The Qilak Award for Astronomy Communications, Public Education and Outreach

The Qilak award was developed jointly by the Beyond International Year of Astronomy group (a collaboration of CASCA, the FAAQ and the RASC). Established in 2011, these Awards are given, one by each of the sponsoring organizations, with a common purpose and evaluation criteria. The Qilak Award recognizes individual Canadian residents, or teams of residents, who have made an outstanding contribution either to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy in Canada, or to informal astronomy education in Canada. Beginning in 2018, CASCA will separate award cycles to recognize outreach efforts accumulated over a career in odd years and recent and impactful outreach activities in even years. Nominations should carefully outline why a given nominee or group of nominees falls with a specific category. In recognition of the nuances associated with group nominations, the Award can only be received by a specific group once every 8 years. Individual nominees may only win the Award once, and individual Award winners may not be nominated as part of a group award. The Award is open to all CASCA members.

One goal the award is to promote such activities among the members of the sponsoring organizations. The recipient of the CASCA Qilak award will write an invited article for the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (JRASC), and will be offered the opportunity to address the membership at the Annual General Meeting of the Society.

The nomination package must consist of a joint letter of nomination by at least two members in good standing of CASCA. No letter should exceed three pages in length. A letter of nomination should highlight how the nominee, or team of nominees, have distinguished themselves in astronomy outreach or communication, and/or cite exceptional achievements. Additional material such as examples of a nominees work is allowed.

For the 2019 award, letters of nomination and any supporting materials must be received by the chair of the Awards Committee and the CASCA Business Office, by Dec 1 2018.

2018 Qilak Award


CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Robert Thacker of St. Mary’s University as the 2018 recipient of the Qilak Award.

Dr. Thacker received his PhD in Physics from the University of Alberta in 1999. He is now Professor and Director of the Science Outreach Centre at Saint Mary’s University, following a Canada Research Chair position (2007-17). Dr. Thacker is a passionate communicator of science and a tireless advocate for astronomy research in Canada.

In addition to maintaining an internationally recognized research portfolio, he dedicates his time to science outreach through mass media, and as it relates to the public understanding of science. Since 2009 he has participated in a vast number of outreach activities including promoting science weekly to 30,000+ radio listeners in Halifax and across Canada, participation in media (including TV, radio) interviews & science programmes, authoring popular articles for magazines and websites, co-spearheading the renovation of the Burke-Gaffney Observatory, giving public lectures (including prize lectures) and school/student presentations, co-authoring an integrated science textbook for beginning science students and promoting inclusion and accessibility in STEM fields. He has become a well-known subject area expert in the Halifax media earning popular nicknames such as “Dr Rob of the Science Files” and the “Science Ship Pilot”.

CASCA is delighted to recognize Dr. Thacker’s tireless efforts for communicating astronomy in Atlantic Canada and beyond.

Recipients to date have been:
2017 ChastenayPierre Chastenay Université du Québec à Montréal Teaching & learning astronomy in Elementary Schools Full Citation.
2016 MatthewsJaymie Matthews University of British Columbia When galaxies, puppets and Ashton Kutcher collide. Full Citation.
2015 DelaneyPaul Delaney York University Outreach from the York Observatory: 40 Years and Counting! Full Citation.
2014 Trottier_Howard (11)finsmHoward Trottier Simon Fraser University The IYA and Beyond at Simon Fraser University. Full Citation.
2013 James Hesser National Research Council of Canada Provocative Reflections on Communicating Astronomy in 2013 Canada. Full Citation.
2012 John R. Percy University of Toronto “A Half-Century of Astronomy Outreach: Reflections, and Lessons Learned”

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