Dr. Rachel Hirsch is Nain-bound this week to start her Labrador Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship. As her host department in the Faculty of Arts, Geography enjoyed having Rachel in and around the department last week, participating in classes and speaking with graduate students and faculty. Unfortunately, her Blue Box seminar was cancelled due to the University closure on Friday but we expect there will be other opportunities to hear about her exciting work during the year-long fellowship.
Funding for Rachel’s post-doctoral fellowship is from the Labrador Institute and Faculty of Arts at Memorial University and ArcticNet (www.arcticnet.ulaval.ca/). Local support in Nain is from the Nunatsiavut Government’s’ Department of Environment and the Nain Research Centre.
Rachel was kind enough to answer some questions before she headed for Goose Bay and Nain.
How would you describe your research interests?
My current research interests include human security issues in the Arctic, health and environmental governance, community resiliency, and policy framing including innovative techniques in the evaluation of knowledge exchange. I am also concerned about issues of ethics and cooperation so that engagement with the public on policy issues can be made as transparent and equitable as possible. My postdoctoral work expands on my doctoral research by exploring how everyday decision-making about environmental health information, across scales from communities through to the federal government in Canada, can inform government initiatives to promote healthy communities and cities.
What do you plan to do for your postdoc in Labrador?
I have accepted a postdoctoral position with Memorial University’s Labrador Institute and will be situated in Nain from January-December 2012 where I will continue to work on issues of knowledge mobilization and policy action. We are interested in developing an innovative project, the first of its kind in Canada, focused on working together with community members, the Nain Inuit Community Government (NICG) and the Nunatsiavut Government (NG) to expand Nain’s community freezer program to include a youth outreach component focused on intergenerational skills, knowledge, and values exchange and to evaluate the success of this environmental health intervention by drawing on techniques in participatory program evaluation.
What are you looking forward to most during your year-long stay in Labrador?
I have always been interested in applied geographical research where Canadian residents are engaged in democratic dialogue about their views of policies and programs that impact them in their most intimate everyday lives (i.e., home, food, social networks). I have been collaborating with Iqaluit-based stakeholders on research to action issues, such as climate change and health policy framing, over the last two years. However, I have not had the opportunity to spent more than about a month and a half on the ground in an Arctic community.
I am extremely excited about continuing to develop innovative approaches that have afforded me close relationships with community-level stakeholders in the past. Participatory action research is focused on working together to build solutions in a way that is sustainable and meaningful to community members – this means that the road to ‘results’ is always full of surprising revelations and much personal growth. I am really looking forward to continuing in this vein of living and working.
What attracted you to this opportunity in Labrador?
I am extremely impressed with the work that Chris Furgal (Trent University) and Trevor Bell (Memorial University), whom I will be co-supervised by, have been conducting with the guidance and support of Tom Sheldon (Nunatsiavut Government) in Nain. It is clear that the work this group is conducting is coming from a place of integrity and sincere interest in building capacity, putting indigenous knowledge front and center, and working closely with community members to develop an intergenerational skills exchange program that reflects the vision and needs of the youth.
Where can people read more about your research or follow your experiences in Nain?
http://www.yorku.ca/rhirsch/ (until I create my MUN website)