Student Research at VIU Celebrated at 2017 Create Conference

VIU biology student Eric Friesen is excited to present his research on the Maidenhair fern at the annual CREATE Conference, March 29.

March 21, 2017 - 1:30pm

More than 250 VIU student-researchers from all areas of study will be sharing their projects with the public March 29 at the Nanaimo campus

From a study of parasites that make their homes in Western Purple Martin nests to looking at trends in space tourism and a presentation on microplastics as a global pollutant – more than 250 Vancouver Island University (VIU) students will share their research on a wide range of subjects at the annual CREATE Conference, March 29.

CREATE is organized through VIU’s Scholarship, Research and Creative Activity office. Dr. Nicole Vaugeois is Associate Vice-President of Scholarship, Research and Creative Activity. She says the conference provides a space for students to get their research into the public realm.

“During the conference students must field a diverse range of questions from attendees who are genuinely interested in their methods and what their research is showing them,” said Vaugeois. “This event is a great confidence builder for our students and a way for VIU to highlight the incredible range of research projects that are ongoing here throughout the year.”

Fourth year student Eric Friesen is enrolled in Biology 491, a class that allows students to choose a research topic, formulate a thesis and design a research project from scratch. Oversight is provided by a VIU biology professor who is an expert in the field. It’s a class that provides a unique, high level experience to VIU undergraduates.

Friesen’s 491 project focusses on how well the Maidenhair fern grows in lab conditions.  He says the Maidenhair fern, which has not had a lot of research done on it, is prevalent in the wild from the Alaska panhandle down to BC’s coastal regions and is just one member of a family of more than 200 ferns.

“Since there weren’t a lot of studies done on this particular fern I started my project by asking the question: Can you grow it in captivity?” said Friesen.  “You never know how something from the field will respond to laboratory conditions – there is always uncertainty – but it turns out the answer is yes, you can grow them in captivity.”

During his research not only did Friesen confirm that the Maidenhair fern will grow in a lab, after subjecting it to a number of different biological, chemical and organic pollutants he showed just how robust it can be. He says he is really looking forward to sharing his research at the CREATE Conference.

“I started growing the ferns from spores which means when they entered their first life stage, they were only one or two cell layers thick. Even though at that stage they are incredibly fragile, I learned that they can put up with a lot of competition from other organisms like bacteria, fungus and algae,” said Friesen. “It was striking to me that during my tests these ferns just did so well. No matter what they were up against, they continued to grow. It’s absolutely remarkable!”

VIU sociology professor Dr. Sylvie Lafrenière says their department has two teams from their Community-based Applied Interdisciplinary Research (CBAIR) course registered at CREATE. The first team is working on the service needs of people suffering from brain injuries (such as concussions) and the other is looking at community perceptions of a social housing unit in Nanaimo.

“Our students are working on research projects that impact peoples’ lives in a very direct way which makes the work they are doing in the community important at many different levels,” said Lafrenière. “Through CREATE they are given the opportunity to see their work from a different perspective and, perhaps more importantly, gain confidence in themselves and the projects they’ve worked so hard on over the semester.” 

Presentations for CREATE include posters, displays, artwork, and performances. The public is encouraged to join in the fun. To learn more please go to CREATE Conference, 2017



Dane Gibson, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

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Tags: Research