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Three new Chairs to address complex issues in the changing North


Quebec City, May 9, 2018 - Laval University is proud to launch three new strategic research chairs under its Sentinel North program: the Sentinel North Research Chair in Aquatic Geochemistry, the Sentinel North Research Chair in the Neurobiology of Stress and Resilience, and the Sentinel North Research Chair on the Surveillance of Avian Influenza Viruses in Migratory Birds in Northern Canada. 

The new chairs are part of the vast multidisciplinary Sentinel North research program, which is training a new generation of researchers to address the complex issues of accelerating climate change and socio-economic development in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. 

"Today we are seeing the tangible results of a research program of unprecedented scope for Université Laval," said university rector Sophie D'Amours. "In 2015, Université Laval received a research grant of $98 million—the biggest in its history—under the Canada First program. Our promise at the time was simple: to draw on more than half a century of northern expertise at Université Laval, to push the boundaries of multidisciplinary research, and to use optics and photonics to improve our understanding of the northern environment and its impact on humans and their health. Today, I am proud to see that Sentinel North is once again fulfilling this promise." 

"We are delighted to welcome these three outstanding professors to Université Laval. Not only will they enrich Sentinel North's multidisciplinary program, they will also contribute to other major strategic initiatives such as the Institut nordique du Québec, which is spearheaded by our institution," added Martin Fortier, executive director of Sentinel North and assistant to the vice-rector of research, creation, and innovation at Université Laval. 

Sentinel North Research Chair in Aquatic Geochemistry 
Among the complex issues facing the changing North are the interrelationships between systems that are disrupting northern landscapes and ecosystems. The chair aims to understand how element cycles are altered by ongoing environmental changes and what impact these changes have on water quality in northern environments. "One of the chair’s objectives is to set up a research laboratory in the Chemistry Department at Université Laval to train chemists with expertise in environmental and water sciences," explained Raoul-Marie Couture, chairholder and professor in the Chemistry Department at the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Université Laval. "The work will lead to a better understanding of carbon cycles in northern aquatic environments and the development of new modelling tools that will improve our understanding of the factors that influence water quality."

North Sentinel Research Chair in the Neurobiology of Stress and Resilience 
The North is undergoing significant socio-economic, cultural, and environmental changes that are creating a unique form of stress for the people who live there. This chair aims to shed light on the biological mechanisms underlying vulnerability and resilience to stress using advanced photonic technologies with a view to developing innovative ways to treat and even prevent depression and mood disorders. "New biological mechanisms related to vulnerability and resilience to chronic stress will be identified by assessing the effects of a northern diet on neurovascular and immune health," said Caroline Ménard, chairholder, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Université Laval's Faculty of Medicine, and researcher at the CERVO Brain Research Centre. "The objective is to develop a preventive, population-based approach and potentially provide new therapeutic treatments more appropriate for northern populations given the uniqueness of their culture, their heritage, and the environment in which they live." 

Sentinel North Research Chair on the Surveillance of Avian Influenza Viruses in Migratory Birds in Northern Canada
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses of the H5 subtype, previously observed in poultry and wild birds in Asia and Europe, pose a serious threat to public health. The chair will monitor avian influenza viruses in northern Canada (Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and northern Quebec) and study their ecology in wild migratory birds. "Our research program aims to establish a pathogen surveillance network in northern Canada, where samples will be collected in the field and analyzed in the laboratory. Although the work will initially focus on the prevalence of influenza in wild birds, this network can then be adapted for the surveillance of various microbes in other host animals in order to give a complete picture of how pathogens circulate in the North," explained Gary Wong, chairholder, assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Faculty of Medicine of Université Laval, and a principal investigator at the CHU de Québec-Université Laval Research Centre.

Andrée-Anne Stewart
Media Relations
Communications Department
Université Laval
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