News

  • Launch of the Resilience Collaborative

    Earlier in June, a group of influential researchers gathered at Theal House for the inaugural meeting of the Resilience Collaborative. The Resilience Collaborative is an initiative of the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC). The primary goal of the collaborative is to develop insights about resilience and build the capacity of individuals, organizations, and communities to navigate complexity and change.

    The collaborative brings together scholars who share a deep commitment to resilience as essential for sustainable futures. Resilience, in the context of social-ecological systems, is the ability to maintain and persist, to adapt when needed to changing conditions, and to transform when persistence and adaptation are no longer feasible. Resilience is a way of thinking that recognizes the complex interactions between society and our ecosystems. It embraces the idea of change and acknowledges uncertainty.

    This new group includes researchers from the ESRC as well as partner organizations including the Vineland Research & Innovation Centre and the Healthy Headwaters Lab at the University of Windsor. Given that resilience is an approach that encourages broad and meaningful participation by stakeholders, learning from feedbacks, and taking action for biosphere stewardship, the inaugural meeting included the development of a vision for the first community-based project to be executed in the Town of Lincoln.

    Stay tuned for exciting updates on the Resilience Collaborative and the inaugural collaborative project!

    Resilience Collaborative - June 2019 Resilience Collaborative - June 2019

    Categories: Blog, Collaborations

  • Congratulations to the Master of Sustainability Class of 2019

    SSAS Class of 2019

    Pictured from left to right: Dr. Julia Baird, Yuka Kataoka, Ben House, Leaya Amey, Zach MacMillan, Sylvia Hussein, Dr. Ryan Plummer, Alison Feist, Emilie Jobin Poirier, Tasnuva Afreen, and Dr. Marilyne Jollineau.

    On Tuesday, June 11, 2019, the Sustainability Science and Society (SSAS) graduate program celebrated the graduation of ten students.

    The Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) would like to extend congratulations to our newest Master of Sustainability graduates. The 2019 graduating class included: Tasnuva Afreen, Leaya Amey, Ben House, Zach MacMillan, Emilie Jobin Poirier, Alison Feist, Jessica Williams, Sylvia Hussein, Salima Medouar, Yuka Kataoka.

    The ESRC would also like to congratulate Emilie Jobin Poirier, who was named the 2019 recipient of the Distinguished Graduate Student Award – Sustainability Science and Society for achieving the highest overall average in the program.

    “This is the largest group of SSAS students we’ve seen at a single convocation ceremony and I could not have been happier to hood them – it was an honour to witness the conferring of their degree of Master of Sustainability early last week. Their hard work has had impact on scholarship, the environment, and on different communities in Canada, including the Niagara Region. This is an important milestone in their lives and I am extremely proud of them,” said Dr. Marilyne Jollineau Graduate Program Director of SSAS.

    “I am confident that these individuals will continue to make a positive impact on society and the environment as they pursue their future goals. We wish them all great success in their future endeavours!”

     

    Categories: Blog, SSAS Program

  • Mapping the New Knowledges Graduate Student Research Conference: Oral Presentation Session

    Blog Contributor: Connor Thompson

    One of the early issues we discussed in the Master of Sustainability program concerned where we fit within the academic landscape. I contend that this degree is what you make of it, in the sense that we are all able to choose our areas of specialization as we see fit. Education, policy, and environmental science immediately come to mind, but the beautiful thing about sustainability science is that it can (and should!) be incorporated into every facet of modern life. I was reminded of that early discussion after seeing the program for Mapping the New Knowledges (MNK) 2019, Brock University’s graduate student research conference. I found myself delivering a presentation on motivations and barriers to living off-grid, in a session themed “intersections of power and identity negotiations”. It was not exactly a perfect fit but I did my best to keep an open mind.

    MNK was my first opportunity to share my research publicly and it really was a great learning experience. I chose to open with an icebreaker on how my research was substantially different than the presenters who came before me, which drew a laugh across the room and helped set the tone for an engaging 12 minute spiel. By committing my presentation to memory I was able to make eye contact with the audience and play to their non-verbal cues, making sure to emphasize important points and elaborate when confused looks washed over the crowd. Though I initially laughed at my misfortune in being literally the last presenter of the conference, I was enormously lucky to be in that final timeslot. My presentation had all of the academic rigor that this sort of event demands, but I was also able to inject some personality and life into the end of a very long day for everyone in the room. I was told early on at Brock that knowing your audience is critical to your success, and it was absolutely true at MNK. The most successful presenters I saw were those that thoroughly knew their material, engaged with the audience, and were able to smile while discussing their work. Should you find yourself in a presentation room at MNK 2020, leave your PowerPoint slide notes in your bag and really make an effort to show your passion. The audience is there to see you, so make it interesting for them!

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

  • Marilyn I. Walker – A Sustainable Gem in Downtown St. Catharines

    Blog Contributor: Connor Thompson

    Marilyne I Walker Building

    The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts(MIWSFPA) is an absolutely gorgeous building full of natural light and art, located off Brock’s main campus, in the downtown core of St. Catharines. Having been renovated from the Canada Hair Cloth Company building in 2015, its construction offered Brock University the ability to do what it does best – research! Facilities Management took the opportunity after renovations to install a piece of software called the Earthright Energy Dashboard. Earthright monitors water, gas, and electricity trends and charts them on a public-facing dashboard for all to see.

    Earthright serves two purposes, the first of which is to inform students, staff, and visitors about utility consumption rates at Marilyn I. Walker. There are a couple of screens that display statistics in relatable and interesting terms, like how many swimming pools worth of water have been saved from one month to the next. By showing people how utilities are consumed over time, it may influence them to change their habits as a group and see what impact they can make!

    The second function is to provide feedback to staff on how the building is operating. Facilities Management has been able to tailor automated systems around occupancy and seasonality requirements, which ensure that utilities are only used as they are actually needed. For example the lights are generally shut off at 11:00 pm and turned back on around 6:00 am, but there are also offices on motion sensor systems, and photocells are used to ensure that lights automatically dim as sunlight becomes available.

    The Earthright Energy Dashboard is a simple way to inform the public about how consumption habits impact the spaces where they learn and work. Newer buildings like MIWSFPA are sustainable by design, but we as occupants have the final say on how much water, gas, and electricity gets used. The next time you are walking along St. Paul Street, stop in and check out part of what Brock is doing to carry out its commitment to stewardship and environmental sustainability!

    Categories: Blog, Experiential Education, Innovative Partnership, SSAS Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Student researcher explores future of electric buses in Canada

    Master’s student Tasnuva Afreen (right) and her supervisor, Associate Professor of Geography and Tourism Studies Christopher Fullerton (left), stand in front of a demonstration electric bus displayed at a conference. Afreen and Fullerton, along with the Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium, set up an internship with the non-profit funding agency Mitacs for Afreen to research the adoption of electric buses across Canada.

     

    It’s a simple, logical way to cut down on air and noise pollution.

    Electric buses don’t emit carbon or use fossil fuels, are low cost to maintain and, by the silent way they operate, reduce noise pollution compared to conventional buses.

    But replacing current buses with electricity-powered ones is easier said than done, says master’s student Tasnuva Afreen.

    Afreen recently wrapped up an eight-month internship with the Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC) to collect and interpret information related to transit authorities’ transition to electric buses.

    “Now we’re trying to connect the dots,” says Afreen, who is in Brock’s Sustainability Science and Society program. “We hope to bring out what Canadians think of electric buses and identify the main barriers to bringing electric buses to transit authorities’ fleets.”

    Afreen, Associate Professor of Geography and Tourism Studies Christopher Fullerton and CUTRIC created the internship through the not-for-profit national research organization Mitacs.

    Mitacs partners with academics, private industry and governments to conduct research and training programs related to industrial and social innovation. The organization funds a number of research projects at Brock University.

    During her internship, Afreen organized consultations with industry representatives, transit authorities, government officials and academic researchers.

    She and her CUTRIC colleagues asked participants a series of questions about transit authorities’ experiences and challenges of experimenting with electric buses and the knowledge they need to acquire and integrate hydrogen fuel cell vehicles into their fleets.

    Afreen also asked transit riders to share their opinions on and experiences with electric buses.

    She then transcribed the consultation sessions and analyzed the comments. Afreen also gathered information on how to test electric buses in nine municipalities that expressed interest in becoming demonstration trial sites.

    Although she and Fullerton are still analyzing the data, Afreen says her preliminary results show that there’s much interest in putting electric buses on the road.

    But there are a number of barriers to overcome, she says.

    “Municipalities have to redesign their infrastructure to provide electric lines so that buses can recharge very quickly,” says Afreen. “Also, the upfront expense is huge — a lot of transit agencies don’t have the money in their pocket to go for this.”

    Fullerton, Afreen’s supervisor, says the research she conducted will lay the groundwork for CUTRIC’s efforts to encourage the adoption of electric buses across Canada.

    “While it has already demonstrated clear environmental, social and economic benefits in other parts of the world, electric bus technology is still relatively new and adopting it represents a major funding commitment,” says Fullerton.

    “Public transit agencies and other stakeholders, such as the various levels of government that provide subsidies for transit infrastructure, want to make sure that the technology is reliable and that their money is well spent,” he says, adding that Afreen’s work helps identify stakeholders’ concerns and information needs.

    Afreen will share her Mitacs-supported internship experience at Brock’s Shift Conference Tuesday, April 30 and the Launch Forum Wednesday, May 1. Mitacs Director Rebecca Bourque and Office of Research Services staff will be join Afreen at Launch in the 10 to 11:30 a.m. session in the Cairns Atrium to explore how faculty member and graduate student teams can navigate Mitacs internship opportunities.

    “Mitacs internships offer graduate students a valuable experience working with industry or community organizations,” says Industry Liaison and Partnership Officer Iva Bruhova. “It is a chance to apply their research skills and gain employment-ready skills.”

    In addition to the Mitacs session, the Launch event offers two other sessions on how faculty and staff can support graduate students through designing individual development plans.

    For more information, contact ibruhova@brocku.ca or kperry@brocku.ca

    Categories: Applied Research, Co-Op, Experiential Education, SSAS Program

  • Sustainability scholarship recipients meet with community donors to share impact of their support

    Through a combination of community backing and word spreading across campus, wind is picking up in the sails of Brock’s sustainability programming.

    The University’s minor in sustainability, launched in fall 2017 and offered through Brock’s Environmental Research Centre (ESRC), will see its first cohort of students graduate in June.

    Two of the soon-to-be grads, as well as three graduate students in the Sustainability Science and Society program introduced by the ESRC in 2014, received scholarships for their studies through a $5,000 donation from Toromont Cat

    .

    Photo: Brock students who will soon graduate with a minor in sustainability were celebrated recently by the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre. Pictured is student Nolan Kelly, Faculty of Social Sciences Dean Ingrid Makus, ESRC Director Ryan Plummer, and students Mikayla Richards and Abbey Faris.

    Officials from the construction company were on campus last week to meet with students whose lives were impacted by their support.

    Providing funds for sustainability scholarships was a natural progression from the long-standing partnership Toromont has had with the University and its co-generation facility, said Lou Colangelo, the company’s General Manager.

    “We’ve been working with Brock for many years through its power plant and supporting students by giving them exposure to the industry,” he said.

    The company, he added, is pleased to provide financial support as well as mentorship opportunities that connect students with professionals who have decades of experience in the energy and sustainability field.

    “The industry is constantly evolving, so getting exposure to fresh thinking and to young minds that have not been focused on the path we’ve been looking at is also a huge benefit.”

    The financial boost allowed graduate student Meredith DeCock to begin pursing her sustainability studies at Brock last fall.

    “The scholarship enabled me to take on projects and an extra course in addition to focusing on my program requirements,” she said. “Providing me with the ability to focus on my full-time studies, the Toromont scholarship enriched my learning and research experience over the past year.”

    Other scholarship recipients included graduate students Brooke Kapeller and Leaya Amey, and undergraduate students Nolan Kelly and Kaitlyn James.

    ESRC Director Ryan Plummer said the partnership with Toromont “serves as a powerful illustration to students, faculty and staff of the innovation that can be achieved through meaningful collaboration.”

    The minor in environmental sustainability was created “to respond to pressing social and ecological challenges and opportunities in Niagara, nationally and globally,” he said. “Units across the University worked collaboratively with the ESRC to make this important program part of Brock’s curriculum. The enthusiastic response by students far exceeds our initial expectations. It is very rewarding to see our first cohort of students graduating with the minor and I am incredibly proud of them.”

    Brock has been collaborating with Toromont for more than 25 years to “provide reliable, cost-effective energy to our campus community,” said Scott Johnstone, Associate Vice-President, Facilities Management. “We’re now advancing this partnership with a new generation of high efficiency equipment. In addition, we are conducting research together to test new engine oils and additives to extend equipment life, all while making our plant more sustainable.”

    Story from The Brock News

    Categories: Event, Innovative Partnership, Minor in Sustainability

  • Earth Day: a time for reflective action

    Blog Contributor & Artist: Meredith DeCock

    Earth in Watercolour

    Earth Day has been observed by millions and now billions of people worldwide since the 1970’s. Back then, people were starting to see and feel the impacts of the industrial revolution and they wanted to do something about it. It’s because of courageous activists that took a stand and fought for the health of their people and their planet that brought about change.

    The fight is far from over. Our western idea of economic growth and our consumer culture continues to be a driver of environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity, effecting the health of our planet. What people often forget is that we are an intricate part of this planet, and when the Earth is unhealthy, our systems become unhealthy.

    I understand the people who reject Earth Day, as the common phrase notes: “every day is Earth Day”. However, I choose to use Earth Day as a time to reflect on my current life choices and consider how, in the upcoming year, I can make personal changes in my life to live more sustainably. You may have noticed that North America is not the focus of either world map shown in my painting. As part of my reflective practice this year, I wanted to shift my perspective, highlighting that this is a global issue and how each decision I make does not only affect the people in my immediate surroundings.

    Reflection is an important practice and increasing your awareness is a crucial step to inspire action. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

    • If you love to read, check out When the Rivers Run Dry by Fred Pearce, Wolf Nation by Brenda Peterson, or The Song of Trees by David Haskell.
    • If you love documentaries, there are a wide range of informative films from The True Cost, Virunga, Cowspiracy, to Plastic Paradise, and the list goes on.
    • Consider carpooling more, flying less, or buying items in bulk.
    • Try to buy items second hand, and if you do buy new, buy local, fair trade, and ethically sourced items.

    Happy Earth Day everyone, and I hope that this post has encouraged you to reflect on how you might make changes in your personal, family, or work life to better take care of our planet.

    Until the next Earth Day.

    Categories: Blog, SSAS Student Contributor, Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Meet SSAS Alumnus: Nicholas Fischer

    Blog Contributor: Meredith DeCock

    For our first instalment of the ‘Meet SSAS Alumni’ series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicholas Fischer, a former Sustainability Science and Society (SSAS) master’s student who entered the program in September of 2016. As a current student in the program, it was a pleasure to hear about where he came from, his time in the program, and what he is up to now.

    Nick Fisher

    Photo: Nicholas Fisher, SSAS Alumnus who is now working as a Policy and Planning Officer for Conservation Ontario.

    Q1: What path did you take to end up in the Brock SSAS Master’s Program?

    I decided to attend Trent University for International Development Studies and Political Studies. I really wanted to take the opportunity to participate in an interdisciplinary field of education, which broadened my understanding of the social, economic, and political dynamics of our modern world. In my third year, I was given the opportunity to study abroad in Ecuador, and I jumped on it! While our first semester was regular classes, the second involved an intensive four-month placement with a local agency. Luckily, I was accepted to work with an incredible organization named Kallari (Kay-yar-ri) (best chocolate of my life, Google them!). Deep in the Amazon, I worked with local communities who participated in a cooperative-structured chocolate company and I received a great education in polyculture crops, community sustainability, effective resource management and overall respect for shared natural systems. Upon my return to Trent for my fourth year, I made sure to fill my timetable with as many environmental courses as I could to further develop my knowledge and passion for the sector. The SSAS program at Brock seemed like a natural next step to further develop my knowledge and passion for the environmental sector in an interdisciplinary setting.

    Q2: What stream of the SSAS program did you complete and what was the focus of your MRP or Thesis?

    I decided to enter the Co-op and Major Research Paper option at Brock. It is hard enough for a young graduate out of school to be competitive in the environmental field, so I knew I wanted to take advantage of the work experience during my education. As for my MRP, I was lucky enough to work with Dr. Tim Heinmiller and Dr. Marilyne Jollineau. With Dr. Heinmiller’s guidance, we settled on assessing the impacts of the Greenbelt Plan to the Niagara Region agricultural community and support network. I have always enjoyed local advocacy work and wanted my MRP to be reflective of my time in Niagara, hence focussing the impact assessment to the Region. I set out to identify key impacts or barriers posed to the agricultural community in Niagara as a result of the Greenbelt legislation and used my project as a means to identify potential areas of improvement to future iterations of the Plan to protect the agricultural industry, a cornerstone in many rural economies. Both Dr. Heinmiller and Dr. Jollineau were incredible mentors to me throughout the process. Both encouraged me to use completely new methods of analysis for my project and provided me with the resources I needed to succeed.

    Q3: How would you describe your overall experience in the SSAS Master’s Program at Brock? And is there a particular highlight that comes to mind during your time in the program?

    I would say my overall experience in the SSAS program at Brock was positive, although challenging at times. The incredible nature of an interdisciplinary program is that you are exposed to members of your cohort who come from vastly different educational backgrounds. This diverse mix allows you to have some really interesting conversations and address environmental issues from an array of angles, but also poses challenges when you are asked to work in a group setting. Of course, this is a mirror to the realities of the workforce, so I came to appreciate the practical application of this style of education. There were many highlights during my time with the SSAS program; however, the one in particular which stands out is being able to present my Three Minute Thesis in from of the staff and students of the ESRC. In the MRP stream, you don’t defend your final body of work, so the 3MT gave me a small taste of an academic defense. Don’t get me wrong, it was the most vulnerable I had felt during my whole time at Brock since I was putting my research out in the open for criticism and comments, but at the end I was so proud of how it went.

    Q4: What is your current job? Please provide a job description of what you get to do in your current role.

    I currently work at Conservation Ontario as a Policy and Planning Officer, and I am absolutely loving it! I have been in my position for 8 months now and have learned so much along the way. Conservation Ontario is a not-for-profit environmental association which represents Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities. In my capacity, I am responsible for advocating on behalf of the Conservation Authorities on all applicable provincial proposals, such as those related to Climate Change, Development, Provincial Growth, Drinking Water, Great Lakes Protection, and Endangered Species and Fisheries. I work with Conservation Authorities to develop key messaging to the province to ensure that the core mandate (to ensure the conservation, restoration and responsible management of Ontario’s water, land and natural habitats) can be effectively achieved. In addition, I work with Conservation Authorities to address questions related to our Class Environmental Assessment process and represent Conservation Ontario at a number of conferences and on provincial working groups. The most interesting thing about my job is that I get to work alongside some of the brightest people in the environmental sector who are challenged with balancing population growth with protection for natural resources and drinking water across Ontario.

    Q5: How do you feel the SSAS program helped prepare you for this position?

    Aside from the interdisciplinary setting which I already spoke to, my co-op placement is most likely largely responsible for my success in this new role. I was fortunate enough to complete my work placement with the Ministry of Transportation’s Environmental Policy Office in St. Catharines. There, I worked on files related to Environmental Assessment reform, and assisted on a number of other projects and initiatives, such as the provincial biodiversity strategy and road ecology. Much like my team now, the team with the MTO needed to incorporate planning decisions into their policy work, which allowed me to gain an understanding of the interrelated nature of the two fields. I will always be thankful to the SSAS program for this opportunity because, not only was able to apply my education in a practical context, but I have maintained some amazing professional and personal relationships with the staff from my co-op placement.

     

    Categories: Blog, Co-Op, Experiential Education, SSAS Alumni Contributor, SSAS Student Contributor

  • Blue Flag eco-label demonstrates the holistic nature of sustainability science

    By: Kelsey Scarfone

    Kelsey is a Master of Sustainability alumna and the acting Program Manager for Blue Flag Canada. Blue Flag is an international eco-label for beaches marinas and sustainable tourism boats, operated in Canada by Environmental Defence.

    One of the first things I learned in the Sustainability Science and Society (SSAS) graduate program was that true sustainability is holistic and multi-faceted, and calls on a wide range of disciplines. This could not be truer in practice.

    In my first career position after the Master of Sustainability program, the Blue Flageco-label has exemplified the concepts of sustainability learned through the graduate degree. Blue Flag began in Europe 30 years ago, created and fostered by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE).  Today, 46 countries have adopted the Blue Flag program and there are over 4,000 beaches, marinas and sustainable tourism boats flying the prestigious flag. In Canada, there are 27 beaches and 8 marinas flying the flag, and the program is operated by Environmental Defence.

    In order to be awarded a Blue Flag, criteria in four main categories must be met. These categories are: environmental education, safety, water quality and environmental management. In the case of beaches, for example, there are 33 criteria in total that are evaluated first by a National Jury, then by an International Jury. This process re-occurs annually, meaning that even if a beach has been certified for 20 years they are still submitted to this rigorous and thorough evaluation. The process lends to the legitimacy of the Blue Flag certification.

    Imbedded into the Blue Flag award is the concept of sustainability science. If one of the four components are not being met to the highest standard, the beach, marina or sustainable tourism boat is failing not only to achieve Blue Flag, but also in the overarching goal of sustainable management. In order to operate to the highest environmental standard, Blue Flag sites need to have swimmable clean water, environmental education programs and management committees, lifeguards and/or safety equipment, and robust emergency response plans.

    In my position as the acting manager for this program, I’ve learned how to be agile between these core concepts of beach, marina and tourism sustainability. Of course, the environment is at the heart of my role, but I’ve also had to integrate the perspectives of public health, waterfront safety and rescue, and tourism development into my decision-making and program management. The SSAS program prepared me well for this and taught me how to bring these classically separate disciplines together in the goal of a truly sustainable tourism product.

    Blue Flag beaches and marinas are among some of the most popular in the world. However, due to the strict and holistic criteria of the program, these tourism destinations are protected against overuse, misuse and environmental degradation. The success of this program lends itself to the same view of sustainability that the ESRC and SSAS hold: that it will take all disciplines and a multitude of approaches in order to achieve sustainable societies. The opportunity to apply this approach and see it mirrored in international environmental programming is a testament to the SSAS program and its ability to prepare students for the sustainability science field in practice.

    Photo of Blue Flag

    Photo by: Environmental Defence Canada

    Photo of Blue Flag

    Photo by: Environmental Defence Canada

    Categories: Blog, SSAS Alumna Contributor, SSAS Program

  • USC-Brock PhD Sustainability Scholarship awarded to Lisa McIlwain

    PhD student Lisa McIlwain has been awarded the University of the Sunshine Coast- Brock University PhD scholarship in Sustainability for 2019. This is the 2nd offering of this prestigious scholarship, which developed from ongoing collaboration between the Sustainability Research Centre (SRC) at the University of the Sunshine Coast (Australia) and the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) at Brock University, and was developed to enable research on sustainability issues affecting both the northern and southern hemispheres.

    Lisa’s research will explore opportunities to strengthen social-ecological resilience as a strategy of climate change adaptation, under a supervisory panel of Dr Claudia Baldwin from SRC, and Drs Gary Pickering and Julia Baird from ESRC. Originally from Belzig, Germany, Lisa is relocating to the Sunshine Coast (SRC) from New South Wales in Australia, where she has been living and working recently. This is not Lisa’s first academic experience in Australia. During her Bachelor studies in Geographical Science at the Freie University Berlin, she completed a CSIRO traineeship at the eco-science precinct in Brisbane, and returned to Brisbane in 2016 for an exchange semester at the University of Queensland during her Masters studies in Environmental Policy and Planning. Her PhD research will focus on social change as a vehicle to build adaptive capacity in all sectors of society and aims to identify ways to reduce vulnerability without compromising sustainable transition. 

    University of Sunshine Coast Sustainability Research Centre Newsletter – Summer 2018

    Categories: Blog