Two graduate students from the Waterford Institute of Technology will soon be concluding their research on the west coast of Newfoundland.
Catherine Murphy and Siobhan Ryan have spent the last two months using Grenfell as home base as they’ve conducted research in the Humber Arm and Bonne Bay areas. Both are in their first year of their doctoral programs at WIT. Ms. Murphy is working towards a PhD in chemistry, while Ms. Ryan will complete a PhD in biology.
Although the two women will receive different degrees, the research they are conducting on the west coast is related.
They are both working under the auspices of the Humber River Basin Project, a comprehensive and integrated approach to monitoring, assessing, and predictive modeling of the Humber River Basin. The basin project is a collaborative research initiative led by Grenfell Collge, Natural Resources Canada and the Institute of Biodiversity.
A key goal of the Basin research is to benchmark and assess the ecological integrity of the system. To better understand the impacts of potential pollutants, Ms. Murphy is conducting biomonitoring studies in the Humber Arm and Bonne Bay, using seaweeds and water to analyze for heavy metals such as chromium, lead and copper. She is also analyzing sea water for nitrates and phosphates.
Ms. Ryan’s research is similar, detecting protein and polyphenols (antioxidants) by checking water and sediments. “Seaweed absorbs metals and synthesizes proteins that bind to the metals – the more proteins produced, the more metals in the water,” she says.
Eventually the results of their research will be compared with other data collected from an estuary in Waterford.
“We’ll look at the levels of heavy metal pollution here and in Ireland as well,” says Ms. Murphy. This type of industrial-based research is different for the two grad students – a new experience that the partnership between Grenfell College and WIT has afforded them.
“There’s been a connection between the college and WIT for a number of years now,” says Ms. Ryan. “It’s positive for both sides. And it will look better on a CV (curriculum vitae) to have major collaborations in another part of the world.”
Dr. Wade Bowers, vice-principal (research), Grenfell College, agrees.
“The partnership with the Waterford Institute as well as with other international universities allows us to conduct research in a global context,” he says. “Such work is invaluable because it not only provides mentorship opportunities for students but will also provide a strong baseline by which to assess the health of the basin over the longer term. Moreover, findings from this work will allow Grenfell College and its partners to develop risk models for more informed decision-making.”