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Research spotlight: Dr. Andrea Kirkwood

Posted by Guest Author on August 10, 2015

Who are you and how does sustainability fit with what you do on campus?

I am Dr. Andrea Kirkwood, an Associate Professor of Biology in the Faculty of Science at UOIT. I teach courses such as Ecology, Conservation Biology, Aquatic Ecology and Introduction to Environmental Research Methods. I also conduct research in the field of Environmental Science, focusing primarily on freshwater ecosystems. In addition to ecological research, my lab investigates the potential use of algae for biofuels and other sustainable bioproducts. As an environmental science instructor and researcher, environmental sustainability is a fundamental guiding principle in my course work and scholarly activities. Ultimately, my students are interested in learning about the role of ecology in environmental problems, as well as addressing these problems in their undergraduate and graduate research projects.

What sustainability related research do you do?

My lab investigates the impacts of human activities on aquatic ecosystem health in rivers, lakes and wetlands. Additionally, my students are assessing the use of algae in clean technologies such as biofuels and carbon dioxide sequestration.

How did you get started in environmental work/when did you first become interested in sustainability?

My interest in the environment (nature) goes back to my childhood. Summers spent at the family cottage (with no TV) was an opportunity to explore the natural world and discover how amazing it is. My curiousity about nature lead me to major in Environment and Resource Studies and Biology at the University of Waterloo, followed by a field-based master’s project in aquatic ecology at McMaster University. I then switched gears to focus on the microbial ecology of wastewater treatment systems for my PhD. All of these areas of study and research fundamentally aimed to solve particular environmental problems.

What does sustainability mean to you?

Sustainability means living within our means and ensuring our consumption of the earth’s natural capital does not cause irreparable harm.

What brought you to your role/program on the campus?

I came here because of a desire to teach and conduct environmental research. This is a dream job for any academic wanting to share and discover new knowledge about the environment.

What could UOIT do to become more sustainable?

Having been on many university campuses, I think UOIT is doing a great job so far. I would love to see more naturalization of the campus grounds, including wildflower beds for pollinators, rain gardens, more pervious surfaces for stormwater drainage, and the implementation of low-impact design for future campus expansion and development.

How would you challenge UOIT students and staff to become more sustainable?

One challenge would be to promote reusable mugs and water bottles. Perhaps run a contest where 'secret spotters' could walk up to anyone on campus who is seen using a reusable mug/bottle and give them a small prize.

What sustainable steps do you take daily at home or on campus?

I just try not to use single-use products of any sort, including coffee pods, plastic bags, etc.


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