Kate Sherren

Landscapes - People - Global change

Category: Methods (page 1 of 13)

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?

IVSA by Amtrak

Beautiful downtown Saratoga Springs, NY

Beautiful downtown Saratoga Springs, NY

Just back on the weekend from a trip to my first IVSA (International Visual Sociology Association) conference, in Saratoga Springs, NY. What a fascinating group of people: sociologists, anthropologists, geographers, documentarians and artists all come together to explore the intersection of visual culture and society. A very international group, too, and welcoming to new members like me. I think I’ll have to straddle IVSA and ISSRM as academic homes from now on. Hoping to get to Dublin for IVSA2020.

Thanks ecent for this very meta shot of me.

Thanks ecent for this very meta shot of me.

Highlights were many. John Grady’s categorization of picture-making traditions was compelling, as was Anna Sarzynska’s typology of the unintended impacts of tourist photography and Celine Missoorten’s observations on reasons for the rebirth of analog photography and slow media. Dee Britton took a compelling semi-quantitative approach to explore Civil War memorials spatially and over time, feeding into documentary footage from Charlottesville shared by Joyce Sebag and Jean-Pierre Durand, and a reimagining of the Virginia state flag by Eric Sencindiver. Relebohile Moletsane explored the academic push-back she has received about using PhotoVoice with South African girls documenting their sexual abuse.  One session about using photos and PhotoVoice in the university setting had lots of great ideas for my qualitative class, and inspired a fascinating discussion about how to represent minority students in university marketing. Australian documentary filmmaker Catherine Gough-Brady explored our capacity to empathize without a hero, and US filmmaker Kathy Kasic described her ‘sensory verite’ approach in documenting Antarctic ice core research. Documentaries were playing in an adjacent room, of which I caught Expect Delays (by Gough-Brady) and parts of Arrhythmia and The Area. Plenary guests Youth FX/Rogue FX blew us all away as a model for empowerment and training.

Royal Roads' Jean Slick painted this based on YouTube videos of dash cam footage of the Fort McMurray fire evacuation.

Royal Roads’ Jean Slick painted this based on YouTube videos of dash cam footage of the Fort McMurray fire evacuation.

Canadians were outstanding, as is to be expected: Carolina Cambre and Christine Lawrence shared work on teens and selfie filters in Canada; Jean Slick painted the Fort McMurray evacuation experience from YouTube videos from dash cams (see one above); and Guillaume Clermont passed over a dozen paintings around the room to make tangible his points on reproduction, ‘originality’ and the ‘image flood’. The sessions were very well organized thematically, with lots of time for rich discussion. My discussion of culturomic tools was well received, fitting nicely into Paolo Faveri’s exploration of GPS tracking tools and other means of revealing the forces that drive how people use our urban spaces, and Christine Louveau de la Guignereye on the challenges of engaging with new media including coding literacy, asking: “is multimedia like Esperanto, a false good idea?”

While loathe to leave, I was excited to hop back on the Amtrak to Montreal, by which I’d also arrived. The trip is a stunning one, along Lac Champlain and adjacent rivers, looking across high water levels and heron-rich wetlands to Mountains in Vermont. Well worth the US$92 return price. I’d do it just for fun, but the train was almost empty. People of Montreal, what are you doing?

Along the Amtrak from Saratoga Springs to Montreal.

Views along the Amtrak from Saratoga Springs to Montreal.

The mountains of Vermont across Lac Champlain, from the Saratoga Springs to Montreal Amtrak train.

The mountains of Vermont across Lac Champlain, from the Saratoga Springs to Montreal Amtrak train.


New paper: conceptual mapping of Instagram

The second paper from Yan Chen’s MES thesis is now out in Society and Natural Resources, Leveraging social media to understand younger people’s perceptions and use of hydroelectric energy landscapes. It is a research note demonstrating the utility of manual coding and conceptual mapping of a year of Instagram images around two hydroelectricity sites to predict how changes might affect young residents. Unlike her first thesis paper in Landscape and Urban Planning, which carried out spatial mapping of value ‘hotspots’–a method widespread in today’s growing literature on cultural ecosystem services–this paper makes statistical links between features, activities and values conveyed through Instagram. The diagrams provide insight to the lifestyle and emotions associated with different landscape features, some changeable with hydro development or removal, and informs our new work on conservation culturomics for social impact assessment. Yan continues to drive this work as an IDPhD student. Congratulations, Yan.

Yan Chen in Singapore

Yan Chen at NSF-funded workshop in Singapore, January 28-29, 2019.

Yan Chen presenting her IDPhD work at NSF-funded workshop in Singapore, January 28-29, 2019.

Yan Chen is wrapping up a few days in Singapore for the NSF-funded Research Coordination Network (RCN) in Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) on Putting Sustainability into Convergence: Connecting Data, People, and Systems. This international workshop has been diverse in attendees and disciplines. Yan reflected, “The most discussed question is how people from different disciplines can collaborate. There are many scholars like me, as social scientists who are using sophisticated data analysis models; while others are engineers working on social issues. We both, at a certain degree, struggle in ‘cultural shocks’ between different disciplines.” It’s been a great opportunity for her to workshop with similarly cross-cutting folks. She described her session as discussing, “data sources, sizes, validity, sharing, proxies, and so on. …. [agreeing] that data or method cannot develop only on the technologies, but has to answer certain questions. For social scientists, finding a good mechanism of data sharing or archiving may be very useful. Also, how to cope with the rapidly developing technologies will be another challenge for us.” Thanks to SSHRC for supporting Yan’s trip, via Mike Smit’s Insight Grant, on which I’m a CI, Assessing the social impacts of hydroelectricity-driven landscape changing using text, images and archives: a Big Data approach.

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