On November 2nd, the latest installment of the Symons Seminar Series was hosted at Bagnani Hall in Traill College. This series, which usually runs from October to April of each school year, gives graduate students a chance to share their research with fellow members of the Trent and Peterborough community. Each session features twenty-minute presentations from two student speakers, one from the humanities and one from the sciences, followed by a Q&A with the audience. Of course, refreshments are provided to all in attendance as well.

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Photos by Samantha Moss

This month’s forum featured presentations from Theresa Treasure, an M.Sc. candidate in Environmental and Life Sciences, and An Kosurko, an M.A. candidate in Sustainability Studies.

Theresa’s described her research on the effect ‘selection harvesting’ has on geochemical cycling of nutrients in soil and on the regeneration of understory vegetation in south-central Ontario.

Selection harvesting is the practice of cutting trees selectively in a way that emulates the natural aging process of the forest itself, as opposed to clear-cut harvesting, in which vast amounts of trees within a given area are cut down indiscriminately.

Treasure noted that forestry is a major industry in Ontario, providing jobs for over 166,800 residents within the province and raking in profits of over $10 billion a year. Her study took place in Kearney, Ontario and focused on an area in which mostly sugar maple trees had been cut using the selection harvesting method.

In comparing the ecological impacts on uncut areas of forest in this area compared to gaps and skid roads created by selection harvesting, Treasure’s study concluded that significant amounts of soil compaction within the skid roads and gaps created by selection harvesting could pose potential limitations to the regrowth of sugar maple trees in these areas in the future. She measured soil compaction in two different ways: bulk density, which is the amount of soil within a given volume, and infiltration, which refers to the rate at which water is able to pass through the soil.

Treasure suggested that companies make attempts to limit the amount of skid road networks created during the selection harvesting process to help alleviate this problem. She also noted that the removal of competing organic species within these areas has shown to enhance the growth and establishment of sugar maples.

An Kosurko’s presentation showcased her research on the Mount Community Centre, and the non-profit organization that transformed this historical, 10 acre former home of the Sisters of St. Joseph into a space that offers affordable housing, event venues, and more. Her research was largely done through 23 documentary-style interviews with community members and volunteers involved in the project.

Korsurko broke down the 2-year trajectory of the development of the Mount Centre into 3 phases: daring, gaining ground, and groundswell.

Daring refers to the process of acquiring the Mount property and forming a new corporation to spearhead the project. In other words, members of the Peterborough were coming together to share a collective risk for the benefit of the community at large.

Gaining ground encompasses the social finance planning involved in the project as well as gaining zoning approval. Another important part of this process was the Erring on the Mount event, an art and performance festival hosted at the Mount in 2014, which many volunteers described as a turning-point in realizing what the center could be capable of in the future.

While describing the process of gaining ground, Korsurko noted the differing perspectives of the volunteers she interviewed. An example of this can be seen in the approach volunteers had to the community space itself. One volunteer described the future centre as particularly empty, and was excited about how much potential there was to change the landscape of the property. However, another volunteer perceived the Mount as a “storied place” whose legacy ought to be respected. Despite various conflicting opinions and ideas regarding its path, the group still managed to act in reciprocal ways in order to push the project forward.

Groundswell refers to the opening of the new community center after years of hard work from volunteers and members of the Peterborough community. It also refers to the process of tenants moving into the new space created for them. Korsurko described this as a remarkable achievement, and praised the generosity of the donors and volunteers involved with the project.

The closing Q&A’s main objective was to find a common thread between each of the researchers’ work. One audience member suggested that in their work, both Treasure and Korurko were working towards a better future for society as a whole in building community and sustainability within Canada. They also noted that the two researchers’ work highlighted the importance of recognizing that the actions we make in the present will ultimately impact future generations to come.

The date for the next Seminar Series has is yet to be announced. To keep up to date with upcoming lectures, you can like the Symons Seminar Series page on Facebook.