Last updated: August 18, 2014 @ 02:36PM

Sustainability Science and Society

Master of Sustainability, Co-op
Master of Sustainability

Thomas Dunk
Faculty of Social Sciences

Associate Dean
Diane Dupont
Faculty of Social Sciences


Core Faculty

Diane Dupont (Economics), Gary Pickering (Biological Sciences), Ryan Plummer (Tourism and Environment), Steven Renzetti (Economics), Liette Vasseur (Biological Sciences)

Associate Professors
Danuta de Grosbois (Tourism and Environment), Christopher Fullerton (Geography), Atsuko Hashimoto (Tourism and Environment), Timothy Heinmiller (Political Science), Marilyne Jollineau (Geography), Wendee Kubik (Women’s and Gender Studies), David Telfer (Tourism and Environment)

Assistant Professors
Andrew Spiers (Tourism and Environment)

Adjunct Professors
Bradley May (Tourism and Environment)

Participating Faculty

David Fennell (Tourism and Environment)

Associate Professors
David Brown (Tourism and Environment), Anthony Ward (Economics / Tourism and Environment)

Graduate Program Director
Ryan Plummer

Director of Co-operative Programs
Cindy Dunne

Luaine Hathway

Program Description

Human activities are shaping the Earth. Addressing the interactions between social and ecological systems requires new perspectives and academic approaches. The Sustainability Science and Society graduate program aims to facilitate society’s transition towards sustainability. The transdisciplinary focus of the program breaks down traditional barriers between disciplines, encouraging the cross pollination of ideas that will generate novel solutions and new opportunities in a dynamic and complex world.

This graduate program consists of two learning paths. The Master of Sustainability, Co-op (Scheme A) for those students wishing to enrich classroom learning with practical experience. Alternatively students desiring an intensive research experience will pursue a Master of Sustainability (Scheme B). Both paths include common foundational courses that are offered in the first two terms of study.

Our Faculty comes from diverse disciplines and units at Brock University who share a common interest in environmental sustainability. Brock University is located in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve – a site seeking to reconcile social, economic and biophysical challenges confronting societies around the globe.

Admission Requirements

Successful completion of four year Bachelor’s degree (four years), or its equivalent, from an accredited university with a minimum 75% (mid-B) average over the last two years of full-time undergraduate study.

In keeping with its transdisciplinary character, the program welcomes students from a variety of academic backgrounds (Environmental Studies, Geography, Economics, Political Science, Biological Sciences, Canadian Studies, etc.).

For students who must provide proof of English Language Proficiency (see: the minimum TOEFL score of 600 (TWE 5.5) or equivalent is required.

Admission to part-time study is not normally available. Individuals interested in part-time study should consult with the Graduate Program Director.

The Graduate Committee will review all applications and recommend admission for a limited number of suitable candidates. The Committee may also make conditional acceptances.

Degree Requirements

Graduate students follow either Scheme A or Scheme B. The student’s plan of study must be approved by the Graduate Program Director.

Scheme A: Course Work, Co-op and Major Research Paper

Students enrolled in Scheme A must complete: SSAS 5P01, SSAS 5P02, SSAS 5P03, SSAS 5P04; three half-credit electives (1.0 credit must be SSAS); SSAS 5F91 (Major Research Paper); and satisfactory completion of SSAS 5N90 and SSAS 5N01. Scheme A is designed to normally be completed in four terms (16 months).

In the Term 1 (Fall) students will normally enroll in SSAS 5P01 and SSAS 5P03, one half-credit elective course, SSAS 5P04 (note SSAS 5P04 normally runs over two terms) and SSAS 5N90. In Term 2 (Winter), students will normally enroll in SSAS 5P02, two half-credit electives, procure a supervisor and write a major research paper proposal, and secure a co-op placement. During Term 3 (Spring) students will engage in the co-op work term (SSAS 5N01). In Term 4 (Fall) students will register for SSAS 5F91 and complete writing the major research paper.

Elective courses are chosen from those offered by Sustainability Science and Society (SSAS) and a maximum of one half-credit from the general graduate course bank.

Student’s plan of study must be approved by the Graduate Program Director.

Scheme B: Course Work and Thesis

Students enrolled in Scheme B must complete: SSAS 5P01, SSAS 5P02, SSAS 5P04; one half-credit elective; and SSAS 5F90. Scheme B is designed to normally be completed in six terms (24 months).

In Term 1 (Fall) students will enroll in SSAS 5P01, one half-credit elective course, SSAS 5P04 (note SSAS 5P04 normally runs over two terms), and form a supervisory committee. In Term 2 (Winter) students will enroll in SSAS 5P02 and write a thesis proposal. Students will then register for SSAS 5F90 in Term 3 (Spring), complete research ethics (if applicable), and collect data. In Term 4 (Fall) students will register for SSAS 5F90 and analyze data. In Term 5 (Winter) students will register for SSAS 5F90 and write the thesis. In the final term (Term 6 – Spring), students will register for SSAS 5F90, complete writing the thesis, and submit and defend the thesis.

Elective courses are chosen from those offered by Sustainability Science and Society (SSAS) and a maximum of one half-credit from the general graduate course bank.

Student’s plan of study must be approved by the Graduate Program Director.


The program has a graduate student office equipped with computers and internet access. Core and Participating Faculty have active research programs with access to a variety of laboratories, specialized equipment, and array of field sites in Canada and internationally. The geographical location of Brock University, in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, on the Niagara Escarpment and in close proximity to the Great Lakes, provides rich opportunities for local field research.

Course Descriptions

Students must check to ensure that prerequisites are met. Students may be deregistered, at the request of the instructor, from any course for which prerequisites and/or restrictions have not been met.


An in-depth research project involving the preparation and defense of a thesis which demonstrates capacity for sustained independent work and original research in sustainability science and society.

Major Research Paper
A substantive inquiry in sustainability science and society which demonstrates capacity for independent research and critical thinking.

Foundations of Sustainability Science and Society
An overview of the concepts of sustainability, the interactions between natural and social systems and how those interactions affect how societies can meet their current and future needs while protecting the environment. The concepts are examined through the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve concept. The course includes lectures, discussion panels and debates.

Methods for Environmental Inquiry
Current research methods, concepts, and forms of inquiry used by transdisciplinary researchers interested in environmental sustainability. The different ways that issues related to sustainability and the environment are framed, examined, and discussed using qualitative and quantitative tools.

Problem Solving in the Environment
Contemporary applied approaches to sustainability issues across spatial and temporal scales. Case studies, project management, and experiential problem solving.

Transdisciplinary Seminar
Students present their research to peers, academics and professionals, participate in scholarly exchanges with visiting and guest academics, and engage with professionals within the sustainability field.
Note: This course will be evaluated as credit/no-credit.

Water Resource Economics, Management, and Governance
The values associated with water resources, its management, and associated decision-making processes. International and Canadian case studies to explore total economic valuation, integrated water resource management, water vulnerability, and adaptive water governance.

Climate Change Adaptation and Transformation
Aspects of climate change from multiple perspectives including climate change scenarios and projections, mitigation and adaptation, resilience in climate change and steps towards transformations. Topics will integrate concepts from biology, climatology, sociology, economics, and political science.

Landscape Ecology and Ecosystem Management
The drivers and consequences of global changes on the ecology of species at a range of spatial scales utilizing geospatial statistics (e.g., GIS and RS) and analysis. Topics include spatial ecology, disturbance ecology, conservation, public policy and health.

Directed Study
Specialized study in sustainability science on an individual basis, under the direction of a faculty member, to examine a significant topic in a student’s area of concentration.

SSAS 5V80-5V89
Selected Topics in Sustainability Science and Society
A topic in sustainability science and society that will vary by instructor.


Work Placement I
Co-op work term (four months) with an approved employer providing a unique learning experience directly related to the student’s chosen area of concentration.

Work Placement II
Co-op work term (four months) with an approved employer providing a unique learning experience directly related to the student's chosen area of concentration.
Note: Approval of the Graduate Program Director required.

Work Placement Training and Development
An in-depth series of workshops and interactions to prepare learners for co-op work term and career development. Topics include résumé writing, interview skills, diversity in the workplace, and the job posting process.