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Oceans research continues to grow

By Michelle Osmond

Researchers at Memorial University have received $5.5 million for oceans research. Two of the five projects announced on Jan. 22 under Round VI of ACOA’s flagship Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF) were awarded to Memorial researchers. The announcement of $11.7 million in funding was made at Memorial by Keith Ashfield, minister of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency).

The biggest winner in the announcement was the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science for a project titled Sustainable Technology for Polar Ships and Structures (STePS2). Several researchers in the faculty will work with local and international partners to address the shortage of tools and expertise in the engineering of polar ships and structures.

The project, which will cost $6 million, will receive approximately $3 million from the AIF over a five-year period. As associate professor Dr. Steve Bruneau explained, a lot of this research will be computer-based numerical analysis using new advanced modeling of the ice physics and the dynamics of ice interactions with structures.

“This research relates to something that goes on in a very harsh and difficult environment that happens on a large scale,” said Dr. Bruneau, one of the many researchers involved in the STePS2 project. “It would be exceedingly difficult and expensive to prove, by proof testing or otherwise, so we’re going to have to take advantage of our best abilities to model things, either physically on a smaller scale, or numerically and that’s a pretty big challenge; using engineering judgment to be able to model things on smaller scales and be confident in their outcome.”

Dr. Dan Walker is also a faculty member in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and he’s the president of Oceanic Consulting Corporation. Oceanic will receive $2.5 million over three years from the AIF to improve and develop tools and methods to provide comprehensive performance evaluations under a project titled Numerical Simulation of Hydrodynamic Loads in Harsh Marine Environments. This research will be used for a variety of oil and gas exploration and production vessels, and platforms operating in harsh ocean environments.

“The university is at the centre of Newfoundland and Labrador’s research capacity,” commented Dr. Eddy Campbell, acting president and vice-chancellor of Memorial University. “Without research, innovation is difficult. Without innovation, the economy cannot grow vigorously. It is therefore crucial that financial support is obtained from various sources, such as the Atlantic Innovation Fund, and the provincial government’s Industrial Research and Innovation Fund. It’s funding that enables Memorial not only to maintain but grow its level of research for the benefit of the institution, province and country.”

Two of the other three projects announced also had a Memorial connection. Mr. Kevin Fleming’s (B.Comm. LLD ‘90, MBA ‘92) company Camouflage Software Inc. also made the latest round with an AIF investment of $1.7 million to strengthen its flagship program. It’s a program which masks sensitive or personal data in databases to protect privacy and identity. In addition, Compusult, for which Mr. Barry O’Rourke (B.Sc. ’81) is founder and president, was awarded $2.3 million to expand its existing Web Enterprise Suite software, which provides a single point of access to a vast array of location-based information.

There was also good news for Memorial researchers in the Prince Edward Island and the Nova Scotia AIF announcements. Dr. Matthew Rise, Memorial’s Canada Research Chair in Marine Biotechnology, along with Dr. Kurt Gamperl, an associate professor at the Ocean Sciences Centre, are involved in new research that could have Atlantic cod on dinner plates all over the world. They’ll work with Genome Atlantic on the $5.8-million cod aquaculture genomics project to solve the aquaculture industry’s challenge of early maturation in cod, which can account for significant financial losses due to increased production time and decreased product quality.

Dr. Rise will also be working with Aqua Bounty Canada Inc. and other partners on a project entitled Reproductive Confinement for the Safe Cultivation of Genetically Improved Lines of Atlantic Salmon, aimed at improving the culture of reproductively sterile Atlantic salmon. The objective is the safe commercial launch of triploid salmon with Atlantic Canada identified as the source for associated commercial benefits, and worldwide distribution of the product. The project, with total estimated costs of $5.9 million, is receiving $2.9 million from the AIF over a five year period. Dr. Rise will lead the functional genomics components of the research.