Algoma U prof nabs international award for research

For shining a light on a more inclusive way to conduct watershed analysis, Dr. Elaine Ho-Tassone is the winner of this year's International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) Elsevier Early Career Scientist Award.

The Algoma University adjunct professor formally accepted this award Thursday during the 67th IAGLR conference in Windsor.

The Elsevier Early Career Scientist Award is given out to the lead author of a top-ranked paper published in the Journal of Great Lakes Research, who is within five years of graduation from their terminal degree at the time of acceptance.

IAGLR officials presented the award to Ho-Tassone based on her paper "Collaborative watershed analysis: A ‘groupthink’ assessment of cumulative effects," which was published in the June 2023 edition of the Journal of Great Lakes Research.

The paper discusses how current methods of monitoring environmental changes in watersheds could be improved by better emphasizing Indigenous voices and other under-represented perspectives.

Ho-Tassone and her team explored this idea by consulting with water management officials and members of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) people on how to improve water monitoring in the lower Grand River and the nearshore of Lake Erie.

Ho-Tassone's study concludes that this kind of cross-cultural collaboration can lead to a stronger understanding of watershed changes by better connecting the biophysical aspects of the area with social, economic and cultural elements.

“We are aiming to incorporate diverse ways of knowing—Indigenous and non-Indigenous—in assessing human impacts on the Great Lakes," Ho-Tassone said in a Thursday news release from Algoma U.

"These perspectives were integrated through research partnerships with Haudenosaunee youth and mentors, members of the public, and contributions from current water managers and scientists.”

Ho-Tassone also incorporated this kind of cross-cultural collaboration into the study itself by involving Dr. Andrew Judge, an assistant professor of Anishinaabe Studies at Algoma U.

“Dr. Andrew Judge significantly contributed to the publication's narrative by sharing his Anishinaabe perspective, showcasing the inclusive approach that enriches the study's depth and relevance while involving community members meaningfully in the research process,” Ho-Tassone said.

After first attending the University of Waterloo in 2008 to pursue environmental studies, Ho-Tassone earned her PhD in Social and Ecological Sustainability (Integrated Water Management) at the school in 2021.

Since relocating to Sault Ste. Marie in 2020, Ho-Tassone has played a key role in various community initiatives.

This includes working alongside Garden River First Nation to improve community-based monitoring of the St. Marys River.

Ho-Tassone also served as one of the core drivers of a campaign to establish the Canada Water Agency headquarters in the Sault, even if this bid was ultimately unsuccessful.

Because of these efforts, Ho-Tassone cleaned up at the 2022 Strive Young Professionals Group Algoma Visionary Awards, winning the Environmental and Natural Resources Industry Award and being named the Young Professional of the Year.

Ho-Tassone’s current projects include partnerships and collaborations with more than 15 local, regional and national organizations, including Missanabie Cree First Nation, the Sault Ste. Marie Region Conservation Authority, Water Rangers, Great Lakes DataStream and Science North.

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Kyle Darbyson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sault Star