Kate Sherren

Landscapes - People - Global change

Category: Agriculture (page 1 of 14)

Welcome, Wesley and Bernard

New postdoc, Wesley Tourangeau

Monday was an exciting day in my ‘lab’. Postdoctoral fellow Wesley Tourangeau arrived from Ontario to start research on the Reconciling HM project. Wesley brings a background in using discourse analysis to understand controversy and risk in agri-food issues, such as GMOs and animal welfare. He will starting out by engaging with my Falkland Islands case study data, as well as Sarbpreet‘s work  on producer magazines. Welcome, Wes!

New DPhil candidate, Bernard Soubry

The same day I finally met in person Bernard Soubry, Mount Allison alum and Rhodes Scholar, who has just finished his Masters at Oxford. I helped out at the latter stages of his write-up, which has thus far produced two working papers on adapting Maritime farming to climate change, published by the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford. One paper maps farmer observations against climate projections, and the other explores adaptation options for small-scale farmers. He will be rolling his research into a DPhil with me as a co-supervisor. Welcome, Bernard!

New paper – precondition for integration

Australian grazier Gary Johnson, appraising tree decline on his farm, 2010.

Australian grazier Gary Johnson, appraising tree decline on his farm, 2010.

A year ago this week I was in Portugal, where I presented and co-convened a session at the World Congress of Silvo-pastoral Systems. The invite came as a result of my work on tree decline under grazing in Australia, though I used the opportunity to present synthesis work emerging from more recent work on Holistic Management.  The best keynote at the event was by Ika Darnhofer, an Austrian scholar, with whom I struck up a correspondence after the event. When news came that a special issue of Rangeland Ecology and Management was planned for the Integrative stream of the conference, Ika and I collaborated on a short commentary piece.  It was published online today, the first of those in the special issue. Each of us had been frustrated by the primacy of natural science within key journals and projects, so our commentary argues for greater openness to stand-alone social science research (particularly qualitative social science) in problem-based agricultural journals. Instead, editors have one-by-one closed their doors to social science unless in integration with natural sciences. I like to think of it as picking up where Nathan Sayre left off in 2004.

In the summary I prepared for Rangelands, the more producer-focused magazine also run by the Society for Range Management, the paper is summarized as follows:

The voices of pastoralists, farmers, and ranchers are hard to hear in rangeland and silvopastoral research, although they make the management choices. Researchers call for integration across academic disciplines to improve decision-making, but what seems to be forgotten is that robust disciplines are needed first. Is social science around rangelands and silvopastoral systems healthy, or is it being given a service role to natural science? Key journals are biased toward natural science, fragmenting social science insight and discouraging new scholars. Journals welcoming standalone social science will grow the discipline and incorporate land manager knowledge, strengthening research outcomes and their application.

Welcome, Carolyn

Carolyn won’t be wielding any test tubes with us.

Great to have Carolyn Mann joining our sustainable grazing team, working remotely from Ottawa. Carolyn is finishing up her Masters at Dalhousie’s Agricultural Campus in parallel with this part time research contract. Her Masters sees her combining soil testing with farmer interviews about soil quality. She won’t be wielding any test tubes in her work with me, however. Carolyn will be launching the third stream of our Reconciling HM SSHRC project: talking to HM trainers to understand whether HM farmers are born, or made.  Welcome aboard.

New extension video: wood turtles

Wood Turtle Strides has collaborated (again) with the clever people at Wonderlust Media to develop a video for farmers explaining the biology of wood turtles, a species at risk in Nova Scotia, and how to protect them. This is the third video in our extension series. The first two were about modified harvest, and riparian management. All three can be found at the YouTube channel for the Biodiversity Landowners Guide, our extension website.  Simon Greenland-Smith has been busy this summer signing up farmers that host critical wood turtle habitat in the incentive-based Strides program. Participating farmers get financial compensation for the management changes they undertake on that habitat  to help protect the species. Wood Turtle Strides is a partnership with NSFA and Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Energy Impacts Symposium

The cover slide of my Energy Impacts presentation, a synthesis of work on several fronts.

The cover slide of my Energy Impacts presentation, a synthesis of landscape work on several fronts.

The last two days I spent at the gigantic Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio (it has it’s own traffic radio station), in a gaggle of energy impacts social scientists. The Energy Impacts Symposium was a product of a US NSF Research Coordination grant co-held by Jeffrey Jacquet (OSU) and Julia Haggerty (MSU). The event brought together some great keynotes on energy issues, including Benjamin Sovacool on energy justice, Monica Ehrman on energy realism, and Janet Stephenson on long-term shifts in energy cultures. Despite the heavy and understandable focus on the US shale experience, given what Stephenson described as the American “state of siege” by that fuel, the commonwealth made a strong showing. In addition to Stephenson, from New Zealand (and Ehrman, a Canadian living in the US), there was a strong contingent of Australian, UK and Canadian academics across all stages. It was a great opportunity to catch up with friends like Tom Measham and expand networks in those of us working under Westminster settings, that (thankfully) results in very different outcomes in governance and on the ground.

The engagement with scholars across career levels was very strong thanks in part to a competitive ‘Symposium Fellow’ program. A number of ‘Fellows’ were Commonwealth: Bec Colvin (ANU, my alma mater), who gave a fantastic talk on social rifts as a result of wind energy consultation in King Island, Nichole Dusyk, working across hydro and pipelines in postdoctoral work at SFU, and Eryn Fitzgerald (UVic) who as a Masters student among PhD and postdocs won second on the poster award for her work on indigenous hydro in BC. Leah Stokes (originally Canadian, now UCSB) gave a great talk on the degree of public backlash from wind projects. This is not to slight the Americans, of course. I saw a great presentation by Weston Eaton (Penn State) on biomass crops, and Julia Haggerty on ‘social license to exit’, as well as super posters by scholars such as Kristin Smith (MSU), Chris Podeski (Bloomsburg U of Penn), Meryl Gardner (Delaware) and the talented Anne Junod (OSU). Such riches of relevant research solidifies for me the value of prioritizing the attendance of problem-based, rather than disciplinary, meetings.

I was honored to receive a travel award to attend this event on the strength of my submitted abstract, Toward a non-equilibrium model of change in cultural landscapes. I was also grateful that the funding gave me a hard deadline for doing this planned synthesis around landscape emerging from SSHRC-funded work on energy (hydro and dam removal, renewable transitions) and agricultural dykelands. This presentation will now be converted to a chapter for a collected volume being co-edited by the conference steering committee this fall.

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