Tackling the world’s environmental problems through innovation and interdisciplinary collaborations is the focus of a new institute at the University of Guelph.
The Guelph Institute for Environmental Research (GIER) will build on the University’s expertise in the environment and sustainability by bringing together researchers from diverse fields.
“GIER includes researchers from all seven colleges at the University,” said Prof. Madhur Anand, the institute’s inaugural executive director. “Not many places in the world aim to contain such a breadth of environmental inquiry under one umbrella.”
Pressing challenges such as the climate crisis and rapid decline in biodiversity are interdisciplinary in nature and require an understanding of human-environment interactions, said Anand.
“Collaboration is essential for front-line environmental protection, whether that is clean air, clean water, healthy food or any valued ecosystem service. Many of these things are inextricably connected, requiring interdisciplinary approaches.”
More than 200 faculty members across campus study aspects of the environment. With annual funding of more than $400,000, GIER will stimulate collaborations and raise the profile of environmental research through conferences and other gatherings.
“As pressures on the global environment intensify, we must intensify our response as world leaders in many areas of research related to the environment,” said Charlotte Yates, provost and vice-president (academic).
“We have top environmental scholars across our colleges, all doing outstanding work. Establishing improved collaborative relationships between them will help propel innovative and effective solutions to environmental problems.”
Anand, who held the Canada Research Chair in Global Ecological Change and the University Research Chair in Sustainability Science, is an ecologist and poet in the School of Environmental Sciences. She studies responses of ecological systems to global changes, including climate change and human impacts. She will serve as GIER executive director for a two-year renewable term.
“Professor Anand is an internationally recognized poet and ecologist,” said Prof. Noella Gray, Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics, who chaired the selection committee for the executive director. “She exemplifies the interdisciplinary approach to environmental research and scholarship that GIER seeks to foster.”
The new institute will help researchers learn about and capitalize on other members’ diverse insights, experiences and skills, said Anand.
“There is power in working together. The idea is quite simple: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We have such a great diversity of talent here at U of G. We can only benefit from increased interaction, sharing of insights and co-production of projects among researchers. I am very excited to see what kinds of new ideas emerge through GIER.”