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Significant funding to fuel diverse ocean studies

By Jeff Green

Student researchers diving into ocean-related studies are getting a chance to partner with some of the world’s best scientists thanks to substantial funding announced recently for a national group based at Memorial.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) is investing an additional $580,000 into the Canadian Healthy Oceans Network (CHONe) which consists of 65 researchers from 15 universities and multiple federal research labs who focus their work on biodiversity science for the sustainability of Canada’s three oceans.

The network is led by Memorial’s Dr. Paul Snelgrove, Canada Research Chair in Boreal and Cold Ocean Systems.

It was officially launched in January 2009. NSERC is providing $5 million in funding to the group over five years.

The new funding will allow students – and CHONe collaborators – to link up with global experts exploring ocean issues. Students will also get a chance to work in labs and participate in training workshops on policy development.

“Training students in science and policy at the same time is something new, and we think it will be a great asset as they move into the job market,” said Dr. Snelgrove.

The funding was granted under NSERC’s Strategic Network Enhancement Initiative and will help CHONe strengthen its international partnerships, provide training opportunities for its students, and facilitate the translation of CHONe’s research findings into policy application.

Dr. Snelgrove said fusing relationships with experts around the globe is significant since it will allow scientists and student researchers to meet one-on-one.

“Often we find out what others are doing only after they report it in a journal somewhere, but with this funding we can meet and work with them as they develop their ideas and we develop ours,” he noted.

“Science today is increasingly about communication, and the speed of communication is accelerating. We want our students to be at the cutting edge of science and ocean policy, and because this funding will let them visit some of the best ocean science labs outside of Canada we can bring the freshest perspectives into some of the best ocean science labs inside Canada for the benefit of both groups.”

With the longest coastline in the world and a huge geographic region with a small, dispersed population, and an even small ocean sciences community, Canada has a lot of ocean to worry about, said Dr. Snelgrove. He said developing the best possible strategies for ocean stewardship cannot happen without the added expertise and experiences of researchers from other nations.
He praised NSERC for its support of CHONe and their Fisheries and Oceans Canada partnership for their support of the CHONe mandate to develop scientific guidelines for conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity resources.

“Sharing and collaboration ultimately mean better and more comprehensive science,” said Dr. Snelgrove, who added that the latest federal funding will allow researchers to examine critical issues facing Canada’s three oceans.

“Issues include how to locate hotspots of biodiversity in the ocean, how to manage commercial stocks more effectively, how to separate human-induced effects from natural variation, and how to translate all those types of knowledge into effective design of closed areas and related strategies,” he explained.
Students and other researchers interested in learning more about CHONe and its work can find more information online at www.chone.ca.

In addition to NSERC and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, CHONe has also received substantial financial support from a number of other key partners including the provincial government, which has contributed $1 million in cash, and Memorial, which has contributed $427,000 in cash and has provided office space, salary support for a post-doctoral researcher, and financial and administrative services to the Network.
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