Environmental issues are among the most urgent facing the planet today. The climate crisis isn’t just resulting in more extreme weather, wildfires, sea level rise and permafrost thaw – it’s affecting food security, health, wildlife, politics, economics, human migration and more.
We are also facing many other environmental problems, such as air and water pollution, invasive species and urban sustainability. Laurier sustainability researchers from a wide variety of disciplines are working across Canada and around the world to find solutions to the challenges we face.
Laurier researchers have worked for decades in Canada’s North, with a particular focus in the Northwest Territories (NWT), where we maintain a longstanding partnership with the Government of the NWT and a Yellowknife research office. With researchers investigating a wide range of topics including permafrost thaw, food security, forest fires, shrub growth on the tundra and community-led water monitoring, the critical mass of northern-focused research at Laurier provides unparalleled opportunities for scholars from multiple disciplines to work together and learn from each other.
Work is based out of more than more than 50 research sites. Laurier’s Cold Regions Research Centre connects researchers on topics such as hydrology, climatology, resource management, parks planning and biogeochemistry.
Students from programs such as Geography and Environmental Studies, Environmental Science and Biology have opportunities to learn from and contribute to field research in the North, whether through undergraduate field courses or through more extensive research experiences for graduate and senior undergraduate students.
Just as everyone uses water, water unites researchers from a variety of disciplines. Laurier is a founding partner of Global Water Futures (GWF), the most-cited freshwater research program in the world, and leads three major GWF projects: Northern Water Futures, the Sub-Arctic Metal Mobility Study and Global Water Citizenship. Laurier also co-leads two unique water knowledge projects with Indigenous communities in Northern Ontario and the Northwest Territories.
The Laurier Institute for Water Science, based out of Laurier’s state-of-the-art facility, the Centre for Cold Regions and Water Science, brings together scholars who research a diverse range of topics such as improving wastewater treatment; the health of fish in rivers; preventing viral shrimp deaths in aquaculture; conserving and building wetlands; the interaction of water vapour and air pollution; the science of beaches and shoreline habitats; fish that have “lost” their stomachs; and water stewardship and governance.
For students, the interdisciplinary Applied Water Science program applies the latest research to train the next generation of water professionals and scholars, and there are plenty of opportunities to participate in hands-on research in water and aquatic ecosystems through programs such as Geography and Environmental Studies, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Environmental Science and Biology.
A major aspect of sustainability is how human behaviours, policies and practices affect the natural environment. Laurier is home to many researchers who examine sustainability from a variety of perspectives, such as how Canadian marine conservation policies may be backfiring, how rural communities can best prepare for climate change, and how Indigenous knowledge can be incorporated into environmental management practices.
The Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems and the FLEdGE (Food: Locally Embedded, Globally Engaged) partnership examine how local and international food systems can become more sustainable from social, environmental, economic and health points of view. The Viessmann Centre for Engagement and Research in Sustainability (VERiS) conducts research on community engagement and sustainability, including how a culture of sustainability can be built among urban office workers. The Co-operators Centre for Business and Sustainability conducts research related to business and environmental sustainability. At the Balsillie School of International Affairs, Laurier and partner researchers in the Environment and Resources research cluster examine the global governance challenges of environmental issues.
Research and teaching on sustainability is conducted in a number of programs, notably Geography and Environmental Studies, the School of International Policy and Governance, Global Studies, Social and Environmental Justice and Political Science.