Kate Sherren

Landscapes - People - Global change

Back from the Falklands

Late afternoon sun picks out a river course on West Falkland.

Late afternoon sun picks out a river course on West Falkland.

I am now back from my 3+ week immersion into the farming culture of the Falkland Islands, with 700 photos, 30 hours of interviews, 20 pages of observational notes, and a strong sense of my inadequacies as a specialist within a land of self-reliant generalists. Despite coming at the busiest time in the farming calendar – shearing and lamb marking – farmers were incredibly generous in their willingness to talk, and sometimes tour and host as well. My research assistant, Marilou Delignieres, went far beyond her role as recruiter, guide and driver, happily engaging in farm work and babysitting to help me get time with farmers. Her parents, Hugues and Marie-Paul, helped us with logistics, but also provided additional opportunities during my visit. I relished my discussions with members of a contract shearing gang then working at their farm Dunbar, and got to experience a cruise ship visit, one of the ways that many farmers here diversify their incomes and benefit from hosting penguin colonies and other wildlife. I travelled by 4×4, workboat (ferry) and Islander aircraft. I marveled at all scales: skies to ground cover. These memories will sustain me through the difficult transcription phase which follows such research, and support my subsequent analysis. Thanks to the OECD Co-operative Research Programme and Dalhousie’s Supplemental Sabbatical Fund for the fellowship funding to undertake this travel, and SSHRC for its support of Marilou.

Marilou throws a fleece in the Dunbar shearing shed, as Alex shears, Polly rousies, and Hugues and Marie-Paul look on.

Marilou throws a fleece in the Dunbar shearing shed, as Alex shears, Polly rousies, and Hugues and Marie-Paul look on, ready to class it.

Cruise ship tourists visiting Gentoo Penguins at Dunbar farm, with Death Head in the background - one of their tricker paddocks to gather sheep in.

Cruise ship tourists visiting Gentoo Penguins at Dunbar farm, with Death Head in the background – one of their tricker paddocks to gather sheep in.

Departure day for the Falklands

The long range forecast for the Falklands shows it really is British.

The long range forecast for the Falklands shows it really is British.

Still a long list of to-do, but later today I depart for a month in the Falkland Islands, a British Overseas Territory near Patagonia, to talk to livestock farmers about their landscape and how they manage it. This is work funded by the OECD Cooperative Research Programme, with additional support from Dalhousie’s Supplemental Sabbatical Leave funding, as well as my SSHRC on sustainable grazing. There is patchy and expensive internet coverage, so I don’t expect to be able to blog often, but I will when I can.

 

New wood turtle stewardship program announced at ASFWB

A wood turtle found by Grade 9 students from Middleton, out with Katie McLean from CARP and Simon Greenland-Smith, in September 2016.

A wood turtle found by Grade 9 students from Middleton, out with Katie McLean from CARP and Simon Greenland-Smith, in September 2016 (photo: Simon Greenland-Smith).

MES alumnus and lab project manager Simon Greenland-Smith was in Summerside, PEI, last week for the AGM of the Atlantic Society of Fish and Wildlife Biologists (ASFWB), announcing our exciting new project on wood turtle habitat on agricultural lands. Simon is working for the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, with funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Species At Risk Protection of Agricultural Lands (SARPAL) envelope. That work is a natural extension of our work on biodiversity-friendly farming, and is aiming to develop and evaluate a pilot program to eliminate risk to wood turtles in farmland areas also defined as critical habitat for them. SARPAL is designed to avoid situations like the federal government got into out west with the sage grouse. We are drawing on a rich base of ecological expertise about wood turtles in the province within government (e.g. NS Department of Natural Resources, Canadian Wildlife Service) and NGOs like the Clean Annapolis River Project (CARP) and the Mersey-Tobeatic Research Institute (MTRI). We have already done some advocacy work around farm practices to support wood turtles, such as our animated extension video on modified harvest practices in which a wood turtle sports a pompadour haircut (this only makes sense if you watch it). This is a great opportunity to engage directly with farmers in ways that share the costs of, and ease other transitional barriers to, stewardship actions.

“Can we just watch the beginning of this?”

[UPDATE Dec 8, 2016: The full documentary is now private – hope you saw it when it was free]

That’s what I said right before sitting rapt for an hour and a half watching the new climate change documentary, Before the Flood: “can we just watch the beginning of this?”. I thought I knew what it was going to be (i.e. a celebrity vanity project) and what it would be about (i.e. we’re screwed). Certainly I knew all the facts presented, individually, one way or another. But this documentary puts them together in a way that hits hard, and meaningfully. It spurred an immediate conversation of what we will do differently at home, and how our respective work aims to contribute. The documentary has only been viewed 3.5 million times so far, but at least that’s a million more than when I watched it last night. I hope it gets picked up by the American voters in advance of this critical election. I dare you to try and just watch the beginning…

Congratulations Yan Chen

Yan Chen, MES 2016

Yan Chen, MES 2016

Yan Chen defended her innovative SSHRC- and NSGS-funded MES thesis masterfully on Friday. She gleaned youth landscape values from a year’s worth of Instagram images from a 5-km radius of the actual and proposed headponds, respectively, of the Mactaquac and Site C dams. Being the first defense since a large new class of MES students started in the fall, the room was packed with supporters. Committee member John Parkins skyped in from the University of Alberta, and Faculty of Management colleague Jennifer Grek-Martin examined the thesis, which included wide-ranging discussions on landscape, sense of place, aesthetics, digitalism (our new religion as described by Yuval Harari), and virtual/augmented reality. It was everything you hope a defense can be: Yan spoke strongly in support of her work, and creatively about its potential implications and improvements. I look forward to getting her papers out in the literature, and building on it with a SSHRC Insight Grant that went in on Monday, led by colleague and expert in making Big Data matter, Mike Smit.

 

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