2014/2015 Researchers of Laurier

Alexandra Muhametsafina

Invasive species of fishes, non-native species that rapidly colonize new habitats, are increasingly becoming a global problem. Over the past two centuries, invasive species in the Great Lakes have caused negative economic, ecological and social effects. Historically, the most devastating invasion was that of the sea lamprey, a parasitic fish which feeds on the bodily fluids of host fishes. The 1930's invasion partly resulted in the collapse of many commercial fisheries and, in turn, negative consequences for many people throughout the watershed who, directly or indirectly, depend on the fishing and tourist industry. In 1956, the U.S. and the Canadian governments formed a treaty organization, the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission (GLFC), to develop and coordinate research and sustainable management plans for native fishes and sea lamprey control in the Great Lakes. The integrated sea lamprey control program includes the application of the chemical 3-trifluoromethyl-4-nitrophenol (TFM) to lamprey infested rivers and streams. However, there is evidence to show that TFM tolerance in larval sea lamprey varies seasonally; TFM is not as effective in the late summer as it is in the early spring. The goal of my Masters research is to determine if the seasonal variability can be explained by seasonal changes in water temperature or improved body condition of the lamprey as they begin to feed more after overwintering. The results of my Masters will inform the GFLC of ways to improve their chemical treatment protocol; the adoption of a new chemical treatments protocol could significantly reduce the GLFCs' chemical treatment costs.

Eden Hennessey*

Eden Hennessey is completing her PhD in Social Psychology with Dr. Mindi Foster. Her research focuses on how women respond to sexism in STEM (i.e., science, technology, engineering and math). Gender disparities in STEM continue; for instance, Eden's recent research shows that female STEM students at WLU experience stereotyping and are called weirdoes and witches. One way to reduce sexism is to confront it; however, confrontation may have negative implications (e.g., social/professional costs like exclusion or harassment). Research, however, has not yet examined the social costs of confronting sexism in STEM. As such, Eden's dissertation assesses whether female confronters of sexism in STEM perceive and incur greater social costs than other women. Further, her research explores how same-sex virtual mentors and a strong science-identity impact the perceived consequences of confronting sexism in STEM. Eden's passion for research extends to her position as Student Research Coordinator of the Laurier Centre for Women in Science (WinS) and her work has been recognized by the Society for Social and Personality Psychology (SPSP) and the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI).


James Jones

With the expanding global human population, there is increasing pressure on agriculture to improve crop yields to feed the world. One emerging tool to improve plant nutrition is soil supplementation with agro-minerals, rock fertilizers which weather to release nutrients available for plants. In this study, we focus on Spanish River Carbonatite (SRC); an agro-mineral mined from an igneous deposit near Sudbury, ON, Canada and anecdotally reported to increase plant growth and soil pH. Our overall goal was to assess the veracity of these claims using pea (Pisum sativum L.). I have three objectives: 1) to identify the optimal concentration of SRC for peas; 2) to study the effect of SRC on symbiotic nitrogen fixation; and 3) to explore the microbiota of non-sterile SRC. The first objective was met by comparing the biomass/yield of peas given SRC to those given a chemical nutrient solution, as well as measuring the soil pH and number of culturable soil microorganisms. For the second objective, plants were inoculated with Rhizobium leguminosarum and the growth, yield and nodule number of plants with and without SRC was assessed. For the third objective, plants were grown in non-sterilized and their root systems examined for potential beneficial root symbioses. I have confirmed that the prescribed concentration of 1:10 SRC:soil is effective for pea growth when given supplemental nitrogen is given. At this concentration, the number of culturable heterotrophic microorganisms was greatly increased and I therefore used this concentration exclusively. The synergistic interaction between SRC and microorganisms also appears to hold true for the symbiotic rhizobia, as an increase in the number of nodules and plant shoot biomass was observed for SRC-treated plants. This mutualistic association was also observed with on plants grown with non-sterilized SRC, indicating that symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacteria occur naturally within the SRC deposit. Preliminary data further suggests that plant growth is greatly enhanced with non-sterile SRC; this increase is likely due to the presence of a variety of beneficial microorganisms adapted to SRC soils. Although we are just beginning to unravel the potential role of agro-minerals in agriculture, our results seem to confirm the anecdotal reports, suggesting that SRC and other agro-minerals will be powerful amendments to the methods of modern agriculture.


Keegan Williams

My research mapped and explored the creation of new borders in the Central Mediterranean Sea to exclude migrants from entry between 2006 and 2014. Last year, over 122,000 migrants who made an unauthorised journey by boat were intercepted by European authorities in secret operations while en route from North Africa to Italy. Although at least 3500 of these migrants died during interception incidents, we did not know what happened to the rest. I therefore set out to empirically track the spaces European Union and Italian authorities used, what happened to the migrants intercepted and the relationship between these two phenomena on a large scale. Using an extended case study mixed methodology, I determined that the majority of these 'missing' migrants were actually diverted back to North Africa, likely in contravention of international law, and that a smaller but important group made it to Italian waters, were actively held in detention centres and, eventually, returned to North Africa. To achieve these outcomes, Italy, with the support of the European Union, expanded naval and aerial patrols into newly-enacted 'search and rescue regions' and created joint border patrols with third countries, such as Libya. Using these spaces allowed authorities to patrol the border far beyond territory as we understand it, preventing migrants from ever making it to the legal border in the first place. Being unable to make it to Europe stripped migrants of the human rights they would enjoy there, particularly the right to claim asylum. Even though these process brought extreme harm to hundreds of thousands of people, the European Union and Italy have covered up their activities and justified them in the name humanitarianism and public security.


Mary Neil

My research was designed to prompt the evocation of deep personal thoughts, experiences, and sensations in response to questions surrounding migration to Canada through the shared performative act of cooking and the visceral experience of eating in the private space of the migrant kitchen. Using a grounded theory approach, several adaptive mechanisms were identified such as: the creation of manageable daily routines; the openness to new tastes, ideals, and experiences; and establishing a sense of community. Although migrants wish to embody experiences of 'home' in the host country, authenticity is willingly compromised in order to create a sense of comfort, or the feeling of being 'at home'. Given the typical length of the interview process, the breadth and depth of the experiences covered and the details stirred up by the sensual experiences within the kitchen, I argue that using the visceral realm accessed knowledge, experiences, sensations and moods that would not have been obtained through the traditional interview process.


Merin Shobhana Xavier

My research is on contemporary Sufism, as it is embodied, transmitted and transformed across different localities. Specifically, my doctoral dissertation is a case study of a transnational Sufi community known as the Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Fellowship and its networks of affiliations. My study not only highlights the global diversity of a Sufi community from Sri Lanka to the United States but it also emphasizes the fluidity of a singular Sufi community which contains distinct followers of Muslims, Hindus, Jews and Christians. I conducted field research in the United States, Canada and Sri Lanka. I completed ethnographic data collection in each of these sites, which consisted of participant observation and active participation in pilgrimages to sacred shrines, such as the burial shrine of Muhammad Raheem Bawa Muhaiyaddeen (d. 1986) the spiritual leader of this community. My participation in ritual activities culminated in semi-structured interviews with various leadership and lay members associated with this Sufi community. I argue that by capturing the flows and networks of people between the sacred spaces of the Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Fellowship, which includes mosques, burial shrines and community centers, allows for the elucidation of the diverse manifestations of Sufism, not only in North America, but also in a global context.


Katherine Quanz

My dissertation explains how and why the Canadian post-production sound industry changed its aesthetic practices over a forty-four year period. Chapter One (1968 – 1986) examines how government policies inadvertently encouraged the new post-production sound industry to adopt a soundtrack style borrowed from National Film Board of Canada documentaries, rather than from Hollywood narrative films. Chapter Two (1980 – 1989) investigates the lack of impact that Dolby Stereo had on Canadian soundtracks. Current film scholarship heralds Dolby Stereo as a catalyst for aesthetic change, but my research shows that Dolby Stereo had minimal impact in Canada. Chapter Three (1986-1998) explores the Canadian post-production sound industry’s rapid adoption of digital technology and how this transition was tumultuous because Canadian sound practitioners were using a variety of incompatible Digital Audio Workstations. Chapter Four (1997-2012) details the impact that the widespread adoption of Pro Tools had on the Canadian post-production sound community. The increase in international collaborations facilitated by the internet and the common Pro Tools platform resulted in Canadian filmmakers adopting the Hollywood standards of soundtrack design.