• Brock researcher on team that studies how fish keeps cool

    Published on November 18 2015

    From The Brock News, November 16, 2015

    If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the … water?

    This is what one particular fish does when its home in tropical mangroves get “too hot for comfort,” a recent research team that included Brock biologist and ESRC member, Glenn Tattersall, has shown.

    Tiny, silver amphibious fish called the mangrove rivulus (Kryptolebias marmoratus), which look a bit like miniature sardines, were long known to jump out of the waters where they live, located in swamps from the southern United States to Brazil.

    Tattersall and the research team, led by biologist Patricia Wright at Guelph University, reared the mangrove rivulus fish for one year in water that was either at 25 or 30°C.

    Then, a webcam recorded the fish’s behaviour and body temperature as the researchers slowly raised the water temperature. The scientists were testing for two things: the temperature at which the fish would jump out of the water to avoid the heat; and whether or not being raised in different water temperatures would affect how much heat the fish could stand.

    The researchers found the fish jumped out of the water at around 35°C regardless of the water temperature at which they were raised.

    The team also wanted to know how quickly the fish’s body temperature cooled under various environmental conditions once the fish was out of the water.

    To do this, researchers had the fish jump onto filter papers that had varying degrees of humidity. The bodies of all fish started cooling in as little as 30 seconds and were cooler than the filter paper within one minute. The less humid the filter paper, the cooler were the fish, regardless of air temperature.

    “These results provide evidence of behavioural avoidance of high temperatures and the first quantification of evaporative cooling in an amphibious fish,” concludes the paper, a “flexibility that may be important for tropical amphibious fishes under increasing pressures from climatic change.”

    Tattersall said for the study, the fish were returned to the water so they didn’t die.

    “That’s the whole point of the study. If the water is too hot, they know to jump out and then they cool off since evaporation on land occurs. But they go back and forth between aquatic and terrestrial environments,” he said.

    He noted that Wright has studied the fish after they jump out of the water in her lab and found they can survive for 20 days out of water.

    The team’s research, titled “Out of the frying pan into the air—emersion behaviour and evaporative heat loss in an amphibious mangrove fish (Kryptolebias marmoratus),” was published in late October in the journalBiology Letters.

    Fish that can take advantage of evaporative cooling may have an evolutionary advantage over fully aquatic fish in coming years as coastal waters warm because of climate change, the researchers suggest.

    Article from The Brock News:

  • Master of Sustainability student amongst Brock graduate students to receive SSHRC awards

    Published on June 29 2016

    From The Brock News, November 5, 2015

    Programs to help those living with autism or Asperger’s often end in late childhood, leaving teens and young adults to struggle with these conditions on their own. But Master’s student Jeffrey Esteves is aiming to change that.

    With his Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Applied Disabilities Studies student is analyzing the issue through his thesis titled My Life as an Epic Win: Providing transitional support to adolescents and young adults with a high function Autism Spectrum Disorder.

    Created four years ago by Rebecca Ward, assistant professor in the Centre for Applied Disability Studies, My Life as an Epic Win works with 16 to 25-year-olds to develop goals and a wide array of skills in four areas of their lives: career/work; education; independence; and relationships.

    “They do have the skills and tools necessary to be successful in life, however, they’re not really coached through and they’re not provided with that support,” says Esteves. “Autism support really drops off after childhood. We’re trying to fill that gap right now.”

    Esteves’ research involves forming two groups of youth living with autism and Asperger’s. One group will take the My Life as an Epic Win course while the second group is put on a wait list for the program.

    Participants in both groups will undergo tests – given before and after the course period – that measure levels of self-esteem, self-determination, life skills, and anxiety, among others. Esteves will compare test results to assess how the course has made a difference in the young peoples’ lives.

    Esteves is one of more than two dozen graduate students receiving SSHRC awards in 2015-2016 for a wide range of research programs. The funding totaled $730,000: $345,000 for Doctoral and $385,000 for Master’s awards.

    “We have remarkable graduate students at Brock,” says Dean of Graduate Studies Michael Plyley, “Our students demonstrate the high calibre of research that funding agencies, such as SSHRC, recognize as having great importance to addressing the challenges being faced by Canadians and to citizens around the world.

    “Our list of SSHRC winners spans more than 12 graduate programs and five academic faculties. Brock University is committed to being a leader in transdisciplinary research and our graduate students are securing their place in contributing to that purpose.”

    Award recipients of 2015’s SSHRC Scholarships are:

    Katrina Krievins, Sustainability Science & Society: “Pushing the Boundaries of Freshwater Ecosystem Restoration: Evaluating a conservation initiative in terms of social-ecological resilience” (Master’s)

    Candace Couse, Interdisciplinary Humanities: “The effects of art making and body trauma on identity” (Doctoral)

    Aly Bailey, Applied Health Sciences: “Understanding and improving positive body image experiences in people with spinal cord injury” (Doctoral)

    Terrance McDonald, Interdisciplinary Humanities: “Mediated Masculinities: The expression and alteration of masculinity in Hollywood cinema 1995-2005” (Doctoral)

    Julia Polyck-O’Neill, Interdisciplinary Humanities: “Rematerializing the Immaterial: An interdisciplinary and comparative study of Vancouver’s conceptualist movements in visual arts and literature 1984-2014” (Doctoral)

    Thalia Semplonius, Psychology: “A longitudinal study of emotion regulation and positive adjustment among young adults and older adults” (Doctoral)

    Daniella Bendo, Child & Youth Studies: “The social construction of child advocacy in Canada” (Master’s)

    Brianna Bosgraaf, History: “Nordic settlement in the Atlantic and interactions with Canada’s First Nations People” (Master’s)

    Deseree Cipollone, English: “Milton’s reader and the political and critical interrogation of authority in Paradise Lost” (Master’s)

    Meghan Crouch, Applied Health Sciences: “Formative research of anticipatory messages to assist parents in recognizing developmental milestones” (Master’s)

    Erica Dugas, Applied Health Sciences: “Assessing Physical Literacy: Levelling the playing field for children and youth with physical disabilities” (Master’s)

    Megan Earle, Psychology: “Intergroup attitudes and growing diversity in Canada” (Master’s)

    Katrien Ecclestone, Child & Youth Studies: “Advocating for Recess: A proposal to analyze the impact of recess programs on the well-being of children” (Master’s)

    Jeffrey Esteves, Applied Disability Studies: “My Life as an Epic Win: Providing transitional support to adolescents and young adults with a high function Autism Spectrum Disorder” (Master’s)

    Melanie Grice, Child & Youth Studies: “Supporting vulnerable readers across the summer months” (Master’s)

    Taylor Heffer, Psychology: “Examining age differences between young adults and older adults in risk taking perceptions and behaviours” (Master’s)

    Thomas Irvine, Classics: “The crucial role of Numidian Cavalry during the Second Punic War” (Master’s)

    Tessa Mazachowsky, Psychology: “Social anxiety in children and engagement in an educational context” (Master’s)

    James McBride, Social Justice and Equity Studies: “Wild Life: An autoethnographic inquiry” (Master’s)

    Edward Middleton, Classics: “Archaeological study of ethnic identity in cases of Archaic Greek colonization” (Master’s)

    Mohammad Zahidur Rahman, Management: “Explaining Employee Creativity: The roles of task conflict, learning orientation and goal congruence” (Master’s)

    Nicole Redmond, Education: “What is Perceived as Valued in Assessment? – An exploration of teacher intentions and student perceptions” (Master’s)

    Scott Robertson, Applied Health Sciences: “The effects of teaching games for understanding on student enjoyment in secondary school health and physical education” (Master’s)

    Aidan Smyth, Applied Health Sciences: “Exercise as a moderator of body shame and cortisol responses to acute social-evaluative body image threats” (Master’s)

    Rochelle Tkach, Education: “Teaching with Tablets: Fostering 21st century skills within science and literacy” (Master’s)

    Zoe Walters, Critical Sociology: “The regulation of female sexuality” (Master’s)

    Hamza Warraich, Management: “An analysis of individuals’ tax compliance behaviour” (Master’s)

  • Scientist examines what fuels the climate change skeptics

    Published on November 03 2015

    From The Brock News October 30, 2015

    Last weekend, the strongest hurricane ever recorded slammed the coast of Mexico. So far in 2015, seven out of nine months have broken global heat records. Ancient glaciers are vanishing in the Rockies. Most of California hasn’t had rain in years.

    Even as the list of serious climate change impacts keeps growing, scientists still encounter people who refuse to consider that it is at least partly caused by human emission of greenhouse gases.

    Brock University biologist and psychologist Gary Pickering set out to gauge skepticism among English Canadians when it comes to climate change. His pilot study, “Head in the (oil) sand? Climate skepticism in Canada”, was published this month in the Journal of Environmental and Social Sciences.

    Pickering, a member of Brock University’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, conducted an online survey in which 229 Canadian households agreed or disagreed with a range of statements on whether or not climate change is real, if it is related to human activity, if reports about it are exaggerated and if people feel a personal obligation to do something about it.

    To sense any patterns in these beliefs, he asked respondents to identify the federal political party they are most likely to support as well as their household income level, number of children living at home, age, location and type of community lived in, among other demographics.

    While most people agreed climate change is a problem, more than half felt it was “just a natural fluctuation in the earth’s temperatures.” More than one-third agreed that “the media is often too alarmist about issues like climate change,” and more than one-third said they thought “many leading experts still question if human activity is contributing to climate change.”

    Pickering said a person’s environmental values and political affiliation are up to 10 times more likely than income level, age, education or climate change knowledge to influence their level of skepticism. For instance, the study found skepticism was very strong among males in western Canada who identified as Conservative Party supporters. He said it is not surprising that political leanings are a strong indicator of climate change skepticism, given that government intervention in free markets to protect the environment “conflicts with conservative values”.

    “Similarly, individuals with free-market ideology are more likely to believe that ‘the market’ will solve all problems, including environmental, and thus are more skeptical about climate change,” he said.

    His report notes that while the oil sands industry is Canada’s largest and fastest-growing greenhouse gas-emitting sector, it is also a pillar of Canada’s economy, expected to generate $172 billion in wages and salaries between 2012 and 2035.

    Pickering says his study’s findings can be used to shape climate change communications.

    “Climate messaging for the more skeptical Canadians group may be more effective if framed around other issues, such as energy independence and security.

    “For the less skeptical, communication campaigns may be best advised to avoid sensationalism or alarmist approaches, as many Canadians already attribute the media with such hyperbole on climate change, and alarmist communication may lead to less public engagement and lower motivation for mitigation.

    “Skepticism and uncertainty represent potentially powerful psychological barriers to individuals taking meaningful action on climate mitigation and adaptation,” the study concludes.


    Canada’s environmental record has been steadily decreasing in recent years. Pickering’s research notes that Canada ranked 30th out of 30 in climate change mitigation for both G8 and OECD member countries in 2014.

    The Climate Change Performance Index – a measurement supposed to enhance transparency in international climate politics ( – states in its 2014 report that, “As in the previous year, Canada still shows no intention of moving forward with climate policy and therefore remains the worst performer of all industrialised countries.” (

  • Brock researchers involved in world forum focused on ecosystem threats

    Published on October 23 2015

    From The Brock News, October 22, 2015

    Brock University biologist Liette Vasseur and Master’s student Christine Janzen are heading off to China for the first-ever World Forum on Ecosystem Governance.

    Modeled after the World Economic Forum, the World Forum on Ecosystem Governance brings together experts and leaders from around the globe to come up with ways to respond to ecosystem threats.

    Vasseur, who holds a UNESCO Chair in Sustainability, is a program leader for one of the forum’s two themes: implementing the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

    Recently approved by the United Nations, the SDGs include measures and targets to reduce poverty and increase access to health care, food, education, employment, energy and many other basics by 2030.

    Vasseur will be giving a number of presentations on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the conservation of ecosystems, which relates to the forum’s second theme – addressing climate change.

    Janzen, a graduate student in Brock’s Sustainability Science and Society Master’s program, will attend the Future Leaders Academy, scheduled for October 23-25.

    There, she will join other students and “future leaders” to attend seminars “on topics looking at linking rural and urban systems, how to adapt to climate change, climate change mitigation, managing risk, engaging society, and others,” says Vasseur.

    “The event will give me a broader view of what’s going on in the world and how different people are addressing concerns about the ecosystem, sustainability and adapting to climate change,” says Janzen, adding that it will be a good experience for her to meet others in her field.

    The governance forum itself runs Oct. 15-28.

    “We will finally start discussing the importance of ecosystem services and ecosystem governance in implementing the SDGs,” says Vasseur. “If we don’t take care of the ecosystem, and we don’t find nature-based solutions, we will never achieve any of these goals.”

    The World Forum on Ecosystem Governance will explore alternative approaches to govern the world’s ecosystems specifically in relation to:

    • the effects that globalization has on the management of ecosystems
    • mitigation and/or adaptation to address the impacts of climate change…

    Click here to continue reading.

  • Canadian Scholars get wide backing on climate change solutions

    Published on October 08 2015

    TORONTO — Sustainable Canada Dialogues, a network of over 60 researchers from all provinces of Canada, today released a new compilation, Acting on Climate Change: Extending the Dialogue Among Canadians at University of Toronto’s Hart House. The compilation consists of 28 individual and group reports representing a spectrum of viewpoints including First Nations, business, non‐governmental organizations, labour and private citizens from across Canada. It is a unique document given the number and the diversity of the viewpoints proposing climate solutions for the country.

    Earlier this year, the organization released Acting on Climate Change: Solutions from Canadian Scholars, “a consensus on feasible solutions to help Canada transition to a low-carbon society and economy, beginning immediately.” The authors invited comments to expand the report, and over just a few months a new compilation evolved adding depth and breadth to Canada’s climate solutions agenda.

    “Extending the Dialogue Among Canadians shows Canada is brimming with ideas, possibilities and the will to act,” said UNESCO‐McGill Chair holder, Dr. Catherine Potvin, who spearheaded the initiative. “We released the new compilation at the height of the federal election campaign to help engage more Canadians in discussion of climate change as an essential issue for Canada’s future.”  Potvin said political candidates took notice, with representatives of four political parties confirming their intention to participate in the launch.

    “Throughout the federal election campaign, climate change discussions have centered on pricing carbon and restoring Canada’s image internationally. Sustainable Canada Dialogues found a variety of interesting climate action proposals in all federal party platforms—with the exception of Conservative—but found that ideas related to energy use are less developed than those related to energy production*.”  Potvin went on to say that energy use (such as in transportation and buildings) “… offers some of the best opportunities for win‐win solutions that could increase social well‐being while reducing emissions and increasing sustainability.”

    Acting on Climate Change: Extending the Dialogue Among Canadians broadens the vision of “the possible,” said Potvin. She explained the compilation shows that for Canadians, climate action is also about:

    • Fully engaging Nation to Nation with Indigenous peoples on renewable energy projects;
    • Creating the right conditions to invest in green businesses and stimulate innovation;
    • Supporting workers, especially those working in the fossil fuel industries, during the transition to a low carbon society and economy;
    • Building partnerships for local implementation, bearing in mind that Canadians desire supportive communities;
    • Reinventing cities and redefining transportation in terms of access;
    • Taking into account the perspectives of youth, who will live out the consequences of decisions made today.

    “We hope that Acting on Climate Change: Extending the Dialogue Among Canadians could become the seed of an inclusive, country‐wide consultation on the best way for Canada to transition towards a low-carbon, sustainable society and economy.”

    Beyond the federal election, Sustainable Canada Dialogues aims to provide input to the next government to ensure Canada is equipped to put its best face forward at the Paris Climate Conference just weeks away.

    Representing Brock University are Drs. Liette Vasseur and Gary Pickering (ESRC, Biological Sciences, and CCOVI). 

    To view the new compilation or individual contributions to Acting on Climate Change: Extending the Dialogue, go to:

    * See‐sustainability‐solutions

  • Brock researchers share water governance project findings with The Royal Society

    Published on September 23 2015

    Research from Brock University’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) is shaping water governance policy in the UK.

    On September 16th, 2015, researchers from the ESRC shared their project findings at The Royal Society symposium Water governance in the UK and EU: so far, so what & what next? in London, UK.

    The project looks at how actors (individual people, government, industry, etc.) perceive ecosystems and governance in areas where flooding has occurred.Findings presented to The Royal Society include insights into how actors involved in water crises think about the ecosystem, its resilience, and how it should be governed. The research found that there were important similarities across cases, despite different flood experiences, for preferred governance approaches. This has important implications for water governance and policy planning at a broad level.

    This research project was undertaken as part of the ‘Climate Adaptation and Water Governance’ (CADWAGO) consortium, which aims to inform and improve Europe’s water governance systems through case-based research. Dr. Tim Heinmiller, Interim Director of the ESRC, emphasized the importance of this type of research: “The CADWAGO project is emblematic of the high-quality, policy-relevant research undertaken in the ESRC, and is a significant achievement for the researchers, the ESRC, and for Brock University.”

    The CADWAGO consortium includes researchers from Europe, Australia, the United States and Canada. The Canadian research team includes Drs. Ryan Plummer (research project leader), Julia Baird, Diane Dupont, Steven Renzetti, and Angela Dzyundzyak from the ESRC, and Dr. Ryan Bullock from the University of Winnipeg.

    The one-day symposium, where the research was featured via video (available from the ESRC’s YouTube channel: in collaboration with colleagues at the University of the Sunshine Coast, aimed to create an agenda for transforming UK water governance in the context of climate change.

    The Royal Society of London, founded in 1660, is the UK’s national academy of science and a Fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists. It has been a highly influential Fellowship since its inception, publishing key advancements in science and supporting eminent researchers. Past and current Fellows of the Royal Society include Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, and Stephen Hawking.

    For more information about The Royal Society symposium or about the CADWAGO consortium, please visit

    For more information about the research findings, please visit our YouTube channel or contact Dr. Julia Baird.

  • Brock biologist among editors of a new book on coastal zone management

    Published on August 11 2015

    Originally published in The Brock News on July 30th, 2015.

    With extreme weather occurring more and more regularly, floods, storms and rising sea levels are some of the threats coastal zones increasingly face.

    Add destruction of mangroves and salt marshes because of land development, and you get major deterioration of whole coastal ecosystems, affecting millions of coast dwellers.

    Brock biologist Liette Vasseur is among a half-dozen editors of the recently released book Coastal Zones: Developing Solutions for the 21st Century. 

    But the book does more than describe the many challenges with which scientists and policy makers have to grapple.

    “The main point of the book was to bring together scientists from different places in the world and to see how they work on solutions for coastal zones,” Vasseur says. “What were the issues? What are these solutions? What can coastal communities do to address the many problems in coastal zones.”

    The book covers a wide range of topics, from dealing with plastic garbage on shorelines to implementing appropriate land use practices to using technologies, such as remote sensing, in monitoring coastal ecosystems.

    Case studies are featured from Canada, Latvia, Spain, the Lofoten Archipelago, Senegal and the European continent.

    Besides being one of the editors, Vasseur, who holds a UNESCO Chair under the theme “Community Sustainability: from Local to Global,” wrote one chapter in the book and co-wrote two others.

    Her chapter, “Lobster Fisheries in Atlantic Canada in the Face of Climate and Environmental Changes: Can We Talk About Sustainability of These Coastal Communities?” explores the impact of climate change and over-fishing on lobster populations and looks at conservation programs implemented by the Atlantic Lobster Sustainability Foundation, among others.

    Examples of practical measures and policies to address climate change impacts and other coastal challenges include:

    • maintaining research and monitoring of coastal ecosystems;
    • adjusting fishing quotas and boat fleets according to ocean conditions;
    • changing policies to increase buffer zones along coasts;
    • integrating the social and ecological aspects of the coast into policies.

    Coastal Zones: Developing Solutions for the 21st Century arises out of a document that the “Coastal Zones: 21st Century Challenges” working group produced for the Rio+20 Conference, held in Brazil in June 2012….

    Click here to continue reading in The Brock News

  • Free carbon credits can increase profits for polluters: Brock-Guelph study

    Published on May 28 2015

    Government schemes that regulate greenhouse gas emissions through the trading of carbon credits can actually increase profits for high-polluting companies if carbon credits are initially given to these companies free of charge, says new Brock University research. Economist Marcel Oestreich and University of Guelph economist Ilias Tsiakas analyzed the impact on German industries of the European Union’s Emissions Trading System, launched in 2005 to combat climate change.

    Under the system, regulators place a specific limit – or “cap” – on the amount of greenhouse gasses that factories, power plants and other companies are allowed to emit into the environment. Some companies emit less than their limit, while others emit more. The ones that emit less can sell the difference to companies that emit more than their limit through certificates commonly known as “carbon credits.” Responding to industry concerns that complying with the Emissions Trading System would make EU companies less competitive than their North American or Asian counterparts, EU regulators kick started the program by giving carbon credits to companies for free rather than charging for those credits….

    Continue reading this story on The Brock News.

  • Think about the water you use

    Published on March 28 2015

    Article from the St. Catharines Standard

    With so much water being available, and because the price we pay for it is low, most Canadians fail to appreciate the contribution water makes to our society, economy and ecosystems, says Brock University Professor Steven Renzetti.

    “If you have ever gone camping or gone to a cottage and you’ve had to carry in water even for a 100 metres then you suddenly know you can’t live without it and you are glad that someone else is doing the pumping,” said Renzetti, a member of the school’s Department of Economics.

    Sunday was World Water Day and the theme this year was “Water and Sustainable Development.” Increasingly, community groups, companies, First Nations and governments are partnering with academic researchers to study water challenges and to propose practical solutions that can be implemented.

    Canadians waste water, said Renzetti, and that’s because households and small businesses don’t pay the full cost of what it costs to supply clean water. Large firms that “self-supply” their water needs by simply sticking a pipe in the river and taking what they need also only pay a small fraction of what that cost should be.

    “You don’t have a lot of incentives not to waste water,” said Renzetti, adding that most companies worry more about saving money on labour and energy instead of water.

    “If you look back 20 or 30 years you will see that we didn’t get serious about energy until the price tripled. We are not suggesting that we want to do that with water,” he said, but we need to think more about conserving and making better use of what we have.

    The average consumer can start small by tightening the taps around the house, reminding your kids to turn off the tap, retrofitting toilets and showers, to bigger things such as installing a rain barrel at home or companies getting involved with internal water recirculation so that each cubic foot of water is used several times instead of once.

    When compared to other countries from around the world, Canadians do not pay a lot for their water, said Renzetti, and we are probably close to the bottom third on that list.

    Consumers need to think more about when and how they use their water, said Renzetti, who is also a member of the Science Priority Committee of the International Joint Commission’s Great Lakes Science Advisory Board, and author of numerous articles and books….

    Continue reading here

  • Lieutenant-governor visits Brock students, researchers

    Published on December 11 2014

    On December 10, 2014, the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC), and the Sustainability Science and Society (SSAS) graduate program had the distinct pleasure of hosting the honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.

    “Ontario’s lieutenant-governor met with a group of Brock University students and researchers Wednesday to discuss environmental sustainability, mainly how to understand and bring ‘social’ aspects back into sustainability discourses. Less than three months after taking office, the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell said the discussion on environmental sustainability was just getting started.

    “We have so much in this province,” Ms. Dowdeswell told a group of close to 40 in the sixth floor of Brock’s Plaza building, which is a hub of the University’s increasingly renowned environmental sustainability activities. “We are so rich in terms of resources, human resources, and have so much to contribute to the rest of the world. We are doing some of that and we don’t talk about it and we don’t let people know about it.””

    Click here to continue reading the full article on The Brock News.