Emily Choy, a doctoral student in biological sciences, was awarded the L'Oreal-UNESCO Women in Science scholarship for Canada. She received the award, at the Embassy of France in Ottawa on November 22, 2012, for her important research as well as her potential as a mentor for young women.
Choy is studying the effects of prey changes caused by climate change on the energetics of Beaufort Sea beluga whales. She uses ecological tracers to identify the diet of Beaufort Sea belugas, since little is still known about the diet of the iconic sea creatures. Belugas are known to have high concentrations of contaminants in their bodies, which is of concern to Inuvialuit subsistence hunters, who look to the whales as an important traditional source of food.
She notes: “I am looking at how prey choice influences beluga diving ability, since they are quite deep divers―sometimes as deep as 1,250 metres!”
For her research, Choy is working with Inuit hunting camps in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region and living with Inuvialuit families during the summer.
She adds: “When they hunt a beluga for food, I will take samples for my research. I really hope my research will help to benefit these Northern communities.”
In response to local needs, the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science program also provides fellowships to promising young women researchers in various branches of the sciences at the national and regional levels. Two Regional Fellowship programs have been developed in Sub-Saharan Africa and in the Arab States, while National Fellowship programs are now in place in 47 countries, including Canada.
Since 1998, the L’Oréal-UNESCO “For Women in Science” program has given recognition to over a thousand women scientists, providing visibility and encouragement for the exceptional quality of their work. These top-ranking scientists embrace universal challenges ranging from health to the environment, and represent hope for the future. L’Oréal subsidiaries around the world, with the support of the National Commissions for UNESCO, have created fellowships principally destined to enable women at the doctorate level to pursue scientific research in their home country. As of January 2012, over 1040 young women scientists from 64 countries have been awarded Regional or National Fellowships.
In return for the award, Choy will be working with Actua, an educational organization that provides life-changing experiences in science, technology, engineering and mathematics so that youth can be inspired to achieve their potential and fulfill their critical role in the world. Choy will work at Actua camps and programs to promote and share her passion for science with young girls.
Choy explains: “I have always been involved with science outreach and education through work with the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Toronto Zoo, and field naturalists clubs. It's something I really enjoy doing and I believe this outreach work is very important.”
Choy's Phd supervisors are: Drs. James Roth (Biological Sciences) and Lisa Loseta (DFO, Freshwater Institute).
Emily Choy on Devon Island, Nunavut, holding an ermine, which was the top predator in the food web she was studying for her Master's research.
Choy at the St. Lawrence River Institute, Cornwall Ontario, holding a northern map turtle. Choy was studying mercury concentrations in fish species in the St. Lawrence River, and the northern map turtle dropped by to see how the research was coming along.