Public policy and governance students from StFX had the opportunity to experience their studies firsthand when they travelled to Halifax Nov. 8, 2019 to meet and engage with provincial politicians and policymakers.
The field trip came about after Dr. Peter Kikkert, Irving Shipbuilding Chair in Arctic Policy at StFX’s Mulroney Institute of Government, asked Antigonish MLA and Minister of Health and Wellness Randy Delorey if arrangements could be made to bring the group of students to Halifax.
Minister Delorey arranged meetings for the students with officials in several departments, including finance, executive council, health, and environment.
“This was all about exposing the students to the different career pathways that public policy can take them on,” Dr. Kikkert says, “and to hear from the actual practitioners on the skills they should be working on as they complete their undergraduate degree.’
He says the experience also gave the students the chance to ask relevant and timely questions on issues and themes they’re currently studying.
Students say the experience was terrific.public policy 2.jpeg “The trip was a really meaningful opportunity to witness firsthand potential career opportunities and paths I can follow with my undergraduate degree in public policy. It opened my eyes to the broad scope of work within the government and bureaucracy and the possibility I have to work in a position and department that I feel extremely passionate about,” says second year public policy and governance student Chloe Walker from Ottawa, ON.
“A few highlights for me were definitely meeting with the Ministry of the Environment and connecting with my fellow classmates. I left the trip feeling excited about my future as a graduate from StFX’s public policy program and a clearer understanding of how I will apply my knowledge from StFX to life beyond the classroom. Special thanks to both Professor Kikkert and Professor (Adam) Lajeunesse, as well as Minister Delorey and all the others we met for making this experiential learning opportunity possible.”
Hannah Peters of Herring Cove, NS, a third year student in public policy and governance, agreed the field trip was an excellent experience.
“Being from Nova Scotia and getting an inside look into how various departments in the provincial government work was fascinating. Meeting the departments of environment, finance, health, and the executive council was exciting to see how the different areas process their policies,” she says.
“We had lunch with Minister Randy Delorey. It was interesting to sit down and talk to him about various issues, and his background on how he became the Minister of Health. It was intriguing to hear the different experiences and education of individuals in the policymaking fields in the departments.”public policy 1.jpeg “To me, the trip was a great eye-opening experience,” says second year honours public policy and governance student Matthew Stepien from Stoney Creek, ON. “Since so often in the PGOV program we are taught about 'the government' and the policies that it implements, but I never truly understood the people who are involved in making the government operate on a day-to-day level. This trip really went a long way to showing how the hard work of government is done by a number of dedicated and hardworking individuals.
COMPLEMENTS ACADEMIC EXPERIENCE
Minister Delorey says he was happy to help coordinate the experiential learning opportunity for students of StFX’s Public Policy and Governance program with the Government of Nova Scotia, as having the opportunity to hear directly from front line public servants complements the academic learning that takes place in the classroom, helping provide additional context and reference points for past and future coursework, and adding another layer to the learning.
“I believe the meetings also provided practical value for students by providing insights into the specific work being done by policy staff within the public sector as well as the diverse range of backgrounds serving in these important roles.”
Minister Delorey says he was also pleased to have the opportunity, both as local MLA and as Minister of Health and Wellness, to join the students for a Q&A session, along with a number of department employees who are StFX alumni. The alumni provided introductions including comments on their studies at StFX and their work experience with the province.
“These discussions provided insight into the variety of career opportunities despite seemingly unrelated undergraduate studies, which hopefully put students at ease to know that there remain many career path options once they successfully complete their studies at StFX,” he says.
“Finally, I would like to acknowledge the willingness of the many public servants who participated to make this experience possible. Every department approached agreed to participate and the Executive Council Office jumped at the opportunity and offered to facilitate the detailed coordination between departments and StFX. The feedback from all who participated was very positive—students seemed to genuinely appreciate the insights and employees valued the interest students placed in their work.”
As first year StFX students, Madison Pendleton and Sophie Sawler were immediately on board when their ‘Intro to Biology’ professor Dr. Michael Cardinal-Aucoin gave his students the opportunity to participate in an optional class project last year, providing an opportunity for the students to do extra work outside class time to gain experience doing health-related research.
The project proved so successful that their research, “Let’s talk about sex: A mixed-methods study of student awareness of and access to sexual health primary care resources at a residential university in Canada,” was accepted for presentation at both a national and international conference.
From Oct. 30-Nov. 2, 2019, Dr. Cardinal-Aucoin, Ms. Sawler and Ms. Pendleton travelled to Vancouver, BC to present their research at the Family Medicine Forum, a national medical-related conference. The two StFX students were by far the youngest presenters in attendance.
“Being able to have this opportunity is beyond what I expected coming to StFX,” says Ms. Sawler, now a second year health student.
“I can’t describe the feeling. It’s amazing,” agrees Ms. Pendleton, now a second year biology student, who says building these types of relationships and experiences early in their undergraduate degree is invaluable.
Both students say they want to become doctors in the future and the chance to be around people at the conference who have recently gone through the healthcare field was a one-of-a-kind experience to talk and network.
“Being around people you aspire to be like was awesome,” says Ms. Sawler.
Dr. Cardinal-Aucoin says the idea behind the research project was so the students could present at a local conference, the Dalhousie University Primary Healthcare Research Day in Halifax, NS, in the spring. He says that experience went so well that they decided to apply to other conferences.
They were accepted and attended the Family Medicine Forum in Vancouver. Both students received funding from StFX’s Dr. W.F. James Student Research Conference Travel Support Program to attend and present their research findings.
Their work was also accepted at the international North American Primary Care Research Group conference, held in Toronto, where a colleague of Dr. Cardinal-Aucoin presented their poster.
Dr. Cardinal-Aucoin says the idea to offer the opportunity to the students was important to him.
“I just want to try, at least, not just to teach the facts of biology or science, but also how it’s done, and that’s research. One of the best ways is to dive in and do some research. That can be difficult, especially in first year courses.”
Dr. Cardinal-Aucoin says he didn’t want to make the project obligatory as not everyone would be interested or be able to devote so much time and effort to it.
For Ms. Sawler and Ms. Pendleton, both say the opportunity to do research and to expand their knowledge appealed to them. They say Dr. Cardinal-Aucoin did everything he could to help and support them in this experience.
Helping older women reclaim a presence in the community and in society is the aim of research undertaken by Kelly O’Neil, a StFX PhD student, who plans to focus her studies on older women becoming agents of change through a community radio project.
Ms. O’Neil, of Halifax, NS, is in her first year of the Nova Scotia Inter-University Doctoral Program in Educational Studies and is supervised by StFX adult education professor Dr. Carole Roy.
Already, her work is having impact. On Nov. 18, CBC’s Information Morning interviewed Ms. O’Neil on her master’s thesis, which focused on older women and housing insecurity in Halifax.
One of the key findings in that research and something that carries over into her upcoming project is the feeling of older women feeling invisible, she says.
“Throughout this research, I heard about a strong sense of imposed invisibility, that their value is no longer seen and it’s perceived they don’t have a lot to offer,” says Ms. O’Neil who received the best thesis award while completing her master’s in family studies and gerontology at Mount Saint Vincent University under supervisor Dr. Janice Keefe.
With a background in community work and a degree in social work, Ms. O’Neil says she has worked with people in poverty previously and has seen how people are marginalized with no social or political power or presence. Add in the fact of being older, and also as a woman, and it can present a particular set of barriers.
An older woman herself, she says it is a group too that isn’t always represented in research.
Ms. O’Neil says for her PhD research she was thinking about ways that women can challenge and resist that, and how they can use this invisibility to become an instrument of power. She wanted to create an avenue where the women would be given a voice—the opportunity to speak for themselves.
“The community needs to the be spokesperson for the community,” she says.
“The project, as I envision it, is for older women, aged 55 and up, who are economically marginalized and living within the Halifax Regional Municipality, to come together to train as citizen journalists.”
She says she’d like to develop a radio podcast program, something ideally that would continue after the research is complete.
Ms. O’Neil, who is currently completing course work and a literature review, notes she is still about a year away from starting the research.
It’s a topic of research already gaining traction. Her master’s work—which included an illustrated infographic summarizing key findings of her thesis in a visual way—not only drew media attention, she also sent the infographic to a number of stakeholders including various elected officials. She was subsequently invited by some MLAs to talk about her research and its implications.
“The key for me is that it (the information) is accessible, interesting and in the community. Whatever I do, it belongs in the community, that’s really important for me.”
Alumni and faculty from StFX’s Music Department were well represented among the award winners, earning numerous honours when the Music Nova Scotia Awards handed out its hardware Nov. 10, 2019 at the finale to Nova Scotia Music Week 2019.
“This shows that StFX continues to be a force, and a home, for music in the province,” Music Department chair Kevin Brunkhorst says on the great showing.
Among those picking up awards were:
• Erin Costelo ’98, also former part-time faculty, who picked up awards for Recording of the Year, Americana/Bluegrass Recording of the Year, Solo Recording of the Year, and Producer of the Year.
• Breagh McKinnon ’14 of Port Cities, which received nods as Digital Artist of the Year and SOCAN Songwriter of the Year
• Tom Easley ’92, part-time faculty, Mark Adam, former faculty, Geordie Haley ’82, and Kevin Brunkhorst, Music Department chair, all of The Easley Quartet, which won Jazz Recording of the Year.
The chance to gain experience, build connections and be immersed in all things healthcare was an invaluable learning experience, says third year StFX biology student Kennedy Nangle, one of three StFX students, the first from the university, to attend the Canadian Undergraduate Conference on Healthcare (CUCOH), the largest-student run undergraduate healthcare conference of its kind in Canada.
Ms. Nangle, Maya Lowe, a BaSC in Health student, and human kinetics student Claire Simmons were the first StFX students to attend the three-day conference, now in its 15th year, held at Queen's University in Kingston, ON from Nov. 8-10, 2019.
They joined 360 delegates from over 25 universities across the country to engage in hands-on workshops and discussions that showcase the multidisciplinary nature of healthcare, including the wide array of professions in the healthcare industry. This year’s conference theme focused on preventative medicine.
“It was exciting to learn about all the different aspects of healthcare that you can get into,” says Ms. Nangle of Ottawa, ON, the first StFX External Ambassador for the conference.
“The conference was very healthcare focused, the area I’m looking to go into,” says Ms. Nangle, who volunteers once a week in the local St. Martha’s Regional Hospital Emergency Room Program and is about the start volunteering for the hospital’s Music Therapy and Meditation Program.
She says she was looking for opportunities to get involved when she came across information on the CUCOH conference. She applied to become an External Ambassador, a person who recruits people, organizes logistics and fundraising for the conference at their school.
Ms. Lowe was also accepted as a StFX External Ambassador.
“I thought it was a really unique experience, and I personally wanted to attend,” Ms. Nangle says on why she decided to apply to be an External Ambassador.
She says the conference was a terrific experience. It exposed attending students to many different keynote speakers, from a health policy lawyer to scientists, and let students participate in hands-on workshops and collaborative case challenges.
Ms. Nangle says delegates were also able to tour the graduate and medical school facilities at Queen’s, including attending a workshop in the anatomy lab.
She says it was a highlight for herself, Ms. Lowe and Ms. Simmons to get to experience at the conference things they learn about every day.
Ms. Nangle says she hopes even more StFX students will attend the event next year.
Dr. Adolph Reed. Jr., one of the world’s most renowned scholars of race and politics and one of the most influential critical race theorists, will spend a week at StFX as the inaugural McKenna Scholar in Residence at StFX’s Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership.
“We are absolutely delighted to be able to welcome Dr. Adolph Reed, Jr. on our campus from November 12-16,” says the team at the Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership.
“McKenna Residencies are designed to bring noted scholars to StFX who will offer a range of events that allow students, faculty, and the public to engage with their ideas. Dr. Reed will receive office space at the McKenna Centre and stay at StFX for an intensive one-week residency. During this week, students, faculty, and community members will be able to engage in detail with the work of Dr. Reed through a variety of events and activities. He will also be available through daily office hours.”
During the week, Dr. Reed will offer two colloquia—one for all members of the community, and one for students only. During these colloquia, participants will be able to engage with Dr. Reed’s work and ideas in detail.
Those interested in reading several of his articles, written for a general, non-specialist audience that introduce ideas central to Dr. Reed’s work, can check out “The Trouble with Uplift”: “Nothing Left: The long, slow surrender of American liberals” and “Race, Class, Crisis: The Discourse of Racial Disparity and its Analytical Discontents.” Dr. Reed will contextualize these readings and ideas during some brief opening remarks, and audience members will be able to ask questions, discuss, and debate.
Dr. Reed, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, has taught political science for over 40 years at highly respected institutions, such as the University of Illinois at Chicago, Yale University, Northwestern University, and The New School for Social Research. Dr. Reed's work is notable for its critique of identity politics and antiracism, particularly as they pertain to black politics.
He is known for influential and often searingly critical commentary on race in American life, black political thought, and American politics, as well as for his many books, including W. E. B. Du Bois and American Political Thought, Stirrings in the Jug, Class Notes, and Renewing Black Intellectual History. He also has a long history of deep involvement in politics, including voting rights and anti-war organizing, city government, the labor movement, and, most recently, the Campaign for Free Public Higher Education and Bernie Sanders’s presidential bids.
Below is an itinerary for the week’s programming.
Tuesday, November 12:
5:30-6:30 p.m.: Introductory Event, McKenna Hall: “Ways to Think About Social Justice under Neoliberalism.” The event will include a brief presentation and background information on Dr. Reed’s academic and political work; introduction to some interesting ideas that will be raised during the week; information on Dr. Reed’s work as part of the Bernie Sanders campaign; first opportunity for students and faculty to meet Dr. Reed, to ask questions, and to engage in direct conversations.
7 p.m.: Meet and greet mixer with food and beverages, McKenna Hall.
Wednesday, November 13:
4-6 p.m.: Office Hours, SCHW 418
6:30-8 p.m.: Colloquium for faculty, students, staff, and public, McKenna Hall
Thursday, November 14:
4-6 p.m.: Office Hours, SCHW 418
6:30-8:00 p.m.: Colloquium for students only, McKenna Hall
Friday, November 15:
4-6 p.m.: Office Hours, SCHW 418
8:15-9:45 p.m.: Public Lecture, McKenna Hall: “Solidarities Across Categories of Identity: Black Politics and Social Justice, 2020 and Beyond”
Followed by a reception, McKenna Hall
Saturday, November 16:
6:30-8 p.m.: Panel Debate, McKenna Hall: “Capitalism, Identity Group-Based Politics, and Possibilities for Realizing Social Justice”
* Adolph Reed, Jr. (Political Science, University of Pennsylvania)
* Erin Gray (African American Studies and Political Science, University of California, Davis)
* Cedric Johnson (English, University of Illinois at Chicago)
* Dean Robinson (Political Science and Health, University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
Chronic back pain continues to represent a major clinical, social and economic problem for societies worldwide. Now new research from StFX is looking into the impact of back pain on brain networks.
Dr. Gurpreet Matharoo, a research consultant with ACENET at StFX and a part-time instructor who has taught undergraduate courses in StFX’s physics, engineering, and earth sciences departments, recently published a paper on the issue in Physica A, a journal published by Elsevier, the result of an interdisciplinary study that uses fundamental physics, health science, neuroscience, and computer science to study the issue.
In the publication titled, “Spontaneous back-pain alters randomness in functional connections in large scale brain networks: A random matrix perspective,” Dr. Matharoo and co-author Dr. Javeria Hashmi use ideas from Random Matrix Theory (RMT) of Physics to study brain networks impacted by back pain.
The study used functional MRI scans and behavioral data for a set of patients who were monitored for a period of six months. Here, using ideas from RMT, they looked at random correlations that are inherent in brain networks and how these correlations decrease when the brain is engaged in detecting threats or experiencing discomfort from pain.
The ability to properly detect and perceive pain is fundamental for survival and, attending to pain results in systematic changes in the brain’s functional connectivity, thereby reducing the random correlations, he says.
Dr. Matharoo says these effects persisted six months later in patients who continued to feel back pain (chronic group), but were absent in the group of patients who recovered.
The study, he says, highlights the importance of interdisciplinary research while underlining the importance of fundamental physics.
Dr. Matharoo says the collaboration for this project was initiated when Dr. Hashmi met with Greg Lukeman, CTO of ACENET, with a desire to use ACENET’s and Compute Canada’s supercomputers for her research. His initial job was to parallelize the procedure to investigate functional MRI of 120 patients, which otherwise took a lot of time. In subsequent informal discussions with her, he happened to discuss Random Matrix Theory that he had used on other systems like water and amorphous solids and spoke about its potential. “She was super excited on hearing the whole thing and asked if I could try implementing on the data that I had from her. That was the start of this project,” he says.
Dr. Matharoo says he’s pleased to have the results published. “These results form a basis for more such interdisciplinary research projects. The human brain is a fairly complex and a non-linear system, whereby neuronal interactions result in higher brain functions, and in the formation of functional networks, even in the absence of any stimuli. Hence, standard univariate techniques are insufficient, and we also need approaches from fundamental physics for a better understanding of the underlying processes in the brain.”
Dr. Peter Marzlin, Chair of the StFX Physics Department, is enthusiastic about this new approach to using physics in health science, and supports these kinds of studies.
The findings of the study have the potential to be extremely useful in improving treatment outcomes of many such neuro-psychiatric disorders and in determining any systematic or mechanical errors in fMRI scans, Dr. Matharoo says.
Murray Gibson, tapestry artist and part-time studio faculty in the StFX Art Department, was inducted on Oct. 26, 2019 into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, which celebrates the achievement of excellence and innovation by Canadian artists and designers across the country.
The Royal Canadian Academy of Arts is an honourary organization of over 700 established professional artists and designers from all regions of Canada. With members nominated and elected by their peers the RCA has, since 1880, come to represent many of Canada’s most distinguished visual artists and designers.
Mr. Gibson was nominated by Jane Kidd and Marcel Marois, both recipients of the prestigious Saidye Bronfman Award, the Governor-General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts. His nomination, unanimously accepted by the RCA Elections Committee, was also supported by Jackie Anderson, jeweller, Bruce Campbell, painter and former director of the StFX Art Gallery, and William Morton, Master Dyer.
“Murray’s work epitomizes the art of contemporary tapestry. His work and contribution to the field of contemporary tapestry has been recognized nationally and internationally and Murray continues to be an influential and highly respected participant in this discipline,” Ms. Kidd wrote in her nomination letter.
“Conceptually, Murray Gibson’s tapestries are the synthesis of extensive research. Mythical and fictitious weavers, mythology, medieval art and textile history are a few of the sources that inform his work. In his practice, he has made a commitment to mastering the traditional techniques of Gobelins tapestry. He uses this technical language, unique to tapestry, fluently; structuring works in which textile references create an allegory of intimate and nuanced allusions to female characters from myth, religion and history. Though steeped in historical references the narratives woven into his tapestries draw us into conversations about contemporary issues such as gender dynamics, disciplinary knowledge and the importance of historical practice in contemporary art.
“Weaving a tapestry is a time-consuming process: from concept to finished cloth many months can pass. I am honoured to know that my long-time and somewhat lonely practice is appreciated and recognized by my peers,” Mr. Gibson said.
The Canadian Academy of Arts was founded in 1880 under the patronage of the Governor-General of Canada, the Marquis of Lorne. Soon after, Queen Victoria gave her permission for the use of the “Royal” prefix. Artworks by early RCA members formed the foundation for the collection of the National Gallery of Canada. Notable historic members include the painters of the Group of Seven and Ozias Leduc, whose frescoes enhance the interior of St. Ninian’s Cathedral. Today RCA members represent all parts of Canada: coast-to-coast-to-coast, and include well-known filmmakers, architects, and studio artists working in all artistic media.
Mr. Gibson graduated with honours from The Alberta University of The Arts, Calgary in 1985. In 1995, he received his MA, Textiles from Goldsmith’s College, London, UK. He was named a Master Artisan of Craft Nova Scotia in 2015. His tapestries hang in private, corporate, and public collections across North America and abroad including the Canada Council Art Bank and the Nova Scotia Art Bank. His tapestry Let’s Go to The People’s Place, created in collaboration with members of L’Arche Antigonish Hearts & Hands, hangs in the People’s Place Library in Antigonish, NS. He has been teaching part-time in the StFX Art Department since 2005.
Klompen, recipes, wicker baby baskets, family photograph albums, and artillery shell art. These were some of the many and varied objects that local community members displayed for the Dutch Heritage Night and Pop-Up Museum held on Sunday, October 27 at the Royal Canadian Legion Arras Branch 59 in Antigonish.
StFX students in Anthropology 492: Museums helped plan and host the event in collaboration with the local Legion as a course-based service learning project. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Holland during World War II, and the Legion is hosting a series of commemorative events. Over 150 people were in attendance at the pop-up museum, and Pier 21, Canada’s immigration museum, also participated in the event.
“A pop-up museum is created and experienced by those who show up to participate,” explains Dr. Meghann Jack, who is teaching the museums course as a special topics offering this semester in the Anthropology Department. “It brings people together in conversation through stories, memories, history, and especially objects. We can think of a pop-up museum as kind of like a potluck, but instead of everyone bringing a dish of food, everyone brings an object or story to share with others.”
Students in the course have been exploring the important role that objects, stories, and heritage play in shaping personal identity, sense of community, and sense of place and belonging. “I wanted students to see first-hand the power of objects and stories in bringing people together,” explains Dr. Jack. “Planning and facilitating the pop-up museum also helped students have a better sense of the work that goes into exhibit curation, from project planning to marketing to set-up to engaging with visitors,” she explained.Dutch pop up museum 2.jpg
Visitors view the exhibit tables. Over 150 people were in attendance.
Nazi-occupied Holland was liberated by Canadian soldiers in the Spring of 1945. Following the war, thousands of Dutch immigrants, largely agriculturalists, came to Canada seeking better opportunities. Many settled in the Antigonish area with the support of the Catholic church, and went on to establish successful farms and make other important contributions to the community. “The story of postwar Dutch immigration to Antigonish is a really important one,” says Dr. Jack. “The intent of the pop-up museum was to be an opportunity for the local Dutch community to reminiscence and share, to come together and remember, to feel rooted in both Canada and The Netherlands,” she says.
“It was amazing to see how close the Dutch community is, and I learned a lot about their role in Canadian history," says StFX anthropology student Melissa Quintero-Lazo.Dutch pop up museum 3.jpg
Back row, l-r: James Matheson, Royal Canadian Legion Arras Branch 59 President; StFX anthropology students Diane Scott, Edward MacDonald, and Samantha Dunsworth; StFX professor Dr. Meghann Jack; and Garry Fleuren. Front: StFX anthropology students Emily Scott and Melissa Quintero-Lazo and Pier 21 Public Programs coordinator Melissa Matheson.
“We had excellent corporation from StFX students helping to host this event,” says James Matheson, Legion branch president. “Many people from the Dutch community have thanked us for putting on this event. This was the first year that we have ever tackled anything like this so we had no idea of what to expect. We were thrilled with the turnout of the public and their enthusiasm."
Deepening the relationship with its longstanding, international partner, Changzhou University, StFX welcomed Lujia Wang, the manager of the Student Affairs Office at the Chinese university, to campus for three weeks this month.
While on campus, Mr. Wang got to know StFX, spoke with students, and discussed with StFX partners ways the two universities can further strengthen their formal 15-year partnership, which officially started in 2004.
StFX currently accepts Changzhou students for the final two years of their degree – 60 credits towards earning a StFX degree. As well, through other collaborations over the years, StFX students and faculty have studied and taught at Changzhou.
As part of the agreement, StFX welcomes a representative from Changzhou University each year.
Mr. Wang says the visit has been very helpful. The campus itself is beautiful, with many modern technologies, and he says it is evident that professors and staff care about the students.
Larissa Strong, StFX Director of Internationalization, says they have been talking about the transfer of credits, about further StFX faculty partnerships to Changzhou, organizing short term study trips for StFX students and about StFX’s English language preparation program. She says they’ve also discussed ways that StFX can further support the specific needs of Changzhou University students while they are here, both in the classroom and in life on campus.
Both say the partnership is beneficial as it helps increase internationalization, helps open the world to the Chinese students, and brings another perspective to StFX.
“Having Changzhou University students in our classroom adds diversity of perspective and thought,” Ms. Strong says. “Students understand more broadly how the world works, and how to communicate more effectively with people who are different than themselves.”
Mr. Wang says the opportunity to study at StFX helps Changzhou students for employment and future study opportunities and having StFX faculty, staff and students complete study trips in China helps the university learn more about Canadian culture and broaden their outlook on the world.
“It’s important to StFX and we look forward to many more years of this partnership,” Ms. Strong says.
StFX has launched a new research centre on campus that is intended to serve the regional community as it develops and disseminates advanced climate models and data to provide practical information on the physical, social, and economic impacts of climate change.
The Climate Services & Research Centre (CSRC) will function as a hub that offers services, including creating regional predictive climate modelling scenarios that will help anticipate potential climate change consequences and serve as a guide to develop adaptability strategies in response to projected future climate, to organizations of all types.
“There has been a need for this type of service for a long time, and we now have new capabilities to produce regional climate model simulations that will help produce evidence-based solutions to regional climate change problems, and develop adaptation strategies that are applicable specifically in the region,” says Dr. Hugo Beltrami, a StFX earth sciences professor and Canada Research Chair in Climate Dynamics.
The capabilities that Dr. Beltrami speaks of are the combination of a newly acquired super computer cluster that can be used to generate climate models at local scales, and the presence of faculty researchers and graduate students capable of producing models tailored towards specific questions about how climate change will affect the Maritime provinces.
Members of the Climate Research and Services Centre will work as a team to produce models, and to provide analysis and potential solutions, depending on what questions they are being asked to investigate.
Faculty researchers comprising the newly created CSRC include Dr. Beltrami, Dr. Corrine Cash, Dr. Lisa Kellman, Dr. Andrew MacDougall and Dr. Patrick Withey. Their expertise is wide-ranging and spans social, economic, and scientific dimensions of understanding climate change climate change.
Some of the work by members of the CSRC is already having a real effect.
Past work included predicting the propagation of Lyme disease-carrying ticks in different areas of the province and Atlantic Canada, based on potential future temperature changes.
The CSRC has also been called upon to assess the potential for climate change induced flooding in the province. The CSRC contribution was part of a multi-institutional effort provide the Government of Nova Scotia with vital information needed to develop flood lines-related regulations impacting future infrastructure development in the province. With this type of information and analysis, people can prepare and adapt more readily climate change impacts by developing solutions based on evidence of future trends.
CSRC’s researchers, in collaboration with Spanish researchers and graduate students, have also been involved in the development of a wind database for potential use in wind power generation.
Now that the new centre is operational, next steps will be to develop a suite of offerings, based on the needs of the community. The centre is in the process of developing a high resolution (fine scale) regional climatology so that it can produce future climate scenarios in Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada over the next 80 years. This will serve as a base of information that can be used to answer questions from the regional community.
“The goal,” says Dr. Beltrami, “is to share our capacity with those who can really benefit, but first of all, attempting to respond to the needs of the community. This necessarily requires community involvement.”
Visit climateservicesandresearchcentre.com for more information about the centre’s activities.
Claire MacDougall saw a need and wanted to do something about it.
The third year StFX physics and math student from Halifax, NS noticed that people threw out a lot of school supplies each spring, and that didn’t sit well with her.
“I was thinking about ways we could not do this. It’s a lot of waste that ends up in the landfill, and there are people who could benefit from it,” she says.
Ms. MacDougall had read a report from the Antigonish Poverty Reduction Coalition and was aware of the issue of poverty in the community and how expensive school supplies can be.
Around the same time she was mulling over an idea of what could be done, she learned of a new StFX award, the McKenna Leadership Project Development Grant that provides a student with a 12-week summer salary to work on a project that addresses a need in the community or at StFX.
She applied and was chosen as the inaugural recipient. Through the summer she collected new and gently used school supplies and in late August hosted a very successful pay-what-you-can Back to School Ice Cream Social event in the Warren Gardens outside StFX’s Coady Institute.
Her project turned out to have such an impact that her work was honoured with the Kay Thompson Desjardins Award for Social Entrepreneurship from the Antigonish Chamber of Commerce.
The award, which is named after one of the pioneers of the Antigonish Movement who worked for Moses Coady and StFX Extension, recognizes Desjardins’ contributions to the StFX Extension Department and her advocacy for human rights, and highlights the important role social enterprise, and those involved in social entrepreneurship, have had. The award was sponsored this year by StFX’s Centre for Employment Innovation and presented Oct. 23, 2019 at the Antigonish Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Business Gala and Award Night.
“I was really excited to receive it,” says Ms. MacDougall, who notes it is really important to her to make an impact in her community.
Throughout the summer, she approached businesses and local residents and started collecting new and gently used school supplies. She also received a $750 award from the Youth Rising Foundation to buy school supplies. She says she received much support from the community. As news of the initiative grew, people donated items and she said Father Gary MacPherson made an announcement during mass at the StFX Chapel and more people dropped off items.
A friend on the StFX football team and his coach wanted to get involved and organized an initiative in which Stephenson Property Management would donate $100 to the project for every StFX touchdown completed.
Ms. MacDougall met with area principals, community members and StFX professors for feedback on how best to distribute the items.
“I decided the best way was to have an event that could be a celebration, that didn’t take away people’s dignity, that could be anonymous.”
She says a great crowd attended the ice cream social, where people could pick up a new backpack, a list of school supplies and go shopping for supplies they needed. The event was pay-what-you-can, with all money raised to put towards buying supplies for next year’s event.
Ms. MacDougall, who previously played for X-Women soccer, was joined by many of her teammates as volunteers at the event.
Even though her internship is complete, she is still working on the initiative and hopes to make next year’s event even bigger with a few smaller events around Antigonish County for those who can’t make it into town.
As she will graduate after next year, Ms. MacDougall says she has some volunteers in place now and her hope is the initiative will continue on as a StFX society and continue for years to come.
For StFX students Ella Maltby and Megan Fraser, the opportunity to present their research at the 46th Canadian Ecotoxicity Workshop in Quebec City from Oct. 6-9, 2019 was a terrific learning opportunity, a chance to gain experience, learn about other avenues of research and career opportunities and network with experts.
And it all came about thanks to their research work and their supervisors, StFX faculty Dr. Jim Williams and Dr. Russell Wyeth who alerted the two to the opportunity and encouraged them to submit abstracts to present at the annual meeting, which shares information on topics of regional, national and international importance related to contaminants in ecosystems, both aquatic and terrestrial. Participants include students, academics, government scientists and regulators, environmental consultants and industry representatives.
Ms. Maltby, a master’s biology student from Antigonish, NS co-supervised by Dr. Williams and Dr. Wyeth, gave both a poster and an oral presentation, reflecting the two parts of her thesis work. The poster presentation, “Assessment of contaminants in the American lobster, Homarus americanus: a baseline survey for Boat Harbour remediation,” focused on the contaminant survey she conducted on lobster tissue from around coastal areas of the Northumberland Strait, a baseline survey for Boat Harbour remediation.
Her oral presentation, “Effects of cadmium on the escape response, foraging, and shelter-use behaviours of juvenile American lobster, Homarus americanus,” focused on the behaviour experiment she is conducting with juvenile lobster exposed to cadmium, a heavy metal that may be found in polluted or contaminated waters.
Ms. Fraser, of New Glasgow, NS, a fourth year aquatic resources student taking an advanced major in biology and supervised by Dr. Williams, gave an oral presentation on her work projecting forward to Boat Harbour, Pictou County, NS, a body of water that has been receiving effluent from a nearby mill for over 50 years, and how the ecosystem will be able to return to its pre-industrial condition, including understanding what types of marine grasses and small organisms might be able to live in the pre-industrial sediments of Boat Harbour once remediation of the site is complete.
She’s been conducting research on the topic with Dr. Williams for the past two summers, including this past year as an Irving Research Mentorship Award recipient. She says their goal is to prepare an official report for Nova Scotia Lands and eventually to publish the research in a journal.
Ms. Maltby says attending the workshop and networking with experts in the field, who provided advice and direction. was very useful.
“Being very early in my career, it was really great to get that exposure and make those connections,” Ms. Fraser agreed.
“I’m so grateful to both my supervisors for the support they give and the encouragement they provide. They really care about your future,” Ms. Maltby says.
Adds Ms. Fraser: “It’s nice to have someone so encouraging. It kind of pushes you to get out of your comfort zone.”