Master’s student Jacob Demers’ research investigates wetlands
SACKVILLE, NB — Jacob Demers, a Mount Allison Master’s student in Biology received top standing in New Brunswick for his research video in the 2020 New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s (NBIF) R3 Research Student Pitch Competition. Results were announced by the Foundation on April 22, Earth Day.
Demers, who is from the Allumettes Island in Québec, completed his BSc in Environmental Science at Mount Allison. His MSc research, done through the University’s Environmental Change & Aquatic Biomonitoring Lab (ECAB) Lab, headed by Environmental Science professor Dr. Joshua Kurek, looks at how water quality and aquatic insects change through time in restored wetlands in the Cumberland Marsh Region.
“Wetland managers are finding that restored wetlands are senescing—growing old—and they are not supporting the waterfowl as are the newer-younger recently restored sites,” says Demers. “My research looks at freshwater systems called impoundments, which are constructed and managed to compensate for the loss of natural wetlands, mainly due to development. I studied 30 restored wetlands in the area managed by our partner Ducks Unlimited, working to learn more about the water quality, sediment, and how aquatic insect communities that are food for waterfowl are changing over time.”
Demers’ research looks specifically at restored wetlands and wetland senescence. As impoundments age some have noticed that waterfowl use declines. Demers and his research partners aim to provide a better understanding of this observation.
“One question we have is what makes natural wetlands so self-sufficient, that they can continue to naturally-produce food needed for waterfowl and other inhabitants in their eco-system,” says Demers. “The more we can learn about this, the better wetland impoundments can be managed to support wildlife.”
Along with receiving first prize in the NBIF Student Pitch Competition, Demers also received an Indigenous Student Ambassadors grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). This is a national program that aims to engage Indigenous students and fellows in promoting the natural sciences and engineering by visiting Canada’s Indigenous communities and schools and sharing their research and education experiences.
With the NSERC program, Demers created and planned wetland lessons and activities for local schools in Dorchester and Elsipogtog. His program aimed to raise awareness on the importance of wetlands and the many benefits they provide. Original plans included class field trips to the Beaubassin Research Station in Aulac, NB.
While Demers has had to shift the program’s direction due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he is currently reviewing ways to share this knowledge around wetlands and their importance in the local region in different ways.
“We had planned to include field presentations from a local Elder about the importance of water, as well as Mount Allison faculty, and local partners Ducks Unlimited and Canadian Wildlife Service,” says Demers. “Our plans are now on hold but I’m hoping we can adjust the project to help raise awareness around the importance of wetlands.”
“Jacob is a great role model to youth, including nearby Indigenous students. His tremendous efforts in designing and building partnerships with stakeholders for this activity are amazing. I am very proud of Jacob’s leadership in engaging with the public and communicating science to youth, through both the NBIF Student Pitch Competition and the NSERC Student Ambassador Program,” says Dr. Josh Kurek, Demers’ Master’s supervisor.
Watch Demers award-winning NBIF R3 Research Student Pitch at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aykFWH-R7Ck
Hear Demers’ April 24 interview on CBC NB’s Shift radio program.