Kate Sherren

Landscapes - People - Global change

Category: Rural (page 1 of 5)

New role on NS Biodiversity Council

St. Andrews Marsh, May 21, 2018.

St. Andrews Marsh, May 21, 2018.

Today is the International Day for Biological Diversity, and I’m pleased to announce I was appointed to the new Biodiversity Council for Nova Scotia. The other members are Dr Donna Hurlburt (Aboriginal Advisor at Acadia University, Mi’kmaq ecologist, and conservation biologist), Dr. Graham Forbes (Professor at UNB), and Peter Oram (Senior Environmental Specialist at GHD). From the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announcement press release:

The goals of the Council are:

  1. Identify strategic priorities for work, including regulations, under a Biodiversity Act,
  2. Identify knowledge gaps and provide advice on using the ecosystem approach to biodiversity conservation and sustainable use,
  3. Advise on approaches and priorities for research, data gathering, and management,
  4. Make recommendations to the Minister on emerging and evolving biodiversity issues.


The Council’s work will include supporting the development of a Biodiversity Act, a project under the strategic priority “Our Natural Resources.” The purpose of the Act is to further enable Nova Scotia to improve the conservation and sustainable use of wild species and ecosystems in flexible and adaptive ways, address legislative gaps and manage emerging risks.

I’ve been working with DNR folks like Glen Parsons and John Brazner for years on social science about biodiversity conservation on farms, coasts and wetlands, and will be pleased to be of service.

End of an era

Me with Simon Greenland-Smith at the Dalhousie University Club Pub.

Me with Simon Greenland-Smith at the Dalhousie University Club Pub.

Back in 2011 when I was a new professor at Dalhousie, Simon Greenland-Smith–then an Environmental Science Honours student–came to talk to me about his farmer survey about riparian buffers. John Brazner, provincial wetland specialist and Simon’s Honours supervisor, introduced us. Thank goodness he did.

Yesterday, Simon had his last day at SRES, finishing two years as the Wood Turtle Strides farmer stewardship program manager, working for the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture but sitting two doors down in SRES. In between, Simon worked in my lab as an undergraduate research intern, transcribing photo-elicitation interviews I did with farmers in Cumberland County; carried out a novel Masters of Environmental Studies thesis using wetland walkabout interviews with farmers in the Annapolis Valley to show how ecosystem services valuations miss many social values; became my go-to survey administrator and statistician for a range of research projects (e.g. dams of all things); and, picked up where Kate Goodale left off with our farmer extension website BioLOG, adding educational materials and a range of videos to the mix. He has been a great citizen inside SRES and out, including his leadership in DivestDal.

I’m equal parts sad and proud to see him head off Monday to work on marine conservation targets as National Campaign Manager of the SeaBlue Initiative (bringing together the Ecology Action Centre, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, David Suzuki Foundation and West Coast Environmental Law). While we plan to keep collaborating, I wish him well in the new adventure, and hope to welcome him back to Halifax sooner than later.

Rangeland social science meeting

Lynn Huntsinger and Tracy Hruska at a cafe in Reno, the biggest little city in the world

Lynn Huntsinger and Tracy Hruska at a cafe in Reno, the biggest little city in the world

I am in Sparks, Nevada, at an invited meeting of rangeland social scientists (RSS) organized by Hailey Wilmer and Mark Brunson before the Society for Range Management meeting. I arrived in San Francisco late Friday to visit with Berkeley professor Lynn Huntsinger and her UNevada Geography professor husband Paul Starrs. The view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the harbour was stunning as the sun set, and Paul’s posole a delight. The next morning Lynn and I transected California’s many landscapes and production systems up across the snowy Sierra Nevada (and the notorious Donner Pass), with two of her Berkeley lab PhD students, Tracy Hruska and Sheila Barry.

DRI research professor Tamara Wall prepares to chair us in our RSS unconference

DRI research professor Tamara Wall prepares to chair us in our RSS unconference

Both Sheila and Tracy have led papers or chapters I really like, so it was the beginning of a day full of happy name recognition. Awaiting us at the lovely Desert Research Institute where the RSS meeting was being held: thirty more people  whose work I have enjoyed and cited since my Australian post-doc. Simply meeting them has made the trip worthwhile, and hearing kind words of appreciation in turn a bonus, particularly for my new commentary on standalone social science in rangelands. The meeting is following an un-conference format, which is new to me, but allowed for a very egalitarian agenda design, and productive discussions in small groups and together. I joined a group on community-building and integration, where those from a mix of career stages discussed the importance of an attractive career script for RSS practitioners, and how this nascent community could help. We’ll pick up some of the threads later today for day two of the un-meeting.


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!

Urban stasis … what about rural?

Mural on the in-progress Roy Building on Barrington Street, downtown Halifax, featuring a quote by architect Daniel Liebskind.

Mural on the in-progress Roy Building on Barrington Street, downtown Halifax, featuring a quote by architect Daniel Liebskind.

Halifax is a mess. I’m not kidding. For those of us who have cars and kids in summer camps all over the place, instead of its usual peaceful summer self, Halifax is detour central. Downtown is under construction, with towers pushing out of heritage skins, and two of the five roads leading into the dreaded Armdale Rotary are closed for various reasons. This is relatively new. For years, nothing could be built downtown, it seemed, because of the need to protect views to the 18th century defensive citadel at the heart of the city. While the volume of work simultaneously underway is inconvenient, it is like a wildfire spreading after decades or centuries of fire suppression. This is Yellowstone, circa 1988.   Liebskind is right (see photo). The citadel is not what Halifax is about anymore.  It doesn’t meet new needs for urban densification, for instance. (It also bears mentioning, it never did meet needs; the Citadel was never attacked.)

But why stop at cities? Why is it that busses line up on cruise ship days to take thousands of visitors  to Peggy’s Cove? Peggy’s Cove is a simulacra of an 18th century coastal Nova Scotia fishing village, with its Peggy’s Point Lighthouse sitting atop massive granite outcrops arguably the most photographed place in the region. Rather than relying on fishing, this place and others like it now rely on tourism that commemorates a Golden Age idea of ‘Maritimicity’ (coined by eminent Canadian historian Ian McKay in 1988). We might need rural places for new things, like renewable energy, but if we’re not careful, the ‘tourism state’ will deny such alternate visions.

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