Welcome to 2011! Before we launch into a new year of covering cutting-edge Canadian research, we’re going to rewind and look back at some of the success stories we featured on InnovationCanada.ca in 2010. Some recurring themes in Canadian research this year were: biodiversity, aboriginal culture, art and the evolving study of DNA.
The United Nations designated 2010 as the Year of Biodiversity and InnovationCanada.ca marked the occasion by highlighting several biodiversity research projects being undertaken in institutions across the country.
• “Disappearing act” looked at the Beaty Biodiversity Centre, a new complex at the University of British Columbia that is committed to better understanding and preserving biodiversity.
• There are a number of factors threatening songbird species that migrate to Canada each year. “Songbird secrets,” featured York University researcher Bridget Stutchbury and her worrisome studies.
Canadian research goes well beyond microscopes and Petri dishes. Researchers in the social sciences and humanities are working on unique projects that are breathing new life into old things — both discarded and extinct.
• “Sheer treasure” features Canadian eco-fashion designer and student at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Katherine Soucie, who has a passion for bringing new life to old hosiery. The Vancouver-based textile and garment designer transforms waste into wonder, reconciling her disdain for one of the biggest polluting industries in the world.
• Artist Michael Skrepnick brings dinosaurs back to life with the stroke of his brush. Having produced the initial life rendering for more than two dozen new dinosaur species, Skrepnick, featured in “Paleo art,” believes it is his job to help people relate to dinosaurs and to give an honest representation of what these animals would have been like in life.
Aboriginal culture is being expressed in Canada, but perhaps in a whole new, more relevant way.
• University of Regina’s Charity Marsh helps young aboriginal people express their life experiences through music — connecting to their roots, and to the world around them. “Hip-hop storytellers,” presents an intriguing look at the power of aboriginal storytelling fused with hip-hop rhythms and beats.
• Hugh Brody of the University of the Fraser Valley looks to the rich aboriginal culture of the Fraser Valley for a better way to rehabilitate and reintegrate criminals back into society in his documentary film, The meaning of life.
From the meaning of life to the basic building blocks of life… Canadian researchers are on a mission to better understand and document DNA.
• In “Barcoding life,” Paul Hebert of the University of Guelph explains how he and his team are probing the genetic structure of the planet in the grandest of genomic projects. They have made Churchill, Man., the epicentre of a project that aims to identify and catalogue the DNA of every species on Earth.
• And in Boston, Mass., a group of undergraduate students from the University of Alberta presented a project at the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM) that uncovers the other, more useful side of E. coli by demonstrating the rapid assembly of its DNA. Such experiments may one day help fast-track the development of pharmaceuticals.