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The influencers

Geographer and historian elected to prestigious Royal Society of Canada

By Jeff Green

An internationally lauded field scientist and champion of Arctic research is receiving the highest honour for a Canadian scholar, while an award-winning environmental historian is joining a cohort of emerging scholars in his field.

Dr. Trevor Bell, University Research Professor, Department of Geography, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, is Memorial’s newest fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC), an organization dating back more than 135 years. The society comprises the academies of arts, humanities and sciences. Scholars are chosen by peers for their exceptional contributions to their respective fields.

“Memorial researchers continue to be recognized with prestigious honours for their meaningful contributions to our world.” — Dr. Neil Bose

Dr. John Sandlos, professor, Department of History, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, is among the latest inductees to the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada. The college is the country’s first national system of multidisciplinary recognition for the emerging generation of Canada’s intellectual leadership.

‘Gratifying and humbling’

Dr. Bell says it is “immensely gratifying and humbling,” to be elected to such an elite group.

Annually, only a select group of scholars are chosen; this year, for example, out of 510 nominations, 89 scholars – or 17.5 per cent – were elected.

Dr. Trevor Bell
Dr. Trevor Bell
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Since finding out about his honour, Dr. Bell has been reflecting on those who have played a significant role in his academic career.

“The colleagues who have mentored me, driven me to excellence and shared my dedication and passion for research; my students who have been part of many of the research discoveries; community partners and supporters who have allowed me time to learn and develop my researcher role; and my family who has never questioned the long field seasons, the unannounced visitors at the supper table or the perpetual deadline panic,” he told the Gazette.

A Memorial alumnus, Dr. Bell has dedicated much of his career to focusing on those living and working in the North.

His innovative project, SmartICE (Sea-Ice Monitoring and Real-Time Information for Coastal Environments), was the only Canadian project honoured with the prestigious United Nations (UN) Momentum for Change Climate Solutions Award in 2017.

SmartICE is the world’s first climate change adaptation tool to integrate traditional knowledge of sea ice with advanced data acquisition and remote monitoring technology. Its system combines these approaches to provide invaluable, data-driven insights into sea-ice thickness and local ice conditions, in near real-time.

“I am especially honoured to receive this national recognition.” — Dr. Trevor Bell

Dr. Bell is also the only Memorial researcher to receive the highly coveted Arctic Inspiration Prize not once, but twice. The prize recognizes research and projects that translate knowledge into action for the benefit of the people of the Canadian Arctic.

He says his research is primarily curiosity driven with a focus on making an impact on people and communities.

“It has taken me on unanticipated paths and steep learning curves, connected me with incredibly smart colleagues and allowed me to deliver benefits directly with and for communities,” he noted.

“I am especially honoured to receive this national recognition.”

Vibrant research

Dr. Sandlos’ research has most recently focused on the impact of northern mining and toxins on Indigenous communities.

He was co-investigator on a multi-site, multi-year project examining abandoned mines in Northern Canada, which received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Dr. John Sandlos
Dr. John Sandlos
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

He has received national acclaim for his research.

Mining and Communities in Northern Canada: History, Politics and Memory, a book he co-edited with Dr. Arn Keeling, Department of Geography, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, won the Canadian Studies Network’s 2016 Prize for Best Edited Collection.

“So many people have supported my work at Memorial and beyond, this honour really belongs to them as well.” — Dr. John Sandlos

Dr. Sandlos says he was “very surprised and pleased” to be elected to the college.

“One never expects these kind of honours because there are so many talented academics who deserve recognition for what they do,” he said.

“I also was thankful for the many collaborators, community members, in Fort Resolution and Yellowknife especially, and students who have contributed to the vibrancy of my research program at Memorial. So many people have supported my work at Memorial and beyond, this honour really belongs to them as well.”

Dr. Sandlos says he strives to ensure his research is available through non-traditional media such as blogs, film, magazine articles and multi-media websites. He says he was pleased the selection committee recognized his public engagement and outreach efforts.

“Obviously these types of honours help researchers with some practical aspects of the job, especially securing competitive funding,” he explained. “However, for me the most important contribution of these type of honours is to raise the profile of the work itself, bringing it to a larger audience.”

Innovation at its finest

Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research), says the recognition for Drs. Bell and Sandlos boosts Memorial’s international profile for leading-edge research.

“Memorial researchers continue to be recognized with prestigious honours for their meaningful contributions to our world,” he said. “The recognition for both Drs. Bell and Sandlos demonstrates Memorial’s place as a global research university. I congratulate both on receiving their well-deserved accolades.”

Drs. Bell and Sandlos will be honoured by the RSC during a celebration in Halifax in November.

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