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Dr. Roberta Bondar visits Mount Royal University

Neurologist, environmentalist, photographer, Canada’s first female astronaut — and that’s just barely scratching the surface when describing the tour de force that is Dr. Roberta Bondar.

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Dr. Bondar spoke before a large audience of over 500 at Mount Royal University’s Institute for Environmental Sustainability’s inaugural public event held in Ross Glen Hall in the Roderick Mah Centre for Continuous Learning on April 9.

Dr. Bondar spoke before a large audience of over 500 at Mount Royal University’s Institute for Environmental Sustainability’s inaugural public event held in Ross Glen Hall in the Roderick Mah Centre for Continuous Learning on April 9.

Director and Talisman Energy Chair of Environmental Sustainability, Michael Quinn says Dr. Bondar was the ideal choice to kick off what will become an annual event.

“She’s a prominent Canadian and an incredible role model for our students and the Calgary community,” says Quinn.
“Having her perspective on environmental sustainability, especially given her expertise as an astronaut, scientist and neurologist is truly phenomenal.”

Each year, the Institute will bring world-renown speakers of broad public and academic appeal around the topic of sustainability to share their insights with students, staff and faculty at Mount Royal and the wider Calgary community at a free event in the lead up to Earth Day (which is held on April 22 this year).

“I’m looking forward to having an ongoing dialogue with both the on-campus and off-campus communities about our new Institute and how Mount Royal is taking a strong leadership role in the area of environmental sustainability,” says Quinn. “I think it’s an important message and it really positions Mount Royal prominently — certainly regionally, but also nationally and internationally.”

Renaissance woman

The world’s first neurologist in space, Dr. Bondar is globally recognized for her pioneering contribution to space medicine research. For more than a decade at NASA, Dr. Bondar headed an international research team, finding new connections between astronauts recovering from the microgravity of space and neurological illnesses on earth.

A true renaissance woman, Dr. Bondar is an acclaimed photographer of the environment. She is the author of four best-selling photo essay books featuring her stunning photography of the earth.

An author, environmental educator and celebrated landscape photographer, Dr. Bondar has also earned a reputation as a leading speaker and consultant within the medical and scientific communities, and in the field of corporate social responsibility and care for the earth’s environment. She co-founded The Roberta Bondar Foundation, a charitable organization that responds to the need within society to educate and improve knowledge of the environment.

Dr. Bondar touches down at Mount Royal

“So few of us have had an opportunity to see our home planet from space,” says Quinn. “To be able to spend some time with someone who has had that experience and reflected upon it and is moving towards using that in a productive, helpful way for humankind is just a remarkable opportunity.

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Dr. Roberta Bondar.

“Dr. Bondar’s presentation and photographs were incredibly entertaining and awe-inspiring. It really was a great show and a fantastic experience for people who attended.”

Two lucky winners of a social media contest organized by the University got to meet Dr. Bondar before the presentation and also won copies of her latest book.

In addition to speaking about her experience as a Canadian astronaut with NASA, Dr. Bondar spoke about the importance of using earth observation techniques to monitor changes to the environment and make better decisions for a sustainable future.

“While floating within view of the earth, I embraced the new vision of my world, but back on the ground I searched for a way to express what I had seen from space and how I felt about the planet,” says Dr. Bondar.

“I wanted to show the earth through photography — through portraits of the lands and the seas — and reach as many viewers as possible, to encourage them to love and respect our special part of planet earth.”

Dr. Bondar’s experience as a crewmember aboard the space shuttle Discovery left her with a whole new view of science, herself and the future of planet earth. As a medical doctor, her perspective on medicine also changed to encompass more than her specialties of neurology and space medicine to include the health of the environment.

“Science helps us to understand natural phenomena and their interactions,” she says. “Through knowledge, we are better informed to make decisions that affect our health and welfare and diminish our fears about the future.”

Institute for Environmental Sustainability gearing up

Since joining the Institute for Environmental Sustainability in Jan. 2013, Quinn has connected with staff and faculty across the University to help raise the Institute’s profile.

“The response has been incredibly positive, there’s a real appetite on campus for coordinated activity around sustainability research,” says Quinn.

“One of the things that I find most encouraging is that it’s happening in a very strong, interdisciplinary way. It’s one of those topics that cuts across all of the disciplines on campus and creates an opportunity for people to really work together.”

Quinn describes the Institute as a “hub for activity” that will act as a catalyst for research and provide resources and opportunities to bring sustainability teaching to the classroom and research opportunities for undergraduate students in sustainability.

— Jondrea De Ruyter, April 11, 2013