Michael Noonan takes Quebec sustainability studies all the way to Oxford
It’s not often you meet a wrestler with solid academic credentials who plays the bagpipes. This could be why multi-talented Michael Noonan is Concordia’s second Rhodes Scholar in four years.
- Be patient.
- Respect for the people who helped me.
- Time, effort and dedication can help you achieve great goals.
Things that drive me
- Understanding how our actions affect the natural world.
- Putting the pieces of the puzzle together to develop a new body of knowledge.
- Continue doing research, and develop the ability to teach those around me the way I’ve been taught.
He picked up the bagpipes on a whim in high school. This skill landed him a summer job performing re-enactments of 18th century military life with the 78th Fraser Highlanders at a local museum. He’s now an ensign with the regiment.
Noonan was also in high school when he started wrestling competitively. His commitment to the sport led him to Concordia, home of the first-place team at the 2011 Canadian Interuniversity Sport Championships.
In his first year at Concordia, he took a class with Biology Professor James Grant, a champion of the university’s interdisciplinary Minor in Sustainability Studies, and developed a passion for studying the relationship between climate change and biological systems. His undergraduate research project examined the impact of river dams on the migration patterns essential for fish life cycles.
For decades, these dams, an important feature of hydroelectric power systems, have been built with special passageways for fish. This is the first study to analyze their efficiency. Noonan learned that, on average, the passageways are only 50 per cent effective.
He graduated with an honours degree in ecology, and is first author on an article published in a prestigious academic journal. His research will encourage improvements in future hydroelectric projects to preserve ecosystems.
“Although hydro power is more environmentally friendly than using fossil fuels, these results can greatly reduce the negative impact these systems have on the environment,” Noonan says.
He will be pursuing climate change research in zoology at the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit. Although he finished classes in December 2011, and won’t start at Oxford until the fall of 2012, Noonan is currently helping Grant investigate the impact of climate change on fish species.