Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Scholarship success allows biology master’s student to conduct month of field work, research in Ireland

December 7th, 2017
StFX biology professor Dr. David Garbary and master's student Meredith Karcz

Meredith Karcz, a StFX biology master’s student from Burlington, ON, will spend a month in Ireland conducting field work on the impacts of rockweed (Ascophyllum nodosum) harvesting as a scholarship recipient of the Dobbin Atlantic Scholarship Programme, administered by the Ireland Canada University Foundation.

Ms. Karcz, who is supervised by biology professor Dr. David Garbary, is a successful recipient of the scholarship which supports students/faculty from eastern Canada to spend time in Ireland on a collaborative project.

Scholarships are awarded to candidates of the highest calibre, whose work relates to both Irish and Canadian interests and provides the potential to develop ongoing international links. The fund will support a month of field work for her thesis related work in Ireland. It includes travel and $1,200 per week for four weeks.

Ms. Karcz will be hosted at the National University of Ireland Galway by Dr. Dagmar Stengel, a colleague of Dr. Garbary’s, whose lab also studies rockweed harvesting.

Ms. Karcz says she is looking forward to experiencing research on an international level.

“I’m very excited to travel, and to build academic links,” she says.

“This is a marvelous opportunity for a student to have an overseas opportunity to do research associated with their thesis,” Dr. Garbary says.

“The fact this work was funded shows the importance of this seaweed (rockweed) as an economic base and a cultural phenomenon both in Nova Scotia and in Ireland.” This species of seaweed, he says, is among the most important, and more research needs to be done on it. 

The fact that StFX faculty have collaborations overseas also points to the strength of the department, he says.

Rockweed, which is harvested in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and is considered a fishery, is a growing multi-million dollar industry here, Ms. Karcz says. The seaweed is used primarily in agricultural applications and fertilizers.

Research, she says, has primarily taken a species focused approach up until this point, but to properly ensure that current harvest methods are sustainable, the impact on the entire community needs to be assessed.

She says rockweed forms a very dense canopy almost like a kelp, underwater forest. She is trying to understand the impacts harvesting has on the other algal species and invertebrates that inhabit and live underneath the rockweed canopies.

The same seaweed is harvested in Ireland, she says, but they use a different technique. In Nova Scotia, a harvesting rake is used to cut the seaweed on a yearly basis. In Ireland, the harvesting is done by hand with a blade, on the shores when the tide is out.

She’ll be researching questions such as what are the differences in biological community structures based on different harvesting methods and is one method more sustainable than the other.

This research is, in part, made possible by the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.


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