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Water unites us

International Day of Women and Girls in Science

By Mandy Cook

Today, Feb. 11, is the seventh International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

It’s a day to recognize the important role women and girls play in STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and to promote full and equal access to participation of women and girls in science. Despite their significant progress towards participation in STEM higher education, women and girls are still under-represented in the field.

Recognizing the role of women and girls in accelerating progress towards the United Nations Sustainability Development Goal No. 6: Clean Water and Sanitation, this year’s focus is on the theme Equity, Diversity and Inclusion: Water Unites Us.

Many of this year’s slate of Memorial women scientists are studying, researching and teaching on the subject of water. Meet them below, keep an eye out for them on Memorial’s social channels today and happy International Day of Women and Girls in Science!

1/ Kimberley Robertson, instructor, School of Fisheries, Marine Institute, and chair, Advanced Diploma in Water Quality

"I always had an interest in science and naturally progressed from my bachelor’s degree in biology to an advanced diploma in food safety. It was there that my interest in water quality started since vast amounts of water are treated and used in food production and there is also a need to treat the wastewater that is generated in food production ... It makes me sad to think that everyone does not have access to clean water and sanitation and the impact it has on individuals, families, communities and nations. Some of our students come from developing countries where access to safe water is problematic."

Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

2/ Min Yang, PhD candidate, environmental engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science

"I have always been a nature lover since I was a child. The river in my neck of the woods used to be my go-to place. The problem of water pollution arose along with the rapid development of the industry. I realized something had to be done to protect my favourite river, as well as our planet. This sense of responsibility led me to my field ... My research focuses on oil spill treatment in the marine environment. During accidental oil spills, dispersants are used to break oil slicks into small droplets. These droplets are then degraded by marine bacteria. The research is essential because it provides an efficient way to deal with accidental spills and reduce the toxicity of the oil slick on marine species."

Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

3/ Sara Jobson, PhD candidate, marine biology, Faculty of Science

"The vast importance of the ocean as a resource is something we should all feel empowered to engage with and only at that point will we make significant strides towards sustainability ... I would love to be able to work with First Nations groups in Canada, possibly as a bridge between remote, northern communities and scientists interested in the natural resources on their land. First Nations groups hold immense knowledge of natural systems and I believe that the best research is created in collaboration with the people and communities it will impact the most."

Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

4/ Yunwen Tao, research associate, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science

"Emerging contaminants, such as pharmaceuticals, pesticides, industrial chemicals, surfactants and personal care products, is an increasing environmental issue. My master's degree research focused on improving the detection and analysis of medical waste in aquatic environments ... The most important part of my research is discovering a sensitive analytical method for detecting emerging contaminants. The protection of aquatic environments is necessary for the survival of all humans and animals on the planet."

Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

5/ Gina Millar, research lab co-ordinator, Autonomous Ocean Systems Centre

"I manage and operate the MUN Explorer, an unmanned, untethered vehicle that is capable of diving to depths of 3,000 meters beneath the ocean. The equipment can be modified for many different research applications such as seafloor imaging, water sampling, or particle analysis and allows researchers to collect data from locations that would otherwise be very difficult to access. The data can be used in several fields, from ocean science, to biology and geology ... I’ve had the opportunity to launch vehicles from an ice camp in the Arctic, from an ice-breaker near the North Pole, off the coast of Japan and in the Mediterranean sea, as well as plenty of trials in Holyrood Bay."

Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

6/ Mary Clinton, PhD candidate, marine biology, Faculty of Science

"I honestly think that protecting and responsibly managing the ocean might be the single most important task facing our global community. Even if you don’t live on the coast, not a day goes by when the ocean doesn’t affect your life. It provides oxygen and food, regulates climate, and absorbs carbon from the atmosphere. It also provides recreational and spiritual value and is home to so many bizarre and beautiful life forms, that of course have their own inherent value. Protecting the ocean is absolutely essential for our way of life, now and in the future."

Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

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