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Geography scholar receives prestigious award for northern research

By Janet Harron

Memorial University student Robert Way is one of seven master's students from across Canada to be awarded a prestigious Garfield Weston Award for Northern Research.

Sponsored by the W. Garfield Weston Foundation, the $15,000 prize is awarded to students who demonstrate academic excellence and leadership in northern natural science research.

As the largest privately funded student awards that are specifically targeted for northern research in Canada, these awards have significantly raised the profile of northern research nationally and encouraged top-level graduate students to select a northern focus for their theses.

Recipients are encouraged to present their research results at academic meetings and conferences.

A native of Labrador and a student of geography, Robert Way's research is centred around determining the Little Ice Age glacial extents in the Torngat Mountains and involves a combination of lichenometry (using lichen growth to determine the age of exposed rock), remote sensing and on the ground field measurements.

Ultimately, Mr. Way hopes his research will help in piecing together a glacial history for the climatically sensitive region.

Supervised by Dr. Trevor Bell, Mr. Way has already developed a name for himself. In 2010 he was the subject of a Canadian Geographic magazine article titled The Cryosphere Kid which detailed his experiences at an international student exchange program between the universities of Ottawa (where he was then an undergraduate) and Oslo.

Mr. Way plans to use the funds to help alleviate the costs of conducting research, saying a unique set of equipment is necessary to withstand the demands of northern Labrador.

"Aside from the practical concerns, it is obviously an honour to receive an award that is so geared towards research in the North and I feel lucky to be able to bring further attention to the work that is being done in the Torngats," he said.
"As a person who was born and raised in Labrador, I have often questioned why Labrador does not receive as high a profile as some of the more oft-studied regions such as in the Yukon and in the Arctic. I feel awards such as these help to demonstrate to the public that the region is ripe to be studied and deserves to be considered one of the most unique environments in Canada."