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Trent Student Works to Address Food Insecurity in Canada's North

January 16, 2017

Shirin Nuesslein collaborates on environmental-health research projects with Inuit communities and organizations

Shirin Nuesslein stands in full winter outerwear smiling at camera outside in Canada's North
Shirin Nuesslein conducting research in Canada's North

This story is featured in the Fall 2016 edition of Showcase: The Experiential Learning IssueView the complete publication.

Shirin Nuesslein’s keen interest in Indigenous community planning comes from a very personal place – her mother’s tribal community in the Borneo rainforest. There, the Master’s in Sustainability Studies student has seen for herself the negative impacts of decades of natural resource development on traditional lands without meaningful involvement from the community.

These early experiences in South-East Asia foreshadowed her current work at Trent, finding collaborative solutions to food insecurity, a pressing issue in many Inuit households of Canada’s North.

Reducing the risk of food contamination

In collaboration with an Inuit community organization, she hopes her research will contribute directly to the community’s food security strategy, the northern and national discourse on food security in Indigenous communities, and to the research and health community’s literature on understanding the determinants of Inuit health and wellbeing.

“I believe that local research capacity is strongly connected to a community’s capacity to build on their strengths and take their rightful leadership and ownership in protecting their socio-cultural, economic and environmental interests,” states Ms. Nuesslein.

Through her graduate work at Trent, Ms. Nuesslein is also assisting with the evaluation of the Wildlife, Contaminants and Health Workshop in Iqaluit with Environmental Technology students at Nunavut Arctic College. The results of this first formal evaluation spearheaded by Dr. Chis Furgal, associate professor of Indigenous Environmental Studies at Trent and Ms. Nuesslein’s supervisor, will be used to improve workshop delivery for communities trying to enhance local response to contaminant issues through research, education and communication training.

“I want students and young researchers to develop a respect and sense of commitment and responsibility associated with community-focused and Indigenous research,” explains Professor Furgal. “There is no better way to do that than to provide experiential learning opportunities.”

Feeling career-ready

Through Trent, Ms. Nuesslein has participated in several environmental-health research projects in collaboration with Inuit communities and organizations. As a graduate of International Development Studies and Environmental Studies at Trent, she also completed several community- based research projects through the Trent Centre for Community Research and the Trent-in-Ecuador Program.

“This cross-cultural experience from hands-on learning experiences in my undergraduate years, formed a great foundation for the research I do now in the Canadian North,” she said, adding that through the many hands-on learning experiences she’s had at Trent, she feels well- prepared for any future career.