Friday, September 2, 2011

Canada Foundation for Innovation Invests in U of G Research, Innovation

GUELPH, Ontario September 01, 2011 - University of Guelph News Release

Researchers at the University of Guelph who are striving to find solutions for some of today’s pressing global issues — biodiversity conservation, clean water, physical and mental health ailments — have received nearly $700,000 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

The investment, announced today by Gary Goodyear, minister of state (science and technology), and CFI president and CEO Gilles Patry, will support scientists using DNA barcoding technology to better understand and mitigate the effects of climate change and human impacts on the arctic, tropical and temperate environments.

It will also assist psychology professors examining how the Internet influences teens who engage in self-injury, engineers developing new wastewater treatments, and food scientists creating products to improve human health.

“University of Guelph researchers are setting the bar when it comes to innovations and discoveries that will help fill knowledge gaps, which are adversely affecting human and environmental health,” said Kevin Hall, vice-president (research).

“Not only will these projects result in significant advancements in the fields of ecology, food science, engineering and psychology, but they will also link research outcomes to practical applications, improving everyday life for Canadians.”

The funding comes from CFI’s Leaders Opportunity Fund (LOF), intended to allow Canadian universities to attract and retain leading faculty and researchers. LOF recipients apply for matching funding from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation.

Integrative biology professors Sarah Adamowicz, Mehrdad Hajibabaei and Alex Smith received $375,000 to purchase state-of-the art equipment to support their collaborative research program in biodiversity science.

Using genetic tools, the trio is surveying biodiversity and conducting ecological and evolutionary research in the Canadian Arctic, in Algonquin Provincial Park, Wood Buffalo National Park and other Canadian parks, and in the Area de Conservacion in Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

The goal is to quantify the extent, structure, interactions and future of biodiversity in all of the regions, and compare patterns across groups and locations. The new knowledge gained will enhance technology development and help protect the arctic, forest and tropical ecosystems.

“Our research is a combination of classical and next-generation biodiversity science,” Smith said. “We are all honoured to receive this support from CFI and the Canadian and Ontario governments.”

Hajibabaei added:
“The infrastructure provided for in this grant is a critical part of maintaining research readiness for the influx of students, collaborators and projects that we are growing and sponsoring at U of G. It will be key to maintaining our position at the forefront of the field of biodiversity science.”

All three professors are connected to the Guelph-based Biodiversity Institute of Ontario (BIO), which is the scientific hub for the International Barcode of Life (iBOL) project. It involves 200 researchers from 26 countries creating a barcode reference library for all life and developing new technologies to access and applying DNA barcoding.

Psychology professor Stephen Lewis will use his nearly $65,000 grant to support his research into non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) among teenagers. He’s looking at the nature and impact of NSSI material online and is creating a research program to help youth who engage in this activity and those with other mental health issues.

Prof. Sheng Chang received more than $124,000 to build a process lab in the School of Engineering. He’s working to develop advanced membrane bioreactor technologies for biological wastewater treatment, water reclamation and energy recovery.

Food science professor Lisa Duizer will use her $124,000 grant for equipment in her sensory evaluation laboratory. Here she studies flavours and tastes of food products to better understanding the effects of ingredient manipulation and substitution on sensory quality. This includes creating and testing new health products.

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