University of Calgary

DR. MICHAEL QUINN ON THE TRANSDICIPLINARY INTERFACE BETWEEN THE ECOLOGICAL AND SOCIAL SCIENCES

Submitted by jwalla on Mon, 2012/12/03 - 2:55pm.

Throughout my career I have been drawn to places where systems overlap. In ecology, these ‘ecotones’ are often biodiversity ‘hot spots’.  Academically, these places form the habitat of transdisciplinarity – environs wherein diverse scholars and practitioners mingle their expertise for the co-creation of new knowledge. It is here that the lines between the natural and social science become necessarily blurred. This milieu is particularly interesting around complex (wicked) environmental problems characterized by a high degree of scientific uncertainty and deep dissonance around  values. My work in this field has often occurred in association with the Miistakis Institute, an faculty-affiliated research institute that undertakes and supports pure and applied research respecting the ecosystems of the Rocky Mountains and surrounding regions.

International transboundary protected areas provide an remarkable setting for exploring methods and models to alleviate social-environmental conflicts. I have had the great pleasure of working with Dr. Len Broberg at the University of Montana in the creation and delivery of a joint transboundary environmental policy, planning and management initiative between our universities. This has provided a wealth of opportunity for us and our graduate students to pursue research in the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem formed by the Rocky Mountains shared between Alberta, British Columbia and Alberta. My academic involvement in this system includes professional engagement with regional environmental managers and non-government environmental organizations. I have also  been able to pursue this research interest internationally in Europe and southern Africa. A new book that I edited with the University of Calgary Press (Parks, Peace, and Partnership) highlights some of the latest thinking in this area.

Today, for the first time in history, more people live in cities than in urban areas. Urbanization constitutes one of the most significant social-ecological challenges of our times. The resilience and sustainability these rapidly changing systems will be predicated on our ability to maintain and enhance ecological, social and built infrastructure. To this end, I am working with Dr. Mary-Ellen Tyler and the Calgary Regional Partnership on a long-term research program that focuses on land-use planning, resilience, ecohydrology and governance. This work is supported partly through a SSHRC Partnership Development Grant and we are committed to the collaborative creation and dissemination of new knowledge.

I joined the Faculty of Environmental Design in 1997 and have thoroughly enjoyed the stimulating context of working with graduate student, faculty and the community. In January 2013 I will embark on a new adventure as Research Chair and Director of the Institute for Environmental Sustainability at Mount Royal University here in Calgary. I will be maintaining my involvement as co-principal investigator with Dr. Mary-Ellen Tyler on our work with the Calgary Regional Partnership. In addition, I will continue to supervise a number of graduate students with whom I am already working. I look forwarding to continuing my ongoing work with EVDS and forging new opportunities in areas of mutual interest.

Click her to learn more about Dr. Quinn's research.

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