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‘Exceptional achievement’

Acclaimed geographer, political scientist recognized by Royal Society of Canada

By Jeff Green

Two of Memorial’s leading feminist researchers are receiving one of Canada’s highest honours for early career academics.

Dr. Max Liboiron, associate professor, Department of Geography, and Dr. Amanda Bittner, professor, Department of Political Science, are among the newest members of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC)’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.

Both are based in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

The RSC, founded in 1882, made the announcement today, Sept. 7.

Pollution and politics

A Métis/Michif scholar, Dr. Liboiron is an internationally respected Indigenous science and technology studies scholar who is at the forefront of plastic pollution research.

Dr. Bittner is a leading authority on elections and public opinion and one of the world’s top experts on political leadership.

The RSC will honour its newest members during a celebration later this year.

“On behalf of our entire university community, I congratulate Drs. Liboiron and Bittner for this well-deserved recognition,” said Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research).

“Memorial is deeply proud of these two accomplished leaders for their exceptional achievement in their respective fields of study. Their pathbreaking research on plastic pollution and gender and politics continues to elevate Memorial’s global profile for truly transformative scholarship. I look forward to their continued success.”

Citizen scientist

Dr. Max Liboiron wears a black shirt and vest and stands in front of green leaves.
Dr. Max Liboiron
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Dr. Liboiron is founder and director of the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR), a feminist, anti-colonial, marine science laboratory built on the values of equity, humility and justice.

The lab specializes in community-based and citizen science technologies for environmental monitoring of pollution and waste.

“I am immensely grateful for the small village it takes to do a RSC College nomination.” — Dr. Max Liboiron

Dr. Liboiron’s research includes collaboratively creating a community-based plastic pollution monitoring program with the Nunatsiavut Government; inventing affordable open-source microplastic water trawls; and playing a lead role in the establishment of the field of Discard Studies, the social study of waste and wasting.

As Memorial’s inaugural associate vice-president (Indigenous research), Dr. Liboiron led the creation of Memorial’s Research Impacting Indigenous Groups policy and an Indigenous data sovereignty research partnership agreement – two firsts for a Canadian university.

Strong network

“I am immensely grateful for the small village it takes to do a RSC College nomination,” Dr. Liboiron told the Gazette during a recent conversation, while acknowledging the research and administrative teams involved in institutional nominations.

“Unlike most awards where the applicant does most of the heavy lifting, for the RSC College, most of the work is done by colleagues through recommendations and explanations. This award is literally impossible without having a strong network of support. When I was informed that I was awarded, my first reaction was to email and thank all the people who made this possible, both inside and outside of Memorial.”

Since joining Memorial in 2014, Dr. Liboiron has secured more than $4.5 million in funding from agencies such as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, MEOPAR, ArcticNet, the Northern Contaminants Program and Indigenous governments.

Among Dr. Liboiron’s publications are 28 referred articles; nine chapters in edited collections; and the book Pollution is Colonialism by Duke University Press, which was published earlier this year to stellar reviews.

“The RSC award is a little odd within my career because for the people and groups I’m most accountable to in my research — Indigenous partners, home communities, my Elders — they have no idea what it is,” Dr. Liboiron explained.

“Because the RSC College application process is completely dependent on the labour, esteem and enthusiasm of my academic and administrative peers, the award is important because it is coming from them. So thank you!”

Prominent scholar

Dr. Amanda Bittner wears a blue shirt and black jacket and stands in a hallway.
Dr. Amanda Bittner
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

A political psychologist who studies elections, voting and public opinion, Dr. Bittner is an expert on how voters perceive and evaluate party leaders and the impact those opinions have on elections.

Dr. Bittner leads a dynamic research laboratory focused on comparative research on gender and politics, while her work has transformed public and political dialogue.

Since joining Memorial in 2008, she has secured nearly $10 million in funding as principal investigator, co-investigator or collaborator.

“I’m pleased that the Royal Society has decided to add two East Coast feminists to the college simultaneously.” — Dr. Amanda Bittner

The author of Platform or Personality? The Role of Party Leaders in Elections from Oxford University Press, Dr. Bittner has co-edited several volumes; written nearly 20 journal articles and book chapters; and conducted countless media interviews.

Dr. Bittner’s current research, and arguably some of her most innovative and impactful, assesses how we conceptualize and operationalize “gender” in survey research so that its measurement captures the full spectrum of gender identities.

By measuring gender more precisely, Dr. Bittner has shown that we are able to get a more nuanced understanding of the role of gender in public opinion and voting.

‘Real honour’

“The Royal Society is known by many to include our country’s leading scholars and to be included among that group is a real honour,” Dr. Bittner told the Gazette.

“Even though I’m a full professor, I still think of myself as early in my career and I’m a little star struck by some of the incredible researchers and the contributions they have made to advancing our knowledge. I’m excited at the opportunity to meet and work with these brilliant academics from across the country.”

Dr. Bittner has secured funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada; been honoured by the American Political Science Association; and received Memorial’s President’s Award for Outstanding Research.

“I’m pleased that the Royal Society has decided to add two East Coast feminists to the college simultaneously,” Dr. Bittner said.

“It’s very exciting, and I think it also sets a tone for the generations to come, who may look at me and Max and think, ‘huh … maybe I do belong in the academy after all. If they’re there, I can be there, too.’”

Drs. Liboiron and Bittner are among nine other Memorial researchers who have been elected to the Royal Society of Canada’s Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.


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