Listening to the ocean

Grenfell visual arts professor to exhibit at The Rooms

It all began when nine blue whales died in the Gulf of Saint-Lawrence in 2014, washing up on the shores of Trout River, Bonne Bay, Gros Morne National Park.

Prof. Marc Losier of Grenfell’s visual arts program, whose practice specializes in photography, film, installation, and sound, has immortalized the whales in a series of works, titled Narratives of Loss, using a variety of photographic techniques to represent the story of the whales. His work How Deep is the Ocean? (Narratives of Loss), will be exhibited at The Rooms in St. John’s from Jan. 23 to April 18. His work is featured in the 2019 Research and Graduate Studies Report: Powered by Grenfell.

Still Life III (Narratives of Loss), 2018 Marc Losier photo.

Prof. Losier’s research about whales “has led to new interests around bio-acoustics and underwater recording, both in relation in to marine mammals, but also commercial ocean traffic noise.”

In late 2019, Prof Losier travelled to Barcelona to attend the World Marine Mammals Conference, where he was able to meet with scientists from all over the globe and learn about the ways they study and follow particular species, both photographically, as well as acoustically.

“I also met with an amazing team from Nova Scotia – Ocean Sonics – which has been developing specialized hydrophones for recording and broadcasting underwater sound,” he said.

This technology was instrumental in the development of the acoustic artwork being presented at The Rooms as part of, Hello Land: Art, War, and the Wireless Imagination, curated by Darryn Doull, former curator of Canadian Art at The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery, and Melony Ward.

“My work for the exhibition is titled, How Deep is the Ocean? and will involve the live broadcast of underwater sound from Bonne Bay, Gros Morne,” he said, adding the work is in conjunction with a suite of interviews with community members, scientists from the Royal Ontario Museum, and museum technicians involved in the collection of the blue whales from the area in 2014. Richard Kelly, Project Engineer with the Marine Institute, is helping Prof. Losier to engineer the installation of the hydrophone in Bonne Bay. In addition to the underwater broadcast, the interviews will be played at The Rooms as well.

“The exhibition is going to generate an oral history archive of the environmental disaster from 2014 that will be broadcast in Gros Morne National Park on FM radio in late summer 2021,” said Prof. Losier.

He recently installed a photographic mural, Still Life III (Narratives of Loss), at Trout River, bringing the whale “home” again. Read more at CBC here.

One of the images from this project was commissioned by Creative Gros Morne and installed at Trout River as a public artwork: Still Life III (Narratives of Loss), 2018; photographic mural, vinyl print mounted on dibond; 82 in. (2.08m) x 288 in. (7.31m). Marc Losier photo.

Subatomic planning

A Grenfell Campus physicist has played a major role in the creation of a subatomic physics long range plan for the Canadian Institute of Nuclear Physics, raising the campus’s profile in the process.

Dr. Svetlana Barkanova, a faculty member in Grenfell’s physics program, led the quantum chromodynamics/hadrons scientific working group on the white paper committee, along with four other working group chairs from across the country, representing nuclear astrophysics, nuclear structure, fundamental symmetries and education and training.

“This long-range plan is the result of extensive consultations with the nuclear physics community and is our vision for subatomic physics in Canada for the next five years and onward,” she said.

Dr. Svetlana Barkanova. Lori Lee Pike photo.

Long-term and international context

According to the white paper’s introduction, the duty of the committee was to “gather community input and prepare a document placing the Canadian nuclear physics contributions within a long-term and international context, and make some overall recommendations.

It states: “We hope that it will be of value to the Canadian Subatomic Physics Long Range Planning Committee as it works to establish the vision and goals for the whole subatomic physics community in Canada.”

Dr. Barkanova was especially pleased that Grenfell Campus was highlighted in Section 5.2 of the report, which focuses on outreach.

A graduate and a current student at Grenfell Campus contributed examples of how Grenfell’s outreach activities supported their future careers. A Grenfell alumna and a Grenfell current student are quoted in the white paper.

“I’m currently a PhD candidate in the Netherlands using a supercomputer to simulate the atmospheric boundary layer and large-scale wind farms,” stated Jessica Strickland, a holder of a bachelor of science degree from Memorial.

“However, my first research projects were in subatomic physics, with Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council/Institute of Particle Physics/European Organization for Nuclear Research summer awards. Though the physics I do now is more applied, I wouldn’t be here without the foundation that I received at the Grenfell Campus of Memorial University of Newfoundland. The professors always had an open door, put in the time and genuinely wanted us to succeed. Not only did I gain research and computing skills which I use to this day, but I also learned that great things were not out of reach.”

“Drs. Aleksandrs Aleksejevs and Svetlana Barkanova are the only two subatomic physicists in the province, both at Grenfell Campus, and I was lucky to have them as my mentors,” stated current Grenfell student Nicholas O’Neil.

“Their classroom environments allow students to be comfortable and develop confidence, along with the aspiration to become physicists. They encourage their students to network extensively and provide funded research opportunities and summer scholarships. As an Indigenous student, being funded for the summer has brought me incredible research and learning opportunities, such as working to develop theory input for an experiment at Jefferson Laboratory. Being a minority in the field can be sometimes difficult, but with the guidance of Drs. Aleksejevs and Barkanova, who is also a huge advocate for women within the STEM community, there has been an increase in the number of research opportunities and the number of physics students, so I feel much more like a part of a team now.”

“It is wonderful that Dr. Barkanova’s work and Grenfell Campus are featured so prominently in this Canadian plan. Our campus is well represented among the leaders in the world of nuclear physics.” – Dr. Michele Piercey-Normore, dean, School of Science and the Environment

Co-operation and communication

Dr. Barkanova’s integrative approach to STEM outreach (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) by combining science and culture was also highlighted, as well as a program led by her in partnership with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s PromoScience, Qalipu First Nation, Parks Canada, and N.L. Hydro.

This Gros Morne partnership was highlighted in the Canadian subatomic physics plan: Parks Canada, the Grenfell Observatory and other partners presented a “Star Party” at Trout River Pond last year, led by Dr. Svetlana Barkanova, Grenfell physics professor. Submitted photo

The program features female and Indigenous role models, engages in Indigenous storytelling, discusses a wide range of career opportunities and emphasizes a diverse set of skills required in modern science, such as co-operation and communication.

“It is wonderful that Dr. Barkanova’s work and Grenfell Campus are featured so prominently in this Canadian plan,” said Dr. Michele Piercey-Normore, dean, School of Science and the Environment. “Our campus is well represented among the leaders in the world of nuclear physics.”

MAEP student and graduate tackle plastic pollution in Gros Morne

A current graduate student and an alumna of the master of arts in environmental policy at Grenfell Campus recently presented a Facebook Live talk  titled “Tackling plastic pollution in Gros Morne National Park.” 

The presenters were graduate student Jackie-Ray Bauman and alumna Rebecca Brushett, executive director of the Atlantic Healthy Oceans Initiative (AHOI). Ms. Brushett, who holds a B.Sc. in marine biology (Dalhousie), a B.Ed. in secondary education (MUN) along with an MA in environmental policy (MUN), says created AHOI in 2019 because she felt there was a gap that not only promotes and builds prosperous coastal communities but also respects and looks after the health of our coastal and marine ecosystems surrounding the Gros Morne region. She also works remotely for the Ecology Action Centre as their sustainable fisheries co-ordinator to help promote healthy commercial fisheries within the Gulf of St. Lawrence and, as their marine planner for Gros Morne, will be working with the communities to create a sustainable marine plan for the region that looks after the people and the long-term health of our oceans together.

The objectives of AHOI are to develop educational programs, to implement conservation products, to uphold environmental protection laws, to conduct research and to work with the public, with the overarching goal to make the Gros Morne Region Plastic Waste Free by 2025.


Caption: Rebecca Brushett (foreground) and her AHOI team after a successful beach clean-up at Back Cove, Cow Head, NL.

“Obviously were looking at plastic pollution, but some other (areas of interest) that we’re interested in and will work on over the coming years are reduction of high impact overfishing, especially for this area,” said Ms. Brushett. “We’ll look at climate change and how it’s affecting the marine biodiversity In the ocean around Gros Morne and western Newfoundland, but also how it’s impacting our coasts, erosion, bigger storms, and how it’s affecting our communities as well.”

She said marine conservation and protection is another topic the organization will investigate, examining, “how we need to look after sensitive marine habitats. And then lastly, keeping an eye on impacts from offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling, especially as it relates to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and how it may impact this national park, the Gros Morne region, and any community up the coast of Western Newfoundland.”

AHOI collaborates with businesses, schools, governments and NGOs, such as the Gros Morne Co-operating Association, Grenfell Campus, Tour Gros Morne, and the Towns of Norris Point, Trout River and Rocky Harbour.

Ms. Bauman, who holds a BA in environmental governance (Guelph), worked with AHOI during a summer internship, during which time she helped develop a proposal to ban single use plastics and reduce local pollution. She said the internship allowed her to do research, collect data, undertake policy creation and reviews and take advantage of network opportunities.

“I was looking to different levels of government… and I was building on some of my networking from my experience as a master student with the environmental policy program,” said Ms. Bauman. “So that was really helpful that I could bring in some of my previous knowledge dealing with policy.”

Part of her work with AHOI involved conducting waste audits of trash found along the shorelines of the Gros Morne area.

One particular clean-up, on Wild Cove Beach, Norris Point, yielded plastic pieces, food takeout packaging and single use plastics, fishing and industrial materials, hygiene-related items and shotgun shells – a total of 31,000 pieces of trash weighing 400 pounds. 81.9% of the trash was due to micro and macro plastics.

This is problematic, said Ms. Bauman, because of “bioaccumulation in the food chain and (the fact that) these tiny plastics continue to break down.” 

Going forward, there are a number of projects AHOI will undertake, including the “Blue W” program, which encourages people to use reusable water bottles at filling stations; the “Boomerang Bag,” which will provide consumers with reusable, returnable bags at various establishments; and further down the road, sustainable takeout containers. 

“The idea is that we can have this bulk order of compostable takeout containers,” said Ms. Bauman. “I’ve done some research to find out what are some of the best companies where we can find real compostable, biodegradable products.” 

For more information about AHOI and their programming, contact Ms. Brushett at atlantichealthyoceans@gmail.com or (709) 691-0485.  

An interdisciplinary approach for the Future of Ocean and Coastal Infrastructures.

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Dr. Paul Foley: Photo by Grenfell Campus

This week’s Insight-blog article is a celebration, not only for Dr. Paul Foley, but also a commemoration of World Oceans Day, which was this past Monday, June 8.

2019 Vice-President (Grenfell Campus) Research Award recipient, Dr. Paul Foley (Environmental Policy Institute), is a distinguished scholar with publications in journals such as Marine Policy, New Political Economy, and Fish and Fisheries. Dr. Foley has extensively worked, not only on research, but also with students in the Environmental Policy Institute, the Environment and Sustainability Program, and the School of Fisheries at the Fisheries and Marine Institute. The accolade is awarded every year to one faculty member through a nomination process by their colleagues.

Continue reading “An interdisciplinary approach for the Future of Ocean and Coastal Infrastructures.”

Grenfell Campus and Community Engagement.

In this new INSIGHT-BLOG podcast we hear from Dr. Mery Perez, a postdoctoral fellow working with the Grenfell Office on Engagement. Dr. Perez is leading a project to better understand Western Newfoundland communities and engagement by Grenfell Campus. We discuss her research methods as well as plans for future engagement using information gathered by this study.

Continue reading “Grenfell Campus and Community Engagement.”