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Acadia’s Professor of Biology, Dr. Philip Taylor, has been awarded the Doris Huestis Speirs Award by the Society of Canadian Ornithologists/Société des Ornithologistes du Canada. Named after Speirs (1894-1989), highly prominent in art, literary, and ornithological circles, it is the society’s most prestigious award, and is given annually to an individual who has made outstanding lifetime contributions in Canadian ornithology.

An ecologist and Director of Acadia’s Field Station on Bon Portage Island, Dr. Taylor has spent his career studying the movement behaviors of animals in landscapes. In the early 2000s, his lab developed automated telemetry to track flying animals across regions. Tiny tags, lighter than a dime, are attached to birds, bats and even insects. When one of the tagged animals flies past a station, the detection is recorded. By having many hundreds of stations across vast landscapes, all listening to the same transmitting frequency, researchers, including NGOs and agencies, can co-operatively contribute to science. That system, “Motus,” is now managed by Birds Canada and encompasses over 1000 automated stations situated throughout North and South America, and Europe. The extent of the system has allowed (for example) Taylor’s lab to track Thrushes from Bon Portage Island migrating to south America and back. "The Doris Huestis Speirs Award is well deserved," notes Acadia's Associate Vice-President Research & Dean of Graduate Studies, Dr. Anna Redden, "Dr. Taylor has had an outstanding career in ornithology and is a nationally and globally recognized leader in avian conservation and ecology."

 

The Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) has announced that Biology professors Dr. Allison Walker and Dr. Melanie Coombs have been awarded $99,376 through the John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF) toward a $248,441 project to create a Flow Cytometry Station at Acadia University. This important funding, matched by Research Nova Scotia (RNS) support of $99,376, will build capacity on the Wolfville campus and allow researchers to examine the physical and biochemical characteristics of cells to quantitatively assess cell size, shape, granularity, DNA content, cell cycle, cell surface markers and viability.

This cutting-edge equipment will enable Drs. Walker and Coombs (and their collaborators) to obtain vital information about cells that will lead to healthier populations and environments. Following Acadia’s long tradition of high-quality student training, the Station will also give young researchers vital lab and analysis skills relevant for multiple biotechnology companies and other research-based careers.

Specifically, Dr. Walker will use the Station to support her innovative marine mycology research program by studying and quantifying marine fungi in seawater. Active in cancer research, Dr. Coombs will use the equipment to examine the anti-cancer and immune modulatory effects of host defense peptides and phytochemicals on cells. Both leading-edge research programs will have tremendous benefit for the health of Nova Scotians.

Through the CFI JELF program Ottawa is contributing more than $77 million to support 332 research infrastructure projects at 50 universities across the country. “Our researchers have always thought big,” Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry commented in a press release, “now, more than ever, they need state-of-the-art labs and equipment to turn their visions into reality. Acadia’s Associate Vice-President Research & Dean of Graduate Studies, Dr. Anna Redden, agrees. “This kind of investment is critical for Acadia to continue its role as a leader in innovative research that impacts the well-being of Canadians," she noted, also adding that “the state-of-the-art infrastructure helps institution’s like Acadia retain internationally recognized scholars.”

 

 

 

Julia Baak, an Acadia MSc Biology graduate (’21), is the recipient of the highly prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship in support of her PhD research at McGill University.  Julia also won both the Acadia Outstanding Master’s Research Award (Science) for research excellence and the Governor General’s Gold Medal which is awarded to the graduate student who has achieved the most outstanding academic record as a Master’s student completing a thesis. Julia’s PhD studies will be co-supervised by Dr. Mark Mallory, a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair here at Acadia, and Dr. Kyle Elliott, a Tier II Canada Research Chair at McGill.

Julia’s MSc research, co-supervised by Dr. Mark Mallory and Dr. Jennifer Provencher (former post-doctoral researcher at Acadia) examined circumpolar policies related to marine plastic pollution and wildlife (specifically seabirds).  She also used bird samples provided by Inuit (Indigenous) hunters to produce the first temporal assessment of change in plastic pollution ingestion in Arctic seabirds.  During her time at Acadia, Julia co-authored 7 peer-reviewed papers and has several more in review or preparation (an amazing feat!).

For her PhD, Julia is continuing in the same field of environmental research, this time using high precision tracking technology to examine local and annual movements of Arctic seabirds and their feeding areas.  She will quantify biotransport of plastics and plastic-related contaminants, including plastic-derived chemicals in the blood of seabirds. As with her MSc, the work will involve collaboration from several countries in the Arctic.  

Julia’s world-class research and achievements are a highlight of the ongoing research collaboration between Dr. Provencher’s lab at Environment and Climate Change Canada and Dr. Mallory’s lab in Biology at Acadia University. This collaboration is focused on the prevalence and effects of plastic pollution and other contaminants in the Canadian environment.

A quick glance at the national news shows that we live in an increasingly polarized society; people regularly disagree on political matters. While disagreement is expected, public contention over decisions made by the Supreme Court of Canada can have serious repercussions. “Public confidence in the judicial branch,” notes Dr. Erin Crandall, “is an essential component of its institutional legitimacy.”

An Associate Professor in Acadia’s Department of Politics, Dr. Crandall has just been been awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant to help understand the factors that determine public support of Canada’s highest court. Working with Dr. Andrea Lawlor of the University of King’s College (Western University), Crandall will design and administer public surveys to measure respondents’ reactions to specific court decisions and undertake a comprehensive analysis of the institutional and ideological factors that affect the support for the Court. The surveys - which will be made publicly accessible for future research - will be supplemented by respondent interviews and analysis that links public opinion to media coverage of prominent court cases. The goal is to determine where perceptions of judicial legitimacy come from and how they may be altered by the court’s actions.

“Maintaining public support is not a straightforward endeavor,” Crandall explains, “given that it is a court’s job to make decisions that will sometimes be contentious and even unpopular.” High-profile rights cases on issues such as prostitution, same-sex marriage, and medically assisted dying, illustrate just some of the politically salient, partisan, and divisive decisions that the Court is regularly tasked with making. It is therefore critical to “understand to what extent citizens will support the Court in the face of unfavorable judicial decisions.”

Acadia's Associate Vice-President Research & Dean of Graduate Studies, Dr. Anna Redden, was very excited by the news of the SSHRC funding. "Dr. Crandall is working on a topic of great significance for Canadian society," Redden noted, "and her work is indicative of the kind of innovative research that is undertaken in the social sciences at Acadia."

Professor Michael Dennis’ new book, The Full Employment Horizon in 20th-Century America: The Movement for Economic Democracy has just been published by Bloomsbury. A historian of working-class movements, race, political economy, and social protest in the American experience, Dennis explores the dissent, policy debate and popular mobilization that defined the campaign for full employment between 1930-1970. Dennis argues that this campaign was inextricably connected to the movement for economic democracy.

Through a ‘bottom-up’ approach, Dennis shows how social movements reshaped the idea of full employment, expanded democratic parameters, and offered a means of liberating workers across the racial and ethnic spectrum. Throughout eight interesting chapters, the book notes how the hard-fought campaign for full employment intersected with other movements – such as women’s liberation and civil rights – to expand the horizon of economic emancipation.

Importantly, The Full Employment Horizon demonstrates how the inequalities and inherent tensions within American capitalism ensured that the social vision of full employment would continually challenge the assertion that business-led growth automatically generated employment for all.

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