U of G Gets $2.4 Million Via CRC Program

March 15, 2013 - News Release

The University of Guelph will receive $2.4 million through two new prestigious Canada Research Chairs (CRCs) and the renewal of an existing chair.

The announcement was made today by Gary Goodyear, minister of state (science and technology). Guelph now has 35 CRCs. In total, there are 120 new CRCs across Canada, worth about $90.6 million.

U of G received two new Tier 2 chairs: Hydrology and Remote Sensing, to be held by geography professor Aaron Berg; and Environmental Microbiology of Agro-ecosystems, held by environmental sciences professor Kari Dunfield. Tier 2 chairs are considered potential world leaders in their fields and receive $100,000 a year for five years.

As well, a Tier 1 chair in behavioural neuroscience held by psychology professor Linda Parker since 2006 was renewed for another seven years. Tier 1 chairs are acknowledged international leaders in their fields and are awarded $200,000 a year for seven years.

“The research projects of our new chair holders are great examples of how U of G discoveries have tangible impacts, here and around the world,” said Kevin Hall, Guelph’s vice-president (research).

“Aaron and Kari are addressing critical issues in global water scarcity and ecosystem sustainability. With her renewed Tier 1 chair in psychopharmacology and neurobiology, Linda will continue to generate new ideas to benefit people’s lives.”

Berg studies spatial and temporal changes in soil moisture using remote sensing, land surface models and data assimilation systems. Knowing how much water is available in soils helps in agricultural production, flood and drought detection and prediction, and weather and climate forecasting.

Improved observation of soil moisture processes will help with water resources management, evaluation of ecosystems and agricultural health, and climate predictions.

“Being awarded a CRC is certainly an honour,” Berg said. “Personally, I am excited by the opportunities provided by this award to accelerate my research program, pursue some new research avenues, and build on my collaborations with researchers within the University, across Canada and internationally.”

Said Dunfield, “The interdisciplinary nature of my work, which brings together microbiology, biochemistry, ecology and soil science, makes it highly collaborative, and the CRC will allow me to continue to develop international ties and to attract and train highly qualified personnel.”

She studies how microorganisms help ensure environmental sustainability in agro-ecosystems. Learning about key ecosystem services such as greenhouse gas emissions, carbon sequestration, and water quality may help in developing sustainable farming practices.

“Experts predict that the global population will reach nine billion by 2050, and to feed everyone, we’ll need to double the amount of food we currently produce,” she said. “However, we understand that intensive agriculture can cause major environmental challenges.”

Parker studies the psychopharmacology and neurobiology of learning, emotion, sickness and addiction. By understanding basic neural processes involved in modulating drugs’ pharmacological properties, she hopes to help control nausea and vomiting from cancer chemotherapy.

The CRC program was created in 2000 as a way of enabling Canadian universities to attract and retain excellent faculty. It’s overseen by the minister of state (science and technology) and governed by a steering committee made up of the presidents of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Canada Foundation for Innovation, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

“Our government is committed to attracting and retaining the world’s best and brightest researchers, supporting innovation, creating jobs and strengthening our economy,” Goodyear said. “By investing in programs such as the Canada Research Chairs, we are fostering cutting-edge research and the generation of new innovations for the marketplace, for the benefit of Canadians.”

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

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