Dana Harris calls Nov. 9 her “special day.”
It was on that day last week that the Master of Sustainability student became a first time aunt, and also the day she was told, in the strictest of confidence, that she had captured two top prizes in a national science research photo competition.
Harris had to keep the secret of her achievement under wraps until Nov. 14, when the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) announced the winners of its Canada-wide Science Exposed competition.
The competition showcases images taken during scientific research being conducted in all fields by faculty and student researchers in post-secondary institutions and researchers in public and private research centres.
Harris received the People’s Choice Award and a Jury Prize for her photo, “Exploring the Jack Pine Tight Knit Family Tree.”
“It’s a super huge honour to have people sharing my photo, voting on it and just enjoying it,” says Harris. “And, to get that mention from the NSERC jury members was really gratifying.”
Diane Dupont, Dean of Graduate Studies, said the Faculty is “so proud of Dana and her success in the NSERC Science Exposed photography contest.”
“To win the People’s Choice Award is an outstanding achievement,” Dupont said. “This award is a testament to the cutting-edge research she is pursuing involving the globally-relevant topic of climate change.”
Harris’ photo shows phases of developing xylem cells, stained in different colours, that are found in a wood sample cored from the outermost part of a jack pine tree in the Northwest Territories, where she is from.
The image, shot from a microscope, shows the jack pine tree’s phloem, cambial and xylem cells (blue dye) and mature xylem cells (red dye) in a thin slice of the wood. It is one of a series of images taken weekly over the past year to track the growth of the jack pine tree’s various cells.
“This type of information is useful for researchers who create climate reconstructions using tree rings as a source of historical climate data,” explains Harris.
She thanked her supervisor, Professor of Geography and Tourism Studies Michael Pisaric, and her fellow student researchers in Brock’s Water and Environment Laboratory (WEL) for their support.
“Dana’s research is helping to understand how important tree species in the boreal forest are affected by climate change,” says Pisaric. “Her research also helps to inform larger questions concerning carbon uptake by the boreal forest.
“Northern regions of Canada are being impacted by changing climatic conditions, including warmer temperatures, changing precipitation regimes and altered frequency and intensity of forest fires and other disturbance agents.”
The WEL lab is co-directed by Pisaric and Associate Professor of Geography and Tourism Studies Kevin Turner, with the aim to explore how terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in Canada’s North are changing in response to climatic and environmental change.
Harris says she is happy that research on climate change and environmental conditions in the North were acknowledged with awards in the competition.
Earlier this year, the photos of 20 researchers from across Canada, including Harris’s entry, were shortlisted and posted on NSERC’s website. People viewing the 20 photos were given the chance to vote for their favourite image. A panel of judges also chose three images that won jury prizes.
Harris was also a competitor in NSERC’s Science, Action! research video contest, making the first cut of the three-round competition with her video “Jack Pine Growth, NT.”
NSERC is Canada’s federal funding agency for university-based research, supporting faculty and students through a number of awards. In the most recent round of funding, 18 faculty researchers and nine students received a total of $3.2 million.