This work is an ongoing area of research and public engagement that began as collaboration with the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources (NSDNR), and has become a broader network of parties interested in conservation on private land in Nova Scotia. Funding has come from NSDNR, Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (ECCC) Species at Risk Partnerships on Agricultural Lands (SARPAL), Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC), Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), Sage Environmental Program and in-kind support from all of these and the NS Department of Agriculture and the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture (NSFA). Findings from this work are the subject of numerous educational and extension activities (see sidebar), including via our farmer extension website. There are overlaps also with my SSHRC Insight Development Grant on farm ecosystem service stewardship, particularly related to farm wetlands under climate change.

The first output was a program evaluation of the small Agricultural Biodiversity Conservation (ABC) Program that is a voluntary stewardship program for farmers, delivered by NSDNR as part of their commitment to the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. We used surveys in 2012 and found that the ABC program was having an impact in some practices, specifically modified harvest and riparian protection (Goodale et al. 2014). Supplementary in situ interviews later that year suggested a strong land ethic in participating farmers, and the value of using the concept of ‘balance’, rather than sacrifice, to encourage voluntary stewardship (Goodale, 2013).

We also implemented a Nuisance Nature survey with DNR and NSFA in 2013, which was sent to a 625 random farmers in each of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. We sought to understand which species were perceived as a nuisance, in what way, to which commodities, but also whether any cultural services were experienced (e.g. aesthetic enjoyment) and whether – on balance – the farmer would rather have or not have the species. The survey had an typical response for a single mail-out (12%) and the responses were analyzed for NB and NS-specific reports. The drivers of species tolerance differed whether the species was viewed as a threat, rather than simply causing damage (Goodale et al. 2015).

In summer 2015 we implemented a multiple-reminder survey about management on marginal lands in Nova Scotia with EC, DNR and NSFA, which explored how farmers see and use their less productive lands, like woodlands and wetlands, and the implications of that for biodiversity. Included in this survey were  questions about ownership fragmentation, to assist us in understanding how farm geography affects habitat provision.

This work has now spun into the applied realm with the SARPAL project, based at the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture and project managed by lab alum Simon Greenland-Smith. He has developed an incentive program for the conservation of threatened wood turtles in the province, Wood Turtle Strides, which is being piloted this summer. Mhari Lamarque, MREM 2016, is helping me with program evaluation.


Greenland-Smith, S., Brazner, J, and Sherren, K. 2016. Farmer perceptions of wetlands; using social metrics as an alternative to ecosystem service valuation. Ecological Economics, 126, 58-69.

Goodale, K., Parsons, G. and Sherren, K. 2015. The nature of the nuisance – damage or threat – determines how perceived monetary costs and cultural benefits influence farmer tolerance of wildlife. Diversity, special issue on Managing Biodiversity in Agricultural Landscapes.

Goodale, K., Beazley, K., Yoshida, Y. and Sherren, K. 2015. Does stewardship program participation influence Canadian farmer engagement in biodiversity-friendly farming practices? Biodiversity and Conservation, Vol. 24, No. 6, pp 1487-1506.

Sherren, K., and Verstraten, C. 2013. What can photo-elicitation tell us about how Maritime farmers perceive wetlands as climate changes? Wetlands, Vol. 33, No. 1, pp. 65-81.


Lamarque, M., Greenland-Smith, S. and Sherren, K. 2017. Stewardship effects of incentivized best management practices for conserving a species at risk: Wood turtles in Nova Scotia, Canada. Presented to International Symposium on Society and Resource Management, June 19-22, 2017, in Umea, Sweden.


Baskaran, A. 2015. Water-related ecosystem services and water quality: Farmers perceptions and practices. MES thesis, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada.

Greenland-Smith, S. 2014. Farmer perceptions of wetland goods and services. MES thesis, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada.

Goodale, K. 2013. Biodiversity and farming: An evaluation of a voluntary stewardship program and exploration of farmer values. MES thesis, School for Resource and Environmental Studies, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada.


Greenland-Smith, S. and Sherren, K. 2016. Farmer Management of Marginal Lands in Nova Scotia – Survey Summary Report. Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, 40 pp.

Goodale, K. and Sherren, K. 2014. Nuisance Nature on New Brunswick Farms. Report, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, 27 pp.

Goodale, K. and Sherren, K. 2014. Nuisance Nature on Nova Scotia Farms. Report, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, 35 pp.

Research trainees

This project supported Kate Goodale’s MES 2013, who worked for 1.5 years after graduation as a full time extension officer and statistical analyst, project-managing BioLOG and the Nuisance Nature survey. Her first post after Dalhousie was as a full-time Coordinator, Don River and Highland Creek Watersheds at Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA).

Jillian Baker, MREM 2012, assisted with an early literature review on biodiversity-friendly farming in Nova Scotia after her graduation.

Simon Greenland-Smith, MES 2014, took over from Kate Goodale as extension officer and post-Mastoral fellow, project-managing BioLOG and the marginal land survey, among other things. He is now the project manager for Wood Turtle Strides, a SARPAL initiative funded by ECCC and hosted by the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture.

Mhari Lamarque, MREM 2016, has joined the team to work on program evaluation of Wood Turtle Strides, as well as exploring motivational crowding from such programs.