May 2, 2019Print | PDF
I wasn’t always interested in bees (read: spending hours on end thinking about, writing about, teaching about, and photographing bees), at least, not directly. However, as a food systems researcher and health care professional, the links between bees and ecological and human health have become increasingly clear. My PhD research looks at our relationship with nature through a food-systems lens.
We commonly hear that pollinators are responsible for one in three bites of food including fruits, vegetables and nuts with bees accounting for about 70% of pollination. In addition to their critical contributions to our food, bees and other pollinators are responsible for pollinating roughly 90% of all flowering plants that provide the food and resources for other organisms on Earth. And yet, the number of bee species that are endangered or threatened is growing in Canada and beyond. From the call to protect pollinators at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, to the Cheerios "Bring Back the Bees" campaign, it is increasingly clear that pollinators are in trouble.
The main factors contributing to the decline in pollinator populations are human-induced, including habitat loss, pesticide use, and a changing global climate. My research explores the "Bee City" movement as a way to engage municipalities in conservation efforts. A city that has a Bee City designation commits to three things: creating pollinator habitat, educating about pollinators, and celebrating pollinators. Since Toronto became the first Bee City in Canada in 2016, there are now nearly 50 bee city affiliates across the country including municipalities, townships, schools, and First Nations communities. Incorporating pollinator-friendly programming and policy in cities helps to expand our concept of community and recognize that our cities are shaped by more than just the human members.
The main messages we hope will be received from this paper, "Anthropocene Crisis: Climate Change, Pollinators, and Food Security" are:
With so many environmental and ecological concerns it’s easy for people to become overwhelmed and not know where to start to make a difference. We hope this article will help people understand the importance of pollinators and our role in pollinator health. We hope other researchers will see the value in connecting seemingly disparate issues and help inform future social sciences research in these areas.
I plan to complete and defend my dissertation in early 2020. Research results will be presented summer 2019, including a pollinator panel at the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society 2019 Conference in Anchorage, Alaska. Complimentary to this research, I have coordinated some exciting things in collaboration with World Wildlife Fund, the Region of Waterloo, and the Laurier Sustainability Office. The "EnviroSeries: Focus on Pollinators" kicked off on March 26 with guest speakers from the University of Guelph and Wildlife Preservation Canada. Next in the series was a workshop on permaculture and lasagna gardening, offered as part of the Laurier Certificate in Sustainability. This certificate, along with the Sustainable Hawk Fund which is helping to fund this series, is one of the reasons that Laurier has been named one of Canada’s greenest employers. In May 2019 we will be installing a campus pollinator garden as the second part of this workshop. During pollinator week we will also be highlighting the new pollinator spiral that is being constructed as part of the Sustainability Office’s "Building for Bees" projects.
A tour of the Northdale campus, where these projects are located, will take place on Saturday May 4 as part of Science Odyssey 2019.
Jennifer Marshman is a fourth-year PhD candidate with the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems under the supervision of Associate Professor Alison Blay-Palmer. Jennifer is in the Waterloo-Laurier Geography graduate program, which is one of the largest graduate geography programs in North America. Jennifer is a recipient of the Go Wild Community Grant presented by TELUS and the World Wildlife Fund, the Region of Waterloo Community Environmental Fund, and a two-time recipient of the Laurier Sustainable Hawk Fund. Jennifer is one of the founding members of the Bee City Kitchener working group.
Alison Blay-Palmer is the founding Director of the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, CIGI Chair in Sustainable Food Systems, and associate professor in the department of Geography and Environmental Studies.