Environmental Science and Technology article

IMG00849-20120611-0927A new article co-authored by Leanne Flahr, Nicole Michel, Paul Jones, Christy Morrissey and I is now available through Environmental Science and Technology. The article, Developmental exposure to Aroclor 1254 alters migratory behaviour in juvenile European starlings, can be downloaded here.

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Arctic Change 2014

Looking forward to presenting my Master’s research at this year’s Arctic Net conference in Ottawa. My paper, Risk and Uncertainty in the City of Iqaluit ‘Dumpcano’, will be presented tomorrow afternoon (December 10th, 16:00) as part of the ‘Interface Between Science and Policy’ session. Abstract below.

IMG_4229 Photo credit: ESPG’s Larissa Pizzolato

Abstract: Risk and Uncertainty in the City of Iqaluit ‘Dumpcano’: Implications for Arctic Waste Governance

On May 23rd, 2014, Iqaluit, Nunavut’s municipal dump spontaneously caught fire for the fourth time in under a year. The deep-seated dump fire, which became known colloquially as the Iqaluit ‘dumpcano’, burned consecutively for over three and a half months. During this time, smoke from the dump fire periodically entered the community causing various environmental and human health concerns. Government policies and directives aimed at managing risk simultaneously rejected and reinforced the public’s concerns. The Territorial health department, for example, repeatedly stated that the situation was not a public health emergency, yet instructed children, elderly persons, women of childbearing age, pregnant women, and those with respiratory issues to limit their exposure to dump smoke. Similarly, air quality monitoring by government scientists indicated that, despite contaminant concentrations being above the acceptable limit for many southern provinces, the amount of exposure would not likely result in long-term impacts to the health of Iqaluit’s residents. The government’s messaging along with its scientific framing was largely rejected by the public: schools shut down due to children complaining of headaches; several major community events were postponed due to dump smoke; employers handed out gas masks to workers; a community activist group formed; and many families evacuated South.

This research draws on ethnographic fieldwork that was conducted in Iqaluit from June-September, 2014. Fieldwork included archival research at municipal and territorial government archives, participant observation at formal and informal sites of waste management (e.g. the Iqaluit dump, city council meetings, public hearings, etc.), and semi-structured interviews with over 30 stakeholders interested in Iqaluit’s waste management. Respondents included: municipal, federal and territorial government officials; local Iqaluit journalists; members of the activist group ‘Iqalummiut for Action’; local composters and recyclers; tourists; current and former Iqaluit city councilors; and various non-participating publics. I argue that the community’s rejection of the government’s messaging about contaminants speaks less to the public’s (in)ability to understand science, and more to the uncertainties that are both inherent to, and caused by, modernity. Additionally, Nunavut’s recent (and ongoing) history of colonialism has engendered distrust amongst many community residents towards the political and government officials responsible for risk management. This paper draws on Ulrich Beck’s risk theory and other environmental studies of risk, uncertainty, and colonialism, to critically consider the role of science and policy in the management of risk perception. Using the Iqaluit ‘Dumpcano’ as a case study of an acute social/political/and environmental event, I posit that cultural and historical factors, as well as the limitations of scientific knowledge, must be acknowledged when implementing science-based policy related to risk management.

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Canada’s Waste Flow on Facebook

Originally posted on Cassandra E. Kuyvenhoven:

Canada’s Waste Flow is now on Facebook!

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Dr. Hird Elected to Royal Society of Canada

Originally posted on Cassandra E. Kuyvenhoven:

Myra J. Hird has been recognized by her peers for her career as a distinguished interdisciplinary scholar with an international reputation for her multifaceted, collaborative investigations into science studies and environmental issues. Fellowship in the RSC is one of the highest recognitions for Canadian academics. Congratulations to Dr. Hird!

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Over 85 days on fire


Night shot of the City of Iqaluit Dumpcano

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Metal Dump. Iqaluit, NU.


11:54pm June 18th, 2014


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Transportation and Recycling

If there are no roads and no recycling facility, where do waste materials go? Most often, they stay put.

beer cans

Waste management (in the South) often equates to moving waste around. Currently, most recycling in Iqaluit is done by Mr. Bryan Hellwig at Northern Collectables, a local art and supply store. Once or twice a year, the recyclables (beer cans) are shipped to a Montreal recycling facility. For the rest of the year, they remain readily visible outside the store lot. This is just one of the differences between waste management in the Eastern Canadian Arctic: waste is neither out of sight nor out of mind.



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