Mount Allison researchers examining ocean ecosystems, relation to climate change

[24th, Apr 2014] Two Mount Allison University research projects focusing on climate change and ocean health got a major boost in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) as part of a national announcement this week. Biochemistry and chemistry professor… Jeffrey Waller’s lab is examining how algae in the world’s oceans produce the world’s most abundant organic sulfur compound. This compound is produced by many algae to protect themselves and is also believed to play a role in weather patterns and cooling the Earth’s climate. This work has implications in a number of areas including ocean health and enhancing yields among vulnerable crops.

“My team and I are researching how algal cells, through their metabolism, benefit our oceans and environment,” says Waller. “Algae make huge contributions to nourishing the ocean’s ecosystem and influencing weather patterns by releasing chemicals that promote cloud formation. This helps initiate rainfall, cooling the Earth’s climate.”

The second project, looking at the role and quantity of phytoplankton, microscopic floating cells in oceans, is led by Mount Allison biology professor and Canada Research Chair in Phytoplankton Ecophysiology, Dr. Doug Campbell, in collaboration with Dr. Amanda Cockshutt, Mount Allison biochemistry and chemistry professor and chief scientist of Environmental Proteomics, and Dr. Zoe Finkel, Mount Allison geography and environment professor and Canada Research Chair in Marine Environmental Ecology.

“We are examining how phytoplankton carbon exchanges in and out of the ocean relate to climate change,” says Campbell. “The CFI funding will allow us to form valuable research partnerships and help develop our research on phytoplankton responses to environmental changes.”

The CFI funding will support new optical instruments for the team to engage in more technology transfers with fellow research facilities, and train students and researchers. The research team will be working in partnership with Environmental Proteomics, a local company that develops and sells systems to measure proteins in phytoplankton, plants, fish and bacteria.

Both projects will see Mount Allison University students involved as research and lab assistants, adding valuable, practical experience to their undergraduate education.

The projects were funded through the CFI’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund.

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