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Trent University Graduate Students Bring Home Award-Winning Scientific Posters from Canada’s Largest Arctic Research Conference


Climate Change Expertise from Trent Scholars Featured Prominently in Arctic Change 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008, Peterborough

Trent University graduate students Kaitlin Breton-Honeyman and Jennie Knopp returned home last week award-winning researchers following their scientific poster presentations at Arctic Change 2008 in Quebec City, the largest international Arctic research conference ever held in Canadian history.

“It meant a lot to me to win this award because injuries resulting from climate change in the Western Arctic are a crucial issue that haven’t received a lot of attention yet,” said Kaitlin Breton-Honeyman, who won second place in the health sciences category for her poster entitled Climate Change, Public Health and Safety in the Arctic. “For Inuit, health and safety on the land is of particular concern as many communities report increasingly frequent uncharacteristic weather and sea-ice conditions putting hunters and others at greater risk than ever before.”

Her classmate Jennie Knopp placed third in the social sciences category for her poster Bridging the Gap: Linking Scientific and Traditional Knowledge with Community-Based Monitoring which was part of the International Polar Year Char Climate Variability and Change project. Ms. Knopp and Ms. Breton-Honeyman were two of only twelve award winners out of a field of 320 posters.

Supervising both students through the Environmental and Life Sciences Graduate Studies Program is Trent’s Dr. Chris Furgal, a professor of Indigenous and Environmental Studies and member of the conference’s international organizing committee. "I was extremely pleased and proud to learn of the recognition given to both Kaitlin and Jennie's poster presentations at the Arctic Change conference. To be awarded for outstanding work among the large number of students in attendance is a great achievement,” he said. “It is also an indication of the interest in the innovative research being undertaken by graduate students working with me and others at Trent in the areas of Indigenous peoples, environment and health issues. Trent had a great showing and presence at the conference, and this was exemplified by these student awards."

Considered one of Canada’s leading experts in combining Indigenous and scientific knowledge, Professor Furgal gave several presentations on his research that explores how climate change is transforming how people survive in the Arctic. “The Arctic is experiencing some of the most rapid effects of climate change globally and how northern residents are able cope with the variety of changes they face is of particular concern for their health and safety,” he explained. Prof. Furgal and his graduate students presented how changing ice conditions affect northern peoples’ ability to hunt and fish, and the emergence of vulnerability assessments as an informative research approach to understanding potential impacts and identifying characteristics of those communities and individuals most at-risk.

Joining Prof. Furgal were eight other researchers from Trent who presented their latest findings from several disciplines about the effects of climate change on the Arctic. These include Roberta Bondar Fellow in Northern and Polar Studies Dr. Derek Mueller (ice shelf specialist), ornithologist Dr. Erica Nol (Arctic shorebird vulnerability to predators), Geography Department chair Dr. Peter Lafleur (tundra ecosystem specialist), Environmental and Resource Studies (ERS) assistant professor Dr. Brendan Hickie (toxin contamination in beluga whales), Canada Research Chair and forensic scientist Dr. Paul Wilson (ringed seals and polar bear genetics), Chemistry Department chair Dr. Holger Hintelmann (mercury contamination) and ERS professor Dr. Tom Hutchinson (changes in Newfoundland flora).

Coinciding with the pinnacle of the International Polar Year, Arctic Change 2008 gathered researchers, students, policy makers and stakeholders from all fields of Arctic research and all countries to address the global challenges and opportunities brought by climate change in the circum-Arctic. With over 900 participants, Arctic Change 2008 was the largest trans-sectoral international Arctic research conference ever held in Canada. The conference ran from December 9 to12, 2008.


For further information, please contact Dr. Chris Furgal, Department of Indigenous Studies and Environment & Resource Studies at (705) 748-1011, ext. 7953, or Brittany Cadence, communications officer, at (705) 748-1011, ext. 6185.