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Memorial researchers get NSERC funding



Research noticed

By Michelle Osmond

Memorial research on sea bird tracking, childhood amnesia and microfluidic cooling devices are targeted in the latest round of NSERC funding Memorial researchers are receiving $7,019,244 for 59 grants in the latest round of NSERC funding. In addition, 83 scholarships worth $1,304,700 were allocated to Memorial students. Funds will be distributed to several faculties and departments including the Faculties of Science and Business as well as the Departments of Earth Sciences, Engineering, Computer Science, and the Marine Institute.

Dr. Bill Montevecchi from the Department of Psychology is one of the researchers getting funding. He is receiving $33,680 for a project titled Foraging and Migratory Ecology of Eastern Canadian Seabirds.

His research focuses on tracking free-ranging seabirds to see how they provision themselves and their offspring.

“Seabirds are Olympian fishers and survivors in the world’s oceans. We have found some incredible deep diving and long-range foraging efforts by murres and gannets,” explained Dr. Montevecchi. “We have also learned that seabirds like human fishers can exhibit remarkable flexibility when fish conditions change as they often do in dynamic ocean environments.”

He and his team also track birds over the North and South Atlantic Ocean in migration studies; travelling to the sub-Antarctic Falkland Islands. In fact, they have found that some Newfoundland gannets are migrating to West Africa and mixing with European gannets there.

“My aim is to understand how seabirds meet daily challenges in a bountiful but often unpredictable and unforgiving ocean that changes seasonally, annually and over their lifetimes. This information provides powerful natural indicators of the changing states of the marine environment and of conservation needs.”

Dr. Carole Patterson, also from the Department of Psychology, will receive $36,745 for her research project Eyewitness Memory and Infantile Amnesia in Children, a project that has been growing for more than a decade. She has been studying children’s eyewitness memory for stressful events and whether children who are extremely upset by an event remember or describe it differently than children who are less upset, how the interviewer’s questions can alter the child’s recounting of what occurred, and what other individual difference variables (e.g., language skill, temperament, attachment) affect long-term memory.

All of these have implications for children’s reliability as witnesses in forensic situations. As well, Dr. Patterson is studying infantile amnesia, or the age of earliest memory and exploring the factors that affect when and what gets remembered years later.

Another example of recent NSERC funding is Dr. Yuri Muzychka’s project Flow Visualization System for Microfluidic Analysis. The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science professor is receiving $134,371 for special research equipment that will allow his team to fabricate small scale devices which have surface features and channels on the micro-meter scale. Without device level cooling, chips run hotter, and are more prone to temperature induced errors and given the space limitations of most modern electronics, microfluidic based technologies are becoming more prevalent.

This new equipment will allow for the creation of micro-fluidic devices in a wide range of materials (from plastics to metals) and with a wide range of channel sizes and geometries for improvements in design.

Jim Prentice, federal minister of Industry and minister responsible for NSERC, and Dr. Suzanne Fortier, president of NSERC, announced on May 21 that $535 million is being provided through grants and scholarships to professors and students at 75 higher education institutions in Canada. The more than $7 million for represents multi-year grants of new and renewed Discovery Grants provided by NSERC from the fall 2007 competition, plus awards under the Research Tools and Instruments competition as well as new Major Resources Support grants awarded to Memorial.
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