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News Release

April 10, 2006

U of G Biologist Wins Young Investigator Prize

What does a University of Guelph scientist think is the No. 1 environmental threat to you and your kids and their kids and so on? Clue: It’s not global warming or pollution.

Many biologists, including U of G professor Ryan Gregory, believe the single greatest threat facing you and future generations is the loss of other species of living things — often through the destruction of habitat by companies extracting resources to make products for developed countries like Canada.

Understanding the extent and origins of biological diversity is the first step toward protecting it, said Gregory, winner of a prestigious 2006 Young Investigator Prize from the American Society of Naturalists (ASN), one of the top early career awards for evolutionary biologists.

A faculty member in U of G’s Department of Integrative Biology and a U of G graduate, Gregory will head the genomic diversity portion of the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, which will open on campus this summer. Scientists in this leading-edge research centre will conduct studies in many areas of biodiversity science, including the revolutionary use of DNA bar codes — telltale snippets of genetic material used to identify species of living things.

Gregory studies relative genome size, or how much genetic material is found in different species. Besides its fascination for evolutionary biologists, understanding genome size has practical implications. Notably, his efforts to nail down genome sizes will help identify the most suitable genomes to sequence following the successful completion of the Human Genome Project.

The prize is the first international award for Gregory, who earlier received the NSERC Alper Prize as the top post-doctoral fellow in Canada as well as a distinguished young alumni award from McMaster University. “It’s really an honour to have my work recognized in Canada, but it’s also important to have it be acknowledged outside of Canada,” he said.

The ASN aims to advance knowledge of organic evolution and link studies across the biological sciences. Gregory will receive his award and present a research paper during the ASN annual meeting in June in New York.

“This award is wonderful recognition of a talented young faculty member who is helping enhance this university’s already strong research profile,” said Prof. Michael Emes, dean of the College of Biological Sciences. “Guelph has become a world leader in biodiversity research.”

Prof. Ryan Gregory
Department of Integrative Biology
(519) 824-4120, Ext. 58053/

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.

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