Kate Sherren

Landscapes - People - Global change

Big week in the lab

Bernard Soubry talking about his work at the Earth Negotiations Bulletin at SRES Talks, October 12, 2019.

Bernard Soubry talking about his work at the Earth Negotiations Bulletin at SRES Talks, October 12, 2019.

Exciting week in the Sherren lab. IDPhD student Yan Chen expertly sat her first comp on Monday, covering her literature review on ‘media as social sensors’. Ellen Chappell crossed the stage Tuesday with her MES, and I got to meet her charming (and proud) parents visiting from Calgary for the event. Wednesday I pressed the submit button on my new SSHRC Insight Grant application to further develop ‘climax thinking‘. On Thursday, new MES Gardenio da Silva was honoured with other Killam scholars at the annual awards lunch. Amidst all that PhD student Bernard Soubry has been visiting from Montreal and did a great presentation Tuesday in Graduate Seminar for me on his reciprocal approach to interviewing farmers, and will speak later today in a SRES Talk on his work with the Earth Negotiations Bulletin. Busy times, but this is what it is all about.

New Falklands paper on tussac

Falkland farmers Ben Berntsen @ben_benebf and Marilou Delignières (also guide and co-author) among Ben's tussac restoration at Cape Dolphin, Falkland Islands, Nov 2016.

Falkland farmers Ben Berntsen @ben_benebf and Marilou Delignières (also guide and co-author) among Ben’s tussac restoration at Cape Dolphin, Falkland Islands, Nov 2016.

Thanks to Wes Tourangeau, the first paper is now out in People and Nature (open access) from my sabbatical trip to the Falklands back in late 2016. This emerged from my mild obsession with the 2 m high tussac grasses that once fringed the archipelago. Tussac are critical ecologically but are so delicious to stock they only tend to remain on ungrazed outer islands (which are actually called ‘tussac islands’ as a result). I never saw any up close on my first trip in 2015, which stuck quite close to Stanley, but was lucky to get out to camp in 2016 to meet some farmers who were passionate about the plant and its restoration. This paper is an environmental history of tussac in the Falklands, from its first observation by explorers, to its exploitation and its hopeful renewal despite integration in production.

skolstrejk on a PD Day

It felt good to be in this crowd today.

The Halifax crane looms over the Halifax Climate Strike march, Sept 25, 2019.

The Halifax crane collapse looms over the Halifax Climate Strike march, Sept 25, 2019.

Someone at the Halifax Climate Strike march today walked past in full treeplanter gear and left this in his wake.

Someone at the Halifax Climate Strike march today walked past in full treeplanter gear and left this in his wake.

Announcing NSERC ResNet

Coast-to-coast cream of the crop: Phil Loring, Brian Robinson, Anne Salomon, Evan Fraser and Elena Bennett all cramming slides for the NSERC SPG-N site visit at McGill back in Spring 2019.

Coast-to-coast cream of the crop: Phil Loring, Brian Robinson, Anne Salomon, Evan Fraser and Elena Bennett all cramming slides for the NSERC SPG-N site visit at McGill back in Spring 2019.

The media blackout has finally been lifted, thanks to a whimper of a press release from NSERC, that our Strategic Partnership Grant for Networks led by Elena Benett at McGill was successful! This is the culmination of a few years of partnership formation, collaboration and grant-writing. NSERC ResNet, the short name for our “network for monitoring, modeling, and managing Canada’s ecosystem services for sustainability and resilience”, will advance Ecosystem Services (ES) as a framework for thinking and working across disciplines to make better decisions in this country. The project will apply ES to contentious production landscape issues across Canada, including the Atlantic case study I’m co-leading with Jeremy Lundholm and Danika van Proosdij on the Bay of Fundy dykelands. We’ve got great partners, and a very active case as the NS Department of Agriculture is already deciding which dykelands can and should be sustained, and which realigned and/or restored to salt marsh. This project will allow us to wrap a research programme around that ongoing work, and leverage experts across the country. I look forward to the next 5+ years with this exceptional team.

Is HM = systems thinking?

Happy to announce another paper out of our Reconciling HM project, based on work Carolyn Mann led after her MSc. Our overarching question for her work has been, “are HM farmers born or made?” and that has indeed been an elusive question to answer. We started by talking to HM trainers across North America, and certainly learned that the paradigmatic shifts are seen as the most important by trainers but also more challenging to teach and to adopt than grazing skills; that work was published in Sustainability last year.

This new paper, recently out in Ecology & Society, used Q method with a set of HM trainers, as well as farmers variously identifying as HM or ‘somewhat HM’. Sorting of statements about farming that were selected as being generically systems or traditional in nature revealed archetypes that reveal the trainers to be firmly systems experts, and trainees to be more weakly aligned with systems thinking though in some cases aspirational. Our question remains: does HM training attract those with the capacity for systems thinkers, which will necessarily be a subset of all farmers, or can it indeed be taught?

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