AU professor wins distinguished dissertation award
Athabasca University’s (AU) own, Dr. Janelle Baker was awarded a 2019 CAGS-ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award.
Two prizes are awarded by the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS) annually to the researchers who make significant contributions to the academic community and Canadian society at large.
Baker, who teaches anthropology within the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at AU, was the winner for the Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences category. Dr. Soren Mellerup was awarded in the Engineering, Medical Sciences and Natural Sciences category for his work conducted at Queen’s University.
Baker completed her Ph.D. in Anthropology at McGill University in 2018. Her dissertation was conducted under the supervision of Professor Colin H. Scott, Department of Anthropology, and is titled Eating in the Oil Sands: Sâkawiyiniwak (Northern Bush Cree) Experiences with Wild Food Contamination in Alberta’s Oil Sands.
Baker’s dissertation is an exploration of sakâwiyiniwak (Northern Bush Cree) experiences with wild or ‘bush’ food contamination in what is now known as Alberta’s oil sands region. It is based on ethnographic research and collaborative experiences with members of Bigstone Cree Nation and Fort McKay First Nation in their traditional territories, and during community-based environmental monitoring studies of wild food contamination.
Since joining AU in 2018, Baker has continued her work by collaborating with Bigstone Cree Nation. It has received an Environment Canada oil sands monitoring grant that funds Bigstone Cree Nation environmental monitors to work with microbiologist Dr. Shauna Reckseidler-Zenteno, Associate Professor, Biology and Vice Dean, Operations, Faculty of Graduate Studies at AU. This grant will sample moose and water quality in Bigstone Cree Nation territory. She is also using her internal AU research funds to study Bigstone Cree Nation members’ food identities in relation to the boreal forest.
For those considering doctoral work in anthropology, Baker believes that “we need to follow our intuition and interests in research. We also need to honour the relationships we make while doing research.”
“At the same time, I think a lot of anthropology students put themselves in dangerous positions while doing research, so I think it’s always important that students do work they are passionate about, but that they also care for themselves and make sure they are in healthy and safe situations.”
On November 7, 2019, Dr. Baker accepted her award at the 2019 CAGS ProQuest 25th Anniversary Distinguished Dissertation Awards Luncheon in Halifax, N.S.