Research Chair in Invasive Species Biology and the Invasive Species Research Institute (ISRI)

In 2008, an Invasive Species Research Institute (ISRI) was created at Algoma University to undertake basic and applied research on terrestrial invasive forest pests and to establish an international network of colleagues interested in the detection, prevention and management of invasive species. The Institute is currently headed by Errol Caldwell, Research Director with the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre.

Dr. Pedro Antunes is the Scientific Director of ISRI. Dr. Antunes is working to establish a research program and develop a network of scientists dedicated to invasive species biology.

Full-time faculty members in the Department of Biology at Algoma University are also actively engaged in research pertaining to invasive species biology. Dr. Brandon Schamp, Assistant Professor of Biology, has been exploring the question of what characteristics make an invasive plant species a good competitor. Dr. Istvan Imre, Assistant Professor and Chair of Biology, has begun a research project investigating the potential for different repellents to be used to better capture and control lamprey in Great Lakes tributary streams.

Terrestrial and aquatic invasive species cause from 14 to 35 billion dollars of damage in Canada each year. Next to habitat loss, they are the greatest contributor to species extinction and loss of biodiversity. Changing weather patterns, global warming and increased global trade have contributed to unprecedented movement and outbreaks of invasive species in recent years. Research on invasive species must often be done in response to emergency outbreaks and with little advance knowledge of how the species will react in local ecosystems. Controlled research, under quarantine conditions, can significantly reduce field research time for pest identification, assessment of biological behaviour, development of innovative control methods and other essential knowledge required for risk assessment and mitigation of impacts.

Heightening of public awareness concerning the threat of invasive species continues to be an important cornerstone of Algoma University’s mandate. ISRI is currently involved in a number of public outreach activities in the District of Algoma through its Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC)-funded internship programs. AU is also in the process of expanding its programs for undergraduate students and will offer a four – year Honours B.Sc. in Biology that includes coursework in invasive species biology and the opportunity for students to pursue an undergraduate thesis on some aspect of invasion biology. The location of federal and provincial forestry labs in Sault Ste. Marie, in proximity to the AU campus, along with a rich diversity of regional forested, agricultural and wetland ecosystems, will create unparalleled training opportunities for future students interested in this important field of discovery.

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources recently received $15 million in provincial funding to establish an Invasive Species Centre in Sault Ste. Marie. As well, the federal government awarded $9 million in 2009 to the Great Lakes Forestry Centre for renewed insect rearing and quarantine facilities. This funding underscores Sault Ste. Marie’s leadership position in the science of invasive species. Algoma University is proud to be associated with this area of research strength in Sault Ste. Marie. Our growth in this area will be fully coordinated with the Invasive Species Centre being established by the provincial and federal governments.