Research projects

Lakehead Presents Year of Climate Action Awards for Research Projects

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Thunder Bay and Orillia, ON – Lakehead University has awarded seven research teams Year of Climate Action Fellowships worth $5,000 each, which they will use to explore various topics related to climate change.

The first team seeks to improve the role and organization of the Keewaytinook Okimakanak (KO) Tribal Council in wildfire evacuations, with an emphasis on supporting and promoting self-care and community self-determination.

The research team is gathering insights, experiences, and recommendations from KO service providers and community volunteers who played a role in the fire-induced evacuations of several KO communities during the summers of 2019 and 2021.

This will inform emergency management plans and help identify emergency management practices, policies and systems that prioritize and honor First Nations self-determination while fostering research partnerships between Lakehead University and the Tribal Council Keewaytinook Okimakanak.

The research team consists of Dan Duckert, Keewaytinook Okimakanak Tribal Council/Lakehead University; Dr. Lindsay Galway, Department of Health Sciences at Lakehead Thunder Bay; Anjali Mago, Luke Smyk and Josh Taylor, all of the Keewaytinook Okimakanak Tribal Council; and Donovan Parenteau, a student in the Faculty of Natural Resource Management at Lakehead University.

Dr. Francisco Ramos-Pallares and his research team seek to develop alternative low-carbon technologies to produce chemicals, which he says is key to minimizing the effects of climate change.

For example, new bioprocesses have emerged to produce biobased alcohols from biomass that significantly reduce carbon emissions compared to traditional industrial processes based on the complex conversion of hydrocarbons.

“Currently, my research team and I are studying the release of alcohols from an aqueous solution. The idea behind salting out is to separate alcohol from an aqueous liquid mixture by adding salt,” said Dr. Ramos-Pallares, assistant professor of chemical engineering at Lakehead Thunder Bay.

The objective of this project is to understand the physics and chemistry of salting out and to map the effect of the amount and type of salt added on the purity of the alcohol produced.

To do this, the research team combines experimental data collection and simulation to shed light on the release phenomenon. The expected result is to produce a physically sound model for salting-out related calculations suitable for the design and simulation of alcohol purification operations in biorefineries.

Dr. Ellen Field, Assistant Professor of Education at Lakehead Orillia, is working with Dr. Muhammad Asaduzzaman, Assistant Professor, Computer Science, on a research project titled Benchmarking Climate Change Policy in Canadian School Boards.

The research project, which will run from January to September 2022, will include the development of a web scraping protocol to collect climate change policy data from school board websites across Canada; quantify the number of school boards that have developed climate change policies; and the release of a report on climate change policies in Canadian school boards.

Currently, there is little data on how the formal education system is responding to climate change, and Dr. Field notes that this study will determine existing policies within school boards.

“After analysis, the results will indicate where policy gaps exist, both quantitatively, in terms of the number of school boards with policies, and qualitatively, in terms of content in climate change policies to ensure that systems are reactive to prepare young people for rapid change. change and uncertainty they will face over the next 30 to 70 years,” she said.

Dr. Ahmed Elshaer, Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at Lakehead Thunder Bay, and his research team will develop tailored solutions to control the influence of climate change, particularly with respect to the built environment.

“One of the expected impacts of climate change is high winds and more severe cold temperatures, which will affect various sectors of our community, such as Indigenous areas and the mining industry,” Dr. Elshaer said. “First, we need to quantify this climate impact and estimate the new demand for the structures, then develop innovative techniques and solutions to mitigate the elevated climate effect. In addition, existing structures must be assessed and upgraded if necessary to ensure their resilience. »

Dr. Liang Cui, Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at Lakehead Thunder Bay, leads his research team in a project called Coupled Multiphysics Modeling of Impure CO2 Geosequestration in Deep Saline Aquifers, which involves capturing carbon dioxide in aquifers as a way to reduce greenhouse gases. in the air.

“This research project will expand our knowledge and establish advanced mathematical tools that allow reliable and accurate assessment of the performance of impure carbon dioxide geosequestration technology,” said Dr. Cui.

Dr. Robert Stewart, Associate Professor of Geography and Environment at Lakehead Thunder Bay, and his team will use the grant to develop a paleoclimate record of Lake Nipigon conditions to assess the impacts of climate change on Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging Anishnaabek Traditional Territory .

Members of Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging Anishnaabek (BZA Rocky Bay First Nation) have long observed changes in the Lake Nipigon basin that have been shared through verbal and lived histories. It is important for the community to correlate these local observations with common scientific data to improve communication on climate change and cumulative effects on the traditional territory.

“Through a partnership with Lakehead University, paleolimnological analysis will help us understand the history of lake conditions before human development, up to the present day, in order to understand past climatic conditions,” said Dr Stewart. . “With this historical climate record, climate modeling and climate scenarios can be applied to current environmental impacts to anticipate future cumulative effects of a changing climate.”

Dr. Elaine Wiersma, Associate Professor of Health Sciences at Lakehead Thunder Bay, and her research team will interview ecological/native gardeners in Thunder Bay about their gardening practices, motivations and understanding beneficial gardening practices. Photo essays of participants’ gardens will also be included.

Thunder Bay City Council’s intention to change bylaws requiring residents to maintain an eight-inch lawn — limiting residents’ ability to garden with native species and naturalization — prompted this research.

“The aim of this research is to explore gardeners’ motivations, perceptions, experiences and practices of gardening ecological/native species in their home gardens,” said Dr. Wiersma.

She and her team will recruit 12-15 participants from the City of Thunder Bay. They will use the research findings to provide reports and presentations to various environmental organizations and committees in Thunder Bay, provide information to inform changes to regulations, and develop recommendations to encourage ecological/native species gardening.

“Congratulations to each of the YOCA award recipients,” said Dr. Andrew P. Dean, Vice President, Research and Innovation, Lakehead. “This year is an extremely important and exciting time at Lakehead University as we commit to real action in the fight against climate change. Research, at all levels, will form the basis for us to understand, mitigate and change our habits with greenhouse gas emissions.

Lakehead announced 2021/2022 as the Year of Climate Action to build the relationships and platforms needed to support transformative and ongoing climate action at the University.

YOCA is an invitation to faculty, students and staff to reflect on how climate action relates to their work. One of the concrete climate actions Lakehead has committed to during YOCA is internal research grants that support faculty and student research on climate action.

Universities are able to research and test innovative ideas by using technology and exploring theories. This allows faculty and students to collect and analyze data that will help equip society to deal with climate change.

“Climate research necessarily spans all disciplines, and I am pleased to see how YOCA Research Fellowships support a diversity of research projects across various disciplines at the University,” said Ledah McKellar, Coordinator of the sustainability of Lakehead. “I am inspired by our faculty and students whose research is dedicated to addressing the urgent need for informed climate action, and I am grateful to the Office of Research and Innovation for supporting this research.