My work on coastal adaptation began with an interest in Nova Scotia’s dykelands. Dykelands were originally agricultural, built by Acadian settlers in the 1600s, but now protect industrial, transportation and residential infrastructure as well as farmland. Climate change (specifically sea level rise and storm surges) will require them to be raised and strengthened to be sustained, but doing so for all of them will be impractical, given the budget of the responsible agency, the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture. Restoring some dykelands to coastal wetlands may be more adaptive.

My first foray into research on dykelands was funded by my SSHRC Insight Development Grant ($75K, 2012-2015) on farm wetlands. I used those funds to explore public perceptions of Acadian dykelands in the face of climate change. The Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture (NSDA) provided funding in 2014 to support pilot research into public perceptions of managed dyke realignment to balance coastal wetland restoration and land protection. That involved using Q-methodology, statement sorting, to explore how a range of citizens and stakeholders (including farmers) perceived the costs and benefits of dykelands and coastal wetlands, as well as various governance arrangements and adaptive practices such as managed realignment.  Factor analysis revealed four discrete discourses related to the management of Nova Scotia dykes and dykelands, and an understanding of what personal variables predict an adaptive (rather than mitigative) perspective (Sherren et al., 2016). Collaboration in 2015 found parallels with the drained agricultural land in the Po Delta, Italy, based on research in the lab of Davide Viaggi, University of Bologna, which produced a conference paper (Targetti et al. 2016).

Dykeland work is heating up again now with two new grants led by Dr Danika van Proosdij, Saint Mary’s University. The names of these echo landmark recent Dutch climate adaptation programs such as Making Space for Water and Room for the River. Making Space for Wetlands is funded by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Coastal Restoration Fund ($1.84M, 2017-2022) to restore salt marsh ecosystems in the Bay of Fundy. New funding [contract pending ($460K, 2018-2020)] for the project Making Room for Movement is layering environmental social science and planning research onto that restoration work, as well as looking beyond to look at a wider set of nature-based coastal adaptation options, including managed dyke realignment, coastal retreat and natural shorelines.  I am also pitching dykelands as a regional case study in an upcoming NSERC Strategic Network application.

Research output

Sherren, K., Bowron, T., Graham, J. M., Rahman, H. M. Tuihedur and van Proosdij, D. 2019. Coastal infrastructure realignment and salt marsh restoration in Nova Scotia, Canada. Responding to Rising Seas: Comparing OECD Countries’ Approaches to Coastal Adaptation, Lisa Danielson Ed. (Organization for Economic Collaboration and Development: Paris, France).

Targetti, S., Sherren, K., Raggi, M. and Viaggi, D. 2016. Contrasting perceptions of anthropogenic coastal agricultural landscape meanings and management in Italy and Canada. 19 April, 2016, Interdisciplinary Approaches in Climatic Change Research and Assessment session, European Geographical Union General Assembly, Vienna, AU.

Sherren, K., Loik, L and Debner, J.. 2016. Climate adaptation in ‘new world’ cultural agricultural landscapes: the case of Bay of Fundy dykelands (Nova Scotia, Canada). Land Use Policy, 51, 267-280.

Research trainees

H. M. Tuihedur Rahman, PhD, joined our collaborative SMU/Dalhousie team in July 2018 as a postdoctoral fellow, straight from his PhD work at McGill with Dr. Gordon Hickey. He is jointly funded by NRCan and DFO through grants led by Danika van Proosdij.

Krysta Sutton has joined the team in 2018 to undertake an MES on Making Room for Movement. She has co-developed the materials for 16 focus groups with coastal residents of Nova Scotia, undertaken by conference call in June and July 2019, and will use the text-based data as the basis of her MES. She is funded by NRCan (as an RA) and an Ocean Frontiers Institute seed grant.

Farzana Karim, current MES candidate, is working on coastal risk planning related to second home and vacation rentals. She has surveyed Canadian municipal planners about this issue, and carried out a Nova Scotia risk assessment case study using GIS. She was funded by a Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarship. She is being co-supervised by Dr. Eric Rapaport, in Dalhousie’s School of Planning.

Logan Loik, MREM 2015, undertook the Q-method pilot research in the Annapolis Valley/Cornwallis River, co-funded by SSHRC and the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture to explore opportunities for managed realignment. He went from Dalhousie to being an energy efficiency Field Ambassador for the Summerhill Group.