Graduate students Camille Roberge and Brandon Williams each received $7,500 scholarships in environmental science and natural resource science because of their commitment to research and potential for future contributions in their respective fields.
Roberge and Williams, both Master of Science in Environmental Science (MScES) students, are heartened by this recent honour.
Roberge, whose research explores the impact of forest cutblocks (harvested areas) on declining moose populations, works with the Nlaka’pamux Nation Tribal Council, which recognizes the vital role these animals play in the well-being of their community.
“They’re very concerned about the declining moose population on their traditional lands,” says Roberge, who studies Wildlife Management Unit 3-18, which stretches from west of Kamloops to Merritt.
“Moose is an extremely important species to them, so they want to understand why this is happening. If you look at the historic images, this beautiful woodland is now a cutblock tapestry. Forestry is present in every part of this management unit. »
Moose Cut Blocks and Health
Under the supervision of Professor Karl Larsen, Roberge is investigating whether plants and cutblocks offer lower nutritional quality than plants growing in forests.
“There’s a researcher at UNBC who is doing preliminary work at a site in northern British Columbia and he’s found differences in plant nutritional quality between cutblocks and forests,” she says. . “Plants growing in cutblocks have better access to sunlight, so they have a lot more energy to put into defensive compounds to defend against herbivores like moose. Some of these defensive compounds bind to plant proteins. So when the moose digests the plant, it can only extract part of the protein and the rest goes right through, which lowers the nutritional quality of the plant.
Roberge is also following 12 female moose for two years to see if the cutblocks are affecting their health.
“Each moose uses a different amount of chopping blocks, so I’m seeing if moose that use chopping blocks more and rely more on food in chopping blocks have less fat accumulation and are less likely to to get pregnant or to successfully keep their pregnancies during the winter,” says Roberge.
Prescribed burning and native grassland
Williams’ research uses traditional indigenous knowledge of prescribed burning as a tool to transition from an agronomy-dominated grassland community to a native plant community.
“My work represents a unique partnership between the Nlaka’pamux First Nations and the Highland Valley Copper Mine, where a common goal is to transition the plant community currently dominated by agronomy at one of the tailings storage facilities towards a more biodiverse native grassland,” says Williams, who works with TRU Professor Lauchlan Fraser.
Considered mining waste, tailings can contain high levels of hazardous contaminants and heavy metals. Accordingly, mining companies are responsible for the landscape restoration of the area surrounding the holding facilities.
“Historically, this was done simply by creating pasture by seeding agronomic grass species into the landscape,” Williams says. “The problem, however, is that these species are extremely hardy and can grow in the worst conditions, and can therefore become good competitors in this environment, which limits the amount of new species that can enter. To improve the biodiversity of these sites, they are looking for ways to do this.Prescribed burning, which can help introduce new species after burning, has been touted as a way to do this.
Impact student research
Obtaining these grants has been extremely beneficial to these students, not only financially, but also in recognition of their excellence in previous research.
“I am delighted and grateful to have received this award,” said Roberge. “It really means I have so much less to worry about in terms of the financial stress of studying. It also means the people I work with at TRU see the validity of what I’m working on and understand its importance. I live and breathe that in everyday.I know how important that is to the Nlaka’pamux Nation and to be able to share that with the TRU community and make them understand the importance of the work is validation.
“I’m thrilled,” Williams said. “This award helps me stay and finish my work. It’s very exciting that this money can support me through this. And it’s so important for me to get my work known.
These scholarships were generously created by an anonymous donor. Students who receive these prestigious awards are selected based on their demonstrated potential for future contributions to our understanding of the environment.