SOURCE: University of Calgary

University of Calgary

SOURCE: University of Manitoba

University of Manitoba

SOURCE: Genome Alberta

Genome Alberta

December 08, 2016 10:00 ET

University of Calgary and University of Manitoba partner to understand how marine microbial communities can help clean up oil spills in the Arctic

Collaborative research project receives $10.7 million from Genome Canada

CALGARY, AB--(Marketwired - December 08, 2016) - A collaborative research project titled 'GENICE' that partners the University of Calgary and the University of Manitoba has been awarded $10.7 million as part of the Genome Canada 2015 Large-Scale Applied Research Project Competition (LSARP).

Announced today in Montreal by Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan, the research teams will be led by the University of Calgary's Casey Hubert, associate professor in the Faculty of Science and Campus Alberta Innovation Program Chair in Geomicrobiology, and University of Manitoba's Research Professor Gary Stern, Centre for Earth Observation Science. They will combine their expertise in the areas of genomics, microbiology, petroleomics and sea-ice physics to investigate the potential for natural microbial communities to mitigate oil spills, as warmer temperatures and melting sea ice usher in increasing shipping throughout Arctic waters.

"Bioremediation in the cold Arctic and in the presence of sea ice remains poorly understood," Hubert says. "By developing a better understanding of how Arctic microbes will be mobilized in the event of a spill, we can better model and map what will happen and what our response should be, should an accidental spill ever occur," says Hubert.

With northern shipping increasing by 166 per cent since 2004, and cruise ships and tourism increasing by 500 per cent in the past five years, the pressures on the Northwest Passage have never been greater. The Passage represents a sea route connecting the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Arctic Ocean, along the northern coast of North America via waterways through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, which has never been busier.

"The expertise that Manitoba brings to the table are in the areas of petroleomics and sea ice physics as well as our new facility [under construction in Churchill, Manitoba] that will allow us to study oil degradation processes under controlled Arctic conditions," says Stern.

The soon-to-be-completed Churchill Marine Observatory (CMO) is a globally unique, highly innovative, multidisciplinary research facility located in Churchill, Manitoba, adjacent to Canada's only Arctic deep-water port. The CMO will directly support the technological, scientific, and ethical, environmental, economic, legal and social research that is needed to safely guide (through policy development) the unprecedented Arctic marine transportation and oil and gas exploration and development throughout the Arctic. The University of Calgary is partnering closely with the University of Manitoba on this CFI-sponsored initiative, which is being built at the perfect time to support the new Genome Canada project.

"The idea is that we will be able to emulate different thermodynamic states of the sea-ice and how, under these conditions, different crude and fuel oils will interact with native microbial populations in a controlled environment," Stern adds.

The 2015 LSARP competition aims to support applied research projects focused on using genomic approaches to address challenges and opportunities of importance to Canada's natural resources and environment sectors, including interactions between natural resources and the environment, thereby contributing to the Canadian bioeconomy and the well-being of Canadians.

"Climate change may present the opportunity for year-round shipping traffic along Canada's Arctic coast. The work of the GENICE team on genomics-based bioremediation will help Canadian companies and agencies be better prepared to mitigate the environmental impact of expanding industrial activities in the Arctic." Reno Pontarollo, President & CEO, Genome Prairie notes.

"Casey Hubert and Gary Stern are working to address the growing pressures on Arctic marine environments, while also offering insights into protecting other coastal areas in Canada," notes John Reynolds, acting vice-president (research) at the University of Calgary. "We thank Genome Canada and their subsidiaries, as well as the wide range of partners who have come together to support this project."

The project will be managed by Genome Alberta in conjunction with Genome Prairie and with an international collaboration of funding partners that have shown the desire to protect the complex Arctic environment: Genome Canada, Alberta Economic Development and Trade, University of Manitoba, Natural Resources Canada, Arctic Institute of North America, Arctic Research Foundation, Stantec Consulting Ltd., National Research Council of Canada, Research Manitoba, University of Calgary Petroleum Reservoir Group, University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, Georgia Institute of Technology, Churchill Northern Studies Centre, Amundsen Science Inc., Environment and Climate Change Canada, Genome Quebec, Aphorist, and Aarhus University.

About the University of Calgary
The University of Calgary is making tremendous progress on its journey to become one of Canada's top five research universities, where research and innovative teaching go hand in hand, and where we fully engage the communities we both serve and lead. This strategy is called Eyes High, inspired by the university's Gaelic motto, which translates as 'I will lift up my eyes.'

For more information, visit Stay up to date with University of Calgary news headlines on Twitter @UCalgary. For details on faculties and how to reach experts go to our media center at

About the University of Manitoba
For nearly 140 years, the University of Manitoba has been recognized as Manitoba's premier university - shaping our leaders, enhancing our community, and conducting world-class research. Our home is Manitoba but our impact is global. The university has a tradition of excellence in research, scholarly work and creative activities. Our connection to the agricultural and natural landscapes of the Canadian Prairie, to the Arctic, to local and Indigenous communities, has shaped our research focus. We have made pioneering contributions in many fields and developed life-changing solutions to problems faced by peoples in Manitoba, Canada and the world.

About Genome Alberta
Genome Alberta is a publicly funded not-for-profit genomics research funding organization based in Calgary, Alberta but leads projects at institutions around the province and participates in a variety of other projects across the country. In partnership with Genome Canada, Industry Canada, and the Province of Alberta, Genome Alberta was established in 2005 to focus on genomics as one of the central components of the Life Sciences Initiative in Alberta, and to help position genomics as a core research effort. For more information on the range of projects led and managed by Genome Alberta, visit

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