A Northern born and raised graduate student recently won two awards for research she has been conducted in the Northwest Territories.

Dana Harris conducts research on jack pines outside of Yellowknife in 2017. photo courtesy of Dana Harris

Dana Harris won both the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) #ScienceExposed people’s choice and jury prizes for work she has conducted on jack pine trees in the NWT. The competition calls for post-graduate students to submit a photography of their research alongside a plain-language explanation of the research they are conducting. Harris’ winning submission shows a photograph of a cross-section of a Jack Pine cell stained in different colors.

“I was really surprised I guess that my image did so well, especially for the people’s choice award because that’s just based on viewers votes,” said Harris. “I wasn’t really expecting that my photo would do that well just because Brock is a smaller school, we were competing against like McGill which is a pretty large network of people.”

Harris was the only researcher awarded with a people’s choice award, while two others accompanied her by winning the jury selection prize. Harris was selected as the winner of both prizes from a 20 person research short list that had previously been announced.

Harris’ research is being conducted as part of her thesis within the Master of Sustainability program at Brock University. Harris is currently researching the life span of jack pines in the territory and the different variables that affect those life cycles. She says her research will help extend the current historical data set that is available for this type of tree in the NWT.

“If your grandma came up to me and asked me I’d probably say my research looks at the growth of a tree at the cellular level and the potential responses to the environment or weather during that period,” said Harris.

“In practical terms it helps  further  research using tree rings . . . my research benefits into that is because we have this lacking understanding of how trees are growing in the north my research looks to tease out the information of what is controlling the growth of jack pine at it’s northern limit

The award winning photo submitted by Dana Harris. The photo shows a cross section of a cell from a jack pine dyed different colors. photo courtesy of Dana Harris

The people’s choice award was given based on  public voting online while the jury award was awarded by the program’s expert panel of judges. Harris says winning both awards shows a that people both inside and outside of the world of academia care about the work she is doing.

“It’s exciting that I got two it’s nice to see that the public really responded to the image along with the NSERC jury,” said Harris

“It’s kind of nice for me to see that people who aren’t in academics are excited about research and things like this they’re responding to. So it kind of gives me a good reminder to get outside of that academic world and show your research in those plain language summary ways.”

Harris will continue to work with the Water and Environment Lab at Brock to complete her research. She has previously received funding through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) Cumulative Impacts Monitoring Program.

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