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Inspiring others

Researcher named national leader for scientific pursuits, community activism


By Jeff Green

Dr. Max Liboiron has received a national honour for her leading-edge research and community engagement.

Dr. Liboiron — Memorial’s associate vice-president (Indigenous research) pro tempore — is one of this year’s recipients of the Nature Inspiration Awards, which are presented annually by the Canadian Museum of Nature.

She was recognized for her scientific studies and community activism aimed at reducing ocean plastics during a ceremony on Nov. 7 in Ottawa.

Dr. Liboiron received the Nature Inspiration Award in the adult category. She accepted her honour via Skype to a room full of other nominees and supporters in Ottawa.

“It’s an honour to receive this award, especially given the other nominees,” Dr. Liboiron told the Gazette.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that all nominees in our category are women, since many of us are at the front lines of doing environmental activism around community concerns. Many of the other nominees are people who have inspired me and it’s a privilege to share this space with them.”

Watch the Canadian Museum of Nature’s video honouring Dr. Liboiron below.

Unique research

The Canadian Museum of Nature acknowledged Dr. Liboiron’s work as a “scientist, activist and community organizer,” who directs a unique marine-plastic-pollution laboratory at Memorial.

“Trained in biology, she moved into fine arts, cultural studies and media studies during graduate degrees,” noted her citation. “Her lab monitors food webs for plastics and their associated toxicants. She has invented community-based methods and technologies to make the science accessible to non-scientists.”

Collaborative approach

Dr. Liboiron says the recognition will help bring awareness to marine plastic pollution and her lab’s research.

“The best part of this award is that it shines a light on all the partners, fish harvesters and citizen scientists I work with.” — Dr. Max Liboiron

“The work being recognized by this award is a collaborative effort of many people who have tested and used the open source technologies we’ve developed, as well as the hundreds of people who have worked with us to get samples from wild food for plastic testing,” she explained.

“The best part of this award is that it shines a light on all the partners, fish harvesters and citizen scientists I work with, many of whom do not have degrees, publications or institutions behind them but are nonetheless co-researchers and collaborators in this work.”

Supporting others

The Nature Inspiration Awards provide winners with a $5,000 prize to donate to a group of their choice, as well as a trophy. Dr. Liboiron will be donating her award money to the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, an Indigenous non-governmental organization based in Toronto.

“It may seem odd that a youth sexual health network would be the beneficiary of a Nature Award, but the network is a brilliant organization that is at the cutting edge of articulating how environmental damage and social crises like missing and murdered Indigenous women are linked in Indigenous communities, including in the area where I grew up,” Dr. Liboiron said.

“Their publication Violence on the Land; Violence on our Bodies has had a great influence on my research and I’m pleased to be able to support a group that has inspired me.”

First awarded in 2014, the Nature Inspiration Awards recognize individuals, groups and organizations whose leadership, innovation and creativity connect Canadians with nature and the natural world.

You can follow Dr. Liboiron on Twitter; her handle is @MaxLiboiron, or learn more about her research online and on the CLEAR website.

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