Working Papers

The ESRC Working Paper Series is a platform to provide faculty, graduate students and members of the ESRC with the opportunity to share unpublished and pre-publication research, reports, commentaries and other findings with researchers who have an interest in environmental sustainability, as well as with the broader environmental community.

The aims of the working paper series are:

  • to provide a venue to inform and share results of on-going research in a timely fashion;
  • to highlight the variety of endeavours and expertise of Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre;
  • and to encourage discussion and collaboration with other researchers, students and the public.

All ESRC’s Working Papers are available below through Brock’s Digital Repository. Copyright of materials in this community reside solely with the author.

Want to submit a working paper?

ESRC members can contact the ESRC Coordinator, Erin Daly (, to learn more about submitting a working paper to this Series

 Working Papers

ESRC Working Papers are available to download below.

By: Ryan Plummer, Samantha Witkowski, Amanda Smits and Gillian Dale

As partnerships between Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and communities have taken on increased importance, greater attention has been paid to how these partnerships are formed, the manner in which they operate, and what they can accomplish. Assessing the performance of these partnerships is critical for accountability, transparency, and understanding their value. However, no performance assessment framework exists of HEI-community partnerships. In this paper we summarize scholarship on HEI-community partnerships and present a conceptual framework to assess their performance. The assessment framework provides a mechanism for continuous improvement. Practical considerations and future research directions conclude the paper.

By: Katrina Krievins, Ryan Plummer, and Julia Baird

This annotated bibliography provides an account of the research that has been done on engineering resilience, ecological resilience, and social-ecological resilience. Undertaken as part of the WEPGN research project titled “Applying resilience analysis to a transboundary river system: Developing surrogates for institutions and governance”, this annotated bibliography investigates factors that lead to greater resilience, with a focus on institutions and governance. Citations for key scholarly publications related to three types of resilience – engineering, ecological, and social-ecological – are listed in the first three sections along with a brief summary of each work. The fourth and final section of the document provides additional resources on resilience.

By: Brad May

Analysis of power in natural resources management is important as multiple stakeholders interact within complex, social-ecological systems. As a sub-set of these interactions, community climate change adaptation is increasingly using participatory processes to address issues of local concern. While some attention has been paid to power relations in this respect, e.g. evaluating international climate regimes or assessing vulnerability as part of integrated impact assessments, little attention has been paid to how a structured assessment of power could facilitate real adaptation and increase the potential for successful participatory processes. This paper surveys how the concept of power is currently being applied in natural resources management and links these ideas to agency and leadership for climate change adaptation. By exploring behavioural research on destructive leadership, a model is developed for informing participatory climate change adaptation. The working paper then concludes with a discussion of developing research questions in two specific areas – examining barriers to adaptation and mapping the evolution of specific participatory processes for climate change adaptation.

By: Steven Renzetti, and Diane Dupont

On average approximately 13% of the water that is withdrawn by Canadian municipal water suppliers is lost before it reaches final users. This is an important topic for several reasons: water losses cost money, losses force water agencies to draw more water from lakes and streams thereby putting more stress on aquatic ecosystems, leaks reduce system reliability, leaks may contribute to future pipe failures, and leaks may allow contaminants to enter water systems thereby reducing water quality and threatening the health of water users. Some benefits of leak detection fall outside water agencies’ accounting purview (e.g. reduced health risks to households connected to public water supply systems) and, as a result, may not be considered adequately in water agency decision-making. Because of the regulatory environment in which Canadian water agencies operate, some of these benefits-especially those external to the agency or those that may accrue to the agency in future time periods- may not be fully counted when agencies decide on leak detection efforts. Our analysis suggests potential reforms to promote increased efforts for leak detection: adoption of a Canada-wide goal of universal water metering; development of full-cost accounting and, pricing for water supplies; and co-operation amongst the provinces to promulgate standards for leak detection efforts and provide incentives to promote improved efficiency and rational investment decision-making.

By: Kerrie Pickering, Gary Pickering, Debbie Inglis, Tony Shaw, and Ryan Plummer

With scientific consensus supporting a 4oC increase in global mean temperature over the next century and increased frequency of severe weather events, adaptation to climate change is critical. Given the dynamic and complex nature of climate change, a transdisciplinary approach toward adaptation can create an environment that supports knowledge sharing and innovation, improving existing strategies and creating new ones. The Ontario wine industry provides a case study to illustrate the benefits of this approach. We describe the formation and work of the Ontario Grape and Wine Research Network within this context, and present some preliminary results to highlight the opportunities for innovation that will drive the successful adaption of the Ontario grape and wine industry.

By: Julia Baird, Blair Carter, Kate Cave, Diane Dupont, Paul General, Clynt King, Ryan Plummer, and April Varewyck

Knowledge of how water is perceived, used and managed in a community is critical to the endeavour of water governance. Surveys of individuals residing in a community offer a valuable avenue to gain information about several of these aspects of water. This paper draws upon experiences in three First Nation communities to explore the values of surveys to illuminate water issues and inform water decision-making. Findings from experiences with surveys in Six Nations of the Grand River, Mississaugas of the New Credit, and Oneida First Nation of the Thames reveal rich information about how surveys can provide insights about: the connection of individuals to the land, water and their community; reasons for valuing water; perceptions of water quality and issues surrounding water-related advisories; and, degree of satisfaction with water management and governance at different scales. Community partners reflected upon the findings of the survey for their community. Dialogue was then broadened across the cases as the partners offer benefits and challenges associated with the survey. Community surveys offer an important tool in the resource managers’ toolbox to understand social perceptions of water and provide valuable insights that may assist in improving its governance

By: Gary Pickering

In light of increasing green house gas emissions and severity of climate change impacts, elucidating the psychological barriers that limit climate change mitigation behaviour, especially in individuals from industrialised countries with poor mitigation performance, is important. This study sought to establish the extent of climate change scepticism and uncertainty in a representative sample of Anglophone Canadians, and determine the association with values, knowledge and socio-demographic factors. 229 participants responded to a mail invitation to take part in the online survey. Scepticism and uncertainty toward climate change were assessed using an attitudinal index that yielded a composite scepticism score. Environmental values were assessed using a modified version of the New Environmental Paradigm scale (NEP), and political association, climate change knowledge and several demographic variables were determined using established metrics. A full factor multiple regression analysis showed region, NEP score and Conservative Party of Canada association as the significant predictors of scepticism. Further regression modelling showed that values and politics explained 31% of the variation in scepticism scores, socio-demographic variables 6%, and education and knowledge 3%. These findings highlight the dominant role of environmental values and political orientation, and are discussed in the context of the theory of socially-organised denial of climate change and the information-deficit model of climate inaction.

By: Katrina Krievins, Julia Baird, Ryan Plummer*, Oliver Brandes, Allen Curry, Jack Imhof, Simon Mitchell, Michele-Lee Moore, and Åsa Gerger Swartling

Watersheds are complex systems involving social, economic, and ecological dimensions that are constantly interacting and influencing each other. Often the interactions among the different dimensions in a watershed are unpredictable and uncertainty is inevitable.

Think for a moment about the countless factors that influence water quality in a watershed. The effect of making decisions on any one factor is like a chain reaction. For example, consider how agricultural commodity prices factor into decisions that influence the types of crops grown, animal stocking rates, and general land management practices undertaken by farmers. Those decisions, in turn, will have an impact on the quality of the environment both locally and throughout the watershed. For individuals living downstream, that impact can affect their ability to enjoy the natural environment and to live a healthy life. For fish, poor water quality can be fatal or impair their ability to migrate upstream to spawning habitats. This causes impacts throughout the whole watershed.

Watershed governance involves a large and diverse cast of actors — representatives of government, public organizations, researchers, conservationists, communities, etc. Their varied interests and conflicting objectives serve to add to the complexity and difficulty in deciding what is best for the watershed and people.

For some time now, those involved in watershed governance have been aware that watersheds offer a logical and effective framework for tackling land and water management problems. Moreover, many of the concerns and issues being addressed by water resource managers and stewards today are similar to those from the past.

However, growing awareness of the uncertainty confronting watersheds and the dynamic interconnections between watershed dimensions is driving demand for new approaches to watershed governance.

In this time of complexity and change, infusing conventional watershed governance with resilience thinking can help by offering a way to understand and navigate these emerging challenges.