Visiting Scholars from Russia

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Two M.Sc. Biology students, Olga Prokopenko and Daria Barykin, from the Federal University of the Far East in Vladivostok, Russia, recently spent 10 weeks at Laurentian University as visiting scholars. Their stay in Sudbury was facilitated by Dr. Frank F. Mallory, Full Professor in the Department of Biology, and their co-supervisor, Dr. Diana Solovyeva, in Russia. The students first met Dr. Mallory, and his Laurentian M.Sc. student, Carly Stranksy, at the International Scientific Conference entitled “Biological Problems of the North” in Magadan, Russia. Following this meeting, Daria and Olga initiated their stay at Laurentian University in order to obtain new skills in data-driven research.

During their time in Sudbury, the students took statistics courses at Laurentian that are not offered at their university in Russia and learned new statistic methods in research by working with their data and applying these new skills to their current research. 

Both Olga’s and Daria’s current research focuses on the migration patterns of arctic birds. Olga’s research is focused on the Pacific Common Eider and its nesting and migration patterns. She collected migratory data using GPS tracking devices to assess migratory movements and stop overs from the Russian Arctic through the Asian-Australian Flyway. Daria studies the Lesser Sandhill Crane, which breeds in the Russian Arctic, but migrates across the Bering Sea to Alaska and down the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains to winter in Texas.  This species also breeds in the Canadian Arctic. In addition, she also studies nesting behaviour and anti-predator and breeding strategies. In their research, they are also looking at the impact of global warming on associated Arctic species composition. Previous research with Dr. Solovyeva has shown that the Arctic Fox populations are in decline and being slowly replaced by the Red Fox, a species from the Russian Boreal Forest Biome. 

Kinross Far East Ltd, a Canadian company with gold mining operations in Russia, supported Olga’s and Daria’s research, allowing them to collect data in the field back in Russia and to come to Canada. The company provided them with a helicopter transportation to travel to remote areas in the Russian Arctic and funded part of their stay in Canada.

The students enjoyed their experience here at Laurentian and met many interesting people. While working in a new language was difficult at times, they were able to acquire many new skills in data-driven statistics and improve their English. They are looking forward to using their new skills in their future research and are hoping to publish their results in Russian and internationally. They give a very special thanks to Dr. Daniel Archambault and his wife Wendy for providing accommodation during their stay.