Four Scholars Lead the Way in Collaborative Indigenous Research

We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2023-2024 ACUNS Awards Program. Now in its 41st year, the annual awards are presented to top scholars in Canadian universities who are studying Canada’s Arctic and subarctic in the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, health, and interdisciplinary studies. From Labrador to Haida Gwaii to the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, this year’s recipients cover a wide variety of research topics that also share a common thread. They explore fragile and sensitive environs while working with Indigenous communities to restore and strengthen sustainability for future generations. Congratulations to the award recipients on their achievements!

Christina Goldhar

PhD Candidate
Geography and Planning
Queen’s University

Project: Governing in crisis: An interrogation of the “housing crisis” in Nunavut and Nunatsiavut, outcomes for women, children and families.

The housing crisis in Inuit Nunangat is vast and affects both the physical and psycho-social health of residents, in particular women and children. Ms. Goldhar will examine the connections between the structural determinants of housing insecurity and highlight successes and opportunities for change.

Christina Goldhar is a Pierre Elliott Trudeau Doctoral Scholar, and the Project Coordinator of “At Home in the North”, a SSHRC-CMHC research partnership. Originally from Toronto, Christina is also a former resident of Nain, Nunatsiavut where she worked as the Director of Policy and Planning for the Nunatsiavut Government, and served on the Board of Directors of the Nain Safe House for women and children. Christina completed a bachelor’s degree in Environment and Development at McGill University and a master’s degree in Geography at Memorial University.

Dr. Weston Blake Jr. Memorial Doctoral Scholarship ($10,000)

Funded by the Blake family

Claudia Haas

PhD Candidate, Biology
Wilfrid Laurier University

Project: An intimate glimpse into the day and life of the northern boreal forest: Wildlife community spatial and temporal trend in an intact northern ecosystem

The North has some of the last intact boreal forest in the world and is home to healthy wildlife populations of species that are at risk elsewhere. To improve deficient comprehensive ecological information, Claudia Haas co-founded a program bringing together Indigenous, territorial and federal government partners to set up an NWT-wide biodiversity monitoring network with large arrays of wildlife camera and audio recorders. Through her PhD, Claudia hopes to find ways to describe northern wildlife communities in ways that better meets the needs of land managers, specifically Indigenous communities who rely on these species for their livelihoods.

This scholarship is named for Dr. Blake, the late quaternary geologist who spent over 50 Arctic seasons in Canada, Greenland, and Svalbard, Norway and whose career was spent almost entirely at the Geological Survey of Canada.

The Dr. Jim McDonald Scholarship for Northern Research ($5,000)

Funded by ACUNS with the support of the McDonald family.

Lucy Sdahl Ḵ’awaas Bell

PhD Candidate, Interdisciplinary – Indigenous Museology
Simon Fraser University

Project: Tying the Liis – Reconciliation through Haida Repatriation and Museology

Lucy Bell Sdahl Ḵ’awaas belongs to the Tsiits G’itanee Eagle clan of the Haida Nation. She is a Nation-based scholar who applies this knowledge to her academic journey. Lucy is a founding member of the Haida Repatriation Committee, they have repatriated  500+ Haida ancestral remains and belongings from global museums. She is the recipient of the Sterling Prize for Controversy and the BC Museums Association’s Award for Distinguished Service Award for speaking out against racism and the need for change in the museum sector.  Lucy continues to be an Indigenous advisor and advocate for repatriation, anti-racism, language and cultural revitalization and Indigenous museology.

This award is named in memory of Dr. Jim McDonald, a renowned anthropologist, professor, and former president of ACUNS.

The Kay and Peter McGeer Scholarship for Northern Research ($3,000)

Funded by the McGeer Family

Cerren Richards

PhD, Marine Biology
Memorial University of Newfoundland

Project: Seabird biodiversity hotspots at fragile Arctic oases during ice-covered and ice-free seasons, primarily in Rigolet, Labrador

Cerren Richards has a passion for seabirds, science communication and community engagement. She has dedicated her studies toward understanding how seabirds respond to natural and anthropogenic drivers. Her ultimate goal is to create sustainable conservation solutions. Cerren enjoys enthusing and inspiring communities about science and conservation with engagement events and art.

Cerren was drawn to the Sustainable Nunatsiavut Futures project because it provides the opportunity to work in partnership with the local Inuit community to generate meaningful insights into seabird biodiversity hotspots in sensitive arctic ecosystems. By focusing on areas and species of importance to community members, she hopes this research can be used to define conservation priorities and as a tool for storytelling and advocacy of Inuit food security.

This new award is made possible from an endowment from the children of the late Peter and Kay McGeer. The McGeers were avid travellers who had a special affinity for the Arctic and its inhabitants.

The annual ACUNS Awards Program supports post-secondary students in diverse disciplines of northern studies who demonstrate academic excellence, leadership, and a commitment to northern communities. Funding for the awards comes from the Canadian Northern Studies Trust and private donors. Since 1982, ACUNS has helped more than 700 students reach their academic goals. Our awards alumni have gone on to successful careers in northern research, academia, politics, law, and the arts. To learn more about our past recipients, please see our Annual Reports, found on our Members page.

We are very grateful to our donors who make these scholarships possible.

Thank you also to our ACUNS Awards Committee for adjudicating all the candidates.