Graduate Research Opportunities

One Masters Positions Available in the People, Plants and Policy Lab at the University of Guelph, Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics with Dr. Faisal Moola.

I am currently recruiting a Masters student (MA or MSc) to join my research group, that is focused on bio-cultural approaches to conservation and forest management with Indigenous Nations. I encourage interested applicants to contact me with a copy of their curriculum vitae, transcripts, statement of research interest and sample of writing. The positions are fully funded.

The successful applicant is expected to enrol at the University of Guelph for the fall 2020 term. Details on University of Guelph’s graduate program at the Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics.

Research Area: Bio-cultural knowledge and conservation of plant communities in north-central Newfoundland

Plants have always played a significant role in the cultural fabric of Indigenous people living in Newfoundland and Labrador. Food and beverage plants provide significant nutritional benefits and the knowledge of plant medicines continue to be important in the holistic healing practices of local communities. First Nations in the boreal have developed sophisticated systems of horticulture, such as the management of fire, which has been encoded in indigenous peoples’ languages and has been passed on through stories and place names. This type of detailed information on the ecological and cultural importance of berry-producing shrubs and other ethnobotanicals is important in the management of bio-cultural resources in parks and protected areas. Ethnobotanicals also offer great potential as bio-cultural indicators for achieving ecological integrity and other objectives in the management of parks and protected areas. The project will be developed in partnership with Indigenous partners and Parks Canada. The project includes the participation of Dr. Hannah Harrison who is an environmental ethnographer and conservation social scientist with expertise in qualitative and ethnographic approaches to biosocial research on changing land and waterscapes.

Potential Projects:

  1. To investigate the importance of heathland and other plants as bio-cultural resources in north-central Newfoundland.
  2. To investigate the role of fire, insect outbreak and other types of disturbance on plants that are of particular cultural significance to First Nations and local communities in and around Terra Nova National Park, Newfoundland.
  3. To integrate traditional ecological knowledge with western science in the development of management activities that can be employed to promote bio-cultural species, such as enhancing berry yields for wildlife and local visitors to Terra Nova National Park.

Digital Environmental Governance

I’m excited to hear from prospective grad students who are curious about the intersections of digital technologies and environmental governance. From "smart" devices for home energy efficiency to social media platforms, new data-generating sensors and data-synthesizing algorithms are increasingly central to the everyday lives of many. But these may prove transformational within environmental governance as well, as conservationists, regulators and planners, and corporations hope to: make decision-making "data-driven" with modeling software and webmaps; employ social media and websites to communicate their message; develop new data infrastructures like blockchain for brokering trust in supply chains. The promise is that technologies can help solve sustainability issues related to food security, climate change adaptation, and ecosystem services. A key challenge for geographers in the coming years is assessing this promise, by understanding the human dimensions of new digital tools - their design, use, maintenance, and impacts - alongside other governance trends like marketization and metrification.  

Some specific projects we could collaborate on might include:
  • evaluating ecosystem services decision-support software and conservationist groups' use of it
  • understanding the use of decision-support tools and/or the design of data governance frameworks within "smart" farming
  • visualizing environmental agencies’ and nonprofits' web presences and practices
Prospective students might be interested in conducting interviews, document analysis, and surveys for their research, as well as working critically with digital technologies themselves. I can offer training in critical communication skills - including mapping, web design, public writing - and in the scholarly fields of political ecology, science and technology studies, and digital geographies.

I encourage interested candidates to email me at with a brief statement of interest, an unofficial transcript, a writing / research sample, and a CV/resume.

Food Waste and Food Insecurity

Dr. Kate Parizeau is accepting applications from prospective graduate students interested in the following research topics:

  1. The dynamics of food waste in Canadian households, or at diverse points of the food value chain (e.g. farms, processing, retail, food service, food recovery organizations);
  2. The relationship between food waste and food insecurity in the Canadian context;
  3. The (paid or unpaid) labour implications of food waste in Canada;
  4. The governance of food waste management in Canada.

Conservation through Reconciliation

I am interesting in speaking with any outstanding MA or PhD students interested in Indigenous conservation governance in Canada or the political ecology of conservation more broadly. Inquires from prospective students who identify as Indigenous are particularly welcome. Visit the website.

Environmental Governance, Oceans & Fisheries, and Environmental Politics in the Digital Realm

I have funded graduate student positions available and welcome inquiries from talented students interested in a MA or PhD degree! Research topics are somewhat flexible, but would relate to one or more of:

  • Political ecology and oceans
  • Environmental governance and digital technology/media
  • The pursuit of sustainable and equitable fisheries in Canada

Ideal candidates will have training in social science and be well-versed in environmental issues, politics and governance. For updates and the latest opportunities, follow me on Twitter (@JJSilvs), subscribe to the listserv of the Canadian Association of Geographers, or contact me via email.

I am fortunate to be working currently with several graduate students on projects investigating a variety of issues and opportunities relating to the production, exchange, and systematic organizing of local food systems and short supply chains.  Work to date has focused on farm-community linkages, on the increasing structural diversification of organics, on the phenomenon of direct marketing at the farmers' market, on rural transformations attributable to wine and related amenity production and on the prospects for "mainstreaming" local food through stronger engagement with the conventional food retail sector -- the grocery store.

At present  I am hoping to pursue one or more projects  that cast a view to the ways and degree to which rural communities and regions are experiencing an alteration of their “identity” because of new and shifting perceptions of “place” associated with innovation and promotion in the farm and food sector,  Such food-related rural transitions have the capacity to both galvanize and polarize rural interests and actors.  Such projects could be envisioned at either the Masters or PhD levels.

GIS and Watershed Management

I am recruiting one Ph.D. or one MSc/MA student to join my research program on examining cost effectiveness of agricultural conservation programs ( The funding will be provided at domestic student fee rates. I welcome students from all related disciplines such as geography, hydrology, ecology, economics, and forestry. Students will have flexibility in choosing a range of research topics from two streams corresponding to NSERC or SSHRC mandates.

For NSERC stream, students may choose research topics related to GIS-based watershed hydrologic and integrated economic-hydrologic modelling. Sample projects may include watershed modelling to identify critical source areas in agricultural landscapes for water quality protection, and to examine economic and environmental tradeoffs of conservation practices in agricultural watersheds.

For SSHRC stream, students may choose research topics related to institutional, economic, and social issues of agricultural conservation programs. Sample projects may include examining governance of agricultural conservation programs for improving Great Lakes water quality, and evaluating economic, social, and environmental implications of precision agriculture and conservation.

Students will receive well rounded training in GIS, watershed modelling, economic analysis, and policy evaluation related to various aspects of agricultural conservation programs. Previous graduate students have gained employment in government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and consulting firms. Interested candidates are encouraged to contact Dr. Wanhong Yang ( to discuss further.