HALIFAX – Scientific projects such as the development ofdisease-resistant salmon in New Brunswick and an examination of howclimate change is affecting Ontario lakes could die on the vinebecause of cuts to the federal Fisheries Department, universityresearchers say. The department is bracing for a $79.3-million decrease in fundingover the next three years as part of Ottawa’s cost-cuttingmeasures. Officials have said research will still be done, thoughit will be refocused on what it says are areas that directlysupport conservation and fisheries management. Federal scientists losing their positions say they aren’t permittedto publicly discuss the cuts, but their colleagues in academia sayvaluable knowledge could be lost, posing threats to the country’senvironment and its competitiveness. “These scientists have an incredible number of years of experienceworking on a particular topic,” says Elizabeth Boulding, amolecular ecologist at the University of Guelph.
“When I go in there with a project, we can get a lot more done inthree or four years than we could possibly do without theirassistance.” Boulding cites as an example her work with Brian Glebe, a biologistat the Fisheries Department’s research centre in St. Andrews, N.B.,whose position will be cut following a program review last year.For seven years, they have worked to identify genes in salmon thatresist infectious salmon anemia, a virus that can kill up to 90 percent of the salmon it infects, depending on the strain. They are also seeking the genes of salmon resistant to sea liceinfestation with the goal of breeding those fish. “This worries me a great deal because I can’t do this work myself,”Boulding says.
“There doesn’t seem to be any plan to replace him. “It makes me nervous about writing another grant to do this workbecause I don’t know who else can do this work.” Glebe’s job is to introduce the diseases to salmon in quarantinedpens. He said he’s uncertain of how much longer he’ll be able tostay on in his post, and referred other questions to thedepartment’s communications staff. Boulding said Canada runs the risk of falling behind othercountries such as Norway, where the public sector is doing similarwork with its aquaculture industry. Jewelry Packaging Boxes
“If they have disease-resistant salmon and we don’t, how will we becompetitive?” Boulding said. Dave Gillis, director general of the ecosystem science directorateat the Fisheries Department, said the decision to cut Glebe’sposition and other more recent budget reductions came after carefulreview. “The number of subject areas that the program was to focus on hasbeen reduced and it no longer includes the subject area that Dr.Glebe was working on,” he said in a telephone interview. Gillis said he doesn’t know whether others would continue Glebe’swork. “It’s a case-by-case situation,” he said. Jewelry Packaging Boxes Manufacturer
Other university scientists are also alarmed by the department’sdecision to end its support of the Experimental Lakes Area watermonitoring project in northwestern Ontario. The 44-year-old programcovers 58 small lakes and is used by scientists to conductreal-world experiments on entire ecosystems. A group of university scientists and students trying to save theproject says research done there has altered environmental policiesacross the continent, prompting mercury emissions rules forcoal-fired power plants, a ban on phosphorus in detergent andaction on acid rain. David Schindler, an ecologist at the University of Alberta, isamong a network of university professors opposing the cut. “The Experimental Lakes Area is probably Canada’s most famousscientific facility,” he said in an email. Jewelry Pouches
“Doesn’t it seem foolish for a country that seems to have chronicanxiety about its international stature to close such a facility?” Gillis said the department is attempting to find universities totake over research stations, but added he can’t be specific abouthow or when that will happen. “We are going to work with the science community to find analternate operator for the site,” he said. “We are aware that there are a number of universities and otheragencies that either work there directly or fund work there. So, wewill very shortly be initiating discussions with the variouselements of that community to seek their interest.” Cuts have also struck the Bedford Institute of Oceanography inHalifax, the country’s largest ocean research centre. Theinstitute’s Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research willstop some of its work, though Gillis said an advisory group ofoutside scientists will be given funds to continue research on thebiological effects of contaminants.
But Jeff Hutchings, a biologist at Dalhousie University, says hehas concerns about that approach. “Advisory groups do not undertake research. They advise,” Hutchingssaid in an email. “This group is no replacement for dedicated scientists embeddedwithin a dedicated government science program.
This news bears allthe transparent hallmarks of the stop-gap measure that it is andthe utter absence of leadership that it represents.” Gillis said he can’t say precisely how many science jobs have beencut in the latest round of budget cuts. The department’s annual budget is $1.4 billion.