By Irene Brueckner-Irwin, MES Candidate
Saint John, NB

Last week, I attended the “Fundy in Flux: Challenges for Science, Policy and Society” science workshop, hosted by the Bay of Fundy Ecosystem Partnership (BoFEP) in Fredericton. BoFEP is a transdisciplinary partnership which promotes ecological integrity, biodiversity, and productivity for the wellbeing of coastal communities. The workshop was an effective way to share knowledge about the dynamic state of the Bay of Fundy, highlighting the importance of place-based science communication as a way to address the challenges and opportunities of complexity and uncertainty.

Addressing these challenges within social-ecological systems is a critical part of our work in ECGG. A number of our research projects deal, explicitly or implicitly, with questions about how complexity and uncertainty operate at different scales. In particular, my research is concerned with how we can integrate social and ecological needs into marine conservation in the face of uncertainty. The Bay of Fundy is a well-suited case to try to understand this.

Presenters in last week’s workshop raised issues about climate change, coastal governance and monitoring, tidal energy, and ecology, emphasizing the interrelationships of the region. Indeed, signs of social and ecological embeddedness are easily recognizable along the coast: waterfront boardwalks, aquariums, fishing boats, wetland projects, and shipping traffic. It’s a unique social-ecological system, where dramatic tides provide habitat and natural resources that are critical for human wellbeing. Research on the Bay of Fundy abounds and a number of good datasets exist, however we know less about the system under conditions of change. Uncertainty about upcoming change in the region is intensifying with looming socio-political decisions in some key sectors that will influence the plentiful resources offered by the bay.

For example:
• If tidal energy becomes widely attainable, how will turbines influence aquatic species?
• Will a network of marine protected areas adequately protect biodiversity, and what influence will it have on resource users in the bay?
• If oil and gas development intensifies, where will shipping traffic increase? What would be the fate of a bitumen spill in the bay?

Despite these sources of uncertainty, one thing is clear after attending the BoFEP workshop: a strong community exists within BoFEP to address these challenges in order to enhance the wellbeing of coastal communities along the Bay of Fundy. Integrating the ecological with the social, this transdisciplinary group creates opportunities to navigate the complexity of a very special region in Canada.

Thank you to the organizing committee of the BoFEP workshop. Workshop proceedings will soon be available here.

BoFEP participants enjoying a boat trip on the Oromocto River

BoFEP participants enjoying a boat trip on the Oromocto River

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