“Tides of Change” – The ACCESS-Bay of Fundy Ecosystem Partnership Conference, 4-7 June 2024

With the highest tides in the world as a backdrop, the joint Atlantic Canada Coastal and Estuarine Science Society (ACCESS) and the Bay of Fund Ecosystem Partnership (BoFEP) biennial conference was aptly headlined “Tides of Change: Accelerating Conservation and Protection Efforts in Atlantic Canada’s Estuarine and Coastal Waters.” While the macro tides alone are a major feature of the Bay of Fundy, the unique waters and ecosystems are also internationally recognized in six UNESCO-designated sites around the Bay. The conference theme reflected the current conditions and changes in the Bay of Fundy, the Gulf of Maine, and the greater Northwest Atlantic where the species, ecology, and communities in these marine and coastal areas continue to face numerous challenges, particularly the ongoing effects of climate change.

Hosted by the Huntsman Marine Science Centre in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, the four-day conference brought together over 100 participants (students, university- and government-based researchers, coastal managers, and members of non-governmental organizations). Surrounded by many displays, tanks of live organisms, and the superb Fundy Discovery Aquarium, the participants discussed over 40 oral presentations and 23 posters on diverse subjects: ocean literacy, seabirds, anthropogenic stressors, salt marsh ecology, environmental stressors, habitat monitoring, conservation strategies, marine mammals, invertebrate ecology, novel monitoring techniques, and public policy decision processes.

The opening plenary featured Dr. Diz Glithero, Director of the Canadian Ocean Literacy Coalition, who spoke about “The Rapid Growth, Relevance, and Impact of the Ocean Literacy Movement in Canada and Globally.” Dr. Kristina Boerder, from Dalhousie University, addressed the second plenary on “Community-Led, Climate-Smart Eelgrass Restoration and Research in Nova Scotia.” A public forum, a regular highlight of these biennial conferences, on “Fins and Flukes: A Conversation about Whales and Sharks in the Bay of Fundy,” showcased four speakers, Genny Simard (Education & Outreach, Huntsman Marine Science Centre), Marc Trudel (Research Scientist, Department of Fisheries and Oceans), Delphine Durette-Morin (Associate Scientist, Canadian Whale Institute), and Darlene Norman-Brown (Assistant Director, Ghost Gear Retrieval, Fundy North Fishermen’s Association).

Numerous enthusiastic early career researchers and ocean managers, including four Dalhousie University masters and doctoral students in the Environmental Information: Use and Influence and the Ocean Frontier Institute Marine Spatial Planning research groups, were key contributors to this informative conference. Collectively, they accounted for two oral presentations and four posters (see abstracts below), and one of the student prizes (Alexandre Legault won an award for his poster). As beginning researchers, they came away from the conference with the following observations about what they found most informative or interesting, questions the sessions prompted for them, and their thoughts about their contributions to the meeting.


Most interesting: “I was most interested in the sessions and keynotes about ocean literacy and mammal research. Much is being done around the Bay of Fundy to enhance communication and support lessons and programs for youth and adults living in Atlantic Canada. An initiative that stands out from Dr. Sondra Eger and local knowledge holders Darren Porter and Erika Porter is an Inner Bay of Fundy colouring and activity book. What a great way to share about the diversity of life and culture in the area! Questions: I left the conference wondering how more social scientists and planners could engage with BoFEP and ACCESS. The presentations were great and provided context for research in the area, and including a session or keynote about social science and planning in the area would have helped fill gaps in our understanding of social and ecological dimensions. Contribution: I believe my presentation on the social impacts of modifying tidal river causeways presented a view of anthropogenic impacts and landscape relationships that was unique. The relationships that coastal communities have with the coast and sea are complex, layered, and span temporal dimensions. This presentation contributed to applied and theoretical understanding of the relationships between people and landscape changes; and as the study progresses, it will help us understand how restoration and adaptation may better reflect these multifaceted relationships.”

~ Keahna Margeson, Interdisciplinary PhD student


Most interesting: “I appreciated the format of the conference. There was no need to choose between talks or rush from one room to another since all presentations were held in a single hall. A topic that I found particularly interesting was learning about the changes and evolution of ocean literacy in Canada. There has been an increase in the interest to know more about the oceans, which is reflected in the growing number of publications. It was also interesting to know the most relevant topics and challenges concerning this ecosystem. Overall, I found the conference very informative regarding the ecological and physical aspects of the Bay of Fundy. Questions: The conference led me to question myself about how can we communicate all this interesting information to the coastal communities of the Bay of Fundy? This is especially important considering that they should be the most interested in understanding the ecology and physics of the area. Also, how can the coastal communities and the Bay of Fundy area benefit from all this important information? And how can we ensure that decision-makers use this valuable information in the decision-making processes? Contribution: In this context and of ecological and physical topics and prompted questions, I believe my contribution to the conference was to present Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) as a tool for managing the seas and coasts of the Bay of Fundy. MSP can serve to employ the information generated through basic sciences and bring it directly to an application level. Furthermore, MSP can act as a communication bridge between scientists and stakeholders in the area.”

~ Daniel Martinez Calderon, Interdisciplinary PhD student


Most Interesting: “I left the ACCESS/BoFEP Conference feeling enlightened and informed by the knowledge shared over the course of the four-day event. The organizers did an excellent job bringing together experts who explored the community connection, ecological significance, and the restoration opportunity of the Bay of Fundy and surrounding area. The successive format of the conference allowed attendees to listen and learn from each speaker, poster presentation, and panel discussion. Presentations showcased the work of federal or local-level organizations and institutions working with unique species and ecosystems. Questions: While the conference addressed the breadth and depth of wide-ranging subjects, a lingering question I had was how the individual topics relate to one another and contribute to the collective socio-ecological fabric of the Bay of Fundy. From my understanding, an objective of the conference was to improve communication of and connection to the Bay’s environment in a meaningful way. I would have appreciated more references to the concept of knowledge co-creation and collaboration to avoid presentations feeling segmented. Contribution: Overall, I had a great experience, and the opportunities to learn and network were valuable.”

~ Jumanah Khan, 2024 Master of Marine Management graduate


Most interesting: “The most informative session for me was Dr. Diz Glitero’s plenary on the evolution of the ocean literacy movement in Canada and beyond. Dr. Glithero highlighted that, at the science-policy-society interface, the “society” aspect is often missing. Questions: The conference also opened my eyes to the science-policy divide. Scientists are visibly frustrated that their research is not being used by policymakers. Similarly, policymakers are frustrated by the inaccessibility of research (e.g., research results are often shared through media designed to inform other researchers, such as, via scientific journals). How can this gap be reconciled? Whose responsibility is it to ensure effective knowledge mobilization in this context? Contribution: This conference was a fantastic learning experience. My main contributions to the conference were my two poster presentations.”

~ Alexandre Legault, Master of Information/Master of Resource and Environmental Management student


In addition to the students, Peter Wells co-authored an oral presentation, a poster on ocean literacy, a key topic at this conference, and a poster on the Gulfwatch contaminants monitoring program. The Bay of Fundy Ecosystem Partnership has hosted biennial conferences since 1996. This year’s conference is the 14th in the series, which recently has been a joint venture with the Atlantic Canada Coastal and Estuarine Science Society. The conference program and the abstracts as well as proceedings of all previous conferences can be viewed and downloaded from the BoFEP website. Watch this website for the 2024 proceedings, edited by Peter Wells, Chair of BoFEP, which will be published later this year. BoFEP maintains that effective coastal and ocean management relies on relevant research, timely communication among all the players at the science-policy-society interface, an ocean-literate population, and informed decision-making. Planning is already underway for the 2026 conference.



ACCESS / BoFEP Conference Abstracts

Oral Presentations

Michael Butler, K. McPherson, Peter G. Wells, Susan Rolston, Sondra Eger, and S. Rebitt – “The Ocean and Us in an Era of Climate Change”

Abstract: Creating, sharing, and using marine and environmental information about the Bay of Fundy and its watersheds has been the longstanding mantra of BoFEP. A Working Group on Ocean Literacy was set up in 2018 to enhance this communication effort in an era of climate change. We need a more informed public and “youth,” in whose hands the future of the Bay and its coastal waters lies. After many presentations, panels, and informal discussions, we have now engaged and worked with the public education school system in NS. Recently we conducted a Professional Development (PD) Day for high school teachers, focusing on the ocean and its relationship with climate change. The planning and delivery of the PD Day was carried out in collaboration with a number of experienced teachers familiar with the current “Oceans 11” program in NS. We report on this achievement and describe the presentations and support materials (tool kit) developed for teachers’ use in their classrooms and outside. The post-PD Day review will point to a follow-up agenda. Ocean and climate literacy continues to be a major focus of BoFEP, in line with the UN Decade on the Ocean and the activities of groups in Canada such as the Canadian Ocean Literacy Coalition (COLC) and the Canadian Network for Ocean Education (CANOE). This talk should galvanize discussion about the importance of ocean literacy throughout the Bay of Fundy community and beyond. An engaged, informed, and proactive community will lead to better-protected and managed maritime coastal waters.


Jumanah Khan – “Do You Sea What I See: Exploring the Representation of Place-Based Knowledge in Spatial Planning in Coastal Nova Scotia, Canada”

Abstract: Spatial planning is essential in the interdisciplinary management of dynamic coastal environments. However, conventional approaches to spatial planning do not focus on the comprehensive representation and visual communication of place-based knowledge. This oversight limits the contextual applicability of planning decisions. To understand this issue’s relevance in Nova Scotia, the suitability of six data representation (DR) tools used in spatial planning for representing local perspectives was explored. Through a scoping review and semi-structured interviews with spatial planners, researchers, and users of coastal environments in Nova Scotia, key characteristics that make each DR tool useful in representing place-based knowledge, as well as certain tool design limitations, were identified. Also identified were the generalized stages of the spatial planning process at which each of the selected DR tools was most effective. The results are meant to inform the use and design of DR tools in a way that better serves coastal users throughout different stages of the spatial planning process, thereby supporting informed and equitable decision-making.


Keahna Margeson, Kate Sherren, Patricia Manuel, Ian Stewart, Enda Murphy, & Mike Smit – “Social Impacts of Modifying Tidal River Causeways and River Restoration”

Abstract: Throughout the mid to late 1900s around the Bay of Fundy, barriers were constructed across tidal rivers to serve as bases for roads and railroads, connect people to rich agricultural land and growing towns to one another, and limit maintenance on upriver dykes and aboiteaux. These barriers continue to be critical for transportation infrastructure and provide fresh water and recreational spaces. At the same time, they disconnect rivers from their bays, prevent safe fish passage, and have rippling social and ecological consequences. Today, coastal communities and infrastructure are increasingly at risk from rising sea levels, increasing erosion, and severe storm surges. Necessary adaptation and restoration options challenge people’s ideals and the way they experience tidal rivers, leading to conflicts within coastal communities. Ecological, social, and economic trade-offs are inevitable in restoration and adaptation, and understanding each is critical for equitable, sustainable decision-making. We present research methods and initial findings from the first five months of a study assessing the social impacts of potential causeway modifications in Windsor, NS, using a comparative case where restoration has occurred, the Petitcodiac River in Moncton, NB. This study uses a comparative Social Impact Assessment (SIA) framework and includes retrospective and prospective components. The retrospective approach includes document and longitudinal media analysis, and the prospective approach includes resident surveys and interviews with key informants. This work seeks to provide an applied example of how comparative SIA may be used to understand the social impacts of tidal river restoration through tidal barrier modifications and assess local perceptions and experiences with climate-resilient projects.



Michael J. A. Butler, K. McPherson, Jon A. Percy, S. Rebitt, and Peter G. Wells – “Enhancing Ocean Literacy in the Fundy Community: Continued Activities of BoFEP’s Ocean Literacy Group”

Abstract: This poster describes the activities to date of the Ocean Literacy Working Group. It covers the topic in general (overview and description of objectives), progress, proposed next steps, and invitations to join the Group. The Group has been working on this topic since 2018 and most recently conducted a Professional Development Day with local high school teachers on the topic of the ocean and climate change. In this professional development session, talks were given by local specialists and an ocean literacy “tool kit” with teaching materials was prepared and distributed. Further such initiatives are being planned. We hope that our talk and poster will generate interest on the ocean literacy topic among the conference participants. We look forward to their suggestions and support for future group activities.


Jumanah Khan, Maxine Westhead, and Patricia Manuel – “Societal Engagement as a Method for Benthic Ecosystem Mapping: An Overview of Work Package 1.1”

Abstract: Work package 1.1 of the Benthic Ecosystem and Mapping Engagement project brings together a diverse team of researchers, marine industry practitioners, coastal community members, and Indigenous organizations with the aim of co-producing knowledge about the benthic environment. By facilitating collaborative data sharing, the work package seeks to co-produce visualizations of benthic environments using data derived from both technology and culture, while also designing a framework to integrate data, information, and knowledge across cultural contexts to support decision-making for marine resource stewardship. The collective objectives of this work package are twofold: first, to establish baseline conditions within chosen locations to recognize environmental changes, especially those related to climate change impacts, and their implications for fisheries and environmental conservation. Secondly, the package seeks to devise mechanisms for sharing knowledge and data and making decisions that contribute to a deeper understanding of benthic systems and their significance, fostering collaboration and informed decision-making processes.


Alexandre Legault, Sandra Toze, Isabelle Caron, and Bertrum H. MacDonald – “Optimizing Evidence Uptake in Climate Policy: The Case of Coastal Urban Municipalities”

Abstract: Municipalities in Atlantic Canada are critical actors in climate action. Coastal communities, such as those surrounding the Bay of Fundy, are heavily impacted by the intensifying effects of climate change. Though municipal governments exert a high level of control over community-level sustainable development policies and practices, they struggle to implement climate adaptation solutions. This situation is further complicated by the fact that municipal authority to create and implement policies is set and limited by provincial legislation. Little research has been conducted about what enables and restricts the uptake of evidence in municipal decision-making. The research outlined in this poster aims to address this gap by determining how urban coastal municipalities are considering and using evidence in the development of policies and practices to respond to and adapt to climate change. Four coastal municipalities will serve as case studies: Halifax Regional Municipality, Nova Scotia; City of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador; Ville de Rimouski, Québec; and a Northern Canada community. A literature search, conducted in February-March 2024, used deductive (a priori) and inductive (a posteriori) keywords to identify relevant references. Initial analysis reveals that barriers to evidence uptake may include (1) lack of expertise, (2) lack of capacity to seek evidence, (3) use of poor information management systems, and (4) inaccessible research and evidence. Potential enablers may include (1) funding research that is practical for knowledge use, (2) collaborative research and knowledge co-production, (3) embedded expertise, and (4) open science. This literature review will inform the next stages of the case studies.


Daniel Martinez Calderon, Bertrum H. MacDonald, and Patricia Manuel – “Disrupting Tokenistic Participation: A Paradigm Shift in Marine Spatial Planning for the Coastal Communities of Nova Scotia”

Abstract: Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) has gained rapid and wide acceptance, emerging as the predominant strategy for marine resource management on a global scale. In initiating MSP in 2019, Canada is advancing MSP processes in five bioregions. MSP faces both conceptual and practical challenges, however. Notably, social science scholars criticize MSP stakeholder engagement for being tokenistic, especially of local community-level stakeholders. Reimagining a community-oriented MSP requires implementing meaningful local stakeholder engagement. Based on an analysis of interviews and focus groups with stakeholders from seven coastal communities in the Scotian Shelf-Bay of Fundy bioregion (SS-BoF), this study is identifying key elements to foster effective local-level engagement in MSP. This poster will describe the results, focusing on four fundamental components of effective participation: Who participates? How are stakeholders engaged? When are stakeholders engaged? And at what level of the planning processes are stakeholders involved? Moreover, the analysis has determined barriers and enablers for engaging community-level stakeholders, as well as their interests and concerns regarding MSP. A locally adapted MSP for the SS-BoF is technically feasible. This MSP needs to entail creating enabling conditions for its implementation, such as informing local actors about what MSP is, how it works, and how they can contribute to the process, as well as strengthening trust between coastal communities and governmental institutions. Giving attention to the combination of these conditions will promote meaningful local stakeholder engagement, making MSP relevant to coastal communities in the region, and help to overcome tokenistic participation.


Allie Scovil, Jessica Wingfield, Gareth C. H. Harding, and Peter G. Wells – “Accessing Archival Mussel Samples from the Gulfwatch Contaminants Monitoring Program.”

Abstract: Gulfwatch was a Canada-USA transboundary coastal chemical contaminants monitoring program, organized and administered by the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment (GOMC). The program ran formally between 1993 and 2012. It involved the collection of blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) at rotating sites in state and provincial jurisdictions around the Gulf of Maine and the Bay of Fundy. Following mussel collection and processing, scientific laboratories in both countries analyzed whole tissues for toxic chemicals formally designated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chlorinated pesticides, and metals. Although the program’s analyses ended in 2012, archived mussel samples dating back to 1992, both extracts and whole tissues, are currently stored and maintained at the Huntsman Marine Science Centre in St. Andrews, New Brunswick. The GOMC (Gulfwatch subcommittee) and the Canada Department of Fisheries and Oceans are making these unique samples available to the scientific community to determine the presence, levels, and spatial distribution of previously unmeasured, environmental chemicals of emerging concern in the Gulf of Maine during this time period. We present details on the history of Gulfwatch, the contents of the archive, and how researchers can request and access the samples. The samples present an invaluable opportunity to gain a regional perspective on the distribution and concentrations of chemicals previously unmeasured, establish a baseline reference for future monitoring efforts, and improve understanding of the hazards that chemical contamination presents to the marine life and coastal resources of the Gulf of Maine and Bay of Fundy.


Kate Sherren, Samantha C. Howard, Alexandre Legault, and Lara Cornejo-Denman – “Rural Apartment Residents are Important Coastal Ecosystem Service Beneficiaries and Stakeholders in Climate Adaptation Decisions”

Abstract: Climate change is leading to a reimagination of rural coastlines worldwide, including in dyked agricultural land such as polders. Decisions can be locally fraught about where to continue to defend such land uses through higher dykes, where to retreat the line of defense landward or remove it entirely to restore the erstwhile tidal wetlands that provide natural protection. Many ecosystem services are received by local residents from such systems, and just decisions will require a nuanced understanding of who benefits from which landscape arrangements. Ecosystem service disaggregation research rarely explores dwelling type among the variables studied, but those who live in apartments can be overlooked as stakeholders of rural land use decisions. We report in this research on surveys deployed separately to house and apartment residents in the hypertidal Bay of Fundy to understand if and how each group benefits from linear dykes, dykelands, and tidal wetlands. More apartment than house residents report benefits from the three landscapes, and they also report using the target landscapes more often. Responses from both cohorts indicate the three landscapes are complementary, together delivering a non-material service bundle centred on nature enjoyment and opportunities for reflection. We then focused in on apartment residents to understand how they evaluated coastal adaptation options in the region. Managed dyke realignment was the preferred option, statistically associated with benefits across the three landscapes. The implications of these results for coastal adaptation decision-making are discussed, filling a gap in the literature on dwelling type and ecosystem service benefits.



Authors: Jumanah Khan, Alexandre Legault, Keahna Margeson, Daniel Martinez Calderon, and Peter G. Wells


Tags: Information Use & Influence, Marine & Ocean Issues, News, Public Policy & Decision Making, Science-Policy Interface, Science Communication



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