Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

StFX master's student receives prestigious Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship

August 23rd, 2016
Emmaline Atherton

Emmaline Atherton, a StFX master’s student in earth sciences, has received the prestigious Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship-Master’s (CGS M) from NSERC. The 12-month, $17,500 award will help her carry out her research studying fugitive and vented emissions from natural gas developments in western Canada. 

The scholarship is awarded to graduate students who have demonstrated academic excellence during their undergraduate and/or early graduate studies. It’s also allocated to students whose master’s projects have high research potential, as well as students who have demonstrated extracurricular involvement and good interpersonal skills. 

“I am very grateful to receive this award for the second year of my master’s degree,” says Ms. Atherton of Rockwood, ON, who is supervised by StFX earth sciences professor Dr. Dave Risk.

“Receiving this funding allows me to focus all of my attention on my project by relieving financial stresses that would exist if my project were not funded. Also, having my work recognized this way motivates me to complete my project to the best of my ability.”

Ms. Atherton says her fieldwork has involved both winter and summer mobile gas surveying campaigns in northeastern British Columbia near Fort St John, and also in southeastern Alberta. 

“My project is focused on identifying common sources of atmospheric gas emissions from infrastructure, equipment, and processes used to extract natural gas. I am also comparing these emission pathways between hydraulically fractured natural gas developments, conventional natural gas developments, and different ages and types of infrastructure,” she explains. 

“This information will help locate areas, developments, and infrastructure types that might be more prone to fugitive natural gas emissions.”

She says these atmospheric natural gas emissions are mainly composed of methane, a greenhouse gas with at least 25 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide over 100 years. 

“So this information is essential for understanding the total environmental impact of Canadian energy developments. The results of my research could also be useful for helping with the recent Canada-U.S. joint target to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector 45 per cent by 2025.”


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