Lakehead University researchers secure more than $650,000 in SSHRC grants

October 11, 2023 – Thunder Bay and Orillia, Ont.   

Five research projects at Lakehead University received more than $650,000 in funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). 

SSHRC is the federal research funding agency that promotes and supports research and training in the humanities and social sciences. 

Dr. Tamara L. Varney, Professor of Anthropology, is receiving an Insight Grant for $376,413 over four years. She and a team of researchers across Canada continue to investigate the mystery of how and why so many Royal Navy sailors suffered from lead poisoning while based in Antigua during the late 1700s and early 1800s. 

Earlier research found lead in the bones of many skeletons buried near the site of a former hospital on the island. However, the wide range of lead levels puzzled the research team. 

Dr. Varney’s research project was one of the first to use synchrotron X-ray fluorescence imaging or XFI to examine the pattern of lead within bones. The patterning of the toxic element provides information on the timing of lead exposure during a lifetime. 

Now, they are going back to study the social determinants that may have caused the differences in lead levels and patterning – including if rum distilled with lead-based equipment played a role. 

“We’ve seen lead poisoning before in tinned foods, but these skeletons pre-date the Royal Navy’s use of canned goods,” Dr. Varney said. 

“However, rum rations were still very much in use. In Antigua and elsewhere at the time, lead condensation coils were used in the distillation process.” 

There are other possible sources of lead contamination as well, including freshwater catchment and storage, cooking and serving vessels, and medicinal compounds. Ultimately, Dr. Varney hopes to get a clearer picture of how prevalent lead poisoning was among military personnel compared to the general population on the island. 

The team includes co-investigators Dr. Cassidy R. VanderSchee (The King’s University, Edmonton), Dr. David M.L. Cooper (University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon), Dr. Ian B. Coulthard (Canadian Light Source Inc.), Dr. Treena M. Swanston, (MacEwan University, Edmonton), and Dr. Vaughan Grimes (Memorial University of Newfoundland). 

Dr. Aislin Mushquash, an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Lakehead University, and her PhD student Angela MacIsaac are receiving an Insight Grant for $99,349 over three years to research the relationships between trait victimhood and interpersonal stress and trauma. 

Trait victimhood is a personality trait that influences how individuals feel within social relationships. Those high in the trait are more likely to feel hurt or perceive offenses across relationships. While this trait affects people’s perceptions and beliefs about their relationships, it is less clear how this trait is related to actual interpersonal stress or interpersonal trauma. 

“To best support people, it is important to understand their interpersonal experiences as they relate to past and ongoing situational factors like interpersonal stress and trauma, while also considering the influence of more enduring personality traits like trait victimhood,” Dr. Mushquash said. 

“This research is timely as phrases like ‘victim mentality’ or ‘playing the victim’ are increasingly being used by the public,” MacIsaac said. “It is our hope that these findings will bring greater clarity to the true experiences of those who are high in trait victimhood.” 

Dr. Beth Visser, Interdisciplinary Studies and Psychology, and Dr. Lori Chambers, Gender and Women’s Studies, are co-investigators in the study. 

Dr. Gary Pluim, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at Lakehead Orillia, received an Insight Grant of $51,961 over four years to research a collaborative experience of teaching critical, decolonial global citizenship to Canadian and Ethiopian education students. 

“Research and policy suggest that teachers – including student teachers at university – need to develop a more critical, global lens when it comes to education,” Dr. Pluim said. 

“Despite our increasingly global world, educating teachers is mostly done at the national or even provincial/state levels. The technologies that were advanced during the pandemic are now helping us to bridge international gaps and re-imagine what it means to educate for global citizenship.” 

The study involves investigating the effects of colonization from several vantage points around the world and examining narratives of global history from differing perspectives.  In the study, researchers ask how educators can become prepared to teach global citizenship in critical ways that embrace complex global histories in the service of peace and greater equity.      

Participants from Lakehead’s Orillia campus, in online courses, and from Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia will participate in this research from across the globe. They will provide cross-national insights to qualitatively analyze the effectiveness of co-learning across nations and hemispheres. 

Dr. Pluim and co-investigator Dr. Leigh-Anne Ingram from the Faculty of Education at Lakehead are collaborating on the research project with Dr. Solomon Belay Faris at Addis Ababa University.

Dr. Andrew P. Dean, Lakehead’s Vice-President, Research and Innovation, said the success of these researchers securing SSHRC funding underlines the importance of their work. 

“Lakehead continues to be a world leader in research in the fields of Humanities and Social Sciences,” Dr. Dean said. 

“The research conducted here and in collaboration with other researchers around the world has both local and global applications, which is important because it shows how we can find solutions to a variety of challenges. 

“Thank you once again to SSHRC for recognizing the value of our research projects by continuing to support them. I congratulate the research teams and wish them well as their research progresses,” Dr. Dean said. 

In 2022/23, Lakehead University received more than $2 million in assistance from the Research Support Fund to support the indirect costs of research, which includes costs for supporting the management of intellectual property, research and administration, ethics and regulatory compliance, research resources, research facilities, and research security.


New SSHRC Grants 2023 

Total funding:  $ 652,076 

Insight Grants (three-to-four-year grants) 

Dr. Aislin R. Mushquash, Department of Psychology, Relationships Between Trait Victimhood and Interpersonal Stress and Trauma: a Daily Diary and Cross-sectional Evaluation, $99,349. 


  • Dr. Beth Visser, Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Dr. Lori Chambers, Gender and Women’s Studies 

Dr. Gary W.J. Pluim, Faculty of Education, Decolonizing Global Citizenship in Teacher Education: A Case Study of a Critical, Collaborative Experience for Canadian and Ethiopian University Students, $51,961. 


  • Dr. Leigh-Anne Ingram, Faculty of Education 


  • Dr. Solomon Belay Faris, Addis Ababa University 

Dr. Tamara L. Varney, Department of Anthropology, Identifying the Social Determinants of Lead Poisoning in British Colonial Populations of the Caribbean, $376,413. 


  • Dr. Cassidy R. VanderSchee, The King's University (Edmonton)
  • Dr. David M.L. Cooper, University of Saskatchewan
  • Dr. Ian B. Coulthard, Canadian Light Source Inc.
  • Dr. Treena M. Swanston, MacEwan University
  • Dr. Vaughan Grimes, Memorial University of Newfoundland


Connection Grants (one-year grants)


Dr. Sonia Mastrangelo, Faculty of Education, The Applied Self Regulation Knowledge ConferenceSupporting the Well-Being of University Students, $24,886.


  • Dr. Meridith A. Lovell-Johnston, Faculty of Education.



  • Dr. Anne L. Showalter, The MEHRIT Centre


Dr. Pauline Sameshima, Faculty of Education, Brokering Scientific Knowledge Through Community Arts Integrated Research, $24,706.



  • Dr. Guillaume (Will) Zhao, University of Waterloo
  • Dr. Stephanie Mason, Brock University


Partner Organization

  • Weill Cornell Medicine


Dr. Rosario A. Turvey Department of Sustainability Sciences, Summer Institute on Economic Security and Local Resilience, $24,831.


Partner Engage Grants (one-year grants)


Dr. Martha Dowsley, Departments of Anthropology, and Geography and the Environment, Relationships, Bio-cultural Landscapes and Critical Plant Geographies of Manomin/Wild Rice (Zizania palustris) at Lac Seul First Nation, Northwestern Ontario, $25,000.



  • Dr. Jill Taylor-Hollings, Department of Anthropology


Partner Organization

  • Lac Seul First Nation


Dr. Lindsay Galway, Department of Health Sciences, Re-storying Cumulative Effects on Land, Connectedness to Land, and Well-being with Keewaytinook Okimakanak Tribal Council, $24,930.



  • Dr. Daniel Ducket, Keewaytinook Okimakanak Tribal Council
  • Dr. Robert Stewart, Department of Geography and the Environment


  • Alejandra M. Orozco-Quintero, Ruwaza Sustainable Development Ltd.


Partner Organization

  • Keewaytinook Okimakanak Tribal Council











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Lakehead University is a fully comprehensive university with approximately 9,700 full-time equivalent students and over 2,000 faculty and staff at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead has nine faculties, including Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Graduate Studies, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Law, Natural Resources Management, Science & Environmental Studies, and Social Sciences & Humanities. Lakehead University’s achievements have been recognized nationally and internationally, including being ranked in the top half of Times Higher Education's 2023 World Universities Rankings for the fourth consecutive year, and the number one university in the world with fewer than 9,000 students in THE’s 2023 Impact Rankings (which assesses institutions against the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals). Visit