News

  • Student Research Highlight: Participation in Trail Monitoring & Evaluation

    Blog Contributor: Bridget McGlynn

    On March 5th Samantha Witkowski, a current Master of Sustainability student at Brock, led a workshop in partnership with the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) to continue her research on participatory monitoring and evaluating processes. This workshop was made possible by the Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Initiative (EESI), a partnership between the NPC and Brock University. Hosted at the beautiful Niagara Glen Nature Centre, the workshop included a variety of stakeholders, such as community members, Niagara Parks staff, and ecology experts, who discussed management possibilities for the trails in the Niagara Glen. 

    The day began with coffee and a guided walk though trails in the Niagara Gorge for participants to enjoy and observe the trails prior to considering management practices. Our Niagara Parks guide spoke about the history of the Glen, current management practices, recent site improvements, and usage patterns. Upon completion of the hike, participants returned to the Nature Centre and the exciting discussions began! The Niagara Glen received an unprecedented number of visitors in Summer 2019, and as such much of the discussion revolved around ways in which Niagara Parks can manage the trails in the Niagara Glen while upholding their mandate of “Preserving and promoting the natural and cultural heritage along the Niagara River corridor”. Through their vision, Niagara Parks also aims to be an “innovative example of sustainability” and a “welcoming, accessible and inspiring place”. Consequently, brainstorming regarding management practices revolved around maintaining and improving current trail quality, encouraging visitor stewardship through education, and promoting alternative Niagara Parks trails. The varied backgrounds of the participants presented multiple perspectives on the current needs of the Glen, management priorities, and relevant key performance indicators. The workshop provided an excellent example of the transdisciplinary research being conducted at the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) as it brought together diverse stakeholders to address a local, solution-based research question.

    Categories: Applied Research, Environmental Stewardship Initiative, Innovative Partnership, SSAS Student Contributor

  • Brock and Niagara Parks expand partnership to study trail network

    A partnership built on the mutual goal of environmental stewardship is taking another step forward.

    Two years after signing an initial Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the Niagara Parks Commission and Brock University signed an additional collaboration agreement on Thursday, March 12 at Niagara Parks’ public Commission Meeting that will help the Parks assess and sustainably grow its extensive trail network.

    To be known as the Trails Assets and Tourism Initiative, the new partnership involves Brock and Niagara Parks, along with the Ontario Trails Council.

    Trails are an important natural asset of Niagara Parks. From the world-renowned Niagara Glen, which houses some of the province’s most sensitive plant and animal species, to the Niagara River Recreation Trail, which provides 53 kilometres of paved trails along the Niagara River from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Fort Erie, trail networks allow guests to connect with nature, learn about the unique environment here in Niagara and embrace healthy physical activities.

    “Over the past few years, we have seen a huge growth in trail use and demand for trail and cycle tourism in Niagara Parks,” said Niagara Parks Chair Sandie Bellows. “This initiative will allow us to work together with our community partners to respond to that growth and demand while respecting our shared commitment to the environment.”

    The agreement will include a needs assessment to help Niagara Parks with the trails master planning process, as well as experiential education opportunities for Brock students and initiatives led by Brock faculty members and grad students. Annual public events are also being planned to help pass along the results of the partnership to the community.

    Ontario Trails Council (OTC), a not-for-profit organization that promotes the development, preservation, management and use of recreational trails in Ontario, will bring its expertise in managing and operating recreational trails to the project.

    “The Ontario Trails Council is very excited to be working with the Niagara Parks Commission and Brock University, two national leaders in outdoor recreation and conservation,” said Wayne Terryberry, President of the Ontario Trails Council. “These organizations have a very successful history of cooperation, and the OTC can add it’s trail management expertise in a joint effort to enhance and develop the trail economy and healthy active living in Niagara Parks and the Niagara Peninsula.”

    The Trails Assets and Tourism Initiative builds on both the current MOU between Niagara Parks and Brock University, as well as the recent initiative to establish a binational trail network within the Niagara River corridor. In an MOU signed in August 2019, Niagara Parks joined the Niagara River Greenway Commission and the Buffalo Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority to officially connect the recreational trail networks on both sides of the border.

    This second MOU between Niagara Parks and Brock University is also part of Brock’s ongoing commitment to being a good community partner. In the past two years, it has signed similar collaborative agreements with Niagara Health, the Town of Lincoln, Community Care of St. Catharines and Thorold, Niagara Folk Arts, Pathstone Mental Health and others.

    Brock Vice-President, Academic Greg Finn said the partnerships meet Brock’s Strategic Plan priorities of expanding research capacity, offering a transformational academic experience for students and enhancing the life and vitality of the local region and beyond.

    “These collaborations are not just photo opportunities — they make a difference to people and the planet every day,” said Finn. “We are particularly pleased that Brock and Niagara Parks are working together in an area that is crucial to us all — the sustainability of our environment.”

    The 2018 MOU between Brock and Niagara Parks has been an unquestionable success, with highlights noted in the infographic attached to this media release.

    Known as the Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Initiative, the partnership has allowed Niagara Parks to access Brock researchers to further improve its sustainability and environmental stewardship goals, while giving Brock faculty and students an iconic landscape to actively engage in sustainability science.

    “We had high hopes when entering into the MOU with Niagara Parks two years ago and those expectations have continually been exceeded,” said Ryan Plummer, Director and Professor of the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre. “We’ve had a vibrant and engaging partnership with meaningful impacts for both parties. It is exciting to see this second collaboration taking shape with a broader constellation of partners and I have every confidence it will be equally successful.”


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    Categories: Collaborations, Environmental Stewardship Initiative, Innovative Partnership

  • Green Infrastructure/Low Impact Development in the Town of Lincoln

    Blog Contributor: April Sorenson

    Increased rainfall in the Town of Lincoln is stressing existing infrastructure 

    Due to climate change, increasing storm severity is causing more frequent flooding in Ontario. The traditional infrastructure designed to handle rainwater is unable to handle the increasing volumes. As a result, municipalities are looking for new and sustainable ways to handle the excess water and prevent flooding. A type of Green Infrastructure, called Low Impact Development (LID), is one solution. Green Infrastructure includes all of the natural vegetative systems and innovative development practices that restore natural processes. LID is a development strategy that strives to mimic the natural hydrologic cycle. In contrast to conventional infrastructure such as curbs, gutters and sewers that move stormwater out of the city as soon as possible, LID works to mimic the natural hydrologic cycle by allowing stormwater to infiltrate on site. This allows for increased groundwater recharge, reduced flooding and reduced pollutants in the water supply. Types of LID include: rain gardens, bioswales, green roofs, permeable pavement and rainwater harvesting. LID is one way to increase social and ecological resiliency because it decreases vulnerability to climate change and contributes to human and ecological health by reducing flooding, improving water quality and providing greenspace for people and wildlife. 

     The Town of Lincoln plans to develop a Green Infrastructure/Low Impact Development Design Standard with funds awarded from the Great Lakes Emerging Champions Mini-Grant. The Emerging Champions Mini-Grants are part of the Great Lakes Green Infrastructure Champions Program being undertaken by the Great Lakes Commission with financial support from the Erb Family Foundation. The grants help mid-sized communities develop strategies to overcome barriers and increase LID implementation in the Great Lakes Basin by providing mentorship and financial support. In addition to this grant, the Town will be hiring a consultant and working with Brock University’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre to create the Design Standard. This Standard will provide staff, developers, residents, and property owners with direction on landscape-based LID stormwater management planning and design. It will encourage the installation, operation, and maintenance of LID in the town. The Design Standard will be a big step towards a more resilient and sustainable future for the Town of Lincoln. 

    Categories: Blog, Brock Lincoln Living Lab, Innovative Partnership, SSAS Student Contributor

  • Creating Connections with the Community through the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab

    Blog Contributor: April Sorenson 

    Photo: Faculty members from the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre lead a workshop for the members of the Senior Management Team at the Town of Lincoln to assist in the development of a Brock-Lincoln Living Lab Action Plan. 

    What happens with the abundance of knowledge and research generated by universities? Usually, it stays within academic spheres for years or decades before reaching the communities that would benefit from it. In this way, the knowledge is not “mobilized” efficiently. Brock University’s Environmental Sustainability Research Center (ESRC) is attempting to change this through their innovative community partnerships. The Brock-Lincoln Living Lab is one of five partnerships that the ESRC has undertaken over the past several years in order to mobilize knowledge in the community. Living labs are user-centered, open innovation systems that integrate research and innovation processes in reallife communities. The Brock-Lincoln Living Lab is a fiveyear partnership between Brock University and the Town of Lincoln that strives to bridge the gap between theory and practice in order to solve complex sustainability challenges. 

    Both Brock University and the Town of Lincoln benefit from this partnership. Students in the Master of Sustainability graduate program are able to gain work experience through research assistant opportunities, co-op work placements and through hands-on projects in a graduate  course called Problem Solving in the Environment (SSAS 5P03) where they are taking on consulting projects for the Town in Winter 2020. The Town also benefits from these types of experiences because the research that students complete can better guide policy decisions and provide evidencebased solutions to ongoing sustainability challenges 

    In 2019, one of the specific projects undertaken by this partnership involved working with the Senior Management Team to create an Operational Action Plan for the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab. So far, the partnership has produced a report of the existing assets in the Town and a needs assessment was also conducted to help guide future action. Overall, this partnership is an opportunity to improve the local community through collaboration and innovation. The Brock-Lincoln Living Lab is one of the first partnerships of its kind and is leading the way towards effective sustainability action in the local community.  

    Categories: Brock Lincoln Living Lab, Innovative Partnership, SSAS Student Contributor

  • Master of Sustainability student chosen to present at national conference

    THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 06, 2020 | by

    Meredith DeCock-Caspell, a master of Sustainability student at Brock University, was one of only three graduate students across Canada chosen to present at a national conference this week.

    DeCock-Caspell participated in the Student Delegate Program as part of the MSA Research and Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ) Connect 2020 conference. The three-day conference, which took place in Toronto from Feb. 3 to 5, brought together industry, academia and government to discuss Canadian natural and human-made catastrophes. The conference is focused on catastrophe management and fostering collaboration before, during and after catastrophic events.

    She said being selected as a student delegate for CatIQ Connect 2020 was a momentous moment in her studies.

    “This opportunity means a great deal to me,” she said. “Not only do I get to share my research and that of my team with a broad national audience, but it is an incredible networking opportunity.”

    Her research analyses how the Town of Lincoln’s shoreline has changed over time and the role that climatic factors and human activities have played in its evolution. This is part of a larger project that is working directly with the community to co-construct adaptation strategies and understand the barriers stopping those communities from acting on climate change.

    DeCock-Caspell is utilizing a combination of historical air photographs, climatic and non-climatic data and land-based photographs submitted from the community to tell the story of shoreline evolution in Lincoln. The photograph comparisons will later be integrated with the coastline analysis maps in an online, accessible web application that will be shared with the public. The technique she is utilizing can also be generalized to other communities interested in disaster risk reduction and adaptation to the increased exposure to natural hazards brought about by climate change.

    “Being selected to speak about my research at an event such as this affirms that what I am doing matters, not only to the residents of the community I am working with, but to all Canadians,” DeCock-Caspell said.

    Story from The Brock News

    Categories: Awards, Conferences, SSAS Program

  • ESRC Faculty, Staff and Students Honoured at Celebration of Excellence

    On Tuesday, January 28, 2020, the Faculty of Social Science at Brock University hosted their annual Celebration of Excellence to honour outstanding Social Science faculty, staff, and students. Among this year’s winners were several ESRC faculty and staff, as well as a number of SSAS students and alumni – all of whom are listed below. On behalf of ESRC Director Dr. Ryan Plummer, and SSAS Graduate Program Director Dr. Marilyne Jollineau, we would like to extend our congratulations to everyone who was recognized this year!

    SSAS Student Awards

    Bluma Appel Graduate Entrance Scholarship for Excellence in Social Sciences – Bridget McGlynn

    Distinguished Graduate Student Award – Emilie Jobin Poirier, Angela Mallette

    Graduate Student Research Excellence Award – Brooke Kapeller

    Joan P. Nicks Graduate Scholarship – Nolan Kelly

    Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship (Masters) – Meredith DeCock, Angela Mallette

    Ontario Graduate Scholarship – Samantha Witkowski, Jessica Zugic

    Rovinelli Family Bursary in Environmental Sustainability – Meredith DeCock, Nolan Kelly

    Student Travel Award – Meredith DeCock

    Faculty and Staff Awards

    Brock SSHRC Explore/Exchange Program Grant – Tim Heinmiller

    Community Engagement Award – Amanda Smits, Centre Administrator

    CRISS Events Award – Michael Pisaric

    NSERC Discovery Grant – Michael Pisaric

    SSHRC Insight Development Grant – Jessica Blythe

    Water Canada’s 2019 National Water’s Next Award (Academic Category Finalist) – Julia Baird

    Categories: Awards, Event, SSAS Program

  • Leo LeBlanc Rowing Centre LED Lighting Upgrade

    Blog Contributors: Ryan Stewart, Energy Manager, Maintenance and Utilities Services & Nolan Kelly 

    Brock University’s commitment to become more environmentally sustainable and energy efficient continues with the most recent LED lighting upgrade in the Leo LeBlanc Rowing Center. The Leo LeBlanc Rowing Center is a high-performance rowing training facility that is home to Brock University’s rowing teams. The center allows the teams to combine conventional work out equipment with an eight-person tank to train as if they were out on the open water. The previous lighting fixtures in the center were energy intensive and caused operational issues for the occupants, as it would take up to 10 minutes to ramp up to full output. These lighting fixtures have since been replaced for a type of LED light that is brighter and that operates at a greatly reduced power requirement, which makes it more efficient. This LED lighting fixture also offers an instantaneous start-up to full output (no more 10 min wait for the fixtures to come up to full output) which makes the center more much accessible to the rowers. Within this new lighting fixture there also exists dimming capabilities and an increased rated life of 50,000 hours. The project was completed in December of 2019 and cost $6,772.20. The project qualified for an incentive from the Local Distribution Company of $1,680.00 and with an annual Energy Savings Projects Project Profile electrical savings of 23,695 kWh (equating to $4,620.50) the projects simple payback is just over 1 year. The project also results in a carbon savings of 16.75 eton CO2/per year, which is equivalent to taking approximately 6 cars off the roads 

     

    Project Details:  

    Project Cost: $6,772.20  

    Incentives/Grants: $1,680  

    Simple Payback: 1.07 years  

    Energy Savings: 23,695 kWh ($4,620.50)  

    CO2 Reduction: 16.75 eton  

    Project Completion: December 2019 

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

  • Life in the Thesis Stream of the Sustainability Science and Society program at Brock

    Blog Contributor: Meredith DeCock

    I always assumed I would return to the academic world to pursue a master’s degree. But I resisted this urge for years as it felt like something I should do, not necessarily something I felt a passion to do. If I was going to do a master’s, I wanted it be for a specific purpose and mean something. That is when I found sustainability science.

    I chose Brock, not only because it seemed to be the best sustainability science program in Canada, but I was really interested in a lot of the research being conducted at the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC). I reached out to my now supervisor, Dr. Liette Vasseur, as her work on ecosystem-based adaptation and ecosystem governance interested me. She was just starting a three-year long project with a neighbouring community that will help them co-generate adaptation strategies to combat the impacts of climate change. I was sold. I packed up my essentials and drove across the country to start the program in the fall of 2018.

    Being in either the thesis or MRP stream, your first semester is largely focused on just trying to figure out what grad school is all about. You are in a new school, and in my case, a new province, while trying to balance the seemingly never-ending work loads of classes and trying to understand your area of research.

    The second semester in the thesis stream you have a slightly lighter course load compared to your MRP peers; however, I found second semester busier than the first. I took on an extra course, held a research assistantship position with the ESRC, and took on a few other professional development opportunities that Brock offers such as presenting at the Brock Mapping New Knowledges (MNK) Conference, completing a certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, and submitting an article to a journal for peer-review. But to ensure I did not fall behind, I considered my research proposal its own class. I did not let a week go by without working on my research proposal. It is easy to let your research slide to the backburner in the first two terms of the program; however, if you schedule time into your week dedicated to your thesis, you will be successful.

    I am thankful that I am working with a supervisor on a specific project as I wanted to complete a master’s knowing that my research project is feeding into something larger. However, I know that is not the case for everyone. There is no right way to go about it, but it is great to know that there are options and that you will feel supported by the ESRC regardless of which route you choose.

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

  • Life in the Master of Sustainability Program – Second Semester 2019

    Blog Contributor: Connor Thompson

    The second semester seemed to pick up right where the program left off in December. I think the cohort expected to ease into the winter term, but our hopes were immediately dashed thanks to a few quick deadlines. Such is life in grad school!

    Both of this semester’s courses were taught by Dr. Jessica Blythe. Jessica absolutely loves working in academia and that passion comes through clearly in her lectures. If you have the opportunity to take any of her courses I highly recommend it, her excitement is infectious and she makes coming to class an enjoyable experience every week.

    SSAS 5P03 – Problem Solving in the Environment

    This is the program’s project management course. Our class was kept as a single project team, tasked with creating a sustainable tourism framework for the Town of Lincoln through our Living Lab agreement. You can expect a few bumps along the way, but a strong group dynamic can overcome just about anything 5P03 throws at you.

    SSAS 5P04 – Transdisciplinary Seminar

    If this course sounds familiar it is because I wrote about it last semester too, 5P04 runs in both the fall and winter. The seminar brought researchers and professionals in to speak with us from across disciplines, which was incredibly useful in bridging sustainability research, policy, and practice. These events are open to the public and you can see past seminars here.

    SSAS 5P12 – Climate Change Adaptation & Transformation

    This course was steadily demanding throughout the semester, largely because we were required to read two articles and submit a 500 word critical response each week. We also created climate data projection reports for Walker Industries Inc. and many of their worksites across Canada, then we each read a book on climate change adaptation, wrote a review, and were given the option to submit it for hopeful publication in an academic journal. The weekly deadlines ensured that we had all completed and were able to speak to the readings with a high level of understanding, which lead to some fascinating conversations on how we communicate about climate change as sustainability scientists.

    The Co-op Job Search

    There is no formal course requirement for co-op students in the second semester, as the focus becomes putting those skills to work and securing a job. The co-op hunt is difficult so my only recommendation is to be prepared to search as soon as you start back at Brock in January. Expect to write a lot of cover letters, send many introductory emails, and spend an unreasonable amount of time on job boards. Look at it as preparation for life after the program!

    For more information about the Master of Sustainability program here at Brock, please visit: https://brocku.ca/esrc/ssas/

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

  • 20 Sustainable Resolutions for 2020 

    Blog Contributor: Erica Harper

    2019 was the “Year of Sustainability” with the rise in environmental activism, Fridays For Future and various climate strikes in over 200 countries and 7 continents (1). More than ever, students are demanding to have their voices heard to ensure that local and world leaders treat the climate crisis like the emergency it is. Without a doubt, the younger generation will continue to advocate for more environmentally sustainable business practices, products and policies. Now, whether you have started your sustainability journey or not, there are endless changes you can make in your own life to demand a more sustainable world. Even small changes have the ability to create a domino effect and inspire others to make the same modifications in their lives to be more sustainable. Without a doubt, the new decade will continue to put sustainability at the forefront of policy at the local, provincial, national and world levels.  

    It’s important to note that sustainability can look different from person to person, and that there are a wide variety of changes you can make that will help you fit sustainability into your life. A new year (and decade) often come with resolutions that relate to goals, targets and ambitions that motivate us to be better people for ourselves, for others and for the planet. If you’re looking for ideas on how you can incorporate sustainability into your list of resolutions, here are 20 sustainable resolutions we’ve put together for 2020:  

    Food: 

    1. Try incorporating more meatless Mondays 
    2. Eat local/in-season foods by grocery shopping at farmers’ markets 
    3. Bring reusable bags and produce bags when grocery shopping 
    4. Try a new dairy-free milk 
    5. Purchase products in bulk, especially pantry items 

     Clothing: 

    1. Try not to buy any non-necessary new clothing items 
    2. Shop at thrift stores more often 
    3. Shop from ethical and local clothing companies 
    4. Learn how to sew to be able to repair your clothing when needed 
    5. When possible, repair and repurpose what you have instead of buying new clothing 

     Transportation: 

    1. Take the bus instead of driving yourself to school 
    2. Walk to local grocery stores, markets and restaurants instead of driving  
    3. Try biking to nearby establishments more often  
    4. Carpool with your friends and colleagues to school or work  
    5. Carbon offset your travel (learn more here) 

     Get Involved:  

    1. Ask your favourite brands questions about how they source and manufacture their products. Demand more sustainable alternatives when applicable. 
    2. Volunteer with a local environmental organization to help create change in your community 
    3. Join a sustainability/environmental club at school or at work to ensure that leaders within the university or organization are prioritizing sustainability. Create one if there isn’t one in place already! 
    4. Educate friends and family through sharing social media posts about climate change and the impact humans have on the environment  
    5. Donate to your favourite charity that supports environmental and sustainable initiatives 

    There you have it, 20 sustainable resolutions for 2020! Feel free to take these ideas as inspiration for what you hope to accomplish in the new decade to make our world a more sustainable place for future generations. Remember that small changes have the potential to make a big impact on the people and world around you. Whether you’re looking to make big or small sustainable changes to your current lifestyle, make sure to take it one step at a time and be patient with yourself! 

     To learn more about how you can lead a more sustainable lifestyle, check out these helpful resources below: 

    1) ZipCar’s 7 Ways to be More Sustainable 

    2) The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World

    3) Green Eco Tips to More Sustainable Living

    4) 10 Simple Ways to Live More Sustainably, Starting Today

    5) 100+ Simple Tips to Live a More Sustainable Lifestyle

    Source: 

    (1): https://www.corporateknights.com/magazines/2019-education-and-youth-issue-3/youth-rising-meet-2019s-30-under-30-in-sustainability-15731064/ 

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