Undergraduate Student Research Awards

Summer research awards provide paid employment opportunities for undergraduate students to participate in scientific research at the Faculty of Agriculture during the summer. If you would like to gain research experience in an academic setting, these awards can provide you with financial support. Eligibility requirements for students and supervisors are listed under each award.

Procedures

1.      Find a potential faculty supervisor. Contact and meet with the professor to discuss a potential research project and details related to an employed summer research position. Some potential projects (this is not an exhaustive list) are listed below.

2.      Complete, with your prospective supervisor, the 2021 Summer Research Awards Application form (available in January 2021). Only one application is needed. You will automatically be considered for both awards.

3.      Submit form and other documents to the coordinator (below) for the home department of your potential supervisor

Questions?

Contact Departmental coordinators listed on the application form, or Sara Murphy (sara.murphy@dal.ca)

Deadline

February 26th, 2021

Selection

Award winners are selected based on the student's academic record and research aptitude, in accordance with the set terms of the USRA and SAURA programs. Members of the Faculty of Agriculture Research Subcommittee complete the selection process by late February. Applicants and prospective supervisors are informed of the results by e-mail.

Application Form

2021 Undergraduate Summer Research application - [PDF - 200Kb]

Please send your form, via email, to your departmental co-ordinator as stated in the application.

Department Coordinators

Students should contact the coordinator for the department in which they wish to hold the award:

NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA)

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) sponsors a program of Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA) for outstanding undergraduate students who are interested in research. USRAs are meant to nurture and encourage undergraduate students towards graduate studies and a research career in the natural sciences and engineering. These awards provide financial support through your host university, and allow you to gain research work experience that complements your studies in an academic setting. NSERC encourages qualified Aboriginal students to apply for this award.

USRAs supplement the salary of a summer student working on an individual research project, designed with a faculty member who holds an NSERC Research Grant. Faculty of Agriculture USRAs will be held for 16 weeks in the summer of 2021. 

NSERC will no longer require professors to hold an active grant when applying to supervise a USRA student. NSERC considers anyone who is authorized by their university to  independently supervise students to be an eligible supervisor. The suitability of the supervision will be evaluated by the university as part of their award selection process.

Number of Awards: Number of awards available will be updated in January 2021.
Value of USRA: $6,000 for 16-weeks. Professors are required to supplement the amount of the award by at least 25% of its value.

 

Eligibility Requirements:

§  Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

§  Registered in a bachelor’s degree program (at the time of application) in the natural sciences or engineering.

§  Must have completed all the course requirements of at least the first year of university study (or two academic terms) of your bachelor’s degree.  Students graduating in May are eligible to hold an award.

§  Have obtained, over the previous years of study, a cumulative average of at least second class (a grade of "B" or "B-," if applicable) as defined by your university.

§  You may hold a maximum of three university USRAs throughout your undergraduate university career.

Additional details on USRA eligibility are on the NSERC website

Awards approved for Dalhousie may not be transferred to another institution.

Sobey Agricultural Undergraduate Research Award

The Faculty of Agriculture will award Sobey Agricultural Undergraduate Research Awards (SAURA) for the summer of 2021. SAURAs support outstanding students who are in the Honours stream of an undergraduate degree program in the Faculty of Agriculture. These awards provide financial support for undergraduate honours students to gain research work experience that complements their program. We encourage qualified Aboriginal students to apply for this award.

SAURAs will be held for 16 weeks in the summer of 2021.

Complete applications, including official transcripts, are to be submitted to Sara Murphy, Suite 215, Cumming Hall, by 12 February 2021.

Number of Awards: 6 awards total
Value of SAURA $6,000  

 

Eligibility Rquirements:

§  Enrolled in the Honours stream of an undergraduate degree program in the Faculty of Agriculture.

§  Completed at least 30 credit hours of course work with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0.

§  The student must have an identified supervisor for the summer research project.

§  The supervisor will provide additional funding (25% minimum) to bring the student salary to the recommended pay rate for students employed in the Faculty of Agriculture.

Descriptions of Available Projects for 2021

Dr. Deborah AdewoleDeborah.adewole@dal.ca

Assistant Professor/Industry Research Chair (Poultry) – Animal Science and Aquaculture

Effect of seaweed extract on growth performance, immune response, and gut morphology of broiler chickens

We are investigating the effect of different concentrations of a seaweed extract on serum immunoglobulins, biochemistry, and immune related organ weights (liver, bursa, and spleen ), and gut morphology of broiler chickens raised for 28 days.

The successful student will gain skills in:

ELISA analysis of immunoglobulins, tissue harvesting and processing, histological analysis of tissue samples, statistical methods and scientific writing.

Dr. Deborah Adewole

Deborah.adewole@dal.ca

Assistant Professor/Industry Research Chair (Poultry) – Animal Science and Aquaculture

Effect of a dietary fiber additive with or without enzyme supplementation on growth performance, blood biochemical parameters, gut morphology, microbiota and short chain fatty acids in broiler chickens

We are investigating the effect of a dietary fiber feed additive with or without a multicarbohydrase enzyme on growth performance, serum immunoglobulins, biochemistry, gut morphology, and organ weights of broiler chickens raised for 35 days. Short chain fatty acids production and gut microbiota in ileal digesta would also be investigated.

The successful student will gain skills in:

ELISA analysis of immunoglobulins, DNA and RNA extraction, tissue harvesting and processing, histological analysis of tissue samples, statistical methods and scientific writing.

Dr. Vasantha Rupasinghe 

vrupasinghe@dal.ca

Professor and Killam Chair in Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals 

Department of Plant, Food, and Environmental Sciences, Truro Campus 

Antioxidant and cancer preventive properties of plant food bioactives: 

The activation of the nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2)/antioxidant response element (ARE) pathway is one of the leading cellular defense systems that can be activated by plant food bioactives that helps to prevent oxidative stress-induced carcinogenesis by preventing DNA damage. 

In this project we will investigate the ability of selected food bioactives for their ability to reduce the DNA damage by measuring selected biomarkers in cultured human cells. 

The successful student will gain skills in: 

Basic cell culture maintenance skills and measurement of reactive oxygen species and DNA damage using established standard operating protocols.  

Dr. Travis Esau, Assistant Professor

Advanced Mechanized Systems Research Program

Department of Engineering, DAL-AC

Email: tesau@dal.ca

The intern will help to develop and evaluate advanced automated mechanized systems (hardware and software) to reduce the amount of human labor and resources required for select agricultural field operations. They will participate in a combination of field and laboratory research while following strict University Covid-19 safety precautions. The selected candidate will contribute to the research and development of various sensing solutions across multiple projects within the Mechanized Systems and Precision Agriculture Research Program at Dalhousie University under the supervision of Dr. Travis Esau. The selected candidate will immediately help contribute to addressing the needs concerning image training for various sensing technologies. In addition, they will be helping with the development of a control system to link new machine vision systems to existing agricultural equipment to allow for real-time sensing and application. Involvement will focus on the design, build and testing of various cross-platform control systems.

The successful student will gain skills in:

Computer programming, arduino coding, robotics, machine learning, deep learning, electronics, instrumentation in agricultural production systems, UAV’s, RTK-GPS, and various machine systems.

Dr. Rebecca Meagher

Providing optimal environments for mink kits

Early environments are very important for behavioural development, but we have limited information about the most appropriate environmental enrichments. Such enrichment may benefit kits directly or through their mothers. This project would investigate some of these effects during the pre-weaning period, in collaboration with a Masters student conducting a longer-term study.

The successful student will gain skills in behavioural observation, laboratory techniques for processing biological samples, and farm animal management.

Dr. Chris Cutler

Chris.cutler@dal.ca

Professor, Dept of Plant, Food, and Environmental Sciences

Can mild stress stimulate insect behavior?

We have shown that low-dose chemical stress can increase insect pest reproduction, alter expression of detoxification and development genes, and prime certain pest species to better cope with subsequent stress. Less is known about potential stimulatory effects of mild stress on insect behavior. This project will test the hypothesis that exposure of adult diamondback moth, Plutella xylostella, to low doses of insecticide stress will stimulate reproduction and larval feeding. We predict that larval feeding will be stimulated, but that this will result in a fitness trade off in the form of reduced fecundity in those F1 individuals as adult moths.

The successful student will gain skills in: Experimental design, insect toxicology, insect behavior, insect rearing, microscopy and imaging techniques, data analysis, and report preparation.

Dr. David Barrett

david.barrett@dal.ca

Assistant Professor of Animal Physiology

Physiological and behavioral effects of Covid-19 restrictions on dairy heifers 

To determine the physiological and behavioral effects that COVID-19 restrictions resulting in reduced handling and foot traffic have on dairy heifers. No such studies have been conducted on the effects of global pandemics on livestock. Increased stress and fear responses in dairy heifers is a growing animal welfare issue. Understanding the effects of COVID-19 restrictions on heifer stress levels is an area of importance and interest to producers and researchers looking to improve animal welfare and handling during this time. 

The successful student will gain skills in: 

Animal handling; measuring physiological parameters (heart rate, respiration rate; body temperature); collection, processing, and storage of blood samples; collection and analysis of animal behaviour data; hormone immunoassays.   

Dr. David Barrett

david.barrett@dal.ca

Assistant Professor of Animal Physiology

Physiological and behavioral effects of Covid-19 restrictions on ewes 

To determine the physiological and behavioral effects that COVID-19 restrictions resulting in reduced handling and foot traffic have on ewes. No such studies have been conducted on the effects of global pandemics on livestock. Increased stress and fear responses in ewes is a growing animal welfare issue. Understanding the effects of COVID-19 restrictions on ewe stress levels is an area of importance and interest to producers and researchers looking to improve animal welfare and handling during this time. 

The successful student will gain skills in: 

Animal handling; measuring physiological parameters (heart rate, respiration rate; body temperature); collection, processing, and storage of blood samples; collection and analysis of animal behaviour data; hormone immunoassays.

Dr. David Barrett

david.barrett@dal.ca

Assistant Professor of Animal Physiology

Physiological and behavioral effects of Covid-19 restrictions on lambs 

To determine the physiological and behavioral effects that COVID-19 restrictions resulting in reduced handling and foot traffic have on lambs. No such studies have been conducted on the effects of global pandemics on livestock. Increased stress and fear responses in lambs is a growing animal welfare issue. Understanding the effects of COVID-19 restrictions on lamb stress levels is an area of importance and interest to producers and researchers looking to improve animal welfare and handling during this time. 

The successful student will gain skills in: 

Animal handling; measuring physiological parameters (heart rate, respiration rate; body temperature); collection, processing, and storage of blood samples; collection and analysis of animal behaviour data; hormone immunoassays.

Dr. David Barrett

david.barrett@dal.ca

Assistant Professor of Animal Physiology

Expanding on the 2021 Maritime central ram performance & genetic evaluation: Additional health & performance parameters 

The overarching goal of this research is to determine valuable correlated traits of ram genetics, performance, and the immune system and gastrointestinal tract (GIT) microbiome health. The upcoming Maritime central ram performance and genetic evaluation program clearly shows that the identification and improvement of ram genetics, performance, and fertility traits are important to the sheep producers in the provinces of this region. Little research has been done on evaluating the combination of these important traits of genetics, performance, and the immune system and GIT microbial health on the overall value of the ram. 

The successful student will gain skills in: 

Animal handling; measuring body weight/condition score, scrotal circumference; performing ultrasonography; collection, processing, and storage of blood samples; image analysis of testicular ultrasonograms; hormone immunoassays.  

Dr. Scott White, Dalhousie Faculty of Agriculture

scott.white@dal.ca

Evaluation of novel herbicide mode of actions for weed management in lowbush blueberry

Lowbush blueberry is an economically important small fruit crop in Atlantic Canada. Weed management is a major limiting factor to production of this crop, with weeds contributing significant variation to annual yields. Priority weeds such as hair fescue (Festuca filiformis), red sorrel (Rumex acetosella), and narrowleaf goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia) require novel herbicide mode of actions to ensure sustainable weed management practices in this crop. In consultation with Dr. White, the successful student will focus on novel herbicide evaluations for one of the weeds indicated above.

The successful student will gain skills in weed identification, establishment and maintenance of agricultural field trials, handling and application of agrochemicals, agricultural data collection and analysis, oral and written communication of trial results, and interaction with growers through attendance and contribution to grower twilight meetings and field days.

Dr. Stefanie Colombo

Assistant Professor and Canada Research Chair, Aquaculture Nutrition

scolombo@dal.ca

What is the nutritional difference in wild vs. farmed salmon?

Salmon is regarded as an excellent source of nutrients and there are numerous choices in the types of salmon available. In North America, nutritional labelling for fresh seafood is not required. The lack of nutritional information may be confusing to some consumers when selecting a product for specific health benefits.

The aim of this study will be to examine the nutritional composition of different types of salmon products that are commonly available to consumers, including different species of salmon, wild and farmed, organic, and environmentally certified, etc. The salmon will be sourced from different countries to compare nutritional value of salmon on a global scale.

The student will gain skills in fish/food sample preparation and processing, lab technical analysis related to nutrition (e.g., lipid and fatty acid analysis, colour and texture analysis), and data processing.

Dr. Derek Lynch
Professor, Dept of Plant, Food, and Environmental Sciences

Derek.lynch@dal.ca

Can a novel cover crop improve soil carbon pools?.

We have shown that less intensive cropping systems in Atlantic Canada improve soil health and soil microbial diversity. Changes in soil organic matter (soil carbon) pools drive most of these observed changes. Much less in known, however, about the specific effect of cover crops on these soil responses and soil carbon dynamics.  In recent years a novel cover crop, Sorghum sudangrass, has been widely adopted within potato rotations in Prince Edward Island, and has largely replaced the traditional use of red clover.  This project will examine, across participating farms in PEI, the effect of recent addition of Sorghum sudangrass in rotation, on total and active carbon pools using both non-isotopic and isotopic (13C) techniques.

The successful student will gain skills in: Agronomy, sampling design, soil organic matter fractionation and characterization, isotopic techniques and interpretation, data analysis, and report preparation.