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Pursuit of knowledge

Next-generation researchers awarded significant federal funding

By Jeff Green

How species respond to climate change and creating population models for flatfish on the Grand Banks are some of the diverse projects led by future research leaders benefitting from more than $750,000 in scholarship and fellowship funding.

The awards come from the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship, Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, Canada Graduate Scholarships—Doctoral, Canada Graduate Scholarship Master’s and Canada Graduate Scholarships—Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplements Competition programs.

The investment supports researchers based at the Marine Institute; the faculties of Science; Business Administration; Humanities and Social Sciences; and the schools of Music; Human Kinetics and Recreation; Fine Arts; and Science and the Environment.

In total, the federal government is investing $768,500 at Memorial.

The results were posted by Canada’s tri-agencies on June 19.

“These federal programs are important catalysts for Memorial’s research growth, allowing us to attract and retain incredibly talented researchers who are dedicating their careers to the pursuit of knowledge in a variety of disciplines,” said Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research). “Sincere congratulations to each of our recipients.”

Banting Fellow

Dr. Michael Peers
Dr. Michael Peers
Photo: Submitted

Dr. Michael Peers is recipient of a prestigious Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship, valued at $70,000 per year for two years.

He has joined the Department of Biology, Faculty of Science.

Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships provide funding to leading postdoctoral fellows, both nationally and internationally, who will positively contribute to the country’s economic, social and research-based growth.

Species’ adaptation to climate change

Dr. Peers grew up in Peterborough, Ont., and completed degrees at Trent University and the University of Alberta, where he worked on snowshoe hares in the Kluane Lake region of the Yukon.

He is looking forward to continuing his research with Memorial’s Dr. Eric Vander Wal.

Dr. Peers' research focuses on understanding how species may respond to climate change.
Dr. Peers’ research focuses on understanding how species may respond to climate change.
Photo: Submitted

He says his work focuses on understanding how species may respond to climate change.

“One way species are negatively impacted is that the timing of seasonal life-history events is becoming mismatched with advancing spring temperatures,” he said.

“One example is found in the species that change coat colour over winter to match the presence of snow. If these species are unable to alter the timing of their coat colour change, the reduction in snow cover predicted in the future will decrease their camouflage, lowering survival.”

Dr. Peers wants to study trail camera data to examine the rate of spring-coat colour change in species from several populations from across North America.

“This work will provide important insight on the adaptive capacity of species to climate change.”

Vanier recipient

Matthew Robertson, a PhD student with the Centre for Fisheries Ecosystem Research at the Marine Institute, is the recipient of a lucrative Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, valued at $50,000 for three years.

Dr. Michael Peers
Matthew Robertson
Photo: Angie Bishop

The Vanier program aims to strengthen Canada’s ability to attract and retain outstanding doctoral students and establish Canada as a global centre of excellence in research and higher learning.

Population models

Originally from Hampton, N.H., Mr. Robertson completed degrees at Dalhousie University and Louisiana State University before coming to the Marine Institute in 2018.

“My research aims to create population models for two species of flatfish – American plaice and yellowtail flounder – on the Grand Banks.”

American plaice collapsed in the 1990s and has not recovered since while, in contrast, yellowtail flounder recovered and has a directed fishery.

Matthew Robertson says his Vanier scholarship allows him to "completely focus" on his research.
Matthew Robertson says his Vanier scholarship allows him to “completely focus” on his research.
Photo: Submitted

“My goal is to create a model that can account for the interactions between American plaice, yellowtail flounder and a prey species that they both consume to understand why American plaice has yet to recover while yellowtail flounder has,” Mr. Robertson explained. “Once completed, I hope to have this model directly contribute to fisheries harvest advice.”

He says the Vanier will alleviate the financial challenges of pursuing a PhD as an international student and allow him to “completely focus” on his research.

‘Highest-quality research’

“These prestigious scholarships recognize world-class doctoral students and postdoctoral scholars by supporting individuals who demonstrate both outstanding leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement,” Dr. Aimée Surprenant, associate vice-president (academic) and dean, School of Graduate Studies, noted.

“We are so proud of our students and postdocs who continue to win these awards. It is wonderful that their hard work, determination and brilliance is being recognized. The funding will help these young scholars continue to contribute the highest-quality research while at the same time engaging with and contributing to the community in very important ways.”

In addition to funding from the Banting Post-doctoral Fellowship and Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship programs, the following graduate students have secured federal funding:

Canada Graduate Scholarships—Doctoral Program: October 2019 Competition

  • Robyn Lacy, Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, $105,000

Canada Graduate Scholarships—Master’s Program: December 2019 Competition                                           

  • Heather Austin, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, $17,500
  • Sarelle Azuelos, Department of Gender Studies, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, $17,500
  • Lorna Conquergood, School of Fine Arts, Grenfell Campus, $17,500
  • John Davis-Abraham, Department of History, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, $17,500
  • Kathleen Fleming, Department of Folklore, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, $17,500
  • Tracy Gulliver, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Science, $17,500
  • Emily Hogan, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Science, $17,500
  • Erin Keough, School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, $17,500
  • Sidney Lichtenstein, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Science, $17,500
  • Hayley McLellan, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, $17,500
  • Christina Murphy, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Science, $17,500
  • Dawn Murphy, Faculty of Business Administration, $17,500
  • Robert Nolan, Department of Political Science, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, $17,500
  • Meghan O’Reilly, Department of Political Science, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, $17,500
  • Eric Richard, Department of Classics, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, $17,500
  • Sarah Robinson, Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, $17,500
  • Anie Toole, School of Fine Arts, Grenfell Campus, $17,500
  • Sarah van den Berg, Ethnomusicology Program, School of Music, $17,500
  • Barbara Vieira dos Santos, Department of Gender Studies, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, $17,500
  • Fiona Wilson, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Science, $17,500
  • Samantha Young, Environmental Policy Institute, School of Science and the Environment, Grenfell Campus, $17,500

Total: $367,500

Canada Graduate Scholarships—Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplements: 2019 Competitions

  • Jeffrey G. Speller, Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, $6,000

In addition to those noted above, current Memorial student Kayla Hollett, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Science, received a Canada Graduate Scholarships—Doctoral Program, valued at $105,000, for future studies at another university.


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