Energy Transitions collaborator and friend Dr. John Parkins has been in the news this week, talking about recent results published in Energy Policy about residential solar technology adoption in Canada. In the U of A news feed, Folio, John is quoted: “If you are immersed in an environment where these technologies are all around you, they become more familiar and doable”. This shows how important landscape norms are to our shared and individual sense of what is possible and desirable. He goes on to advocate more numerous and prominent installations of solar infrastructure in public buildings, to expedite the creation of norms that facilitate a transition to renewable energies like solar. View the great Global News interview with John here.
As shorebirds start to arrive in the Bay of Fundy on their annual migration back south, it is a good time to report on our recent survey with striped bass anglers and outline our plans for the summer. We implemented an online survey with anglers who use key roosting sites in the Minas Basin, particularly ‘the Guzzle‘, to help us explore options for sharing beach space with migrating shorebirds at their high-tide resting period. This was in lieu of trying to assemble a workshop or focus group. The response was excellent, and we are now sharing the results here (PDF). On the basis of this feedback, and engagement with beach users in Avonport, our other key site, we have developed bilingual materials (above) that explain why, where and how to help shorebirds rest to ensure a successful migration back south: it’s a three-day trip over the Gulf of Mexico and they can’t swim! With anglers and other beach users we have identified lesser-used areas of each site to pilot setting aside at high tide for shorebird roosting, The back of the above card features a tide table that shows the times in August 2017 that we hope people will leave the sites for bird use, and signs at each place will explain further. We enjoyed this process of developing conservation ideas WITH beach users, many of whom are already great stewards of these birds. Space to Roost researcher Jaya Fahey will then be monitoring bird disturbance this year, as she did last year, and we’ll hope to see a difference.
In my time doing interviews with farmers in Australia, Nova Scotia and the Falklands I have probably consumed a few hundred cups of tea. Now I’m a coffee gal, generally, but it feels social to sit with a cuppa over an interview, and I like how it structures the interaction. There are clearer rules for having tea than there are for conducting interviews – particularly being the ‘subject’ of one. In fact, the protocols that do exist for interviews I don’t like, being too formal and seeming to frame the interviewer as the expert. When you accept a cup of tea, the farmer as host takes control of the proceedings, and as guest I become a grateful recipient of hospitality as well as their expertise.
Earlier this year, Simon and Mhari and I were brainstorming how to inspire a high response rate for a survey of a small farmer population (~n=225), that had to be a single mail-out for time reasons. Simon suggested including a teabag. So off we went. Boxes of English Breakfast were purchased and individually packaged envelopes included with each survey. We hoped farmers would come back from the barn after morning chores and do the short survey over a cuppa. Well, we’re just short of 12% completion rate so far, with only a trickle now coming in. Though we have had some sweet notes about the tea (see above), I think we can confidently say that tea is not enough of a incentive. Does this indicate a cultural change to coffee among farmers? Maybe a K-cup would have been a better idea. But it was worth a try.
Great to see things have gotten moving towards our new Nova Scotia farmer survey. Today, lab team member Mhari (MREM 2016) started placing selected farmer addresses on the outgoing envelopes. These envelopes will be filled with copies of surveys when those are finally approved next week by the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture. This is the first time we will also be including a sort of incentive in the package: an individually wrapped teabag. We mean this as an indicator of how long the survey should take (i.e. steeping time), but also our hope that farmers treat themselves to a nice cuppa afterward. We’ll see how that plays out.
When I moved back to Canada from Australia, and started interviewing farmers in Nova Scotia, I was surprised at how small and fragmented their holdings were. I found myself wondering how this spatial pattern influenced their management. Does it mean that it is harder to think of a farm as an ecosystem, and manage accordingly? Or is it a boon for biodiversity, as remoter parcels are left to nature? I threw a few questions about farm fragmentation on our Marginal Land survey last year, and those preliminary results are now in, recently presented on a poster at ISSRM, Farm as ecosystem: What is the impact of fragmented property ownership on farm management? It show us that fragmentation in Nova Scotia is intentional, the result of purposeful land acquisition by serious farmers. While it cannot be ascribed to fragmentation alone based on the data we collected, these high fragmentation farmers were less likely to have ponds and wetlands on their properties (as a function of farm area), though they had just as many woodlands, which are seen to have high ecosystem service value (timber, etc). Moreover, high fragmentation farmers were less likely to undertake biodiversity-friendly farming techniques. I think this is enough to suggest more research is warranted. Next time I want to look for diversity within farms. Does the farmer treat far-flung parcels differently than those closer to the heart of his operations?