A number of students from a variety of departments are actively involved in climate change research at the graduate level. Through collaboration with IC3 members, these students are advancing knowledge on important climate change-related issues.
Michelle Rutty, PhD: "Weather and Climate for Coastal Tourism" (July 2014)
Supervisor: IC3 Director Daniel Scott
Michelle Rutty's PhD, "Weather and Climate for Coastal Tourism," advances climate resource assessments for tourism. The research findings further our understanding of the complex relationships between personal and meteorological parameters that influence climatic preferences, perceptions, and thresholds.
Through concurrent meteorological measurements and on site surveys with beach tourists in the Caribbean islands of Barbados, Saint Lucia and Tobago, Michelle's research reveals that tourists' optimal and unacceptable climatic conditions are dependent on several interpersonal factors (e.g., age, gender, climatic region of origin). Thermal comfort expectations and perceived thermal control are also key contextual considerations that enable beach tourists to not only be exposed to, but to prefer, thermal conditions that elicit strong to very strong heat stress.
Moreover, Michelle's research highlights the importance of microclimatic conditions when evaluating climate for tourism, with thermo-physiological comfort varying up to 4°C within a coastal resort setting.
Michelle's research has received international recognition, including the Travel and Tourism Research Association's Keeling Dissertation Award and the World Tourism Forum's Young Talent Award. The results from this research can be accessed through the following publications:
Rutty, M. & Scott, D. (2013). "Differential climate preferences of international beach tourists," Climate Research. 57: 259-269.
Rutty, M. & Scott, D. (2014). "Bioclimatic comfort and the thermal perceptions and preferences of beach tourists," International Journal of Biometeorology, DOI:10.1007/s00484-014-0820-x.
Rutty, M. & Scott, D. (In Press). "Thermal Range of Coastal Tourism Resort Microclimates," Tourism Geographies.
Lesley Johnston, PhD candidate: The Extractive Industry and Participatory Processes (December 2016)
Hometown: Edmonton, Alberta
Undergraduate: Bachelor of Science in Physiology and Developmental Biology from the University of Alberta
Graduate: Master of Science in Public and Population Health from Simon Fraser University
Supervisor: IC3 member Craig Janes
Lesley Johnston is a PhD candidate in the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo. She is interested in the impact of the extractive industry, specifically the mining industry, on people's livelihoods and well-being in low- and middle-income countries. In Lesley's words, "global demand for minerals continues to rise, and with it new mining projects drive the development agenda with the promise of wealth. Yet mining development often results in inequitable allocation of the risks, impacts, and benefits. Mining transforms landscapes, societies and culture in ways that can be fundamentally disruptive to livelihood security, land rights, social cohesion, human rights, and to the environment – while benefits are not shared fairly."
Furthermore, Lesley is interested in participatory processes and the ways in which people have a say in large scale development projects that affect their communities' well-being. She believes that the degree to which legitimate community participation has been and can be meaningfully included in mining development agreements continues to be an important area to focus on. Unfortunately, these agreements have historically been dominated by corporate and political interests. There is a need to question current participatory processes and to explore ways of distributing decision-making power back to communities. Lesley is aiming to engage in these conversations and explore participatory processes that may not have been previously available while working within communities.
Though Lesley will conduct her research in low-income countries like Mongolia and Zambia, she will draw comparisons with the processes that take place in high-income countries like Canada, examining some of the similarities (and differences) in communities' experiences. There are important questions regarding power and responsibility, and how power intersects with community needs, that she looks forward to exploring.
Lesley's previous research has involved related themes. During her time as a Master's student, Lesley explored the impact of climate change and environmental degradation on traditional livelihoods in Mongolia, and how mining development contributed to growing vulnerability. Individuals living in the countryside of Mongolia are herders, but a variety of factors, including climate and environmental change, economic transition, and mining, have made pastoralism a precarious form of existence.
Before pursuing her PhD, Lesley also worked for a non-governmental organization in Toronto for a number of years, where she focused on equity and access in public schools, using community-based participatory research practices. As Lesley puts it, she has moved "from cell to society" throughout her career.
Outside of her studies, Lesley is involved in the Climate Change Action Group in her department, and in Fossil Free UWaterloo (FFUW). Fossil Free engages with student groups and raises awareness about climate change, environmental degradation, and climate justice across campus. The group allows students to engage with questions about the sustainability of our future, participate in climate justice initiatives, and take action to reallocate campus funds to greener, climate friendly initiatives. FFUW's meetings and upcoming events are posted on their website.
To connect with Lesley, send her an e-mail.
Sonya Pihura, MA candidate: Climate Change and the Transmission of Malaria in Late Medieval England (December 2016)
Hometown: Kitchener, Ontario
Undergraduate: Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Waterloo
Supervisor: IC3 member Steven Bednarski
Though we tend to think of climate change as a recent phenomenon, and human driven climate change is, the climate has gone through periods of change before. It is these times of historic change that Sonya Pihura focuses on in her research as a Master of Arts candidate in History at the University of Waterloo. More specifically, Sonya is studying the transmission of malaria in late medieval England in relation to climate change.
In the fourteenth century, Europe experienced the "Little Ice Age," a period characterised by cooler temperatures, increased precipitation, and rising sea levels. In the south of England, these changes resulted in coastal flooding, particularly in low-lying marshy areas. Sonya's hypothesis is that there will be a correlation between the expansion of marshlands and the increase in the mosquito population (mosquitoes breed exclusively in shallow, stagnant water), and that in turn, the increase in mosquitos caused heightened malaria transmission (malaria is transmitted exclusively by the bites of infected mosquitoes).
Sonya is taking an interdisciplinary approach to her research. First, she is looking at written historical documents for references to malaria. The Medieval Optimum, which lasted from about the year 1000 to the year 1250, was characterized by warm and relatively dry summers, with enough water to maintain crops well. Due to the food surplus, the population doubled during this period. However, between the year 1250 and the year 1400, conditions worsened and led to the arrival of the "Little Ice Age." Written documents from both time periods are allowing Sonya to compare what malaria was like during different climate conditions. Sonya is also finding proxy data in some written documents that don't specifically mention malaria, but still mention agricultural outputs, which are telling of climate conditions.
Secondly, Sonya is looking at scientific data to find climate proxy data. Paleopalynological data (fossilized pollen) conveys what types of plants were growing during a specific time period, which is telling of climate conditions. Meanwhile, dendrochronological data (growth rings in tree trunks) conveys whether conditions were good or bad through the size of growth rings: the better the conditions, the more trees grow, and the larger their rings. Finally, Sonya is looking at physical anthropological data as there has been some analytical work done on skeletons from the aforementioned time periods to look for skeletal abnormalities caused by malaria.
Sonya's interest in this area of research emerged during the summer after her third year of undergraduate studies when she took part in the Bader International Study Centre's Field School in Archaeology at Herstmonceux Castle in England for six weeks. The experience heightened her interest in history in general, and after making a connection with her current supervisor, Steven Bednarski, she decided to pursue graduate studies in History at UWaterloo.
Sonya is satisfying her curiosity and expanding into a new field, and she believes that her research could be relevant to contemporary concerns regarding climate change as well. Experts today are concerned that as the climate changes, we will see a difference in disease transmission and prominence; Sonya's research may be able to shed light on how certain climate conditions will affect malaria transmission.
To keep up with Sonya and others studying the effects of climate change throughout history, check out Dr. Bednarski's lab website, to be completed by the Winter 2017 term: dragenlab.ca.