ResiliencebyDesign Lab part of $2-million project

June 20, 2017

Youth in two small Canadian communities affected in very different ways by the oil and gas industry and climate change are the centre of new research involving Professor Robin Cox and the ResiliencebyDesign Research Innovation Lab.

Cox and her ResiliencebyDesign team are partnering with Dalhousie University’s Resilience Research Centre and an international team of community, industry and research partners for the Resilient Youth in Stressed Environments (RYSE) project. The project, under the leadership of Dalhousie Professor Michael Ungar, recently received a $2-million grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to conduct this research.

The research focuses on understanding and contributing to the resilience and well-being of youth in communities involved in oil and gas production, those affected by climate change, and the intersection of both. Over the course of five years, research teams will partner with youth and adult allies in two communities in Canada and one in South Africa .

In Canada, the RYSE project centres on the small communities of Drayton Valley, Alberta and Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. The challenges youth and their families in these communities face are quite different, Cox says. Drayton Valley is in the centre of oil and gas production in Alberta, and is seeing its economic and cultural driver become less stable due to fluctuating oil prices and the global move away from carbon-based fuels. Meanwhile, Cambridge Bay, she says, is a community on the front line of climate change, grappling with less stable and predictable weather, sea ice, snow fall and animal migration patterns.

“In both communities, these changes have enormous economic, health and cultural implications,” says Cox. “The project is working with youth and their communities to understand how these changes are impacting them, and to explore with them, what individual, family, community and environmental factors support their well-being and their capacity to adapt in potentially transformative ways.”

The South Africa team, led by Dr. Linda Theron, University of Pretoria, will conduct parallel research in Secunda, a centre for oil production in South Africa.

The project launched this spring and is actively engaging youth as “citizen scientists,” using participatory, arts-based methods and visual storytelling methods to generate knowledge. The priorities for health and well-being that youth identify this year will help shape research activities in subsequent years.

RYSE is part of a $17.7-million investment by CIHR in nine different projects looking to improve the health and quality of life of Canadians by studying the environment and building more effective disease prevention and health promotion strategies.

More than 200 researchers will conduct innovative research in various areas, including urban design, energy production, food security and waste water treatment.