Sadly I have to report the loss of Elaine Pero this past September after a short illness. Elaine worked for us for almost 8 years with the last six years as our head cook.
Dr. C. Valeo, an associate director of the Institute and a hydrologist in the Dept. of Civil Engineering at the University of Calgary, moved in September to the University of Victoria to create a new Engineering Department. Dr. Valeo worked with the Institute for over 10 years. She was particularly active in increasing geoscience research at the Institute.
Dr. Valeo has been replaced as associate director by Dr. Y.E. Martin, a geomorphologist in the Geography and Geoscience Departments. In the coming year Dr. Martin’s main efforts will be to help in putting together the NSERC-MRS. Dr. Martin has a long history of research that bridges the biological and geomorphological sciences.
We also welcome to our team Yves Levesque, our new chef. Yves comes to us with decades of experience at some of the biggest hotels in the mountain parks.
This year marks the 20th year of observations of Golden Eagle migration in the Kananaskis Valley by the Eagle Research Foundation. This is the citizen science group of which the Institute is an affiliate.
GeoCENS (Geospatial Cyber-infrastructure for Environmental Sensing), a Cybera and CANARIE project, is now completely operational.
This year we received very strong support from the University President, Provost, and Vice President-Research for the Biogeoscience Institute. This support overcame the difficulties of the previous four years. They recognized the high quality of research and teaching at the Institute over the last 62 years. More importantly, they saw the Biogeoscience Institute as central to the development of the University of Calgary into a Canadian elite research University.
Five-year strategic planning process – 2012 to 2016
The Biogeoscience Institute is a University of Calgary Institute that supports high quality Biogeoscience research and experiential education conducted by independent researchers, research clusters, and research networks from the University of Calgary and universities from across Canada, North America, Europe, and Asia.
A Changing World of Research
Recent decades have seen significant changes in how field research and education are carried out. These changes reflect the increasing interdisciplinary aspects of biological and geoscience research and consequently the increasing number of studies that cover topics no individual researcher can completely carry out. There has also been an increase in shared data, instruments, and instrument arrays. Consequently, field institutes have to provide for this changing approach to scientific research, educational research, and K-12, university, and outreach education. Researchers now require wireless internet connections, cyber-infrastructure, maintenance for instrument arrays, and distributed facilities e.g. research watershed.
BGS has five research clusters of which only three are considered here as the most productive and innovative, with a long history of collaboration, and an international reputation. Of the researchers mentioned in these clusters all have h-indexes in the top of their fields. These research clusters have also produced a significant number of graduate students who have made significant scientific impacts.
Large and small mammal biology and wildlife disease interactions
This cluster has a history going back over 40 years. It has produced approximately 40 graduate students of whom about half are in universities around the world and several are senior public servants. Four of the senior researchers are recognized as international leaders in wildlife biology and wildlife diseases. Five members of this cluster are from University of Calgary and the remaining four are from other Canadian and international universities or research institutes. Two are Canada Research Chairs, one of whom is at the University of Calgary. The cluster has collected long-term (35-40 years) data on mammal populations. These studies were recently used to document long-term changes in long-lived mammals in an article in the journal Science.
Coldwater Centre: eco hydrology, cryosphere, meteorology and biogeochemistry
This cluster has two highly instrumented watersheds, the only two in the Canadian Rockies and one of which includes a glacier. The cluster is currently working with the Alberta government to increase the number of instrumented watersheds in the Rockies. The cluster is prepared to maintain these watershed instruments and to handle the data management. In the past five years this cluster has been the administrative home of IP3 (Improved Processes and Parameterization for Prediction in Cold Regions). IP3 is a Canada-wide research network and includes seven instrumented watersheds in the Canadian Rockies and North. The Centre also teaches a hydrology course every year which is attended by 40 to 50 national and international participants. The main objective is to train individuals in the use of hydrological models which the cluster members have developed. In this cluster the University of Calgary has two hydrologists (recently one has moved to the University of Victoria) and one meteorologist/cryospheric scientist of the approximately eight researchers. Two of the University of Calgary researchers are Canada Research Chairs and one is a Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and was five years ago recognized as one of 10 rising stars in Canadian science. Other members of this research cluster are from other universities, of whom two are Canada Research Chairs. Several of the members of this cluster are well-known for their leadership in the field of hydrology and collaboration with other fields.
Ecosystem dynamics and coupling disturbance and other physical processes to ecosystem processes
This is another research cluster which has been active for more than 40 years. Started by Dennis Parkinson FRSC in 1968, the cluster has attracted outstanding researchers including two presidents of the British Ecological Society. It has also maintained several international coordinated long-term research studies on carbon flux. The cluster is well-known for having invented several methods now considered standard in the field. Cluster members have also pioneered research in modeling coupled disturbances (wildfire and fluvial processes) to tree population dynamics. One member has an endowed chair and several of the students have received prizes and awards for their research from national and international ecological societies.
Major Research Initiatives
Of the areas which the University of Calgary could use to gain international prominence, biogeoscience seems to be one in which we already have substantial expertise; this expertise is dispersed among departments and faculties and only requires the will and modest financial support from both the University and external development funding to bring these groups and individuals together into more integrated clusters. Biogeoscience is one of the rapidly growing research areas in science. The last 10 years has seen the founding of five biogeoscience journals and research sections in four of the largest ecological and geophysical societies. In these societies, the new sections quickly have become the largest. Several reports from NSF-USA and the National Academy of Science-USA have stressed the importance of the integrated nature of biogeoscience in developing environmental understanding and its possibility as a means for escaping the silos of present disciplines.
Areas in which the University can utilize the Biogeoscience Institute to further build international prominence
In order to increase its international reputation and to be a leader in biogeoscience, the University of Calgary’s Biogeoscience Institute and related departments (Economics, Geography, Education, Geoscience, Physics, Chemistry, Biological Sciences, Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Geomatics Engineering, Veterinary Medicine, and Environmental Design) need to strengthen the following areas:
Barriers and Limitation
The major barriers in the University preventing the Biogeoscience Institute from reaching its potential are:
1. Overcrowding of our field station facilities and substantial deferred maintenance. The Barrier Lake field station at present is running at full capacity. Five years ago the University commissioned a study to document this overcrowding and the need for new facilities. What was imagined was a new dorm building which could house at least 20 more people and a lab/lecture facility. These new facilities would offer excellent opportunity to attract national and international attention as green buildings. Substantial work is needed on deferred maintenance. The R.B. Miller station is perhaps in the worst shape, having had no serious University maintenance in the last 20 years. BGS had accumulated from outside funds approximately $130,000 designated for repairs to the buildings but these funds were removed from our account as part of the budget cuts.
2. Lack of incorporation of the Institute's potential for crosscutting faculty collaboration. The Biogeoscience Institute and many other major institutes within the University of Calgary are not being used as the bridge between different disciplines. Only the upper administrative levels can empower institutes to play this role.
Encouraging crosscutting in faculty collaborations
In the next decade we will require better integration into the planning structure of the University, the construction of these two new buildings at the Barrier Lake station and work on deferred maintenance of existing facilities, and cooperation with our research clusters in planning the hiring of new faculty in different departments and faculties.
Encouraging community outreach
There is a need to develop and support experiential education, outreach, and research programs that promote public understanding of biogeoscience research. On-site and off-site experiential education programs need to communicate advances in biogeoscience research by providing teacher educators, high school teachers, and students with access to researchers, innovative field-based learning experiences, teaching resources, student teacher placements, and teacher education through on-site and off-site university courses. Outreach programs need to engage the public in biogeoscience research through development and support of integrated research-citizen science initiatives, along with public access to current biogeoscience research. Support for biogeoscience education research needs to be developed and encouraged by involving Faculties of Education in development and delivery of teacher education programs and courses.
E.A. Johnson, PhD, FSB
Director, Biogeoscience Institute and
Professor, Biological Sciences
February 15, 2012