VIU Scholarship, Research, and Creative Activity

2022-23 REACH Award Recipients

Reach winners holding VIU research t-shirts

Part of the 2022-23 REACH Award winners at the REACH 'Get Together' hosted in April 2023.

Fifteen REACH Award Recipients were chosen in the 2022-23 academic year, ten undergraduate and five graduate students. Please read below to learn a little more about their projects.

The REACH Awards provide funding to students doing independent research projects. The deadline is October 31. Connect with for more info!

Undergraduate Projects

Student standing by poster at CREATE

Sierra De Buysscher-Nailor - Faculty of Social Sciences

The Impacts of Climate Change on the Health and Habitat of the Western Honeybee

A bit about this project: The western honeybee is a globally distributed species that is an integral part of many ecosystems. This research aims to identify how climate change will impact the health and the habitat of the western honeybee. The species' ability to forage is reduced at temperatures above 30oC, and this research identified that foraging days have already been reduced since the 1970s and will be further reduced by the 2070s. Overall, this study has found that the western honeybee is currently experiencing the consequences of human-induced climate change and will experience much greater challenges in the future, but that mitigation efforts and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions can have a large impact on their future well-being. 

Department:  Geography      Faculty Mentor:  Jeff Lewis

VIU Research Theme: Health, Resilience and Well-being


Taylor Patenaude - Faculty of Social Sciences 

Social Anxiety Symptomology and Its Relationship to Personal Growth Initiative

A bit about this project: This research aims to help bridge the current gap in empirical literature by investigating how social anxiety symptoms impact personal growth initiatives in young adults between the ages of 18-25. This age range was selected for this study because social anxiety typically begins to manifest during adolescence and increases in severity throughout early adulthood. This data will assist in understanding the relationship between social anxiety and personal growth initiative as well as how to facilitate PGI for individuals struggling with social anxiety symptoms.

Department:  Psychology     Faculty Mentor:  Melanie O'Neill

VIU Research Theme: Health, Resilience and Well-being  

Erika Seaman

Erika Seaman - Faculty of Science & Technology 

The population ecology of Plagiorhyncus cylindraceus (Acanthocephala) in American Robins (Turdus migratorius) from central to south Vancouver Island

A bit about this project: The primary objective of this study is to determine the prevalence, mean intensity, and aggregated distribution in a metapopulation of American Robins in relation to the geographical location from central and south Vancouver Island. As nestlings/fledglings are known to be infected through feeding from their parents, the ages of the birds will be assessed in reference to their plumage characteristics and compared to determine if these parameters vary among juvenile and adult American Robins as a secondary objective. Little research has been conducted on P. cylindraceus in this metapopulation, therefore a study such as this is novel information on the population ecology of this parasite species.

Department:  Biology     Faculty Mentor:  Tim Goater

VIU Research Theme: Integrated Sciences, Technology and Environment. 


Shannon Kavannagah - Faculty of Social Sciences

Investigating Climate Change Anxiety, Personality, and Time Perspective in Canadian Adults

A bit about this project: Growing awareness of climate change and its inherent potential for devastation brings the unique mental health impact of a perceived future threat that is at once terrifying, intangible, and seemingly unavoidable. This perception of threat resulting from climate change is known as climate change anxiety (CCA). As an emerging field of study, there are notable gaps in the CCA literature regarding potential vulnerability factors and relationships with constructs such as personality. The present study aims to answer the following questions: Are specific personality traits associated with the experience of climate change anxiety? Does the perception of time or opportunities remaining in an individual’s life relate to the experience of CCA and engagement in pro-environmental behaviours?

Department:  Psychology     Faculty Mentor:  Melanie O'Neill

VIU Research Theme: Health, Resilience and Well-being 

Kyle Whittemore

Kyle Whittemore - Faculty of Science & Technology 

Microbial Ecology and Soil Properties of Naturalized Meadows in Vancouver, BC

A bit about the project: There has been limited geographical research into the magnitude of soil microbe diversity between disturbed and undisturbed sites and the time required for ecosystems to re-establish after a disturbance event occurs. Due to this, it is difficult to predict how soil microbes will respond to a disturbance event in urban ecosystems such as the City of Vancouver. To determine how meadow naturalization affects microbial biodiversity, function, and soil health, we propose to survey meadows that have been naturalized for varying amounts of time. This study, in partnership with the City of Vancouver, is an excellent opportunity to learn and share knowledge about the magnitude of change in microbial community structure and function over time.

Department:  Biology     Faculty Mentor:  Andrew Loudon

VIU Research Theme: Health, Resilience and Well-being 

Jenna Pierce

Jenna Pierce - Faculty of Social Sciences

Coordination, Advocacy and Burnout: The Impact of Coordinated Community Responses on Violence Against Women Advocates

 A bit about this project: Violence against women (VAW) advocates provide emotional and practical support to women and their children who have experienced or are at threat of experiencing violence, often with limited access to necessary resources to best support them. There is a gap in the current literature examining the impact of coordinated community responses to violence against women on the psychological functioning of Violence against women (VAW) advocates. The current study aimed to examine if Coordinated community responses (CCR) affiliation, the number of agencies advocates work in coordination with, or the number of cross-sector meetings held to address community response to VAW, affected rates of burnout, secondary traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, self-efficacy, co-worker support and organizational support among VAW advocates.

Department:  Psychology     Faculty Mentor:  Melanie O'Neill

VIU Research Theme: Health, Resilience and Well-being 


Brayden Boyd - Faculty of Social Sciences

Occupational Injury Characteristics and Perceived Justice of Workers’ Compensation in British Columbia: A Multiple Mediation Analysis

A bit about this project: People who file a compensation claim following a work-related injury have an increased risk for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance use disorders compared to people who do not file a compensation claim (Applebaum et al., 2019; Kilgour et al., 2015; Kim, 2013). These discoveries suggest the importance of investigating what factors precede such negative interactions between injured workers and compensation claim managers. This research project aims to investigate how specific injury characteristics are associated with compensation claim interactions that impact psychological health, pain acceptance, pain-related disability, and somatic symptom burden.

Department:  Psychology     Faculty Mentor:  Melanie O'Neill

VIU Research Theme: Health, Resilience and Well-being  


Kristen Farley - Faculty of Social Sciences

The Impact of Utilizing Disability Services and Perceived Faculty Knowledge and Attitudes on Undergraduates with Learning Disabilities

A bit about this project: Learning Disabilities (LDs) are neurobiological in origin, cause great academic struggles, and begin in childhood. They are divided into three areas: reading, written expression, and mathematics, ranging from mild to severe (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). No studies have assessed the impact of accessing campus disability services on anxiety, depression, stress symptomology, and perceived social support of students with only LDs. This study aims to fill this gap by investigating the impact of accessing disability services on these variables.

Department:  Psychology     Faculty Mentor:  Melanie O'Neill

VIU Research Theme: Health, Resilience and Well-being   


Hannah Sadler - Faculty of Science & Technology

Identification of Nectar Microbes of flat spurred piperia (Platanthera transversa)

A bit about this project: Plants often offer rewards, such as nectar, to their pollinators to encourage pollen transfer (Johnson et al., 2004). Nectar of animal-pollinated plants such as in the family Orchidaceae are commonly inhabited by bacteria and fungi; however, little is known about their identity (Jacquemyn et al., 2013; Schaeffer et al., 2017). Nectar microbes may influence plant-pollinator interactions by altering the chemistry of nectar, which affects plant reproduction and pollinator foraging behaviours (Russell and McFrederick, 2022). This study aims to identify bacteria found in nectar of flat-spurred piperia (Platanthera transversa) based on time of flower opening.

Department:  Biology     Faculty Mentor:  Jasmine Janes and Andrew Loudon

VIU Research Theme: Integrated Sciences, Technology and Environment


Amy Tan - Faculty of Social Sciences

Food Anticipatory Activity in Drosophila Melanogaster: Unfound or unfounded?

A bit about this project: Eating behaviour is partially controlled by a biological clock. The food clock aligns the body’s metabolic, reward, and feeding-related behaviours to cyclically available food cues. This research project aims to develop a paradigm to study the Drosophila food clock via food anticipatory activity. Elucidating rhythmicity of food anticipation in Drosophila melanogaster will enhance translational understanding of food-seeking behaviours in humans.

Department:  Psychology     Faculty Mentor:  Elliot Marchant

VIU Research Theme: Health, Resilience and Well-being     

Graduate Projects


Tamara Hansen - Faculty of Education / Master of Education in Special Education

Hearing Our Students’ Voices – An Exploration of Young Adolescent Students’ Perspectives on Inclusive Classroom Teaching Practices

A bit about the project: As educators, we honour and recognize the basic human need for inclusion and its value for all everyone.  Although research abounds with regard to inclusive strategies and the unique developmental needs of young adolescents, there is a glaring missing voice in the research – our students.  This research study asked: How do early adolescent students perceive inclusive teaching practices? and attempted to give voice to how young adolescents are experiencing and perceiving what we do in the classroom in our attempts to build inclusive learning environments. 

Faculty Mentor:  Mary Ann Richards

VIU Research Theme: Teaching and Learning


Danielle McKinney - Faculty of Education / Master of Education in Special Education

Supporting Learners with Down Syndrome Using the Behavioural Phenotype and Universal Design for Learning in Inclusive Classrooms

A bit about this project: This study explores how the exchange of knowledge and sharing of experiences using teaching strategies aligns with Universal Design for Learning (UDL) combined with information about the behavioural phenotype for Down syndrome (DS) could benefit teachers and students. UDL is an approach that is widely promoted for inclusive teaching, and many teachers recognize its significance in fostering inclusion.

Faculty Mentor: Alison Taplay

VIU Research Theme: Teaching and Learning



Heather Finlay - Faculty of Education / Master of Education in Special Education

A Multi-perspective Study of Effective Learning for Students with Extensive Support Needs

A bit about this project: The problem of practice my research addresses is the inconsistent, and often minimal access to learning due to persistently low expectations for students with extensive support needs (ESN) that as a result detrimentally impact student growth and outcomes. Effective inclusion for this population of vulnerable students remains one of the most significant critical issues in education.

Faculty Mentor: Mary Ann Richards

VIU Research Theme: Teaching and Learning

Kim Cobb - Faculty of Education / Master of Education in Educational Leadership

A Pan-Canadian Study of Montessori Middle Schools

A bit about this project: There is limited literature specific to the Montessori philosophy of education in Canada, and a complete void of any literature specific to how the philosophy is implemented in early adolescence. To address that gap, the research questions guiding this study are: 1) How many Montessori middle schools/programs exist in Canada and where are they located? 2) What are the commonly held elements of Montessori middle school programming in Canada? 3) How is the Montessori philosophy of education for early adolescence currently being implemented across Canada? Using a complex exploratory mixed methods design, this study has been conducted in three distinct phases, guided by the three research questions.

Faculty Mentor:  Marian Riedel

VIU Research Theme: Teaching and Learning  

Naomi Perry - Faculty of Education/ Master of Education in Special Education

Health Promotion: Strategies for Supporting Students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD)

A bit about this project: Current literature provides evidence that students with IDD are excluded from health promotion efforts and interventions. This issue is a serious gap when it comes to supporting the health of this at-risk population and although research in this field has increased in recent years, there is still more work to be done in order to make health promotion efforts evidence-based and equitable for students IDD. This gap in knowledge has fueled my journey to answer my research question: What do Home Economics teachers know and need to know about supporting health promotion for students with IDD? 

Faculty Mentor:  Bob Esliger

VIU Research Theme:  Teaching and Learning