Biology Professor Patricia Chow-Fraser and Chemistry & Chemical Biology Assistant Professor Katherine Bujold are among the five McMaster researchers who've been awarded a combined $1.25 million from the Government of Canada's New Frontiers in Research Fund.
Pat and Katherine received special grants that support new approaches to research for projects disrupted by the pandemic.
For Pat, the grant will support exploring a new way of conserving freshwater turtles in two Indigenous communities along Georgian Bay. Pat and her team of researchers were unable to access most of the endangered Blanding’s turtle’s habitats along Georgian Bay region because of pandemic restrictions. Pat will now take a new approach to mapping these habitats by bringing academics together with all other key stakeholders and land owners. This new approach will include field tracking and data collection by First Nations youth interns and cottage volunteers.
Together, they'll use novel GPS-enabled tracking devices and field-tested methods to confirm turtle occupancy using environmental DNA samples. Broader community involvement will likely lead to better implementation of any proposed conservation measures that result from the study. The innovative partnership arrangement could ensure long-term protection of turtles in remote areas even if access becomes interrupted again in future pandemics.
Katherine will use her grant to introduce novel remote collaboration methodologies for early career researchers and students who've been unable to take part in collaborative research because of pandemic restrictions. These methodologies will include remote training in lab procedures using parallel workstations and the safe shipment of samples that are sensitive to Canadian winters.
Katherine's pilot collaboration with Janelle Sauvageau’s group at the National Research Council of Canada will develop nanoscale glycan-nucleic acid conjugates for therapeutic applications, combining her group’s work on nanoscale nucleic acid nanostructures with the work on glycan synthesis and characterization being done by Janelle's group.
The goal is to use these new methodologies to open the door for fully remote collaboration between researchers across Canada, regardless of physical distance.