Current Projects


ESRG engages in transdisciplinary research aimed at improving human-environment interactions. Focused on the human dimensions of environmental resource issues, our research projects link factors influencing the sustainability of land and natural resource use in complex settings, for example, human perceptions of ecosystems, environmental change, social organization and power relations, and local-global economic forces. ESRG projects are collaboratively designed with partners from various sectors to address specific environmental problems.

New opportunities for involvement are emerging all the time and we welcome expressions of interest from individuals and groups interested in working with ESRG. Please visit this page often or contact us for updates.

A First Nation-University Partnership for Capacity Enhancement in Forest Land Governance

Ryan Bullock (Principal Investigator), Jordan Gardner (Co-Investigator),  Melanie Zurba (Co-Investigator), Alan Diduck (Collaborator)


Canada’s Indigenous forest communities must be able to conserve ecosystems, be adaptive amid forces of economic restructuring, and address conflict to support local wellbeing. Conventional governance and development systems often erode the resilience of forest communities by removing benefits and introducing local disparity and instability. Communities are now finding influence and value in collaboration, especially in dispersed rural settings. To date, little attention has been given to how communities can use forest management planning to build these linkages and capacity, and there are explicit calls for increased linkages among governments, academics, and industry, recognizing that collaboration for innovation is not happening to the degree which it could and should. As groups engage in to rethink relationships among communities, governments, industries, and forests, there is a demand for relevant knowledge, partnering opportunities, and exchange of skills and resources. Proven approaches needed to support constructive interactions and collaborations remain largely undefined and those that exist need to be more widely shared.


Our partnership will address the need for partnered research and capacity building towards sustainable forest land governance. This locally mandated partnership will support interdisciplinary research, education, and action to advance Indigenous community and forest land sustainability. Our overriding goal is to identify, share, and build on existing models and techniques to support community capacity building through First Nation community and university collaboration. We will do this by conducting community-based research to 1) analyze how First Nations and settler Canadian relations can be reconciled through forest governance models that produce sustainable benefits and support economic, cultural and ecological multi-party priorities; 2) develop First Nation-university capacity building initiatives, benefits, and participation needed to respond to shifting sectoral and societal demands in forestry; 3) mobilize different knowledges among forestry professionals, youth, Elders and university researchers and students.


Our partnership will support a consortium of practitioners, Indigenous and settler communities, youth and scholars who will engage in applied community-based research and experimentation. Our membership will be inclusive and open to community members who want to be involved in related activities. Our networked research approach, rooted in the expressed needs of research participants, will engage partners in building ownership, communication, and advocacy into the research program. The approach values empowerment, inclusivity, diversity, and democratic decision making in the research process. Participants will be supported to engage in all stages of the research process, from question identification to data collection and analysis, as well as dissemination. Partner organizations will benefit through access to a diverse partnership that will provide information, data-sharing, and informational tools. Network access will lead to strengthened interactions and communication with participants, and to new collaborative relationships, putting local knowledge and leadership into action.

Designing governance frameworks for protected areas with meaningful Indigenous participation: 2020-2025

Melanie Zurba (Principle Investigator), Ryan Bullock (Co-Investigator)

Many Indigenous communities have been navigating involvement in protected area (PA) governance for several decades despite often being marginalized from decision-making processes or assigned roles in the governance of PAs that are less than meaningful and do not align with traditional, cultural or spiritual values. It is well understood that social-ecological systems (such as PAs) generally require joint action from multiple partners due to their complexity and multi-jurisdictional nature. There is growing awareness among Indigenous communities, academics, governments, and global conservation organizations that social and environmental benefits of PAs should be secured through Indigenous participation and collaboration within PA governance systems.

Our proposed research has several objectives, though its overarching goal is to generate knowledge for shaping, implementing and assessing Indigenous collaboration in governance frameworks for global PAs. Addressing meaningful participation of Indigenous peoples in PA governance will enable organizations to move beyond structural injustices often embedded in existing frameworks and support emergent frameworks that promote more equitable and environmentally sound processes and outcomes. Advancement of knowledge:

The project aims to produce research outcomes that are valuable in both practical and scholarly contexts. Specifically considering Indigenous participation and collaboration in International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) PA programs and initiatives, this project will extend previous research activities with Indigenous Peoples Organizations (IPOs) from Australia, Canada, and abroad. The research will integrate governance theory, social learning, and participatory social impact assessment tools, and will address gaps between existing PA governance frameworks and policies, and on-the-ground outcomes for Indigenous communities. The research will facilitate intercultural and intergenerational communication, centering itself on Indigenous perspectives, and will promote a long-term continuity of knowledge and stewardship of PAs by Indigenous communities. This timely project will inform future participation and collaboration through IUCN programs and initiatives that are geared towards developing frameworks for a global network of terrestrial and marine PAs. Our approach includes engaging with key informants and collaboratively developing case studies with partners from Indigenous People’s Organizations and academic institutions.

Climate Learning and Adaptation for Northern Development (C-LAND): 2018-2023

Ryan Bullock (Principle Investigator, Alan Diduck (Co-Investigator), Melanie Zurba (Co-Investigator)

ESRG Research Support: Jonathan Luedee, and Julia Antonyshyn

Funded bySocial Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)

Climate change is transforming northern environments at an alarming rate (IPCC 2014). Rising global demand for Canada’s resources is creating unparalleled economic opportunities but also demands (Crowley and Coates 2013). Due to environmental and economic change, northern communities are undergoing fundamental socio-economic and cultural transformations (Bullock et al. 2016). Governments and industries managing renewable resources are increasingly pressed to address long-term plans for adaptation to large-scale disturbances, while continuing to meet short-term business and governance needs.

Recognizing the climate change uncertainties facing the Canadian natural resources sector today, this research will examine how to improve adaptive capacity in Canada’s renewable resource sectors, with a focus on forestry and hydroelectricity. Our objectives are to:

  1. Assess awareness and multi-scale learning (i.e., cognitive, normative, behavioural, relational and organizational changes) about climate change adaptation;
  2. Gain insights into how learning occurs (i.e., learning process conditions and how learning outcomes influence adaptations and inform policy) in innovative organizational models; and;
  3. Explain how learning can support adaptive capacity in complex governance settings.

The findings of this research will offer insights and decision-making tools applicable to resource sectors and communities across Canada as well as internationally. Building this knowledge base will act on Canada’s commitments from the United Nations Climate Conference (COP21) as well as federal objectives for achieving A Clean Growth Economy, namely to advance renewables and new climate adaptation strategies through innovation for increased “resilience in the North and Indigenous communities” (Government of Canada 2016).

Langside Learning Garden: 2018-2023

Alan Diduck (Principle Investigator)

Partners: Spence Neighbourhood Association

The Langside Learning Garden is a five-year project with Winnipeg’s Spence Neighbourhood Association to develop a “pocket park” on the site of 373 Langside Street. Plans will be developed through community engagement and will combine opportunities for experiential learning and community development focused on plants, soils, urban biodiversity and social inclusion. The University of Winnipeg has committed to ongoing research support and resources from its facilities.

Judicial environmentalism and the poor: Examining the impacts of green benches of state high courts and National Green Tribunals in India: 2017-2020

Alan Diduck (Principle Investigator)

Funded by: SSHRC Insight Development Grant (Kirit Patel, PI), and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Advanced Scholars Program

PartnersGujarat National Law University, the Foundation for Ecological Security, and the International Institute for Sustainable Development

Since the introduction of public interest litigation (PIL) by India’s Supreme Court in 1982, the interest of individuals and organizations involved in environmental protection has received considerable support from Green Benches of state-level high courts. As a continuation of this support, the Indian judiciary entered a new era of environmental jurisprudence with the official establishment in 2010 of the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The enactment of the NGT has come at a time of accelerated economic growth in India marked by an average GDP increase per year of 7% between 1995 and 2014 (IMF 2015). This economic surge has had diverse social and economic benefits, but it has also resulted in adverse environmental impacts and an uneven distribution of benefits. Approximately one third of India’s population continues to live in poverty and to experience food and nutrition insecurity. In this context, the establishment of specialized environmental tribunals and benches offers much potential for mitigating the complexities of environment versus development tensions in India.

The core objectives of this project are to:

  1. Assess the impacts of high court and Green Tribunal rulings on environmental protection and social development;
  2. Explain the significance of institutional and legal innovations that have been established by different high court benches for bringing reforms to environmental protection in India; and,
  3. Provide a foundation for improved exchange and learning between Canada and India with respect to these institutional and legal innovations.