Maureen Reed

Professor Maureen Reed finalist for top national award

U of S geographer and sustainability scholar Maureen Reed is a finalist in the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s Impact Awards.

By University Communications

The awards celebrate research achievements and sharing of new knowledge beyond the academic community.

Reed’s commitment to community-based research on governance and sustainability in UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserves program has earned her international recognition. She has led efforts to bring together biosphere reserve groups to create a balanced and sustainable relationship between people and nature.

The professor and assistant director academic at the U of S School of Environment and Sustainability (SENS) was also nominated in 2014 for the $50,000 Connection Award.

“The collaborative approach and passion that Maureen has brought to her outstanding work on biosphere reserves has strengthened communities and created a sustainability model in Canada with global impact,” said Karen Chad, U of S vice-president research.

Canada now has 18 of the world’s 669 biosphere reserve sites, with one in Saskatchewan at Redberry Lake. Biosphere Reserves are ecologically and culturally sensitive areas where community volunteers and non-government members have come together to conserve biodiversity, promote sustainable development and learning.

Partnering for Sustainability: Creating networking and social learning strategies in Canadian Biosphere Reserves, a partnership between SENS and the Canadian Biosphere Reserve Association.

“The people I work with in biosphere reserves are hardworking, tenacious and committed as they seek to become model regions of biological and cultural diversity and sustainability” Reed said.

She said the Canadian network is now tackling its most significant issue: How to respect Indigenous rights, include Indigenous knowledge and engage Indigenous citizens in all aspects of biosphere reserve work in pursuing the objectives of reconciliation.

While biosphere regions have a common mission, Reed discovered when she began research in 2001 that no mechanism was in place to transfer lessons learned in individual sites to others in the network. She led an initiative in 2011 to strengthen social learning and national networking, which fundamentally changed how Canadian biosphere reserves work together.

Reed’s work and leadership have influenced UNESCO policies on the inclusion of Indigenous people and how biospheres worldwide work together to promote their sustainability goals.

The winners of SSHRC Impact Awards will be announced on Sept. 15, with an awards ceremony that evening at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.