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Natural science professors obtain new government research funding

Dec 14, 2022

Professors Dr. Ben Cameron and Dr. Darcy Visscher
Professors Dr. Ben Cameron and Dr. Darcy Visscher

Professors Dr. Ben Cameron and Dr. Darcy Visscher have obtained research grants from the Natural Science and Research Sciences of Canada (NSERC) and Parks Canada. Dr. Cameron was awarded an NSERC Discovery grant—a highly competitive national program—bringing in $90,000 over the next five years. Dr. Visscher received an NSERC Discovery Development grant, providing $30,000 over two years, as well as a Parks Canada grant for $73,000 over three years.

Most of the grant money will be used to hire students, something both professors are looking forward to.

“The grant provides finances to travel to research conferences and make connections. Now I can take undergraduate students with me,” says Cameron.

Visscher also notes the importance of hiring students. “I work hard at involving undergraduates in publishing results in scientific journals. This is a unique opportunity that sets them apart when applying to graduate programs.”

Dr. Cameron’s research is on network modelling theory, a mathematical study and colouring of the structure of networks. “These can be physically constructed networks such as the internet, or human social structures like those you might find on a given social media platform,” he explains. He hopes to have undergrads writing and studying code to visualize these networks.

Visscher’s research is on the wild side—from elk and parasites to white-tailed jackrabbits.

An NSERC grant was awarded for work in two areas related to his research "Human-Wildlife Conflict in Urbanizing Landscapes." Visscher's first research focus in this area is on a zoonotic parasite, Echinococcus. The parasite usually moves through coyotes and dogs but can also end up in humans. If it does, it proves deadly unless medicated. His second related focus studies how Roosevelt elk in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island are in conflict with farmers and local agricultural interests.

Visscher’s Parks Canada grant is for research on Edmonton’s rabbit population. While the white-tailed jackrabbit population is declining across its continental range, in Edmonton, these rabbits are up to 80 times more abundant. Visscher seeks to understand how and when these rabbits move around the city using GPS collars that help map habitats and movements. He inherited the project from recently retired King’s professor Dr. John Wood, who had been counting rabbits with students since 1992.

“I worked on this project as an undergrad,” says Visscher. “It was one of the experiences I had at King’s that made me decide to further pursue ecology. Dozens of alumni fondly remember being involved in this project. Now it’s come full circle and I'm the one taking students to work on the rabbit project. Maybe the research I'm doing will inspire one of them to replace me in Dr. Wood’s office someday!”

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