Pine marten, soil respiration, agricultural impacts on the Humber River and environmental attitudes in children were the research topics explored by four undergrad students from the University of York this summer under the Humber River Basin Project, a comprehensive and integrated approach to monitoring, assessing, and predictive modeling of the Humber River Basin.
British students Holly Edwards, Becky Strickland, Jenny Calder and Aura Piha spent several weeks at Grenfell studying four very different areas of research this summer, and returned to the UK last week.
Ms. Edwards’ research focused on determining the levels and forms of nitrogen and phosphorus in the Humber River basin to see if agricultural activities are affecting nutrient levels in the Humber River.
“If the levels are too high, the nutrients create an increase in algae, which blocks out light and depletes oxygen, which chokes other life in the stream,” she said. While she found some increase in nutrients, it appears the levels are low enough not to cause a dangerous effect, she said.
Ms. Strickland spent the last few weeks studying the Newfoundland pine marten, to see if the introduction of a new food source has affected their territory size. Red-backed voles are an invasive species first recorded in Newfoundland in 1999, their booming population could result in reduced territory size of the pine marten since they will not have to travel as far to locate food.
“Four pine marten were collared and I pinpointed their locations as often as I could,” she said, adding that she worked with Brian Hearn of Natural Resources Canada at Grenfell’s Forest Centre to gather and analyze data.
Ms. Calder also worked with NR-Can, helping the Canadian Forest Service’s Martin Moroni with his research on soil respiration. She said her research involved determining the spatial variability of soil respiration in a clear-cut and a forested plot, as well as working on which soil parameters may affect this variability (e.g. moisture content of the soil).
“This work is important on a larger scale with respect to climate change,” she added.
Finally, Ms. Piha’s research involved measuring environmental attitudes in children. She interviewed children who participated in environmental activity camps at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, as well as those who attended Parks Canada’s interpretation programs in Gros Morne National Park. By interviewing the participants before and after the camps, she tried to ascertain if their attitudes had changed toward the environment.
“The camps proved to be a positive influence, particularly in the older children,” she said, adding that she interviewed children between the ages of four and 13.
While their areas of research were vastly different, the four students agreed that their time in western Newfoundland was the opportunity of a lifetime.
“We were able to take on research that mostly master’s students do,” said Ms. Strickland. “It was an amazing opportunity.”
Ms. Piha agreed. “In the seven weeks we’ve been here, there’s not been a day of boredom,” she said. “It’s been more of an adventure than research work!”
Photo available on request