Canada Research Chair in Trophic Ecology
All animals must eat. The availability of edible food, however, is profoundly influenced by nature’s rhythms pressing up against increasing consumptive demands and man’s impact on the environment.
All animals, including humans, are embedded in food webs. An organism’s position within a food web is central in determining the amount of energy and nutrients available to it. Strategic positioning is key to survival. Global change can profoundly alter the structure and links within food webs, ultimately changing the types and abundance of organisms able to survive in an ecosystem. Our ability to sustain healthy ecosystems and feed burgeoning populations depends on understanding how nature and humans interact with the structure and function of ecosystems.
Dr. Fisk’s research will simultaneously examine the structure, function and flow of nutrients in aquatic food webs, using a suite of naturally-occurring and anthropogenically-introduced chemical tracers. In controlled laboratory studies he will calibrate the tracers for aquatic organisms (e.g., walleye) and in detailed field studies he will apply study results to questions on the structure and function of aquatic ecosystems. These tracers are also important for the health of humans and wildlife. The right combination of essential fatty acids, for example, promotes human health and fish growth, but often results in simultaneous exposure to toxic mercury and PCBs.
Characterizing and understanding the influence of natural variation and anthropogenic stress on food webs is essential for effective conservation and management and ultimately for healthy and sustainable ecosystems. Dr. Fisk’s research will develop tools for studying ecosystem structure and provide new information on how ecosystems function and how they react to environmental stressors.
Canada Research Chair in Supramolecular Chemistry & Functional Materials
The Centre for Catalysis and Materials Research has been established at the University of Windsor to help address issues such as the increasing demand in the industrial sector for new materials and chemicals to develop products and high technology tools, and for conducting research on new chemical processes, catalyst technologies and high tech materials to stimulate industrial growth while minimizing environmental damage. The Centre builds on the university's established expertise in catalysisand new materials to form a critical mass of researchers capable of having a significant academic and economic impact.
Dr. Stephen Loeb and other researchers at the Centre are seeking to uncover new catalysts for the production of polymers, bulk chemicals, specialty products and pharmaceuticals. The team will use funding from the Canada Research Chair to help develop approaches to the alteration of traditional polymers and the discovery of new polymers and solid-state materials. Supramolecular polymers have potential applications in electro-optics and photo-switching. Another focus of research will be layered and three-dimensional metal-organic solids with the potential for detection and adsorption (or adhesion) of small molecules such as pollutants.
The Canada Research Chair funds will also enable Dr. Loeb to accept more graduate students and to hire more post-doctoral fellows, which will aid significantly in the operation and management of the research group.
The production of chemicals is an integral component of the Canadian economy and the development of new technologies for the production of these materials is critical if Canadian manufacturers are to maintain a globally competitive position.
Canada Research Chair in Integrative Ecology - Linking Environmental Stressors to Individual and Population Health
Innovative new tools are helping Dr. Oliver Love understand the broad role of environmental stressors in shaping population health by examining the capacity of individuals to respond to a rapidly-changing world.
Although his lab’s integrative work uses avian species living in Polar and temperate environments as a model, Dr. Love studies common physiological stress pathways that humans share with many other species. The result is broad, predictive applicability to determine how and why environmental stressors as a whole affect the everyday well-being of a diversity of species.
Ultimately, the answers will aid a diverse set of ecological, environmental and medical researchers to better appreciate how and why environmental stressors as seemingly diverse as climate change, human-induced habitat destruction, and even maternal stress are commonly linked via their singular ability to alter the productivity of individuals and hence the health of populations they make up.
By understanding how and why organisms have evolved to match their physiological responses to environmental change, Dr. Love’s lab is helping researchers to better predict which individuals, populations, or species are most at-risk to further human-induced changes to the world’s ecosystems. From a human health perspective, a strong understanding of why the match between a physiological response and an environmental stressor has evolved will significantly improve our understanding of the origins of many stress-induced diseases.
As a whole, this highly novel and integrative research approach further enables Canada to play a significant leadership role in helping to solve many diverse and rapidly emerging human-derived environmental issues of global concern.
Canada Research Chair in Aquatic Invasive Species
Alien species are one of the greatest ecological problems affecting global biodiversity today. The Great Lakes have been invaded by at least 180 alien species, while our coastal marine ecosystems face an increasing number of harmful invasions. These alien species disrupt foodwebs and harm economic resources. Canada has placed a very high priority on preventing introduction of new alien species, and on early detection programs for when prevention fails. Early detection of aquatic invaders is very difficult, however, because initial population numbers are typically very low and because visibility of species is less apparent in aquatic than in terrestrial environments.
Dr. MacIsaac's lab will explore use of molecular techniques to detect the entire species complement present in a number of vulnerable aquatic ecosystems across Canada. These techniques rely on identification of species by their species-specific DNA patterns rather than traditional methods that use microscopy. Water samples will be collected from ports, following which DNA will be extracted, amplified and sequenced. DNA sequences will then be compared to reference databases, allowing species determination.
The risk of a successful invasion is determined both by the number of alien species introduced and by their abundance when released – often by ships – into Canadian waters. These relationships will be studied in experiments conducted using ballast water contained in ships arriving to Canadian ports. Efforts will focus on the relative importance of these two parameters and the identification of ships and shipping routes that pose the greatest threat of new species introductions.
These studies will allow the more effective management of arriving ships to reduce the overall number of alien species that successfully colonize Canadian waters.
Canada Research Chair in Sexual Violence
University is meant to be a place where all students can focus solely on learning in a safe environment. Yet, as many as one in four women attending a postsecondary institution will experience rape or attempted rape before they graduate.
The scope and impact of the problem underscores the importance for researchers to develop and evaluate interventions on campuses to help combat this reality.
Over the course of more than 10 years, Charlene Senn, who is Canada Research Chair in Sexual Violence, has developed a sexual assault resistance education program for women in their first year of university or college, which is when their risk is the highest. Senn’s Enhanced Assess, Acknowledge, Act (EAAA) program affirms men’s responsibility to stop rape, while empowering female students with the knowledge and skills to fight back against a sexual attack.
The effectiveness of this program was demonstrated in a randomized controlled trial, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, in which the rate of one-year incidence of completed rape was reduced by almost 50% among women who took the intervention program compared to the control group.
Senn’s research now focuses on studying and enhancing the effectiveness and implementation of the EAAA as it is rolled out on campuses across North America. Her research on institutionalizing bystander programs for students of all genders will contribute to broader changes in campus culture. This research has the potential to reduce the incidences of rape on campuses across North America.e
Canada Research Chair in Art, Science and Ecology
Dr. Jennifer Willet is an internationally recognized artist and researcher in the field of bioart. Bioart is a contemporary art form that uses biological media—such as living cells, bacteria and plants—rather than paint or clay to create art.
Willet’s focus is on creative biotech research and teaching biotech skills to the next generation of artists interested in science and technology. Her creative artwork
s also promotes critical thinking in science and technology literacy in general.
She has worked in laboratories globally researching tissue culture, microbiology, and molecular biology from an arts perspective, with an emphasis on subjective experience and bioethics. Her research has resulted in artworks like “The Great Lakes Algae Organ”—a bicycle-pulled street organ that grows and displays a large algae colony and plays organ music—and “Windsor Yeast,” where live yeast colonies sampled from the City of Windsor post-industrial ecology are grown in petri dishes over photographs of the city.
Ultimately, Willet’s goal is to encourage non-specialists and researchers across disciplines to work with scientists, industry and policy-makers in co-determining our shared biotech future.
Canada Research Chair in Automotive Sensors and Information Systems
Canada Research Chair in International and Intercultural Reciprocal Learning in Education
Challenging the East-West Dichotomy: What can we reciprocally learn from each other?
Research that looks at educational similarities and differences between two cultures and aims to explore how teachers can reciprocally learn from each other is at the core of Dr. Shijing Xu’s program in international and intercultural reciprocal learning in education. Her research program focuses on identifying educational needs and issues shared by stakeholders in both Canada and China and builds a multidimensional bridge to bring people together from both educational research and practice to study these needs and issues and learn from one another in a diverse and interdependent world.
Dr. Xu’s Canada Research Chair program will build on her previous work, the Shanghai-Toronto-Beijing Sister School Network and the Teacher Education Reciprocal Learning Program between the University of Windsor and Southwest University in China, which established a Canada-China reciprocal learning partnership that includes two Canadian and five Chinese universities, two Canadian school boards, 40 associated schools in Canada and China, and 42 researchers, 35 graduate students and two post-doctoral fellows working together on six Canada-China research teams. The CRC research program is aimed at comparing and contrasting Canadian and Chinese education in such a way that the cultural narratives of each provide frameworks for understanding and appreciating educational similarities and differences. Specifically, some of the questions to be answered are: How different and similar are Chinese Confucian and Western educational systems and practices? How are school practices and student accomplishments functions of socio-cultural narratives? What can we learn reciprocally from each other as global issues continue to come to the forefront in educational planning and practice? The results of these studies will aim to make an impact on public educational discourse, policy and practice.