Strategic Initiatives

Research Nova Scotia convenes project teams to address gaps in current research, take advantage of fast-moving opportunities, or commission research in important areas that are excluded from, not suitable for, or are too small for existing funding opportunities. Recently funded strategic research initiatives are listed below.

Learn more about Research Nova Scotia’s mission-oriented strategy.

Dalhousie University

Dr. Lord Abbey
Associate Professor, Amenity Horticulture
Project: Bio-Efficacy of Wood Vinegar on Fire Blight and Scab Fungi Diseases Damaging Apple and Pear Trees in Nova Scotia

Dr. Lord Abbey, a Truro-based agriculture researcher, had positive early results from a study to determine if a natural product, wood vinegar, could be used to prevent two viruses that are hampering apple and pear production in Nova Scotia. RNS is collaborating with ACOA and an industry partner to allow Dr. Abbey to scale up his original findings and conduct trials in the Annapolis Valley. If successful, this research will lead to positive impacts for fruit growers and the environment, in addition to a potential spinout company.

Funding Contribution: $310,070

Dr. Graham Gagnon and Dr. Amina Stoddart
Professor | Assistant Professor, Civil and Resource Engineering
Project: Research Project to Track Presence of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia Wastewater
Funding Contribution: $851,730

Engage Nova Scotia Civic Engagement Society

Danny Graham
Chief Engagement Officer
Project: Bringing community and research together
Funding Contribution:

Working with Engage Nova Scotia, this effort is identifying the research priorities of, and collaboration opportunities with, the African Nova Scotian communities. Its objective is to develop improved pathways for research projects led or co-created by African Nova Scotians, and potential barriers to retention of African Nova Scotian students and researchers within the research endeavour.

Genome Atlantic | Small-Scale Climate Change Fund

Ryan Barrett, Canadian Milking Shorthorn Society
Project: Pursuing Genomic Evaluation for Milking Shorthorn Dairy Cattle to Improve On-Farm
Efficiency and Climate Friendly Milk Production
Funding Contribution:

Growing domestic interest in Canada’s relatively small population of Milking Shorthorn dairy cattle has sparked the need for genomic evaluations in the breed. The moderate-sized breed has gained a reputation for its high efficiency in converting forage to milk containing high-valued fat and protein. The Canadian Milking Shorthorn Society, headquartered in Kensington P.E.I., wants to start the evaluation process by building a reference population of genotypes – a compilation of the genetic makeup of individual members of the dairy breed in Canada. As a first step, the society wants to work with Milking Shorthorn breeders in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to genotype most of the cattle resident in those provinces. The work will also provide a template for additional genotyping of other Milking Shorthorn dairy cattle across the country as well as for testing genetic material from existing gene banks.

Dr. Rod Beresford, Verschuren Centre
Project: Rapid Detection of Perkinsus marinus to Protect the Atlantic Canada Oyster Industry from a Climate Change Threat
Funding Contribution:

Building on ongoing research to develop protocols for two- to three-hour field-based detection of the oyster parasite, Haplospordium nelsoni, a Cape Breton research group will expand its work to add rapid detection for another oyster parasite, Perkinsus marinus.  The oyster industry is a multi-million dollar industry in Atlantic Canada. While H. nelsoni devastated the Bras d’Or Lake industry early this century, P. marinus is an impending threat for oyster growers, starting in southern Nova Scotia. The protozoan parasite has spread northward along the U.S. eastern seaboard over the past 20 years due to increasing water temperatures, which are now affecting Atlantic Canada. Southern Nova Scotia’s water links with the U.S. via marine and boat traffic leave that area vulnerable to the arrival of P. marinus.  Quick and early detection of this oyster pathogen, however, could mean mitigation measures could be taken to avert a commercial calamity for the industry.  

Dr. Erin Cameron, Saint Mary’s University
Project: Tracking invasive earthworms through eDNA: a proof of concept
Funding Contribution:

Researchers at Saint Mary’s University in Nova Scotia and the Canadian Forest Service in New Brunswick and Quebec, want to get a handle on the variety of earthworms in Atlantic Canada, about which little is known, by using environmental DNA. The technique involves using soil samples to analyze tell-tale genetic material left behind by the worms, to indicate the species present. If it proves practicable, the methodology could be time saving, cost efficient and more accurate than conventional searches for species identification. The technique could also fill a major information gap on earthworm distribution in Atlantic Canada. Without the data government and researchers cannot model or understand the effects of large-scale earthworm invasions, which are likely to increase with climate change. Earthworms, because of their ability to change soil properties can either increase or decrease soil carbon storage. They have been found to reduce the amount of carbon stored in the soil organic layer by more than 50 per cent, but they can also increase storage by mixing carbon into deeper layers of soil. The differing effects are believed to be related to the earthworm species, their habitat and the surrounding climate.

Dr. Fraser Clark, Dalhousie University
Project: Baseline Molecular Epidemiologic Risk Assessment for Shell Disease in the Atlantic Canadian Lobster Fishery
Funding Contribution:

This project will look at establishing the risk of epizootic shell disease (ESD) and its potential for damage to Canada’s east coast lobster industry. There are concerns the warmer, more acid waters created by climate change that have facilitated the prevalence of ESD in the Gulf of Maine could creep north into Canadian waters. Landings from the once lucrative lobster fishery, south of Boston Mass., is down by more than 85 per cent since 1997. While poorly understood, ESD is believed to be caused by chitinolytic bacteria, which produces lesions in lobster shells. Once the risk is known, Canadian management practices may be better able to minimize the potential impact here.

Dr. Ramon Filgueira and Dr. Tiago Hori, Dalhousie University
Project: Exploring Adaptation and Plasticity to Ocean Warming in Blue Mussels
Funding Contribution:

With Prince Edward Island’s blue mussel production coming under increasing pressure from warming coastal waters, the suspected higher thermal tolerance of mussels from Sober Island Pond, N.S. may offer a potential genetic solution. Preliminary research suggests the Sober Island Pond mussels can withstand higher water temperatures than their cousins in St. Peter’s Bay, P.E.I. Mussel grower, Atlantic Aqua Farms Ltd. of Borden-Carleton P.E.I., and a Dalhousie University researcher who specializes in an ecosystem approach to aquaculture want to compare the two populations to find their thermal thresholds and consider whether genes from the Nova Scotia mussels might improve the environmental heat tolerance of P.E.I. mussels. This research could be important for the future of the island industry, which currently supplies 80 per cent of the North American mussel market.

Drs. Graham Gagnon, Amina Stoddart, and Crystal Sweeney, Dalhousie University
Project: Enhanced Climate-based Monitoring of Algae and Algal Toxins Through Passive Sampling
Funding Contribution:

Harmful algal blooms produced by cyanobacteria have become an important priority in Atlantic Canada. As a result of climate change, these bacteria have begun to turn up with greater frequency and for longer durations in lakes across Nova Scotia. Under certain circumstances, cyanobacteria can release toxins and other compounds that affect water quality. Sampling approaches are needed to better understand, monitor, and prioritize risks associated with algae and algal toxins. A research team from Dalhousie University plans to take a state-of-the-art passive sampling approach to monitor cyanobacteria, based on its recent success in developing a passive sampling device to monitor SARS-CoV-2 in various wastewater environments.

Dr. Diane Hollett, Memorial University of Newfoundland / NL Marine Organics
Project: Carbon Sequestration & Food Security through Metabolomic Approaches to Soil Microbiomes
Funding Contribution:

One way to step up carbon sequestration is to enhance the soil microbiome – the mixture of organisms in the soil with essential microbes and fungi so the soil can hold more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. NL Marine Organics, an enriched fish-based fertilizer producer, in Portugal Cove St. Phillips, N.L. wants to determine how growing livestock forage with rejuvenated soil microbiomes could be made more affordable for agriculture. The project plans to collect baseline data from soil samples on farms using different soil management practices; consult farmers to identify change management issues; denote practices that impact the soil microbiome and the economic factors that could persuade the agricultural sector to adopt a new, environmentally friendly approach to soil management. 

Dr. Xiuquan (Xander) Wang, University of Prince Edward Island
Project: Identification of Climate-Resilient and Wart-Resistant Potato Varieties for PEI – A Literature-Based Genetic Research Initiative
Funding Contribution:

A multidisciplinary team versed in climate change, gene sequencing, agriculture diseases and precision agriculture will comb the scientific literature to collect potato gene-sequencing data that could make P.E.I. potatoes more resilient to climate change and resistant to potato wart. Last year, the disease caused significant economic loss to the island’s potato industry after it was found in potatoes on two P.E.I. farms. The discovery prompted suspension of all shipments of P.E.I. seed, table and processing potatoes to the U.S. for about three months.

Nova Scotia Health

Dr. Kenneth Rockwood
Professor of Medicine (geriatric medicine and community health & epidemiology) 
Project: Project to determine if UV-C light can reduce infections in Long-Term Care facilities
Funding Contribution:

Offshore Energy Research Association of Nova Scotia (OERA)

Alisdair McLean
Executive Director at OERA
Project: The Atlantic Canada Energy System Modelling Network
Funding Contribution: $198,154

The Government of Canada and Atlantic Canada’s provincial governments have committed to ambitious greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets.  Realizing these goals will require a substantial transformation of our region’s energy system over the next few decades. In this context, OERA is building an open-source energy system model for Atlantic Canada (ACES) that will serve as a shared tool for Atlantic Canadians to answer questions about the future of our region’s energy system and to contribute to the path to net-zero emissions. 

OERA’s energy system model will be most impactful if a broad, diverse user base use, improve and further localize ACES. The development of the model will therefore be accompanied by efforts to reach out to and engage with a variety of stakeholders across Atlantic Canada.  Supported by Research Nova Scotia and ACOA, OERA will conduct engagement sessions during which a diversity of stakeholders in Atlantic Canada will be trained on the model and asked to provide feedback that will be used to improve and further localize the model.