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May 22, 2015

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In a rapidly changing world, environmental conservation deals with many ongoing stresses and sometimes disasters that demand quick responses. These concerns and crises often cross boundaries and challenge existing policy regimes and institutions. Climate change in particular transcends borders but also requires drawing new ones.

Protected areas, carbon sinks, trade agreements: all of these require the formation and enforcement of new boundaries. How do we choose to do that? Does conservation necessarily involve shutting people out of ecologically valuable areas?

Laurier Professor Simon Dalby and student Aleksandra Szaflarska are collaborating on a project that examines these questions. The two are contributing to an interdisciplinary multi-year research project aimed at examining the concept of borders and bordering in conservation. This new partnership among academics across Canada – the SSHRC-funded Borders in Globalization (BiG) project – seeks to examine what form boundaries take in our ever-changing political, social, and environmental climate.

Szaflarska worked for an environmental organization abroad for several years, before returning to graduate school. She first completed a master’s degree at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Forestry.

“I entered the program with a naïve expectation that the degree would allow me to practice conservation more effectively,” said Szaflarska. “Yet I emerged with more questions than answers.”

She is pursuing these research questions in the PhD program in Geography and Environmental Studies.

“Collaborating now with Professor Dalby during my doctoral studies has allowed me to delve deeper and address those concerns, in the hopes that I can eventually return to the field and contribute in a meaningful way," she said. "The BiG project’s emphasis on research impact is a key reason I am excited to be part of this initiative.”

Dalby is also a member of the 2030+ research group at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, where he focuses on environmental change and health. Follow him on Twitter: @GeopolSimon.

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