• Liette Vasseur attends Gender Summit North America

    Liette Vasseur was among more than 600 advocates of gender equality from various science,
    innovation and development affiliations who participated in the Gender Summit North America
    2017 earlier this month.

    Vasseur attended the summit, which took place in Montreal from November 6 to 8,  as a
    representative of the Canadian Council for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and
    Cultural Organization (CCUNESCO).

    This marked the 11th year of the international summit and the first time that it was
    held in Canada. It was organized by Natural sciences and Engineering Research Council and
    Fonds de recherché du Québec, with the partnership of the CCUNESCO.

    The summit works to promote gender equality and diversity in research and innovation, with this
    year’s theme focusing on “Embracing pluralism and thriving through diversity – shaping science
    and innovation.”

    Attendees ranged from students, educators and policy makers to government officials such as the
    the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science.

    “It was a very good meeting,” Vasseur said, “There was a very clear message that we need more
    desegregated data, and that it needs to be better utilized to understand the challenges and barriers
    to inclusivity in the sciences.”

    She added: “There was also a clear message from Minister Duncan that we need to have
    universities clearly stating their policies in regards to gender equality and inclusion and that the
    government will really be pushing the issue to the higher level.”

    At the summit, Vasseur was part of a large panel discussion entitled, “Best Practices: Global
    Perspectives on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in STEM.” During this discussion, Vasseur
    explored global initiatives that aim to better promote, support, and contribute to the rise of
    women in STEM fields.

    Vasseur discussed the UNESCO STEM and Gender Advancement (SAGA) initiative and her work with the Canadian Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science, Trades and Technology (CCWEST).

    “We must combat the decline of women in the sciences and the bias that exists – by both men
    and women – against their potential and capabilities,” she said. “It’s about recruitment first,
    getting more women into STEM fields, but then also ensuring they stay in these fields and
    progress through their masters, PhD and eventually into the working world. Then, when we get
    to hiring, ensuring there is a diverse pool of women to be selected and closing the gender gap in
    these disciplines.”

    Vasseur also spoke on behalf of the CCUNESCO when five Canadian researchers were
    honoured and rewarded through the LOréal-UNESCO for Women in Science program. The
    L'Oréal-UNESCO 2017 Excellence in Research Fellowships, each worth $20,000, are awarded
    to support major postdoctoral research projects undertaken by young Canadians at a pivotal time
    in their career. They were awarded to Dr. Marie-Ève Lebel, PhD, Post-doctoral Fellow, Melichar
    Laboratory, Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont Research Centre and Dr. Kelly Suschinsky, PhD,
    Post-doctoral Fellow, SAGE Laboratory, Queen’s University. Three other awards were also
    awarded at the same time.

    “It was very inspiring seeing so many bright and driven women working
    toward the goal of inclusivity” Vasseur said. “But, we know that we have to keep up the
    momentum that was created there, that’s something that was very clear. We need to continue to
    discuss this issue and figure out ways to move ahead in many aspects because there is much
    work to still be done.”

    Categories: Updates of the Chair

  • Vasseur publishes new article in Ambio: A Journal of the Human Environment

    Liette Vasseur has published a new article, “Complex problems and unchallenged solutions: Bringing ecosystem governance to the forefront of the UN sustainable development goals” in Ambio: A Journal of the Human Environment. The article was co-authored with Darwin HorningMary Thornbush, Emmanuelle Cohen-Shacham, Angela Andrade, Ed Barrow, Steve R. Edwards, Piet Wit, and Mike Jones.

    Read the publisher’s abstract:

    Sustainable development aims at addressing economic, social, and environmental concerns, but the current lack of responsive environmental governance hinders progress. Short-term economic development has led to limited actions, unsustainable resource management, and degraded ecosystems. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) may continue to fall short of achieving significant progress without a better understanding of how ecosystems contribute to achieving sustainability for all people. Ecosystem governance is an approach that integrates the social and ecological components for improved sustainability and includes principles such as adaptive ecosystem co-management, subsidiarity, and telecoupling framework, as well as principles of democracy and accountability. We explain the importance of ecosystem governance in achieving the SDGs, and suggest some ways to ensure that ecosystem services are meaningfully considered. This paper reflects on how integration of these approaches into policies can enhance the current agenda of sustainability.

    Read the article

    Categories: Updates of the Chair

  • 16th biennial CCWEST conference report now available

    A report on the success of the 16th Biennial Canadian Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science, Trades and Technology (CCWESTT) Conference, which was held in Ottawa in May of 2016, is now available for viewing.

    The national CCWESTT Conference has always been recognized for its ability to bring together top industry and academic leaders to address topics of women in engineering, science, trades, and technology. The conference and associated workshops provided a forum for participants to develop leadership skills, network with dynamic colleagues, and celebrate women’s achievements in engineering, science, trades, and technology. Close to 200 delegates came from across Canada to participate in the 70 presentations, panel discussions, and workshops held during the four days of the 2016 conference.

    The conference themes were inspired by two major documents: “Seizing Canada’s Moment: Moving Forward in Science, Technology and Innovation” and by our engagement with the United Nations new sustainable development goals, documented in “Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” These documents included topics such as indigenous knowledge and science advancement, youth engagement, innovating in the workplace to promote the inclusion of women and advancement of women’s leadership, and preparing women for innovation.

    The event was important for CCWESTT, as the organization has started transitioning to a new era, where members will provide calls to action at regional, provincial, and national levels, in order to move the agenda of women forward in fields that are highly relevant for Canada and the world. To this effect,a policy forum was also held at the conference, where discussions were quite animated and provided the ingredients needed to move towards a national strategy that will recruit and retain women in the job market.

    Read the report
    Learn more about other activities and conferences affiliated with the UNESCO Chair
    Learn more about the Canadian Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science, Trades and Technology (CCWESTT)

    Categories: Updates of the Chair

  • Liette Vasseur appointed as president of CCUNESCO’s Natural, Social, and Human Sciences Sectoral Commission

    Vasseur, right, is pictured here with Sébastien Goupil, General Secretary of CCUNESCO, centre, and Louise Vandelac, former Chair of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO’s Sectoral Commission on Human, Social and Natural Sciences.

    Congratulations to UNESCO Chairholder Liette Vasseur, who was appointed as the new President of the Canadian Committee for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (CCUNESCO)’s Natural, Social, and Human Sciences Sectoral Commission last week!

    The Natural, Social, and Human Sciences Sectoral commission is an 11-member group of Canadian scientists, academics and others providing knowledge and expertise on a range of issues. These include: social and environmental impacts of climate change; conservation of natural heritage and water resources; inclusion of newcomers and vulnerable groups; reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people; youth engagement; and measures to fight discrimination, racism, violence, bullying and radicalization.

    “We’re producing refection papers on some of the topics we believe are important, to come up with a long-range vision of how Canadians and the federal government can implement various actions related to sustainability,” Vasseur said.

    The Sectoral Commission advises CCUNESCO on the organization’s programs and activities in these areas. In turn, CCUNESCO, operating under the Canada Council for the Arts, seeks to connect Canadians to the broader work of UNESCO, whose work “contributes to a peaceful, equitable and sustainable future that leaves no one behind.”

    Categories: Updates of the Chair

  • Vasseur publishes new book: Adaptation to Coastal Storms in Atlantic Canada

    UNESCO Chairholder Liette Vasseur has published a new book based on an analysis that was performed on a series of winter storms in 2010/ 2011 that caused considerable damage to coastal communities in Atlantic Canada.

    Adaptation to Coastal Storms in Atlantic Canada,
    which was co-authored by Brock University’s Mary J. Thornbush and PI Steve Plante, of the Université du Québec à Rimouski, summarizes the results of the project and provides a perspective on how people in 10 coastal communities perceive and experience extreme weather events, and enhance their capacity to adapt and improve their resilience. It describes the outcome of two series of interviews and activities that were conducted during the project, as well as the lessons learned and general elements that should be considered when researchers collaborate with communities to define adaptation and resilience strategies.

    With coastal storms increasing both in frequency and intensity, the book provides a guide that allows communities to better understand the priorities and options available to them in order to then take an active role in adaptation to climate change in their communities.

    “We tried to find ways that the tools would be simple enough that the communities can use them and use a participatory approach,” said Vasseur. “It’s not only for coastal zones and it can be used in other countries. Because this was a large project of six years, we were able to develop a lot of tools that are now being used in other places, such as in a project in Ecuador.”

     To learn more or purchase the e-book, visit the publisher’s website


    Categories: Updates of the Chair

  • Make Canada a world leader in renewable energy production and use: national research group

    26 May 2017

    A Brock biologist is among a large group of university researchers calling on the Canadian government to become a world leader in the production and use of renewable energy.

    The Sustainable Canada Dialogues research group made up of 71 researchers, including Brock’s Liette Vasseur, released the Re-Energizing Canada: Pathways to a Low-Carbon Future report Friday, May 26 that says Canada can use the “global low-carbon energy transition” as an economic engine for the country.

    The report outlines ways Canada could speed up its shift to low-carbon energy systems from its current reliance on fossil fuels.

    “We’re highly reliant on oil and gas,” says Vasseur, a UNESCO Chair in Community Sustainability: from Local to Global. “We need to look at changing the way that we are working: how we move away from oil, gas, coal and other fossil fuels and move toward forms of low-carbon electrification like hydro-electricity and other renewable energy.”

    The researchers identify three ways Canada could transform itself into a low-carbon economy:

    • Cut down on the demand for energy through conservation and efficiency
    • Increase electrification and switch to electricity that emits low levels of carbon
    • Replace high-carbon petroleum-based fuels with low-carbon options

    “The future competitiveness and success of companies will be influenced by their readiness to engage in the low-carbon energy transition,” says the report.

    Sources of alternative energy include: hydroelectricity; solar, wind, wave and tidal power; geothermal power; and biofuels produced from plant materials, animal waste and other organic material.

    Vasseur contributed to sections of the report that deal with social acceptability, social justice and culture, and how these are key factors in determining what Canada’s energy systems will look like in the future.

    “There’s the issue of changing lifestyles,” says Vasseur. “People in general have a fear of change and might resist using new sources of energy.”

    She says people with lower incomes tend to bear a disproportionately higher cost of clean energy.

    “We already know the debate that occurred in Ontario when electricity prices went up. If you can’t afford it, you’ll have a tougher time,” says Vasseur.

    “One of the suggestions is how to better distribute the revenue coming from new energy sources so that it is more fair, such as a rebate given to families that have lower incomes,” she says.

    The report lays out a plan that will result in Canada slashing its 2005 carbon emission levels by 80 per cent by 2050. The presence of carbon dioxide has been steadily and sharply increasing since the 1950s as a result of burning fossil fuels and other human activities. Carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, increasing the Earth’s surface temperature.

    Vasseur and the other authors of the Re-Energizing Canada: Pathways to a Low-Carbon Future say the steps they’re suggesting will help meet a goal set by 196 countries in 2015 to avoid a global temperature increase of two degrees celsius from pre-industrial levels. Scientists report that a two-degree rise would have a range of serious impacts, including increases in heat waves, rainstorms, water levels and the total destruction of tropical coral reefs.

    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

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

    Brock University Marketing and Communications has a full-service studio where we can provide high definition video and broadcast-quality audio.

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    Categories: Media releases

  • Industrial agriculture can have negative impact on local communities: Brock research

    26 April 2017

    Industrial agriculture might seem good on paper, but the trend of reducing biodiversity in the name of profits is harmful to communities.

    Liette Vasseur, a Brock University Professor of Biology, says many species of vegetable and fruit plants that have fed communities around the world for generations are being phased out to make room for large commercial crops such as coffee, tea, wheat and canola because of the strong international market demands.

    “When heritage crops are lost, we reduce genetic diversity,” she says. “We know that native species that have been there for a long time are often more adaptable to local conditions and may respond better to changing conditions, especially those coming from climate change.”

    Vasseur is part of an international team that researches ways of connecting plant biodiversity to agricultural systems in communities in Ecuador and Canada, and examining how this relates to climate change.

    The team’s project, “Agro-biodiversity, Nutrition and Sustainable Marketing of Heritage Crops in Ecuador and Canada,” is headed by Brian McLaren, Associate Professor in the Department of Natural Resources Management at Lakehead University.

    Vasseur said the profits gained by replacing heritage crops with commercial crops, or even non-food products such as cotton and tobacco, are often short lived.

    In one particular community the Brock researcher was working with, the government encouraged farmers to replace their heritage crops with potatoes to meet high demand.

    “All the farmers started growing potatoes,” she says. “The problem is the market got saturated, and when that happened, they can’t get a good price for their potatoes. It has been the same for quinoa.”

    Not only does that translate into less income, but it means fewer nutritional food choices for families.

    The research team was recently awarded $660,000 from the Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Advanced Scholars Program. As a co-applicant, Vasseur will receive a portion of that fund.

    Under the project, Vasseur and several graduate students at Brock will work with researchers, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows from Lakehead and Escuela Superior Politecnica de Chimborazo university in Ecuador.

    The team will look at how communities in that country, as well as in Ontario, can expand their food production by preserving their heritage crops and growing various species of crops together.

    Having a wider selection of crops will increase communities’ access to nutritious food while protecting the environment, says Vasseur.

    “The community we’re working with in Ecuador is gradually losing its original biodiversity and has overused agrochemicals,” she explains. “Now they’re having issues with water shortages and decreased water quality because of fertilizers and pesticides.”

    The research team’s activities include:
    • Documenting how small-scale agricultural production enables farmers to adapt to climate change and conserve biodiversity
    • Describing opportunities and barriers related to farm-based agro-biodiversity conservation
    • Understanding changes in consumer attitudes, nutrition and well-being associated with new marketing methods and logistics, such as e-commerce, organic co-operatives, and the promotion of traditional food culture

    Brock University Professor of Biology Liette Vasseur is available for interviews about her research.

    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

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

    Brock University Marketing and Communications has a full-service studio where we can provide high definition video and broadcast-quality audio.

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    Categories: Media releases