Science students win honours

Feb 20, 2003, vol. 26, no. 4
By Carol Thorbes

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SFU graduate students (left to right) Joline King, Deborah Ratzlaff, Christy Morrissey and Glenys Webster were award winners at the 2002 Canadian Aquatic Toxicology workshop in Whistler.

If the results of a recent competition involving five Simon Fraser University female graduate students are any indications, girl power in science is flourishing at SFU.

Female university researchers from SFU, Ontario and Saskatchewan garnered all eight of the awards bestowed at the Canadian Aquatic Toxicology Workshop (CATW) in Whistler before Christmas.

SFU graduate students picked up three first prizes while two others received honourable mentions.

Biology student Joline King, a first prize winner for technical excellence in Canadian aquatic environmental research, says SFU's stellar performance is significant for several reasons.

“The workshop is Canada's most established annual scientific meeting on aquatic and environmental toxicology,” says King. “It's an opportunity for researchers to informally exchange their ideas with other scientists, industry, consultants, government, universities, colleges and the general public.”

A wide range of topics is covered dealing with basic aquatic toxicology to applications in environmental monitoring, the setting of regulations and guidelines and the development of sediment and water quality criteria.
King notes that eastern schools often beat out their western counterparts at CATW competitions.

“This year, SFU did so very well due to an increasing number of students working in environmental research, the potential for enhanced research funding and because the workshop was held in B.C.,” observes King.

A doctoral student in ecotoxicology, King is examining the ingestion of heavy metals by the Pacific blue mussel and the potential for these metals to be transferred to humans and birds through consumption of the mussels.

Of the other SFU recipients, Christy Morrissey won first prize for her oral presentation of research examining the effects of metal and organic contaminants in the Chilliwack watershed.

As a doctoral student in wildlife toxicology, Morrissey is examining how these contaminants affect the health and distribution of the aquatic songbird, the American Dipper.

Master's in environmental toxicology student Deborah Ratzlaff picked up first prize for her poster presentation of research determining the fate and distribution of Phthalate esters. This large-scale industrially produced chemical in plastic production escapes into rivers and oceans.

Glenys Webster, a master's in resource and environmental management student, is exploring how organisms absorb Phthalate esters and how these commonly used chemicals travel through aquatic food chains. Webster's poster presentation picked up third prize.

Patti Dodds, a master's of environmental toxicology student, and Lizanne Meloche, a master's in resource and environmental management student, received honourable mentions for their poster presentations.
The 2002 CATW drew 401 participants, with 136 giving oral presentations and 86 presenting posters of their research.

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