Saint Andrews native receives major ecotoxicity award

Tori Skodje photo Rebecca Eldridge grew up in Saint Andrews and worked at the Huntsman Marine Science Centre for five years. She is the 2022 recipient of the Dr. Richard C. Playle Award for outstanding thesis in Ecotoxicity.

SAINT ANDREWS – Rebecca Eldridge is the 2022 recipient of the Richard C. Playle award.

The Canadian Ecotoxicity Workshop (CEW) presents the annual award in memory of Wilfrid Laurier University biology professor Dr. Richard Colin Playle. Quality of the applicant, thesis presentation and the quality of the science are all taken into consideration during the recipient selection.

The CEW looks for a recipient who has made diverse contributions to the community, following Playle’s philosophy that life should be well-rounded.

They recognized all those requirements in Eldridge, who hails from Saint Andrews.

“I was very fortunate,” said Eldridge. “To be recognized for the tough work is just amazing.”

Eldridge worked with the Huntsman Marine Science Centre for five years while completing her Masters of Science in Aquatic Ecotoxicology at the University of Manitoba.

She spent six months at the university and the rest of her time working out of the Huntsman.

“It was really a natural fit,” she said.

After wrapping up her first six months at the Huntsman, Eldridge had the opportunity to learn from one of her greatest mentors, Dr. Benjamin de Jourdan.

“He supported me and eventually asked if I’d be interested in a masters,” said Eldridge. “He’s definitely the reason I went down this path.”

At the time, Eldridge was learning from her mentor and his work researching oil spills.

“I don’t know if it was the subject matter, or him being so enthusiastic about it,” she said.

She credited Dr. Mark Hanson at the University of Manitoba as being her other great mentor throughout her master’s work.

“The two of them are the reason why I started and why I’m still doing this work,” she said.

Her thesis, titled A new toxicity test with the Arctic algae Nitzschia frigida, included a critical review of the data that currently exists for the Arctic. Through her research, Eldridge found that the data that does exist is unreliable.

“We as scientists need to do a lot better,” she said. “The Arctic is at really high risk to the effects of climate change.”

Eldridge currently works for Dillon Consulting where she is doing exactly what her masters focused on.

“To be able to find a job that was exactly what I wanted to do was amazing,” she said.

Logistically, work in the Arctic is difficult. No matter how difficult, she continues to enjoy the work and each opportunity that comes her way.

She spent some time in the Northwest Territories completing field work. Despite the long days, she was grateful to be completing important work, working toward changing her thesis findings and increasing the research coming out of the Arctic.

It was after a long day of field work in the Northwest Territories that Eldridge saw the email notifying her of her receival of the award.

“I’m not the only one who put the work in … this is definitely as much of an award for the whole team of us,” she said.

Through her role with Dillion Consulting, Eldridge will continue to work toward filling the gaps in research surrounding the Arctic.