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‘New horizons’

Federal funding ushers in new era of ocean research


Dr. Christopher Loomis, acting president and chancellor (pro tempore) of Memorial; Federal Industry Minister Tony Clement; Dr. Eliot Phillipson, president and CEO of the Canada Foundation for Innovation; and Dr. Ian Fleming of the Ocean Sciences Centre (OSC) examine the conceptual designs for the renovations of the OSC.

By Jeff Green

The sideways rain and cool summer temperatures couldn’t even dampen the spirits inside the Ocean Sciences Centre (OSC) as Memorial rolled out the welcome mat to host the federal government last month for some big news.

Curious staff members, eager faculty and proud researchers crammed into the Challenger Room on the second floor of the facility to hear details of a more than $6.5 million investment – funding which some say will usher in a new era of research for the venerable centre.

“What a day,” said a visibly pleased Dr. Ian Fleming, a professor at the centre and its former director after the Aug. 11 news conference, “the fruition of a lot of hard work by several people.”

Dr. Fleming is the lead on the successful funding application, which was written collaboratively with Dr. Kurt Gamperl, an associate professor at the OSC, and others at the centre.

The OSC team was awarded the funding through a highly-competitive process.
Through its Leading Edge Fund, the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) is supporting the creation of new state-of-the-art facilities for the study of cold-water and deep-sea organisms and ecosystems at the OSC, located in Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove.

The funding will go towards infrastructure at the centre, including the construction of new buildings, laboratories, research facilities and equipment.
All of which will be put to good use, said Dr. Fleming.

A number of dignitaries were onhand for the news conference including Federal Industry Minister Tony Clement, and Newfoundland and Labrador Senator Fabian Manning.

Dr. Christopher Loomis, president and vice-chancellor (pro tempore) of Memorial, hosted the event and welcomed the federal government’s commitment to research at the university.

“This major investment by the CFI recognizes the quality and impact of cold-ocean studies at Memorial University, and its importance to Canada’s future,” said Dr. Loomis. “It also re-affirms Memorial University as a premier institution in the world for cold-oceans research.”

Mr. Tony Clement said he was delighted to be in Newfoundland and Labrador for the announcement.

“Through the CFI, our government is creating leading-edge facilities to attract world-class researchers,” he said. “These investments make a difference in the lives of Canadians. From project development to the laboratory, Canadians will benefit from the economic stimulus these investments provide.”

‘World-class research’

The announcement will allow Memorial scientists to undertake leading-edge research in deep-sea and cold-ocean organisms and processes, including the responses to environmental change and the impacts of human disturbance, said Dr. Ray Gosine, vice-president (research) pro tempore at Memorial.

“I applaud the CFI for the commitment to fund world-class, innovative research here at Memorial and I congratulate Dr. Fleming and his colleagues on this tremendous achievement which further strengthens our leadership position in the area of oceans research.”

Dr. Fleming said CFI’s support will lead to significant advances in the knowledge of how organisms inhabiting the Arctic and North Atlantic respond to changes in their environment including accelerated climate change, as well as the risks posed by infectious diseases and invasive organisms. The investment will also allow researchers to influence the development of new policies for the management of Canada’s oceans.

Funding for Memorial’s project is part of a major $666,128,376 investment announced by the CFI to support 133 projects at 41 institutions across the country.

“The CFI’s support of cutting-edge research infrastructure has transformed Canada’s research landscape and increased the country’s international competitiveness,” said Dr. Eliot Phillipson, president and CEO of the CFI.
A complete list of projects funded by the CFI can be found online at www.innovation.ca.

The CFI is an independent corporation created by the Government of Canada to fund research infrastructure. The CFI’s mandate is to strengthen the capacity of Canadian universities, colleges, research hospitals, and non-profit research institutions to carry out world-class research and technology development that benefits Canadians.

‘Truly exciting’

Memorial plans to develop a deep-seawater source that will provide consistent, high-quality low-temperature seawater on a year-round basis.

New wet and dry laboratories for cold-water research will also be constructed, allowing researchers to further study deep-ocean organisms.

Additionally, a new facility for work on aquatic infectious diseases and invasive species will also be constructed.

“This new funding is truly exciting for the OSC and will lead to new horizons for research on marine organisms and processes at Memorial University,” Dr. Fleming noted.

Dr. Fleming said the development of a new deep-seawater source will be vital for future research projects at the OSC.

“The existing near-surface, seawater source of the OSC constrains research currently, because of fluctuating seawater temperatures, which are between minus zero and 17°C,” he said.

“A deep-seawater source will not only alleviate these constraints, but also provide increased water volume for improved overall research capacity at the OSC, including the proposed novel research facilities.”
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