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Students and professionals unite to create eco-village design on campus

The following was originally published in YFile on August 1, 2014.

What will an eco-village on the York University campus look like? That’s what students enrolled in the Design for Sustainability Workshop course in the Faculty of Environmental Studies were investigating.

The course was created by the Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS) in 2009 to help explore the topic of sustainability and rethinking public spaces on campus. A part of this course analyzed the mapping of future development on campus and conducted design audits.

Arlene Gould explains concepts to her class

Arlene Gould explains concepts to her class

Course instructor, Arlene Gould, said the course is designed to “train and prepare the next generation of leaders.” Gould explained that the course participants demonstrated hard work and completed much research throughout it. The course is co-sponsored by the York University Development Corporation (YUDC) and Regenesis, an environmental and social justice organization on campus.

This year, the course and its participants focused on a co-housing design charrette and building a community eco-village at York University. Co-housing is a concept that originates from Denmark and pertains to communities and housing. Eco-villages are planned communities that foster social interaction. Equally important are eco-villages that are sustainable communities.

There were five student groups which examined various themes surrounding eco-villages. The groups’ respective topics of exploration included social model for co-housing, shared spaces, green technology, closing the loop (food and water education) and outreach.

Students engage in one of the break out sessions

Students engage in one of the breakout sessions

Participants had the opportunity to listen to guest lecturers and visit sustainable buildings around the Greater Toronto Area throughout this course. YUDC visited the classroom to inform the students about future development plans on campus and to discuss Lands for Learning. Anam Sultan, who spoke on behalf of YUDC, explained that Lands for Learning will provide a vision for potential opportunities that exist on the edge of campus. She notes that York University is looking for “balanced and well-designed planning.”

In the past, the Design for Sustainability Workshop explored the topics of green building strategies and sustainable housing models.

Various industry professionals and community members provided input and imparted their knowledge to the student groups to assist with their projects. During the breakout session, the Green Technology group shared ideas with Martin Liefhebber, an architect with Breathe Architects. Liefhebber provided the group with information regarding green technology and design.

Anam Sultan of YUDC talks about Lands for Learning

Anam Sultan of YUDC talks about Lands for Learning

After the breakout session and interacting with the industry professionals and community members, the groups were able to present their research a second time, incorporating the new information they had gathered during the session. This provided a more realistic view of what an eco-village on York’s campus could look like.

One of the workshop participants, Adam, mentioned, “The course was very informative and a very good application of knowledge. [It] drew in people from the community of green development.”

Another participant, Sherlock, commented, "I see the benefits of the eco-village especially in this day and age. It’s a good change from the monotonous. It also creates a place for people that need a stable environment, while at the same time creating diversity.”

By Kurt Reid, MES student and communications assistant in the Faculty of Environmental Studies











Moose spit fights toxic fungus in plants

IRIS Core Faculty member Dawn Bazely publishes with Mark Vicari and Andrew J. Tanentzap. Journal reference: Biology Letters, DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2014.0460

York University researchers investigate new element of the predator/prey relationship

CBC News Posted: Jul 23, 2014 12:14 PM ETLast Updated: Jul 23, 2014 12:55 PM ET

Researchers have discovered that moose saliva may help the animal control potentially toxic vegetation in the bush.

Researchers have discovered that moose saliva may help the animal control potentially toxic vegetation in the bush. (Dawn Bazely)

LISTEN: Dawn's Radio interview "Moose spit fights fungus in plants" 7:56

Researchers at York University have discovered that moose saliva may help the animals control a potential dangerous toxin found in the grass they frequently eat.

A professor of biology at York University said biologists at the university enlisted the help of the Toronto Zoo in collecting spit samples from the captive animals.

Dawn Bazely said the saliva was then applied to a grass which hosts the toxic fungus.

The fungus in the grass that was coated with moose drool grew more slowly and produced less toxins than the control grass.

Dawn Bazely

York University biologist Dawn Bazely says a study of moose saliva is the first evidence that a herbivore encountering toxic plants can actually fight back. (Dawn Bazely )

"If you think about moose they have home ranges. So they may actually be re-encountering the same plants [and] they may get a benefit," Bazely said.

"We certainly know the animals remember plants they encounter and they eat a small amount of the plant, and if it makes them feel ill they might avoid it in the future."

She said the experiment grew from research looking at how grazing by moose affects plants. Over thousands of year,s plants have developed anti-herbivore defences like spines, thorns and bitter berries.

Plants also reach out to a third party for assistance in deterring animals from eating them.

"They can phone a friend to help them with defences," Bazely said.

"And one of the friends they can phone is a fungus. Many plants have hidden inside them a fungus that is living entirely within the plant."

Bazely said the next phase of research is to determine the benefit of the fungus-inhibiting drool.

She said the spit acts quite quickly on the fungus, with noticeable results appearing in 12 to 36 hours.

Original Story:

PEASE Project Welcomes New Post-Doctoral Visitor!

PEASE is pleased to welcome Philip Vaughter from the United States as its new postdoctoral visitor!

Born in the state of Minnesota in the United States, Philip was educated at Iowa State University and graduated with a Bachelors degree in Biology in 2004 before leaving to live and work in New Zealand where he attended the University of Victoria at Wellington. Following a Masters program at Victoria in 2008, Philip returned to his home state of Minnesota in the USA to complete a PhD program in Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota. Upon completion, he took a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Saskatchewan. Philip’s research has focused on the creation and implementation of sustainability and environmental policy, the contention between biodiversity and energy policy, and the role of coalition building in environmental policy and movements.

IRIS hosts Canada/South Sudan Roundtable: Responding to the Crisis

Deeply concerned by the widespread political violence that has racked Africa’s newest nation since mid-­‐December 2013, Canadian South Sudanese community members and leaders met in Toronto on March 26, 2014 to share information on the crisis, build peaceful relationships across the Canadian South Sudanese diaspora, generate options for bringing an end to the violence and for coming to grips with its underlying causes.

DSCN0398The day-­‐long meeting was hosted by York University’s Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS), with organizational support from the SubSahara Centre, Peacemedia-­‐ paixmédia, Peacebuild – The Canadian Peacebuilding Network and South Sudanese community activists and opinion leaders. Discussion initially focused on sharing personal experiences of the crisis among the approximately 30 participants. It then turned to identifying the range of options available for short-­‐term peacemaking and long-­‐term peacebuilding, including tackling the country’s glaring governance deficit.

While strong tensions within the South Sudanese community in Canada and elsewhere were acknowledged, roundtable participants, representing a broad cross-­‐section of the South Sudanese community in Canada, pursued discussion in a spirit of solidarity and respect for all and their opinions. No insults or verbal abuse of individuals or specific groups were expressed, despite the depth of anger and sorrow. Each participant had the opportunity to voice their feelings and views on the crisis without interruption. Compassionate listening was encouraged.DSCN0423b

This report highlights the multiple common perceptions of the disastrous direct and indirect impacts of the violence on South Sudanese in their home country and in the diaspora, regardless of ethnic or religious background, age group, gender or educational attainment. It also sets out suggested collective responses to the crisis for urgent further consideration and action both in South Sudan and in Canada.

To encourage open discussion during the roundtable, it was agreed that comments by individuals would not be attributed in this report, and a very few asked that their names not be included in the list of participants attached.

View the full report from the Roundtable.

York’s Earth Day celebration will honour sustainability champions and achievements

On Tuesday, April 22 at 2pm, the York University community is invited to join York President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri and Vice-President Finance and Administration Gary Brewer for an Earth Day Celebration in the Life Sciences Building.

The Life Sciences Building terrace on York U's Keele campus

The Earth Day event, which will take place in the lobby of the Life Sciences Building, will pay tribute to a number of sustainability champions and achievements across York’s campuses. The occasion will include the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the LEED Silver certification of the Life Sciences Building, and an announcement about sustainability at York University. The event will also feature the presentation of the inaugural President’s Sustainability Leadership Awards.

Created to celebrate the many champions of sustainability at York, these new awards recognize students, faculty and staff who are contributing to making the University a leader in sustainability among postsecondary institutions. The President’s Sustainability Leadership Awards are intended to raise awareness of the important work that sustainability champions are doing at York, to provide much-deserved recognition of their work, and to encourage others to get involved in sustainability initiatives on our campuses. Up to five awards will be given out each year.

“I am very pleased to announce the first winners of the President’s Sustainability Leadership Awards,” said York President Mamdouh Shoukri. “These awards honour members of the York community who have demonstrated outstanding and ongoing commitment to making ours one of the greenest universities in Canada, and indeed, the world. We are incredibly proud of their achievements, and I look forward to the opportunity to honour them in person at next week’s event.”

This year’s winners of the President’s Sustainability Leadership Awards are:

Brad Cochrane
Director, Energy Management, Campus Services & Business Operations (CSBO)

Cochrane oversees York University’s Energy Management program, focusing on ensuring efficient heating, cooling and power for York’s 115 buildings and eight-million square feet of space. He has steered York’s five-year energy renewal plan, aimed at a 25 per cent reduction in utility consumption. His tenacious pursuit of energy rebates has provided dramatically more energy improvements than originally thought possible, specifically resulting in doubling financial incentive grants to the University. This has resulted in more than $1.5 million in additional funds, which are being further invested in new energy conservation measures. An outstanding professional and true steward of sustainability planning and practices, Cochrane is deeply involved with York faculty and researchers from Environmental Studies, Engineering and Science to explore common goals and potential partnerships. 

Tim Haagsma
Manager, Grounds, CSBO

A long serving York employee, Haagsma epitomizes sustainability in action. He is educated as an entomologist, a branch of zoology focusing of insects. This has served him well in his capacity as grounds manager, given the challenges that this area has faced with infestations, including the Asian Long Horn Beetle and more recently the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). Haagsma was quick to act at the first evidence of EAB, developing a management plan to save as many Ash trees as possible. His work on the Ash tree inventory and audit led to a full tree inventory of both campuses. Haagsma is also an advocate for conscientious waste behavior, and has been a key player in the roll out of a comprehensive recycling program and organic waste collection program that has achieved a landfill diversion rate of over 65 per cent. He was an early advocate for sustainable landscapes, including xeriscaping. Haagsma has fostered excellent relationships with faculty, staff and students, and is a constant volunteer for initiatives to improve the campus environment.

Helen Psathas
Senior Manager, Environmental Design and Sustainability, CSBO
Senior Fellow, Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS) 

Psathas works with many CSBO and York departments and divisions, and is a committed champion of the importance of sustainability in all development projects—from campus greening to reuse and recycling of material, energy conservation, and renewable energy concepts. She has contributed significantly to York’s corporate sustainability profile by participating in various committees and institutes, including the President’s Sustainability Council and IRIS Executive Board. Her participation in the York Master Planning and Facilities Committee allows her to ensure that the need for sustainable development is recognized and respected at the highest level of the institution. Psathas also stewards and supports environmental initiatives such as Lights Out, Campus Cleaning, YorkWise! and Res Race to Zero. She has personally managed a number of projects related to improving the greening of the campus, including Osgoode Green, the University Tree Inventory, and improvements within the Glendon forest. Her management of various sustainable transportation initiatives has resulted in York’s ZipCars and Smart Commute programs. Psathas has also been a champion of accessibility on campus, ensuring that new development projects recognize and respect the need to remove barriers to accessibility.

Osgoode Sustainability Committee

As a subset of Osgoode’s Environmental Law Society, the Sustainability Committee is run entirely through committed student volunteers who have gone well above the call of duty to create a more sustainable campus. The committee established five sub-groups to tackle the challenges that mattered most to students, and as such, has a very wide breadth and has significantly improved sustainability at Osgoode and the wider York community. The committee initiated a Food Advisory Group to discuss food sustainability and waste management with on-campus food providers, resulting in the reintroduction of Fair Trade coffee, reusable mugs and cups, and promotion of Aramark’s Vegan Mondays initiative. The committee also developed an Osgoode Campus Group, which led a to Lighting Efficiency signature campaign, established an e-waste bin in the Osgoode building, and created a double-sided printing poster beside Osgoode library printers to encourage students to save paper. Their events group has also worked to involve all students in programs to make campus more sustainable, including their Lug-A-Mug campaign and Fork Drive, in which students returned/donated metal forks, spoons and knives to the bistro. Overall, the Osgoode Sustainability Committee has made considerable contributions to the sustainability of Osgoode and the greater York Community over the past year. 

Planning and Renovations Unit, CSBO 

The CSBO Planning and Renovations Unit has a longstanding commitment to green building as evidenced through early citations and awards. This 20-plus member group includes six LEED Accredited Professionals. Annually, the group undertakes approximately 200 projects ranging in scale, complexity and cost. Projects are undertaken with consideration to sustainable practices, starting with the most efficient means of delivering the project, including the reuse of existing materials, including lighting, as well as other passive green design strategies. Solutions include practices in energy efficient building systems to reduce energy consumption and minimize York’s carbon foot print, minimize waste and maximize resource deployment by focusing on every opportunity for reuse. There are many examples of the unit’s innovative thinking and practice on sustainable building, including the development of the Sherman Health Sciences Building, which saw the adaptive reuse of York’s old ice rink into a state-of-the-art, world-class research facility through sustainable strategies such as bringing natural light into the interior for energy savings, incorporating a high-albedo roof, landscaping with drought-resistant native plants and storm water runoff management. By re-purposing the arena, an incredible York facility was created, adding value to the campus and bringing new life to an old structure.

York University celebrates sustainability and Earth Hour

The following is from the March 25, 2014 edition of YFile.

The Seeds of Hope poster exhibit

This coming Saturday will mark Earth Hour around the world, but every hour is earth hour at York University. So in the days leading up to Earth Hour, the York University community will be celebrating sustainability with events in Vari Hall and York Lanes.

On Thursday and Friday, York University will host the Seeds of Hope poster exhibit from 10 am to 4pm in Vari Hall. Based on a simple premise – “it starts with one” – the Seeds of Hope exhibit conveys the importance of individual action for community sustainability. Through a series of 24 panels, it focuses on the themes of interconnectedness, social justice and peace to show how one idea can inspire and transform an entire community towards sustainable living. The exhibit offers examples of how individuals and small groups inspired by the Earth Charter have taken simple actions to create more sustainable communities.

Seeds of Hope

In addition to Seeds of Hope, the President’s Sustainability Council, the Institute for Research & Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS), and students in ENVS 3505 Business and Sustainability will be hosting information tables for anyone interested in learning more about the many ideas and opportunities for getting involved in sustainability at York. Student clubs, campus organizations and businesses focusing on sustainability will be tabling throughout both days.

Along with the activities in Vari Hall, IRIS will be hosting its annual Earth Hour Every Hour events in York Lanes. This year’s lineup includes an updated version of the climate change “Inconvenient Truth” presentation, created by Former Vice President Al Gore’s, which will be presented by Julie Strilesky, who received training from Al Gore and his Climate Reality Leadership Corps in July 2013.

The IRIS event will also feature the Word Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) very own Panda Band – led by Senior Officer of Species, Pete Ewins as well as WWF staff and volunteers. The band will perform a mix of original songs and covers.

For more information, please contact or

Greening ideas for apartment buildings

Hello everyone,

Through my work at Scott Library and my connection with the Institute For Research and Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS), I heard of the interesting programme for first year engineering students at the University of Toronto. Each year individuals or groups can submit real world problems that require engineering solutions to the Engineering Strategies and Practice course (APS112 & APS113) in the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering. I submitted a proposal for my apartment building in December 2012.

Two teams were eventually selected to handle my proposal to find solutions for either a solar panel installation or a green roof. The overall goal was to increase energy efficiency of the building and/ or have a system to generate energy in an environmentally friendly fashion.

From January to the end of April 2013, I assisted two teams of five engineering students on these projects. I was struck by each team’s professionalism, courtesy and efficiency. The two team leaders communicated with me in a timely fashion, keeping me abreast of the progress of the teams’ efforts, when our next meetings would be held and if there was any additional information required to complete the design plans.

I met with the teams on several occasions for tours of my building and the surrounding area and also to allow for my debriefings on the stages of the planning/ development of the assignment. I found all the participants respectful of each other and everyone played a part in these meetings and answered all my questions and concern. The teams were thorough in their investigation, analysis and solutions. They were always open to considering my suggestions and comments regarding the project and indeed sought them out.

Each group delivered a presentation to which I was invited. Both teams gave very professional summations of their projects. Everyone handled the questions from the audience of classmates and faculty with aplomb and gave detailed responses to whatever issues raised.

apt building

Both teams completed a Final Design Specification (FDS) paper which I found to be thorough and well written, and both included impressive lists of resources used to base their conclusions and findings. I do not have sufficient professional knowledge of the engineering field to offer an in depth assessment of these sources, but as far as I am able to judge, the sources appeared relevant and worthwhile. The papers offered solutions to resource consumption and conservation. One team’s solutions included a “master” on/off switch for non-essential electrical appliances in each unit, an electricity meter in every apartment to allow everyone the option of monitoring their usage, occupancy sensor-assisted lighting in the underground parking and roof top solar panels with tracking systems. The second team designed a system called a “Power Plateau” which consisted of an array of roof top solar panels as well as a rain harvesting unit to supplement the water usage of the building’s occupants.

Summing up, I found both teams were extremely capable and effective and devoted to completing the objectives of the course in a professional and scholarly manner. They were polite and pleasant to work with and I would recommend anyone to participate in this programme. The end product of a professionally researched and written report with grounded engineering solutions geared to the specifics of individual circumstances, at no cost, helps everyone involved in this process. 

Many thanks,

All the best in 2014,

Peter Duerr
Domestic Government Documents Librarian
Disaster & Emergency Management Studies Librarian

“No matter how many setbacks there may be along the road, you may be sure that some day the right and the just will prevail. It will prevail simply because it is right and just.” Tommy Douglas

Environmental and Human Security in the Arctic

THEMES:  Arctic and Northern, Climate Change, Social Justice

TITLE: Environmental and Health Security in the Arctic

AUTHOR(S): Gunhild Hoogensen Gjørv, Dawn Bazely, Goloviznina Marina, Andrew Tanentzap

DATE: October 4, 2013

TAGS: security studies, environmental politics, climate change, health geography, governance

ABSTRACT: This is the first comprehensive exploration of why human security is relevant to the Arctic and what achieving it can mean, covering the areas of health of the environment, identity of peoples, supply of traditional foods, community health, economic opportunities, and political stability. The traditional definition of security has already been actively employed in the Arctic region for decades, particularly in relation to natural resource sovereignty issues, but how and why should the human aspect be introduced? What can this region teach us about human security in the wider world?

The book reviews the potential threats to security, putting them in an analytical framework and indicating a clear path for solutions.Contributions come from natural, social and humanities scientists, hailing from Canada, Russia, Finland and Norway.

Environmental and Human Security in the Arctic
is an essential resource for policy-makers, community groups, researchers and students working in the field of human security, particularly for those in the Arctic regions.

LINKS: To purchase see here.

COPYRIGHT: Copyright © 2013 Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Hoogensen, G., Bazely, D., Goloviznina, M., and Tanentzap, A.. (2013). Environmental and Human Security in the Arctic.

Survey gives York U community voice in restoration of green space

The following was first published by Yfile on Tuesday, November 19th, 2013.

Do you want a greater say in the development of York University’s green spaces that you use every day? York has many great green spaces that have been documented in this fall’s successful #yorkufall tagging campaign.

A survey created by University of Toronto masters of forest conservation student Janise Herridge and resident biologist Dawn Bazely, in association with the Institute for Research & Innovation in Sustainability, gives the Groundhog at the east side of Lumbers Buildingcommunity at York University a chance to do just that, but only until Nov. 27.

Friendly groundhog at the east side of Lumbers Building

The qualitative survey questions will help determine which naturalized areas of campus the community uses, how it uses them and why. In addition, the survey includes questions about wildlife sightings, such as migratory birds on campus, and what kind of changes, if any, the community would like to see with regards to the naturalized spaces on campus. Answers will be incorporated into Herridge’s final project – an urban forest restoration plan for Keele campus.

Janise Herridge with a large Elm tree at York UThe goal of the restoration plan is to meet the needs of the planning and grounds departments with consideration of the community’s perspective. To create new enjoyable green spaces for students, staff and faculty, their input is absolutely necessary.

Janise Herridge with a large elm tree at the northwest section of Keele campus

The comments collected from this survey have the potential to impact the development of more than green spaces for the entire campus.

Interested? The survey takes between five and 10 minutes and is being run until Nov. 27.

Fill out the survey to have your say.

Applications and nominations are invited for the position of Director of IRIS

Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS)
Applications and nominations are invited for the position of Director of the Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS) for a term of five years, to begin July 1, 2014.

IRIS is a University-wide organized research unit that serves as a hub for interdisciplinary research on sustainability, broadly defined, across all Faculties at York. IRIS carries out research into diverse aspects of sustainability and promotes practical sustainability solutions that encompass environmental, social and economic considerations at local, regional and global scales. The Institute is a leader in creating a culture of sustainability within and beyond York University through engagement in practical, collaborative and interdisciplinary research and innovation that drives change. IRIS is currently seeking an application for a new Senate charter to further advance this mandate and build on past success. The incoming Director of IRIS will have an opportunity to provide leadership in advancing a renewed strategic vision for the Institute and defining priorities within it.

Applicants are expected to be members of the full-time faculty at York University and to have a distinguished and active record of sustainability-related research and scholarship. Demonstrated ability to lead and enable collaborative, interdisciplinary research initiatives is required, as are strong communication and networking skills. The Director is expected to provide leadership for the Institute's research activities, to develop and secure external funding, and to continue to build the local and national reputation of IRIS. He or she is also responsible for overseeing management and administration of the financial, organizational, and academic activities of the Institute. The successful applicant will receive an administrative stipend and the appropriate course load reduction as stipulated by the relevant Collective Agreement. Applications and nominations (including curriculum vitae and the names of three referees who may be contacted) should be sent to Angela Magro, Senior Administrative Assistant, Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation, 5th Floor, Kaneff Tower, Applicants are also invited to submit a statement about their vision for IRIS, including goals, objectives, strategy of action and leadership style. Applications and nominations must be received by Friday, November 29, 2013.

IRIS Website:

Office of the Vice‐President Research & Innovation