Research thrives in the Biology Department
Research plays an important role in our identity as a department and as individual faculty members.
The opportunity to undertake scientific research to enhance our understanding of the natural world, past and present, is a major reason why many of us decided to pursue a career in the Biological Sciences. Even in a small university like CBU, where we place a premium on the quality of the education that we provide to our students, research is considered to be an important component of a faculty member’s job. Our research also provides valuable opportunities for students to be exposed to research methods in the classroom and to be actively engaged in scientific research in both the lab and field, on land or at sea.
All of our tenured/tenure-track faculty have active research programs, routinely employ and train undergraduate research assistants, and disseminate their findings through seminars, conference presentations, and peer-reviewed publications. The breadth of research that is undertaken in such a small department is really quite remarkable. Our research programs span the fields of freshwater ecology, marine ecology, terrestrial ecology, behavioural ecology and physiology, cell and molecular biology, and palaeontology and evolutionary biology. There really is something to engage all biology students!
We encourage you to browse through the research vignettes provided by faculty to learn more about the research that we are so passionate about!
Three NSERC-funded Professors
Within our department, three faculty members hold individual NSERC Discovery/Development grants for biological research:
- Sean Modesto (2016): Anatomy and evolution of reptiles and other tetrapods from the Permo-Carboniferous of Prince Edward Island.
- Ken Oakes (2015): Fabrication of visible light-excited photocatalytic TiO2 nanocomposite membranes for removal of organic pollutants and pathogenic microorganisms
- Vielka Salazar (2012): Neuroendocrine regulation of socially-driven circadian rhythms using an electric fish model
These grants support local, national, as well as internationally-based research projects and our current recipients are involved in fieldwork and research collaborations across Canada, the USA, Panama, and South Africa. NSERC also provides research scholarships to support undergraduate-based research at CBU as well as through industrial collaborations with CBU partners.
University Chair in Marine Ecosystems
Our department is also fortunate to have in our ranks Dr. Bruce G. Hatcher, University Chair in Marine Ecosystem Research. Bruce has a wealth of experience undertaking ecological and oceanographic research in ecosystems around the world, and plays an important role in creating an active and vibrant research program in the marine sciences at CBU. Bruce is also Director of the Bras d’Or Institute for Ecosystem Research (founded in 1974), which focuses on ecosystem-based management of human activities within the Maritime communities of Cape Breton. Bruce has strong ties to local industries and frequently works business (e.g. Louisbourg Seafoods Ltd., Port of Sydney Development Corp.) to explore the potential for new and emerging fisheries in our inshore and offshore waters and to assess the impacts of coastal developments/industries on ecosystem goods and services.
Industrial Research Chair in Environmental Remediation
Although based in the Verschuren Centre, Industrial Research Chair, Dr. Ken Oakes, is also an active member of the Biology Department. Since his arrival in 2012, Ken has been providing new and applied research opportunities for Biology students, broadening the scope of our departmental research through collaborations with Parks Canada and research applications to industry and medicine. Ken is also helping to connect Biology students with other researchers in the Verschuren Centre, including Dr. Xu (Shine) Zhang (Nanomedicine/Nanosensors) and Dr. Beth Mason (Bioproducts). Ken is currently working in concert with Rod Beresford to further investigate causes of oyster disease in the Bras d’Or lakes, with the hope of rejuvenating this once vibrant industry.
Undergraduate Research Opportunities
Our department continually strives to provide opportunities for students who are interested in getting a taste for scientific research. Often these research experiences can help students to decide upon the career path that is best for them. For instance, it is not uncommon for students to change their career trajectory after thoroughly enjoying their exposure to undergraduate research. Research projects are ongoing throughout the year, with both volunteer and paid positions often available. Students should contact faculty members or the Chair of the Biology Department to find out more.
Graduate Research Possibilities
Although the School of Science and Technology does not have its own graduate program, CBU Biology professors do have the potential to co-supervise graduate students through the Faculty of Graduate Studies at Dalhousie University. Funding is provided to eligible students on a competitive basis through the Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarship Program for which CBU has a defined allocation each year. M.Sc. students can receive $10,000/yr for 2 years, and Ph.D. students $15,000/yr for up to four years. For more information, please contact the Chair of the Biology Department.