We believe that an interdisciplinary approach is highly conducive to the study of changing urban waterfronts. Such a team approach is necessary because urban waterfronts are always both social and natural. Indeed, one of the aims of the project is to overcome the traditional modernist divide that separates scientific inquiry from societal forces. Our research approach differs from many more traditional approaches in that it does not pre-assume a single agent or set of agents (whether these are class relations, the global economic system, human social construction, or nature); rather, it is open to the possibility of multiple ways of describing and analyzing a phenomenon. It lends itself well to a project in which the social-natural dichotomy is being put into question.

Our team brings together many disciplines to build toward a methodology that combines approaches from political-economy (to understand larger contexts shaping of Toronto’s waterfront), scientific inquiry (to understand ecological relationships), environmental history (to trace relations between human activities and natural and landscape features), and discourse analysis (to analyse images and documents produced by various groups).

Gene Desfor, Principal Investigator, is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. The proposed research builds on Desfor’s longstanding research and teaching on waterfront development, processes of urban change and urban nature. It is a continuation of research in which he has been involved for more than twenty-five years. Beginning in 1979, Desfor was a member of an interdisciplinary research team studying Toronto’s waterfront. In addition to his scholarly research, Desfor has undertaken professional work with the Royal Commission on the Future of the Toronto Waterfront. Most recently he published Nature and the City (with Roger Keil), which resulted from a previous SSHRC grant. This volume focuses on urban environmental policy formation as influenced by economic, civil society and government spheres and is directly related to research in this project.

Scott Prudham, Research Co-Investigator, is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and the Centre for Environment at the University of Toronto. His research addresses, at the broadest level, the set of problems (political, economic, and ecological) arising from attempts to make discrete elements of nature circulate as capitalist commodities. This entails examination of nature-based capital accumulation, its regulation, and its contestation. He has recently completed a book, Knock on Wood; Nature as Commodity in Douglas-fir Country, examining the conversion of old-growth to young-growth forests in Oregon as a case study of capitalist nature. Related work explores the contemporary and historical politics of forest management, including sustained yield forest policy, in British Columbia. An additional avenue of research concerns the regulation and politics of genetically modified organisms in Canada, particularly in the food and agriculture sectors. Scott's research is supported by SSHRC through a standard research grant and also under the auspices of Major Collaborative Research Initiative called Globalization and Autonomy, administered primarily by Professor William Coleman of McMaster University.

Tenley Conway, Research Co-Investigator, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Toronto. This project relates to her ongoing research exploring interactions between land use change and biophysical conditions in urban landscapes. One area of emphasis has been examining land use policies and land cover interactions in using a GIS-based modelling approach. A second area of research involves investigations of alternative approaches to conceptualize and quantify urban-ecological interactions. This effort includes examination of the influence of cultural boundaries on biophysical conditions and the development of metrics quantifying ecological heterogeneity in suburban landscapes. She is currently involved in an analysis of the influence of urban pattern on ecological heterogeneity across the Greater Toronto Area.

Gail Fraser, Research Collaborator, is Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Environmental Studies. She draws on her recent research on bird populations to study environmental transformations on the Leslie Street Spit and, in particular, the ways in which environmental management practices and ideologies of nature have been instrumental in influencing populations of colonial waterbirds.

Michael Moir, Research Collaborator, is University Archivist at York University and has been highly active in organizing archival resources in Toronto – we point to his work with the Toronto Harbour Commission – and engaged with historical waterfront research. Moir will conduct research on shipbuilding and will act as a resource for all members of the team researching land development activities in the port lands and Don River Valley.

John Jørgensen, Research Collaborator, is an urban geographer with the Danish Centre for Forestry, Landscape and Planning, in Copenhagen, Denmark. He has a wealth of experience in research and teaching on urban and regional issues in a European context, and has recently been working with the Nordic Centre for Spatial Development. In the second and third years of the project, he will be responsible for initiating discussions between our group and European researchers concerned with waterfront research.

Adrian Ivakhiv, Research Collaborator, is Assistant Professor and Co-ordinator of the graduate program in Environmental Thought and Culture at the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont. His research concerns culture (including media, visual and artistic culture, and cultural identity practices) as interface between ecology and political economy. His book Claiming Sacred Ground: Pilgrims and Politics at Glastonbury and Sedona examines the interplay between landscape, tourism, religion, science, and capitalism at two contemporary sites of eco-spiritual pilgrimage. He brings an extensive background in environmental philosophy and interdisciplinary methodology to the group's reflexive research process.
Website: www.uvm.edu/~aivakhiv

In addition, we have many PhD and Master’s students working with the team:

Jennifer Bonnell is a PhD student in History of Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. Her dissertation research will explore the social history of the Don River in Toronto and the range of factors – ecological, cultural and economic – that have shaped the river’s course and condition and people’s responses to it over time. Jennifer holds an MA in Environmental Studies from the University of Victoria; she was recently awarded a SSHRC Canada Graduate Scholarship to pursue her research on public memory and environmental change.

Susannah Bunce is completing a doctorate in the Faculty of Environmental Studies. Her dissertation is an interdisciplinary study of the discourses and practices of sustainability in Toronto's current waterfront revitalization plans. Her recent publications on Toronto's waterfront revitalization plan are: " Image-Making by the Water: Global City Dreams and the Ecology of Exclusion" (co-authored with Douglas Young) in: The Contested Metropolis: Six Cities at the Beginning of the 21st Century (2004); and "The Emergence of 'Smart Growth' Intensification: Environment and Economy in Toronto's Official Plan" (2004) in: Local Environment: An International Journal of Justice and Sustainability. She recently completed a research paper on urban port security in North America with Deborah Cowen (York University) entitled, "Competitive Cities and Secure Nations: Conflicts and Convergences in Urban Waterfront Agendas after 9/11" (under review by the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research). Susannah is also a research fellow at York University's Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS).

Jennifer Gerrits is a PhD student in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. Her research interests include waterfront cities in Canada’s maritime provinces, and her involvement with the project centres around her comprehensive work on archival management and research.

Paul Jackson is a PhD student in Geography at the University of Toronto whose research combines urban political ecology, disease, and the commodification of nature. Previous research at York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies investigated the city/countryside divide with regards to agricultural land and farmers, exurban landscapes, conservation planning projects and critical urban geography. He has recently co-authored an article in City with Gerda R. Wekerle, entitled “Urbanizing the security agenda: Anti-terrorism, urban sprawl and social movements.”

Jennefer Laidley is a PhD student in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. Her current research investigates the conflation of environment and infrastructure on Toronto’s Central Waterfront as a political strategy in the expansion of private-sector involvement in urban governance in Toronto. Her undergraduate degree in English at Simon Fraser University was followed by ten years working as a political assistant, most recently at Toronto’s City Hall. Her master’s major paper, Constructing a Foundation for Change: The Ecosystem Approach and the Global Imperative on Toronto’s Central Waterfront, was recently nominated for publication in the Faculty’s Outstanding Graduate Student Paper Series.

Korice Moir is a Masters student in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. She has a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Alberta and her current research interests include water demand management, equity and consumption. She is working with the project as a Graduate Assistant, setting up our online waterfront archive.

Lucian Vesalon is Assistant Professor on leave from the Department of Politics, Faculty of Political Science, Philosophy and Communication Studies, West University, Timisoara, Romania. He has a PhD in Philosophy from West University and is currently pursuing an additional Master’s degree in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. He is working with the project as a Research Assistant.