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Researcher garners prestigious Fulbright Fellowship

Queen’s University researcher Heather Castleden awarded a Fulbright Visiting Research Chair at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa to engage with Native Hawaiians about their leadership in renewable energy projects

Queen’s University associate professor and Canada Research Chair in Reconciling Relationships for Health, Environments, and Communities, Heather Castleden will be conducting a 4-month research program at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa after being named a Fulbright Fellow. 

Dr. Heather Castleden
Dr. Heather Castleden

The mandate of Fulbright Canada is to enhance mutual understanding between the people of Canada and the United States by providing support to outstanding individuals. The winners of this prestigious honour conduct research, lecture or enrol in formal academic programs in the other country. 

Dr. Castleden is bringing her A SHARED Future (Achieving Strength, Health, and Autonomy through Renewable Energy Development for the Future) program to the islands in an effort to expand the program’s international reach and scope. A Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) funded program that brings forward stories of healing and reconciliation in an innovative context, a SHARED Future builds intersectoral partnerships between communities through with renewable energy projects. 

The research program is comprised of nine thematically linked projects across Canada and has built a network of over 75 Indigenous and Settler scholars, government, non-governmental organizations, industry, and community-based team members from across the globe. Through this, the program aims to bring forward stories of healing, reconciliation, and autonomy through intersectoral energy projects. 

“Hawaii is a leader in renewable energy in the United States and around the world,” says Dr. Castleden (Geography and Planning). “The islands’ State has made a bid to transition off fossil fuels and to a 40 per cent reduction in energy usage by 2030; it supports a 100 per cent renewable energy economy by the year 2045.” 

“I am hoping to learn, through sharing stories with Native Hawaiian leaders, activists, and community members, to what extent their knowledge systems in the context of independent and/or intersectoral partnerships for renewable energy are leading towards more ‘healthful environments’ and how these stories might align with or be distinct from with we are learning here in Canada because there is a pressing need to healing our relations with each other, as well as the land, air, and water around us.” 

Dr. Castleden’s approach to research is community-based and participatory, which requires time and flexibility to develop meaningful relationships before research begins. The COVID-19 pandemic may produce some new and unexpected challenges for the team as they work to reach out and connect with the public but, she says she is confident they will still be able to explore the role that renewable energy might play in Native Hawaiian autonomy, self-determination, health and well-being. 

“We will also be sharing the research findings from A SHARED Future with Native Hawaiian leaders, renewable energy champions, and community members, as well as with faculty and students at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa,” Dr. Castleden adds. 

She says she hopes the time spent in Hawaii through the Fulbright Fellowship will result in important cross-continental communication and solidarity-building transforming into a large-scale international program of research involving many of A SHARED Future’s  international advisors: Elders, Indigenous health scholars, energy transition scholars, and Knowledge-Keepers from the US, Australia, Aotearoa/New Zealand, and Sweden as well as Canada.