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Cleantech projects receive $5M in funding


Oshawa, ON – Ontario’s provincial government is providing more than $5 million to fund innovative research projects in the cleantech sector, an area of the economy that brings together environmental solutions and economic potential.

“Research and innovation has a major role to play in helping us reach our targets for greenhouse gas reductions and transforming Ontario into a green economy. Becoming a leader in green technology will translate into better jobs for Ontarians and healthier, stronger and more successful communities all across the province,” said John Gerretsen, the province’s minister of the environment.

The projects receiving funding are as follows, by university:

University of Ontario Institute of Technology:
– Dr Greg Naterer. Creating cleaner, energy-efficient power sources. Provincial Funding: $125,000. Ontario’s dependence on imported fossil fuels for the energy requirements of society and industry is environmentally and economically unsustainable. Dr Greg Naterer at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology is developing new energy technologies that include thermochemical hydrogen production, micro energy sources powered by nanotechnology and “entropy-based design” to improve energy efficiency. His research will reduce the environmental impact and greenhouse gas emissions of power systems, as well as develop technology commercialization opportunities for the province’s energy sector.

University of Toronto:
– Dr Vy Dong. Developing new tools for constructing organic molecules. Provincial Funding: $380,000. Organic molecules are carbon-containing compounds that make up important goods all around us, including our food, pharmaceuticals, clothing and fuels. Research in organic synthesis is therefore essential to our ability to make useful organic products. At the Modern Laboratory for Innovation in Organic Synthesis and Catalysis at the University of Toronto, researchers are inventing better tools for constructing various organic molecules. Ultimately, this research will lead to more efficient, environmentally-friendly and less wasteful processes for synthesizing drug candidates and other innovative materials.

– Dr Elizabeth Edwards. Developing solutions for pressing environmental and energy problems. Provincial Funding: $218,144. Motivated by health, environmental and economic security, the 21st century is poised to be the century of biotechnology. With roughly 10 per cent of the world’s forests, seven per cent of its fresh water and a highly educated research community, Canada has the potential to become a world leader in biotechnologies in the areas of renewable energy and materials, clean soil and water. At BioZone, a unique research facility at the University of Toronto, Dr Elizabeth Edwards heads a multidisciplinary team of scientists engaged in developing solutions for pressing problems in energy and the environment.

– Dr Mansoor Barati. Developing solutions for efficient energy, high-quality materials and environmentally responsible processes. Provincial Funding: $92,043. Ontario is a leader in the minerals and metals industry, contributing substantially to the nation’s economy. Research and development in this key resource industry is keeping Ontario competitive internationally. Dr Mansoor Barati at the University of Toronto is focused on high temperature materials processing research, specifically, novel and advanced processes for extracting and refining metals and alloys with high performance at low cost. His work will lead to innovative solutions for energy efficiency, higher quality materials and environmentally responsible processes.

– Dr Olivera Kesler. Realizing the potential of fuel cell technology. Provincial Funding: $200,000. Despite the perception that fuel cell technology is years away, fuel cells are in use in many places – and once the technology is perfected, it has the potential to power everything from vehicles to homes and businesses. Dr Olivera Kesler at the University of Toronto is working to realize the potential of fuel cells. Her focus is on the solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC), which can run on both traditional fuels and on renewable fuels such as hydrogen, biogas and ethanol. Her goal is to reduce the cost and improve the performance and lifetime of fuel cells.

– Dr Jochen Halfar. Determining human impact on marine climate change. Provincial Funding: $118,922. Climate change is one of the biggest issues facing humans today. Using state-of-the-art equipment and methods, Dr Jochen Halfar at the University of Toronto, Mississauga, will investigate marine climate change by analyzing climate archives with unprecedented precision. His goal is to determine human impact on climate and ecosystems with a view to predicting future climate evolution. His work will help to assess the consequences of rapid climate change in Ontario and globally.

– Dr Helene Wagner. Discovering how landscape modification impacts ecosystems. Provincial funding: $37,187. What happens to an ecosystem when humans modify the landscape? It’s a question that needs answering as we urbanize the province’s southern regions and mine the north’s natural resources. It’s one Dr Helene Wagner aims to shed light on at a new Spatial Ecology and Landscape Genetics Laboratory at the University of Toronto Mississauga. Working with a local conservation management agency, Dr Wagner will use a variety of methods including field data collection of plant species and modeling to evaluate a landscape modification experiment that has been running for nearly 20 years. Her goal is the development of conservation best practices based on a scientific understanding of how landscape modification affects the organisms at the actual location of human activity and in the surrounding landscape.

– Dr Arthur Weis. Anticipating the effects of climate change. Provincial Funding: $603,200. The global climate is changing at a rate and scale not seen since the end of the last ice age. How will this dramatic change in climate affect efforts to preserve important plant and tree species? How will it change the threat they face from weed and pest species? These are questions of immense importance to our agriculture and forestry industries and they’re ones Dr Arthur Weis at the University of Toronto aims to answer through field- and growth-chamber-based experiments that will test the fitness of plant species under conditions that simulate the future climate.

– Dr Georgia Fotopoulos. Monitoring urban centres to protect our infrastructure. Provincial Funding: $149,787. Land subsidence is the lowering of the land-surface elevation due to changes that take place underground. It can cause great damage to buildings, bridges, roads and pipelines. At a new Goedetic Urban Monitoring Facility at the University of Toronto – the first and only one of its kind in Canada – Dr Georgia Fotopoulos is using multi-sensor geodetic satellite data and state-of-the-art terrestrial tools to monitor land subsidence. The goal is to provide an accurate framework and contemporary solutions to the imminent problem of land deformation in urban areas of Canada.

– Dr Nathan Basiliko. Learning how soil microorganisms work to help us manage our resources in the face of climate change. Provincial Funding: $84,308. At the Advanced Soil Biogeochemistry and Microbial Ecology Research Facility at the University of Toronto Mississauga, Dr Nathan Basiliko is looking for answers to important issues of environmental change in soil microorganisms. These microorganisms are essential to the life-giving properties of soil yet are poorly understood. Using advanced technology, Dr Basiliko is researching the link between communities of soil microorganisms and larger wetland and forest ecosystem dynamics. The goal is to improve our ability to adapt resource management in the face of climate change.

– Dr Kaley Walker. Determining how ozone is changing our atmosphere. Provincial Funding: $211,428. Thirty years ago when people talked about environmental concerns, they focused on urban smog, in
dustrial pollution and acid rain. Today, ozone depletion and climate change are the topics on everyone’s mind. One big question is: how is human activity changing the earth’s atmosphere? At the University of Toronto’s Laboratory for Atmospheric Spectroscopy and Applications (LASSA), Dr Kaley Walker is constructing, testing and deploying an instrument to accurately measure the concentrations of ozone and related gases in the atmosphere. The goal is to find out how the amounts of these gases are changing and what the changes mean for our environment. Her research will help policy makers develop programs to protect the environment and human health.

– Dr Myrna Simpson. Discovering the effects of contaminants in soil, air and water. Provincial funding: $200,000. Developing remediation strategies for land contaminated through industrial use is a fast-growing business. But the methods currently available are either prohibitively expensive or ineffective in removing all the contaminants – in part, because the effects of contaminants in soil, air and water are poorly understood. Using an innovative form of research involving molecular level technology, Dr Myrna Simpson at the University of Toronto is developing metabolic profiling methods to assess organism stress after exposure to contaminated soils. This could become a leading diagnostic tool for government and industry to use to screen potential human health risks from long-term exposure to low levels of organic chemicals in the environment, and determine “healthy” contaminant levels. It could also lead to more effective remediation methods.

University of Guelph:

– Dr Laura Van Eerd. Optimizing nitrogen use to maintain crop yields and minimize environmental impact. Provincial funding: $125,219. Good crop yields depend on an adequate supply of nitrogen. But what’s the optimum amount of nitrogen? That’s the question Dr Laura Van Eerd wants to answer at a new facility at the University of Guelph dedicated to innovation in soil fertility and plant nutrition in horticultural crops. The goal of Dr Van Eerd’s research is the development of new approaches to maintaining or improving crop yields by optimizing nitrogen use, while minimizing its environmental impact on ground water – a subject of tremendous interest to the agricultural sector. Dr Van Eerd’s research will also be used to assess new legislation regarding nutrient management and drinking water source protection in Ontario.

– Dr Peter Tremaine. Developing new energy technologies. Provincial Funding: $171,330. At the new Hydrothermal Chemistry Laboratory at the University of Guelph, Dr Peter Tremaine is carrying out research on water chemistry under extreme conditions. Dr Tremaine is one of a small group of international scientists who have pioneered the use of “small-scale flow techniques” for high-precision measurements of the properties of water solutions at very high temperatures and pressures. Among the applications for his research are the development of next-generation CANDU nuclear reactors and new technologies for hydrogen production, which will benefit Ontario’s energy sector.

– Dr William David Lubitz. Developing tools to predict the best places to locate wind turbines. Provincial funding: $121,197. Interest in renewable energy, including wind energy, is growing: more and more Ontarians are looking to incorporate some form of renewable energy into their current energy system. Led by Dr William David Lubitz, researchers at the University of Guelph’s new Wind Engineering Laboratory are using wind tunnels, computer simulation and field data to develop tools to predict wind turbine performance at potential sites. Their research will help people interested in installing wind turbines decide where to locate them for best results. In the process, it will help grow Ontario’s wind energy industry. The researchers will also conduct important related research, including local-scale air quality studies, wind engineering studies and design of buildings for wind comfort.

– Dr Karl Cottenie. Advancing more scientific ecosystem-based management practices. Provincial Funding: $63,099. What effects will climate change have on ecosystems? How about invasive species? Those are questions Dr Karl Cottenie at the University of Guelph hopes to answer. By studying zooplankton in a hydrologically dynamic pond system, Dr Cottenie will investigate the interactions among the fundamental processes that structure ecosystems. By helping researchers predict ecosystem responses to stresses, Dr Cottenie’s research will enable conservation biologists to develop strategies to reduce the negative effects. It will also help policy makers develop more scientific, ecosystem-based management practices.

– Dr Marc Habash. Assessing how micro-organisms affect our drinking water. Provincial Funding: $124,350. Municipal water systems can be a significant source of microbial contamination, where communities of micro-organisms (known as biofilms) form on the surface of pipes. How they adhere to surfaces and the impact they have on our drinking water distribution systems is the focus of research being conducted by Dr Marc Habash at the University of Guelph. His work will help municipal and provincial governments better assess the risk to human health of micro-organisms in our drinking water distribution systems and develop ways to prevent and control contamination.

McMaster University:

– Dr David Novog. Using technology to improve safety at nuclear power facilities. Provincial Funding: $106,313. With nuclear power use on the rise, nuclear safety is a growing issue. Current safety analysis uses analytical models and computer codes to predict a plant’s response to hypothetical accident scenarios. Research being conducted by Dr David Novog at McMaster University aims to improve on the current prediction methods by constructing new models based on a unique measurement system, the phase-doppler anemometer. His long-term goal is to improve safety in Ontario’s nuclear power facilities.

Queen’s University:

– Dr Kurt Kyser. Protecting ecosystems through improved element tracing. Provincial Funding: $313,903. At the Queen’s Centre for Isotope Research, scientists led by Dr Kurt Kyser are analyzing isotopes from tree rings, rocks, ice, lake sediments and mineral deposits. Isotopes are forms of chemical elements that are slightly altered at the atomic level, and the researchers have developed a way to measure them that makes it possible to use the isotopes as tracers for elements and compounds moving around in the near surface environment. Their goal is to solve problems in a diversity of fields, such as controls on climate change, and locating mineral deposits, including uranium, nickel, diamonds and gold. This research will help develop ways to protect our natural environment, the safety of our food and environmentally responsible extraction of our mineral resources.

– Dr Paul Grogan. Predicting how arctic ecosystems will respond to climate change. Provincial funding: $50,000. Although Canada contains a substantial portion of the Arctic, long-term research into the ecology of arctic tundra ecosystems and how they’re likely to respond to changes in climate has been scarce. Dr Paul Grogan at Queen’s University is changing that. He’s studying the structure and functioning of plant and soil microbial communities at Daring Lake, north of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. His work will help answer questions about how arctic ecosystems will respond to changes in summer air temperature, winter snow accumulation, vegetation distribution and caribou migration patterns. The goal of his research is to develop optimal management strategies to adapt to changes – as well as a greater appreciation of the ecological value of the Arctic.

University of Waterloo:

– Dr Maren Oelbermann, Dr Merrin Macrae, Dr Hargurdeep Saini. Repairing damage done to our ecosystems. Provincial Funding: $177,475. Ontario’s agricultural, forestry and industrial sectors are all grappling with problems related to soil and wa
ter contamination as well as greenhouse gas emissions. Led by Drs. Maren Oelbermann, Merrin Macrae and Hargurdeep Saini, researchers at the Centre for Biophysical Research in Ecosystems Restoration and Rehabilitation at the University of Waterloo are exploring the processes that influence soil and water quality with the goal of developing new methods and techniques in ecological restoration and bio-remediation of Ontario’s ecosystems. This research will be able to be applied in other parts of Canada and internationally.

– Dr Claude Duguay. Developing new approaches to mapping and monitoring snow and ice properties. Provincial Funding: $243,070. Active radar remote sensors have become invaluable tools for studying the cryosphere, the portion of the earth where water is in a solid form (ice and snow). A great deal remains to be learned about the radar response to snow and ice at higher microwave frequencies, which are sensitive to many more aspects than the frequency currently used on Canada’s Radarsat satellite. Dr Claude Duguay at the University of Waterloo is developing new approaches to mapping and monitoring snow and ice properties from upcoming remote sensing satellite missions. This research is essential to industries such as agriculture, hydropower generation and recreation that depend on accurate forecasts of snowmelt runoff.

– Dr Mary Wells, Dr Michael Worswick, Dr Norman Zhou. Helping Ontario manufacturers produce products based on customer demands. Provincial Funding: $200,000. For Ontario manufacturers to compete successfully in the global marketplace they need to be able to process advanced metals and alloys efficiently and produce tailored products based on customer demands. Using a state-of-the-art Gleeble 3500 thermomechanical simulator, Drs. Mary Wells, Michael Worswick and Norman Zhou at the University of Waterloo will model thermal and mechanical processing of materials, an essential part of most manufacturing processes, to get a greater understanding of these processes and their effect on a product’s final structure and properties. This research will help Ontario manufacturers improve efficiency and reduce energy use.

– Dr Kevin Lamb, Dr Francis Poulin, Dr Marek Stastna. Exploring how climate change will affect water quality. Provincial Funding: $78,613. Stratification is the layering of water temperatures and salinity in lakes and oceans. A stratified lake supports a complex variety of mixing phenomena that vary naturally with the changing seasons. So how do mixing processes affect the ecological health and water quality of lakes? That’s one of the questions Drs. Kevin Lamb, Francis Poulin and Marek Stastna are exploring at the University of Waterloo. Using advanced theoretical and numerical methods they’re developing models of complex physical processes, which will provide important insights into the dynamics of coastal oceans and lakes. Their work will lead to the formation of science-based policy to address important issues such as water quality.

The University of Western Ontario

– Dr Irena Creed. Ensuring healthy forests. Provincial Funding: $236,325. Increasing pressure on our ecosystems from climate change and escalating extraction of natural resources has created an urgent need for the development of strategies to protect and conserve healthy ecosystems. At the Catchment Research Facility at the University of Western Ontario, Dr Irena Creed is tracking the fate of water, nutrients and contaminants cascading down a range of watershed systems. Her findings will guide policy makers towards watershed management strategies that ensure sustainability of natural resources.

Carleton University

– Dr Paul Simms. Environmental test pit for pilot-scale testing of mine waste management technologies. Provincial Funding: $50,634. Disposal of excavated mining materials carries both economic and environmental risks for mining companies worldwide. Led by Dr Paul Simms, researchers at Carleton University are testing innovative mine waste management technologies under controlled climate conditions. Their work will lead to new environmentally responsible disposal and clean-up techniques.

– Dr Susan Bertram. Developing natural pest controls. Provincial Funding: $85,000. Pests such as grasshoppers cost Ontario’s agricultural sector millions of dollars a year in lost crops. The growing interest in organic crops, coupled with public concern over pesticide effects, has increased interest in developing alternative pest control. Dr Susan Bertram at Carleton University is studying how genetics and the environment interact to influence survival and reproduction of crop pests. Her research could lead to innovative biological control methods.

University of Ottawa:

– Dr Charles Darveau. Uncovering the reason for the decline in pollinating insects. Provincial Funding: $102,014. Gaining a greater understanding of how organisms respond and adapt to a changing environment is the focus of research being conducted at the new Evolution of Animal Energetics Laboratory at the University of Ottawa. Led by Dr Charles Darveau, researchers are focusing on pollinating insects, which are in decline worldwide. The goal of Dr Darveau’s research is to learn how organisms can cope with changes, both within their lifetime and over time. This will enable researchers to predict the ability of a population or species to remain in a given environment – and lead to strategies to ensure their survival.

– Dr Glenn Milne. High performance computer for numerical simulations of earth system evolution. Provincial Funding: $130,000. How is climate change affecting the evolution of coastlines and landforms? It’s an important question for a country with coastline on three sides – and one that Dr Glenn Milne at the University of Ottawa hopes to answer. Dr Milne is investigating the interactions between ice sheets, solid earth and the sea in an effort to more accurately predict how sea levels change as a result of changes to ice sheets and glaciers, and how solid earth deforms as ice sheets grow and melt. With Ontario on the verge of massive changes in its northern region, Dr Milne’s research will help guide future environmental, engineering and socio-economic planning.

– Dr Julian Starr. What sedges can tell us about the conservation and management of our natural resources. Provincial funding: $89,683. Systematics is the science that names, classifies and determines the evolutionary relationships of organisms. It’s becoming increasingly important to Ontario as the province’s unique biodiversity becomes ever more threatened by global warming, invasive species and habitat loss. At a new Laboratory for Molecular Systematics at the University of Ottawa, Dr Julian Starr is using DNA fragment and sequencing techniques to study the Cyperaceae (sedges) and other land plants. This plant group represents one of the most diverse, ecologically significant and economically important plant families on earth and it dominates vast tracks of Ontario’s land. But this unique diversity is threatened and Dr Starr hopes to save it for future generations. In the process he aims to develop new molecular techniques for recognizing biodiversity and combating its loss on earth.

Lakehead University:

– Dr Lionel Catalan, Dr Steve Kinrade, Dr Charles Xu. Developing beneficial uses for waste from natural resources. Provincial Funding: $136,526. While Ontario’s natural resources sector makes vital contributions to the economy, it also generates significant quantities of waste. Drs. Lionel Catalan, Steve Kinrade and Charles Xu at Lakehead University are exploring ways of reducing the environmental impact of waste produced by the natural resource industries through advances in prediction methods, treatment processes and design of disposal sites. Their research also focuses on developing beneficial uses for waste, including new biomass-derived products from one of Canada’s richest resources, the Boreal Forest.

University of Windsor:

– Dr Stphanie Doucet. Exploring how animals communicate visually and
how it relates to their survival. Provincial funding: $49,998. The ecology and evolution of visual communication in animals and how it contributes to their breeding success and survival is the focus of research being conducted by Dr Stphanie Doucet at the University of Windsor. Using sophisticated analysis techniques, Dr Doucet and her research team are studying the signals produced by the colouring and patterning of animals’ fur, feathers, scales and skin with the goal of learning more about how they communicate. Her research will provide critical information on the state of the environment and various species by documenting whether populations of animals are stable or changing and which environmental factors have the greatest impact on their survival.

– Dr Melania Cristescu. Monitoring and managing the spread of dangerous invasive species. Provincial Funding: $50,000. Invasive species like the zebra mussel, the Asian long-horned beetle and purple loosestrife can have serious impacts. They can lower crop yields, kill livestock and timber, reduce the quality of water and forest environments, clog water intake pipes and filtration systems – even cause human disease. It’s estimated they cost North American economies $160 to 180 billion a year. At a new ecological genomics laboratory at the University of Windsor, a research team led by Dr Melania Cristescu is focused on understanding the ecological, evolutionary and genetic factors involved in the establishment of non-indigenous species, with the goal of developing ways to monitor and manage the spread of invasive species and eventually prevent future invasions.

– Dr Jerald Lalman. Using agricultural crops and residues to produce hydrogen. Provincial Funding: $49,575. Ontario’s dependence on imported fossil fuels is economically and environmentally unsustainable. At a new Environmental Biotechnology Laboratory at the University of Windsor, Dr Jerald Lalman is working to produce hydrogen, one of the most promising sources of clean power, from agricultural crops and residues. Lalman’s work could create a new fuel source and help ensure Canada remains a dominant player in the energy sector for generations to come.