FURCA Sustainability Awards

Your research on environmental and social justice issues could win an award at the Festival of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities.

FURCA is the University of Alberta's annual, campus-wide celebration of undergraduate research, showcasing the research and creative achievements of undergraduate students across all disciplines. It's a fantastic opportunity to share your work with other students and professors. You can help inspire and encourage other students to research sustainability topics that you care about. This year, FURCA is happening from March 12-14.

And you could win a cash prize! The Sustainability Council presents the $250 award for Outstanding Sustainability Research to a project demonstrating academic quality, clear communication, and an analysis that integrates the environmental and human dimensions of sustainability.

Who can submit to FURCA?

FURCA welcomes abstract submissions from undergraduate students in any year of study and any discipline. Students may present research completed for academic credit (e.g. capstone, honours, certificate or other research-based course projects), from co-curricular experiences (e.g. summer research, internships, student group activities, etc.), as well as independent or high school research.

Need help preparing an abstract?

Your abstract is more than a summary of your research results, it's your opportunity to make a strong first impression. Learn how to write an abstract that can be used to apply to FURCA or any other conference, journal or funding application.

The Undergraduate Research Initiative regularly presents a free seminar on abstract preparation. You'll learn what information is essential for a strong abstract, how to use your abstract to generate excitement and enthusiasm for your research, and how to address common challenges to writing an effective abstract.

Check the URI Website for upcoming seminars.

Award Winners 

Celebrate the brilliance of undergraduate students who showcased sustainability-related research at FURCA! Delve into the journeys of past winners, exploring their groundbreaking projects and the inspiration that propelled them into the award's limelight.

2024 Winners

2024 | Jacey Brassington and John-Paul Cooper

Jacey and John-Paul used rigorous methodology to identify air quality concerns for commuters using the Edmonton LRT system. 

2024 | Mason D'Souza

Mason D’Souza conducted a study to quantify the emissions associated with the pyrolysis of Polyvinyl Chloride, identifying an important research gap related to the widespread practice of burning plastic waste.

2024 | Hussain Alhussainy and Rian Hoyla

Hussain and Rian examined the UN Sustainable Development Goals from a critical disabilities perspective, highlighting a lack of consideration for the perspectives and challenges of people with disabilities in achieving these goals. 

2023 Winners

2023 | Hannah Kastelic: The Role of Pollinators in Sustainable Agriculture: A Guide For Farmers in Central Alberta

Kastelic, an Environmental and Conservation Sciences student, used her field research to create an interpretive beginner’s guide for Alberta farmers who want to understand how the insects living in their fields can help their crops flourish. The guide is decorated with Kastelic’s own watercolour paintings which portray landscapes and closeups of insects in bright detail.

“I wanted to convey to farmers that there are more insects involved in pollination and other beneficial functions than they may know, and that supporting these insects could help farmers in producing their crops. I would hope it would contribute to more sustainable agriculture, lessening chemical use and supporting the ecosystem overall around crops.”

Read full story

2023 | Paul Sherk: Sustainability Issues with Groundwater Management in Alberta

Sherk, a student in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, combined his literature review of groundwater research on unsustainable groundwater use in Alberta with his flair for filmmaking in a 20-minute documentary which he filmed and edited himself. He notes the dangers posed by groundwater overuse and pollution, and also makes a case for the use of new filtration technologies, and offers tips on minimizing water use.

“The reason I wanted to embark on this project is that I feel like a lot of this information is locked up behind paywalls in scientific journals. I wanted to take the information and display it in a form of media that’s accessible to the general public and is entertaining. That way, people unfamiliar with the topic don’t have to dive into the research themselves.”

Read full story

Watch the film

2023 | Elpida Papathanasoglou: Female Offenders’ Needs and Evaluation of Current Programs and Supports in Canada

For her FURCA project, Criminology major Elpida Papathanasoglou completed a literature review of available academic research on Canada’s female prison population to highlight the different needs of female prisoners as compared to their male counterparts. She outlined how the same treatment for all genders in the Canadian prison system affects women disproportionately and made recommendations for improving the system, such as staffing prisons with female correctional officers to reduce sexual assaults against prisoners.

“The corrections system is built around the male offender — responding to, securing and providing for the male offender. It’s not built for female offenders. From beginning to the end the system is not built for them. We see mandatory minimums affecting them far more negatively than male offenders. We see denial of bail affecting them far more negatively. And see their experience in the institution affect them far worse.”

Read full story

2022 Winners

2022 | Maïlys Paccoud: How historical tree markings can help Indigenous nations win land rights

This research analyzed using archeological evidence of culturally modified trees (CMT) to establish Aboriginal title. These trees preserve evidence of bark harvesting and can satisfy several of the criteria required for Aboriginal title claims in Canadian courts. Despite the evidence for title presented by CMTs, Maïlys found that pursuing Aboriginal title does not offer the entire solution for Indigenous self-determination. Maïlys’s thorough, organized and impressively-presented research looked at the benefits and challenges of using CMTs as evidence, and incorporated Indigenous scholarship in finding solutions for moving past the Canadian legal system for self-determination.

Read story

2022 | Bailey Brockman: Quality healthcare for unhoused Canadians

This research examined the barriers unhoused Canadians face accessing quality healthcare. Bailey proposed a number of measures, such as mobile health care units and permanent housing, that would improve healthcare accessibility and relieve pressure on Canada’s healthcare system. We felt that Bailey’s project addressed the government policies that perpetuate these barriers, and that she made strong connections to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

Read story

2021 Winners

2021 | Kaila Belovich: The Heart of Borneo

This presentation focuses on the multi-faceted sustainability issues the island of Borneo faces. Burdened by alarming rates of deforestation, how can these issues be addressed to mitigate the effects of climate change on its ecosystems and people?

2021 | Vidhya Krishnan: Cow Pee Power

Over recent decades, both the occurrence of harmful algal blooms and resulting toxins has markedly increased. This is a pressing issue, especially given the environmental and human health risks of these toxins.

Read story

2020 Winners

2020 | Freya Hammond-Thrasher: Indigenous Food Sovereignty in Urban Canada

We were impressed with Freya's commitment to an interdisciplinary approach to address food insecurity in Indigenous communities. Her research also disrupts and questions the conventional understanding of food security and urban food sovereignty, with deeper exploration of divergent perspectives and decolonial approaches. This project has the potential to empower Indigenous communities by focusing on youth re-skilling workshops and supporting Indigenous-led initiatives on food gathering practices.

Read Freya's project

Watch the Interview

2020 | Kyle Monda: Complete Streets Audit

We were impressed with the comprehensive approach Kyle took in this project, addressing how a Complete Street would have a bearing on people, planet and profit. This type of work has the potential to make significant positive changes in the communities studied, leading to residents' comfort and safety on the streets, more money in the pockets of local businesses, and infrastructure that's conducive for active transportation.

Read Kyle's project

2019 Winners

2019 | Julie Ostrem: Valuing Augustana's Urban Forest

The inaugural award was presented to Julie Ostrem for her work updating Augustana Campus’ tree inventory. Julie documented each individual tree, and using the 2008 inventory as a reference point, compared species populations and the overall canopy cover. Using a tool developed by the United States Forest Service, iTree, she also calculated its economic value. Her presentation built on this to show how urban forests can reduce our energy needs, intercept stormwater, provide wildlife habitat, remove air pollution including greenhouse gases, and provide health and well-being benefits.

Read Julie's project