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Perfect fit

Newly minted master of arts graduate signs up for PhD

Student Life

By Janet Harron

Originally from Regina, Sask., Caitlynn Beckett thought attending graduate school in St. John’s, N.L., would be a “fantastic adventure.”

It has been all that and more.

Fall graduate

Now about to graduate from Memorial with a master of arts degree in geography on Oct. 19, she is already enrolled in a PhD program in the same department. As an added bonus, she recently received an F.A. Aldrich Graduate Award.

Ms. Beckett’s undergraduate degree from the University of Saskatchewan in international studies and biology gave her a love for research and cross-disciplinary study. She already had a love for the natural world, which is what led her to geography.

“I love my environment and I wanted to find a way to help protect it. I’m particularly interested in human interactions with nature, so geography was a good fit,” said Ms. Beckett, who still misses the prairies of her home province but now loves living near the ocean.

Geography has indeed been a good fit, she says, allowing her freedom and flexibility to move between her numerous academic interests.

“You don’t have to fit into any sort of box. I’m working with people who have psychology degrees and policy degrees and environmental studies degrees and chemistry degrees and biology degrees.”

‘Here waiting for me’

When choosing Memorial for graduate studies, she found the geography department welcoming and helpful, Ms. Beckett says.

She was sent contact information for current and previous students in order to query them directly on their experiences.

Dr. Arn Keeling, Ms. Beckett’s supervisor, also mentioned his and Dr. John Sandlos’s Toxic Legacies project during initial conversations.

“I was interested in working in northern and rural places in Canada and the Giant Mine project already had good research relationships established,” she said.

“It just fell into my lap — it was the right project just here waiting for me. I hadn’t even known about it before I talked to Arn that day.”

Ms. Beckett’s master’s thesis addressed the wider social costs and benefits of remediation at the Giant Mine in Yellowknife, NWT, including how local Aboriginal history and ecological knowledge be used.

From left are Natalie Plato, Giant Mine remediation project team director, and Caitlynn Beckett pointing at the thermosyphons that keep arsenic frozen underground.
From left are Natalie Plato, Giant Mine remediation project team director, and Caitlynn Beckett, pointing at the thermosyphons that keep arsenic frozen underground.
Photo: Submitted

Her doctoral research will expand on these ideas to investigate the abandoned Cyprus Anvil or Faro Mines in the Yukon and the still operational Raglan Mine in Nunaik, Que.,

During her doctoral research, Ms. Beckett will work with researchers from across Canada as part of NSERC’s Toward Environmentally Responsible Resource Extraction Network.

“She has been an outstanding student in geography, conducting independent fieldwork in a Northern community, producing a great thesis and winning a number of awards and scholarships,” said Dr. Keeling.

“She is also a leader in our graduate program, helping organize activities and initiatives among the graduate students. We’re lucky to be able to keep her at Memorial for her PhD!”

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