February 5, 2013 at the Smiling Buddah café, Sudbury, ON, CAN
Sudbury is a beautiful town with a unique mining and environmental history. The town has many interesting features that I didn’t know about before visiting; for instance, Sudbury has the second largest science centre in all of Canada – Science North! Science North presents a monthly panel discussion to engage the public with a variety of science topics. The café invited me and two other speakers – Heidi Swanson, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Alberta and founding director of ‘Save ELA,’ and John Gunn, director of the Living with Lakes Centre at Laurentian University and Canada Research Chair in stressed aquatic ecosystems – to discuss the funding challenges for two of Canada’s premiere environmental research facilities, the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) and the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA).
We each gave a 10 minute introduction on our research (I talked about my instrument at PEARL, the E-AERI, and its role as part of the other instruments at PEARL). After the introductions, we were treated with food and drinks during the intermission where the public was given a chance to talk with us one-on-one about our research, environmental policy and management, or politics in general.
Afterward, the floor was open to the public for questions and a very engaging round of public questions and debate occurred. The audience was made up of a variety of people consisting of Laurentian students, retired professors, environmental activists, and people just generally interested in the topic. Some interesting questions that were brought up were why the international community hasn’t gotten their own governments to talk with Canada about the current state of limited investment in science in Canada, or why PEARL or the ELA can’t raise funds through independent corporations, which spurred interesting debate from both the panel as well as other members of the audience.
While in Sudbury, I toured the landscape and the incredible number of lakes scattered throughout the town and spent most of my time at ScienceNorth itself. The science centre was amazing! It is constructed right into the foundation of the rock and features several floors showcasing everything from live owls and beavers to a full model of the Sudbury neutrino observatory, located in a mine underground. It was very encouraging to see such strong public support for the type of research we do at PEARL (and the ELA), and I have brought back many of the questions and suggestions from the public to my colleagues in Toronto in hopes of finding the best solutions. Communicating our research with the public is a must, which is what made this event so beneficial for everyone involved!
– Zen Mariani
PhD student, University of Toronto