Archive for the ‘Edmonton’ category

LAST STAND for woodland caribou

June 7, 2010

Dr. Rick Schneider

The future for woodland caribou in Alberta is grim.
Indeed, according to Dr. Rick Schneider, a research associate with the Integrated
Landscape Management Program at the University of Alberta, extirpation from this province is just around the corner.
Schneider told researchers and industry partners at the annual general meeting of the ILM group, “If things don’t change, we know that almost all the herds in the province will be down to less than 10 animals within three decades. There’s a couple of exceptions, but by and large, we’re looking at the effective loss of most herds in 30, 40 years.”
ILM research over the last few years indicates the direct cause of this loss is increased predation by wolves. But wolves and caribou have been on the landscape together for millenia. So what has tipped the balance?
According to Schneider, “The leading hypothesis is that it is our human change of the landscape that has led to these increases in wolf density and increased encounters with caribou. In particular, the increased number of roads and seismic lines and cutblocks that produce more forage possibilities, more access points for deer to get into systems where caribou really had it all to themselves in the past. And, now with these other prey species, we’ve got wolf densities going up and caribou end up taking the brunt of the problem.”
He says saving woodland caribou in Alberta depends on three factors. These include curtailing industrial activity, reclaiming seismic lines and roads, and culling wolves. But the costs are high. So he has developed a computer model that weighs societal values and economic trade-offs which can be used as a decision-making tool
Schneider has also developed what he calls a “triage approach” to help people decide which herds to save. As he explains, “There are some that are doing not so bad, some that are almost on the edge of extinction right now. So ranking herds on a variety of factors, beyond just where their trends are and how big their populations are, there are a number of other factors to take into account. And then there are costs. Some are very expensive—the ones that sit right atop the oil sands are literally tens of billions of dollars of opportunity costs lost there—whereas other entire ranges really have not much oil or gas value at all, and could be protected for next to no cost to the Crown. So by weighing all these factors, you can provide a ranking of the herds. Which one would be the first herd you’d pick if you could only do one?
Without following triage approach, Schneider believes we’ll lose all our caribou herds.


Health research fund gets new name & new CEO

June 7, 2010

Dr. Jacques Magnan

The Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research was established 30 years ago. A hefty endowment fund from the provincial government attracted top notch scientists who helped build Alberta’s capacity in health research.
One of those people who came to Alberta from eastern Canada was Dr. Jacques Magnan. In 1994, the researcher in pharmacology joined AHFMR to look after the administration of scientific awards.
Now Magnan takes up his appointment as CEO of the new organization that replaces AHFMR. It’s called Alberta Innovates Health Solutions.
He explains, “The mandate has been defined slightly differently. The roles have been targeted a little bit more toward the innovation side of things. So we need to assess properly how the programs and activities of AHFMR are contributing to those roles… and whether there needs to be some changes. What it does, is it does free up some of the resources that the Foundation have at its disposal and it does provide us with an opportunity then to reinvest those resources into more direct research support.” Magnan says the Alberta Innovates Health Solutions will uphold AHFMR’s commitment to the Polaris prize until it runs out in 2018, as well as current support for investigators over the next six or seven years.


Delivering prosperity is goal of business-savvy scientist

June 7, 2010

Dr. Gary Albach

The new president and CEO of Alberta Innovates Technology Futures brings with him a strong background in both science and business.
Trained as a physicist, Dr. Gary Albach ran a successful spin-off company focused on semiconductors and advanced materials.
Now Albach will have a staff of 700 at Technology Futures. This new corporation amalgamates the Alberta Research Council, Alberta Ingenuity, iCORE and nanoAlberta.
He says, “Our job is to deliver prosperity in the province through the commercialization of Alberta technologies. That means supporting businesses in the province through the variety of tools that we have from funding through product development in our facilities.”
Albach sees Alberta’s Technology strategy focused on three pillars: energy and environment, health and bio solutions.
“Now, in addition to those, there are platform technologies that are evolving, evolving quickly in the province. And the first of those are nanotechnology, information and communication technologies, ICT, and genomics.”