“The Best Graduate Course We’ve Never Taken”

April 19th, 2013 | Posted by Research Group Coordinator in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on “The Best Graduate Course We’ve Never Taken”)

HEIC RG at Opening Reception

“The Best Graduate Course We’ve Never Taken”

Health, Environment, and Indigenous Communities Research Group Enhances Graduate Students Learning Experience

When Dr. Chris Furgal started bringing his graduate students together to share their research, he had no idea that the collective would take on a life of its own. But the Health, Environment, and Indigenous Communities Research Group exceeded all of his expectations. And the group’s success has drawn interest from other Trent professors who want to replicate the model.

“Graduate school can be a lonely and isolating experience,” explains Dr. Furgal, an associate professor in Trent University’s Indigenous Environmental Studies Program. “I wanted to create a place where the students I supervise could come for support, and interact socially with other young researchers sharing similar experiences. I didn’t expect them to become as involved or to get as excited as they have about the idea.”

The research group, which began informally four years ago, was formalized as the Health, Environment, and Indigenous Communities Research Group in 2012. It is currently comprised of sixteen graduate students, four post-doctoral fellows, and six research assistants. All are supervised by, or working with, Dr. Furgal, and are doing research in Indigenous communities, many in the North. The group is multi-disciplinary, with members cutting across four Trent graduate programs: Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies M.A. programIndigenous Studies Ph.D. programSustainability Studies M.A. program, and Environmental & Life Sciences M.Sc. and Ph.D. programs.

Every two weeks the members come together to provide an update on their research and to identify challenges they face. At each session there is a discussion topic, led by one or more of the students, that is of interest to all members. “As a supervisor, these meetings are an efficient way for me to stay apprised of my students’ progress,” says Dr. Furgal. “But the meetings also provide students with opportunities to receive critical feedback from their peers and learn from one another.”

Kaitlin Breton-Honeyman describes the learning as synergistic, with members constantly encouraging and feeding off each other. Ms. Breton-Honeyman, a Ph.D. candidate in the Environmental & Life Sciences program, has been involved in the group from its earliest stages and seen it evolve to its present state. She describes it as the “best grad course we’ve never taken” because of how it has helped shape her thinking about research, how to make presentations, and how to move forward with future research.

Dr. Furgal notes that the collective has grown beyond its original purpose of sharing research. “The group has become something that complements all of our graduate programs for these students. We have our own server where students can share files, a common lab place, and a web site. And we have common resources, such as literature and data bases, which the students contribute to and can access.”

Collectively, members are engaged in activities which they would not normally do as individual students. Shirin Nuesslein, communications and outreach coordinator for the group, points to a photo exhibition put together by members. “The photo display is an example of how the group is reaching out beyond itself to the broader community,” says Ms. Nuesslein. “It makes the research being conducted and the issues being discussed at Trent University more accessible to the greater Peterborough community.” The photo exhibition, which tells a story of Inuit and their relationship with the environment, was part of the recent SPARK Photo Festival in Peterborough.

Importantly, the group has cultivated social relationships that go beyond the formal group sessions, and which strengthen their overall student experience. Ms. Nuesslein says “Meaningful friendships have been formed and a high level of care and reciprocity exists amongst members. Students are willing to help each other, and the success of one research group member is celebrated as the success of the entire group.”

This willingness to help others is important to new graduate students, says Emily Willson, who is in her first year in the Masters of Arts in Sustainability program. “As a newcomer to Peterborough, I didn’t know anyone, but the group was welcoming and inviting,” says Ms. Willson. “And as a new graduate student, I find the group is helpful as I develop my research proposal. It’s a different way of learning – interacting with people from other disciplines has taught me a whole different way of looking at things.”

As the activities of the group continue to expand, Dr. Furgal says they are at the point where they can put together a discussion paper series on topics related to their research. Ms. Nuesslein adds that a series of video podcasts is also in the works.

Long term, Dr. Furgal would like to expand the group into a research institute at Trent, bringing together researchers from business administration, Indigenous studies, environmental studies and sciences, along with individuals working on health and environment issues in psychology. “Trent has the business component, the environmental sciences component, and the cultural component for working with Indigenous communities effectively and appropriately,” says Dr. Furgal. “I see a great opportunity here at Trent to pull it all together in the formation of a unique research institute, involving other faculty members and other disciplines.”

Posted on Friday, April 19, 2013.

Link: http://www.trentu.ca/newsevents/newsDetail.php?newsID=4905 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT – A photo exhibition about northern food systems

April 8th, 2013 | Posted by Research Group Coordinator in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on FOOD FOR THOUGHT – A photo exhibition about northern food systems)

The Health, Environment & Indigenous Communities Research Group at Trent University presents: FOOD FOR THOUGHT

FOOD FOR THOUGHT is a photo exhibition bringing attention to the complex food systems that exist in Canada’s North by highlighting the opportunities and challenges faced by northern communities as they work to ensure sustained access to sufficient, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food. Specifically, country or traditional foods from the local environment have always been a critical component of the household diet and this remains true today.  Hunting seal, whale and caribou, as well as trapping, fishing and gathering are not simply means for providing food and for supporting local economies; they are essential elements in forming and sustaining cultural and social identity.

Exhibited works were photographed by members of the Health, Environment, and Indigenous Communities Research Group based at Trent University during their fieldwork across Canada’s North. This group situates its’ research at the intersection of social and ecological relationships and seeks to work with and learn from communities about environment and health issues and advocate for the creation of equitable, sustainable and culturally appropriate solutions.

Exhibited work can be viewed throughout the month of April.

A meet & greet with research group members
Wednesday, April 17
6:00 -8:00pm
Free event

Stickling’s Bakery & Bistro
Peterborough, Ontario

Opening reception - FINAL POSTER




Research Group featured in Trent News

January 31st, 2013 | Posted by Research Group Coordinator in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Research Group featured in Trent News)

A group of twenty-one researchers represented Trent University at the annual ArcticNet Scientific Meeting (ASM), Canada’s largest annual Arctic research conference, held in Vancouver, BC. Trent graduate students, researchers and faculty members participated in the conference, shedding light on their research through a large number of oral and poster presentations.

Trent upheld its six-year record of award-winning Arctic student research at the ASM, with Agata Durkalec placing second in the graduate student poster award category of human health. Ms. Durkalec is a recent graduate from the M.A. program in Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies.

“I’m very pleased,” she said. “The award is very affirming of all the effort that went into this project, and forms a very positive note to end on for my thesis.” Ms. Agata defended her master’s thesis one week prior to the conference. It was entitled “Understanding the role of environment for Indigenous health: A case study of sea ice as a place of health and risk in the Inuit community of Nain, Nunatsiavut”.

Dr. Chris Furgal of Trent’s Indigenous Environmental Studies program had the honour of being among the collaborators recognized with one of the first annual Arctic Inspiration Prizes for “Inuit Qujimajatuqangitan – What Inuit Have Always Known to be True,” a comprehensive book project describing Inuit Culture and traditional knowledge. The book promises to be an extraordinary resource that will contribute to positive change in Inuit communities and beyond.

Kaitlin Breton-Honeyman, a Trent Ph.D. candidate in the Environment and Life Sciences program, encourages other Arctic student researchers to go to the ArcticNet ASM, saying “It’s at conferences such as these where you get to understand the bigger picture of northern research and to figure out where your research fits. It’s pretty special to get to learn from and be part of a dynamic group of people from universities, governments, organizations, northern communities and industry.”

Link: http://www.trentu.ca/newsevents/newsDetail.php?newsID=4300

Glimpses of our photo display

January 31st, 2013 | Posted by Research Group Coordinator in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Glimpses of our photo display)

Here are some glimpses of our photo display here at Trent University! All photos were taken by members of the research group (our director, master’s and doctoral students, post-doctoral fellow and research assistants) during their fieldwork across Canada’s North.

ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting 2012 – Videos

January 30th, 2013 | Posted by Research Group Coordinator in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting 2012 – Videos)


Agata Durkalec at the ArcticNet 2012 in Vancouver (BC) presenting her research poster on “Investigating environmental influences on injury and trauma in the Canadian North”

Diana Kouril at the ArcticNet 2012 in Vancouver (BC) presenting her research poster on “A Systematic Review of Community-Based Monitoring: Definitions, Concepts and Lesson Learned”

Janet Knight at the ArcticNet 2012 in Vancouver (BC) presenting her research poster on “Dimensions of Socio-Cultural Sustainability: A literature Review and Concept Maps for Arctic Communities”

ArcticNet put together several videos from the Annual Scientific Meeting, all of which can be viewed here: http://www.arcticnetmeetings.ca/asm2012/media/videos.php

ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting 2012 – Photos

January 29th, 2013 | Posted by Research Group Coordinator in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting 2012 – Photos)

Research group members at the ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting, held from December 11-14, 2012, in Vancouver, BC.

December 12th, 2012 | Posted by Research Group Coordinator in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on )

Many of the research group members are currently enjoying the participation in the ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting, taking place in Vancouver from December 10th – 14th. Follow the link for more information on the meeting: http://www.arcticnetmeetings.ca/asm2012/