Kate Sherren

Landscapes - People - Global change

Month: July 2018

30 years of WHSRN, 3 for Space to Roost

MES student Jaya Fahey talks about shorebirds at the WHSRN 30 year celebration today at Evangeline Beach (photo: Richard Stern)

MES student Jaya Fahey talks about shorebirds at the WHSRN 30 year celebration today at Evangeline Beach (photo: Richard Stern)

Meanwhile, the signs have gone up at Avonport Beach for year three of Space to Roost.

Meanwhile, the signs have gone up at Avonport Beach for year three of Space to Roost.

Colleagues at Bird Studies Canada and Nature Conservancy Canada joined with other conservation groups today at Evangeline Beach at Grand Pre, Nova Scotia, to celebrate 30 years that the Minas Basin has been recognized by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) as a globally significant bird habitat. MES student and BSC intern Jaya Fahey was interviewed for local media. The timing is significant: it is the leading edge of the time that the area hosts millions of shorebirds migrating south from the Arctic. These birds need to eat and gain weight and above all rest, because the next step is a big one: three days swim over the ocean non-stop to South America … and they can’t swim! The signs have already gone up at Avonport (left) to recruit beach users to help us set aside high-tide resting beaches while the birds are here. This is year three of Space to Roost, the second using resting beaches. We have some indication already that these resting beaches reduce human disturbance; this year should help us fully understand their effectiveness.

Coastal Zone Canada 2018

Typical St. John's streetscape with a cheering paintpot effect.

Typical St. John’s streetscape with its cheering paintpot effect.

Thanks to the organizers of Coastal Zone Canada 2018 last week in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where our NRCan project Making Room for Movement was launched. We ran a back-to-back special sessions to introduce the project and explore its conceptual and practical foundations, with presentations from SMU PI Danika van Proosdij, MPlan student Matt Conlin, Dal Planning prof Patricia Manuel and I. Postdoc Tuihedur Rahman and I put together a presentation on social aspects of nature-based coastal adaptation, as well as some of the conceptual foundations of this concept, proposing climax thinking as our experimental frame for the work to come. Despite an incredibly hot room, thanks to unseasonably warm conditions for Newfoundland, attendance was strong, in the presentations (below) as well as the subsequent workshop session.   It was wonderful to be among practitioners, consultants and public servants as well as academics for a few days to explore the challenges along coasts.

Hot ticket: question period at the Making Room for Movement special session.

Hot ticket: question period at the Making Room for Movement special session.

Unsettled

Unsettled

It was also special to have the opportunity to explore The Rooms at the Tuesday dinner event, including the wonderful Newfoundland Gallery and Museum. I rounded a corner in the gallery and was faced with a great portrait of my grandmother’s uncle, Captain Bob Bartlett by Margaret Fitzhugh Browne, and was also moved by the map of the taking of Demasduit, drawn by the last Beothuk, Shanawdithit (her niece), images of resettled island outports (right) and struggling livyers, and the brave young members of the Newfoundland Regiment in WWI.

Funded Masters: Pairing wind and wine?

Vineyards and wind turbine. iStock credit: Petagar

Vineyards and wind turbine. iStock credit: Petagar

Happy to announce that thanks to recent success at the SSHRC Insight Development Grants, Dr. Kirby Calvert (PI) and I are looking for new graduate students for 2019 intake. Our project seeks to provide insight into the unique barriers and opportunities for renewable energy development in ‘high amenity’ (i.e., tourism-based) landscapes, such as wine-and-grape regions in Nova Scotia and Southern Ontario. Kirby and I are both Geographers by training, with interests in the spatial and social dynamics of rural landscape change. We expect to use a mix of methods in this work, including image-rich approaches for understanding discourse and stakeholder perceptions, possibly including social media and Q-method. Qualified and keen students should read the fuller description linked above, and get in touch with us. Nothing wrong with thinking well ahead for 2019; this opens candidates up to additional scholarship opportunities that often close in late fall.

Coastal adaptation at the Discovery Centre

The wonderful irony of using hard, pointy Lego to illustrate living shorelines as an adaptation strategy.

The wonderful irony of using hard, pointy Lego to illustrate living shorelines as an adaptation strategy.

Salt marsh or dykes?

Salt marsh or dykes?

Great to see the new Oceans display at the Discovery Centre, including a new touch tank (sorry, guys) popular with the kids. Even cooler was the substantive content on coastal adaptation options, whimsically implemented with Lego (above). Also really neat to see this slider-based exploration of salt marsh restoration versus strengthening dyke-based protection as coastal options (right). This felt very topical as our team plans for Coastal Zone Canada next week in St. Johns, where we are developing a workshop on ‘making space for movement’ by nature-based coastal adaptation options.

NOLA book serendipity

Three books from my AAG trip to New Orleans

Three books from my AAG trip to New Orleans

Bookshelf serendipity strikes again! I can’t resist telling this story, though it was awhile ago. Appropriate to the geography conference I was in town to attend, I bought a compelling atlas of New Orleans by Rebeccas Solnit and Snedeker, Unfathomable City, part of a series at UC Press, at a small bookstore behind the Cabildo. Each map and essay tells an idiosyncratic story about the place, including human and river channel migrations, social and landscape erosions, including social clubs, seafood and sex. While excellent, it wasn’t an easy one to tote in my bag for idle moments.

The ‘take a book, leave a book’ shelf at my hotel filled the gap with But What if We’re Wrong, by pop seer Chuck Klosterman (sorry Columns Hotel, I’ll leave one next time). Klosterman is talking about the same thing that I was at AAG to talk about: climax thinking. He asks how we can learn to make decisions anticipating the many ways that we might be wrong, so we don’t box ourselves in. Instead we denigrate the people who made decisions or assessments we reflect upon today as folly, but assume against evidence that we’re going to be right. There is something to be said about doubt.

Having finished both of the above, I needed another book for the flight home. During a layover in Toronto airport I bought Everybody Lies by Seth Stephens-Davidowicz. He is a computer scientist who thinks data mining has replaced social science, so a few sections (particularly the conclusion) grated, but this was a fun (and surprisingly dirty) introduction to how secondary online datasets like our Google queries help us learn what people are really thinking and feeling. I have since brought up his examples in a few social science contexts, like the energy incubator at Cornell. I’m loathe to hand it to students, given some of the icky content (people are, it turns out, gross), but as survey response rates drop, offensiphobia rules, and questions around sustainability cross the sociology/psychology boundary, such datasets may well be the only way we can really understand what kind of society we are really working with.

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