Brock University gains a new Canada Research Chair in water resilience

MEDIA RELEASE: 9 November 2017 – R00209

Water is all around us, and it’s something many Canadians take for granted. But water quality and quantity is increasingly threatened by climate change, pollution and other human-driven impacts.

Brock University Assistant Professor Julia Baird researches how we can foster resilience of freshwater resources through management and governance in an era of rapid change and uncertainty.

“Water is vital; everybody knows it. Water is an incredibly critical resource and it’s under pressure,” says Baird, who was named Brock’s newest Canada Research Chair (CRC) last week by the Canadian government. The CRC program recognizes the top researchers across the natural sciences, health sciences, humanities, social sciences and engineering.

As CRC in Human Dimensions of Water Resources and Water Resilience, Baird is studying a “new water paradigm,” a view that recognizes the complex interactions between freshwater social and ecological systems that are constantly being influenced by internal and external forces.

The foundation of her work is the concept of resilience: the capacity to retain structure and function during times of change; learn, adapt and transform when faced with that change; and organize itself to meet the challenges.

“I’m interested in management and governance approaches that incorporate ideas of resilience: the ability to adapt and change to support human and ecosystem well-being,” says Baird, Assistant Professor in Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) and the Department of Geography and Tourism Studies.

Underlying Baird’s work is the belief that humans are impacting the earth and that a new time period — the Anthropocene — should be added to the planet’s official geologic timeline.

“We are in an era where humans are the driving force of change,” she says. “We need to really think about how we’re managing our actions. The social dimension is critical.”

Baird’s research will focus on how freshwater resilience can be fostered by society and what needs to be done to respond to increasing challenges and complexities.

She will also examine how individual actions aimed at restoring the ecosystem contribute to building resilience, and understand how social networks and other factors influence decision-making at that individual level.

Baird, who joined Brock in 2011 as a post-doctoral fellow, says she “couldn’t be happier” with her Canada Research Chair appointment.

“It’s a really great opportunity,” she says. “It provides tremendous support for my program of research and acknowledgement of the importance of water resilience as a priority research area here at Brock and for Canada.

“This also provides opportunities to engage in national and international collaborations. It gives me that boost at the beginning of my career to really excel in my field.”

Baird has a history of international research partnerships. In a 2016 study involving research partners from across Europe, Australia and Canada, Baird and her colleagues found there are a wide range of perceptions about water resilience and how water resources should be governed across multiple international cases.

“Baird is an outstanding researcher whose work has national and international impact. This award recognizes her outstanding accomplishments, and it will help further her career as a scholar,” says Joffre Mercier, Brock’s Interim Vice-President, Research.

With Baird’s award, Brock now has a total of 11 Canada Research Chairs.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Media Relations Officer, Brock University, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

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