CBU Researcher Awarded More Than Half a Million Dollars to Enhance Research Space

New State-of-the-Art Laboratory Being Built

A research lab headed by Dr. Vielka Salazar, Assistant Professor at Cape Breton University’s (CBU) Biology Department, has been awarded $571,451. The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) Leader’s Opportunity Fund and the Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Trust (NSRIT) have each contributed $228,582 to the project. The award will be used to upgrade Dr. Salazar’s Electric Fish Behavioural Neuroendocrinology Laboratory and to assist with research focusing on the neuroendocrine mechanisms that regulate social communication behaviours in electric fish.

Using an integrative experimental approach that combines pharmacological, molecular, histological and behavioural techniques, Dr. Salazar and her students examine how gymnotiform fish communicate using electric signals. This extensive research program could potentially develop the electric fish model as a research tool to determine how positive and negative social experiences activate specific neuroendocrine pathways, and may eventually have applicability to human health issues.

The funding will be used to construct interconnected small rooms that compartmentalize the different elements, specifically a Histology and Pharmacology Room, a Behavioural Recording Room and an Electric Fish Breeding and Testing Room. The addition of the laboratory infrastructure will further enhance the development of animal-based biomedical research at CBU. “With captive colonies – lifespan is one to two years – breeding helps to keep the captive colony in place so animals don’t have to be brought in from the wild or bought commercially. This is preferable because there is more control over diseases and the wellbeing of the animals. Given that this study looks at animals in different stages of their development, a breeding program and the appropriate equipment to support it is essential,” says Dr. Salazar.

An innovative researcher and committed educator, Dr. Salazar strongly believes in engaging and involving students in her research program, by providing CBU undergraduate students with research training in a number of cutting-edge modern molecular, biochemical and behavioural techniques. The funds awarded to Dr. Salazar will help support those students financially, but more importantly will make it possible for Dr. Salazar to provide hands-on learning opportunities that assist and enhance the educational experience of many CBU students.

Dr. Dale Keefe, Dean of Research and Graduate Studies at CBU stated: “CFI and NSRIT funds continue to have a large impact on our ability to attract and retain the very best researchers by providing them with the much-needed infrastructure to support their programs of research. The “ripple effect” of these funds is ongoing; the equipment not only fuels faculty work, but also allows them to train their students with state-of-the-art facilities, inspiring the next generation of researchers.”

“The recognition that Dr. Salazar’s research program has garnered speaks to the calibre of research being conducted at Cape Breton University, research that inspires undergraduate students and will most definitely influence future projects. I am pleased to see that the Government of Canada continues to place value on research and innovation in this country, especially here in Cape Breton,” says Rodger Cuzner, MP Cape Breton-Canso. “Through programs such as CFI, needed dollars are allocated to support progressive research at universities across Canada.”

Additional funds toward this project have been contributed by Cape Breton University, Fisher Scientific, Cole Parmer Canada, BioRad Laboratories Canada and Leica Microsystems.

Research conducted at Cape Breton University continues to be recognized by national funding bodies. For more information on research at CBU visit www.cbu.ca/research.

Listen to Dr. Salazar discuss her reserach and how her program will benefit from the funding award, with CBC Information Host, Steve Sutherland.