Nicolas Brunet

Head shot of Nicolas Brunet
Assistant Professor (Latornell Professor in Environmental Stewardship)
Phone number: 
519-824-4120 ext. 54414
Landscape Architecture, Room 114
Rural Planning and Development; Rural Studies PhD

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  • PhD - Renewable Resources, McGill University (2015)
  • MSc - Rural Planning and Development, University of Guelph (2006)
  • BSc - Environmental Biology, McGill University (2003)

Bio Summary

Being outdoors and going on adventures is what Nicolas enjoyed most growing up. His love of the outdoors led him to his undergraduate degree in environmental science, but he also had an interest in agriculture and wanted to learn more. He came to the University of Guelph to study agriculture, but discovered that a lot of what interested him was actually conservation. Nicolas soon learned that the tools of conservation are embedded within planning, leading him to his studies and research in rural planning and development. His current position enables him to combine his passions for conservation and contributing to improved environmental management and land use planning policies to make a real world impact.

Affilliations and Partnerships 

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Alberta Environment and Parks - Government of Alberta
  • Cold Lake First Nations
  • Nunavut Research Institute
  • Coral Harbor, Pond Inlet and Cape Dorset, Nunavut
  • University of Saskatchewan
  • Young Conservation Professionals Program

Research Impact

Nicolas is the Latornell Professor in Environmental Stewardship and is responsible for leading an innovative research program in the planning and management of natural resources and socio-ecological systems. He is responsible for outreach and developing relationships with lead environmental management agencies. Nicolas’ research focuses upon environmental decision making, navigating power in natural resource governance and the tools used to operationalize these. Much of his research is community engaged or led exploring themes such as community based monitoring, youth engagement, and capacity development, etc. A new angle of his research is understanding the potential Indigenous guardianship programs to thrive in Canada.

Current Research Projects

Understanding fisheries governance issues in coastal Ontario First Nations
This project aims to collaboratively develop our understanding of the history and current status of First Nations fisheries management within the Great Lakes. This project emerged as a direct response to a lack of resources and published materials regarding First Nations fisheries within the Great Lakes in Canada, compared to Tribal Councils in the United States who have had access to many more fisheries management resources. The aim is to co-create, using insights, guidance and knowledge, published reports that will document First Nations fisheries management perspectives and practice. Funding for this project has been provided by Royal Bank of Canada.

The role of environmental researchers in Inuit youth science literacy in Nunavut
There is a growing movement for researchers to be more inclusive of communities and individuals in Northern scientific research. As this inclusion becomes more common place, opportunities for employment and education in research also increase for local Inuit, and researchers seek partnerships with knowledgeable, skilled community members. This research aims to examine the roles of researchers in engaging Inuit youth in land-based environmental research and opportunities for enhancing scientific literacy in Inuit Nunangat. It will also explore the unique perspectives that youth bring to environmental research and how these perspectives contribute to research. This project is funded by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant.

Environmental science communication in Nunavut, Canada: Towards a federal policy
Good communication between researchers and community members is essential for the success of wildlife research projects in Nunavut, as well as for the incorporation of relevant research findings in decision making. The primary goal of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of scientific communication practices conducted by wildlife researchers in Nunavut communities. It will examine what communication methods and approaches Nunavummiut generally view as most effective, and then identify best practices for communicating scientific findings. Funding for this project has been provided by Environment and Climate Change Canada.

A regional approach to community based fish monitoring in northern Alberta
Extraction and use of natural resources can create an unfair environmental burden on downstream and downwind ecosystems and communities, leading to public opposition to new developments such as dams, pipelines and mines. This project will assess fish health in the territories of three Indigenous groups in the Alberta oil sands region that face environmental pressures from resource development. The framework unifies scientific and traditional knowledge to produce a shared understanding of environmental change, and establishes indicators to be monitored for future change. This project is funded by Government of Alberta Environment and Parks.

Graduate Student Information

Nicolas has students involved in various ways with his research. With some of his current research projects that involve work with Indigenous communities throughout the Canadian North, his grad students have the opportunity to visit remote communities for weeks at a time conducting field work. In terms of his advisory style, Nicolas says he is still developing it, but tries to make himself easily accessible to all of his students while empowering them to take on leadership roles within project teams. With a lot of his projects taking place in remote places, virtual meetings, text messaging and other tools are commonly used for him and his students to discuss project progress. He responds to email inquiries frequently and hopes to maintain timely responses as he takes on more projects and students.

Featured Publications

Brammer, J., Brunet, N.D., Cuerrier, A., Dewan, K., Herrmann, T.M., Humphries, M., Larocque, G., Mulrennan, M., Scott, C. and St-Arneau, M. (2016). The role of digital data entry in participatory environmental monitoring. Conservation Biology 30(6): 1277-1287.

Brunet, N.D., Hickey, G.M. and Humphries, M.M. 2014. The evolution of local participation and the mode of knowledge production in Arctic research. Ecology and Society 19(2):69-81.

Brunet, N.D., Hickey, G.M. and Humphries, M.M. 2014. Understanding community-researcher partnerships in the natural sciences: A case study from the Arctic. Journal of Rural Studies 36: 247-261.

Cuerrier, A., Brunet, N.D., Gérin-Lajoie, J., Downing, A. and Lévesque, E. 2015. The study of Inuit knowledge of climate change in Nunavik, Quebec: A mixed methods approach. Human Ecology 43(3):379-394.

Brunet, N.D., Hickey, G.M. and Humphries, M.M. (2016). Local participation and partnership development in Canada's Arctic research: Challenges and opportunities in an age of empowerment and self-determination. Polar Record.52(3): 345-359.

Graduate Student Positions Available:  "Global Minerals and Local Communities in Canada and the Philippines"

Stipend:  to be announced (as per institutional regulations)
Deadline to apply:   February 1st, 2019
Start date:   September 2019, September 2020
Academic program/ institution choice: The applicant can choose to apply any program at the Master’s or PhD level at:

  • University of Guelph’s School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, Guelph Ontario, Canada (Profs. Nicolas Brunet, Sheri Longboat, Ryan Gibson)
  • University of Montreal’s Department of Political Science, Montreal, Quebec, Canada (Prof. Dominique Caouette)
  • University of Saskatchewan’s Johnson Shoyama School of Public Policy, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada (Prof. Kenneth Coates and Ms. Emmy Stavostrand Neuls)

Project webpage:

Experience over the last five decades suggests that mining contributions to economic development varies greatly across countries. In some it has been a major engine of development. In others disputes have erupted over land use, property rights, environmental damage, and revenue sharing. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs implemented through health, economic development, education and training projects, are increasingly relied upon to manage company-community relations. Yet conflicts persist in many settings, with significant costs for companies and communities.

The goal of this project is to help shift the debate from arguing for or against mining, towards understanding the complex forces – environmental, cultural, economic, social, political, and historical - that influence the quality of mining company-community relationship in Canada and the Philippines.  It seeks to establish a profile of corporate, policy and community responses that maximize the economic, social and environmental benefits and minimize the negative impacts of mining.

Desired Skills and Qualifications:
Bachelor’s (for MA, M.Sc.) or Master’s (for PhD) degree in relevant field including environmental management; planning and development; anthropology; environmental studies; political science; etc.

  • Experience working in Indigenous community contexts in Canada and/or in the Philippines
  • Expertise in conducting social research using participatory approaches
  • Track record or potential of publication and/or work experience in an academic context (conferences, active in networks, etc.) and service to Indigenous communities.
  • Some understanding of the complex nature of environmental governance in multi-stakeholder contexts (northern Alberta preferred) involving resource intensive industries, government agencies, First Nation and/or Métis governments and organizations, associations, NGOs, etc.
  • Knowledge of and /or experience with corporate social responsibility issues
  • Experience communicating results of research and scientific information to Indigenous partners in a clear, accessible and respectful ways.

Interested applicants to send by email a cover letter, CV and contact information for 2 referees to Dr. Nicolas Brunet  by February 1st, 2019.

Area of Research

Rural Planning and Development