Recent MA/MScs

An aspect of IA is its iterative nature allowing you to learn and modify your approach/goal.  I apply this everywhere I can — even in how to manage the scope of research collaborations.  More often than not, once we delve into a problem area we learn that it is not addressable within the scope of an MA/MSc.  So, many projects start life as a Master’s initiative and morph into PhDs – recent examples are: Brian Gouge, Kim Lau and Maryam Rezaei.   


Zosia Bornik (MSc 2005): “Salmon farm location in the Broughton Archipelago British Columbia: a quantitative analysis”


The Broughton Archipelago on the northeast coast of Vancouver Island has the highest density of salmon aquaculture in the province of British Columbia, with 27 farms operating in an area of 117 km2. The Archipelago has been a focus region for early developments of spatial resource databases; it was the site selected for conducting the 1997 Salmon Aquaculture Review; and it has been the origin of recent controversies over the (mis)use of local ecological knowledge of First Nations and other interest groups. Many of the studies conducted in this area have focussed on the impacts of salmon farming on the local ecology. However, to date, little attention has been paid to what drives the industry at the regional level. By examining the distribution of salmon farms within the Archipelago and their spatial relationship to five different factors, this thesis aims to shed light on how and why the salmon aquaculture industry in the Broughton Archipelago has evolved in the manner that it has over the last 20 years.

This work examines the effectiveness of current siting guidelines in minimizing the impacts of salmon farming and protecting the long-term sustainability of B.C.’s coastal ecology. Geographic Information Systems and spatial data analysis are used in combination to test the validity of five hypotheses on the potential drivers of the location of salmon farms in the Broughton Archipelago. Temporal analysis is used to compare the intended versus actual use of three spatial databases in shaping the development of the industry along the coast. Salmon farms in this region are found to be clustered by company, and located in areas of high biophysical capability where coastal resource interests and activities are also concentrated. These sites are not selected for their proximity to processing plants, hatchery facilities, or labour. Salmon farms, as currently distributed, are equally likely to be found in areas that meet the existing siting criteria as those that fail to do so. The findings of this research will be of fundamental importance as the province of B.C. faces the decision of whether to continue expanding the industry balancing risks with economic rewards, or to limit expansion until more is known about the costs and long-term impacts.


Laura Fedoruk (MSc 2013): “‘Smart’ energy systems and networked buildings: examining the integrations, controls and experiences of design through operation”


Designs for new infrastructure such as buildings and energy systems often have the goals of being ‘smart’ and ‘sustainable’.  These goals often coincide with designs that integrate renewable and distributed energy systems, industrial ecology based principles, increased controls and monitoring capabilities, and integrated design techniques.  This thesis attempts to understand the design and process-based lessons that help to achieve these goals in networked infrastructure through the use of a contextual literature review as well as two case studies that examine the design and early operation of the networked energy and controls systems at the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS).  The thesis examines various literatures associated with ‘smart’ and ‘sustainable’ systems inclusive of sustainable buildings, smart grids, distributed energy systems, and industrial ecology and finds that learning processes and systems integration are key to the success of these projects.  From this understanding, a case study is used to examine the energy systems at CIRS in order to understand the systems integration of energy infrastructure during early operation.  The analysis reveals that in order to create systems that meet their design intent and create symbiotic relationships within a network, it is paramount to understand system boundaries and network effects throughout the lifecycle of a project – from design through to operation and optimization.  A second case study examines the systems at CIRS that are usually considered the ‘smart’ component of infrastructure, controls and monitoring capabilities, and finds that in order to have successful controls systems it is necessary to design and operate these systems in a way that complements the human systems that interact with them.  Designing for learning enables operator troubleshooting processes and inhabitant feedback and understanding.


Jana Hanova (MSc 2008): “Environmental and techno-economic analysis of ground-source heat systems”


In Canada, the realization of commitments to our GHG emission goals entails reducing residential energy use – a sector responsible for close to 20 percent of end-use energy consumption. This study focuses on the energy demand and emission levels of space and water heating, since these two components comprise 76% of residential energy demand.

Conventional heating technologies are often benchmarked against ground source heat pump (GSHP) systems, since these systems provide heating at 25 – 30% of the energy consumed by even the most efficient conventional alternatives. GSHPs have been identified as the most energy-efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective space conditioning systems available. However, their drawbacks have been high capital costs, and uncertainty about whether the electric power used by heat pumps has higher system-wide emissions.  This thesis delineates conditions under which GSHP systems achieve the largest net emission reductions relative their natural gas, heating oil, and electric heat counterparts. Electricity generation methods and emissions embodied in inter-provincial and international electricity trade are shown to significantly affect the emission savings achievable through GSHP. The results quantify how relative fuel prices influence annual operating savings, which determine how rapidly the technology can achieve payback. This analysis reveals GSHPs to hold significant potential for substantial GHG reductions at a cost savings relative to conventional alternatives; the time horizons for payback are as short as nine years for average-sized homes, and significantly shorter for larger homes.


Kim Lau (MA 2013) “British Columbia’s ‘Carbon Neutral Government’ mandate – influence on infrastructure decisions”


The ‘carbon neutral government’ mandate in British Columbia offers an excellent opportunity to study whether mandating public sector organizations to be ‘carbon neutral’ is an effective policy within an overall strategy to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While many have criticized the use of offsets to achieve ‘carbon neutrality’ and channeling of public funds to the private sector, others have pointed out that the mandate has forced public sector organizations to measure and manage their greenhouse gas emissions, and incentivized them to proceed with infrastructure projects that significantly reduced these emissions. Using a mixed methods case study approach, four post-secondary educational institutions in the Greater Vancouver region were selected, to investigate whether the ‘carbon neutral government’ mandate has influenced their decisions on infrastructure investments that would significantly reduce these organizations’ emissions. Through analyzing data on greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption and expert interviews, this study provides a better understanding of the factors that motivate public sector organizations to take action to drastically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, including the need to provide adequate resources and support mechanisms that will enable them to act so as to achieve the best possible policy outcome.


Adam Levine (MSc 2005 co-supervised with M. Kandlikar): “Disposal options to mitigate BSE risk in the Lower Fraser Valley, British Columbia”


The border closure to Canadian cattle and beef exports since the discovery of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in May and December of 2003 have had overwhelming effects on the Canadian economy. Estimates suggest that nearly $6 billion in total has been lost in the 11/2 years since the border closure. Two additional cases have now been detected, both within two weeks of the announcement on December 29th 2004 that trade with the U.S. (Canada’s largest trading partner for cattle and beef products) was to resume in March 2005. The second discovery was a beef cow born after the ruminant feed ban was put in place in 1997 and fears that the border would remain closed have been validated. To date, trade of live cattle to the U.S has not resumed. The biological wastes considered to have the highest probability of containing the BSE infectious agent known as the prion are termed specified risk materials (SRM). As such, SRMs have been prohibited from the human food chain in Canada since August of 2003 as a preventative measure against the human version of BSE known as variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (vCJD). Like BSE, vCJD is attributed to the human consumption of BSE infected meat products. It is a fatal neurological disorder with no known vaccine or cure. Regulatory changes have been proposed to remove SRM from the entire animal feed chain as a measure to mitigate further incidences of BSE. Such a measure would result in large volumes of biological waste that have few acceptable disposal options creating substantial challenges for industry and government. There are few options that are scientifically proven to reduce TSE infectivity through the destruction or inactivation of the infectious agent known as the prion. Findings of this research conclude that there does exist energy recovery disposal options that can serve to reduce release of these materials to soil, groundwater, and wildlife . The inclusion of rendered meat and bone meal co-fired in cement kilns and biodiesel production from tallow stand out as promising options to be considered in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada.


James Murphy (MSc, 2012): Determining Health Outcomes in Switching to Electric Bikes


Electric bicycles have grown rapidly in popularity in recent years, but with little examination of their health effects. We explore their main health effects for different categories of riders in different contexts.

Relative risks of mortality were calculated for people transitioning to electric bicycles from cars and bicycles, for 7.5km weekday commutes.  Three health impact mechanisms were considered: collisions, air pollution, and physical exercise.  Results were evaluated for women and men of different ages and riding style in urban Netherlands.  The calculations were then applied to four other countries with significant contextual differences.

Changes in exercise level dominated health outcomes in most cases.  Even minimal pedaling exertion during commuting brought substantial health benefits.  Collision risks were important for young riders relative to the low mortality hazards they otherwise face. Air pollution impacts were small except in the worst air quality case.  The combined health effects indicated that scooter-style electric bicycles (SSEBs) were harmful in all cases, especially for young males.  Bicycle-style e-bikes (BSEBs) were beneficial when displacing cars but harmful when conventional displacing bicycles.

These findings lead to three public policy implications. Policy should: a) encourage e-bike types that require some pedaling, b) limit maximum speed of e-bikes and c) only support modal switches to e-bikes from less active forms of commuting.


Alex Russell (MSc, 2008): “Everything But the Moo: a stakeholder analysis of livestock waste tissue disposal options in British Columbia


The emergence of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or “mad cow” disease has forced new practices in raising of cattle, risk management in abattoirs and disposal of potentially infective material. To avert further BSE and potential vCJD cases, new policies are needed. These policies are are to protect the health of consumers in Canada. They are also a prerequisite to exporting Canadian meat products.  A successful policy will need to balance economics, ease of implementation, and enforcement.

A range of technologies are available for disposal of potentially infected material.  Very few of these are capable of destroying prions to negligible levels. Fewer still are of a scale that could be accessible to smaller abattoirs. Producers have been resisting the more costly options arguing higher costs would make their products undesirable. In this thesis the suitability of various technologies are assessed. Furthermore, surveys are used to estimate how much the public would be willing to pay for greater food safety. These show that the public are more than willing to pay for the added cost of highly effective management of risks such as BSE in BC.


Philippa Shepherd (MSc 2004): “Water management in the Okanagan”


Using climate change adaptation theory as a framework, this study explores the process of adaptation to multiple stressors in the context of water management in the Okanagan Region, British Columbia. Water resources in the Okanagan are under growing stress from many pressures, including population growth, irrigated agriculture, tourism activities, forestry at higher elevations and now climate change. How to effectively adapt to these multiple stressors is a pertinent question for both local and provincial decision-makers. Four case studies, each representing different water efficiency approaches were selected for the study: domestic metering in Kelowna, irrigation metering in SEKID, wastewater reclamation in Vernon and institutional change in Greater Vernon, specifically amalgamation of separate water utilities.

The primary objective of the study is to explore how local authorities are adapting to current changing circumstances that impact availability of water resources: what factors triggered adaptation, determine the options selected and the success or failure of implementation, as well as what capacities facilitated adaptation i.e. adaptive capacity. Exploration of adaptation from a multi-signal perspective accentuates the contextual nature of future adaptation to climate change; that many factors i.e. other environmental pressures, socio-economic and political issues, will ultimately constrain, impede or encourage effective adaptation. Secondary objectives of the study include analyzing the effectiveness of the four management practices and exploring the role of learning in the adaptation process.

28 interviews of local water managers, Council/Board members and other key informants were undertaken. These cases show that adaptation, even planned adaptation, is not a rational, clear-cut process. Five key elements are critical for the initiation and follow through of appropriate and effective adaptation: 1) Capacity; 2) Willingness; 3) Understanding; 4) Trust, and 5) Learning. Resources need to be available/accessible in order for adaptation to occur. Willingness, or human agency, is vital in making appropriate decisions. Understanding the context will aid selection of appropriate options, aid procedural ease and outcome effectiveness. Trust, although won’t necessarily prevent conflict will ease the decision-making process. Finally, making learning an explicit objective will challenge internal status quo and ensure continual system improvements as well as the diffusion of experience between organizations.


Sonja Wilson (MSc, 2012) Remote community electrification using biomass


In British Columbia (BC) there are approximately 60 communities not connected to the regional electricity grid, these communities are classified as “remote”. Although some of these remote communities rely, in part, on renewable electricity generation, the prevailing technology for generating electricity is the diesel generator. Diesel generators are polluting, noisy, costly and unsustainable; yet communities rely on them for lack of a suitable alternative. However, many remote communities in BC are located in forested regions, and may have access to a woody biomass supply sufficient to meet community power requirements. In addition to displacing diesel for electricity generation, biomass power plants may also displace the combustion of wood and propane for space heating purposes.

Co-generation with woody biomass in grid-connected applications at large-scale is well established. However, remote community electrification with woody biomass is an emerging field requiring a different approach to risk/benefit analysis, technology selection, sizing and demand management. This thesis examines the benefits, risks, and techno-economic feasibility of generating electricity from woody biomass in the context of off-grid communities in BC.

Technology options were reviewed for their suitability to remote community applications. The finding of the review is that a Thermal Oil boiler coupled with an Organic Rankine Cycle turbine is the best choice for remote community power

plants. Specifications and pricing for these technologies were applied in the techno- economic assessment and optimization study for Tsay Keh Village in British Columbia. The results of the analysis suggest that a bioenergy plant in Tsay Keh Village would significantly reduce air pollution, soil contamination and noise in the village, while also reducing the 25-year net present value (NPV) of energy expenditures by 23%. Based on current community energy consumption, a Band- owned community power plant could generate a 25-year NPV $7.15 Million and a return on investment of 24%.

Provided that the many forms of risk associated with remote community electrification using woody biomass are recognized and managed effectively, a Band-owned bioenergy power plant at Tsay Keh Village could result in many benefits to the community; including improved respiratory health, employment, protection from escalating fossil fuel costs, revenue and energy self sufficiency.

In Collaboration with: Tsay Keh Dene First Nation, BC Hydro, AANDC and Green-Erg
Funding from: NSERC, Bridge Fellowship, The Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions and US National Science Foundation.