16 July 2009

Research Grants Awarded by New Brunswick Museum


The New Brunswick Museum announced that Florence M. Christie research grants have been awarded for 2009 to support the work of six scientists in the fields of zoology, mycology and botany. Christie grants are awarded annually for research focussed on New Brunswick and related to the New Brunswick Museum collections.

Two applications in botany and mycology will receive funding.  Leah Dalrymple, a Master of Science candidate at the University of New Brunswick Saint John, is conducting research on mosses,  Bryophytes and decaying wood: are all rotting logs equal? Karen Vanderwolf, a Master of Science candidate at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, is receiving support for her study of the relationship between the fungi in New Brunswick bat caves and bat abundance.

Four research projects in zoology were also awarded Christie grants. Lynne Burns, a Ph.D. candidate at Saint Mary’s University, is studying the structure and movements of bat populations among hibernation sites in Atlantic Canada. Howard M. Huynh, a Master of Science candidate at Acadia University, is conducting research on the taxonomic and population genetic status of the smoky shrew in the Maritimes.  Dr. Robert Ronconi, a Post-doctoral Fellow with Dalhousie University and the Grand Manan Whale and Seabird Research Station, is studying the effects of climate change and fisheries decline on seabirds in the Bay of Fundy.  Dr. Andy S. Didyk, Assistant Professor at the University of New Brunswick, Moncton campus, is receiving support for his work on the parasites of big brown bats.

The Florence M. Christie Grant program in the biological sciences connects the New Brunswick Museum to scientists and scientists-in-training, and current research projects relevant to New Brunswick.  Dr. Donald McAlpine, Chair of the Museum’s Department of Natural Science, commented that “an active research program is an integral part of the New Brunswick Museum mandate. Through these grants, not only do we support the exciting research of these scientists, the province gains through the exchange of knowledge with experts in a range of scientific disciplines.” 

Jane Fullerton, Director and CEO of the New Brunswick Museum, noted that the Christie grant funding is normally generated from Museum endowment funds. “For the first time since 1988, market conditions did not allow a pay-out from the endowment.  However, the Museum is committed to maintaining its research programs, so we have drawn on externally generated revenues to ensure the continuity of the Christie Grants.” 

For further information on the Christie grant program, check the New Brunswick Museum web site at www.nbm-mnb.ca or contact Dr. Donald McAlpine at (506) 643-2345

2009 Christie Research Grants
Media Backgrounder


Researcher: Leah Dalrymple, Master of Science candidate, University of New Brunswick Saint John

Research Project: Bryophytes and decaying wood: are all rotting logs equal?

Research suggests that there is a world-wide reduction in species diversity of bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) in industrially managed forests.  Conservation efforts are limited by lack of understanding of the distribution, ranges and basic ecology of these species. Dalrymple’s research project focuses on the role of decaying wood in forest bryophyte diversity, providing important baseline information on the abundance, distribution and range of characteristics of decaying wood, the bryophyte species which occupy this wood and the relationships between them.  The study will be conducted in a relatively natural forest on private land in north-western New Brunswick. Results will assist forest managers in managing woody debris to maximize retention of bryophytes, and will contribute to the scant data on bryophyte distribution for New Brunswick.


Researcher:  Karen Vanderwolf, Master of Science candidate, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton

Research Project:  Relationship between the mycological flora in New Brunswick bat hibernacula, bat abundance, microclimate, and human visitation

Caves represent a unique environment for fungi. The temperature and humidity are relatively stable, creating growing conditions favourable to slow growing and potentially unique species. Little research has been done on cave fungi in New Brunswick. A new fungal disease, referred to as white-nose syndrome, now threatens cave hibernating bats in northeastern North America, including New Brunswick.  Since its discovery in New York in 2006, white-nose syndrome has spread to eight U.S, states in the northeast, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, resulting in large die offs of hibernating bats.  Because bats move long distances from winter to summer sites, it is expected that white nose syndrome will reach New Brunswick within 5 years. The goal of Vanderwolf’s research is to provide managers with information on NB cave bat populations and the fungi now present on bats in the province.


Researcher:  Lynne Burns, Ph. D. candidate, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, NS

Research Project:  Structure and movements of bat populations among hibernacula in Atlantic Canada

During the autumn migration period, temperate year-round resident bats must migrate, engage in mating activity and prepare for hibernation by storing fat. Some evidence suggests that autumn swarming is distinct from hibernation and that bats may visit multiple swarming sites prior to arriving at their ultimate hibernation site. Two emerging threats to bat populations, fatalities at wind farms, and mortality from white-nose syndrome, strongly impact bats in the autumn. In both cases knowledge of bat activities in the fall is lacking. This project will gain insight into the distribution and fall activities of bats at 8 to 10 known bat hibernacula (caves and/or abandoned mines) in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. 


Researcher:  Howard M. Huynh, Master of Science candidate, Acadia University, Wolfville, NS

Research Project:  Taxonomic and population genetic status of the Smoky Shrew, Sorex fumeus umbrosus, an enigmatic species in Atlantic Canada

The Smoky Shrew is one of the least-studied and understood species of shrew in North America. The purpose of this research is to acquire molecular genetic data from collected specimens in New Brunswick and other localities in Atlantic Canada, and to confirm the taxonomic validity and geographic range of the northeastern subspecies, Sorex fumeus umbrosus. The results of this kind of fundamental research can impact regional species listings for mammals, and can provide insights important in developing future conservation and management plans for species.


Researcher:  Dr. Robert Ronconi, Post-doctoral Fellow, Dalhousie University and Grand Manan Whale and Seabird Research Station

Research Project:  Effects of climate change and fisheries decline on seabirds in the Bay of Fundy

The goal of this project is to measure long-term (100 year) changes in seabird diets in relation to climate and fisheries changes in the Bay of Fundy.  Seabirds are good indicators of marine ecological changes and ecosystem health, so examining long-term changes in diets may provide useful indicators of environmental stress. Modern and historical diets of seabirds will be studied with non-lethal sampling of feathers from live-caught birds and museum specimens. This will enable comparison of long-term changes in seabird diets in relation to ocean temperature rise and fisheries catches.


Researcher:  Dr. Andy S. Didyk, Assistant Professor, University of New Brunswick, Moncton

Research Project:  Helminth parasites of Big Brown Bats, Eptesicus fuscus

The purpose of this project is to recover, identify and document the types, prevalence and abundances of worm parasites in the gastrointestinal tracts of Big Brown Bats, an uncommon species in New Brunswick, but one well represented in the New Brunswick Museum collections. Only one other comparable study, in British Columbia, has examined Big Brown Bat parasites in Canada. Voucher specimens of all helminthes recovered will be deposited to the Museum for its collection.

For further information:
Vita Kipping
Community Relations
New Brunswick Museum
(506) 643 2358
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