Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Nine StFX master's students receive Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Graduate Scholarships

May 28th, 2015
In front, l-r, Kieran Murphy and Pritam Saha. Back: Stephanie MacIntyre, Michelle McPherson, Michael Reid, Amanda Vosman, Danny Pink, and Warren Laybolt. Missing is Emmaline Atherton.

Nine master’s students at StFX have earned $58,811 in funding from the 2015 Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Graduate Scholarships, awards created by the Province of Nova Scotia to help advance the economic and social wellbeing of Nova Scotians.

The scholarships are designed to invest in graduate thesis-based research in defined priority sectors of ocean/marine technology; life sciences; information and communications technology; clean technology; aerospace and defense; resource sectors; financial services; health and wellness; and social innovation.
The master’s students include Emmaline Atherton, Warren Laybolt, Stephanie MacIntyre, Michelle McPherson, Kieran Murphy, Danny Pink, Michael Reid, Pritam Saha, and Amanda Vosman.
“I'm very excited to receive this award because it will allow me to focus more of my attention toward my research,” says Danny Pink, a master’s earth sciences student from Ramea, NL, who is aiming to measure the level of greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide, emitted from streams in agricultural areas as a byproduct of crop fertilization. He received a $3,000 scholarship and is supervised by earth sciences professor Dr. Lisa Kellman.
He’ll also be measuring multiple aspects of water quality such as oxygen content and nitrogen pollution - key factors in algal blooming and fish kills. Overall, he says this information can provide insight as to how agricultural practices and indirect greenhouse gas emissions are related, the factors that influence these relationships in stream environments, and how we might become more efficient in terms of fertilizer use in the future.
“This scholarship benefits in two ways: by reducing the financial strain of being a grad student, and by drawing attention to the research-oriented master's programs here at X. It's a big helping hand, and much appreciated,” he says.
Master’s earth sciences student Stephanie MacIntyre of Antigonish, NS, who receives a $3,000 scholarship and is supervised by Dr. Kellman, says her research focuses on the implications of forest harvesting on soil stability, in particular how clearcutting alters the quality and quantity of carbon lost from soil profiles. 
“I'm very grateful to have received a Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Graduate Scholarship. This project is something I care about and am really interested in, and this award will allow me to develop a better understanding of soil stability in response to land use disturbances.”
“It really means a lot for the work I am carrying out,” says biology master’s student Kieran Murphy of Glenealy, County Wicklow, Ireland, who received a $10,000 scholarship and is supervised by biology faculty Dr. Russell Wyeth and Dr. Cory Bishop.
The main goal of his research is to be able to predict where a species of sea squirt, Ciona intestinalis, commonly referred to as the vase tunicate, will grow, and to what extent it will grow. This is with aquaculture, particularly mussel farming, in mind, he explains.
The vase tunicate is an invasive marine species in Nova Scotia and causes problems by growing all over cultured shellfish and aquaculture equipment. This issue is called biofouling. Mr. Murphy, who is linked to the Centre for Biofouling Research at StFX, says in order to help mussel farmers, he is first conducting basic monitoring of marine biological communities and the nearshore environment all over Nova Scotia. The data enables researchers to develop predictive models that could potentially assist aquaculture and invasive species management. 
He says the scholarship is a great help.
“I have been at X for over a year and a half, and I should have been finishing up in August. In order to fully replicate my work carried out in 2014, I was searching for additional funding so I could stay on for longer. The results from my work in 2014 are very promising and my supervisors Dr. Russell Wyeth and Dr. Cory Bishop agreed that ideally I would extend my program to make the most of this research project and continue fieldwork until October/November 2015. 
“I was granted an extension until May 2016, and this scholarship will allow me to really do this project justice. We are hopeful that with a full second field season this year, there will be a strong predictive model as an end result. This should directly benefit the province socially and economically, by helping small businesses in rural Nova Scotia have a more sustainable future.”
Michelle McPherson of Dartmouth, NS, a master’s earth sciences student co-supervised by earth sciences professor Dr. Hugo Beltrami and nursing professors Dr. Patti Hansen-Ketchum and Dr. Donna Pierrynowski MacDougall received a $3,000 scholarship. She is hoping to visually demonstrate the estimates of the current distribution and future emergence of the Lyme disease vector, Ixodes scapularis, in Nova Scotia and Ontario. Ms. McPherson, Mr. Pink, Ms. MacIntyre and Mr. Laybolt are also part of StFX's CREATE training program in Climate Science.
“This study will also validate the range of variability that exists in these estimates. Predicting the current and future occurrence of arthropod vectors and diseases is of great importance to the public health system,” she says. 
“It enables timely diagnosis and treatment and raises awareness regarding at risk regions. Secondly I will be exploring how the provincial public health departments of Nova Scotia and Ontario have been altering their Lyme disease response plan alongside changes in Lyme disease incidence rates. This could provide decision makers with information that could facilitate adaptation planning in the coming years and could ultimately reduce the burden of Lyme disease.”
The scholarship will makes a big difference, she says. 
“It is really nice to be recognized for the work that is being done here at StFX. There is so much going on here, research-wise, that most people don't realize. Being a student, it is not easy to pay expenses without having a part-time job. This award helps so much. It allows students to spend that much more time focusing on school.”
Pritam Saha, a master’s in earth sciences student from Rangpur, Bangladesh, supervised by earth sciences professor Dr. Alan Anderson, has received a $10,000 scholarship and says he is studying the oxide minerals solubility. “This award makes me feel confident and financially gives me some comfort.”
“It is an honour to receive this award and it will provide financial stability as I go forward with my research, allowing me to completely focus on my research project,” says master’s earth sciences student Michael Reid of Oxford, NS, who received a $10,000 scholarship and is supervised by Dr. Anderson. His research focuses on the crystallization of lithium ore minerals from lithium-rich melts and the processes involved in the growth of these minerals. The results of his research will aim to better understand the formation of pegmatites, a common host of lithium deposits. 
“I am honoured to be chosen as a recipient of this award; it is a validation of the research that I and other members of our lab are doing, which has the potential to evolve the clean energy sector in Nova Scotia and beyond,” says Warren Laybolt of Dartmouth, NS, an earth sciences master’s student supervised by earth sciences professor Dr. Dave Risk. He receives a $3,000 scholarship. 
“It is encouraging to see and receive government support for research and innovation in Nova Scotia, since it is my hope to find meaningful employment in my field, without having to leave the province, upon my graduation.”
He says his main project is aimed at evaluating the coupling between soil gas emissions, and concentrations of gases in the lower atmosphere. He’s also working on the development of atmospheric transport models, to aid in the detection and identification of leaks in coal bearing and carbon capture storage areas.
Earth sciences master’s student Amanda Vosman, supervised by Dr. Kellman, received a $6,811 scholarship, and Emmaline Atherton, a master’s earth sciences student supervised by Dr. Risk, received a $10,000 scholarship.  
Ms. Atherton of Rockwood, ON will be working on a project that involves measuring fugitive gas emissions from shale gas developments in British Columbia and comparing these emissions to other oil and gas developments in Canada. The results of this project could help locate greenhouse gas leakage sources locally or industry-wide, she says.

“Ultimately, the goal of this project is to aid in reducing unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions from the fossil fuel industry in Canada while we transition to cleaner, renewable sources of energy. The results from this project could also be something for Nova Scotians to consider when making decisions about energy developments within our own province in the future,” she says.

“I am extremely grateful to have been considered for this award, let alone receive this much financial aid for a project I am a part of. It is very encouraging to be supported so early on in my graduate studies and it motivates me to put in my best effort when completing this project. Improving the environmental aspect of the energy sector has been an interest of mine for a long time, and receiving this award confirms to me that research in this field is important.”

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