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Three Trent University Researchers Awarded $190,510 from Canada Foundation for Innovation


Support to Advance Cutting-Edge Research in Psychology, Biology and Environment & Resource Studies

Monday, December 15, 2008, Peterborough

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) announced on December 12 that it has awarded $190,510 to Trent University to support three projects led by Drs. Julian Aherne, Michael Chan-Reynolds and Marcel Dorken. “It’s wonderful to see this level of support from CFI for Trent researchers who continue to make important discoveries every day in ways that help us better understand our world,” said Dr. Gyles Iannone, acting vice president of research for Trent University. “This new funding is also significant because it creates opportunities for our Trent students to get involved in this important work.”

Details of the funded projects are as follows:

Dr. Julian Aherne,
Environment & Resource Studies
Hydrogeochemical laboratory for model input parameters

Dr. Michael Chan-Reynolds,
A cognitive science laboratory for studying reading as an embodied process

Dr. Marcel Dorken,
Equipment for the high-throughput analysis of the evolution of range limits

Professor Aherne, who also holds a prestigious Canada Research Chair in Environmental Modelling, will use the grant to explore the impacts of atmospheric deposition, land use and climate on hydrogeochemistry of forested catchment areas. Environmental modelling is a technique that researchers use to predict how changes in pollution and land use activities will affect climate and the environmental health of certain regions. Last week, his report on the impact of pollution caused by the Alberta oilsands on forests made headlines in the national media. His was the first study ever conducted that measured how much acid from rain can accumulate before the soil starts losing nutrients and tree roots are damaged. Prof. Aherne found up to 12 per cent of the province's forest soils may be over their carrying capacity, probably because of the oilsands.

Assistant professor Chan-Reynolds will use the new CFI funding to set up a state-of-the-art laboratory for studying language comprehension as an embodied processes distributed across the body and environment. The new laboratory consists of specialized equipment for studying how physiological processes in the body need are recruited to assist language comprehension, how the body acts as an attentional system that influences how people are transported into narrative worlds, and how language use is influenced by environmental factors such as emerging technologies for visible language (e.g., electronic books, personal digital assistants, tablet PCs). The importance of understanding how the body and environment shape how we use and understand language is critical, especially considering language’s central role in education, knowledge acquisition, and emerging technology. This new lab will be set up in the recently announced Health Sciences Facility to be developed as part of the DNA complex at Trent University.

Together with co-applicant Dr. Joanna Freeland, chair of Trent’s Forensic Science Program, assistant professor Marcel Dorken will use financial support from CFI to improve our understanding of whether rapid evolutionary change plays a key role in determining the ability of different plant species to expand or shift their geographical ranges. This question will be addressed in the context of two highly topical research areas. The first involves understanding the response of plants to climate change as a key to mapping the predicted movements of ecosystems. Professors Dorken and Freeland believe there is an urgent need to know whether plant populations possess the evolutionary potential to shift their ranges in response to altered climatic regimes. The second area of focus will examine invasive species as they pose a substantial and growing global threat that entails tremendous financial and ecological costs. Scientists still do not fully understand what enables a small proportion of introduced plants to become highly invasive. By studying the potential roles of adaptive change versus the ability to persist in a wide range of environmental conditions, Profs. Dorken and Freeland will generate valuable insight into what enables plants to expand their ranges during biological invasions, or alter their ranges in response to climate change.

“We can say with conviction that Canada has become a place where world-class researchers want to be," said Dr. Eliot Phillipson, president and CEO of the CFI. “This CFI investment will further develop Trent University’s global reputation as a place where outstanding research and training is being conducted.”


For further information, please contact Brittany Cadence, Trent University at (705) 748-1011, ext. 6185.