Dr. Martha Jones Recognized as Leading Science Communicator

Receives NSERC Award for Science Promotion

Cape Breton University biology professor, Dr. Martha Jones, has been awarded the individual 2010 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Award for Science Promotion. Annually, NSERC awards $10,000 to an individual and group for outstanding contribution to the promotion of science in Canada through activities encouraging popular interest in science or developing science abilities.

Professor Jones has led many outreach programs, but she credits her championing of science to three unique areas: diversity of topics; combining graphic arts and science; and enthusiasm. “I’ve always been keen on sharing my research and discoveries with the public,” says Dr. Jones. “I’ve found the best way to communicate science is to get out there and do science in highly visible places, and interact with the public while you are doing it. Project UFO took the team to all corners of Cape Breton, and we did our most effective public outreach while monitoring invasive species at fishing wharves.”

Dr. Jones has been the driving force behind several public awareness programs that have had a major impact on the perception and understanding of threats to aquatic environments in Cape Breton. Created in 2008, Project UFO (Unidentified Foreign Organisms) is a public outreach initiative to educate the public about the issues surrounding invasive alien species in Cape Breton. This project also conducts classroom visits and invited lectures. In 2003, Dr. Jones conducted research at the Sydney Tar Ponds. Considered one of Canada’s worst environmental sites, her findings helped to inform the public about the nature of aquatic life in the Tar Ponds, and her work had a positive influence on the perceptions held by many people.

She notes “I don’t miss an opportunity to talk about science. By using local examples, I try and motivate my students and the public to become more engaged in such broad-scale issues as the effects of pollution on ecosystems.”

Dr. Jones has always had an interest in graphic design and throughout the years she has been able to combine both her passions. In July 2010, she was appointed Chair of the Department of Biology at CBU, her first objective was to design and edit a departmental newsletter. BIOLuminescence is a periodic publication that highlights the activities of the Department of Biology, which focuses on student and faculty research initiatives. She has also worked on numerous websites, posters, brochures and presentations to convey science messages.

Dr. Robert Bailey, Vice-President, Academic and Provost, Cape Breton University says, “Martha is the best kind of science academic – she does first rate work in an important research area and manages to convey her passion for that work to the public. This engages and inspires both the lay people she talks with and her colleagues at CBU.”

An ambassador for the environment and a leader in her field, Dr. Jones serves as President of the Atlantic Coastal and Estuarine Science Society (ACCESS). She co-developed and now maintains their website as a means of disseminating information about research in estuarine and coastal science in the Atlantic Provinces. As part of her role as President, Dr. Jones is also a member of the Board of Governors for the international Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation (CERF). Through these initiatives, Dr. Jones is making a difference in her field and putting CBU on the map locally, nationally and internationally.

Last week, Dr. Jones was also presented with the 2010 Science Champion Award during the Discovery Awards for Science and Technology.

For more information on Project UFO visit www.projectufo.ca.
For information on the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada visit http://www.nserc crsng.gc.ca.