Stephen Sheppard specializes in landscape planning and aesthetics. He is one of a handful of researchers in the world who uses visualization technology to explore key questions of our times. Dr. Sheppard’s work in Forest Resources Management and Landscape Architecture analyzes the relationship between human perceptions, environmental conditions, and the participatory processes of future planning. From his 1989 work Visual Simulation (Van Nostrand Reinhold), looking at the disconnect between popular concern about the environment and the lack of political will to address the issue, Dr. Sheppard expanded into laboratory-based perception experiments to explore participatory techniques for forestry practitioners.
Dr. Sheppard received his BA and MA in Agricultural and Forest Services from the University of Oxford and his PhD in Environmental Planning from the University of California, Berkeley in 1982. After arriving at UBC in 1997, he divided his time between the environmental services sector and academia. Along the way, he has established himself as a leading figure in the aesthetics of climate change, and his CALP (Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning) research group at UBC has played host to scholars from around the world.
Primary Recipient Awards
Our Future Community: Engaging Youth on Climate Solutions with a Place-based Videogame
Principal Investigator: Dr. Stephen Sheppard, Department of Forest Resource Management, UBC
Partner Organization: Ron Macdonald, Manager, Energy and Sustainability, Vancouver School Board
Without urgent action to mitigate and adapt to climate change, young people face a challenging and more dangerous future. Research shows that most people have little knowledge of local climate change impacts and schools are not providing substantive education on climate change solutions. Researchers at UBC’s Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning (CALP) have demonstrated that an educational place-based videogame on climate change (Future Delta 2.0) can improve climate change literacy and motivate action among students. These findings will be applied to enhance teaching practices on climate change by:
a) Co-developing an innovative educational videogame template (Our Future Community) that schools can use and customize to their community, exploring local solutions to climate change challenges
b) Working with teachers to test the game and produce a practical, replicable game package to support wider uptake by teachers and motivate student engagement.
At the Institute, Dr. Sheppard analyzed his latest data on the public perceptions of climate change for a book manuscript, Visualizing Climate Change: A Guide to Visual Communication of Climate Change and Developing Local Solutions, completed under an agreement with Earthscan. Based on his novel research approach into the role of visualization-based planning methods, this research promises to contribute substantively to an understanding of how cognition, cultural factors, and the media influence perceptions on this vital political issue. He held a workshop in March 2010 that demonstrated the background of his CALP research group and its impact on the emerging theory of aesthetics and perception of climate change.
Dr. Sheppard’s award helped fund a one-day workshop, Changing Perceptions of Climate Change Through Community Action on March 10, 2010, as part of a larger symposium entitled Social Mobilisation for Climate Solutions Research.
While public perception clearly equates visual degradation of landscapes with unsustainable practices, experts seem to be divided between those who see a strong association between ecological health and visual quality, and those who see sustainability as too complex to be assessed through a visual analysis approach. Without a clearer resolution of these dilemmas, public perception constraints and other difficulties may hamper the development of sustainable forestry.
An interdisciplinary panel of distinguished ecologists, forest resource scientists, landscape architects, perceptual psychologists and sociologists will debate and explore relationships between ecology and aesthetics, and develop research plans to help resolve these complex theoretical and practical questions. The workshop will also break new ground in examining how to link forest resource modelling approaches to state-of-the-art virtual reality displays; in order to test perceptions of controlled sustainability levels and future management scenarios.