Students carry out their own research as summer projects or as part of directed studies courses.
Students have chosen to research a diverse array of topics including: understanding the population structure of a phytoplankton community to get a picture of the ecology of the oceans, which has a global impact on climate; Aboriginal knowledge and resource management; and the human dimensions of aquaculture management.
Outdoor environmental education implementation: a Salem School case study, Natalie Gillis, environmental studies
As part of my honours project in Environmental Studies, I am looking into the notion of Education for Sustainable Development and Outdoor Environmental Education. There is an increasing amount of literature and evidence out there that demonstrates that children can and will greatly benefit from spending more time outdoors, and as such outdoor classrooms and outdoor environmental education are becoming more and more talked about.
Specifically, I am using a case study analysis to look at these notions, and am working with Salem Elementary School in Sackville, which is currently constructing an outdoor classroom, complete with gardens, a wetland, outdoor sitting space, and new equipment to allow students to learn about weather and energy. This summer I am researching and developing grade specific curriculum activities for teachers to use that incorporate the new features being constructed, as well as developing activities that incorporate current curriculum, and take them outside, such as language arts, social studies, math, and science. Ultimately I am working on developing an educational resource for teachers, to help them use the outdoor classroom come fall. After the summer, I will continue my honours work, and observe and assist with the implementation of the outdoor classroom.
Natalie received a Mount Allison Summer Student Research Award for her project.
Dendroclimatological Research in Labrador, Master’s student Jay Maillet
Dramatic changes in climate are projected for the north and it is important for local communities to know what may happen to the region’s forests. Labrador’s trees are already under considerable climatic stress. Currently they exhibit a striking and poorly understood phenomenon: the width of tree rings (radial growth) responds more strongly to shifts in climate along the east/west gradients than the north/south latitudinal variations. Although this phenomenon has been well documented, the true cause is still not fully understood and has been attributed to many different factors including proximity to the ocean, temperature, and moisture availability.
My research will look at why this is the case, thereby making an important contribution to our understanding of the easternmost boreal forests growing under an oceanic influence. I will be constantly monitoring radial-growth with band dendrometers, and collecting continuous weather records at a number of sites, thus getting data for both radial-growth and weather in hourly resolution. This information will not only provide clearer insight to answer the question of what exactly is affecting the growth of these coastal conifers, but by better understanding these details, I will also clarify how this fragile ecosystem could be impacted in the future by climatic changes.
Working to build better shelterbelts, Cecilia Jennings, geography major
The agricultural sector’s survival will depend on its ability to adapt to changes in climate. Cecilia Jennings, a student majoring in geography, is providing farmers with information they can use to help make the transformation. Jennings worked on a summer project that will help farmers make decisions on what species to plant and strengthen their ability to cultivate economically and environmentally viable shelterbelt systems in Canada and in the rest of the world.
Specifically Jennings is evaluating the future of white spruce in shelterbelt systems. Shelterbelts are a barrier of trees that protect against the wind and erosion of farmland. Her work is also part of a larger study, funded by the Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program (AGGP).
“The program is investigating the possibility of using shelterbelts as a source of greenhouse gas sequestration, as well as seeking to understand how shelterbelts respond to changing climates,” says Jennings, who used dendrochronology, the study of growth rings, to learn how white spruce have responded to changing conditions.
Studying the effects of climate change, Zoe Armstrong, environmental science major
"Working in conjunction with the Fundy Biosphere Reserve (an organization which works towards conserving biodiversity and promoting sustainable economic development), I am doing climatic analyses of various tree species in the Bay of Fundy area, including white ash, red oak, trembling aspen, red maple, and balsam fir. The goal of the project is to use the data to help model the future distribution of each species and see how climate change is affecting their growth."