Kate Sherren

Landscapes - People - Global change

Ode to a dead tree

A female woodpecker at work on a dead backyard tree in Halifax, August 2016.

A female woodpecker at work on a dead backyard tree in Halifax, August 2016.

I’m sitting at my home desk, watching a female pileated woodpecker eviscerate a standing dead tree in my backyard greenbelt in search of a meal. If the backyard neighbour had her way it would already be pulled down, but it’s arguably on ‘our side’. Thank goodness: this is such an important tree. It used to be taller, but through various animal uses it has been structurally weakened and sections have come down in windstorms. The hole near the top of the photo was dug by a pair of northern flickers this spring, but they were forced out of it by lazy but persistent starlings, who raised two young there. A local red squirrel has a cache in the top of that side, and I see his tufted ears as he takes inventory. The woodpecker is almost through to the other side now – she can crawl right into the hole to work – and if this wind gets any stiffer I think we’ll see the tree shortened yet again. But I won’t be pulling that snag down. I’ve got front row seats to a rare display of urban nature.

The saga of Site C

An April 2016 view of the Site C prep work, including a new access bridge, shoreline logging, etc, by the official Site C photographers.

An April 2016 view of the Site C prep work, including a new access bridge, shoreline logging, etc, by the official Site C photographers.

Ask Yan Chen what it is like to try and finalize a thesis on a topic that is changing as quickly as the debate over dams in Canada. Although it reached it’s one year construction anniversary this summer, and the landscape is barely recognizable anymore (see the construction photo gallery), voices of dissent over Site C are growing louder, not softer. Amnesty International have called for a halt to construction, for violations of First Nation rights, consistent with the news from New Brunswick. A long form piece on The Current this week examined First Nations issues around Site C quite deeply, in part inspired by Gord Downie’s pressure on Justin Trudeau Saturday night. So when Yan came into my office this week with a completed draft of her thesis about youth perceptions of Mactaquac and Site C, as revealed by Instagram use, it was clear there would likely be edits right up until the moment of submission pending the status of the projects.

Beach user/shorebird surveys

One of Jaya Fahey's great pictures of roosting shorebirds on Evangeline Beach, one of our four Space to Roost study sites.

One of Jaya Fahey’s great pictures of roosting shorebirds on Evangeline Beach, one of our four Space to Roost study sites.

Great to hear from Jaya, our summer field assistant on Space to Roost, that her interviews with beach users about shorebird activity have been going very well.  She is ahead of schedule because of the enthusiasm that fishermen have had for sharing their observations of human/bird interactions, and offering ideas about ways to share the shore. She has been posting some photos of the migrating birds on our new project Facebook page, both those she has captured and pics from other birders and volunteers. If you decide to head up to see the birds for yourself, remember to keep your dog on a leash: these birds are tired after their 3000 km journey!

New Mitacs-funded work with Ducks Unlimited Canada

Mhari Lamarque, Dalhousie MREM candidate, working for DUC at the Greenwing Centre at Shubenacadie, NS.

Mhari Lamarque, Dalhousie MREM candidate, working for DUC at the Greenwing Centre at Shubenacadie, NS.

SRES is a frequent flier with Mitacs, an NGO that links students who need experience with companies who need research. Our MREM and MES students often partner with Mitacs to match funds to support their internships and theses. We are thrilled now that Mitacs will also partner with environmental NGOs like Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC). DalNews published a nice article today about one such intern, Mhari Lamarque, who will be entering the final term of her MREM in the fall. She is working with me this summer, conducting research and developing program evaluation advice for DUC as her internship. The organization is looking to understand the value of their youth education programs and target new supporter groups without abandoning their traditional ones. Conservation organizations are often staffed by biologists rather than social scientists, so it’s a great opportunity to partner. The project winds up next week, and – as does any good research  – seems to suggest as many new research questions as wrap up old ones.

New paper on Mactaquac map-elicitation interviews

The graphical abstract for our new Geoforum paper shows that most baselines were malleable in Mactaquac.

The graphical abstract for our new Geoforum paper suggests that most baselines were malleable in Mactaquac.

A new paper based on Kristina Keilty’s 2015 MES thesis on the adaptation of Mactaquac locals to dam construction is now available at Geoforum (free for the next 50 days at this link). The paper, Baselines of Acceptability and generational change on the Mactaquac dam headpond (New Brunswick, Canada), builds importantly on our recent Mactaquac headpond boat tour paper, Learning (or living) to love the landscapes of hydroelectricity, by improving our understanding of young and elderly demographics. The new paper also does several novel things. First, it develops a new conceptual framework that identifies four kinds of landscape baselines: generational, evolutionary, experiential and cultural, based on the scale at which they are set and how much they change. Second, the systematic map-elicitation data collection allowed for a powerful sequence of thematic analysis, quantitative filtering and data visualization – using that Baselines of Acceptability framework – to show that all demographics have adapted to the dam-in-place landscape. Great that this paper is available in advance of the pending NB Power decision on this prematurely-aging infrastructure as it also explores how energy and climate issues at the levels of proponent and government become issues of landscape and community at the local scale. Stakeholder engagement should be designed accordingly, or else those latter issues will spill outside the process, “in more or less constructive ways” (p. 244).

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