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March 4, 2004
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Aldrich conference
highlights grad research


Every February, the Graduate Students’ Union and the School of Graduate Studies host the Aldrich Interdisciplinary Lecture and Conference. This conference is a great opportunity for graduate students from all disciplines to showcase their work and to gain valuable presentation experience. This year’s event went ahead Feb. 23-24 and included the Aldrich Lecture, delivered by Dr. Marc Renaud, president of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

The conference consists of a series of 15-20 minute presentations (followed by 5-10 minutes of questions) from a range of topics within the various disciplines.

Below is a sample of some of the presentations.

Mark Jones
Mark Jones

Mark Jones, Anthropology
What Our Mothers Can Teach Us About Social Injustice

Mark Jones’ lecture was derived from a fieldwork assignment where students were expected to record and analyze an interview free from the burdens of theory, which Mr. Jones described as a “liberating experience.” His talk provided a wonderfully descriptive illustration of the layers of personal experience narrative in an individual’s oral history. By interviewing his mother about her experiences growing up in England during the depression and wartime, he analyzes the narratives thematically in terms of trouble, treatment of others, injustice, punishment, fairness and equality. Mr. Jones also interprets his mother’s traits through her choice of narratives that she shared during their interview, as well as her personal reaction as witness or involvement in various situations.

Jay Fitzsimmons
Jay Fitzsimmons

Jay Fitzsimmons, Biology
Outwit, Outplay, Outlast – Wolbachia and Other Evolutionarily Selfish Survivors

Using the clever analogy to the slogan of the television show Survivor, Mr. Fitzsimmons described plants, bacteria, insects and other animals that exhibit selfish traits to further their own survival and evolution. For example, the bacteria Wolbachia infects between 20-76 per cent of the world’s arthropods, altering its host’s lifestyle to suit its own needs. He also demonstrated that those species that seemingly act in a cooperative way with other species, in fact do so to suit their own needs. For example, this single-celled organism has the ability “to manipulate its insect host to produce more daughters than sons, reproduce asexually, and even eat siblings.” Evidence of this selfish behaviour can be observed at all levels of organism.

Carla Baker
Carla Baker

Carla Baker, Cognitive and Behavioural Ecology
Impact of Ecotourism on Atlantic Puffins in the Witless Bay Seabird Ecological Reserve, NL

Ms. Baker’s presentation focused on the impact of the booming ecotourism business on the Witless Bay Seabird Ecological Reserve, which provides nesting habitat for over 200,000 pairs of breeding Atlantic Puffins, the largest colony in eastern North America. Her hypothesis was that frequent exposure to ecotourism resulted in a lower body condition and lower reproductive success, as well as elevated levels of avian stress hormone in the affected puffins. Methodologies included behavioural observation, measurement of reproductive success, body measurements and blood collection. The next field season will see Ms. Baker addressing issues of how puffins living on inshore waters respond to boats, as well as a playback study on the effect of noise on the birds.

Sarah Moore
Sarah Moore

Sarah Moore, Folklore
Fostering Regional Identity through Popular Culture: Great Big Sea, Trad-Pop and Newfoundland Music

By examining Newfoundland as an island culture with distinct traditions, Ms. Moore’s paper “looks at Great Big Sea’s music as a deliberate fostering of local identity, emphasizing Newfoundland tradition with Newfoundland place names, phrases and words combined with popular ‘folk’ instruments into a perceptibly indigenous sound.” Through analysis of music and interviews, Ms. Moore contextualizes the songs and songwriting of Great Big Sea as a trad-pop band, viewing them as purveyors of folk music through their promotion of Newfoundland culture and its traditional songs and tunes. She concludes that Great Big Sea not only merges music genres, but also helps to locate Newfoundland geographically and ideologically in the Canadian musical landscape.

Heather Smith
Heather Smith

Heather Smith, Medicine
The Psychological Impact of Genetic Testing for Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Families

Ms. Smith is involved with a project with two goals: to identify the psychological factors around the decision for genetic testing, and the lifestyle and environmental factors that cause cancer. Two genes have been identified as the cause for Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC). Each HBOC has a specific genetic mutation or alteration that must be identified before genetic testing is done. While conclusions have yet to be reached from this research, and indeed research is still actively being conducted, Ms. Smith identified the focus of her project and some preliminary findings. Levels of stress, anxiety, and the process of coping were identified as psychological areas of interest, and lifestyle/environmental factors such as diet, exercise and medical history are also being considered.


 


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Dr. Laurence Thompson
Dr. James Scott
Craig Knickle
Carla Baker
Dr. Dawn Howse

Next issue: March 18, 2004

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