VIU biology student Eric Friesen presents his research on the maidenhair fern at the annual CREATE Conference Wednesday (March 29) at Vancouver Island University. (Photo contributed)

VIU biology student Eric Friesen presents his research on the maidenhair fern at the annual CREATE Conference Wednesday (March 29) at Vancouver Island University. (Photo contributed)

Students present research at annual Vancouver Island University conference

CREATE Conference allows students to showcase research done at university in Nanaimo.

By Dane Gibson

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

CREATE is organized through VIU’s scholarship, research and creative activity office. Nicole Vaugeois, associate vice-president of scholarship, research and creative activity, 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 looks at how well the maidenhair fern grows in lab conditions. He says the maidenhair fern is prevalent in the wild from the Alaska panhandle to B.C.’s coastal regions and 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.”

Friesen research confirmed 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 looking forward to sharing his research at the CREATE Conference.

VIU sociology professor Sylvie Lafrenière says the department has two teams from its community-based applied interdisciplinary research 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 and are open to the public. For more information, please visit the website.

Dane Gibson is a writer with VIU’s communications department.


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