Kate Sherren

Landscapes - People - Global change

Month: July 2015 (page 1 of 2)

Kristina Keilty defending MES next week

The Mactaquac Dam spillway, New Brunswick, on a foggy morning.

The Mactaquac Dam spillway, New Brunswick, on a foggy morning.

Our energy landscapes work is reaching a milestone with the defense of the first Masters student. Kristina Keilty will defend her MES thesis, titled ‘Understanding Landscape Values and Baselines of Acceptability on the Mactaquac Dam and Headpond, New Brunswick‘, in Rowe 5001 from 1-3 next Thursday, August 6th.  These are open events, so all are welcome. Kristina extended our research with locals around the Mactaquac headpond, begun with our 2013 focus groups undertaken on a houseboat. These folks are currently facing an uncertain future due to the premature degradation of the Dam’s concrete sections. Local feelings are running high: come hear what future they would prefer to see, and why:

Due to the growing interest in sustainable energy futures, jurisdictions at all scales are exploring options to reduce dependencies on dwindling fossil fuel reserves and moving forward with renewable energy generation. In the pursuit of a sustainable energy future we have to understand not only the economic and environmental implications that renewable energy infrastructure will have but also the social implications of such a change. The purpose of this study was to understand how people can come to accept utilitarian energy infrastructure in the landscape. This study used a hydroelectric dam and headpond to understand public perception and landscape values. Dam removal and rebuilding decisions are going to increase as dams continue to age and the Mactaquac Dam offers us a case study to understand the emotions and values that citizens have felt throughout the life of a dam.

Many hands make light work

Wendy, Simon and Joy stuffing envelopes with surveys in the Hayes Room.

Wendy, Simon and Joy stuffing envelopes with surveys in the Hayes Room.

Thanks to Wendy and Joy for pitching in to fold 1850 12-page Marginal Land Management surveys this week, number them so we can keep track of responses, and stuff them into envelopes. A crucial task, but not an entertaining one, although they made it look fun. The postcard notice has gone out to the thousand Nova Scotia farmers selected for the study, and we’ll send out this first round of surveys next week. I never thought I’d say this, after the wet summer we’ve had, but I hope it stays wet so the farmers have little better to do than respond!

Yan Chen in action

Yan Chen presenting at Social Media and Society this week in Toronto

Yan Chen presenting at Social Media and Society this week in Toronto

Thanks, Carlisle, for this picture of Yan in action at Social Media and Society in Toronto. These ‘work in progress’ sessions are a great opportunity for those who are in the middle of research to get feedback. The image on the screen is Yan’s next challenge in understanding her Instagram data, collected in the footprint of the Mactaquac (NB) and Site C (BC) hydroelectric projects: can they be used to identify hotspots of cultural value?

Yan Chen presenting research this week at Social Media and Society 2015

Geographic coordinates selected by Yan Chen for her study of Instagram photos around hydroelectric proposals; Netlytic will download all images posted within a 5 km radius of each point.

Geographic coordinates selected by Yan Chen for her study of Instagram photos around two hydroelectric proposals, Mactaquac (left) and Site C (right); Netlytic will download all images posted within a 5 km radius of each point.

This week, Yan Chen, an MES candidate with our Energy project is presenting her work at the  Social Media and Society Conference in Toronto. She is using Instagram to understand how young citizens feel about areas affected by hydroelectric proposals. In general, young people can be difficult to engage in conventional means by proponents or researchers of landscape change. Over the past year, Yan has collected geotagged Instagram photographs from the geographic areas around the Mactaquac Dam headpond on the Saint John River, in NB, and the Site C dam on the Peace River, BC. These are interesting parallel cases. The first is a dam that may have to be removed, the second a dam that has been approved for construction; both the third on their river reaches, of a similar size, inundated area, etc. She is coding the images to understand the lifestyle of young people in each region (leveraging the bias in this social media site towards the under-35), and how they might be affected by potential landscape scenarios.

Being a social media conference, the online abstracts allow individuals attending the conference to tag the presentations they plan to attend. Already, seven people have expressed interest in Yan’s ‘work in progress’ talk on this work tomorrow, including our own Carlisle Kent, summer intern on the HM project who is based at the Social Media Lab at Ryerson organizing the event, and that is behind the Netlytic software Yan is using in her work.

Marginal land survey now underway

Marginal land survey postcard, the first of a series of mailings a random sample of 1000 Nova Scotia farmers are about to receive

Marginal land survey postcard, the first of a series of mailings a random sample of 1000 Nova Scotia farmers are about to receive

As I write this, Simon Greenland-Smith, extension officer and project manager for our Species at Risk Partnerships on Private Land project, is sitting in the SRES conference room applying address stickers to 1000 pre-survey postcards for our study about farm management on marginal land. This survey is a joint undertaking, funded by Environment Canada (EC) under the program above, but also the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and in close collaboration with the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture. Knowing how over-surveyed Nova Scotia farmers have been in recent years (and I have been part of that problem, with DNR-sponsored surveys on farm biodiversity and nuisance nature), we are joining together to merge four surveys into one. For this one survey, however, we are going to work hard to get a good response rate. Single mail-out surveys typically only get a 10-20% response rate, which weakens the analysis and conclusions that can be drawn: it is unclear if those who responded are representative of the population of interest. We will use multiple reminders, including this pre-survey postcard to let people know what is coming and why. We hope for a good response rate, sooner than later, because the postage costs for each mailout are non-trivial. Thanks in advance to the kind farmers who help us meet our targets.

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