Kate Sherren

Landscapes - People - Global change

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Cornell Energy Incubator

Dylan Bugden chairs our discussion of research best practice.

Dylan Bugden chairs our discussion of research best practice.

Excellent first day here at the ‘Energy Incubator’ invited meeting here at Cornell, sponsored by Rich Stedman‘s social science fellowship at the Atkinson Centre for a Sustainable Future. Mostly Americans, save for Tom Beckley and Louise Comeau (UNB) and I, this group is gender- and experience-balanced and engaged in research across a range of energy/society issues: landscape, justice, gender, ‘booms’, impacts on other industries (ag), etc.

Getting started at the Energy Incubator.

Getting started at the Energy Incubator.

We started with short bursts on the more or less ‘half-baked’ ideas people pitched up before we came–at the half-baked end I talked about my ideas for an enpathy engine (that is, energy empathy) to combat climax thinking. We then brainstormed best practice for energy impacts research and broke into groups for some more focused discussions, which is what we’ll spend today doing. We then had a chance to explore the stunning Ithaca campus on the way to dinner.

The small hydro facility on the Cornell campus.

The small hydro facility on the Cornell campus.

Our meeting today was held in a beautiful centre at the Cornell Botanic Gardens, part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, but the gracious campus buildings are also nestled beside stunning gorges that tumble down to the townsite. There is even a small hydroelectricity dam that provides power to the campus (probably a project of the Engineering school)? Sign me up, Cornell. 

Ithaca is Gorges!

Ithaca is Gorges!

Jeffrey Jacquet tours us around Cornell's gorges.

Jeffrey Jacquet tours us around Cornell’s gorges.

The Bugle-Observer

Last week I visited my family’s lake cottage in New Brunswick, and did the usual dash in to the nearest town, Nackawic, for food and drinks. I grew up in Nackawic, and left in 1991 for university and beyond.  After 26 years it is often an uncomfortable outing, undertaken with stealth: I’m always worried I’ll see someone I should know but whose name eludes me. This trip was happily anonymous. I was able to linger in my annual nostalgia trip:  peering in the window of the bowling alley (which seems to have shut down without removing its Open sign); popping in to the post office where I was a frequent customer in the days well before digital (sending letters to many penpals, collecting stamps , and returning Columbia House monthly choices to avoid billing).

At the checkout of the grocery store,  I spied a headline on the regional paper, the Bugle-Observer, “Good News for future of Forest City Dam – maybe” (sadly paywalled). Anything dam-related catches my eye, so I grabbed it to read at the cottage, which has no TV or internet access. The future of the small dam that holds back the enormous East Grand Lake on the border between Maine and New Brunswick at Forest City is at question, motivating owners of the 2,000 cottages around its perimeter to organize to keep the water levels up. Under the fold was another story related to dams, also written by Doug Dickinson.  A fellow named “Hoot” was being inducted into the Atlantic Salmon Hall of Fame, and he “still names his favourite fishing spot as the long-gone Hartland pool” on the Becaguimec Stream that drained into the St. John:

That all changed after dams were constructed on the St. John River. Smith said the salmon fishing was still good after the Tobique Dam was built, but declined after the Beechwood Dam was finished. The Mactaquac Dam put an end to the Hartland Salmon Pool.

One of my new research interests is the use of digital archives to understand cultural change in regions that have faced infrastructure change like hydroelectric dams and related inundation.  Newspaper archives is one of those I’d like to explore in this way, so we can look back and understand how host communities are affected over time, and how they adjust. This newspaper would make for an interesting case: 50 years later dams are still front page news. What else hasn’t changed? The third front-page article: Meet Miss New Brunswick 2017″.

Berkeley bootcamp over

One conventional photo, and one with side looking Lidar, of bootcamp participants in front of Mulford Hall, UC Berkeley.

One conventional photo, and one with side looking Lidar, of bootcamp participants in front of Mulford Hall, UC Berkeley.

Amid mixed funding news today (one SSHRC Insight Grant funded, one not; one Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarship awarded, one not), the Spatial Science bootcamp adjourned with a day of data visualization and web mapping. A blinding array of options and inspiring examples were presented by members of the GIF and iGIS. Clear to see that a conventional Geography degree will not prepare you for this kind of work: programming is critical. We also learned about the risks of using open source, as the software Carto changed versions 15 minutes before class started, leaving all the instructions moot. I wound up with good ideas for my fall Special Topics course, and a wider understanding of what is happening behind the scenes of web mapping services. Special thanks to Shruti for helping me hack the new Canadian Geographic hydroelectricity webmap for GeoJSON files of infrastructure.

At the end of the day, several of us Ubered to the ‘Albany Bulb‘, a former landfill site and homeless encampment, and current dog park, ad hoc gallery of garbage art and graffiti, viewpoint for great sunsets, and general ‘scene’. Afterward we had what seemed like a quintessentially (and comically) Californian time at restaurants Ippuku, a Japanese small plates restaurant, as well as the diner we stumbled into (oblivious that it was vegan) to fill up afterward. How did they made apple pie pastry that flaky without butter?

Looking from the Albany 'Bulb' across to San Francisco (photo: Scott Hatcher).

Looking from the Albany ‘Bulb’ across to San Francisco (photo: Scott Hatcher).

Sabbatical snow day

Close quarters in the home office on this first-day-of-spring snow day.

Close quarters in the home office on this first-day-of-spring snow day.

Textile, mixed media, and preparing for a thesis defense – all in 10 square metres.

Weekend wetlands

Thaddeus Holownia's series of a small wetland near his home, with my girl near her favourite.

A subset of Thaddeus Holownia’s series of a small wetland near his home.

In between storms, my family and I got out on the weekend for some wetland adventures. The Shubenacadie Wildlife Park is always popular with our small ones, though the wind chill sped it up more than usual. It was great to see the new(ish) developments and interpretations that connect the park more closely with the Greenwing Wetland Centre. They had snowshoes available to borrow, and we all gave them a go, though the smallest member of the family struggled at their size. In the afternoon, after a warm-up, came a visit to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, for their excellent show of Thaddeus Holownia‘s photography. Holownia is based around the Tantramar marsh, and while his photographs vary more widely in their geography, it was the local stuff I loved most. For instance, particularly intimate and moving was the above longitudinal series of photographs of a little manmade pond on his property near Jolicure, NB, over time and in different conditions. It was also wonderful to see his series on the erstwhile Radio Canada International shortwave towers near Sackville, NB, a missed landmark for me. My cellphone reproductions do not do the work justice: AGNS says on their website that there is an “attendant publication” for this show, but it was not available in the shop. Hopefully soon.

The faint sketches of the shortwave radio towers of CBC Radio Canada, captured by Thaddeus Holownia before their removal in the early 2010s.

The faint sketches of the shortwave radio towers of Radio Canada International, captured by Thaddeus Holownia before their removal in the early 2010s.

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