Environmental and Life Sciences Ph.D. candidate Verena Sesin spends a lot of time germinating, growing, and transplanting, something she has in common with horticulturists. Where she differs is her focus on the effects of glyphosate, a pesticide, on native and at-risk wetland plants.
One of the many uses for the pesticide glyphosate is to control invasive species, such as Phragmites and hybrid cattail. Both species are resilient, rapid growers that can dramatically affect our wetlands. Ms. Sesin wants to know if glyphosate persists in a wetland over time, whether it leaches back into the wetland from treated dead and decaying plants, and whether its presence could affect recolonization of native plant species.
When the Trent Horticultural Society awarded Ms. Sesin one of four educational scholarships, it was an investment in a larger question—that of understanding the effects of stressors on plant-life. Glyphosate is just one of many stressors today.
“My research is part of a bigger picture —that of food security, ecosystem conservation and protection of native species,” says Ms. Sesin. “We need to understand how plants react to individual stressors and multiple stressors. Not one plant responds the same.”
Ms. Sesin has a unique opportunity, like so many do at Trent, to take her research and apply it into the real world. She feels fortunate to be part of a co-supervision program between Trent and the Ministry of Natural Resources, with a supervisor from each.
This collaboration combines a research approach with policy development and management. During the process, knowledge gaps reveal themselves, as do ways to improve current management methods, and areas most in need of research are identified.
“I am able to connect with people in the field, including those actually spraying the glyphosate, to discuss how to make the process [of combatting invasive species] more efficient, less impactful, and sustainable,” says Ms. Sesin.
Ms. Sesin is one of two recipients of a PHS Educational Scholarship. Emily Kyle, a fourth year student studying both Environment & Resource Science and Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems, also received a scholarship. She is currently studying abroad in Scotland in Inverness at the University of Highlands and Islands.