The Geography and Environment Department of Mount Allison University hosted the Science Atlantic Environment Conference 2018 in March. Students, faculty, and staff came from ten universities across Atlantic Canada to attend the conference. Two Mount Allison students, Taylor Crosby and Sally Faulkner, received 1st and 2nd place for their presentations in the undergraduate category.
The conference is for those interested in the interdisciplinary area of the environment. Crosby received 1st place for her presentation on her research on microplastics. Faulkner’s presentation was on her research on phosphorus in phytoplankton in marine systems.
“There were 25 undergrad presentations, so their accomplishments are impressive,” says conference co-organizer and Mount Allison environmental studies professor, Dr. Joshua Kurek.
Crosby’s research looked at whether waste-water treatment facilities may be a source of microplastics and if these contaminants are being transported further downstream in rivers across South-Eastern New Brunswick. She found that not only are microplastics present but more plastics were found downstream of these facilities. Microplastics contamination of the ocean has been well studied but fewer studies have looked at freshwater contamination.
Kurek, Crosby’s advisor for honours research, says of her presentation, “Taylor often exceeds expectations and has excelled with this experiential learning opportunity. With her combined passion for environmental science, confident communication skills, and positive attitude, she deserves significant recognition for all her accomplishments. We are proud of her!”
Crosby received another special surprise when her parents drove down from Halifax to see her presentation.
Faulkner presented on her research on macromolecules in diatoms that hold their phosphorus. Phosphorus is a key element of life and limits phytoplankton growth and productivity. Her research helps to give a better understanding of how and what these diatoms contribute to the food web and may help to predict what will occur in these systems with climate change.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to talk to anybody about diatoms, let alone a room of other equally-enthusiastic students and professionals,” says Faulkner.
Faulkner’s advisor for her honours research, Dr. Zoe Finkel, Canada Research Chair in Environmental Science, was not surprised by Faulkner’s achievement. Finkel describes her as an engaged student who loves research and is fun to talk to in and out of class as she is always so engaged.
“Sally gave a lecture in my Earth Systems class based on her experience as an interpreter at the Joggins Fossil Cliffs. What student can give a 50-minute lecture? It was impressive. She is a natural communicator,” says Finkel.
Both students enjoyed hearing and learning from the other presenters about their research. “The presentations were all really excellent. It would have been a hard decision to choose between them,” says Faulkner.
The conference also included a panel discussion, ‘Advancing policy with science,” with experts from government, First Nations, and academia.
“Such events are really useful in advancing knowledge and creating excitement and energy for our students,” says Dr. Nauman Farooqi, Dean of Social Sciences.
Photo caption (l-r): Taylor Crosby and Sally Faulkner each received awards for their research presentations at the 2018 Science Atlantic Environment Conference hosted at Mount Allison in March.