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Whither Ice and Whence Weeds: Profiles of Two Graduate Students Whose Research Touches upon Water

Trent University’s School of Graduate Studies is a small school with a large reputation for research and scholarship. Here are two individuals whose work touches on water in very different ways.

Whither Ice and Whence Weeds: Profiles o Identity on Ice: Kristi Allain, Ph.D. Candidate, Canadian Studies

Growing up in Peterborough, Ontario, Kristi Allain had a relationship with ice not unlike many other Canadians: through the sport of ice hockey. But when her family agreed to board a Russian player with the Peterborough Petes, the game took on a more central role in her life. Attending many a Petes game in her youth, she became increasingly interested in the cultural, identity and gender issues expressed in this popular game played out on frozen water. Little did she know that special brand of oh-so-Canadian entertainment would form the basis of the Ph.D. she would pursue at the Frost Centre for Canadian and Indigenous Studies at Trent.

“My research examines the relationships between dominant notions of Canadian national identity, men’s elite level ice hockey and particular expressions of masculinity,” explains Ms. Allain. “Further, I’m interested in how the construct of a hockey-playing nation privileges certain expressions of Canadian national identity.”

Ms. Allain’s research explores this complex subject by looking at perceptions and media coverage of famous hockey personalities Sydney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin – and reviewing a particular brand of masculinity presented through Don Cherry’s Coach’s Corner.

“I argue that Cherry’s construction of hockey masculinity and morality in general draws upon a nostalgic understanding of the past and a construction of Canadian hockey masculinity as under threat,” says Ms. Allain, whose research also examines Mr. Cherry’s style and dress and celebration of the Canadian Military. “These ideas are linked through a celebration of men’s bodies – particularly those who are able-bodied, disciplined, white, and heterosexual.”

One unique aspect of Ms. Allain’s research is that she includes players’ own conceptions of hockey masculinity. “I think it is important to examine how various constructions of hockey masculinity actually play out in Canadian locker rooms,” she says. The very Canadian aspects of snow, ice and cold also have a role.

“To play hockey is to overcome the elements and take to the ice – even though it is hard, cold and unforgiving,” adds Ms. Allain. “Thinkers such as Sherrill Grace (1997) and Renée Hulan (2002) stress that the link between Canadian national identity and the North is constructed based on an understanding that the North is masculine and that those with a masculine spirit will overcome its harsh environment.”

Of Weevils and Water Weeds: Kyle Borrowman, Environmental and Life Sciences M.Sc. Student

Environmental and Life Sciences Master’s student Kyle Borrowman would be the envy of many. Some of his most enjoyable research takes place snorkelling or boating in cottage country on some of Ontario’s most beautiful lakes. Despite the glorious surroundings, it’s serious work.

“My research consists of exploring the ecology between a native insect, the milfoil weevil (Euhrychiopsis lecontei), and an invasive-exotic aquatic plant, Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum),” says Mr. Borrowman, who did his undergraduate degree in Environmental Resources Science at Trent after completing the Terrain and Water Resources Program at Fleming College.
Most cottagers would recognize Eurasian watermilfoil as the long, feathery plant that can create dense stands that reach the surface in seemingly open water. The invasive foreign species can grow from 1 to 3 metres in length and tends to wrap itself around the legs of skittish swimmers and the motors of frustrated boaters.

“Eurasian milfoil has been present in Ontario since the 1960's and has been heavily managed since the 1970's,” explains Mr. Borrowman. “This species is capable of creating dense mats that can negatively impact fish and invertebrate populations, water temperature, navigation and recreational use of lakes.”
Mr. Borrowman is exploring how a hungry little insect, the size of a sesame seed and native to Ontario lakes, can help to control the spread of the unwelcome weed. Throughout the Mid-West United States, the small bug, called the milfoil weevil, has been used as a form of biological control to manage nuisance populations of Eurasian watermilfoil. Surprisingly, despite being native to North American lakes, the tiny water bug actually prefers the exotic flavours of Eurasian milfoil to native water milfoil. With its spattered black and yellow shell and what Mr. Borrowman calls an “extended gonzo-like” nose, the weevil mows through Eurasian milfoil and helps to keep balance in the lakes.

“Since this insect has increased its range to include Eurasian watermilfoil as a form of diet and habitat, we are interested in determining what environmental factors limit the success of the milfoil weevil in Central Ontario in an attempt to better understand the interaction and ecology of these two species." says Mr. Borrowman.

His favourite part of the ENLS program at Trent: “I find the field work very rewarding and love the opportunity to spend time snorkelling around small bays in Central Ontario lakes." In the future, he can see himself working potentially working in private sector restoration or environmental consulting. And if his research can help reduce the amount of Eurasian milfoil causing havoc in our lakes, Mr. Borrowman says it will be satisfying to see that his research has made a difference.

Posted on Tuesday, March 1, 2011.

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