised by Dr. Ryan Plummer and was titled “Exploring Environmental Stewardship in the Niagara Region of Canada: How Do Elements of Environmental Stewardship Relate to Success?”. Brooke successfully defended her thesis on October 1, 2021 and received numerous awards throughout her time in the program, including the FOSS Student Research Award (2019), Toromont CAT Scholarship (2018), and the Graduate Student Research Excellence Award (2020). Brooke is now working as a program coordinator at the Bow River Basin council.

    Bridget McGlynn joined the program in 2019 and began research under the supervision of Dr. Ryan Plummer. Like fellow graduate Jillian Booth, Bridget was a member of Dr. Julia Baird’s Water Resilience Lab throughout her time in the program. She also worked as a Research Assistant with a number of partnerships within the ESRC, including the Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Initiative, the Partnership for Freshwater Resilience, and the partnership with the Government of the Northwest Territories. Bridget’s thesis research was titled “An Examination of Collaborative Governance for Complex Adaptive Systems in the St. John River Basin” and was successfully defended on October 15, 2021.

    Mikellena Nettos joined the program in 2020 after completing a degree in Medical Science with a Minor in Environmental Sustainability and Dramatic Arts at Brock University. In her first year of the program, she worked as a Research Assistant with the Charter for Facilities Management and later secured a co-op position with the Canada Post corporation as a Summer Student in the Real Estate, Environment and Sustainability department. Mikellena’s MRP research was supervised by Dr. Jessica Blythe and titled “Environmental racism: proximity of environmental hazards and benefits to visible minority communities in Ontario, Canada”. Since completing the program, Mikellena has begun working as a Youth Engagement Coordinator at Climate Reality Canada.

    Baharak Razaghirad joined the program in 2019 and travelled from Tehran, Iran, to study at Brock. Baharak has previous degrees in Natural Resources and Environmental Engineering from Azad University, and brought this knowledge to her thesis research, supervised by Dr. Marilyne Jollineau. Baharak’s thesis was titled “Urban Tree Canopy Assessment Using Geospatial Technologies: A Case Study of the Town of Lincoln, Ontario”, and was successfully defended by Baharak on November 30, 2021. Baharak is currently employed full-time as a Research Assistant working within the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab partnership with the Town of Lincoln. Her work on urban tree canopy initiatives within the Town is directly related to her thesis work.

    Congratulations to all of these students – we can’t wait to learn more about your future successes!

     

    Categories: Blog, Event, SSAS Program

  • 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

  • Launching Our Newest Open-Access Resource Through eCampus Ontario Funding

    Blog Contributor: Bridget McGlynn

    The ESRC is continuing to expand our educational offerings at Brock University through the creation of an open access undergraduate level course entitled “Building Sustainable Communities: The Impact of Engagement”. This course was built in collaboration with Dr. Derek Armitage and Ella-Kari Muhl from University of Waterloo’s School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability. The course also greatly benefited from the input of Indigenous educator Jodi Johnston.

    Much of the research conducted at the ESRC is operationalized through community partnerships as a mechanism to promote transdisciplinary research and community engagement. Effectively engaging people is essential to navigating contemporary challenges. This course, Building Sustainable Communities: The Impact of Engagement, prepares learners, conceptually and practically, to effectively engage actors as a key aspect of building sustainable communities. The course content encourages a reflective, dynamic, and ethical approach to building sustainable communities at local and global levels. Students will garner a greater understanding of what may characterize a sustainable community; the importance, benefits, and challenges of community engagement; and essential ethical considerations embedded within community engagement.

    The online social sciences course explores theories and practices to engage people for three common and critical purposes: information gathering and sharing; collaboration; and, monitoring and evaluation. The course consists of five modules, each self-contained in Pressbooks:

    Module 1: Introduction to Community Engagement

    Module 2: Information Gathering and Sharing

    Module 3: Collaboration

    Module 4:  Monitoring and Evaluation

    Module 5: Creating Connections for the Future

    Regardless of their major, the content included within each of these modules will provide learners with novel course content, countless ancillary resources, and critical thinking exercises to develop the knowledge and skills to assist in creating a more sustainable future.

     

    Categories: Blog, Collaborations

  • Niagara Parks Field Trip Marks Return of In-Person Experiential Education for SSAS Students

    For the first time in two years, students enrolled in the Master of Sustainability program at Brock University were able to get together for an in-person field trip across the Niagara Region to engage with our community partners at the Niagara Parks Commission.

    The day began at the newly restored and renovated Niagara Power Station, where SSAS students Tyler Thomson and Lauren Patterson presented their final project in their Problem Solving in the Environment course (SSAS 5P03) on behalf of their classmates. As SSAS 5P03 instructor Dr. Ryan Plummer explained, the purpose of the assignment was to “collaboratively understand and resolve an environmental sustainability dilemma or opportunity. Niagara Parks was the client for the course this year and expressed an interest in proposals regarding communications and interpretation”. Dr. Plummer added that “the Niagara Parks Power Station provided an impressive backdrop for the students to present the final deliverables of their project to Ellen Savoia (Senior Manager, Planning and Environmental Sustainability), Corey Burant (Project Manager, Forest Health Planning, Environment and Culture) and colleagues from the ESRC”.

    After the presentation, the students were taken on a tour of the Niagara Power Station building that included a history of the power station from its initial construction in 1905 to today. The tour included multiple displays that covered various aspects of the station’s history, including a look at how the building was constructed with horse and carriage power. We were incredibly grateful to our tour guides for providing such a thorough history of such a fascinating aspect of the Niagara Region!

    From the Power Station, we stopped for a lunch break at Table Rock Market and headed out for the second half of our day, which was a tour of various Niagara Parks stewardship sites. Our first site was the Upper Whirlpool Woods, where Corey Burant spoke about trail management in the Niagara Parks Commission, and how the NPC manages at-risk species and old growth forests. The students then had the opportunity to meet and hear from SSAS alumnus Samantha Witkowski, whose thesis research was based in several Niagara Parks stewardship sites, including the Niagara Glen, and concerned evaluation of environmental management. Hearing from a former SSAS student whose thesis research has been published in several journals since completing the program was a valuable experience for our current students, many of whom will be starting to collect data for their own research projects.

    Following Samantha’s presentation, the students headed to the final two stops on their field trip. The first of these was the Usshers Creek Coastal Wetland Project site, where Corey Burant spoke to the students about the project and explained how the Niagara Parks Commission manages coastal wetlands in their stewardship sites. The final stop of the day was the Chippawa Battlefield, where Corey spoke to the students about the NPC’s Grassland Habitat Restoration Project. The students learned about the history of the site and how the NPC is using controlled burning to maintain the site and restore natural habitats.

    This experience was incredibly valuable for all students, as it provided them with the opportunity to not only meet many of their fellow classmates in person, but to visit the stewardship sites that so many of them are basing their research around. Lauren Patterson, who is currently completing a research assistantship with the Niagara Parks Commission, said that “visiting prominent Niagara Parks sites and seeing their beauty in person for the first time was a reminder of why we are studying Sustainability; We want to continue to experience areas filled with cultural and natural heritage, and safeguard them for future generations”. SSAS student Shannon Heaney, who travelled from Alberta to participate in the field trip, echoed Lauren’s statements, and added that “seeing the work that Niagara Parks is doing is inspiring for the future of sustainability and the beautiful natural areas in which these actions take place”.

    Check out the photos below of some highlights from our trip!

    Categories: Blog, Environmental Stewardship Initiative, Experiential Education, SSAS Program

  • 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

  • Seen & Heard at the ESRC – Faculty of Social Sciences Annual Research Colloquium

    On December 8th, 2021, three members of the ESRC presented at the Faculty of Social Sciences Annual Research Colloquium. Second-year SSAS student Jillian Booth was one of three students chosen to present their research, and discussed her MRP research about a holistic approach to low impact development. After the student presentations concluded, ESRC Faculty Members Drs. Julia Baird and Jessica Blythe presented their research as the co-recipients of the FOSS Early Career Researcher of the Year award. Dr. Baird’s presentation consisted of a discussion about water resilience in a changing world, and an overview of activities going on in the Water Resilience Lab. Dr. Blythe discussed her research on Fostering Ocean Empathy, as well as her work on the Niagara Adapts partnership.

    We are incredibly proud to have been so well represented at this event and to have such a wide variety of research happening in our centre – learn more about each presentation in the photos below!

    Categories: Awards, Blog

  • 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

  • Seen & Heard at the ESRC – 3MT Presentations

    On November 22nd, 2021, second-year students in the SSAS program presented their thesis and MRP research to their peers in SSAS 5P04 (Transdisciplinary Seminar). The students were challenged to present their research in the 3 Minute Thesis format, which only allows for one PowerPoint slide and three minutes to explain the subject of their research.

    Overall, these students all did a great job with their presentations – learn more about each presentation in the photos below!

    Categories: Blog, SSAS Program