The research we do at the School is inherently transdisciplinary. Our approach is to build diverse networks of knowledge and expertise – both within and beyond the university – to identify urgent research questions and support the collaborative work of addressing them.
From turtles to sharks to mycobacteria and beyond, our research explores ecology and evolution in a rapidly changing world. Our work includes studies of animal life cycles, behavioral variation, and responses to habitat loss. We aim to better understand how animals respond to environmental variation, with the goal of contributing to conserving our planet’s biodiversity.
Research on climate justice examines the asymmetries of power, uneven impacts, and longstanding inequities that lie at the crux of the climate crisis. Through a focus on historical contexts and decision-making processes that span across local, regional, national, and international scales of governance, scholarship on climate justice questions how and why historically marginalized groups are often the most negatively impacted by climate change and yet also the most excluded from climate policymaking processes, global summits, technological development, knowledge production, and official state-sanctioned responses. Scholarly work on climate justice reveals alternative avenues and more inclusive paths forward for defining, visualizing, communicating about, and responding to the disparate impacts and root causes of the climate crisis that center as opposed to sideline the experiences and expertise of women, Indigenous people, people of color, the working class, young people, migrants, and people from the Global South.
We bring together researchers across broad fields to develop statistical, machine learning and AI tools for modeling of environmental and ecological data. From forecasting climate trends and modeling the impact of air quality on human health, to modeling shark movements and classifying fish with sound, our research is at the forefront of providing data-driven understanding and solutions to pressing environmental and ecological questions.
The Environmental Governance Lab (EGL) is a home for research, a node in global networks on environmental governance and transformative policy, and a platform for knowledge exchange with practitioners, policy makers, and the public. The EGL is housed at the Department of Political Science and the School of the Environment. It is also a Research Centre of Earth System Governance Project — a global research alliance that is the largest social science research network in the area of governance and global environmental change.
Environmental worldviews are the manifold values and beliefs that shape the way in which individuals and communities engage with and use the world. They can contribute to beneficial and detrimental environmental outcomes. Our research explores the origins and ways in which these worldviews have been conceptualized over time and place, particularly in faith communities. We examine religious and secular traditions of environmental care and sustainability, from concepts such as wastefulness and simplicity to pedagogies of hope. We seek to find and support pathways that lead to positive environmental outcomes in both engaged and resistant communities.
Food is so much more than what we eat. Every time we eat we’re pulled into social and ecological processes and relationships connecting us to people and places around the world, and around the corner. Figuring out how to organize food systems that regenerate ecologies while building socially just relationships drives our work. Our research, teaching, and engagement brings us into conversation with equity-deserving rural farmers, youth climate and food justice activists in Toronto, campus-based farmers, and many others working to realize more socially just and ecologically rational food systems.
Our healthy and sustainable buildings research aims to understand the spaces we inhabit every day, from commercial buildings to homes, in order to reduce energy consumption and improve health and wellbeing. We study the indoor environmental quality and social activities within buildings, collect environmental measurements, and use building performance simulations to predict energy consumption in pursuit of these goals.
Chemical pollution and waste are one of the triple threats facing humanity (the others are climate change and loss of biodiversity). More than just measuring pollution and its impacts, we need solutions! We conduct solutions-driven research aimed at influencing positive change. The research conducted includes documenting concentrations and sources of microplastics and chemicals of concern (because of their toxicity and/or persistence), and research to advance chemicals management. Our audiences include the private sector such as retailers and chemical producers, the public (to enable them making informed choices), and policy makers who can enable legislation.
How do we prepare a generation of environment and sustainability students with the personal and professional capacity to address planetary health crises? Our research and teaching in sustainability mindsets seeks to empower future leaders with the ability to approach complex, real-world issues; this spans from tangible skills for measuring complex socioecological factors and the ability to understand these from multiple worldviews, to a personal sense of connectedness, psychological resiliency and change agency for thriving in this path.
The Toronto Climate Observatory (TCO) is an emerging interdisciplinary initiative hosted at the University of Toronto. Our mission is to reimagine how communities around the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) understand and adapt to the impacts of climate change, and support place-based, plural, and just climate action.
Through partnerships with scholars, the government and civil society, we are working to develop the next generation of climate informatics. We draw inspiration and methods from climate modeling, human centered design, Science and Technology Studies (STS), Indigenous scholarship, oral history, citizen science, and art/science collaboration. Though our focus in the Toronto area, our work spans many geographies and seeks to bring those lessons home wherever possible.