UPEI part of 'unprecedented' ocean research program
University partnership gets $220M to study key aspects of ocean and ecosystem change
The University of Prince Edward Island is bringing its expertise to a group the government says will make Canada a world leader in ocean science.
The Ocean Frontier Institute, led by Dalhousie University, represents an historic partnership with UPEI and Memorial University in St. John's. It will be one of the world's most significant international ocean science collaborations, the federal government said in a news release.
OFI, with $220 million in funding, will focus on the "globally significant" Northwest Atlantic and Canadian Arctic gateway.
Together, we can help ensure healthy fish in a healthy environment, and nurture a sustainable source of quality protein for future generations.- Alaa Abd-El-Aziz
UPEI will focus primarily on fish health on the east coast, including vaccine development.
"We'll be working on strategies to better manage and prevent disease," said Ian Gardner, Canada Excellence research chair in aquatic epidemiology at the Atlantic Veterinary College.
'We have a lot of bright young people'
The research will also give valuable experience to young scientists, Gardner said.
"One of the really good news parts to this is we have a lot of bright young people, early career scientists. They've have completed PhDs and one of my key goals is to help prepare the next generation of scientists for faculty jobs, leading jobs in government research laboratories — the leading jobs in industry."
The research comes at a "critical time for our planet and its oceans," said UPEI president Alaa Abd-El-Aziz.
"We're proud that UPEI and the Atlantic Veterinary College can bring our unique expertise in aquaculture and marine disease control and prevention to this unprecedented partnership. Together, we can help ensure healthy fish in a healthy environment, and nurture a sustainable source of quality protein for future generations."
Largest grant yet to three universities
The federal government will provide $94 million in funding, which the government said is the largest grant in the history of the three partner universities.
The investment "ensures Canadian institutions, experts and researchers are able to compete and excel globally," said Nova Scotia MP Scott Brison, the president of the Treasury Board.
OFI has also attracted an additional $125 million in support from provincial governments and partners, including a gift of $25 million from Nova Scotia entrepreneur John Risley. The total investment of $220 million is unprecedented in Canada's ocean science sector, the government said.
Ocean and ecosystem change
The three Atlantic universities will also collaborate with eight international partners, including four of the top five ocean institutes in the world as well as partners in federal laboratories, the Royal Canadian Navy, the National Film Board of Canada and national and international industry.
OFI's innovative research program is focused on understanding key aspects of ocean and ecosystem change, delivering ocean data science and technology tools to policy-makers, scientists and industry; and developing safe and sustainable solutions for ocean development.
The Northwest Atlantic is one of the few places on Earth where ocean changes are happening first and happening fastest, making it an epicentre of international scientific interest, the government said in its release.
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With files from Sarah MacMillan