Lab Manual


Introduction: Welcome! Bienvenue! Pjila’si!

You are likely reading this if you are considering working with the Community-Engaged Co-Lab or have already chosen to work with us and want to get more of an idea of how the lab works! This is a short guide that will take you through expectations (both of students and what to expect from Dr. Melanie Zurba as an advisor), policies on how members of the lab will interact with each other, how advising works, how publications work, and what sorts of resources are available to you as a lab member (or would be available to you as a future lab member).

This is not a traditional lab, but rather a scholarly research community that is focused on working with communities both within and outside of academic institutions. Most research that takes place in this lab has a community focused aspect whether that be working with Indigenous communities, private sectors, different demographics, or any other sort of group that might be uniquely impacted by environmental issues. We welcome researchers/students of all levels who have a passion for environmental justice and working with people, communities, and the environment! This type of research is truly interdisciplinary, we have scientists, political scientists, artists, historians, and many other types of researchers engaged with our laboratory, so please don’t shy away if you feel that your academic background is not directly

tied to our research! We endeavour to create a safe space (read more under our safe spaces policy) for all students and researchers, especially BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Colour) students, 2SLGBTQ+ students, newcomers, international students, those with disabilities, and anyone that has been historically marginalized in academic institutions. There is zero tolerance for discrimination towards any groups or anyone in the lab.


Expectations and Responsibilities

As an advisor Dr. Melanie Zurba commits to:

Foster an atmosphere of collegiality and collaboration through hosting monthly meetings for all members of the lab, providing Basecamp as a repository for shared resources and communication, and continuously building online platforms to serve the lab community;

Providing a “choose your own adventure” research experience outside of your particular (thesis or fellowship-based) research activities in which many opportunities will be provided (publications, conferences, webinars, professional development) and it is up to the student/researcher to choose to participate in the ones they are interested in;

Return feedback on written work within a reasonable time frame, usually within 2 weeks (though sometimes sooner);

Be responsive to email communications and available to set up meetings with students when necessary, though communication must be a 2-way street, students need to be communicative with Melanie;

Provide support in the form of reference letters, editing and feedback on the content of applications, and career and research mentoring


Grants require project teams to publish their work. It is expected that all grant funded students, interns and fellows publish their work within 1 year of completing their thesis, internship or fellowship. Difficulties to meet this obligation should be communicated with Melanie. Failure to develop a manuscript for publication within a year may result in the data from the student/intern/fellow project being used by the project team (from which the funding came from) for a publication.

Post-docs are expected to:

Mentor other students in the lab

Take a leadership role in project management

Have publications under review or produce other key knowledge mobilizations products within their first year of working with Melanie

Attend monthly meetings and be an active participant

PhD Students are expected to:

Mentor other students in the lab

Take a leadership role in the lab

Make some novel contribution to theory and theoretical frameworks through their dissertation work

Attend monthly meetings and be an active participant

Thesis-Based Masters Students are expected to:

Show the ability to apply theory in their thesis research

Attend monthly meetings and be an active participant

Master of Resource and Environmental Management (MREM) Students are expected to:

Be involved in the lab through participating in monthly meetings and being an active participant in lab discussion

Undergraduate Thesis Students are expected to:

Attend monthly meetings and be an active participant

Apply rigour and awareness through their thesis work


· Actively communicate to Melanie

· Actively communicate to the lab through meetings, Basecamp, and responding to emails

· Be collegial and collaborative with the lab (we are not a competitive lab)

· Respect the code of conduct (next section), online safe spaces policy, and anti-oppression framework


Code of Conduct 


· Respect each other regardless of status in the academy

· Respect people’s pronouns, names, and identities

· Give credit to those where credit is due whether that be in publications, presentations, or digital materials

Safe Spaces Policy (online and in-person)

We recognize that systemic oppression is ever present in our colonial institution, and that is therefore important to ensure that our lab is providing a safe space in which no forms of discrimination are tolerated including (but not limited to): racism, homophobia, transphobia, panphobia, biphobia, ableism, sexism, ageism, classism, xenophobia, discrimination based on language ability, or anything else. If you have a concern about any of the research being undertaken in the lab, or any concerns about individual lab members you can disclose that to Melanie or to the people involved as per the conflict resolution policy. We commit to ensuring that we as researchers, and a community are held accountable for our actions and held accountable to providing a safe space for lab members, research participants, and community partners

Anti-Oppression Framework

Principles of anti-oppression in play in the work of this lab (adapted from the Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group Anti-Oppression policy):

· As individuals, but especially as researchers, privilege and power dynamics are present in our lab community, as well as in our research with communities and we must ensure that we are acknowledging and challenging our privileges and power through this work

· Recognizing the dynamics of power and privilege is only possible when work is done to understand and acknowledge how racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, as well as all other forms of oppression impact our experiences and privilege

· We need to fully commit to researching and acting through anti-oppressive practices to truly work towards a more just society and carry out meaningful community-based research

· Anti-oppression practice requires continual learning and work to reduce vulnerability to continuing to systemic oppression

· We need to listen to those who have experienced oppression, and adapt through respectful and non-defensive communication

· We need to be willing to challenge ourselves, our self-perceptions, and our belief

Anti-Oppression in Practice

A list of actions that can be taken, adapted from the Los Angeles Direct Action Network:

· When witnessing or experiencing racism, sexism, etc., interrupt the behaviour and address it on the spot or later; either one on one, or with a few allies

· Give people the benefit of the doubt. Think about ways to address behaviour that will encourage change and try to encourage dialogue, not debate

· Keep space open for anti-oppression discussions; try focusing on one form of oppression at a time- sexism, racism, classism

· Respect different styles of leadership and communication

· White people need to take responsibility for holding other white people accountable, straight people need to take responsibility for holding other straight people accountable, etc. the responsibility should not be on the shoulders of the oppressed

· Try not to call people out because they are not speaking

· Be conscious of how much space you take up or how much you speak

· Be conscious of how your language may perpetuate oppression

· Don’t push people to do things just because of their race or gender, base it on their word and experience and skills

· Promote anti-oppression in everything you do, in and out of researcher space

· Avoid generalizing feelings, thoughts, behaviours etc. to a whole group

· Set anti-oppression goals in your research and personal life and continually evaluate whether or not you are meeting them

· Don’t feel guilty, feel motivated. Realizing that you are a part of the problem doesn’t mean you can’t be an active part of the solution!

Ownership of Research

· In research with Indigenous communities we follow The First Nations Principles of OCAP · We also follow the Tri-Council Policy involving First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities

· We acknowledge that the ethics policies are different in every Indigenous community concerning research and we commit to ensuring that we are abiding by the proper ethics procedures and conducting research as respectfully as possible in collaboration with and directed by the communities we are working with

Conflict Resolution

· This is a useful resource with some clear questions and suggestions for working through conflicts

· In general in this lab it is important to:

o Bring up conflicts right away

o Have an open discussion with Melanie and/or any other person in the lab who the conflict is with

o Not be afraid to voice your concerns



· Meetings are at the request of the student, whenever they are needed

· There should be constant and open communication from the student to Melanie and vice versa

· Melanie will check in with students if she has not heard from them for a while, but it is ultimately the responsibility of students to keep their projects moving forward

· Projects that are associated with grants may have deadlines that the will be negotiated between Melanie and the student

· When input is needed on written work or ideas, students should reach out and Melanie will do her best to respond in a reasonable time frame (the student must give Melanie ample time to respond)




· If the publication is based on the thesis of a student, they are the first author and after that authorship order is based on who contributed the most work to the paper

· For lab-based papers, the person or people that are leading the paper are the first authors, and then then after that the students who are involved based on levels of contribution

· Research Assistants, postdoctoral fellows and interns who work on papers within Melanie’s projects will be listed as an author for their contribution and Melanie will be the first author of the publication. Postdoctoral fellows will also have opportunities to lead and be first author on their own publications based on their particular/original contributions.


Lab Resources

· Most lab communication (not communication relating to individual projects) is done through Basecamp, where resources, agendas, and ideas are shared

· The lab has a monthly meeting with everyone involved to share updates on research, projects for the lab to work on together, and other opportunities

· Resources are available from Dalhousie as well for academics, mental health, health and wellness and much more 


Lab Approach

As our lab does a lot of work with Indigenous communities and other communities, the approach to this research is really important and these are some resources to give a sense of what our approach is:

Partnerships where the communities are leading or equal partners in the research, with the ultimate goal of it being community driven. Our research should be supporting the work that communities want to have done, and is very based on building relationships and participatory methods.

We are a very interdisciplinary lab with researchers from the fine arts, sciences, health, geography, history, and many more disciplines engaged and this sort of work thrives on diversity and different experiences

We hope that this has given you a good sense of how our lab works, what our philosophy is, and some good insight as to whether you want to work with us, or what is expected of you if you already are! Please reach out to if you have any questions or want to join us