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Harnessing local resilience in a changing world

Canada Research Chair in Cumulative Impacts of Environmental Change Dr. Tristan Pearce is set to present at a research showcase in Ottawa on June 8. UNBC photo

Courtesy of UNBC

Dr. Tristan Pearce’s research is focused on finding community-based solutions to global problems.

“Environmental changes like climate change and biodiversity loss are global in scale, but require local solutions,” says the Canada Research Chair in Cumulative Impacts of Environmental Change.

The Associate Professor in UNBC’s Department of Geography, Earth, and Environmental Sciences is one of 15 scholars from across the country featured in a unique series of research profiles entitled Real Insight. Real Impact. Real Purpose. by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). The entire group has been invited to a research showcase event on Parliament Hill in June to illustrate the important contributions of social sciences and humanities to Canada and the world.

“It’s an honour to be selected to represent UNBC and showcase my Canada Research Chair program at this event,” says Pearce, who is currently working on several projects that span the Arctic, South Pacific Islands, and northern British Columbia.

“My research involves working closely with people in communities – drawing upon both traditional and scientific knowledge systems – to understand our relationship with the natural environment and how it is changing,” says Pearce. “And using this understanding to identify and evaluate pathways for adaptation.”

Pearce says his research takes place at the interface between science and policy and focuses on understanding the interdependence of land and people, and sources of resilience that stem from these relationships to deal with global environmental changes.

In northern B.C., the UNBC researcher is working with communities in the Robson Valley to enhance local resilience to natural hazards associated with climate change, including wildfires and changes in mountain snowpack.

In the Arctic, Pearce and his team are working closely with Inuit organizations and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to co-produce knowledge of key marine fish and mammal species important for subsistence – Arctic char, Greenland cod, ringed seal and beluga whale – to better understand how they are affected by warming temperatures, the implications for Inuit subsistence and management options.

In the islands of Fiji in the South Pacific Ocean, Pearce is working with Indigenous villages to examine the role of cultural regulatory systems in finding solutions to climate change impacts and biodiversity loss specific to the restoration and management of coral reef systems.

Pearce says these local examples of social-ecological resilience have global implications. “Much can be learned from Indigenous concepts of land in which community health and land health are intertwined.”

For cities like Prince George, Pearce says, “That means rethinking our relationship with nature such as how we view wetlands, trees, and inland waters in city development bylaws, and our relationship with wildlife, contributes to a healthy environment and people that will be more resilient to climate change impacts.

“Respect for the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities is central to these efforts,”  says the UNBC researcher. “Actions taken to restore and enhance Indigenous cultural regulatory systems and how they are applied to natural resource management in Northern B.C., for example, provide transferable lessons to other parts of the world.”

Pearce says his research goal is to contribute to the development of sustainable environmental, social and economic policies that support local livelihoods and environmental integrity.

“I’m proud to be able to harness the knowledge and experiences of the many Indigenous peoples and local communities that I work with in Canada and globally to combat climate change and biodiversity loss and highlight it on a national level,” says Pearce. “This national research showcase is a platform to convey these important messages and the strategic role UNBC has in advancing them.”

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