Opening doors: Research on Fogo Island ferries launches recent graduate's research career

Nov 22nd, 2018

By Jeff Green

Opening doors: Research on Fogo Island ferries launches recent graduate's research career

A recent Memorial alumnus whose research examined public infrastructure in rural N.L. says his training will open doors for him well into the future.

Donny Persaud received his master of arts degree during fall convocation in St. John’s last month. His thesis, Behind Breakdown: The Case of the MV Veteran, looked at the breakdown, repair and use of public infrastructure in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. His case study focused on the MV Veteran, one of the ferries that serves the communities of Fogo Island and Change Islands.

“The MV Veteran experienced a series of breakdowns related to its thrusters and engines early into its service period making it an ideal case to address my broader thesis aims,” said Mr. Persaud, who is originally from Toronto and completed his master’s under the supervision of Dr. Josh Lepawsky, Department of Geography, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Mr. Persaud says the ferry marked a “significant upgrade” from the near 50-year-old ferry that previously served the communities in the region.

“The MV Veteran is tied to leading global manufacturers and conglomerates based in Europe, the lives and travels of each Fogo Island and Change Islands resident, the fish that are processed on the islands and shipped worldwide and a burgeoning tourist economy based in the traditions of outport Newfoundland,” he said.

“The MV Veteran’s breakdowns and repairs also revealed the difficulties encountered when spare parts or the required expertise are not immediately available in geographically isolated areas leading to service delays as they have to be acquired through global supply chains.”

‘Largest clusters’

Mr. Persaud, who is currently based in Toronto, says he decided to pursue his master’s degree at Memorial because of the exceptional research coming out of the geography department.

“I found out about Memorial in my last human geography course during my undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto,” he said during an interview.

“A good portion of the course’s readings were papers that had been put out by faculty from Memorial’s Department of Geography and I enjoyed the course so much I looked into the current research being done there.

He says he was interested in waste in its different forms as a research topic. Memorial’s Department of Geography has one of the largest clusters of discard studies and waste scholars in Canada.

Now armed with his MA, Mr. Persaud says he’s keeping his options wide open.

“I kept telling myself that I could be a nine-to-five guy and take a more extended break from academia after finishing my degree, but that seems much less likely now that I’ve started to work on publishing results from my master’s research. I’m currently applying for PhD programs and will be looking to follow up on my interests in infrastructure and waste on the larger scales a PhD should allow.”

Jeff Green is a senior communications advisor with the Office of the Vice-President (Research). He can be reached at