Nfld. & Labrador

Walk across N.L. to see how these MUN students are tackling climate change

The geography department at Memorial University marked the beginning of research week by showcasing its research efforts through a floor map of Newfoundland and Labrador with researchers stationed at different parts of the province.

Floor map shows public how far MUN's research team spans

Eight people stand on a floor-sized map of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Memorial University's geography department is showing the public how far their research spans by using a floor map of Newfoundland and Labrador. (Danny Arsenault/CBC)

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to walk across Newfoundland and Labrador? What if you could do it in a matter of seconds?

Well, the geography department at Memorial University has you covered.

The department marked the beginning of the university's research week — and the end of Geography Awareness Week — by showcasing its research efforts through a floor map of Newfoundland and Labrador with researchers stationed at different parts of the province.

"We're here to feature the wide range of research we do in geography that really covers the province as a whole, but also, of course, reaches well beyond the province to the rest of Canada and around the world," geography department head Arn Keeling said Monday.

The department is heavily involved in researching the effects of climate change, shown on various parts of the map.

The research took second-year PhD student Marina Cuselli to Ferryland, where she's studying coastal erosion and coastal vegetation.

"We're looking to use plants that are present here in the province to help mitigate with coastal erosion around the Avalon Peninsula specifically," Cuselli said Monday.

"They're very interested in finding solutions that are less expensive then maybe hard engineering structures, and that can also enhance the vegetation and the coastal ecosystems of that area.… Everything helps, and this is hopefully something that communities around Newfoundland can use themselves."

WATCH |The CBC's Ashley Brauweiler walks across Newfoundland and Labrador to speak with members of Memorial University's geography department:

MUN geography department putting its research on the map, literally

10 days ago
Duration 1:57
Members of Memorial University's geography department are using a floor-sized map of Newfoundland and Labrador to show the public where their research takes them.

Carissa Brown, an associate professor in the department, is studying how regional species are responding to climate change with a specific interest in how forest fires are influencing the boreal forest.

While forest fires can cause great damage — highlighted by two large forest fires in central Newfoundland this summer — she says they can also bring a renewal effect to forests.

"Black spruce forests of Newfoundland and Labrador and across Canada really need fire to regenerate. Break down the competition on the forest floor and let those trees release seeds so we get a next generation of forests coming up," Brown said.

"We need to kind of get a good idea of how climate change is going to impact our fires in the future."

Three women stand side by side. They're all wearing black t-shirts advertising Geography Awareness Week.
From left to right: Marina Cuselli, Jenine Otto and Carissa Brown of Memorial University's geography department are carrying out research across Newfoundland and Labrador. (Danny Arsenault/CBC)

Labrador was represented by master's student Jenine Otto, working to study the effects of housing and climate change in Nain.

She's been working with residents to learn how climate change is impacting their homes, noting details like shifting foundations, leaking and developing mould.

"My ultimate goal would be to amplify community perspectives and expertise," she said.

"They are the ones who are experiencing this, they are the ones who have the expertise that we should be looking to in regards to this issue."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Ashley Brauweiler

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