#21 Climate change at the museum with Soren Brothers

Today we are speaking with Prof. Soren Brothers, the Allan and Helaine Shiff  Curator of Climate Change at the Royal Ontario Museum. Soren is a limnologist by training and spent several years as an Assistant Professor at Utah State University before beginning his new position at the ROM and the University of Toronto less than a year ago.

The Curator of Climate Change is a new curatorship at the ROM and a relatively unique position world-wide. We talked with Soren about his vision for the role and how his research on lakes integrates many aspects of climate change; how sediment cores from lakes can tell us about climates of the past and how present-day changes in lake biogeochemistry can indicate how climate change is having an impact on critical lake ecosystems. By recognizing past, present and future climate change as both a driver and a consequence of natural history, Soren and the ROM will bring a new dimension to the museum experience and we are really excited to see what projects they will be sharing with the public in the coming years. We hope you enjoy our chat with Soren Brothers!

Soren's twitter: @sorenbrothers

Soren's website: https://sorenbrothers.weebly.com/

#20 Beloved beasts and the preservation of possibility with Michelle Nijhuis

On today’s podcast, we are speaking with journalist and author Michelle Nijhuis about her beautiful new book, “Beloved Beasts: Fighting for life in an age of extinction”. The book traces the conservation movement’s history from the late nineteenth century to today and explores the evolving science and philosophy of conservation and the major milestones along the way. But it also shines a light on the dark side of the movement, including elements of racism, colonialism and elitism.

In our chat with Michelle, we talked about her inspiration for the book and asked her to reflect on the legacies of key figures in conservation, such as Rachel Carson and Michael Soulé. With the accelerating climate crisis, the book ends by encouraging solidarity and compassion among conservationists and environmentalists, recognizing that the survival of our own species is inextricably intertwined with the survival of others. There was so much that we wanted to talk to Michelle about, but didn’t get to. We highly recommend that you check out the book for yourselves, but in the meantime, we hope you enjoy our conversation.


#19 Automatic for the species: fixing Canada's Species at Risk Act with Joe Bennett & Audrey Turcotte

Today on the podcast we’re speaking with Joe Bennett and Audrey Turcotte. Joe received his PhD from the Faculty of Forestry at the University of British Columbia in 2012. He held a postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Queensland in Australia, and is now an associate professor at Carleton University, where he is the co-director of the geomatics and landscape ecology laboratory. As is evident in our chat, Joe has a diversity of research interests, including the development of prioritization approaches for conservation, invasion ecology, paleoecology and spatial statistics. Audrey is a PhD Candidate at Université de Sherbrooke in Quebec, where she is studying behavioural, physiological and genetic responses of painted turtle populations that have been exposed to human-made barriers and activities. In 2018, Joe and his colleague Steve Cooke, selected Audrey to lead a graduate student project focused on exploring the shortcomings of Canada’s species at risk act, which you’ll hear us refer to as SARA in our conversation. In 2021, this project, which involved a total of 10 authors, was published in the open access journal Facets with the title “Fixing the Canadian Species at Risk Act: identifying major issues and recommendations for increasing accountability and efficiency”.

In our conversation, we walk through the main points of their article, focusing on their recommendations for improving the federal legislation. We discuss the possibility of an automatic listing process under SARA for species that have been assessed as at risk by the committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada, or COSEWIC, where currently COSEWIC’s recommendations are considered by the federal cabinet alongside other factors, such as the socio-economic implications of applying protections to certain species and their habitats, a dynamic that sometimes ends in COSEWICs recommendations being rejected by the federal minister. Joe and Audrey also discuss their recommendation for improving the transparency and clarity of mandate regarding consultation and equitable recognition of Indigenous rights for those species listings that would impact Indigenous self-determination. We highly recommend exploring Joe and Audrey’s article as it provides a comprehensive and highly accessible description of the federal species at risk act, a critical assessment of its shortcomings, and several solutions that would drastically improve our ability to protect and recover at risk species in Canada.

Audrey & Joe's article: https://www.facetsjournal.com/doi/10.1139/facets-2020-0064

#18 Navigating the biodiversity crisis with Dan Kraus

In this episode, we’re speaking with Dan Kraus. Over the past 25 years, Dan has been working as an ecologist, environmental planner and conservation scientist in public, private and non-governmental organizations. Dan has recently joined Wildlife Conservation Society-Canada as the Director of National Conservation. In this role, he is working to advance the Key Biodiversity Areas initiative, or KBAs for short, which is a new global standard that seeks to identify and map critical habitat for threatened species. Dan discusses how KBAs will help to provide the high resolution biodiversity data that will be essential as we strive to improve our systems of protected areas around the world.

As someone who has worked extensively at conservation NGOs in Canada, Dan has developed a diverse skillset that allows him to thrive at the science-policy interface. In our chat, Dan shares his perspective on the vital role that NGOs will continue to play for the future of environmental protection, and also how an individual’s passion for the environment can continue to lead to conservation successes from grass roots beginnings. We also talked about Dan’s prolific activity as a conservation science communicator and his recent work as both a PhD student and a teacher at the University of Waterloo.


#17 Rubber ducks, microplastics and climate action with Rick Smith

In this episode we are speaking with Rick Smith, the President of the Canadian Climate Institute (formerly the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices).

Rick has had a long career in environmental activism and spent many years as the Executive Director of Environmental Defence Canada. Prior to his time at Environmental Defence, Rick received his PhD from the University of Guelph, where he worked with the Cree community of Waup-ma-goo-stui, in Nunavik, to assess the status of a local seal population. He was also a prominent voice in the battle to develop Canada’s species at risk act.

He has co-authored two books focused on the effects of environmental contaminants, a topic that we explore in detail in our conversation, focusing both on his role in raising awareness and lobbying for legislation. We also discuss the emergent crisis of microplastics and the lagging policy response to the issue.

This episode was recorded in February and we discuss Canada’s forthcoming Emissions Reduction Plan, now released, which lays out a roadmap for meeting Canada’s target to cut emissions to 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2030.


#16 Finding the foundation with Severn Cullis-Suzuki

In our season 2 premiere, we are speaking with Severn Cullis-Suzuki. When Severn was only 12 years old she warned world leaders about the cost of their inaction on environmental issues at the 1992 United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development, or more commonly known as the Rio Earth Summit. Severn’s words are not only still relevant today, but are now a devastating reminder of the decades of inaction on climate change, biodiversity loss and sustainable development.

As we discuss in our interview, Severn has been extremely busy over these intervening 30 years, advocating for environmental and Indigenous rights, conducting research and raising a family. In this interview, she reflects on her journey, how it led to her recently taking on the role of Executive Director of the David Suzuki Foundation and how her perspective on the climate crisis has evolved.

DSF: https://davidsuzuki.org/

Severn's personal site: https://severncullissuzuki.com/