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Funding addresses sustainability in the Far North

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

With an eye to promoting the sustainability of remote communities, Queen’s professor Mark Green (Civil Engineering) has designed a six-year program that allows young researchers to address sustainability challenges in the Far North.

Today, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) announced that it is providing $1.65 million through its Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) program to fund the initiative over six years.

The Sustainable Engineering in Remote Areas (SERA) program will graduate professionals familiar with both research and Aboriginal culture. Students will study Aboriginal culture, sustainability, business and research to address three areas of national interest: natural resources and energy, information and communications technologies and economic development and education for Aboriginal peoples.

“Our focus with this project is renewable energy systems and sustainable, energy efficient buildings in remote communities,” says Dr. Green, who is a member of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte. “There are a lot of challenges in Northern communities in terms of housing and buildings in general. Energy costs are very expensive. We are going to be looking at wind, solar, water and biomass.”

“SERA uniquely combines training for work in special conditions, such as remote, less populated areas with fragile ecosystems, with an enhanced understanding of the societal and cultural impacts of such work,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “The funding from NSERC will allow students to engage first-hand with our Aboriginal communities, as well to work towards improving sustainability.”

The funding for SERA through the CREATE grant is the first step in getting the project off the ground. The project is a collaborative effort between a number of industries including Ontario Waterpower Association, Hatch, Neegan Burnside, AFN, Halsall Associates and BRE Canada. Dr. Green is the project lead and has partnered with the Royal Military College and the universities of Manitoba and Ottawa.

A number of business partners are also involved and they have committed to sponsoring paid internships for the students involved in this project.

CREATE supports the training of highly qualified students through the development of innovative training programs that address significant scientific challenges associated with Canada’s research priorities and facilitate the transition of new researchers from trainees to productive employees in the Canadian workforce.