Congratulations are in order! Samantha Chu has completed her Honour’s undergraduate degree in Management with a major in Sustainability and Manjulika Robertson has completed her Master of Environment Studies at the School for Resource and Environment Studies. 

Manjulika Robertson and Samantha Chu worked closely together over the past year to develop each of their theses using the same dataset collected via survey to study the prevalence and impacts of interference in environmental studies and sciences research across Canada.  

Manjulika Robertson’s thesis focused on naming and documenting the phenomenon of interference in science and its impact for researchers of different sectors, locations, research areas, and career stage. In Samantha Chu’s thesis, she conducted a deep dive into the survey respondents’ personal identity factors to assess the role that identity demographics play in influencing a researcher’s perception of their experience with interference in science. Both theses are available now on DalSpace.  

Manjulika Robertson will be staying on with the Westwood Lab as a full-time research associate for 2022-23. Samantha Chu has accepted a contract research assistant position with the Clean Foundation, where she primarily works with Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change on their adaptation team.  


Robertson, M. E. (2022, August 29). Investigating interference in the environmental sciences and studies in Canada: Defining the phenomenon and measuring its prevalence and impacts. [Faculty of Graduate Studies Online Theses, Dalhousie University]. Dal Space. http://hdl.handle.net/10222/81905 

Chu, S. (2022, April 22). Interference in Environmental Studies and Sciences: Understanding how Identity Factors Influence Experienced Interference. [College of Sustainability Undergraduate Honours Theses, Dalhousie University]. Dal Space. http://hdl.handle.net/10222/81591 


Dr. Alana Westwood will be principal investigator on two innovative projects that will generate new, collaborative, and evidence-based knowledge in the sectors of forestry and impact assessment.

The first, the SSHRC-funded three-year project What constitutes effective knowledge exchange at the environmental science-policy interface? will continue previous research done by the lab and partners on knowledge exchange in forestry to help overcome the knowledge-implementation gap (read more in this Dal News article).

The application was supported by current lab member and MES student Manjulika Robertson. She will continue with the lab on this project, leading a communications experiment to provide insight on the effectiveness of different ‘one-way’ knowledge exchange methods as well as examine how leaders in science move knowledge across the science-policy divide.

The second is the IAAC-funded project Queers, closets, and man camps which will set a foundation to understand if and how the views of 2SLGBTQQIA+ people are being considered in IA processes under the 2019 Impact Assessment Act (IAA). This is the first known inquiry into the impact of major infrastructure and natural resource development projects (MINRDP) on 2SLGBTQQIA+ communities in Canada. The application was supported by current lab research assistants Ali MacKellar and Kimberly Klenk, and Ali will conduct this research during their MES at Dalhousie University starting this fall.

Both projects create new or continue existing partnerships with academia (Dalhousie University, Carleton University, University of Alberta, University of New Brunswick, and University of Regina), government (the Canadian Wildlife Service – Environment and Climate Change Canada, Natural Resources Canada, and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat) and non-profit organizations (Mitacs and Evidence for Democracy).


“The few areas of remaining old forest are wonders to explore. However, I fear the combined effects of industrial forestry, climate change and invasive species will quickly eradicate what is left.”

Riley, Westwood Lab member and Master of Environmental Studies candidate at Dalhousie University, submitted a short response to Lindsay Lee’s June 6 opinion piece in the Chronicle Herald on the subject of Nova Scotia’s slow transition to an ecological forestry model. In the article, she insists on Nova Scotian’s dedication to sustainable forestry practices and urges the proper implementation of the 2018 Lahey Report.


From left to right: Riley Scanlan, Ali MacKellar, Ben Collison, Samantha Chu.

In a show of academic and research excellence, four members of the Westwood Lab have received scholarships for their research endeavours at Dalhousie University.

Riley Scanlan, current Master of Environmental Studies (MES) student in the Dalhousie School for Resource and Environmental Studies (SRES), received the Scotiabank Ethics in Action Bursary valued at $10,000, which recognizes students who exemplify the importance of ethical leadership and who have first-class academic standing. She was also awarded the Canada Graduate Scholarships – Master’s program from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) for her thesis titled “Quantifying boreal forest connectivity in Unama’ki to guide restoration efforts.” Adding to this impressive haul, she also won Dalhousie’s Neil Munro Parks and Protected Areas Award.

Ali MacKellar, who will be starting a MES at Dalhousie this coming fall, received the Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarship – Master’s, the Killam Predoctoral Scholarship – Master’s, and the SRES Research Legacy Scholarship. Together, these awards are capped $25,000 per year for up to two years to outstanding graduate students in thesis-based programs. These scholarships will support their research on “Queers, closets, and man camps” and the impacts of major infrastructure and natural resource development projects (MINRDP) on 2SLGBTQQIA+ persons in Canada.

Future lab member and recent Master of Resource and Environmental Management (MREM) graduate Ben Collison was awarded the Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarship – Doctoral valued at $15,000 per year for up to four years. He will be starting an Interdisciplinary PhD (IDPhD) in January 2023 with the objective of better understanding how forestry road networks and the use of tree marking influences wildlife habitat connectivity, biodiversity responses to forest regeneration, and opportunities for human recreation associated with different methods of ecological forestry.

Finally, recent Bachelor of Management graduate and Westwood Lab honour’s student Samantha Chu won the Deborah Buszard Prize for a student who has contributed significantly to academic life in Dalhousie’s College of Sustainability.

Congratulations to all four students and we look forward to seeing the impact of your research!


Recent Master of Resource and Environmental Management graduate and future member of the Westwood Lab, Ben Collison, joined Dr. Alana Westwood in Vancouver, British Columbia from May 4 – 7 to attend the International Association of Impact Assessment Conference (IAIA 22) alongside hundreds of impact assessment specialists from around the world. The conference was hosted by the BC Environmental Assessment Office with many staff practitioners and policy-makers in attendance. Ben presented his newly published research article in the open-access science journal FACETS (with co-authors Patrick Reid, Hannah Dvorski, Mauricio Lopez, Alana Westwood, and Nikki Skuce) that exposed a worrisome potential loophole in BC’s environmental assessment (EA) laws, allowing companies to change their development projects after receiving environmental assessment approval through a process known as ‘amendments.’ 

Last week, the paper was covered by over 60 media outlets, including The Globe and Mail and CBC News. Ben, Alana, and the other co-authors remain hopeful that bringing this issue to light through journal publication, media coverage, and recent meetings with recommendations to the BC Environmental Assessment Office will create positive policy changes to help reduce environmental impacts from large development projects in BC and elsewhere.  

Citation: Collison, B. R., Reid, P. A., Dvorski, H., Lopez, M. J., Westwood, A. R., & Skuce, N. (2022). Undermining environmental assessment laws: post-assessment amendments for mines in British Columbia, Canada, and potential impacts on water resources. FACETS, 7(1), 611-638. https://doi.org/10.1139/facets-2021-0106. 

Lamenting the loss of the Acadian forest that I never got to know: Riley Scanlan shares her opinion

Riley, member of the Westwood Lab and student in the Master of Environmental Studies at Dalhousie University, submitted an opinion letter to the SaltWire to share her perspectives on old-growth forest in Nova Scotia. In the article she expresses how different her experience on the forest is in comparison to her mentors’ experience a few decades ago, and she shares her feelings about the current state of the Acadian forest:

“The more I learn about the Wabana’ki forest — known to many as the Acadian forest — the more I mourn my lost opportunity to learn from and experience expansive, intact forest ecosystems. The Mi’kmaq have sustainably stewarded these lands for thousands of years and show it is indeed possible to do so today.”

Biodiversity, future, and extinction: Alana Westwood comments on the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity report

More than 50 researchers from 23 countries collaborated in the report, which highlights that countries must act as soon as possible to allow global biodiversity to be recovered. The document presents an updated assessment on how the biodiversity milestones and goals of the global biodiversity framework can be achieved. Dr. Alana Westwood (not involved in the report) told The Globe and Mail:

“I certainly think they make a strong case that we need transformative change if we want to live on a planet that we share with other species and not some kind of bio-desolate wasteland like see we showing up in our science-fiction television and movies right now.”


In response to Atlantic Mining Nova Scotia’s proposed open-pit gold mine project, Beaver Dam Mine, recommendations for consideration were made for the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, Atlantic Mining Nova Scotia, and federal authorities in the ongoing assessment of the Beaver Dam Mine Project. Dalhousie University graduate students from Dr. Alana Westwood’s class ENVI5001 Environmental Assessment put together these recommendations as part of their coursework. Submission summary can be found here on the Impact Assessment of Canada registry.

The recommendations cover:

  • Air quality
  • Surface water quality and quantity
  • Workforce development
  • Community health and safety
  • Species at risk and wildlife
  • Wetlands and lichens
  • Terrain, soil, and parks
  • Spatial boundaries

Cover letter and Recommendations for Consideration can be downloaded here:

Report citation:

Westwood, A., Doucet, T., Fequet, L., Ho, I., MacLean, N., MacNeil, B., Nguyen, P., Sharan, R., Thapar, K., Thurston, E., Vail, C. 2021. Submission on concerns and recommendations related to the proposed Beaver Dam Mine project in Marinette, Nova Scotia. Prepared for the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada. 110pp.


The word carbon is everywhere. But chances are, unless you are a scientist, you might not really know what carbon actually is and how it moves around the planet: in air, land and water. Dr. Alana Westwood weighs in and explains what carbon is, what it does for living things and why burning too much of it into the atmosphere can have a detrimental effect on changing the earth’s climate. Listen to the interview here!


Last month, the draft of the revised Old-Growth Forest Policy in Nova Scotia was publicly released with a call-out for public consultation. The draft can be found here.

Dr. Alana Westwood and graduate students from her Ecology & Management course submitted their feedback on the proposed policy update.

Their key recommendations for updating the policy includes:

  • Justifying the 1 ha minimum size for an old growth forest stand.
  • Including Indigenous knowledge and consulting the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia.
  • Defining ‘public interest’, which can be used to remove designation for old-growth forest areas.
  • Providing more details about the application of the policy to private lands.
  • Being more specific about recreational and educational opportunities.
  • Adding specific timelines and mechanisms for restoring old growth.
  • Providing monitoring plans and protocols.
  • Thoroughly editing the Revised Policy to ensure it is appealing and accessible to a broad public audience.

Citation:  Westwood, A.R., Baillie, J., Ceci, S., Collison, B., Machat, H., McLean, S., MacNeill, B., Niesink, C., Shaw, J., Sodeinde, O., Suppanz, S., Sutton, P., & Vail, C. (2021). ENVI5050: Special Topics – Forest Ecology & Management class submission to the Government of Nova Scotia regarding the Revised Old Growth Forest Policy. Westwood Lab, Dalhousie University, 11pp. Available at https://westwoodlab.ca/?p=1026