This category is for students of the natural environment and ecosystems, including students of Earth Science, Agriculture, Geography, Geology, etc.
Students of Human Geography should submit their work to Social Sciences: Anthropology & Cultural Studies.
Entrants must submit an abstract of between 100-300 words long, and the word count is 2,500 – 12,000 words.
In 2017 the category was won by Bridget Murphy from Western University. Her paper, "Future Climate Conditions Alter Leaf Thermotolerance In Canadian Boreal Trees", highly impressed the judges.
Bridget sampled seedlings grown under varying CO2 concentrations combined with ambient, ambient +4 C and ambient +8 C growth temperatures and exposed needles to temperatures between 25 C and 60 C from 3 to 30 minutes. She found that elevated temperature increased the needle thermotolerance of both black spruce and tamarack to brief, extreme heat exposure. Her work indicated a potential for species-specific resilience to predicted severe heat waves.
The judges were very impressed with Bridget's research, with one stating
"I thought this paper shows how a student engaged in the scientific process, from a study design through to undertaking laboratory experiments, analysing results, and eventually making a contribution to our understanding of likely plant responses to a changing climate. What set it apart from the other papers in my top three or four was the fact that the student collected the data him/herself, which provided an added dimension not in the others."
In 2016, the category was won by Wayne Egan from the Institute of Technology, Sligo, with his paper, "To assess the impact of the Bellawaddy River on the microbiological quality of the bathing waters of Enniscrone Beach, Co. Sligo, Ireland".
In his project the Bellawaddy River was assessed to see if it is a source of Short Term Pollution at Enniscrone’s bathing waters. Discharge of the river was measured using an automatic water level data logger in conjunction with an ascertained rating curve. Indicator bacteria levels were measured in the river and the bathing area. Daily rainfall data was obtained from a local rainfall station. The river was seen to produce hydrograph responses to heavy intense rainfall events. Very large concentrations of indicator bacteria were measured in the river after these hydro-meteorological events. These results showed strong correlation to highly elevated levels of bacteria (STP) in the bathing water. It is concluded that the Bellawaddy River is a primary source of bacteria for the STP events.
If you would like to follow in the footsteps of these wonderful academics, submit your work to The Undergraduate awards before June 12th!