U of G Receives $2.2 Million from NSERC

February 08, 2010 - News Release

The University of Guelph has received more than $2.2 million from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) for five strategic team research projects centred around sustainability.

"These awards highlight Guelph's strength, leadership and dedication to research that produces real solutions to real-life issues," said Prof. Kevin Hall, vice-president (research). “The innovations that will result from the projects supported by NSERC will help create healthier environments and ecosystems and sustainable energy, which are important to enhancing scientific discovery and to Canadian society and its economy.”

The awards were announced today in London by Gary Goodyear, minister of state (science and technology). Across the country, the government will invest $53.5 million over three years to support 122 research projects at universities.

The U of G projects run the gamut from genomic selection and mapping of Atlantic salmon populations to improving the quality of stored apples to helping predict critical fire areas.

The funding comes from NSERC’s strategic projects grants program, which supports established research programs in targeted areas, including healthy environments and ecosystems, quality food, sustainable energy systems and advanced communication and information management. Each project is supported for three years.

The Department of Integrative Biology had three projects funded. Prof. Elizabeth Boulding received $563,588 to test genomic selection in Atlantic salmon populations. “My collaborators and I hope this will allow us to take ecologically sustainable aquaculture to the next level by using information from genetic markers coupled with traditional animal breeding to produce faster-growing and more disease-resistant fish.”

The researchers will analyze historical DNA samples belonging to Cooke Aquaculture's elite broodstock from New Brunswick, as well as the wild populations that produced the broodstock. “This will help Fisheries and Oceans Canada understand local adaptation by endangered wild Atlantic salmon from the Bay of Fundy.”

Her colleague, Prof. Merritt Turetsky, received $399,400 to investigate the interactions between drought and wildfire on ecosystem health and carbon cycling in Canadian peatlands.

“Canadian peatlands have served as a long-term sink for atmospheric carbon, but these ecosystems may become more vulnerable to wildfires under climate change,” she said. “This research is important for the management of one of Canada's largest terrestrial carbon stocks under current and future climate scenarios.”

In addition, Prof. John Fryxell received $252,000 to assess the long-term viability of woodland caribou in Ontario. A number of initiatives are underway in Ontario and across the country to reverse the troubling decline in caribou numbers, he said. The Guelph program will help integrate the results of ongoing field studies into a comprehensive computer modelling tool. Among other things, it will be used to evaluate caribou viability in response to long-term climate-change scenarios. “This will help a large set of stakeholders find the best solution to an challenging environmental, social and economic challenge in the Far North.”

Other recipients of the NSERC strategic project grants are:

• Prof. Barry Shelp, Plant Agriculture, $431,734 to improve understanding of the mechanisms responsible for physiological disorders in stored apples. This could lead to improved diagnostic technologies for the $164-million-a-year apple industry.

• Prof. Peter Tremaine, Chemistry, $587,970 for research that improves understanding of the conditions that will be encountered in the novel “Generation IV” CANDU supercritical water-cooled reactor that will come online in 2025.

For media questions, Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, Ext. 53338, lhunt@uoguelph.ca, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982, d.healey@exec.uoguelph.ca

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