From fostering Inuit youth environmental leadership to developing new treatments for microbial infections, three University of Guelph research projects will share just under $750,000 in federal New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) support.

NFRF funds research teams that have the capacity to explore new transformational directions.

A project led by Prof. Nicolas Brunet, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, aims to support Inuit youth leadership in environmental research.

The project received $249,750 to will integrate Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ), a body of knowledge and unique cultural insights of Inuit about nature, humans and animals.

Prof. Jennifer Geddes-McAlister, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and collaborators in the Netherlands will use a $249,000 award to develop novel therapeutics to fight microbial infections.

They hope to reduce the global occurrence and effects of antimicrobial resistance to treatment.

Prof. Madhur Anand, School of Environmental Sciences, will use her $250,000 award to examine how human behaviour impacts the rate of climate change and vice versa.

Prof. Nicolas Brunet

“We are inspired by our exceptional researchers and grateful for this prestigious federal funding,” said Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research). “This funding underscores the impressive breadth and depth of the University’s research excellence, which touches on a remarkable diversity of subjects, all of which are sharply focused on our collective aim to improve life.”

Campbell called all three of the NFRF-funded projects “intensely relevant to our time and vitally important for the future of the planet.”

Referring to his planned project in Nunavut, Brunet said, “I’m thrilled that transdisciplinary research has found a home in the NFRF so that we can support the important contributions of local partners in high-impact environmental knowledge production.”

Prof. Shoshanah Jacobs

He leads the project in partnership with Ocean Wise Conservation Association and integrative biology professor Shoshanah Jacobs, and with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Brunet said the team aims to foster Inuit youth leadership in environmental research and monitoring. Inuit youth are chronically underrepresented in northern science, he said.

The project includes developing a novel youth-led participatory and transdisciplinary approach.

Prof. Jennifer Geddes-McAlister
Prof. Jennifer Geddes-McAlister

“We hope to challenge current paradigms that underlie scientific approaches to monitoring complex environmental change associated with pressing issues for the people, species and ecosystems of the high Arctic,” Brunet added.

Geddes-McAlister said her research to combat antimicrobial resistance to therapies is “an exciting project that will develop new technology in two distinct fields of research, biophysics and biochemistry, and combine them to further our understanding of microbiology and immunology.”

She will develop nanotechnology to sort microbial cells and human immune cells during infection to profile genetic, protein and metabolite differences among populations.

Anand said climate change impacts human behaviour and, in turn, that behaviour affects climate change. Her research with coupled human-environment models aims to understand behaviour and identify the best ways to influence it.

Prof. Madhur Anand
Prof. Madhur Anand

“There is a growing awareness that addressing the climate emergency will require understanding and harnessing social forces,” Anand said. “This project will incorporate social dynamics more comprehensively into existing climate models.”

NFRF was launched by the Government of Canada in 2018 to fund interdisciplinary, fast-breaking or high-risk research with the potential to make knowledge breakthroughs. The government committed $275 million over five years to NFRF and $65 million a year after that.