Forest Sociology: The Importance of Knowledge Exchange and Collaboration (Chief Scientist Vlog)

This national forest week, learn more about forest sociology with the Chief Scientist, Donna Kirkwood.


Forestry Sociology
The importance of knowledge exchange and collaboration
In support of the restoration of working landscapes (REWOL)

Social science is…
The study of human behavior

As it relates to… law, culture, phycology, geography, social work, politics, education, history, health, linguistics, business, economics, anthropology and much more

Social scientists ask questions about how society works. They provide insight into the ways in which we interact with one another. The knowledge generated informs decisions within government, non-governmental organizations and industry, improving the economic and social well-being of Canadians.

Jacinthe: Hi Donna, how are you?

Donna: I’m great, how are you, Jacinthe?

Jacinthe: I’m glad to welcome you here in the Laurentian Forestry Centre. Today I think it’s good timing for me to introduce you to Solange Nadeau, one of the researchers here looking at social sciences and enthusiastic projects we have with some communities where they will be included from the planning stage to the end of the project. This is not something that we used to have and is mainly because we wanted to look at projects with more consideration for partnerships. You know, how we can build partnerships and how to make sure that the social acceptance of projects is integrated and included in the way that we are planning projects.

So if you don’t mind I will introduce you to Solange.

Donna: Bonjour Solange. Nice to meet you. It’s great — I had a fantastic visit here today so I’m quite interested in the work you’re doing. Social sciences, in forestry — because you know, I really do believe there’s a huge benefit for us in the physical and natural sciences to integrate the social sciences in the very beginning – in the early stages of our planning of our science projects. Because in the end, those who will benefit from our science are the people. So it’s great that we are integrating social sciences.

So tell me a bit about you and a bit about how the idea came about to do this project.

Solange: I’ve been a researcher with the Canadian Forest Service CFS) for about 16 years now, always working on social aspects of forestry issues. The latest project is a project in Alberta and it’s about restoration of sites that have been used by the oil industry. Once they are done, there is a requirement to do restoration of the site when it is finished. And when we looked into the practice – the current practice -- there’s a few things that are not working so well. That’s how the CFS got engaged in trying to improve restoration practices. We thought, since the project was based in an area that’s under Treaty, we would look into how we could engage First Nations to also work in the project and provide us with more insight into how restoration could meet their needs and values and be useful for their traditional and cultural use of the land.

Donna: And I think the project is in the Cold Lake area, right?

Solange: Yes

Donna: So what are the key objectives of the project, specifically?

Solange: The project is really to document the perspective of First Nations. Because in the past and in the literature, we see that restoration, as it is done now, doesn’t meet their expectation. We wanted to figure out what would restoration — what would success look like for Cold Lake First Nation. We held different meetings with the community. We did some fieldwork to understand their perspective on restoration.

Donna: I think there are many more partners than just the First Nations. I believe Industry also participates on this project with you.

Solange: Yes, my part is a little piece in a big project. In the big project, we have about 25 partners with industry, university, some governments and some NGOs. So it’s a bigger, larger project. But to start, it’s a five-year project. For my part, the beginning had to be about the First Nations, to understand their perspective. The next step will be how do we can we make change so the First Nations would find that restoration could be more acceptable for them.

Donna: Because the end goal is the First Nations will be the users and will be the ones that will benefit from the restoration and the forest — so might as well restore with their needs in mind from the very beginning.

Solange: Yes, and it’s Treaty land too, so there’s all kinds of agreements about how the land would be managed between us, Government and First Nations. They were there way before us and will be there after the oil industry is done with their activity and maybe after the forest industry so it’s about what is needed for them to keep doing their activities and maintain their culture in this area.

Donna: Where are you now and what are the next steps — what’s left to do? And a bit about the benefits for the First Nations.

Solange: We just completed the first part of the project, to document the vision and what should restoration look like. We’re starting to do knowledge transfer, to tell… We’ve done it with the community so this part is good. We know they agree with the main finding and they’re okay for us to start sharing it around. We’ll start by going to conferences and talk to the partners, because so far there haven’t been any exchanges on the first results. We really wanted to have the validation from the community before we go ahead, and for the presentation to their partners in our presentation. So it takes time to agree on messages and what we’re saying. That will be the main next step and see how we bring that into actual restoration projects. Maybe develop a test, that’s what we’ll design next.

Donna: Thanks for talking to me. I think we’ll see more and more of these sociological aspects, and the blend between or the integration between social sciences and physical and natural sciences, as things evolve. Thanks a lot. That was a great conversation.”

Funding for the REWOL project provided by Natural Resources Canada’s Energy Sector.