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Multi-Million Dollar Medievalists

Multi-Million Dollar Medievalists

Date: Tuesday, July 23, 2019

St. Jerome’s University is pleased to announce that Dr. Steven Bednarski has been awarded $2.5 million in federal research funding in the form of a seven year Partnership Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Dr. Bednarski is a professor of Medieval History at St. Jerome’s University at the University of Waterloo, and is the primary investigator and lead applicant on the research partnership entitled Environments of Change: Digitizing Nature, History and Human Experience in Late Medieval Sussex. The grant supplements additional cash and in-kind resources provided by partnered agencies, contributing to a total project start-up value of nearly $10 million.


Bednarski’s Environments of Change grew out of a 2014-2017 SSHRC Partnership Development Grant that he developed in concert with the University of Waterloo (UW) and Queen’s University. In the current project, Bednarski expands the core partnership between UW and Queen’s, including the Bader International Study Centre (BISC) at Herstmonceux Castle, to coordinate 30 other expert co-applicants and collaborators. The grant will bring together experts representing a range of disciplines that normally do not intersect, including History (Environmental and Social), Digital Humanities, Archeology, Aqueous Geochemistry, Climatology, Computer-assisted modelling, Conservation, Ecology, Fine Arts, Geography, Geological Engineering, Geology, Geomorphology, Isotope hydrology, Paleo-sedimentology, Tourism Studies, and Video game design. Together the group will embark upon a bold interdisciplinary investigation into how emerging digital technologies can help shine light on the historical relationship between climate and culture in the late Middle Ages.


“To represent the climate-culture symbiosis objectively,” explains Bednarski, “we focus on another time and place of immense environmental and cultural change: southern England, 1000-1550—which coincides with the gradual end of the Medieval Climate Optimum and the onset of the Little Ice Age.”


To advance this collaborative investigation, St. Jerome’s University has committed to building a first-of-its-kind research space, the 3,600 sq. ft. Medieval Digital Research in Arts and Graphical Environmental Networks Laboratory, or DRAGEN Lab. This innovative digital humanities lab, which opens in November 2019, will focus on the intersection of digital technologies, historical environment, and culture. It forms a hub from which the Environments of Change team will provide research training opportunities to hundreds of Canadian students.


Queen’s University’s BISC has also built a new Science Lab for the project, a satellite location in the UK where students and scholars affiliated with Environments of Change may gather, conserve, and analyze the natural physical remains they gather from throughout the south of England. The BISC Science Lab and the DRAGEN Lab incubate and impart vital skills training to the next generation of environmentally-minded digital humanists.


Much of the research training provided by Environments of Change is supported by the lengthy list of partnered agencies in Canada, the US, and the UK that Bednarski has united under his partnership framework. Bednarski identified that the project is a unique opportunity for scholars from diverse disciplines to work with the support of major Canadian and international research institutes, industry partners, public- and not-for-profit agencies, and government to produce transdisciplinary digital research into the complex relationship between humans and nature.


At UW, core research team members include Professors Joan Coutu, John Johnston, Ian Milligan, Neil Randall, Ann Marie Rasmussen, Derek Robinson, Martin Ross, David Rudolph, Sherry Schiff, Maria Strack, Jane Tingley, Andrew Trant, and Johanna Wandel; and the project’s Digital Librarian, Zack MacDonald. UW’s Faculties of Arts, Science and Environment; the Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business; the Games Institute; the Office of Research; and the Office of the Provost will all provide essential support to the project.


“I congratulate Dr. Bednarski on his research and his success obtaining this funding,” stated Scott Kline, the university’s Interim President.  “At St. Jerome’s University we value high quality research and opportunities to impact our undergraduate and graduate students and the broader community in a positive way. We wish Dr. Bednarski every success with this research and look forward to supporting the team.”


St. Jerome’s University is pleased to be supporting Dr. Bednarski’s work and congratulates and acknowledges the following contributors to this project:


The University of Waterloo

Queen’s University

The Bader International Study Centre

Harvard University Libraries

The Electronic Textual Cultures Laboratory

The University of Victoria

Tech Sector:

UbiSoft Canada

Nelson Publishing

Beacon Labs, Halifax

Education Sector:

The Waterloo Region District School Board

The Kitchener-Waterloo Bilingual School

Voice Integrative School

Battle Abbey School, East Sussex


The Social Sciences and Humanities Research

Council of Canada

East Sussex County Council

English Heritage


Image of Steven Bednarski

Dr. Steven Bednarski


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