On 50th anniversary, a new era dawns for Dal's School of Resource and Environmental Studies

- April 6, 2023

A Master of Environmental Studies student conducts field work on the banks of a river. (Provided photo)
A Master of Environmental Studies student conducts field work on the banks of a river. (Provided photo)

There’s no sign of a midlife crisis as its 50th birthday approaches, but the School for Resource and Environmental Studies (SRES) is ready for a change.

Having been part of the Faculty of Management since 1989, SRES officially joined the Faculty of Science on April 1, the start of the 2023 fiscal year.

For the past three years, while the Faculty of Management has been engaged in conversations about restructuring, SRES has also been exploring a move to another Faculty.

“Environmental and sustainability-related issues are quintessentially important to management education,” says Dr. Michelle Adams, director of SRES. “But that’s not all we do. Management education is not our singular goal.”

Last fall, after approval from the respective Faculty Councils of Management and Science and Dalhousie Senate, the move to Science was officially confirmed to take effect at the start of the new fiscal year.

“We are thrilled to welcome our colleagues from SRES and believe that this combination of expertise will benefit our students, faculty and community,” says Dr. Chuck Macdonald, dean in the Faculty of Science. “The successful integration of excellent science with excellent policymaking and understanding of the societal impacts of science is critical to address many of the most pressing problems we face. I am confident the integration of SRES into the Faculty of Science will provide our students and researchers with even better education, training, perspectives, and opportunities to address the challenges of today and tomorrow."

Finding a new home

As SRES administration considered new Faculties to join, Science seemed like an ideal fit, as it would allow the School’s faculty to explore the broader implications of scientific research through an interdisciplinary lens. Dr. Adams points to advances in lithium-ion battery technology as one area of focus that can be examined through the lens of environment and sustainability.

“If we don’t look at both the upstream and downstream implications of lithium-ion battery design and production — whether the materials used in making them are coming from a sustainable source — then we’re simply creating new problems 50 years in the future.”

Having greater access to the Faculty of Science and the wide-ranging areas of research being conducted should also benefit SRES students, many of whom enter careers in policy or government rather than pursuing life in academia as scientists. Adams stresses the importance of SRES graduates being able to communicate scientific research in a way that makes it relevant to policy decisionmakers. “How do we translate research into something that a community group can make decisions about or influence?” says Adams. “How can we take our findings and better influence behaviours in fisheries, companies and agricultural practices?”

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50 years of environmentally focused education

SRES began in 1973 as the Institute for Environmental Studies after being founded by zoology and environmental studies professor F. Ronald Hayes. In 1978, its name changed to the Institute for Resource and Environmental Studies after the arrival of Arthur Hanson as director. In 1986, it became the School for Resource and Environmental Studies, and joined the Faculty of Management in 1989. 

The thesis-based Master of Environmental Studies (MES) program was launched in 1978, with the course-based Master of Resource and Environmental Management (MREM) program added in 2004. Those master’s programs remain the School’s core offerings, with doctoral studies available through the Interdisciplinary PhD Program.

At a time when sustainability and the environment have become increasingly popular areas of focus for post-secondary institutions, SRES has been a leader in science policy and environmental management for nearly 50 years, before such subjects were widely in demand.

“We were talking about sustainable development goals before they were mainstream,” says Dr. Adams.

A fond farewell

Despite no longer being part of the Faculty of Management, the School’s offices will remain in the Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building. The Faculty of Management’s acting dean, Dr. Mike Smit, says the change will take some getting used to. “SRES has been part of the Faculty for 30 years, and there are strong ties among faculty, staff, and students. We will miss them, but we know those collaborations will continue.”

The Faculty of Management’s new structure will go into effect in July. Though SRES is moving, topics related to sustainability and social impact will continue to be explored in Faculty of Management programs. 


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