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Dr. Catherine Keske: Sustainable Biomass and Waste Management in Canada's Semi-Arctic and Boreal Ecosystems

Wednesday February 6, 2019, from 12:30 - 1:30 pm in the Student Services Building Room 120 (SSB120).

Snacks and beverages will be provided during the seminar. Please, bring your own mug to reduce waste.

Sustainable Biomass and Waste Management in Canada's Semi-Arctic and Boreal Ecosystems


Ever wonder what happened to all of the military waste left over from the Cold War? What about the environmental impacts of hydroelectric dams? Who bears the social costs of large national and international projects?

This is a presentation of a mixed methods social-economic study of waste management in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada. The sustainable food and waste management cycle of this semi-arctic, boreal ecosystem was first disrupted with European colonization, and further exacerbated by 20th century military installations. Today, its citizens (the majority of whom are from Indigenous communities) struggle with economic instability, food insecurity, and waste disposal in an environmentally fragile ecosystem where weather restricts transportation and agricultural production.

The first phase of the mixed methods research project demonstrates how grass roots community efforts have organized to manage waste in a more sustainable manner. Interviews with key informants led to the quantitative study phase, a stochastic enterprise budget and sensitivity analysis of the economic feasibility of processing waste biomass clear-cut to build the controversial Muskrat Fall Hydroelectric dam. Results from the quantitative research phase illustrate how waste woody biomass could be used to create biochar, which has been demonstrated in field trials to significantly increase beet yields. Results from the economic study show that if the field trials are expanded more broadly throughout the province, the increased agricultural production may cover biochar production costs, thereby reducing environmental waste and increasing food security.



Catherine Keske joined the Management of Complex Systems Department in the School of Engineering as an associate professor of management in 2017. She is an applied environmental and resource economist who specializes in coupled natural human systems research, frequently in mountainous, alpine, and semi-arctic ecosystems. Catherine joined UC-Merced from Memorial University, where she was an associate professor in the School of Science and the Environment, in the Economics and Environmental Studies program. She earned her Ph.D. in agricultural and resource economics from Colorado State, where she later worked as a soft money assistant and associate professor. Catherine holds a Master of Science degree in mineral economics from Colorado School of Mines and a Master of Science degree in hearing and speech sciences from Vanderbilt University.