Meet REXSAC PhD students: Caitlynn Lindsay Beckett
Discover the eighth episode of our Q&A series with REXSAC PhD students. This time meet Caitlynn Lindsay Beckett, a PhD candidate in Geography at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. Her research focuses on the remediation of contaminated mining landscapes in Northern Canada.
What drew you to the area/topic of your studies?
I have always been interested in work that bridges biology and environmental sciences with history, community work and policy. I am really motivated by practical community-based work being done to improve environmental and social conditions and to make these environmental-social links central to scientific research and policy change. More specifically, I am interested in resource extraction because, in Canada, we are surrounded by the effects and culture of extraction on a daily basis, and yet these realities are hidden behind ideals of pristine, Canadian wilderness. In addition, for me, engaging in critical social research on resource extraction has pushed me to more directly confront Canadian colonial histories and my own positionality in that structure as a descendent of immigrants to the Canadian prairies.
What are the objectives of your work?
The objectives of my PhD are twofold – the first part of this work, as directed by Ross River First Nation, is to research and write a history or ‘story’ of the Faro Mine that centers the Ross River Kaska Dena community’s experiences of the Faro Mine and their objectives for the Faro Remediation Project. This research is being completed for the Ross River Dena Council. Alongside this specific research objective, I am also analyzing the policy framework for remediation/reclamation and community engagement in the assessment and care of contaminated/legacy mine sites. Through this work, I hope to outline possible recommendations or ways forward for more ethical reclamation practices and long-term care of contaminated sites. At the end of the day, I also want to note that while I have ambitions for the importance/objectives of my PhD research, the heavy lifting of researching, critiquing and improving resource policy has been done, and will continue to be done (first and foremost), by impacted communities.
How does it support the objectives and work of REXSAC?
I think my research fits with the objectives and work of REXSAC because it focuses on locally relevant mechanisms for both living with and looking beyond resource extraction sites. I also hope to provide more research and policy resources for communities looking for better ways of managing and planning for remediation and the long-term care of contaminated sites.
What has been your learnings or reflections from the REXSAC field-based coursework?
Through the REXSAC field-based coursework I have been given the opportunity to visit communities outside of my usual research realm and to piece together extractive resource stories at a larger, international scale. While I really value locally specific, place-based work, having exposure to other extractivism stories and researchers ensures that my research and writing is informed by connected conversations across different geographies.
What are your career aspirations?
At this point, I don’t have any specific career aspirations in mind, other than finishing my PhD in a reasonable amount of time. I constantly go back and forth between wanting to stay in academia and wanting to leave it behind – but I haven’t made any solid choices about which path to push for and am enjoying academic experiences through my PhD while also working for Indigenous governments and local communities on a contract basis. More broadly, I really enjoy ‘on the ground’ community-based work and would like to look for opportunities to continue doing research that is directly informed by and structured by local and Indigenous governments. At this point, I’m not sure if academia is best suited to that kind of work and am hoping to leave myself open to hybrid career opportunities.