The wildfires of 2003 were a wake-up call to many residents of the North Thompson Valley on the potential disastrous effects of climate change. Now a Thompson Rivers University researcher wants to do something about it.
“It’s public outreach,” said Dr. Julie Drolet, an assistant professor in TRU’s school of social work. “We want to mobilize research results to help communities react and respond to climate change.”
Drolet visited Clearwater before as part of an earlier study on climate change. Then she met with a variety of community leaders, volunteers, as well as people in emergency management, healthcare and social services.
“We wanted to find out what impact climate change was having in the communities, what challenges they were facing, whether it was forest fires or mountain pine beetle.
“One of the most interesting result of what we found was that it’s really important that how you react be based on what’s happening in the community, because each community is different. You need to build resiliency from the ground up,” said the TRU researcher.
That initial research was done with a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Recently Drolet won a grant of $49,810 from SSHRC to take the results of the earlier study back to the communities where she conducted her initial interviews.
The aim will be to improve the resiliency of small cities and rural communities to the impacts of climate change by sharing knowledge, increasing awareness and developing a toolkit of strategies to help communities adapt.
The findings from the previous research include community narratives of climate-change impacts, information needs at the community level, impacts of a changing climate on natural-resource livelihoods, gendered impacts of climate change on men and women and the status of sustainable-development plans.
Four student researchers will help with public outreach and knowledge transfer, including two undergraduate research assistants from TRU. University student involvement will also build future leadership and capacity in climate change, disasters and sustainable development.
“Our outreach activities will network affected communities in B.C., providing a community-level forum to share the innovative ways that small cities and rural communities are adapting to climate change,” Drolet said. “This research will lead to support to build their capacity and deal with the challenges that lie ahead.”