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Twelve Trent University Researchers Receive Over $1.6 Million in NSERC Funding

September 8, 2017

Funded projects range from next generation software development to impacts of climate change on Arctic ecosystems

Students work in a science lab with beakers and a microscope

Climate change, Ontario’s water resources, and Arctic Tundra ecosystems – just a few pressing topics in today’s world that Trent’s leading researchers will tackle with the support of over $1.6 million in funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada's Discovery Grant, Discovery Development Grant, and Research Tools and Instruments Grant programs.

"Our NSERC grant recipients reflect the breadth and innovative nature of scientific research being conducted at Trent," said Dr. Neil Emery, vice-president, Research and Innovation at Trent about the funding announcement made today. "The awards are a national recognition of the high calibre of Trent's research enterprise, from our exceptional faculty to our commitment to training new scientists."

A summary of Trent research projects awarded NSERC grants is as follows:

Dr. Erica Nol, Biology, received a Discovery Grant ($165,000 over five years), in addition to a Northern Research Supplement ($75,000 over five years) for her project, Identifying risks to migratory shorebirds. Recognizing that shorebirds are among the most rapidly declining groups of birds in a changing climate, Professor Nol's research will test which conditions at important sites during the annual cycle of Canadian breeding shorebirds promote their survival and hence, conservation. The research will be of value to wildlife managers and researchers.

Dr. Joanna Freeland, Biology, received a Discovery Grant ($165,000 over five years), for her project, Facilitators and outcomes of biological invasions by aquatic macrophytes, which will address critical knowledge gaps in the management of invasive species. In particular, Professor Freeland will study whether non-native plants are more likely to invade recently-altered areas to which native species have not had time to adapt and to what extent invasive plants alter aquatic ecosystems by reducing native biodiversity. Her research will help managers to prevent biological invasions by prioritizing sites where prevention strategies should be focused.

Dr. Aaron Shafer, Forensic Science, received a Discovery Grant ($145,000 over five years) for his Quantifying the drivers of animal migration project. Professor Shafer's research is driven by an urgency to understand the internal drivers of animal migration in the face of disappearing migration, and to evaluate whether populations can cope with anthropogenic and environmental changes to their migratory routes. The research will have a direct impact on ungulate conservation and management, and provide students with skills that are highly transferrable and in demand in the growing Canadian bio-economy.

Dr. Dirk Wallschläger, School of the Environment, received a Discovery Grant ($160,000 over five years) for his Characterization of elemental selenium in waters research project. Professor Wallschläger will develop methods to analyze selenium discharged into aquatic environments from industrial selenium removal systems, to assess whether biological reduction is the right treatment technique in the long term, and help determine if continued low-level selenium emissions from such treatment processes pose any danger to aquatic organisms.

Dr. Peter Lafleur, Geography, received a Discovery Grant ($135,000 over five years) plus a Northern Research Supplement grant ($100,000 over five years) for his project, Arctic tundra ecosystems and their effects in a changing climate. Professor Lafleur will examine how composition and structure of Arctic vegetation influences the exchanges of energy, water and trace gases, so as to improve model predictions of future climate states in the Arctic. His work will increase scientific understanding of how sensitive Arctic ecosystems are to climate change, and provide a framework for policy-makers to improve climate change adaption strategies for northern inhabitants and their communities.

Dr. Chris Metcalfe, School of the Environment, received a Discovery Grant ($140,000 over five years), for his project, Impacts of contaminants on aquatic organisms. Using the state-of-the-art analytical facilities in Trent's Water Quality Centre, Professor Metcalfe and his team will look for subtle changes in the metabolism of fish to see if they are being affected by exposure to the mixture of chemical contaminants that come from sewage treatment plants, industry, and runoff from agricultural fields.

Dr. Catherine Eimers, Geography, received a Discovery Grant ($110,000 over five years), for her project, Landuse and climate change: Impacts on Ontario's water resources. The intersection between prime agricultural land and a large and growing population poses particular challenges for water resources in southern Ontario. Professor Eimers' research will examine how land use and land cover, as well as climate shifts have affected water quantity and quality in southern Ontario and look at whether sustainable practices are having the desired effect.

Dr. Omar Alam, Computing and Information Systems took home a Discovery Grant ($100,000 over five years) for his project, Concern-Driven Development Process. Professor Alam's goal is to develop Concern-Driven Development (CDD), a next generation software development process based on concern-oriented reuse that mitigates the challenges of model reuse in Model Driven Engineering. CDD has the potential to transform the software engineering discipline as a whole, increasing the competitiveness and productivity of the Canadian software industry.

Dr. Wesley Burr, Mathematics, took home a Discovery Grant ($70,000 over five years) for his research on Time Series and Spectral Methods for Imputation, Regression, & Environmental Health. The analysis of time series data in the natural sciences, a key element in interpreting real-world phenomena, is often plagued by missing records. Professor Burr's research deals with the reconstruction of these missing samples, through time series interpolation and the development of additive models. His work will help researchers who analyze long time series, and those who estimate timescale-limited associations, while also improving the reliability of risk estimation for population health.

Dr. Maggie Xenopoulos, Biology, took home a Research Tools and Instruments Grant ($259,200 over two years) for her project, Operation and Maintenance Support for the Experimental Lakes Area. Professor Xenopoulos will work with the International Institute for Sustainable Development on the Experimental Lakes Area, a unique, world-renowned field facility for freshwater research and training. Experiments at the Experimental Lakes have been essential in shaping national and international environmental policy, understanding human impacts on freshwater, and providing hands-on training opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students.

Dr. James Schaefer, Biology, received a Discovery Development Grant ($20,000 over two years) for his research project, The landscape ecology of wildlife conservation. Professor Schaefer's team will develop a new analytical model, the proximity landscape, that will be used to improve our understanding of how landscapes influence the habitat use and the harvesting of large mammals.

Dr. Kenzu Abdella, Mathematics, received a Discovery Development Grant ($20,000 over two years) for Bioeconomic modelling for the management & conservation of renewable resources. Professor Abdella's research will focus on the development of two inter-related bio-economic models which would be used to develop optimal marine resource management frameworks that balance economic benefits, social policies, and conservation objectives.