Goal Area 3: Research, Discovery, and Partnerships

covercropIn an effort to generate and communicate innovative, globally significant knowledge and understanding, while also developing and refining new methods of research and practice, Cultivating Place will:

  • Enable and strengthen UBC’s commitment to research excellence by providing infrastructure, space, expertise, supportive land management policies, and direct research project assistance;
  • Link on-site research to contribute to issues of pressing regional and global significance, including in the areas of climate change, energy use, food security, preservation and enhancement of ecosystem services, green technology development, nutrition and health, aboriginal health, and fundamental sustainability literacy;
  • Manage the 24-ha site to maximize opportunities for research with both regional and global relevance, particularly in the fields of sustainable land use and community design, individual and community health, ecosystem services and biodiversity, material cycling, carbon management including capture and sequestration, clean energy research, and energy flows in managed landscapes, and pedagogy and community-based action research;
  • Partner with academic, professional, private-sector, civil society, cultural, and government organizations in shared exploration and delivery of sustainability applications;
  • Engage the wider community in shared interests with mutual respect through Community Service Learning and Community-Based Action Research activities.

UBC Farm activities encompassed more than 100 academic initiatives in 2009, including research projects in six UBC faculties. These initiatives represent research on globally critical topics including climate change, community health, and preservation of biodiversity worldwide.

Some of the initiatives on-site included next-generation biofuel development and basic research in evolutionary biology (Science), behavioural neuroscience (Arts), mass spectrometry-based proteomics (Medicine), bio-fertilizer development (Applied Science), animal welfare, avian genetics, and soil conservation (Land and Food Systems).

Unique among on-campus facilities, the UBC Farm and its surrounding areas allow for field-scale production of food, fibre, and fuel, and provide a range of ecosystem services to the campus. In close proximity and fully integrated with a world-class community of researchers, South Campus affords an opportunity to better understand and manage the characteristics of the ecosystems that support urbanizing societies.

The interface with the city enhances research opportunities that also address community, ecosystem, and global health. In its interface and partnership with local and global communities, the Farm serves as an important point of connection and engagement for UBC. With farm visits reaching 40,000 in 2009, faculty and students joined international visitors and the wider community to participate in courses and workshops, contribute to public events and festivals, support student-led enterprises, and build important partnerships with non-profit, private-sector, and government organizations.

The Respiration of a City

Micrometeorology researchers in the UBC Department of Geography are developing an understanding of how urban vegetation affects a city’s overall carbon cycle, and how it can be managed to promote urban carbon sequestration. The UBC farm provides an oncampus control site to compare with a network of managed urban sites in Vancouver. The farm’s diverse landscape serves as a site for numerous projects aiming to better understand the dynamic carbon cycle that underpins global climate change.

A Food-Based Approach to Aboriginal Health

Graduate student researchers worked with over 700 visitors from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and from coastal Aboriginal communities at the UBC Farm in 2009. Through the Urban Aboriginal Community Kitchen Garden Project, participants cultivated and gathered foods in the fields and the forest and prepared feasts linked with cultural traditions as a strategy to address a number of health challenges, including diabetes and addictions. This program is now being explored and replicated in other coastal BC Aboriginal communities.

The Living Laboratory, Quantified: The confluence of the academy, a dense urban residential community, and a managed rural landscape provides the opportunity for a globally distinctive and ground-breaking experiment: to detail and measure the network of interconnecting systems that underpin sustainable communities. Our understanding of what makes a sustainable ecosystem, community, or economy is only as good as the underlying data that describes how the different components and functions of these systems are related. Advances in wireless and non-invasive instrumentation provide an opportunity for a mesh of data collection points through the fields, forests, and human habitats across South Campus. These instruments could capture a stream of information from the soil, air, water, plants, animals, and people, recording fluxes in real-time. Linking these data to key indicators of ecosystem, human, and community health will realize the Farm’s role as a living laboratory, continuously deepening our understanding of both the microcosm and, more importantly, the world it represents. This project links to the building-scale study proposed for CIRS, offering a complementary and expanded community-scale study.

  1. Enhanced on-campus land-based research: Work with the proposed University Sustainability Initiative (USI) to build upon the UBC Farm’s extensive field research programming to a broadened network of interest and expertise. The UBC Farm site will continue to enhance UBC’s laboratory-based and theoretical research by offering complementary field research opportunities. The site will maintain a wide range of land-use types, ranging from intensive crop cultivation to natural forest, to respond to increasing demand from a range of disciplines to maximize opportunities for relevant field study. The farm site will continue to provide space for traditional controlled plot-based field study, and opportunities for landscape-scale and community-scale research.
  2. Associate memberships for faculty: Using the multi-disciplinary expertise brought by faculty Associates, create new research opportunities for students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and develop collaborative projects and research funding applications. Collaborate with proposed Sustainability Research Fellows at the USI to add relevant field study components into new sustainability research initiatives.
  3. World-class Sustainability Dialogues: Host field lectures, public seminars, symposia, discussions, debates, and performances by invited scholars, policy-makers and practitioners. Whenever possible, facilitate these events in an outdoor setting to provide a contextual focus for interdisciplinary dialogue. Utilize cutting-edge communications technology, including wireless high-definition videoconferencing, podcast delivery and realtime media broadcasts to facilitate global participation and dissemination.
  4. Green Technology Innovation: Leverage the farm’s unique status as an accessible urban field research site to partner with academic, professional, private-sector, civil society, and government organizations. Pursue the responsible application and shared dissemination of innovative green technologies as components of larger strategies to reduce our individual and collective ecological footprints. Focus on knowledge-intensive land, clean energy, and material management strategies that can be disseminated to a wide range of biophysical and socioeconomic contexts, generating economic spin-off opportunities.
  5. A Land-Based Aboriginal Engagement Strategy: Expand and enhance the onsite programming for aboriginal participants, supporting specific research objectives of the Institute for Aboriginal Health and the recommendations contained in UBC’s Aboriginal Strategic Plan. International indigenous links will include engagement with the existing Mayan garden project, with the goal of providing a suite of land-based Aboriginal community health programs. Academic links to on-site aboriginal initiatives, including research projects and community service learning participation, can be expanded beyond the Faculty of Land and Food Systems to meet university-wide strategic goals for aboriginal engagement.
  6. Engage Learners of All Ages: Expand scope and support for K-12 and intergenerational educational programs as well as broad-based community engagement, with specific programs involving aboriginal communities, university residents including seniors, and international visitors. Activities will support the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy’s research objectives and enable other faculties expanded community service learning and community-based action research opportunities.
  7. Leverage the UBC Farm’s position as a point of community engagement to develop new Community-Based Research: Focus on expanded opportunities for community-based experiential learning (CBEL), community service learning (CSL), and research into the university’s role as an agent of change at the intersection of land, food, and community. Working with the proposed University Sustainability Initiative (USI), the farm will expand the scope and impact of its existing International, Aboriginal, and Community-Based Experiential Learning (CBEL) programs and new community-based research initiatives. This expansion will be achieved by linking these programs with other UBC initiatives, faculty, and students seeking opportunities for community service and collaborative research. The strength of community connections at the Farm provide opportunities to attract funding for collaborative grants such as through the Community-University Research Alliance (CURA) program. A range of public engagement and education initiatives, ranging from hosting public events, workshops, lectures, field dinners, concerts, celebrations, farmers’ markets, and festivals will be pursued to maintain and enhance the farm’s role in the wider community. Specific programs for Aboriginal groups, International visitors, UBC Alumni, and University residents aim to build a strong connection between the University and these groups, leveraging the intersection of food, health, and global sustainability. All strategies will be linked to academic programming to create innovative models of community-university partnerships and global citizenship.