Brock U. researchers tackling allergies and climate change receive Canadian Foundation for Innovation funding

 News from Brock University in St. Catharines/Niagara

Posted August 16th, 2017 on Niagara At Large

Niagara, Ontario – Understanding immune cells and their link to allergies, and mapping the impacts of climate change in Canada’s north are two Brock University research projects that received funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan announced this August 15th.

Kevin Turner will use funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation to further his work on the impacts of climate change in the lake-rich area of the Yukon called Old Crow Flats.

Researchers Adam MacNeil and Kevin Turner received a total of $311,821 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF), which enables leading researchers to purchase equipment for their work.

MacNeil, Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Sciences, studies how mast cells, which evolve from bone marrow stem cells, cause inflammation associated with allergies.

“We’re looking at the molecular and genetic changes that happen to bone marrow-derived stem cells to allow them to become mast cells,” explained MacNeil. “We’re interested in how those mast cells function, and whether or not we can find innovative strategies to target mast cells and block their ability to create allergic inflammation.”

With his JELF funding, MacNeil will purchase a cell sorting and analysis suite — a group of instruments that will allow him to suck out and isolate stem cells developing into mast cells for intense examination.

Turner, Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Tourism Studies, researches how climate change impacts are transforming the landscape of a lake-rich area of the Yukon called Old Crow Flats. He is mapping how carbon moves through the complex lake and river system as permafrost thaws.

Adam MacNeil will use funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation to continue his allergies research.

With his JELF funding, Turner will obtain drones and GPS systems that he will use to create three-dimensional maps twice each season over several years. These maps will be used with sampled sediment, vegetation and water to document rates of landscape changes and associated influences on the carbon balance, as well as river and lake environments.

“It is important for us to continue development of innovative and integrated approaches to monitor landscape changes and impacts across vast northern regions,” Turner said. “Findings will improve predictions of how these important landscapes will respond to future climate change.” 

The John R. Evans Leaders Fund is used by the CFI to help Canadian institutions attract and retain top researchers, by providing the infrastructure they need to remain or become leaders in their field. 

Brock’s Interim Vice-President Research Joffre Mercier said it is gratifying for the University to receive funding that is earmarked for the country’s most significant research projects.

“This will enable two of our researchers to make significant contributions to Canada’s health care and environmental conservation efforts,” he said. “We’re all very proud of the exceptional research performed at Brock, and I look forward to seeing the results.”

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2 responses to “Brock U. researchers tackling allergies and climate change receive Canadian Foundation for Innovation funding

  1. Congratulations to the researchers and to Brock; let’s hope we get some answers on this. I know I’m far from being the only person in Niagara to have suffered more from allergies this summer than ever before in my life…

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  2. The story is especially relevant here in Niagara because we are dealing with a developer, Helen Chang of GR(CAN) Investment Co. Ltd., who wants to bulldoze and pave her way through Niagara’s Provincially Significant Wetland and adjacent savannahs known as Thundering Waters forested wetland. In doing so she would be disrupting and altering a very large and very important carbon sink and watershed, cause the extinction of a good number of endangered species and eliminate the habitat for a great many more. Ours is a unique geological feature that is a remnant of our last ice age and a retreating Lake Tonawanda. Developers and the nodding heads of City Councilors and Niagara Peninsula “Conservation Authority” board members have decimated all but approximately 10% of Niagara’s forested wetlands. A great many residents have been protesting Helen Chang’s proposal and several residents are currently participating in a one-week occupation of Thundering Waters forest in order to bring more attention to this desperate matter and to welcome politicians to the site so that they can learn, and hopefully respect, why protecting our natural resource matters. If this development is to go forward it needs to be moved to a less contentious area, preferably a brown field where remediation of the land would be welcomed, after all, Helen claims to be able to create wetlands where none exist. I welcome her to try, just not at Thundering Waters. Nature is perfect. Human interference is not.

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