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Fantastic four

Researchers earn top honours from Royal Society of Canada

By Jeff Green

Four early-career researchers are starting the academic year on a high note.

A geographer, musician, social worker and sociologist are among the latest cohort elected to the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists (RSC) — one of the nation’s highest scholarly honours.

Class of 2023

The group includes Drs. Carissa Brown, professor, Department of Geography, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences; Christine Carter, associate professor, School of Music; Sulaimon Giwa, interim dean and associate professor, School of Social Work; and Mark Stoddart, professor and acting head, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Notably, this is the second year in a row that four Memorial researchers received the honour.

“Memorial is so fortunate to have these incredible researchers as part of our community and we continue to be impressed by their contributions,” said Dr. Tana Allen, vice-president (research). “From enhancing our understanding of the effects of climate change, performance psychology and social justice issues, all four are making lasting impacts in meaningful ways. Each has surrounded themselves with talented students and collaborators to lead important work. Warmest congratulations to all four on receiving this prestigious national honour.”

Unparalleled insight

Dr. Brown is globally acclaimed for her research advances in ecology and biogeography, specifically climate change impacts on species distributions and fire in the boreal forest.

Wearing glasses and a dark blue dress with a pattern, Dr. Carrisa Brown, a white woman in her 40s, smiles.
Dr. Carissa Brown
Photo: Ryan Card

Her research in the subarctic on treeline expansion is crucial to the ecology of northern ecosystems and dependent communities.

Her work has revealed the overwhelming role that non-climatic factors can play in changing the rate at which a species’ distribution responds to climate change.

“I hope that my role in the college can be one that makes a connection between the RSC and Newfoundland and Labrador, where I can facilitate opportunities for knowledge sharing and learning here in the province and more broadly in Atlantic Canada,” she said.

Dr. Brown is quick to add that her work involves many partners.

“The graduate students and other colleagues I have the pleasure of collaborating with earned this alongside me, so it feels a bit strange to only have my name on this honour. I hope I can use this recognition to continue to elevate their work and enhance our future collaborations.” 

Sought-after expert

Dr. Carter is an internationally recognized clarinetist and recording artist. Known for visionary interdisciplinary projects, she has performed at prestigious venues around the world, from Carnegie Hall to the Sydney Opera House.

Wearing a dark coloured dress, Dr. Christine Carter, a white woman in her 30s, leans against a rail.
Dr. Christine Carter
Photo: Ryan Card

In 2013 she co-founded the acclaimed Iris Trio. The group’s Project Earth is a multi-year, inter-arts performance and recording project exploring the impact of human behaviour on the environment.

She is also a sought-after expert in performance psychology and one of the few active concert artists worldwide conducting research in the area. As a researcher and workshop presenter, Dr. Carter has helped thousands of musicians worldwide become more effective on stage and in practice.

“Creative activity and other types of non-traditional research are often undervalued in academia, so it’s impactful when an organization like the Royal Society elevates this kind of research,” Dr. Carter told the Gazette. “The RSC is instrumental in bringing together minds across areas of expertise. I am most excited about meaningful interdisciplinary conversations and collaborations.”

Dr. Carter says the RSC recognition will help increase the work of other artists and women.

“I didn’t have a lot of female role models in my post-secondary education. The RSC can play an important role in providing greater visibility for a more diverse cross-section of Canadian scholars.”

Innovative researcher

Dr. Giwa is recognized worldwide for his community-engaged research in forensic social work, race and sexuality, and the effects of structural racism on racialized and LGBTQ people.

Dr. Sulaimon Giwa, a Black man in his 30s, is seen wearing a blue coloured shirt.
Dr. Sulaimon Giwa
Photo: Submitted

Among other innovative contributions, he has raised awareness of the marginalization of LGBTQ newcomers to Canada and improved organizational capacity to meet their needs.

Dr. Giwa’s efforts have influenced the policies and practices of several partner organizations, including the Association for New Canadians and YWCA.

Earlier this year, he was named one of CBC’s Black Changemakers for Atlantic Canada.

“I am deeply appreciative of this prestigious opportunity to further advance knowledge and make a significant impact on the academic community, Canadian society and the global community,” Dr. Giwa said. “The camaraderie and collective pursuit of knowledge within this esteemed group is truly inspiring, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of it.”

He says the recognition inspires him to keep pushing boundaries and make valuable contributions to his field.

“Being recognized by the RSC allows me to serve as a role model for aspiring academics from racialized and marginalized communities. It demonstrates that hard work and dedication can lead to well-deserved recognition and the chance to impact both the academic community and the world at large.”

Landmark insight

Dr. Stoddart’s groundbreaking research includes eco-politics, media and communication, social movements, policy networks, tourism and oil and energy.

Wearing a white shirt and glasses, Dr. Mark Stoddart, a white man in his 40s, is seen leaning against a wall.
Dr. Mark Stoddart
Photo: Ryan Card

By making important connections across local, national and cross-national levels of analysis, his work is lauded as “essential reading” for pursuing social-ecological sustainability.

His landmark book, Industrial Development and Eco-Tourisms: Can Oil Extraction and Nature Conservation Co-Exist?, offers vital lessons for how coastal societies can better navigate relationships between resource extraction and nature-based tourism in the context of climate change and interests of social-ecological well-being.

“It’s exciting, humbling and gratifying to join the RSC,” Dr. Stoddart said, “especially to be able to contribute my research expertise to the collective work of ongoing RSC initiatives like their expert panels, reports and research summits.”

Dr. Stoddart has been working on issues of social-environmental sustainability for more than 20 years.

“As inter-related sustainability issues like climate change, biodiversity loss and just energy transitions become more and more pressing, the RSC provides an essential interdisciplinary venue for researchers in this space to reach the Canadian public and decision-makers in the interests of equitable and inclusive sustainability transformations.” 

November celebration

The latest recipients join 15 other Memorial researchers who have been elected to the RSC’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.

This year’s honorees will be celebrated by the RSC during a celebration of excellence and engagement from Nov. 15-18 in Waterloo, Ont.

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