FES Student Research Symposium highlights work from mapping to vegetarianism

Green animation, community mapping, Kenyan organic agriculture and the promotion of vegetarian lifestyles were just a few of the many research projects presented at the Student Research Symposium in the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) at York April 27. 

The symposium, a first of its kind by the Faculty, gave FES students the opportunity to come together to share and highlight their research interests and scholarly works on various environmental concerns.

Liette Gilbert, FES associate dean, spoke about the importance of the symposium as a means to engage the entire FES community through the sharing of current research. “Too often the unique and important research done by the students in this Faculty is relegated to dusty bookshelves and archives. The Student Research Symposium aims to present, expose and promote student scholarship through collective sharing and learning,” said Gilbert. “This symposium sets a precedent for further events of this nature in FES.”

Left: Photo of Black Sea by Wikimedia Commons

The daylong event was divided into four themes: environmental education, environmental relations, environmental alternatives and environmental thought. Within these areas, students presented their research on various environmental concerns and issues ranging from ecosystems and health to organic farming and environmental injustice.

As highlighted by master in environmental studies (MES) student William Yeung, the theme of environmental education embraces many media. In his presentation, "Green Program Animation", Yeung shared the animation he prepared for the City of Windsor. Partly funded by the University of Windsor, Yeung’s brightly coloured animation illustrates how students can make a difference by conserving resources – being water smart by never leaving the water running, drying clothes outside and not leaving the fridge door open. Yeung plans to share his animation and his green message as a teaching tool in schools and public libraries in Windsor.

Other environmental education presentations included "Participatory Action Research on Environmental Education in Seychelles" by PhD student Michele Martin; "Community Mapping and Place-Based Education" by MES student Hannah Lewis; and "Kiteworks: Connections of Community and Space" by MES student Zita Nyarady.

Right: red-eyed tree frog by Christian R. Linder

PhD candidate Vanessa Holm asks, does it make sense to enjoy the company of companion animals and simultaneously eat meat? What knowledge do people have of their food system? Holm addressed these questions and more through the presentation of her research project, "The Place of Vegetarianism in Canadian Food Policy: A work in Progress". The presentation, one of three relating to the environmental alternatives theme, focused on the benefits of promoting vegetarian lifestyles, not only by emphasizing their health benefits, but also by considering the improved relationships that they may foster between urban and rural communities. Also presenting within the environmental alternatives theme was MES student Linda Chebichii with her project, "Organic Farming in Kenya" and MES student Amit Lahiri with his presentation "Biotechnology and Neoliberalism".

PhD candidate Marta Berbes-Blazquez began the presentations dealing with environmental relations with her project, "Narratives on Ecosystems and Health in the Volcan Watershed (Costa Rica)", followed by MES student Lily Briggs with "BirdSleuth-Costa Rica and Environmental Education" and bachelor of environmental studies (BES) student Nadia Chowdhury on "Gender and the Environment".

For the final session, MES student Sundeep Virdi presented her work, "Intersubjectivity and Nature: Human Nature Dichotomy", followed by MES student Laura Fanthome presenting "Ethics of Care: Canines, Cancer and Care". MES student Jennifer Taylor presented "Ethics and Technology: Wolfe Island, Wind Power, Environmental Justice" and MES student Kasim Tirmizey concluded the session with his project, "Telling Stories in the Muslim Community for Environmental Education". 

After the presentation of the 14 research projects, the symposium concluded with an awards ceremony recognizing one research project from each of the BES, MES and PhD programs. The award winners were first-year BES student Nadia Chowdhury, second-year MES student Hannah Lewis and PhD candidate Marta Berbes-Blazquez.