Prof Gets $1.6 Million Grant to Train, Mentor Future Leaders

August 12, 2013 - News Release

A University of Guelph professor has received nearly $1.6 million from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to help “CREATE” the next generation of environmental leaders.

Paul Sibley, a professor and associate director of graduate studies in the School of Environmental Sciences, was among the winners of NSERC’s 2013 Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) Program Competition announced today in Montreal by Greg Rickford, minister of state (science and technology). The program supports unique mentoring, learning and research opportunities that address significant scientific challenges.

Sibley will head a project involving 10 universities in Canada and the United States, as well as government agencies and conservation groups. It will train a select group of graduate students over six years with a focus on better understanding and protecting the economically and environmentally important Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin.

Sibley is the first U of G professor to receive a CREATE grant, which involves a rigorous application and review process.

“This is a prestigious award and wonderful news for Paul and the entire University community,” said Kevin Hall, vice-president (research).

“It will allow U of G to spearhead unparalleled research and learning opportunities, helping ensure that the leaders of tomorrow have the knowledge and expertise to best protect the Great Lakes and other significant areas.”

Home to one-fifth of the world’s freshwater and some of the most productive agricultural land in North America, the Great Lakes region is a key industrial and manufacturing centre. More than 35 million people live within and, in many cases, depend on the Great Lakes and its watersheds.

“With such an intense human presence comes a heavy human footprint,” Sibley said. “The Great Lakes have a well-documented legacy of anthropogenic impacts,” including invasive species, nutrient loading and chemical contamination. Ecological sustainability is also an ongoing concern.

“Historically, these problems have been examined from the perspective of individual stressors, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that effective, realistic solutions to these issues must be founded on a comprehensive understanding of how these stressors interact and their cumulative effects,” Sibley said.

The U of G CREATE program will integrate scientific, social and economic directions and promote interaction among researchers, policymakers and the public. While the focus will be on master’s and PhD students, there will be spaces for senior undergraduate students and post-doctoral researchers as well.

Participants will learn how to assess and address the multiple stressors and their cumulative effects, and will work collaboratively to come up with international solutions. The goal is for graduates to emerge ready to assume key positions in government, industry and academia to help guide and create effective policies and management strategies.

“The training received by students extends far beyond the borders of the Great Lakes,” Sibley said. “Many of the processes and techniques that students learn will be applicable in other regions of Canada that are also facing environmental issues.” This will help alleviate the growing deficit of environmental expertise Canada has experienced in recent years, he said.

Sibley is also part of the Canadian Network for Aquatic Ecosystem Services research team that received $4.4 million from NSERC earlier this year. He’s working with 27 other researchers from 11 universities to help protect Canada’s wetlands, lakes and rivers.

Prof. Paul Sibley
School of Environmental Sciences
519 824-4120, Ext.52707 or 53926

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or; or Kevin Gonsalves, Ext. 56982, or

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