Masters candidate, Geography
Enjoying the opportunity to merge science with social science
By Meredith Dault
February 27, 2012
Bassutti’s current work is centered around studying the effects of both land use changes and climate change on water bodies. He came to his subject matter when his now-supervisor, Scott Lamoureux presented him with an opportunity to work on a project studying lakes in the region around Bon Echo Provincial Park. Bassutti, 25, hails from Cobourg, and has spent a lot of time in the region camping and visiting his cottage in the area. Because of this, he saw one big advantage in taking on this project, “I got to do lots of fieldwork on the lakes in the summer,” he explains, “and after doing my research, I could jump over the side of the boat and go for a swim!”
When he’s in the field, Bassutti’s work involves taking sediment cores -- essentially tubes of mud -- from the bottom of the lake to get a better sense of what’s happening beneath the surface. “The idea is that anything around or within the lake settles to the bottom,” he says. “You can see the years in different layers, and you can observe trace environmental changes through time.”
But it’s not work that’s just restricted to the summer. In the winter, Bassutti explains that researchers have to auger a hole in the ice on the lake’s surface, so they can send down coring devices. “The coring devices are tubes that sink into the bottom under their own weight,” he says, describing weighted tubes that work like extra-long drinking straws. “You cover one end, and the mud that’s been sucked up at the bottom stays inside.”
But Bassutti’s focus isn’t only on things that are happening in his own community. In fact, he says it was a trip to the Arctic while he was an undergraduate, that first piqued his interest in studying lakes and ultimately helped direct him towards his current work. “I did a lot of lake and river stuff then, and I got more interested in studying water and water properties.” He explains. “We were studying the effects of climate change on watersheds there.” He returned to the area on two more occasions as a graduate research assistant.
Now working closer to home, Bassutti says one of the things he likes best about his current research is the opportunity to share what he’s learning with members of the local community, many of whom have observed their own signs of climate change, from seeing less snow, to noticing thinner ice cover on the lakes in the winter.
“My science backs up the observations of local community members. this can lead to better planning and better prediction of future changes -- especially since so many of the industries in the area rely on natural resources and tourism, both of which are closely tied to water bodies.”
While Bassutti still isn’t convinced there will be a PhD in his future, his work with the community has proved that he does see an exciting potential in working in the field of science education. “My future job will ideally involve doing science, but also working one-on-one with community members, perhaps through teaching,” he muses. “Generally, I am a people person. And it’s nice to be able to share your knowledge.”
Bassutti, who expects to graduate in the spring, says studying in the Department of Geography has provided him with all kinds of opportunities to challenge himself, to do field work in both local and remote locations, and to engage with the wider world. “I don’t know of any other department that merges science with social science as well.”