Thursday, September 8, 2016

Food from Thought

The official federal announcement was made on Tuesday but today we had our own celebration on campus or more specifically at our institute. The University of Guelph is one of 13 happy recipients of funding from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund. The project that spans across several schools and departments on campus was awarded $76.6M over seven years for an ambitious project:

We share this planet with millions of species. A few feed us directly, while others are central to our planetary ecosystem. Population growth places us in conflict with the natural world, threatening major declines in global biodiversity. The grand challenge is to develop systems that are capable of meeting the rising human demand for food while being resilient to climate change, and able to sustain healthy ecosystems, economies, and populations.

Food from Thought will allow the University of Guelph to become the global leader in this field. It will do so by integrating existing strengths—such as the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, and Canada’s largest network of agriculture and food research facilities—to support a unified scientific vision:
  • to transform our understanding of the ecosystems we depend on for food, at scales that range from planetary to microcosmic; and
  • to increase the capacity, sustainability and safety of food production systems, without undermining environmental health, ecosystem services, or livestock health and welfare.
The theme that ties these objectives together is the effort to move the study of each scale of ecosystem into the world of big data, by employing sensors that gather information in unprecedented volumes, and by developing the capacity to analyze, preserve and curate data.

Personally I am quite pleased about this outcome as I've invested a substantial amount of time and energy into helping to write the proposal. It is always nice to see when all that actually pays off and in this case for a project with so much potential impact and collaborative spirit. 

Some of you might want to know what that means for us or for DNA barcoding in general. Well, this substantial injection of cash will e.g. make sure that BOLD will stay with us for a long time and grow into what its inventor, Sujeevan Ratnasingham, hinted at during his talk at the conference last year. It also means job security for a number of people at the institute and it will allow us to participate at an exciting and meaningful project, showing once more the benefits of the barcoding technology. 

In short: We are still here and we are here to stay!

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