Recent Awards and Announcements of School of the Environment Faculty

Tuesday, August 2, 2016 4:15:49 AM

We are pleased to announce the following awards and appointments of some of our faculty members.

Arctic Validation And Training for Atmospheric Research in Space - AVATARS - field research site in the north - Lots of snow surrounds a building with a flag beside it, against an orange-striped horizon and sun in the clouds
The Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory at Eureka, Nunavut, the site of research being conducted as part of the Canadian Space Agency's AVATARS project, led by Prof. Kimberly Strong (photo credit: Paul Loewen).




(Assistant Professor, Department of Geography and School of the Environment)

A leading member of the Peruvian Amazon Rural Livelihoods and Poverty (PARLAP) project, Professor Christian Abizaid was recently awarded a SSHRC Institutional Grant to assess the importance of rural social networks in reducing environmental shock vulnerability among riverine populations in the Peruvian Amazon, and an SSHRC Insight Development grant as a sole investigator. The Insight Development grant is titled: “Living with environmental change: traditional peoples' vulnerability and adaptation to river dynamics in western Amazonia” for the period of 2016-2018.

Dr. Abizaid’s work on rural social networks and on the environmental and economic determinants for rain forest livelihood choice in Amazonia were recently presented at the Annual Conference of the Forests and Livelihoods: Assessment, Research, and Engagement (FLARE) Network and at the Meeting of the Association of American Geographers.

Click here for a brief article on his research.



(Senior Lecturer, School of the Environment)

The subject matter of the teaching and research done at the School of the Environment is often referred to as “coupled human-natural systems” with a focus upon attributes such as carrying capacity, resilience, feedback loops, and planetary boundaries. What are the core assumptions and theoretical insights used by interdisciplinary environmental studies to understand that subject? Just as important – how can we best teach that theoretical understanding? How does that teaching help us to further develop theory?

Senior Lecturer Dr. Douglas Macdonald, course instructor for ENV222 Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies, is currently working with Evolutionary Anthropology doctoral candidate and course Head TA Laura Eastham to explore those questions through literature review, student focus groups and a faculty/student seminar to be held in September. The work is being done under the Teaching Stream Pedagogical Grant program, jointly funded by the School of the Environment and the Faculty of Arts & Science.  


(Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science and School of the Environment)

Professor Kate Neville received a SSHRC Institutional Grant (SIG) grant to attend and present a paper at the annual conference of the Canadian Political Science Association (CPSA) held May 31 to June 2, 2016 at the University of Calgary.  In an initiative led by Dr. Andrea Olive, from the Department of Political Science at U of T, the CPSA meeting will include a multi-panel workshop on the theme of environmental politics.

As part of this workshop, Dr. Neville will be presenting a co-authored paper, titled “The revolutionary limits of fracking: have shale developments unleashed new state corporate relationships, or just more oil and gas?”  The workshop format will not only provide a space in which to share ideas and exchange critiques of specific research articles, but will also support the development of a community of environmental politics scholars in Canada. The coordinated panels will feature 20 papers, and involve participants from across the country.  



(Professor, Department of Geography and School of the Environment)

Professor Scott Prudham has been invited to be the inaugural visiting professorial fellow in the new Centre for Space, Place and Society (CSPS) at Wageningen University, the Netherlands during the 2016-2017 academic year. As part of the fellowship, he will present a keynote speech during the launch of the Centre on October 21, 2016. 

The CSPS was recently founded as an initiative of three Wageningen University chair groups, Cultural Geography, Rural Sociology and Sociology of Development and Change, and aims to advance critical thinking within the social sciences with a particular focus towards pursuing socio-spatial and environmental justice in all its manifestations, and particularly in the domains of food and healthy living environments. As part of the Centre’s activities, a visiting fellow programme was established. 



(Professor, Munk School of Global Affairs and School of the Environment

Professor John Robinson has been appointed to the Advisory Board of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam, Germany.  Professor Robinson has a global reputation in the areas of urban sustainability, building sustainability, community engagement processes, and university sustainability programming. 

A member of the board since 2016, he gave a keynote address in an IASS workshop on Collective Behaviour Change for Sustainable Futures held February 7-9, 2016 that brought together experts to consider the concepts, methods and case studies that are essential for understanding collective behaviour change and to develop a portfolio of analytical, epistemological, and methodological approaches that will facilitate transformative societal change toward sustainable futures. 

Click here for a January 11, 2016 news article on Dr. Robinson. 



(Assistant Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and School of the Environment; see news article of May 17, 2016)

Congratulations to Dr. Njal Rollinson (for recently being awarded the 2016 Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution Early Career Award. This award recognizes outstanding accomplishments and promising future research potential in ecology and evolution by scientists early in their careers.

Professor Rollinson also recently received a NSERC Discovery Grant for his project on “Life-history trade-offs, seasonal time constraints, and the optimization of body size”.  The Discovery Grants Program supports ongoing long-term programs of research.  His research program aims to understand how life histories are influenced by the environment, and to apply this understanding to the conservation of exploited populations and species at risk. 

Life-history traits have a direct and context-specific effect on fitness, and understanding the trade-offs and ecological context under which life-histories have evolved is central to understanding local adaptation, demographic rates, and extinction risk. Body size is central to many models of life-history evolution, yet there is no consensus on how body size itself is optimized. His goal in the next few years is to develop a better understanding of how size is optimized, and to explore how optimization is influenced by the physical environment.   


(Senior Lecturer Emeritus, School of the Environment)

Dr. Beth Savan’s research on cycling in Toronto and beyond is continuing to attract support and publicity (see Groups hope to make biking in the ‘burbs more appealing in  Her five-year SSHRC Insight Grant on Increasing Cycling for Transportation in Canadian Communities has been supplemented by a contract, through the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT), to support the Region of Peel in increasing cycling uptake in that region.

Building on that success, again through TCAT, she is working with a range of partners to target (geographically and demographically), develop and evaluate two new cycling hubs in Scarborough. A recent grant to provide support to School Councils wishing to increase roadway safety near schools has resulted in a tool to reduce traffic speeds and improve roadway infrastructure to protect pedestrians and cyclists.

Her partnership with this settlement organization is continuing through support for their new program to increase cycling to schools in the Toronto area. A couple of MITACS grants for students at the Masters and Doctoral levels have supplemented this research effort. Finally, her team is supporting the TCAT research into the economic impacts of the proposed cycle track on Bloor Street, through a grant from local Business Improvement Areas and the Metcalf Foundation.


(Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology UT Mississauga and School of the Environment)

Professor Stephen Scharper has been elected to the Executive Committee of the Senior Common Room at Trinity College, and invited to serve on the Executive Committee of the Centre for Ethics at the University of Toronto. The Executive Committee of the Centre for Ethics helps envision and implement seminars, colloquia, and public events for the Centre.



Professors Kimberly Strong, Kaley Walker and Jennifer Murphy have received two $500,000 grants from the Canadian Space Agency's Flights for the Advancement of Science and Technology program (CSA FAST). 

Professor Kimberly Strong (Physics and Director, School of the Environment) is leading a national team of 13 in the AVATARS (Arctic Validation and Training for Atmospheric Research in Space) project.  AVATARS will use the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) in the Canadian High Arctic as a “space station on the ground”, and will include development of techniques for remote operation and automation of instruments, improved data analysis, and validation of measurements from current and upcoming space missions.  Student training is a large focus of the FAST program, and AVATARS will support nine new graduate students at six universities over a three-year period.

Professor Kaley Walker (Department of Physics and Principal Investigator), Professor Jennifer Murphy (Department of Chemistry) and their colleague Professor Wolfgang Jaeger (Department of Chemistry, University of Alberta) have received an award for the CALASET project, the Canadian Atmospheric Laser Absorption Spectroscopy Experiment Test-bed. 

This project will train future Earth and space scientists through the development, construction and testing of an innovative instrument for studying how trace gas concentrations in the atmosphere change with height in the atmosphere.  In the last year of this three-year project, this instrument will be flown on a high-altitude balloon to assess its performance.  The three graduate students working on this project will conduct modelling studies and data analysis, instrument/gondola design and testing and data analysis construct and test the gondola structure needed to support the instrument. 

Dr. Walker and Dr. Murphy are instructors of courses in the School of the Environment’s BSc Environmental Science program: ENV 237/238H Physics of the Changing Environment and ENV 316H Laboratory & Field Methods in Environmental Science, respectively. 



(Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Graduate Collaborative Program in Environment and Health School of the Environment)

Professor Clare Wiseman has been awarded funding from Health Canada to investigate the concentrations, distribution and bioaccessibility of priority metals in road dust. Funded until March 2018, the purpose of this study is to support Health Canada research under the Chemical Management Plan (CMP) and address information needs on metals of human health concern in urban road dust.

As part of this, the bioaccessibility of metals in road dust will be assessed using information generated from physical fractionation studies on particles of particular concern to human health and through the application of in vitro techniques with simulated lung fluids. This will yield important information on the potential risks associated with exposures to road dust in an urban context. 

Professor Wiseman has also been newly cross-appointed (non-budgetary) to the Occupational and Environmental Health Division, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto.  


(Assistant Professor, Department of Physics and School of the Environment)

Professor Debra Wunch has recently been awarded an NSERC Discovery Grant to study “Canada's Impact on the Global-Scale and Urban-Scale Carbon Cycle”.  This grant will help fund the analyses of atmospheric greenhouse gas abundance data from Canada's Boreal forest and from Toronto. The focus of the Boreal aspect of this research is to relate temperature, soil moisture, fires and other disturbance to the Boreal forest's ability to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. The focus of the analysis of measurements from Toronto is to quantify and locate Toronto's greenhouse gas emissions, specifically those of methane. 

Dr. Wunch has also been awarded a grant from Canada Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF) for her project “Constraining Canada's Regional and Urban Carbon Cycle using Atmospheric Greenhouse Gas Measurements”. This grant will fund the infrastructure required to install state-of-the-art greenhouse gas monitoring stations in the Boreal forest and in Toronto. The data produced from these stations will be used to investigate the effects of climate change on the Boreal forest, and quantify Canada's urban emissions. 

Click here for a January 11, 2016 news article on Dr. Wunch.