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Vol 39  No 17
July 19, 2007


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Aug. 9, 2007

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British grad students conduct research at Grenfell College
by Pamela Gill

Amy Oliver and Mike Day (Photo submitted)

Polar bears and caribou were the topics of research of two British graduate students who’ve been visiting Sir Wilfred Grenfell College over the last few months.

Amy Oliver and Michael Day are both conducting research for the master’s of applied ecology and conservation at the University of East Anglia.

Ms. Oliver’s research focuses on the impact of climate change on polar bears. Using a time-scale model and looking at past weather patterns, she aims to predict what ice surfaces will look like in the future and the subsequent effects on polar bears.

She collaborated with Rob Otto, director of the Institute for Biodiversity, Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, who has been on several polar bear expeditions, and polar bear experts based in Nunavut and Ontario, she said.

Mr. Day is studying a caribou herd in the Mealy Mountains. He is trying to determine whether there are subpopulations in the herd that may be impacted by the development of the Trans Labrador Highway. Data were obtained through IBES, as well as the Labrador Wildlife Division.

The master’s program they’re working toward is of high relevance to conservation issues; they will make recommendations as to how to proceed on these issues through their research.

Their supervisor, Dr. Mark Hassall, is a lecturer in the School of Environmental Science at East Anglia. He visited Grenfell in May not only to oversee his students’ research, but also to forge more links with Grenfell in the hopes that other students may benefit from similar visits in the future.

Wade Bowers, associate vice-principal (research), noted that “the effort of young scholars like Amy and Michael not only builds research capacity in the region, but also enhances the work environment and mentorship opportunities for our students.”

“This was a good opportunity,” said Ms. Oliver, who has never been to Canada before.

“The large data set was a great asset,” added Mr. Day. “We had excellent access to data.”

Ms. Oliver also remarked that the attitude to wildlife of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians is much different to the attitudes she finds in the United Kingdom.

“With the hunting and fishing scene here, people are more in touch with the outdoors than in the U.K.; there is virtually no human impact,” she said. “In the U.K. everything has been managed for hundreds of years. The landscape is so different. What people regard as natural isn’t natural at all – it’s been managed for 500 years.”

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