About the 2017-2019 Trottier Fellows
Dr. Peter Douglas
Dr. Graham MacDonald
Dr. Mylene Riva
Dr. Adrian Vetta
Dr. Peter Douglas is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at McGill University. Dr. Douglas is an environmental biogeochemist, with specific expertise in applying measurements of rare isotopes in organic molecules to study past, present, and future changes to the Earth’s carbon and water cycles. His research projects focus on understanding the storage of carbon and emission of greenhouse gases from terrestrial environments, as well as the use of lake sediments as archives of past environmental change. Dr. Douglas received his Ph.D. from Yale University, where he completed projects studying the impact of drought on the ancient Maya civilization, and the distribution of temperatures during past periods of global warmth. He was then a Postdoctoral Scholar in Geochemistry at the California Institute of Technology, where he worked to develop a novel isotopic measurement of methane, clumped isotope analysis, as a new tracer for the production and emission of this important greenhouse gas in high-latitude ecosystems.
Methane radiocarbon measurements to support Canadian greenhouse gas monitoring and mitigation policy
Dr. Douglas and his students will be developing new analytical tools to study anthropogenic and natural emissions of methane, one of the most potent atmospheric greenhouse gases, and to translate these analytical results to inform Canadian and global greenhouse gas emissions policy. In particular, this project will focus on the measurement of radiocarbon, which is a highly effective tracer for methane emissions from fossil fuels and other old carbon reservoirs. This research will work to quantify the contribution of fossil fuel extraction methane emissions in different regions of Canada, and subsequently to help develop regionally specific emissions reductions policies. The research will also contribute to quantifying the potential for large-scale methane emissions from thawing permafrost, which could represent a major positive feedback to global warming originating in northern Canada and other Arctic regions. A better understanding of this feedback loop will improve our predictions of future climate change impacts, and also identify specific land management policies that will mitigate carbon emissions from the Arctic.
Visit Dr. Douglas’ web site: https://www.mcgill.ca/eps/douglas
Dr. Graham MacDonald is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at McGill and a core faculty member in the interfaculty Sustainability, Science & Society (SSS) program. As a global environmental scientist, his interdisciplinary research examines the intersection between the biophysical and farm management context that underlies agricultural production and the socioeconomic factors that shape food consumption. A large component of Graham’s research addresses phosphorus and nitrogen use in agriculture and its relationship to broader socioeconomic changes, such as urbanization and global trade. Graham completed a Ph.D. in Natural Resource Sciences at McGill in 2012, after which he was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment for three years.
Science within stakeholder networks to foster urban nutrient sustainability
Nitrogen and phosphorus are crucial inputs to agriculture, but mitigating the negative consequences of excess nutrient use is a grand challenge for society. As food consumption and waste generation are increasingly concentrated in urban areas, there is a particular need to link urban consumption to potential mitigation strategies that are often located outside city boundaries. We will examine the potential for an urban governance network to foster sustainable management of nitrogen and phosphorus by initiating a long-term case study of nutrient ‘footprints’ in Montreal. Nutrient footprints describe the total amount of reactive nitrogen or phosphorus released to the environment linked to individual or collective consumption patterns. We will leverage a recent assessment of McGill’s nitrogen footprint to forge a multidisciplinary team focused on the potential to reduce Montreal’s nitrogen and phosphorus footprints via partnerships between large post-secondary educational institutions and a network of local decision-makers. We will then link these results to a social network analysis of key stakeholders to examine governance and mitigation opportunities within Montreal and the surrounding agricultural region. These activities will provide a foundation for a longer-term objective to engage stakeholders in Montreal and Quebec toward a participatory approach to urban biogeochemistry research and knowledge transfer. Eventually, such partnerships could complement existing regulatory approaches aimed at abating the local costs of excess nutrient use in Quebec.
Visit Dr. MacDonald’s web site: https://www.mcgill.ca/geography/people/macdonald
Dr. Mylene Riva is Assistant Professor at McGill, jointly appointed to the Institute for Health and Social Policy (IHSP) and the Department of Geography. Her research is focused on the socio-environmental determinants of health in Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. The scientific activities of Prof. Riva and her students and research assistants in the Place, Health and Well-being research group, pay specific attention to housing and communities as important place-based determinants of health and well-being, and as settings for interventions to improve population health and to reduce health and social inequities. The policy-relevant research produced by the team makes use of primary and secondary data from health-related and administrative surveys, as well as qualitative approaches, to understand the biopsychosocial mechanisms through which housing and community conditions ‘get under the skin’ to influence the health of Inuit, First Nations, and the general population in Canada.
Prof. Riva attended Université de Montréal (BSc Geography, PhD Public Health and Health Promotion) before completing a postdoctoral fellowship in health geography at Durham University, UK, and a Banting postdoctoral fellowship at Université Laval. As primary investigator, she holds funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and ArcticNet, a Canada national center of excellence, and a career award with the Fonds de recherche en Santé du Québec (FRQ-S).
Housing, Access to Health Care, Education, and Employment among First Nations Living On- and Off-Reserve: Moving Evidence to Policy
At the 2011 Canadian Census, 4% of the population (1.4M) self-identified as Indigenous; in Quebec, 141,915 (2%) reported Indigenous ancestry. First Nations are one of the three groups of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, with the Inuit and Métis; they make up about 60% of the Indigenous population. The Indigenous population is increasingly more urban, with 56% residing in urban areas. In Montreal, 26,280 people self-identified as Indigenous at the 2011 Census. Although this is among the lowest concentration in Canadian metropolitan area, Montreal is the city where the Indigenous population is growing at the fastest rate.
Housing is recognized as a human right under Article 11 of the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (which Canada ratified in 1976) and as a key determinant of health, with the effects of poor housing conditions being cumulative over the life course. At the 2011 census, 11% of Indigenous peoples reported living in overcrowded houses, compared to 4% of non-Indigenous Canadians, with important social and geographic variation across the country. Over 20% and 7% of, respectively, First Nations living on- and off-reserve were in overcrowded houses. Close to 40% of First Nations living on-reserve and 15% of living off-reserve were in houses needing major repairs, compared to 7% for non-Indigenous Canadians. Poor housing conditions have been associated with several acute and chronic health conditions, such as infectious and respiratory diseases, injuries, poor nutrition and psychosocial problems, meaning that substandard housing leads to increased health care needs. Inadequate housing may also be a significant challenge to social and economic development by affecting educational attainment and work participation.
This project will conduct policy-amenable research on, and translation of research about, the links between housing conditions and access to health care, education, and employment for First Nations living on reserve in the province of Quebec, and in metropolitan areas across Canada (off-reserve). It will also examine indigenous housing policies implemented in Canada and elsewhere, and analysed for their applicability in the Montreal census metropolitan area. This project was developed and will be conducted in collaboration with the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission, the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, and Native Montreal. Scientific activities will be realized within an integrated Knowledge Translation (iKT) framework in which knowledge users– here decision makers of the above mentioned organizations – are engaged through all steps of the research process, from defining research questions to knowledge dissemination. Results generated by the project will fill knowledge gaps identified by these organizations to inform the development, implementation, reach, and effectiveness of current and future housing and public health policies. Working within an iKT framework will allow for real-time translation of research results to support decision-making and policy concerning housing for First Nations in Montreal and in the province of Quebec.
Visit Dr. Riva’s webpages on McGill’s Department of Geography (https://www.mcgill.ca/geography/people/riva) and IHSP (https://www.mcgill.ca/ihsp/people/faculty#Mylene Riva) websites, and the website of the Place, Health and Well-being research group (myleneriva.com).
Dr. Adrian Vetta is an Associate Professor at McGill University with a joint appointment in the School of Computer Science and the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. Dr Vetta is an inter-disciplinary researcher whose academic training includes a B.Sc. in Economics and an M.Sc. in Mathematics from the London School of Economics (LSE), as well as a Ph.D. in Mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His research concerns algorithmic and computational aspects of optimization and decision making and its application in areas such as telecommunications, industrial organization, bioinformatics, and operations research. At the heart of Dr. Vetta's current research agenda is algorithmic mechanism design, two major themes of which are the critical public policy issues of spectrum auctions and carbon pricing.
Developing a deeper understanding of Cap-and-Trade Systems and their effect on public policy
The Canadian Government recently announced its plan to combat climate change. Specifically, every province must introduce carbon pricing by 2018. This implies that the provinces have basically been given two options. They may implement either a carbon tax, i.e. a tax on each ton of carbon emitted, or a cap-and-trade system where carbon emission permits are bought and sold on a trading market. Since carbon pricing is the primary method chosen by Canada - and, indeed, across the world - to reduce carbon emissions, it is imperative to examine its effectiveness. That is the purpose of this proposal. More specifically, the focus is on evaluating the performance of cap-and-trade systems. Essentially, such a mechanism is just a series of auctions over time. However, despite its simplicity, the temporal nature of a sequential auction means there is much uncertainty surrounding the quality of the outcomes it produces. To quantify this, in addition to theoretical analyses, we will build full-scale implementations of the cap-and-trade systems used in North America and test them experimentally in practical settings using both robotic and human bidders. This will allow for the search and discovery of structural and strategic flaws inherent in the mechanisms. It will also highlight potential mechanism improvements, thus proffering guidelines to policy makers with respect to the modification and redesign of these cap-and-trade systems.
Visit Dr. Vetta’s web site: http://www.math.mcgill.ca/vetta/index.html