Episode #34

From persuasion to connection: better communication of environmental science with Anne Toomey 

On this episode we connected with Dr. Anne Toomey. Anne is an interdisciplinary conservation scientist with interests in how people connect to their natural environment and the role of scientific research in supporting that connection. Currently she holds the post of Assistant Professor at Pace University’s Department of Environmental Studies and Science, where she teaches courses on sustainability and multiple environmental perspectives. Her most recent research focuses on science communication in conservation, citizen science, civic environmental stewardship, and sense of place along urban waterfronts. Anne received her Ph.D. in Human Geography from Lancaster University in the UK, her Masters in Sustainable Development and Natural Resources from American University, and her B.A. in Political Science and Communications from the University of Rhode Island.

In our conversation, we chatted about Anne’s early forays into environmental science. As a graduate student she spent a significant amount of time in Nicaragua studying sustainable farming practices, and then in Bolivia investigating the impact of local scientific studies, and the subsequent transfer of knowledge to local communities. We wanted to connect with Anne after coming across her recent article titled “Why facts don't change minds: Insights from cognitive science for the improved communication of conservation research”, which was published in the journal Biological Conservation earlier this year. In our chat, we walk through the different sections of Anne’s article to explore some of the barriers and pathways for effective communication of conservation science. These included the role of the individual vs. collectives for engaging with science and making systemic change, tapping into alternative science communication channels and focusing on authentic interactions as opposed to strategies of persuasion.

It was a very engaging conservation about a challenging topic, and we hope you’re able to find some insights to carry forward in your own interactions with science.

Episode #33

What do massive bushfires mean for stratospheric ozone levels? A conversation with Kane Stone. 

Joining us on the podcast today is Dr. Kane Stone, a research scientist in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Kane completed his PhD at the University of Melbourne on the impacts of stratospheric ozone depletion on climate. He then moved to MIT as a post-doc in Susan Solomon’s Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate Change group and has stayed on as a research scientist.

Kane was a co-lead author on a recent paper in Nature exploring chemical pathways for wildfire smoke particles to facilitate stratospheric ozone depletion. This study was motivated by the devastating 2019/2020 Australian bushfires, in which smoke extended all the way into the stratosphere. This study is a great example of how new insights into the Earth system can be gained by blending theory, lab experiments, observations and climate modeling. In our conversation, we also chatted about some of the other phenomena that have been perturbing the stratosphere in recent years, including the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai undersea volcano.


Episode #32
Computing the climate with Steve Easterbrook 

We are delighted to share our interview with Dr. Steve Easterbrook, Professor of Computer Science and Director of the School for the Environment at the University of Toronto. Before coming to U of T, Steve was a faculty member at the University of Sussex and then a lead scientist at the NASA Independent Verification and Validation Facility. Karen first met Steve when I was a visiting graduate student at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, where one of the world’s leading climate models is developed. Steve studies climate modelling from a computer science perspective and, as you will hear, Steve visited several of these climate modelling institutions, exploring how climate models are developed and how scientists use them. His research in this area has evolved into a new book entitled, Computing the Climate: How we know what we know about climate change, appearing on bookshelves this summer.

In our conversation with Steve, he shared his motivation for writing the book and what he hopes readers will get out of it. We also talked about where the field of climate modelling is headed and how AI has the potential to improve the representation of complex processes within climate models. As Director of the School for the Environment, Steve has a keen interest in student learning and transdisciplinary research and education, and we talked about approaches to embedding sustainability literacy into post-secondary education across the board. It was great to chat with Steve and don’t forget to keep an eye out for his book, Computing the Climate, which arrives this summer.



Episode #31
The climate change media landscape with Hanna Morris 

Today we welcome Dr. Hanna Morris. Hanna is an Assistant Professor at the School of the Environment at the University of Toronto with research interests in climate change media and communication, culture and politics, and transnational climate movements. Previously, Hanna was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, where she also completed her MA and PhD. Hanna completed her BSc. at the University of California-Berkely, an her MSc at the London School of Economics and political Science. Hanna’s research and writing have been published in academic journals and popular media outlets including Environmental Communication and Media Theory. Her scholarship has been recognized by the IAMCR Stuart Hall Award, New Directions for Climate Communication Research Fellowship, and Top Paper Awards from the International Communication Association and Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences.

In our conversation with Hanna we explored many of the topics that will be in her upcoming book which is titled Apocalyptic Authoritarianism: Climate Crisis, Media and Power. We spoke about the history of climate change journalism, the various media channels through which the topic of climate change is communicated, and the inadequate coverage of the disproportionate impacts of climate change. We talked in depth about the balance of power in environmental media, with Hanna reflecting on the implications of that for the future of climate change journalism. We also spoke about the challenge of disentangling the relationship between public opinion of climate change and climate change activism and how those topics are covered in the media. We ended with some thoughts on how to have those tough conversations about climate change with an emphasis on trying to find shared values, and common concerns.

It was a pleasure to dig into this challenging topic with Hanna, and we hope you enjoy our conversation!

Hanna's website: https://hannamorris.com/

Hanna on twitter: @sustaintheconvo

Episode #30

Forging alliances for the recovery of species at risk in Canada with Christie Whelan 

Christie Whelan is the National Manager of Species at Risk Recovery with Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). She completed her Bachelor of Science in Biology at Queen’s University, and her Masters degree in Biology at Florida Atlantic University. Prior to her current role, she was a Science Advisor and Coordinator for the department of fisheries and oceans Canada (DFO). In these roles at DFO she was responsible for implementation of the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat and the DFO member to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). At DFO, Christie was working on the assessment and recovery of marine species, but now looks after the development and implementation of recovery strategies and action plans for terrestrial species at risk in Canada.

Christie reviewed the structure and process of Canada’s Species at Risk Act (or SARA for short), including the cyclical nature of the legislation and the protections that species are given once they’re listed under the act. She also gave a clear summary of the jurisdictional complexity of species at risk management in Canada, including the roles and responsibilities of the federal, provincial, territorial and Indigenous governments. Christie shared some insights into the collaborative nature of SARA by looking at the case of Peary Caribou, which are one of the four subspecies of caribou recognized in Canada. Peary Caribou are currently listed as Endangered under the federal legislation and have a recovery strategy in place, but have recently been assessed and given a status of threatened by COSEWIC, which is a reflection of positive action on the ground. Christie and her team are doing vital work at the interface of conservation science and policy, and we hope our chat provides some insight into the process of species at risk recovery in Canada.

Species at risk in Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/species-risk-public-registry.html

Species at risk: the act, the accord and the funding programs: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/species-risk-act-accord-funding.html

Species at risk public registry: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/species-risk-public-registry.html

Critical habitat identification toolbox: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/species-risk-public-registry/critical-habitat-descriptions/identification-toolbox-guidance.html

Canada Gazette: https://www.gazette.gc.ca/accueil-home-eng.html

Episode # 29
Quicksilver and the black kite with David McLagan 

David is an Assistant Professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He specializes in environmental geochemistry with a focus on mercury dynamics, but his work is thoroughly interdisciplinary, drawing from the fields of atmospheric chemistry, dendrochronology, and human health. David is part of a team of researchers that recently received the Governor General’s Innovation Award for their work developing technology to monitor mercury levels in the atmosphere, which you’ll hear about in our conversation. David completed his PhD in Environmental Science here at the University of Toronto-Scarborough (UTSC), where he was co-supervised by Drs Carl Mitchell and Frank Wania. He held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Technical University of Braunschweig from 2018 to 2021, and then reconnected with us here at UTSC for a year as an Instructor and Director of the terrestrial and aquatics systems field of our master of environmental science program.

We spoke with David about the history of mercury as an environmental contaminant, his research in advancing technology to monitor mercury around the globe, the effect of wildfire on atmospheric mercury concentrations, and the importance of thinking critically about our relationship with fire, including its role in Indigenous land relations. We also talked about David’s passion for teaching, and the value of experimenting in the classroom. He’s truly a rising star in the field of environmental science and it was a pleasure to hear about his journey thus far.

David's website: https://fewalab.ca/

Episode #28

The department of wild salmon with Alexandra Morton 

For this 1st episode of season 3, we welcomed author, scientist and activist, Alexandra Morton. In 2021, Alexandra published her book entitled Not on my watch: how a renegade whale biologist took on governments and industry to save wild salmon to great interest and acclaim. Her book details the history and controversy surrounding the impact of salmon farming on wild salmon populations on the coast of British Columbia. This episode was unique because we were also joined by students from the Conservation and Biodiversity field of our Master of Environmental Science program here at the University of Toronto-Scarborough. I assigned Alexandra’s book for my Scientific Literacy class this past semester and we invited the students to take part in the conversation with Alexandra, and as you’ll hear they had many fantastic questions about Alexandra’s science and activism, and also the more personal side of her journey.

We had a fascinating conversation with Alexandra where we explored the history and controversy of salmon farming in BC, including her scientific contributions on the ecological impact of salmon farming and her challenges towards both the work and actions of both the department of fisheries and oceans (which we refer to as DFO) and the provincial government of BC. The full extent of the story is also captured in the documentary the unofficial trial of Alexandra Morton, which details her experience testifying for the cohen commission on the decline of the Fraser River Sockeye. We also spoke about her relationship with Indigenous communities along the British Columbia coast and the variable positions of Indigenous governments on the practice of salmon farming.

It was truly an immersive conversation about a very complex topic, and one that demands a perspective grounded in scientific literacy. Alexandra’s work exposed the environmental externalities resulting from the poorly regulated salmon farming industry, and it was a privilege to speak to her about her story and her science. And we’d like to also thank the Master of Environmental Science students for being a huge part of the conversation.