VIU Launches International Journal of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves

Dr. Pam Shaw along with VIU Master of Community Planning graduate students Taylor Alexander and Lindsay Malbon are thrilled to be preparing the first edition of the International Journal of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves for release in January.The online journal has been open for submissions since October.

November 22, 2016 - 11:30am

First-of-its-kind journal provides a place for academics and citizen-scientists from around the world to publish biosphere research

The idea for a new journal came to Vancouver Island University’s (VIU) Master of Community Planning program director Dr. Pam Shaw after she challenged one of her students to conduct a review on the state of global biosphere research. Shaw, who is also the research director for VIU’s Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute (MABRRI), wanted some questions answered such as what journals exist for biosphere researchers to publish their work in and where or how are those journals managed?

“What we found was that there wasn’t one academic journal dedicated specifically to biosphere research,” said Shaw. “There are 669 designated biosphere reserves located in 120 nations across the globe. The fact that there was nothing out there was stunning to us. That’s when we realized that VIU could take a lead role in creating a journal that fills that gap.”

After developing a framework outlining what would be required to launch and maintain an online academic journal, Shaw sat down with VIU Provost and Vice-President Academic Dr. David Witty to present her findings. After reviewing the proposal he agreed to support the project and together they took it to the next step.

“Since taking a lead role in the biosphere VIU has committed itself to conducting research and sharing knowledge about the UNESCO-designated Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region (MABR). Through MABRRI our faculty and students have worked with community members to shed light on all aspects of these unique and important ecosystems,” said Dr. Witty. “Now we have an opportunity to step in and create an international journal that supports a wider community. It’s a project that reflects our commitment to biosphere research and allows us to provide a unique service that has global implications.”

In March 2016, Dr. Witty and Dr. Shaw presented at the UNESCO 4th World Congress of Biosphere Reserves in Peru. The four day conference culminated in the adoption of the Lima Action Plan for 2016-2025, which focusses member nations on conserving biodiversity, restoring and enhancing ecosystems, and fostering sustainable use of natural resources. During final statements by congress VIU was recognized for its commitment to creating an online journal and Drs. Shaw and Witty left the four day conference with broad support for the project.

Once home Shaw hired VIU graduate student Taylor Alexander to create the required online platform. The website and guidelines were developed and it was officially named the ‘International UNESCO Journal of Biosphere Reserves.’ In October a call for submissions was sent out.

“As a student you don’t go into a master’s program thinking you are going to launch something this big or important,” said Alexander. “The response we’ve gotten so far has been overwhelming and for me, it’s an honour to be able to say I contributed to the start of a journal that will become a permanent fixture in the research world.”

Submissions have come from places as diverse as Scotland, Vietnam, the United States and Australia. The first edition of the journal is scheduled to be released in January and will include peer-reviewed research papers as well as research notes from non-profits and citizen groups working on biosphere issues.

So far they have received 12 submissions including a 90-minute video produced and directed by former VIU student Doug Wortley that takes a detailed look at the various ecosystems within the MABR. Another is a research paper that looks at the impacts of climate change on rare bird species that reside within a biosphere reserve in Australia. That submission also includes audio files documenting the various bird calls featured in the research.

Shaw says by creating an online journal they are now part of an open access universe that doesn’t charge for access to knowledge.

“We’ve already received a great deal of support from the international biosphere community and this will also have an enormous impact on VIU students and our community,” said Shaw.  “We live in a place that has a magnificent UNESCO biosphere in its backyard. Now there is a journal right here at VIU, supported by students and faculty, to publish peer-reviewed scientific papers and community-driven research notes that explore the human/natural relationship to biospheres. For me, that is just so exciting.”

To view or submit to the journal please go to International Journal of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves



Dane Gibson, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

P: 250.740.6288 | C: 250.618.7296 | E: |  T: @viunews

Tags: Research