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Students awarded for psychology research presentations

Author: UNB Newsroom

Posted on Jun 24, 2019

Category: UNB Saint John

Two University of New Brunswick students received recognition for their research at the Science Atlantic Psychology Conference in May.

Caitlin Barry and Morgan Nesbitt, students on UNB’s Saint John campus, won awards for their oral presentations at the conference, hosted at Mount Allison University on May 6 and 7.

Ms. Barry’s presentation examined the relationship between mental health and sexual orientation. Ms. Nesbitt’s looked at the hermit thrust songbird to see if its song types can give insight to neurological research on human speech and language.

Ms. Barry’s research shows that those who identify as homosexual or bisexual experience more bullying and criticism from family and peers compared to those who identify as heterosexual. She impressed judges through explaining data-driven research to back up her claims.

“Canadians are becoming more accepting of LGBTQ issues, but my research shows there are still problems,” she says. “Collecting data is the first step. The next is to figure out what can be done to improve the mental health of LGBTQ people.”

Ms. Barry hopes to expand her research to examine more nuanced links between mental health and sexual orientation, such as those who identify as heterosexual but have homosexual encounters. Ms. Barry would eventually like to get a PhD in clinical psychology and use her research to help those in the LGBTQ community.

Ms. Nesbitt’s work explores the role of song type order in songbird communication, with possible future avenues of research including the neurology of human language and speech. She researched the hermit thrust and found that their songs were moderately predictable. Ms. Nesbitt’s research allowed her to identify patterns that could indicate how this species of bird uses their songs to communicate.

“Songbirds differ greatly in their song types,” says Ms. Nesbitt. “Better understanding how birds use their songs to communicate could potentially help vocal learning research in humans because of the similarity in songbird songs and human speech patterns.”

Ms. Nesbitt is currently in Nova Scotia with her supervising professor studying the province’s denser hermit thrush population. She hopes to learn if each part of the hermit thrush song has a particular function which indicates a specific action like a mating call or a warning of aggression.

Media contact: Kelsey Pye